Stories & Tales
The Lesson of the Jinn

A certain young married couple, though hard-working and economical, could not achieve prosperity, because one thing after another kept disappearing from their house. If the wife put a bag of wheat beside the hand-mill overnight, by morning it would have vanished. If she put aside cooked meats or preserves, they were sure to be spirited off. Her husband had a mare which he greatly prized. Every night before going to bed, he fed the mare himself, carefully locked the stable door, and kept the key under his pillow till the morning.


One morning when he unlocked the stable door, the mare was gone. He was determined to find her and he wandered far and wide in search of the beautiful white mare, but his efforts were in vain. At last he set out for the deserts east of Jordan, hoping to find his missing steed in an Arab camp.


As night approached on the first day the man found himself in a narrow gorge, in the sides of which were many caves. He saw a light in one of them. Thinking that some shepherds or camel¬-herds were camped there for the night, and feeling rather lonely after his long journeys, he hurried to join them. When he entering the cave he saw that it was full of jinn, underground folk created by god out of smokeless fire. The jinn can be good or evil and they can appear to humans in many disguises. He was afraid to offend them if he hurriedly retreated; so instead he greeted them with as cheerful a voice as he could muster. They replied politely in the customary fashion: "Our house is your house, our dwelling and all it contains belongs to you as well."


The jinn were about to sit down to supper; the guest nervously accepted their invitation to share the meal with them. Among the various dishes there was one of mjaddara, rice and lentils, which the jinn insisted he try.


"We have already told you that everything here is yours." Then, looking around him, the man fancied a resemblance between the furniture of the cave and things which had mysteriously disappeared from his own house. There followed a con¬versation in the course of which he told his hosts about the loss of his mare, and where he was going in the hope of finding her. They told him he need go no further, as the mare was there with them, and he could have her for the asking. The man had the feeling that this was too simple, yet he managed to ask for the mare, and she was brought to him at once. Dark as it was, he would have mounted then and there and headed home. But his hosts invited him to stay the night, and, as he feared again to offend them, he tied up the horse and remained with them in the cave. When he woke up the next morning he found the cave empty, but his mare was still tethered in the same place where he had left her before lying down to sleep.


Without mishap he rode back home, where his wife welcomed him with the news that all the things which had been missing had reappeared in the night as miraculously as they had vanished. Her joy was even greater when she saw the mare.


Her husband had not eaten since the night before and asked for breakfast. At once she produced a dish of mjaddara. She said she had cooked it the day before, but that she wasn’t hungry then and put it aside for his return. When she uncovered the dish, she exclaimed in surprise. "What is this?" When I put this dish away yesterday, it was full and carefully covered, and yet, as you see, somebody has had a taste of it. It cannot have been the cat. She could not possibly have replaced the cover." The young man was himself surprised when his wife said this, till, examining the dish, he knew it was the same one that had been offered to him by the jinn. This fact threw a new light on this strange experience.


"My dear wife," he cried," I know the secret of our misfortunes. We have neglected the good custom of our fathers, to ask blessing on all that we do.”


Needless to say, they amended their ways and so, to the end of their days, they enjoyed the protection of the Most High.

Adapted from Folklore of the Holy Land, J.E.Hanauer, Dover Publications