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Nasruddin and the Sultan's Horse

One day, while Nasruddin was visiting the capital city, the Sultan took offense to a joke that was made at his expense. He had Nasruddin immediately arrested and imprisoned; accusing him of heresy and sedition. Nasruddin apologized to the Sultan for his joke, and begged for his life; but the Sultan remained obstinate, and in his anger, sentenced Nasruddin to be beheaded the following day.

When Nasruddin was brought out the next morning, he addressed the Sultan, saying "Oh Sultan, live forever! You know me to be a skilled teacher, the greatest in your kingdom. If you will but delay my sentence for one year, I will teach your favorite horse to sing."

The Sultan did not believe that such a thing was possible; but his anger had cooled, and he was amused by the audacity of Nasruddin's claim. "Very well," replied the Sultan, "you will have a year. But if by the end of that year you have not taught my favorite horse to sing, then you will wish you had been beheaded today."


That evening, Nasruddin's friends were allowed to visit him in prison, and found him in unexpected good spirits. "How can you be so happy?" they asked. "Do you really believe that you can teach the Sultan's horse to sing?" "Of course not," replied Nasruddin, "but I now have a year which I did not have yesterday; and much can happen in that time. The Sultan may come to repent of his anger, and release me. He may die in battle or of illness, and it is traditional for a successor to pardon all prisoners upon taking office. He may be overthrown by another faction, and again, it is traditional for prisoners to be released at such a time. Or the horse may die, in which case the Sultan will be obliged to release me."

"Finally," said Nasruddin, "even if none of those things come to pass, perhaps the horse can sing."
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