Persian Folktale: Friday Night’s Gift

For the last entry, I wanted to use a performance of a folktale that was close to me. This is a story my grandmother used to tell me when I was young. I do not know where it is written in a book or collection of short stories, as she used to tell be it verbally, memorized by heart. She used to tell my siblings, cousins, and I this story when we were staying over at her house for babysitting. It was a story she would often tell us around the time she was putting us to bed. I am going to recount her performance of the story from my memory for this collection.

In an ancient city in Iran, an old wood cutter and his daughter lived a humble life. The daughter, however, asked her father to get some extra dates to make cakes one day. So, the woodcutter went out again late, but could not find any dates. He came home and was disappointed, telling a man he met on the road. But the man explained that Friday nights are Holy nights (Shabbat) and that God would help the man if he helped others. However, he failed to heed the man’s advice. During the meantime, his daughter was chosen by the princess to be her hand maiden. Eventually, the princess claimed the daughter had stolen a necklace and soldiers came to look for her. Instead, the arrested the father who cursed himself for not doing charity on Friday nights like the man had told him to do. While in jail, the woodcutter was sad and lonely. He stopped a beggar boy and gave him some of the food that the jailer had given him. The boy was grateful, as he had not eaten that day. It was this little bit of charity that turned the woodcutter’s fate around because the next day the princess went back to the lake she swam in and found her necklace!

I remember my grandmother would always enunciate the ending part of the story that demonstrated how charity helps provide for others to be kind to you. In many ways, she was trying to install the importance of the Sabbath as well with the emphasis on Friday night being holy. Her voice was soft throughout the whole story until that ending bit where the necklace was found, and the woodcutter was freed. Interestingly, the moral is very similar to a few of the folktales added in this collection about how the energy one puts out into the world comes back to you, especially in the form of good works.