Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves

Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves : from the Thousand and One Nights

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In a certain town in Persia there was once a poor woodcutter named Ali Baba. Every day he would chop firewood in the hills, load it onto his donkey and bring it back into town to sell. One afternoon Ali Baba was hard at work felling a tree on a new hill, when he heard a large number of horses approaching at full gallop. They seemed to be coming straight towards him.

Hurriedly he shinned up a tall tree to see what it was. Surrounded by a cloud of dust was a troop of sturdy men. Their faces were burned black by the sun, their eyes glittered like bright copper coins, and they each had a beard shaped like a falcon swooping on its prey. Certainly they were no ordinary travelers.

"They must be a band of desert marauders!" Ali Baba tried to hide himself amongst the leaves and fretted that his donkey would bray. At the foot of his hill the riders all dismounted, slung very heavy-looking sacks over their shoulders, and walked up to an immense rock. The one in front, who seemed to be their leader, glared fiercely over them all. Then he turned to face the rock, drew himself up and yelled in a loud, gruff voice…"Open, Sesame!"

And what do you suppose happened? Right in front of him the sheer face of the rock began to smoothly and silently divide into two until there was an opening a person could pass through. Into this the robbers disappeared one by one, but soon they re-emerged empty-handed. They'd left their loot inside!

Once again the leader turned and gravely commanded: "Close, Sesame!" As if waiting for the sound, the rock entrance began to close up until no sign of it remained."I wonder if I've been dreaming? ... or perhaps it was all a mirage?"

Ali Baba sat there for a long while gathering his wits. Then, making sure that the robbers had all ridden away, he climbed gingerly down from his tree and round to the rock. In a timid, quavering voice he called, "Open, Sesame!"

These were indeed magical words. Effortlessly the rock reopened and Ali Baba saw inside a large cavern with a high vaulted roof. Chests of all sizes crammed with gold coins were piled high, intricately worked gold and silver ornaments littered the floor, and the sparkle of many jewels seemed to light up the darkness.

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