The History of Sidi Nu'uman

In the collected tales of the One Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade one evening relates the following tale, very similar to the tale of Vamadatta.

The Caliph Harun al-Rashid chanced to notice one day a young man upon a fine black mare. Although the animal appeared completely obedient, her rider was urging her at her fullest speed and savagely whipping her. The Caliph, loathe to see an animal unjustly mistreated, ordered the young man brought to him to account for his actions.

The frightened young man, after bowing his head to the ground, identified himself as Sidi Nu'uman and begged forgiveness, promising that if the Caliph knew the reasons for his behaviour, it would be seen to be perfectly justified. The Caliph reassured him that no punishment would befall him if he spoke the full truth, and so Sidi Nu'uman began his tale.

Having been blessed with wealthy parents who had seen to his every earthly need, Sidi Nu'uman set about getting himself a wife. When he found a young woman of surpassing beauty and intelligence he thought his dreams had come true. However, the day after their marriage he noticed that though their table was loaded with the finest of foods, his beloved Aminah only reluctantly approach the table and then only eat a few grains of rice, one at a time. This happened time after time and worried him no end until one night when she rose from their bed in the middle of the night when he chanced to be awake also. While he pretended to sleep on, she dressed and left the house. Sidi Nu'uman leapt up, dressed and grabbed his sword and followed her.

To his horror, she made her way to a nearby cemetery where she greeted a Ghoul seated upon a grave. Then Aminah and the Ghoul dug up a newly interred body and began to feast upon its flesh. Sickened, Sidi Nu'uman fled home and pretended to asleep still when she eventually returned. Though shaken and repulsed, he pretended ignorance until the noon meal where, nobly determined to steer his wife off her dark path, asked her if there was no food upon the table she would rather have than corpse-flesh.

Instantly she knew that he had seen her with the Ghoul, and in a rage, she flung a cup of water at him and spoke strange words. Instantly, Sidi Nu'uman was transformed into a dog, and he fled the house as she tried to kill him.

Wandering the street, he at last found shelter with a goodly butcher, and lived there for many days, where he both guarded the butcher's shop and also helped the man to identify counterfeit coins. In this manner he earned quite a local reputation, and one day a woman entered the shop and beckoned him to follow her. Finding something intriguing about her he did this, and she led him to her house wherein dwelt a beautiful young maiden whom he took to be her daughter. The daughter transpired to be a sorceress and returned Sidi Nu'uman to his rightful shape, and listened to his story. At this she gave him a goblet of water and instructed him to return home and sprinkle her with it, speaking certain magic words which she then taught him.

Sidi Nu'uman returned home. When Aminah beheld him she was frightened and made to flee, but he dashed her with the water and spoke the words of magic. At once her skin began to darken and a glossy coat of fine black hair began to spread across her body, which began to grow immensely. Soon she burst from her clothing. She protested loudly at her fate, and her voice got shriller and harder to make out, until it became the squealing of a frightened horse. She fell to all fours, her hands turned to hooves, and before Sidi Nu'amun's eyes became the beautiful black mare the Caliph had espied that day. Sidi Nu'amun seized the animal by the mane and led her to the stables where he haltered her securely and beat her with a whip, reproaching her for her evil behaviour. Thereafter, he determined that to punish her, he would ride her at full speed around the square each day, beating her, and thus inflicting upon her the justest penalty.