Ring of Wisdom, a Sufi Parable, Retold by Anne Twitty

A Sufi king seeks a ring of great power.

Babur Receives a Courtier by Farrukh Beg c. 1580-85.

There was a king whose kingdom stretched from east to west, from the sea below to the moon above. You would have thought that he had everything he could possibly want. But no-his wishes and desires had no end to them.

One day, troubled by a melancholy mood, he conceived a new desire. He ordered his wise men to assemble before him. They came to hear the king’s command. “You must make for me,” he told them, “a ring of pure gold. And its power must be so great that whenever I look at it, my sorrow will change to joy, or my joy to sorrow.”

The wise men were perplexed. They might lose their lives if they could not fulfill the king’s command. Yet, though they knew of rings that could summon djinns and rings that could give their owners the power of flight, none of them knew of rings that could at a glance change sorrow to joy or joy to sorrow.

At last, they agreed on a plan. They told the jewelers and the goldsmiths, who joined together to work the metal and engrave it. The work was long and tedious, but at last the ring was ready.

When the appointed day came, they again assembled before the king and ceremoniously presented him with the wonder-working ring. It was of pure gold, and on it the inscription: In time, this too shall pass away. ♦

From Parabola Volume 11, No. 3, “Sadness,” Fall 1986. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing

By Anne Twitty

Anne Twitty writes, translates, interprets, and lives in Brooklyn and elsewhere. She was awarded a 2006 NEA Translation Fellowship to suppor the translation of Maria Negroni's novel "Ursula's Dream."