(From The Arabian Nights and attributed to several nights’ going.)
A beautiful horse, carved out of ebony, that could fly! It was so magnificent the sultan had to own it. He commanded the magician to name his price. The magician demanded the sultan’s own daughter in marriage.
The sultan did not instantly agree with the magician, but neither did he have him thrown out for presumption and disrespect.
When word of this reached the princess she was terrified. Knowing she could not plead her own case, she went instead to her brother, the first-born son, and begged him to speak for her.
Furious that that his father would consider trading away his sister for a new plaything, the prince went to him.
At his father’s urging, the prince mounted the life-sized ebony horse. He followed the magician’s directions, and gasped as the statue began to rise, but it did not make him less angry.
“No thing made by the hands of men is worth giving my sister to this man!”
The magician reached up and pushed hard on the lever under the prince’s hand. The ebony horse rose out of the courtyard and out of sight.
The magician was immediately put in chains and thrown in the dungeon.
Only losing his head for a moment, the prince felt the opposite shoulder and found a second knob. After some trial and error (a terrifying exercise at such a hight) he mastered the controls and despite his concern for his sister, forgot her entirely in the thrill of this new sensation of flight.
When it grew dark, the prince brought the horse closer to the earth, but found himself in an unfamiliar land. Gravitating naturally toward the palace he saw, the prince landed on the roof and began exploring by moonlight. Looking in a large window he noticed a beautiful princess asleep on her couch, and went in to see her more closely.
She awoke suddenly, but did not cry out.
“How do you come to be here?” she asked. “I am at the center of three rings of defenses and guards at each wall. Even now there is a guard outside my chamber door.”
The prince cared for none of this. He had already decided he was in love. Telling her hurriedly of the fantastic horse that had brought him, he invited her to come away with him to his own kingdom, where he would one day rule.
As he seemed gentle, and was young and handsome, she agreed, glad enough to leave the stifling control of her current life.
When they arrived early the next morning just outside the prince’s kingdom, it was agreed that the princess would wait with the horse while the prince made arrangements for her to be brought into the city as was fitting for his bride-to-be.
When the Sultan heard his son’s story he ordered the magician be released, and while the royals collected the necessary people for the procession, the angry magician sought his revenge.
Finding the girl alone, still sitting on the ebony horse, the magician explained that her groom had sent him to convey her on the horse itself, deeming it better than a traditional arrival. The girl believed him and made room for him to leap up.
Just as the prince was leaving the city he saw the magician fly the ebony horse overhead with the terrified princess clinging to him.
Realizing the treachery too late, the princess could say nothing to induce the evil man to turn back. When they were far away the magician waited until he found a clearing in the midst of a deep forest, landing the horse there.
But all the magician’s plotting was in vain, for a hunting party was just entering the clearing as they landed. Jumping from the horse and attempting to run, the princess cried for help. The sultan of that land was in the hunting party, and it was his arrow that pierced the wicked magician.
The princess thanked him for his help, and began to explain she had just been stolen from her betrothed, when the sultan looked on her and declared he would be her husband. Again she found herself the unwilling passenger with an unknown destination.
This time she took matters into her own hands, feigning a violent madness that kept at a distance even the many doctors the sultan hired to cure her.
Meanwhile, the prince, devastated that he had lost his bride, disguised himself as a rich merchant and began to travel, seeking news of her.
He came at last to a land where the people spoke of a mad but beautiful princess who came out of the sky, and how the sultan, desperate to marry her was offering great rewards to any that might cure her.
Hearing this, the prince disguised himself as a doctor at once and presented himself at the palace.
The prince obtained permission to treat her almost alone, and in the relative privacy they laid their plans.
The next day, the sultan and his court brought the ebony horse back to the clearing where they had discovered it. In accordance with the prescribed treatment, the crazy girl was set on her source of madness, along with the learned doctor who would wrestle and redirect it.
When the ebony horse began to rise slowly in the air, the courtiers murmured at the doctor’s great powers.
It was only after sunset fell without their return that the sultan realized he’d been played for a fool.
The prince returned home with his bride, where they were married. And if there was anything happier than their wedding, it was their married life afterwards.