King Saladin Meets Helena and Louis
The Crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims. They were
fought in the Middle East for nearly 200 years. In 1187 a great ruler,
Saladin, led a Muslim army that recaptured Jerusalem from the
Christians. This is the story of Saladin.
The fighting had ended some hours before, and dusk had
fallen. On the field of battle, shadowy figures moved among
the bodies of the dead and dying. The wives and friends of
the soldiers had come to look for those who had not returned
to the camps.
Helena wandered across the battlefield. She was looking
for her husband Louis, but as time passed, and she could not
find him, she became quite sure he was dead.
When it was dark, she returned to her tent and lay down
next to her young son, weeping quietly.
In the morning, her child too had vanished.
Helena ran from her tent, calling out her child's name. She
searched all morning among the tents of the Christian camp,
but no one had seen her son. Her heart filled with dread.
She looked across the fields to the Muslim camp. She had
heard that the Sultan, Saladin, was merciful. Perhaps her son
had been kidnapped. Perhaps Saladin would set him free...
Weeping, Helena made her way to the Muslim camp, and
the soldiers there took her to Saladin. As she entered his tent
Saladin was conferring with his generals. He looked at the
woman in surprise.
"Mighty Sultan!" pleaded Helena, falling on her knees.
"Help me! My husband was lost in battle and now my child
is gone. If your soldiers have the boy, I beg you to release
him, for he is all I have!"
Saladin was moved, and ordered his soldiers to search for
the child. They soon found him -- safe, but frightened,
wandering at the edge of their camp.
Helena was overjoyed, and cried out when she saw her
son. Outside the tent, a crusader prisoner was being escorted
across the camp, and he heard her.
"Let me see her!" he cried, tearing himself free from his
guards and forcing his way into the tent.
Helena could not believe her eyes. For here before her
stood Louis! A minute ago she had neither husband nor son
-- yet now she had them both in her arms again.
Moved by what he saw, Saladin was merciful, and freed
Louis at once. Helena fell on her knees once more, this time
to thank the Sultan.
"I showed mercy because I must," Saladin told her.
"My religion tells me that, as Allah is merciful, so must all
Muslims be, and so I show mercy to you."
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