The Sultan’s Daughter

Main Text

KK: “The next one is called the Sultan’s Daughter. Yeah, it’s called the Sultan’s Daughter, and it’s about, the main character is not the Sultan’s daughter, it’s the son of a king in one, in one country, and he sets out on a journey. His father wants to know if he’s you know responsible, and worthy of becoming king when he grows up. So he gives the Prince a bag of of money, and gives the Prince a sword, and he says ‘Okay, you know, go out and figure out what’s happening.’ So the Prince leaves, with him he has a bag of money, a sword, and a horse. And so he treks through a couple of different countries, and eventually the horse dies of starvation or dehydration, one of the two. But the Prince is in great spirits, you know, he has a general love of life and a love of the world. He loves exploring, so he just keeps walking by himself, and eventually he stumbles across this old ruin of like a temple, and he sees these two men with pickaxes digging up a grave. And they take out a skeleton from the grave, and so he he pulls out his sword, he’s a very righteous person, and he points it at them he says ‘Hey, stop! You know you can’t do that, you’re, that’s sacrilege.’ And the two bandits they say ‘Well, no, this man in his life owed us a great debt, and now that he’s dead, you know, we’re just coming to collect.’ The Prince said ‘I understand that you were owed a debt, but you know the man is dead now, and you can’t just defile his grave. I mean he’s probably not at peace with the fact that he never got to pay that debt himself, so let that be his punishment.’ The two men were like ‘Okay, well, sure, but we still need our money.’ So the prince said ‘Well, how about I pay you? and if I do, you have to promise to put those bones back and cover the grave with the utmost respect.’ And so the Prince paid them, and they put the bones back and covered it up, and once the Prince paid them, he realized ‘Oh, I’m out of money.’ So he had now no horse, no money, but he still just kept walking and he was still having a great time. He was loving life. And then he met this, this man who we’ll just refer to as friend for the rest of it. And this friend approached him and was like ‘Hey, wow! you’re traveling! I could travel with you for a bit.’ And he had a good, you know, he had an honest looking face, so the Prince was like ‘Yeah, of course, you know, come along with me.’ So the prince and his friend kept traveling, and then they stumbled upon the city. And as they walked into the city there was this beautiful, beautiful woman, the most beautiful that the prince had ever seen. And so he turned to his friend and was like ‘Wow! Who’s that?’ And his friend goes ‘Oh, that’s the sultan’s daughter but if you want her hand in marriage you have to, you know, solve her riddle correctly. Thousands have tried, but if you fail, you get put to death.’ The Prince was like ‘Man you know even though that’s a little cruel I’m in love. This is the woman for me. I’m gonna solve the riddle.’ So then the friend was like ‘You know, Why don’t we just go to bed, and well, when you have a fresh mind tomorrow you can go tackle the riddle.’ So they went to bed, and the friend woke up in the middle of the night, and he fashioned some wings out of just loose hay in the barnyard they were staying at and he took some of the hay as well and fashioned like a little bracken whip. And so he he flew out to the Sultan’s palace, and he waited for the daughter, who also had golden wings Just by the power of magic and she flew out of the palace like in the dead of night, and she flew to this witch’s cave. But the whole time she was being followed by the friend and the whole time the friend was, you know, beating her back with the the bracken whip. She didn’t notice she thought it was just the raindrops hitting her back in like a painful way and it didn’t leave any marks. So she gets to the witch’s hut, or the witch’s cave, and she goes and is like ‘Hey, like you know I need a new riddle this man is gonna come ask for something.’ So the witch is like ‘Okay, well, he’ll never get this. Tell him to, tell him to like answer: what am I thinking about right now? what is the princess thinking about? and the answer should be your gloves.’ So the next day they wake up and the friend goes ‘Hey, you know, if the princess asks you what she’s thinking about, say her gloves.’ And he goes in, and he gives the correct answer, and the princess is mad. She’s like ‘It shouldn’t be this easy, you know. No, come back tomorrow.’ Then the Prince is, he’s a good guy so he’s like ‘Oh, I mean I thought it was only a one time deal, but sure I like you so much I’ll come back tomorrow.’ So he he goes to bed, and the same thing happens. The next night the friend follows her to the witches hut, beating her with the lashes, and she, the witch gives a new riddle, and the new riddle is again: what am I thinking about? And the answer is the crown on top of my head. And so the next morning the friend says to the Prince ‘Hey, If again, she asks what you’re thinking about say the crowd on top of her head.’ So he goes in, gives the riddle correctly and the the Princess is furious. She’s like ‘There’s no way. This should not be this easy, come back tomorrow.’ So again, same thing happens. she flies out, and she gets beaten with the lashes. So she flies back for the third time, and the witch says ‘Okay, this time he’ll never get this. Tell him that you’re thinking about my head, the witch’s head. And so the princess flies back, and as she’s flying back, she’s like ‘Wow, you know my back is cut so much from this rain I’m never visiting this witch again.’ So then the friend has been waiting outside the witches cavern the whole time, and he draws a sword, and as the witch pokes her head out he cuts it off and he puts the head in a bag, and he goes back to the prince. And the next morning the prince wakes up, and the friend is like ‘Hey when the Princess asks what she’s thinking about just show her whatever is in this bag, but don’t open it till you get there’ and he gives him the bag with the head in it. The good prince goes in once again, and the Princess asks ‘What am I thinking about?’ And he he doesn’t say anything because he’s like ‘Okay? Well, I wasn’t given anything to say.’ And the guards draw their swords and the executioner has the axe at the ready and he’s like ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait one sec’ and he reaches into the bag and pulls out the witch’s head, and you know, in classic fairytale fashion the princess is wooed and falls into his arms and is like ‘Yes, this is him. This is the man that I’m gonna marry.’ And the Prince is super stoked. He’s like ‘Oh, yes, I just got, you know, the prettiest girl in the whole land.’ So then he goes back to his friend and he’s like ‘Yo like it worked I mean’ and his friend is like ‘Oh, that’s great for you.’ And the Prince is like ‘So, you know, I gotta go back home to tell my dad, but when can I see you again?’ And his friend goes ‘Well, actually you know you’re not gonna ever see me again. Like I’m done here.’ And the prince is like ‘What do you mean?’ The man says ‘Do you remember when you stopped those two men from defiling that grave?’ And the Prince is like ‘Yeah, yeah, I mean I just thought it was the right thing to do.’ The man’s like ‘Actually that was my grave and you know I’m just here to help you out because you helped me out.’ Yeah, that’s the end of the story.”


KK is a 21 year old USC student studying psychology on a pre-med track. Of Indian descent, he was originally born in South Africa but has lived in England, the UAE and now in New York, Ny. KK heard this story for the first time as a child still living in South Africa from his grandmother. It was his favorite and would ask for this story to be told to him over and over again. He thinks it is his favorite because he connects so well with the overall moral of the story.


KK says that the Sultan’s Daughter is another traditional South African folktale that would be told to children as a bed time story. The moral of this story in his words is that if you do good things, good things will come unto you and that you should have no desire for material goods. But you should use your resources to help others, and they will help you in return.

Interviewer Analysis

I found this story very interesting and over the course of the telling became wrapped up in the plot and the success of the main character, not just in analyzing the text. It is most often the most interesting tales that are carried on, as they are more memorable and more likely to be retold. This story certainly supports that hypothesis although it is admittedly quite long. As an emic observer this story makes perfect sense not only in its moral but also in its purpose.