Sekandar Sees the Speaking Tree

Sekandar Sees the Speaking Tree

The desert road led to a city, and Sekandar was relieved when he heard human voices there. The whole area was one of gardens and fine buildings and was a place to delight any man. The city’s noblemen welcomed him, calling out greetings and showering him with gold and jewels. “It is wonderful that you have come to visit us,” they said. “No army has ever entered this town, and no one in it has ever heard the name of ‘king.’ Now that you have come our souls are yours, and may you live with bodily health and spiritual serenity.” Sekandar was pleased by their welcome and rested from the journey across the desert. He said to them, “What is there here that’s astonishing, that should be inquired into?” A guide said to him, “Victorious king, there is a marvel here, a tree that has two separate trunks together, one of which is female and the other male, and these splendid tree limbs can speak. At night the female trunk becomes sweet smelling and speaks, and when the daylight comes, the male speaks.” Sekandar and his Greek cavalry, with the nobles of the town gathered around, listened and said, “When is it you say that the tree speaks in a loud voice?” The translator replied, “A little after day has disappeared one of the trunks begins to speak, and a lucky man will hear its voice; in the dark night the female speaks, and its leaves then smell like musk.”

Sekandar answered, “When we go beyond the tree, what wonders are there on the other side?” The reply was, “When you pass the tree there is little argument about which way to take, as there is no place beyond there; guides say it is the world’s end. A dark desert lies ahead of you, but no man is so weary of his own soul as to go there. None of us have ever seen or heard that there are any animals there, or that birds fly there.” Sekandar and his troops went forward, and when they came near the speaking tree the ground throbbed with heat and the soil there was covered with the pelts of wild beasts. He asked his guide what the pelts were, and who it was that had skinned so many animals in this way. The man answered, “The tree has many worshippers, and when they come here to worship, they feed on the flesh of wild animals.”

When the sun reached its zenith Sekandar heard a voice above him, coming from the leaves of the tree; it was a voice to strike terror and foreboding in a man. He was afraid and said to the interpreter, “You are wise and mean well, tell me what the leaves are saying, which makes my heart dissolve within me.” “O king, favored by fortune, the leaves say, ‘However much Sekandar wanders in the world, he has already seen his share of blessings: when he has reigned for fourteen years, he must quit the royal throne.’” At the guide’s words Sekandar’s heart filled with pain, and he wept bitterly. He was sad and silent then, speaking to no one, until midnight. Then the leaves of the other trunk began to speak, and Sekandar again asked the interpreter what they said. He replied, “The female tree says, ‘Do not puff yourself up with greed; why torment your soul in this way? Greed makes you wander the wide world, harass mankind, and kill kings. But you are not long for this earth now; do not darken and deaden your days like this.’” Then the king said to the interpreter, “Pure of heart and noble as you are, ask them one question: Will this fateful day come in Greece; will my mother see me alive again, before someone covers my face in death?”

The speaking tree replied, “Few days remain; You must prepare your final baggage train. Neither your mother, nor your family, Nor the veiled women of your land will see / Your face again. Death will come soon: you’ll die / In a strange land, with strangers standing by. The stars and crown and throne and worldly glory / Are sated with Sekandar and his story.”

Are sated with Sekandar and his story.” Sekandar left the tree, his heart wounded as if by a sword. When he returned to his camp, his chieftains went into the town to collect the gifts from the town’s nobility. Among these was a cuirass that shone like the waters of the Nile and was as huge as an elephant skin: it had two long tusks attached to it and was so heavy it was hard to lift. There was other armor, as well as fine brocade, a hundred golden eggs each weighing sixty man, and a rhinoceros made of gold and jewels. Sekandar accepted the gifts and led off his army, weeping bitter tears as he went.

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