Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves

Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves : A Persian folk tale retold by Walter McVitty

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Long ago, in the land of Persia, there lived two brothers, Cassim and Ali Baba. Cassim married a rich but unpleasant woman and became a wealthy merchant, while Ali Baba married a poor but kindly woman and lived a humble life by cutting wood and selling it in the marketplace.

One day, while working in the forest, he saw a band of evil-looking men riding toward him. Fearing they might be robbers and cutthroats, he hid himself among the branches of a tree, which was growing beside a very large rock.

Forty men, all armed with long swords, brought their horses to a halt, right underneath this tree. Their leader sprang from his horse and called to the rock, “Open, Sesame!"

At once the rock opened, revealing a cave, into which the robbers bundled their bulging saddlebags. The rock then closed behind them, and all was silent.

Ali Baba looked on in amazement. He dared not leave his tree in case the bandits suddenly came out and caught him spying on them, for he knew that would surely mean death.

After some time, the rock opened up once more and the forty thieves came out, their saddlebags now empty. As they mounted their horses, their leader raised his hand and called out, “Close, Sesame!" The rock closed up once again and the robbers rode off.

Fascinated by what he had seen, Ali Baba climbed down from his tree and stood before the rock. He was curious to see if the magic words would work for him too. “Open, Sesame!" he cried, and behold, the great rock opened at his command.

Trembling with excitement, he entered the cave. The door closed behind him. Instead of being dark and gloomy as he expected, the cave was well lit, for there was a hole in its roof.

Ali Baba was astonished by what he saw. Piled before him was a great treasure—expensive silks, costly rugs, and heaps of gold and silver.

Although poor, Ali Baba was not a greedy man. He quickly filled a few sacks with gold coins, just enough for his two donkeys to carry.

“Open, Sesame!" he commanded again, and hurried out. Remembering to say “Close, Sesame!" he then led his donkeys’ home.

When Ali Baba’s wife saw the gold, she was speechless. He told her what he had seen and done and said to her, “You must promise to tell no one about this. We will bury the treasure and use it but a little at a time. Then no one will be suspicious. But first we must measure it. While I dig the hole, run to my brother Cassim’s house and borrow his weighing pan—but remember, say nothing more."

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