QUAINT #24 Sufrah, Geomancer by Marcel Schwob

Illustration by Maxfield Parrish from The Arabian Nights, 1909.

Sufrah was created by Marcel Schwob and appears in “Sufrah, Geomancer” (Vie Imaginaire, 1896). Schwob was also the creator of the King in the Golden Mask and Septima.

“Sufrah, Geomancer” is a sequel to the Arabian Nights. Moghrabi Sufrah is the magician who is Aladdin’s enemy in the Arabian Nights, but as “Sufrah, Geomancer” tells us, at the end of the Arabian Nights Sufrah’s body was not burned black by the drug he consumed, but rather put into a deep sleep. Sufrah escapes from Aladdin’s palace through a window while Aladdin is making love to the princess. But when Aladdin’s palace disappears to China, as happens in the Arabian Nights, Sufrah is left alone in the open desert, without any food or water. Nor does he have any magic charms he can cast or magic items he can use to rescue himself.

Sufrah prepares to die, but that night, slightly relieved from the awful heat of the day, he traces a magic figure in the sand and does a minor forecast of his life. He comes up with “Fortune Major” and sees that he will escape from the desert. Sufrah traces another magic figure and runs his fortune through the twelve houses of astrology. He sees Fortune Major in the first house, foretelling success and glory, but in the eighth house he sees the Red One, the “messenger of blood, fire, and omen sinister.” Sufrah’s final conclusion from the casting is that “he would find glory at great peril in some shut and secret place.” Now confident that he will survive, Sufrah traces another magic incantation in the sand, trying to find out who was the first owner of Aladdin’s lamp.

Sufrah discovers that it was Solomon, and then finds out where King Solomon is buried. The next dawn Sufrah is found by a group of Bedouins and given dates and water. Sufrah walks until he comes to the correct location of the King Solomon’s tomb, then performs a ritual which opens an entrance to the tomb. Sufrah enters it and takes from the hand of King Solomon the ring that is his seal and which grants immortality to its wearer. Solomon’s body immediately crumbles to dust. At that same moment the Red One smites Sufrah, who spends “all the blood of his life in one vermilion gush” before the sleep of immortality takes him. Sufrah lays himself down on Solomon’s diamond couch, and the door to the tomb shuts behind him.

Like “Septima, Enchantress,” “Sufrah, Geomancer” is a dark fantasy. “Sufrah” is not written in the same detached and ironic tone and lush vocabulary as “Septima,” but is instead written in the style of the Arabian Nights. But “Sufrah” does have vivid imagery as well as a dark, ironic twist, and (as with all of Schwob’s work) is readable.

About the Quest for Unusual & Adventurous International Notations & Tales (QUAINT).

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One response to “QUAINT #24 Sufrah, Geomancer by Marcel Schwob

  1. Wow – I loved the Arabian nights, and this looks fantastic!