Once upon a time, not a thousand miles from here, there lived a poor
old wood-cutter, who was a widower, and his little daughter.
used to go every day into the mountains to cut firewood which he brought
home and tied into bundles. Then he used to have breakfast and walk
into the nearest town, where he would sell his wood and rest for a time
before returning home.
One day, when he got home very late, the girl said to him: ‘Father,
I sometimes wish that we would have some nicer food, and more and different
kinds of things to eat.’
‘Very well, my child,’ said the old man, ‘tomorrow
I shall get up much earlier than I usually do. I shall go further into
the mountains where there is more wood, and I shall bring back a much
larger quantity than usual. I will get home earlier and I will be able
to bundle the wood sooner, and I will go into town and sell it so that
we can have more money and I shall bring you back all kinds of nice
things to eat.’
The next morning the wood-cutter rose before dawn and went into the
mountains. He worked very hard cutting wood and trimming it and made
it into a huge bundle which he carried on his back to his little house.
When he got home, it was still very early. He put his load of wood down,
and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Daughter, Daughter, open the
door, for I am hungry and thirsty and I need a meal before I go to market.’
But the door was locked. The wood-cutter was so tired that he lay down
and was soon fast asleep beside his bundle. The little girl, having
forgotten all about their conversation the night before, was fast asleep
in bed. When he woke up a few hours later, the sun was high. The wood-cutter
knocked at the door again and again and said, ‘Daughter, Daughter,
come quickly; I must have a little food and go to market to sell the
wood; for it is already much later than my usual time of starting.’
But, having forgotten all about the conversation the night before, the
little girl had meanwhile got up, tidied the house, and gone out for
a walk. She had locked the door assuming in her forgetfulness that her
father was still in the town.
So the wood-cutter thought to himself, ‘It is now rather late
to go into the town. I will therefore return to the mountains and cut
another bundle of wood, which I will bring home, and tomorrow I will
take a double load to market.’
All that day the old man toiled in the mountains cutting wood and shaping
the branches. When he got home with the wood on his shoulders, it was
He put down his burden behind the house, knocked on the door and said,
‘Daughter, Daughter, open the door for I am tired and I have eaten
nothing all the day. I have a double bundle of wood which I hope to
take to market tomorrow. Tonight I must sleep well so that I will be
But there was no answer, for the little girl when she came home had
felt very sleepy, and had made a meal for herself, and gone to bed.
She had been rather worried at first that her father was not at home,
but she decided that he must have arranged to stay in the town overnight.
Once again the wood-cutter, finding that he could not get into the house,
tired, hungry and thirsty, lay down by his bundles of wood and fell
fast asleep. He could not keep awake, although he was fearful for what
might have happened to the little girl.
Now the wood-cutter, because he was so cold and hungry and tired, woke
up very, very early the next morning: before it was even light.
He sat up, and looked around, but he could not see anything. And then
a strange thing happened. The wood-cutter thought he heard a voice saying:
‘Hurry, hurry! Leave your wood and come this way. If you need
enough, and you want little enough, you shall have delicious food.’
The wood-cutter stood up and walked in the direction of the voice. And
he walked and he walked; but he found nothing.
By now he was colder and hungrier and more tired than ever, and he was
lost. He had been full of hope, but that did not seem to have helped
him. Now he felt sad, and he wanted to cry. But he realized that crying
would not help him either, so he lay down and fell asleep.
Quite soon he woke up again. It was too cold, and he was too hungry,
to sleep. So he decided to tell himself, as if in a story, everything
that had happened to him since his little daughter had first said that
she wanted a different kind of food.
As soon as he had finished his story, he thought he heard another voice,
saying, somewhere above him, out of the dawn, ‘Old man, what are
you doing sitting there?’
‘I am telling myself my own story,’ said the wood-cutter.
‘And what is that?’ said the voice.
The old man repeated his tale. ‘Very well,’ said the voice.
And then the voice told the old wood-cutter to close his eyes and to
mount as it were, a step. ‘But I do not see any step,’ said
the old man. ‘Never mind, but do as I say,’ said the voice.
The old man did as he was told. As soon as he had closed his eyes he
found that he was standing up and as he raised his right foot he felt
that there was something like a step under it. He started to ascend
what seemed to be a staircase. Suddenly the whole flight of steps started
to move, very fast, and the voice said, ‘Do not open your eyes
until I tell you to do so.’
In a very short time, the voice told the old man to open his eyes. When
he did he found that he was in a place which looked rather like a desert,
with the sun beating down on him. He was surrounded by masses and masses
of pebbles; pebbles of all colours: red, green, blue and white. But
he seemed to be alone. He looked all around him, and could not see anyone,
but the voice started to speak again.
‘Take up as many of these stones as you can,’ said the voice,
‘Then close your eyes, and walk down the steps once more.’
The wood-cutter did as he was told, and he found himself, when he opened
his eyes again at the voice's bidding, standing before the door of his
He knocked at the door and his little daughter answered it. She asked
him where he had been, and he told her, although she could hardly understand
what he was saying, it all sounded so confusing.
They went into the house, and the little girl and her father shared
the last food which they had, which was a handful of dried dates. When
they had finished, the old man thought that he heard the voice speaking
to him again, a voice just like the other one which had told him to
climb the stairs.
The voice said, ‘Although you may not know it yet, you have been
saved by Mushkil Gusha. Remember that Mushkil Gusha is always here.
Make sure that every Thursday night you eat some dates and give some
to any needy person, and tell the story of Mushkil Gusha. Or give a
gift in the name of Mushkil Gusha to someone who will help the needy.
Make sure that the story of Mushkil Gusha is never, never forgotten.
If you do this, and if this is done by those to whom you tell the story,
the people who are in real need will always find their way.’
The wood-cutter put all the stones which he had brought back from the
desert in a corner of his little house. They looked very much like ordinary
stones, and he did not know what to do with them.
The next day he took his two enormous bundles of wood to the market,
and sold them easily for a high price. When he got home he took his
daughter all sort of delicious kinds of food, which she had never tasted
before. And when they had eaten it, the old wood-cutter said, ‘Now
I am going to tell you the whole story of Mushkil Gusha. Mushkil Gusha
is the remover of all difficulties. Our difficulties have been removed
through Mushkil Gusha and we must always remember it.’
For nearly a week after that the old man carried on as usual. He went
into the mountains, brought back wood, had a meal, took the wood to
market and sold it. He always found a buyer without difficulty.
Now the next Thursday came, and, as it is the way of men, the wood-cutter
forgot to repeat the tale of Mushkil Gusha.
Late that evening, in the house of the wood-cutter's neighbours, the
fire had gone out. The neighbours had nothing with which to re-light
the fire, and they went to the house of the wood-cutter. They said,
‘Neighbour, neighbour, please give us a light from those wonderful
lamps of yours which we see shining through the window.’
‘What lamps?’ said the wood-cutter.
‘Come outside,’ said the neighbours, ‘and see what
So the wood-cutter went outside and then he saw, sure enough, all kinds
of brilliant lights shining through the window from the inside.
He went back to the house, and saw that the light was streaming from
the pile of pebbles which he had put in the corner. But the rays of
light were cold, and it was not possible to use them to light a fire.
So he went out to the neighbours and said, ‘Neighbours, I am sorry,
but I have no fire.’ And he banged the door in their faces. They
were annoyed and confused, and went back to their house, muttering.
They leave our story here.
The wood-cutter and his daughter quickly covered up the brilliant lights
with every piece of cloth they could find, for fear that anyone would
see what a treasure they had. The next morning, when they uncovered
the stones, they discovered that they were precious, luminous gems.
They took the jewels, one by one, to neighbouring towns, where they
sold them for a huge price. Now the wood-cutter decided to build for
himself and for his daughter a wonderful palace. They chose a site just
opposite the castle of the king of their country. In a very short time
a marvellous building had come into being.
Now that particular king had a beautiful daughter, and one day when
she got up in the morning, she saw a sort of fairy-tale castle just
opposite her father's and she was amazed. She asked her servants, ‘Who
has built this castle? What right have these people to do such a thing
so near to our home?’
The servants went away and made enquiries and they came back and told
the story, as far as they could collect it, to the princess.
The princess called for the little daughter of the wood-cutter, for
she was angry with her, but when the two girls met and talked they soon
became fast friends. They started to meet every day and went to swim
and play in the stream which had been made for the princess by her father.
A few days after they first met, the princess took off a beautiful and
valuable necklace and hung it up on a tree just beside the stream. She
forgot to take it down when she came out of the water, and when she
got home she thought it must have been lost.
The princess thought a little and then decided that the daughter of
the wood-cutter had stolen her necklace. So she told her father, and
he had the wood-cutter arrested; he confiscated the castle and declared
forfeit everything that the wood-cutter had. The old man was thrown
into prison, and the daughter was put into an orphanage.
As it was the custom in that country, after a period of time the wood-cutter
was taken from the dungeon and put in the public square, chained to
a post, with a sign around his neck. On the sign was written ‘This
is what happens to those who steal from Kings.’
At first people gathered around him, and jeered and threw things at
him. He was most unhappy.
But quite soon, as is the way of men, everyone became used to the sight
of the old man sitting there by his post, and took very little notice
of him. Sometimes people threw him scraps of food, sometimes they did
One day he overheard somebody saying that it was Thursday afternoon.
Suddenly, the thought came into his mind that it would soon be the evening
of Mushkil Gusha, the remover of all difficulties, and that he had forgotten
to commemorate him for so many days. No sooner had this thought come
into his head, than a charitable man, passing by, threw him a tiny coin.
The wood-cutter called out: ‘Generous friend, you have given me
money, which is of no use to me. If, however, your kindness could extend
to buying one or two dates and coming and sitting and eating them with
me, I would be eternally grateful to you.’
The other man went and bought a few dates. And they sat and ate them
together. When they had finished, the wood-cutter told the other man
the story of Mushkil Gusha. ‘I think you must be mad,’ said
the generous man. But he was a kindly person who himself had many difficulties.
When he arrived home after this incident, he found that all his problems
had disappeared. And that made him start to think a great deal about
Mushkil Gusha. But he leaves our story here.
The very next morning the princess went back to her bathing-place. As
she was about to go into the water, she saw what looked like her necklace
down at the bottom of the stream. As she was going to dive in to try
to get it back, she happened to sneeze. Her head went up, and she saw
that what she had thought was the necklace was only its reflection in
the water. It was hanging on the bough of the tree where she had left
it such a long time before. Taking the necklace down, the princess ran
excitedly to her father and told him what had happened. The King gave
orders for the wood-cutter to be released and given a public apology.
The little girl was brought back from the orphanage, and everyone lived
happily ever after.
These are some of the incidents in the story of Mushkil Gusha. It is
a very long tale and it is never ended. It has many forms. Some of them
are even not called the story of Mushkil Gusha at all, so people do
not recognise it. But it is because of Mushkil Gusha that his story,
in whatever form, is remembered by somebody, somewhere in the world,
day and night, wherever there are people. As his story had always been
recited, so it will always continue to be told.
Will you repeat the story of Mushkil Gusha on Thursday nights, and help
the work of Mushkil Gusha?
da Tradição Sufi - da Tradição Oral - Idries