Sunday, December 12, 2021

"The Man Who Never Laughed Again" from 1001 Nights

Click to see Vol. I, Issue 7 of the newsletter in which this article first appeared.

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This article is designed for younger readers, with activities more suitable for children. My favorite story from the Arabian Nights (also called the 1,001 Nights) is not "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" or even "Aladdin," but this one, called "The Man Who Never Laughed Again."

A young man wasted the money his father had left him. Soon he was begging on the street. One day an old man offered him a strange job, with a stranger rule. He would live in a house with the old man and ten more like him. But if he ever saw them crying, he must not ask them why.

He took the job and lived a good life in a comfortable house. But over time, each old man died. The younger man buried them in the garden next to the house. At last, only the old man who hired him was left. When his time to die came, the young man asked him a question. "For all these years I kept your rule. I never asked the reason the old men sometimes cried. Won't you tell me now, while you're still here?"

"No," the old man replied, "I cannot say. But if you wish to live a happy life, do not open that door." And he pointed to a door that led to another part of the house. "If you open it, you will cry as we did!"

Well, one day, long after the old man died, the young man couldn't help himself. He opened the door, and went through--and it was amazing! A great eagle carried him to a delightful land. There, he married a beautiful queen and became a king. He was very rich, and lived in a wonderful palace. He could do anything he wanted there--except open a certain door.

But, of course, after seven years, he did. The same eagle then carried him back to the first door. He returned to the house of the old men. His heart was broken. He cried until the day came when he was buried in the garden, too, with the other old men.


Some words to talk about:

  • begging: asking people that you don't know for money
  • buried: put under the ground
  • delightful: making a person happy; very pleasing
  • hired: gave a job to someone
  • wasted: used in a bad way; like, threw away


Choose the best answer. Correct answers are in the first comment below.

1. Why was the young man begging?
  A. Because he wanted to work for the old man.
  B. Because he had wasted the money his father had left him.
  C. Because he wanted to become a king.

2. What strange rule did the young man have to follow?
  A. He must not ask why the old men are crying.
  B. He must always bury the old men.
  C. He must open a door in the house.

3. What did the young man ask the old man before he died?
  A. "What is behind that door?"
  B. "Who will bury me?"
  C. "Why did the old men cry?"

4. What happened when the young man opened the door?
  A. He was buried.
  B. He found himself in a wonderful land, and became a king.
  C. He had to bury the old man who hired him.

5. What happened to the young man in the end?
  A. He cried until he died.
  B. He flew like an eagle.
  C. He had to bury another old man.


These questions do not have "right" or "wrong" answers. They only ask your opinion.

  1. When people in stories are given "one rule," why do they (almost) always break it?
  2. Why couldn't old man just tell the young man why the others were crying?
  3. Why didn't the young man learn his lesson from opening the door in the house, and NOT open the door in the palace?

1 comment:

  1. Answers:
    Questions to Answer: 1. B; 2. A; 3. C; 4. B; 5. A

    Questions to Think About do not have any single correct answer. However, any answers you give should be supported by what you read or by things you know ("I think... because...").