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Tale of Bulūqiyā (1)

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04 Religious and philosophical literature and poetry

Abbasid Empire
Umayyad Empire
Akkadian poetry
Arabic culture

The Tale of Bulūqiyā in the Arabian Nights clearly echoes the Gilgameš Epic.

The hero Bulūqiyā becomes king of the Sons of Israel at the death of his father, and finds in the palace a gold box in an ebony casket on a white marble column containing parchment written in Greek. The text gives instructions how to obtain the magic ring of Solomon which bestows power over all living things, and immortality. His advisers recommend him to set out with the wise man ˁAffan. Here the text offers close comparison with the Akkadian version: “Followed by the learned ˁAffan, he (Bulūqiyā) left the city and journeyed into the desert. Only when they had gone some way did Affan say to him: “Here is the propitious place for those conjurations which will show us our way”. They halted; ˁAffan drew a magic circle about him in the sand, and, after performing certain rituals, brought to light the spot which was the entrance, on that side, to my subterranean kingdom.” (cf. Gilgameš Epic, tablet 4) The two men travel through the desert to the subterranean kingdom of Queen Yamlika, who gives them magic juice from a plant. This enables them to walk across the seven seas to Solomon’s tomb. They reject her advice to give up their plan and to be content with another plant which gives eternal youth to those who eat it. After marvellous journeys across the Seven Seas, Bulūqiyā and ˁAffan arrive at the Isle of the Seven Seas with apple trees which are guarded by an enormous giant who does not allow them to eat the fruit. On the island they find the tomb of Solomon in a cave and find the corpse wearing the ring in great splendour. Their courage nearly fails, but then ˁAffan plucks up courage and approaches the body, leaving Bulūqiyā to pronounce conjurations. But Bulūqiyā in the moment of stress says the words backwards, whereupon a drop of liquid diamond falls upon ˁAffan and reduces him and the precious plant juice to a handful of dust. Bulūqiyā runs out of the cave and wanders around alone and despairing. An army of demonic creatures gallops aggressively up and spirits him off over a fabulous distance to the kingdom of King Sakhr, king of the demon world, which lies behind the cosmic mountain Qaf. Sakhr entertains him with a feast, and then tells him the story of the world’s origins. For the first time the narrative becomes Islamic: Allah created the world for the coming of Muhammad the Prophet and for the punishment of infidels. Sakhr himself will never grow old and die, for he has drunk from the Fountain of Life which is guarded by the sage al-Khiḍr. When Sakhr has finished explaining, he has Bulūqiyā spirited straight back to his own kingdom.


Dalley 1991, 5, 9Dalley, Stephanie. “Gilgamesh in the Arabian Nights.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1991) 1-17.
Mardrus 1949Mardrus, J. C. The Book of The Thousand Nights and One Night. 4 Vols. London, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1949.

Links (external links will open in a new browser window)
Cf. Alexander Romance and Bulūqiyā (1)
Cf. Atrahasis and al-Khiḍr (1)
Cf. Sufi connection with Gilgameš (1)
Cf. Tale of Bulūqiyā (2)
Cf. Tale of Bulūqiyā (3)

Stephanie Dalley

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