The fairy tale ‘Forty Fortunes’ has its origin in Iran and revolves around Ahmed, a poor man who follows the advice of his wife. The wife advises him to get into different professions for him to earn more money.
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Although Ahmed understands that his wife’s advice is full of risks, he hesitantly agrees to follow it and becomes a fortune teller in a bid to increase his income and prevent her from leaving him.
Soon after he decides to become a fortune teller, a king’s treasure is stolen. Incidentally, the king gets information about his unique talent and bestows the responsibility of recovering the lost treasure on him within a period of forty days. He is supposed to employ his powers to trace it within that stipulated period of time.
Jamell, Ahmed’s wife is very delighted after discovering that her husband will be awarded many riches if he recovers the missing treasure.
However, if he fails to recover it, he will spend the rest of his life in jail. In an eavesdropping incident, the thieves get convinced that Ahmed knows of their whereabouts and that they will not escape the wrath of the king. Instead of being taken to the king once they are caught, they decide to negotiate with Ahmed to save them.
The story is very significant in the Iranian culture since it highlights some of the most important aspects of the Iranian people and their character. For instance, it points out the changes that have taken place regarding the role of women in the society in the Middle East.
Today, it is a common occurrence for women to be involved in formal jobs just like men. However, this was not the scenario in the past since women were supposed to stay at home and take care of their husbands and children.
This story has continued to be told from generation to generation because it explains some aspects of Iranian culture and the Islamic world in general that are highly valued and that should be passed on from generation to generation.
For instance, it focuses on divining or foretelling. This refers to the use of mystic means to find out hidden knowledge. Throughout history, this has taken place in almost all cultures.
As an individual, the story has a lot of meaning and significance. One of the most important lessons that I learn from it is that people should not be afraid of trying new things in their lives for fear of failure. Ahmed only worked for survival and feared trying a different thing but when he did, he eventually became rich.
Retelling the Forty Fortunes
Forty Fortunes is a story about Ahmed, a poor man. He is married to Jamell and they live in the Royal City of Isfahan. He has no trade and is not determined to learn any. All he owns is a shovel and a pick which he uses to dig holes for little money. He is clearly unambitious and tells his wife that all they need is only to survive.
Jamell is not satisfied with what her husband does and the situation becomes worse when she is turned away at the public baths, simply because the wife of the king’s Royal Diviner is using them. This leads her into thinking that her life and that of her husband can only change if the husband became a diviner.
Ahmed is taken by surprise when his wife advises him to become a fortune teller and at first takes her for an insane person. This is because he knows nothing about fortune telling. However, Jamell seems to be wise and creative since she tells him that diviners only apply wisdom to earn their living.
She tells him that all he needs to do is only get a dice and mumble some wise things failure to which she will leave him. To keep his wife, Ahmed is left with no option other than selling his shovel and pick to get a dice and the robes worn by fortune tellers. After he lands into the market place, he encounters the wife of one of the king’s masters who has lost her precious ring while at the public baths.
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He doesn’t know what to tell her but as he looks at her, he notices a hole on his cloak. He mentions it thus assisting the wife remember where he had hidden her ring. This earns him a gold coin.
When Ahmed takes the gold coin to his wife, she congratulates him but he keeps on saying that it was the grace of God implying that the thing was not going to work for long. On the same night, the royal treasury of the king is robbed of forty chests. The king’s Royal Diviner and his assistants fail to unravel the mystery forcing the king to call Ahmed since he had heard about him after recovering the lost ring.
When he enquires from him about the robbery, Ahmed has no idea on what to say but uses his own wisdom which turns out to be impressive to the king. Since there were forty chests, he tells the king that the thieves must have been forty, something that the king’s diviners could not find out.
He also promises the king that he will find the thieves after forty days failure to which he will end up in prison. Later, he expresses his worry to his wife because he knows that it is likely for him to end up in prison if he does not reveal the thieves.
In order for Ahmed to know when the forty days are over, he puts forty dates in a jar and eats one every evening. Surprisingly, one of the thieves is the king’s servant who overhears the conversation between the king and Ahmed. He goes back and explains this to their chief who then sends him to Ahmed’s house to listen for any information.
As the thief sits on the roof of the house, ahmed takes one of the dates and tells his wife ‘that’s one.’ The thief gets very scared and returns to the chief to tell him that Ahmed has unbelievable powers because he could know there was somebody on the roof.
The chief repeats the same procedure with an additional thief and everytime the number of the thieves on the roof coincides with the number of dates Ahmed has eaten. This convinces them that Ahmed knows about them and that he will take them to the king.
To avoid being taken to the king, the forty thieves reveal themselves and plead with Ahmed to save them. He agrees to save them on condition that they return all the treasures they had stolen. Before the end of the night, they return all the treasures to the treasury.
Ahmed returns to the king and tells him that his magic arts can only get him either the thieves or the treasures but not both, so he has to make a choice. He does this since he has agreed to save the thieves if they returned the treasures. Since the king values the treasures, his choice is to get them back.
He is extremely happy to find them back and decides to make Ahmed his Royal Diviner. However, Ahmed knows that he does not have the powers to be a diviner for the king so he regrets the fact that he used all his powers that he cannot be a diviner anymore. In appreciation, the king rewards him two chests which make him a rich man.
Discussion of Re-telling the Story
The re-telling of this story brings out the role of hard work and the need for individuals to believe in themselves. For instance, Ahmed lived in poverty using his pick and shovel to earn a living but he was not working hard enough. He was satisfied with the little he got as long as there food for his wife and himself.
It was not until his wife pressured him to change profession that he considered following her advice. The story is re-told in a manner that portrays the challenging and risky situations that Ahmed found himself in but applied wisdom in all of them to emerge the winner.
The main intention of re-telling this story is to convince individuals that they should not understimate what they can do. For instance, Ahmed never knew that he could apply a lot of wisdom to win the confidence of great people including the king and eventually become rich.
The intended audience of this story is adult people who find themselves under pressure to provide for their families. Some of them waste a lot of time doing unrewarding jobs without knowing that they have the potential to do greater things. All that is required is for them to believe in themselves and listen to the advice they get from people who are close to them.