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The Slave Who Lied But Once a Year--and Other Persian
A book by Dr Laina Farhat-Holzman

Curl up with this book for fun and enlightenment.

Laina Farhat-Holzman, a former professor of World History and Islamic Civlization, was married for many years to an Iranian whose mother became very close to her. During a long visit, the two women began to share fairy tales and folk tales with each other for fun. Farhat-Holzman translated the Iranian tales and packed them away until recently.

These stories, told to her aristocaratic mother-in-law by an illiterate nanny and servants, reveal much about the nature of everyday Persian life, values, and daydreams. They range from dreamy to unny and often wicked. They are definitely not for young children. They reveal the nature of a people who know how to get around tyranny.


  1. Wit.
    • The Thorn Gatherer.
    • The Hermaphrodite.
  2. Tales of Lies.
    • The Slave Who Lied But Once a Year.
    • The Three Lies.
  3. Tales About Wives
    • Nanneh Fattah
    • First Things First
    • The Three Sisters.
  4. Stupidity and Ill-Breeding
    • Agha Bozorg.
    • Baba Chogandar.
  5. Magic and Transformations
    • Malek Ebrahim
    • The Enchanted Lake
    • Hassan Kachal
    • The Moon-browed Maiden.
  6. Violations of Trust
    • The Unrighteous Magistrate

Excerpt: The Thorn Gatherer

Once there was (and once there wasn’t) a poor thorn gatherer who sold his wares to the town bakers to fuel their ovens. His earnings were so meager that he and his wife scarcely had bread and cheese to eat. One day, his wife, Leela, asked that he try to earn a bit more money so that she might go to the bathhouse; she hadn’t gone for over a month. He worked longer hours so that, little by little, sufficient money was accumulated.

With the coins in her purse, Leela rose early to go to the bath, not knowing that on that day, the bath was barred to all but an important patron: the wife of the king’s astrologer. In her eagerness, the poor woman took no note of the emptiness of the bathhouse. She undressed, started to bathe, and, while singing merrily in the bath, was interrupted by the proud woman who had Leela’s little bundle of clothes cast into the mud and Leela, herself, half-washed, evicted.

Bitterly, Leela returned home to wait for her husband. Upon recounting her experience, she declared in great anger: "Either you learn to become an astrologer or I will leave you!"

He protested, but when she insisted, his love for her prevailed. With no further ado, he sold the tools of his trade and bought those of an astrologer. At his wife’s suggestion, he established himself on a straw mat near the same little bathhouse where his wife had been humiliated. He answered the little homely questions put to him well, and soon began to earn a fair living.

One day, when the palace bathhouse was undergoing repair, the Shah’s daughter engaged the neighborhood bath for her private use. As she disrobed, she handed her diamond necklace to a doddering old bath attendant for safekeeping. The attendant, her services needed elsewhere, looked for a place to deposit the jewels. Glancing about, she found a scrap of paper in which she wrapped the necklace, secreted the package in a hole in the wall, and blocked the hole with a handful of hair salvaged from the floor.

After the princess had been scrubbed to a pink and rosy shine, she asked for the necklace, but the befuddled attendant couldn't remember where she had put it. The bath was searched, to no avail. For several days, the irate princess sent a messenger to the bath to inquire, and when the jewels still hadn’t turned up, the staff was given one more day to produce the jewels or face imprisonment.

The Royal Astrologer himself had been consulted, but his suggestions came up to naught. In despair, one attendant suggested that the old woman consult the new astrologer who practiced near the bath, and in her haste, the old woman snatched up her chaddor-cloak and clutched it about her nude body--as bath attendants often do when on brief errands outside the bath. Squatting before the astrologer, she sobbed out her story and asked him to say what he could see.

Not knowing what to tell her, he looked about in embarrassment, and at length, when she pressed him again to tell her what he could see, he describe d the one thing his eyes chanced upon as she squatted before him. "I see," he said distractedly, "a hole with hair on it."

"Ah, may I be your sacrifice!" she wept joyfully, recalling the location of the jewels. "That is where I put them, in a hole with hair on it!"