The Entrapped Suitors

folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 1730
retold by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2001

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  1. The Lady and Her Five Suitors (1001 Nights).

  2. The Entrapped Suitors (Europe).

The Lady and Her Five Suitors

1001 Nights

A beautiful woman, whose husband had traveled abroad, fell in love with a handsome young man, who in turn came into difficulty with the law. Claiming that the young man was her brother, she asked the wali to support his case, and he acceded, but only if she would be his lover. She consented, giving him her address and setting a time for their tryst. She next petitioned a qadi. He too agreed to intercede on her brother's behalf, in return for her love, and she set the same time for his arrival that had been reserved for the wali. Then she went to a vizier, who, like the others, pledged his help, in exchange for her promise of intimacy, and his appointment was set for the same time as his predecessors. Next she took her petition to the king, and he too guaranteed a good outcome for her brother's case, if she would accept him as a lover. The arrangements were quickly made.

The woman then went to a carpenter and ordered from him a cabinet with four compartments, one above the other. "My price is four dinars or your affection" he said.

"Let it be the latter," she replied. "But only if you make a cabinet with five compartments, instead of four." The carpenter consented. The work was soon finished, and she told him when to return for his promised reward.

The appointed trysting day came. The qadi was the first to arrive, and she asked him to take off his clothes and put on a brightly colored, strangely cut robe. He had scarcely done so when there was a knock at the door. "It is my husband!" she cried. "Hide in the cabinet!" And she locked him in the lowermost compartment. So it went with the wali, the vizier, and the king.

The carpenter was the last to arrive. She lured him into the cabinet's top compartment by complaining that, contrary to her instructions, it had been built too narrow to hold a man. "Not so," said the carpenter, and climbed inside to prove his claim. The woman locked the door on her final suitor, and then abandoned the place, departing with her young lover for another city.

Three days passed, and the carpenter, unable to hold his water any longer, relieved himself on the man beneath him. Each captive did the same, turning the cabinet into a sewer of filth. With time the neighbors entered the woman's lodgings and freed the befouled and strangely costumed suitors. Thus ends the story of the woman who tricked her five suitors.

The Entrapped Suitors


An honest sculptor and his beautiful wife lived in a renowned city with a great cathedral. His work was always in demand, because there were many convents, monasteries, and churches in the city. The sculptor and his wife would have been ever so happy, but for one problem. Her exquisite beauty caught the eye of many men, some of whom became increasingly bold in their attempts to gain her favor. Three men in particular -- a bishop, a priest, and a sexton -- were so open and so forceful in their solicitations that life became quite unbearable for the sculptor and his faithful wife. The sculptor, you see, feared that if any one of these three influential men would turn against him it could ruin his thriving trade. And his wife, an honorable and pious woman, was quite naturally offended by their overtures.

Finally the husband and wife devised a plan that would, they hoped, put an end to the unseemly advances and propositions.

The next time that the bishop approached the sculptor's wife, instead of giving her usual cool reply, she responded warmly, "Yes, it would be good if we could get to know one another better. My husband will be out this afternoon. Why don't you come by at three o'clock for tea?" The bishop, who could scarcely hide his eagerness and joy, accepted the invitation and left.

Then came the priest, and he too was delighted when his solicitation received an unexpectedly warm response. He too received an invitation for tea, but he was to come at half past three. The sexton came last, and he too was invited, but for four o'clock.

Three o'clock arrived and the bishop, true to his word, was as punctual as a church bell. "You must be very uncomfortable in that heavy, scratchy robe," purred the sculptor's wife, as they drank their tea. "Do make yourself at ease." He needed no further encouragement, and began to take off his clothes. Just as the last item fell, there came a knock at the door.

"Heaven help us!" cried the woman. "It's my husband! Quick, hide in the closet." The bishop, naked as a fish, fled to the closet.

The woman regained her composure and went to the door. It was, of course, the priest, as punctual as a church bell. A half hour later he too, having been encouraged by the sculptor's wife, had removed his clothes, just in time to hear a knock at the door. The previous scene repeated itself, and within seconds the naked priest had joined the naked bishop in the closet.

The sexton did not fare any better. He too, in grand anticipation, took off his clothes, only to be interrupted by a knock at the door. And he joined his two naked brethren in the closet.

This time it was indeed the husband returning home, and he had with him three nuns, worthy sisters from a nearby convent who had ordered statues of the three wise men for their sanctuary.

"I have just what you want," said the sculptor, leading the nuns to the closet holding the three entrapped suitors. "These will fit perfectly in the sanctuary," he added, opening the door with a flourish.

The three suitors stood breathless, as if made from stone as the nuns came closer to examine the workmanship.

First there was only silence, but then the senior sister said, hesitatingly, "Well, uh, we did have a somewhat different style in mind, perhaps something with a little less detail."

"No problem!" exclaimed the sculptor. I can remove the excess details at once!" He approached the three suitors, hammer in one hand, chisel in the other. And behold, the three statues suddenly came to life, bolted through the room, and disappeared out the door.

The three nuns returned to their convent without any statues. The good sisters there still give witness to the legend of the three stone saints that miraculously came to life.

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Revised March 25, 2001.