Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P327. Barmecide feast (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

P in the Motif Index stands for Society, and the people in it: Kings and Queens and where they come from; artisans, peasants, people of the church - as well as families ("P233.8. - Prodigal son returns"). It also includes law, military affairs, hospitality, things that go with dealing with other people ("P361. - Faithful servant"). The story I found the most entertaining was

P327. Barmecide feast 

On the thirty-first of the Thousand and One Nights, a barber tells a tale about his past adventures (The barber's tale of himself).

The story begins in Baghdad, where ten highway robbers had been arrested, and they are being taken to the Caliph for judgment. They are being embarked on a boat just when the Barber walks up, and seeing the ten men getting the boat, he immediately jumps into the conclusion that they must be going to a wedding feast. Not wanting to miss out (FOMO), he gets in the boat with them.

The boat takes the prisoners to the opposite bank of the river, where they are chained - the Barber along with them. He is too polite to complain, and never says a word. The robbers are taken to the Caliph, who orders them to be beheaded. The executioner goes down the line with a sword, striking heads off... until only the Barber remains.
Here is where things get a little confusing. The Caliph demands to know why the executioner only killed nine of the prisoners. The executioner swears up and down that he cut ten heads off, but the Caliph points out that one man is still alive, therefore they must have miscounted. In the end, they count the heads again, and turns out that ten are dead, and the Barber makes eleven. At this point a very confused Caliph asks the Barber who he is, and just what on earth he is doing in the lineup. The Barber very politely explains what happened, how he misunderstood a situation, but he did not want to make a fuss about it. 
The Caliph falls over laughing.

(Read the story here.)

Now, "Barmecide" according to the dictionary means "illusory or imaginary." The term comes from the Arabian Nights itself - and it is directly related to our Barber above. The Barber tells the Caliph stories about his brothers. The sixth brother, impoverished, seeks charity at the house of the Barmecides, a noble family famous for its generosity. The old Barmecide pretends to serve him food and drinks - but it is all just play. Still, the beggar goes through the motions, even pretending to get drunk from the invisible wine. The lord of the house is so pleased with his miming capabilities that he keeps him around as a guest for twenty years.

P11.0.1. Prophecy that brother who first kisses saint will be king
P14.6. King‘s (prince’s) sulking chamber. He sulks here until his wishes are carried out
P14.7. None permitted to enter hall of king unless he possesses an art
P15.4. King is cursed by disguised dwarf-smiths whose work he criticised
P19.3. King must procure whatever visiting poets ask, or suffer from their satire
P192.4. Fool can live under water
P214. Wife drinks blood of slain husband
P233.3. Berserks scold their father who apparently without reason called their adversary invincible
P311.2. Flower-friendship
P341. Teacher dies of pride over success of pupil
P412.3. Hero as rabbit-herd
P427. Poets and fools closely allied.
P641. Injured husband will not kill a naked man.


  1. Sometimes one needs to be a bit less polite...
    Eva - Mail Adventures
    P is for Paradise.

  2. Those Arabian Nights are really wonderful. I really enjoy reading them.
    Good thing the heads didn't roll away. Politeness doesn't always help.

  3. While I think politeness is greatly underestimated in society today, I think perhaps the barber took it a bit far. And this is a perfect cautionary tale for that oh-so-prevalent FOMO.

  4. Speaking up is important too!! Am truly enjoying reading your posts - have read the Arabian Nights in a very cursory fashion and someday will dive deep into this and other tales from around the world.. until then, will read stories on your blog - you have a treasure trove of them!!
    And love the new word I learned today - barmecide..

  5. Wife drinks blood of slain husband - marginally better than wife cooks husband and feeds him to investigators - an old tv show I saw.

    1. that episode of that old tv show reminds me of hanibal lector in red dragon. he did the same thing basically.

  6. That's a case of extreme politeness, if ever there was one! To lose your head over not wanting to make a fuss! Really!
    Fun read and a FOMO warning too:)
    P is for Poetry, Petra and Pottery

  7. I know there are 1001 stories in the Arabian Nights, but I only actually know like 2 of them. Something to look up one of these days.

    He jumped in the boat because he assumed they were going to a wedding? He was too polite to argue when the chained him up? What... what is the moral of this story?

    P - Pussy Black-face and Margaret Marshall Saunders

  8. This makes me wonder, is this the basis of the word 'barmy'?? And today's vote for the best runner up goes to King must procure what the poets ask for...But of course! :)


  9. I think there was a Spongebob episode about this ;)

  10. Sometimes being too polite can kill you. I wrote about a barber today too.
    Finding Eliza

  11. Now these are some weird stories. I wonder what's behind these ideas, there must be some sort fo historical reason for these motifs.

    The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

  12. I love that the executioner counted how many heads he was chopping, instead of just going along the line to kill them all. It makes you wonder how often this has happened before! XD

    Here's my "P" post :)