The Hero of Qazwin

In this story, set in the Persian town of Qazwin, we learn of how one man's courage was put to the test in a way he didn't expect. Rumi begins the action in this way:

"Listen to this tale from the storyteller, and what it says of the ways of the people of Qazwin. They tattoo themselves with blue ink delivered lightly on the point of a needle on their bodies, hands, and shoulders, taking every care not to feel any pain.

A certain warrior of Qazwin went to a tattoo artist and said to him, "Tattoo me in a more splendid way than usual."

"O Brave one," said the artist, "what figure would you have me imprint?" The man answered him, saying, "Prick in the figure of a raging lion, for Leo is my sign. Yes, tattoo a lion. Go all out and inject plenty of blue ink."

"Where would you like me to place the tattoo?" asked the artist. "Prick the gorgeous idol on my shoulder," the man replied boldly. However, as soon as the artist began to stick his needle in, the pain erupted in the man's shoulder. The hero began groaning and said, "O noble one, you're killing me. What shape are you tattooing?"

"You asked me to do a lion," the artist replied. "Then what part of the lion did you start with?" the man asked. "I started on the tail," he answered.

"My close comrade," he cried, "leave off the tail. I nearly lost my breath from this lion's tail and rump; it was like his rump choked off my windpipe! Let the lion have no tail, O maker of lions, for my heart is faint from the pricking of the needle."

Then the artist began to prick on another part of the man's shoulder fearlessly, without any concern or kindness. Thereupon the man cried out once more in pain, "Which part of the lion is that?"

The artist replied, "That's his ear, my good man." "O Doctor," he moaned, "let him have no ears then. Forget the ears and make his mane short."

Then the artist began working on another part, yet once again the man of Qazwin let out a scream, saying, "What part are you working on now in this third spot?" The artist answered wearily, saying, "That's the lion's belly, good sir." "Then let the lion have no belly!" he cried. "It hurts too much; don't prick on me any more!"

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