CHAPTER 17: The King and the Carpenter
Once upon a time in Iran there was a king. His name was Hushang Shah. He was a kind and just ruler of a vast land that was never ruled before. In order to see the reality of life in his kingdom he would dress as a commoner every month and visit cities, towns and villages in his kingdom. On one particular nightly visit he saw an old carpenter making a door out of wood. He was carving many motifs and symbols of Iran on the door. The king went over to greet him and introduced himself as a merchant. The old man looked at him and said: “I know what a merchant is, but let me give you some advice.” The king was very interested in what the old man wanted to tell him, so the old man said: “For many generations my father, grandfather, great grandfather and myself have been making furniture, doors and objects of wood. But on the other hand, we saw many merchants that bought our stock to sell to the other cities and lands, who were not always so blessed to have the luck to carry on with their business. Sometimes thieves stole from them, sometimes the roads were dangerous and they would be attacked by wolves, sometimes the ships that carried their goods sank and they lost everything”. The old man continued: “Do yourself a favour and learn a craft so that if you lose your business or merchandise, you can still make a living from your own handicrafts”. That night when the king returned to his palace he was thinking the whole night of what the carpenter suggested and wondering what craft would be good for him to learn. Before sunrise and imagining all the crafts of the world, Hushang Shah decided to learn how to weave carpets. The next day he sent the vizier to find a master weaver in the capitol to teach him how to weave a carpet. When the master weaver realized that the king was eager to learn this craft, he started to teach him the mysticism and the ancient history behind each single motif of the Persian carpet.
After many months of learning how to weave the king again, dressed as a merchant, went on his nightly visits to his kingdom when he was accosted by thieves. The head of the thieves looked at Hushang Shah and said: “Give me your valuable things otherwise I will kill you”. Hushang Shah replied that he only had his clothing and nothing else. The head of the thieves enraged ordered one of his men to take the king’s clothes and cut his head off! Hushang Shah begged them not to kill him and said: “I know a craft that can make a lot of money for you if you allow me to show you. I can make such beautiful carpets that if you send it to any wealthy man they will pay in gold and silver for it”. The greed of the thief saved the life of the king and for a month, while being held captive, he wove a carpet and secretly wove motifs into it that told the story of his capture. When the carpet was finished the king said to the head of the thieves: “I think any wealthy man in town will pay a lot for this carpet, but if you take a risk and go to the palace of the king you may get the highest price. Go there and present it to the vizier, he will definitely buy it from you”. The head of the thieves and his men took the carpet to the palace as the king suggested, but when the vizier saw the carpet that they wanted to sell he recognized the symbols that just the king would weave in a carpet. Instead of paying the thieves as they expected, he immediately asked the guards to arrest them and ordered them to tell him where the king was held and the thieves were shocked by the cunning of the man that they held captive.
The moment that the guards opened the door of the dungeon were the king was held he sent blessings to the old carpenter, for his advice saved the king! From that day onwards Hushang Shah made it his mission to promote the art of carpet weaving.