The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths

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"The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths"
by Jorge Luis Borges
Original titleHistoria de los dos Reyes y los dos Laberintos, como Nota de Burton
Country Argentina
Language Spanish
Genre(s) Fantasy, short story
Published inEl Hogar
Media typePrint
Publication date16 June 1939

"The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths" (original Spanish title: "Una Leyenda Arábiga [Historia de los dos Reyes y los dos Laberintos, como Nota de Burton"]) is a short story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, first published in June 1939. It was later included in El Aleph under the title "Los dos reyes y los dos laberintos". It deals with a number of Borgesian themes: labyrinths, supposed obscure folk tales, Arabia, and Islam. [1]


Plot summary

A Babylonian king orders his subjects to build him a labyrinth "so confusing and so subtle that the most prudent men would not venture to enter it, and those who did would lose their way". When an Arab king visited his court, the king of Babylon told him to enter the labyrinth in order to mock him. The Arab king finally got out and told the Babylonian that in his land he had another labyrinth, and Allah willing, he would see that someday the king of Babylonia made its acquaintance. The Arab king returned to his land, and launched a successful attack on the Babylonians, finally capturing the Babylonian King. The Arab tied him on a camel and led him into the desert. After three days of riding, the Arab reminds the Babylonian that he tried to make him lose his way in his labyrinth and says that he will now show him his, "which has no stairways to climb, nor door to force, nor wearying galleries to wander through, nor walls to impede thy passage". He then untied the Babylonian king, "and abandoned him in the middle of the desert, where he died of hunger and thirst..."

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  1. (in Portuguese) "Os dois reis e os dois labirintos" (2006), by Alexandre Luís de Mello. In: Consulted on January 3, 2010.