In one of the rare Arabian Nights stories that deals with discrimination against women, a merchant hangs a sign above his shop that reads: Men’s wits exceed women’s wiles.
Soon a beautiful young woman comes to him, in tears, demanding whether he thinks she is hunchbacked, or pockmarked, or one-eyed. The merchant says that of course she is not, and asks where she got such a strange idea. The woman says bitterly that her father, who is the Chief Kazi of the city, turns away all her suitors by claiming that she is deformed, and that she is doomed to a single life. The merchant begs her to stop crying and vows to marry her himself. The woman warns him that her father will try to discourage the match. The merchant assures her that he won’t be moved by the Kazi’s lies.
He goes to the Kazi’s palace to plead for the girl’s hand. The Kazi, greatly surprised, protests that his daughter is hunchbacked, pockmarked, and has only one eye. The merchant insists that he doesn’t care. So there is a grand wedding and the Kazi’s daughter, heavily veiled, is brought to the merchant’s house. Whereupon he discovers to his horror that she is indeed hunchbacked, covered in pock marks, and has only one eye, just as the Kazi said.
The next morning, as the merchant sits in his shop, who should sashay by but the beautiful young woman, who is actually a blacksmith’s daughter. The furious merchant demands to know why she has played such a trick on him. The girl points to his sign and asks, “Who is smarter now?”
Humbled, the merchant agrees to change the sign if she will help him. So the blacksmith’s daughter tells him that he must hire all the gypsies and beggars in the city to come and sing the next morning, when he will be having coffee with his new father-in-law.
Accordingly, the horde show up the next day, startling the Kazi, who demands to know what all the racket is about. The merchant says what the blacksmith’s daughter has told him to say: that these are all his relatives who have come to wish him joy over his new marriage. The Kazi, aghast that he has married his daughter into such lowly company, immediately sues for divorce.
The merchant re-paints his sign to say: Women’s wiles exceed men’s wits. Eventually he persuades the blacksmith’s daughter to marry him in earnest.
True to the culture of their time, the tricks of the blacksmith’s daughter turn on some unpleasant facts of life in the 1300s. The Kazi’s daughter is the unsung victim in this story, as she is badly used by her father, the merchant, and even the heroine. The gypsies also get a bad rap.