Once upon a time a sultan had three sons who were lazy and would never study. As time passed and his sons became young men, the sultan grew frustrated. At long last the sultan consulted a magician who promised to turn them into great scholars.
This notion pleased the sultan. He offered the magician half his countryside if he could fulfill his promise.
But this was not enough for the magician. "I also wish for one of your sons to become my servant," he said.
The sultan did not think this was a good idea. Still, he reasoned, if his son were indeed to become a scholar, surely he would find a way to earn his freedom and return to the sultan's palace.
So the sultan agreed, and the magician took the sons away.
A year passed. When the magician returned to the sultan's palace, he brought with him three young men who not only could read and write, they had also become deep thinkers.
Because the magician had held up his end of the arrangement, the sultan agreed to turn over half the countryside and one of his sons to become the magician's servant.
The magician took the young man to his home far away. There he gave him the keys to the property.
"I will be away for a month," the magician explained. "You may use these keys to open any door you wish. I expect you to mind everything while I'm away."
As soon as the magician was gone, the young man began to explore the house. Before long he discovered a room full of liquid gold, and this pleased him. But the other rooms frightened him. In one he found the bones of goats, in another the bones of horses and in a third human skulls.
His hand was shaking as he opened the last door, but there he was surprised to be greeted by a horse. The horse was very much alive, but chained to a post. When he saw the young man, he neighed with relief.
"Listen carefully," the horse said. "You and I are the only living things in this house. We must escape, or we will suffer the same fate as those in the other rooms. Please free me."
The confused young man quickly searched for the key and unlocked the grateful horse's chains.
The horse wasted no time planning their escape. "Listen. Open the door to the room of gold, and I shall swallow it and run away," he said. "I will wait for you at the end of the road that leads to this house. There I will stand beneath the tallest tree. When the magician returns from his journey, he will ask you to go into the woods to collect firewood. Tell him you are too tired, so he will go alone. When he returns, he will put a great pot on the hook above the hearth and ask you to build a fire. Tell him you don't know how, so he will make it himself."
The young man listened and absorbed every word.
"The magician will pour water into the pot," the horse continued. "While it is heating, you must bide your time until the water is boiling. After it is hot enough, you must run up behind him and push him into the pot. Then run down the road and find me under the tree."
With that, the horse swallowed the gold and ran away.
When the magician finally returned from his journey, everything happened as the horse had predicted. The young man pushed the magician into the pot, ran out of the house and found the horse at the end of the road. Together, they ran away.
Soon after, guests arrived at the magician's house. Finding it empty, they looked everywhere for him. When they found the pot full of stew, they eagerly ate it and left without finding their host.
Meanwhile, the young man and the horse stopped in another land, near a beautiful city. There the horse coughed up all the gold, and the young man bought everything they needed to build a big, beautiful house.
When the new house was complete, the people of the city came to gaze upon it. It was so lovely that everyone talked about it. People wondered who owned this house. They were told he was a handsome and brilliant young man, who was also generous and kind.
The sultan was told that he must meet this mysterious man, and so he sent word for him to visit.
The young man rode the horse to the sultan's palace. When he arrived, the sultan was stunned and delighted to see his long-lost son, who'd used his wits to find his way back home. Clearly, he'd become the scholar the sultan had always hoped for.
Now back home, the young man was again a sultan's son.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.