On my way through the desert to Damascus, I had grown too hot and tired to carry on. I came to a castle, and I sat down to rest in its shadow. Then I heard a voice call to me softly from the window above me. “Are you a man or a ghost?”
I answered, “I am a man, and a better one, too, than your father or your grandfather.”
“May all good luck be with you,” she said. “But what has brought you into this land of ogres and horrors?”
“Does an ogre live in this castle?” I asked.
“Certainly he does, and as night is not far off, he will be here soon. So, dear friend, depart quickly, lest he return and snap you up for supper.”
“But I am so thirsty!” I cried. “Be kind, and give me some drink, or else I am likely to die! Surely, even in this desert there must be some spring?”
She said that whenever the ogre brought back water he came from a particular direction, and she pointed it out to me. I got to my feet, eager to find the spring. Then the maiden spoke again. She wanted to know where I was headed. East or west?
I said I was traveling to Damascus.
“Then do this for me,” she said. “As you pass through our village, ask for a man called Dschemil. Say to him: ‘Dschemila greets you from a castle which lies far away and is rocked by the wind. In my grave lies only a goat. So take heart.'”
I repeated the words all the way to the oasis. When I arrived, I drank deeply and then lay on the bank and slept in great peace. When I woke I felt like a man who had come back from the dead. I would repay the maiden by finding her native town and delivering her message to Dschemil, word for word.
The Stranger in Dschemil and Dschemila, The Grey Fairy Book. Painting “Temptations of Jesus” by James Tissot.