Appointment in Samarra

You must have heard of (or seen on the big screen) the tales of Beedle the Bard. This is something far more interesting. It is an old Arabic story and goes like this:

There was once a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to buy provisions from the market and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.

She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city to avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he came to her and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

That was not a threatening gesture, Death said, it was only a start of surprise. You see, she said, I was astonished to see him in Baghdad today, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.


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