A couple of years ago, I was hanging out in the theater. During the break, people started to gather in the balcony to smoke and talk. In this hustle and bustle, two people began to argue. Although they looked elegant and well-dressed, as if they were members of the Big Council, they were swearing and insulting each other.
“The sword has forgotten the smith that forged it.” said the first. “Do you not remember who gave you your clothes? Who housed and fed you?”
“You’re being awful!” answered the second. “Are you really mentioning food? But what can I say, this is normal for a penny-pincher like you.”
Then, as the bell rang, we went back in. But that word “penny-pincher,” which I hadn‘t understood, stuck in my mind. I am very inquisitive by nature, even though it was curiosity that killed the cat. I always search for idioms and the origins of words. So, that’s how it was, remembering it one day and forgetting about it the next, until one day I was at the radio station when the manager said “There’s a girl who wants to talk to you.”
So I went out and she said she was from a certain city, but I’m not sure about its name.
“I would like to stay with you and your family.” she said.
“My father threw me and my mother out. She went to my uncle’s, but as for me, I didn’t know where to go. So I came here to you to stay at your house.”
”You are welcome in our home.”
One day, she was talking to the family about her dad.
“He’s a penny-pincher.” she said.
“And what does that mean?” I asked.
“It comes from a story.”
“Alright then, tell me.”
Once there was a king who was standing on his balcony, when a beggar passed by the palace asking for money. The king threw him two cents. The beggar picked them up and saw that it was only two cents. He looked up at him and said “You must be a penny-pincher.”
The king didn’t pay any attention to it, until he recalled it later that night.
“Hey, what does a penny-pincher mean?” he asked the courtier.
“I have never heard this word, sir.”
“Then ask around and let me know.“
The first day passed, then the second and the third.
“Have you found anything yet?” the king asked.
“Not yet, sir”
“Then what good are you as a courtier? Travel to countries or deserts or go wherever you want, but don’t come back unless you find the meaning. Otherwise there is no need for you to come back.”
The courtier went abroad, searching and asking. Each place he would stay for a whole week or two and then he would go to the next place. He did this until one night, while still outdoors, he found a tent. As his horse neighed, a girl came out.
“Hello and welcome.” she said.
“I am a guest from abroad.”
« You are welcome here.»
She helped him in, prepared a seat for him, and fed the horse. As she brought him water to wash off, an old man came in. It was her father. As she went out she said:
“We have a guest that seems to be noble and to be someone important.”
“I won’t be able to stay, I just came to tell you that I’d be at the farm tonight so you wouldn‘t worry. But come along and I‘ll butcher a sheep and you can prepare him couscous with meat.»
She went along with him until they made it to the farm. He started checking the sheep one after another until he said:
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be a sheep! A goat will be enough.”
Then they headed to the goats.
“You know what?” he said, “Go butcher a rooster.”
As she was heading out, he called to her saying:
“Oh hey, Aisha, just a small one will suffice.”
He called to her again and she turned around:
“You know what?” he said, “Just prepare him couscous with milk.”
She left, cooked the couscous and enriched it with milk. Then she served the man the dinner. He ate and went to sleep.
When he woke up in the morning and was getting ready to leave, she helped him out saying:
“I am sorry. As they say ‘To always be sparing is to always be in want.’ and ‘A penny-pincher will pick up anything.’”
“Hey that’s the world!“ he said as he turned back. “This is exactly what I am here for, and what I’ve been looking for everywhere. What exactly does that mean, that word ‘penny-pincher’?”
“You know it‘s just like a beggar,” she said. “As soon as things change and they get wealthy and go from rags to riches, they often remain with the same beggar’s attitude, and they are never generous. My father was going to butcher a sheep for you when he decided not to. Then he picked a goat instead, then went for a rooster, then insisted on a small one, and eventually he opted for couscous with milk, because he’s not very generous.
The courtier left right away, headed back to his country, and went straight to the king.
“Here is the whole story, sir…,” he said.
“What?” said the king. “So, does this mean I have a beggar’s character by origin?”
He headed straight away to the harem to visit his mother. They had some coffee and a nice talk, until he finally asked:
“Mom, who is my father?”
“What?” she said. “What are you saying? What do you mean ‚Who is my father?‘”
“I mean, who is my father?”
“Son, come on, seriously. You already know your father is the sultan, may his soul rest in peace.”
“Please tell me the truth.”
“I have nothing to tell you. This is the truth.”
He felt she would never tell him, so he thought of a trick, (just as in every other story).
One day, he requested soup at lunch.
“Come and eat with me, mom.”
She was about to pour some of the soup out when he dipped her hand in the bowl which was still boiling, and he almost burned her.
“I won’t let go until you tell me the truth about who my father is.”
“Alright, son. As ‘beauty is truth, truth is beauty; that is all.‘ Drop my hand.”
So he finally dropped her hand.
“I have never given birth in my life, nor been pregnant. No matter how much I tried, or how much medicine I took, nothing worked. One day, I heard that the sultan was intending to marry another woman so that he might have a son that would be his successor.
So, I devised a plan. There was a beggar who was living outside of our town, but he used to come in sometimes to beg for money near the palace. Once, on the day of the Eid, his wife came along with him, and I offered her some clothes. She continued to come with her husband and I continued to help her, until one day I noticed her stomach was growing.
I made a deal with both her and her husband to give me the baby once she had given birth, and I would pay them. Each day I was tying things to my stomach, up until she was in her last month and thus my stomach was growing accordingly.
As for the sultan, he was very happy and excited, and people were designing and tailoring clothes for the baby. Then the night that she gave birth, her husband brought me the baby in secret as I was getting ready. The midwife who also knew about the plan and whom I had also paid, brought the baby to me.
The sultan was walking back and forth waiting, when he heard the cheers and the good news that it was a boy.
Son, you’ve been blessed and fortunate to have grown up to become a king instead of a beggar. But I am not your mother and the sultan is not your father.”
“So this is the story. I have been wondering how that beggar fancied on that day and knew, even though I am a king, when i didn’t give him more than just those two cents, that I must be a penny-pinching beggar by origin.
Anyways, both worlds are kingdoms in their own right afterall.”