Grab a cup of tea and get comfy for I shall tell you a story.
A long time ago, there lived a young man named Farhad. Farhad was in love with a beautiful Persian princess, Shirin.
All the villagers teased Farhad, for he was a simple rock carver. Not only that, Shirin was already betrothed to Prince Khusrow. That didn’t bother Farhad though. He vowed to sweep the princess off her feet—somehow.
Eventually, he carved her image into a rock. “That’s sure to get her attention,” he said to his friends.
A jealous Prince Khusrow heard about the beautiful carving and said to Farhad, “Very impressive. I tell you what...if you carve a staircase into the mountain, I will give Shirin up for you.”
Jumping at a chance to win Shirin’s hand in marriage, Farhad accepted the challenge—a challenge Prince Khusrow knew was impossible. It was his way of exiling the handsome stone carver.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, Farhad worked from dawn till dusk, chipping away at the rock.
To everyone’s shock, he made progress of the incredible task.
When it became clear Farhad would indeed finish the staircase, Prince Khusrow concocted another plan.
“I come to tell you the terrible news myself,” Prince Khusrow said while wiping away fake tears. “Princess Shirin has had a terrible accident. She’s dead.”
Farhad’s shoulders slumped and he stood speechless, watching the Prince walk away, seemingly heartbroken himself. Overcome with grief, believing Shirin was dead, he climbed the mountain staircase he’d carved and jumped to his death.
Because his love was so pure and real, wherever his blood spilled, a red flower appeared.
Over time, they multiplied.
Eventually, these blood red flowers grew wild throughout all of Persia.
Centuries later, some Ottoman Turks saw these wild flowers growing. They dug them up and brought bunches back to Constantinople.
“Simply exquisite,” the mesmerized sultan said. “Tell me, what are these flowers called?”
“Well, your Majesty, if you look at the shape…like a small turban…we’ve taken to calling them—”
“Tulips!” the sultan said with a hearty laugh.
At that time in history, the Latin word for turban was tulipan.
“I like that. They are to be cultivated here from now on.”
Eventually, the palaces of Constantinople were adorned with colourful tulips. The Turks were in love with the spring flowers.
One day, the Ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire sent some bulbs to a friend in Vienna. The man didn’t know what to do with them, so he buried them in a big heap. Of course, the tulips came up and when they matured, he dug some up and gave them to a friend.
This friend didn’t know what to do with the bulbs…so he fried them up with oil and vinegar and ate them.
By the 16th century, wealthy people began to purchase bulbs in Turkey to sell to Venetian merchants. Before long, Tulipmania began. From France to Flanders, the value of tulips increased by the day. Monks grew them. The Dutch were obsessed with them. In the early 1600’s, tulip bulbs became an actual currency.
From 1634-1637, people left their homes, spouses, and jobs to become tulip farmers. One particular variety of bulb cost:
-36 bushels of wheat
-72 bushels of rice
-2 barrels of wine
-4 barrels of beer
-2 tons of butter
-1000 lbs. of cheese
-and a silver cup
Another farmer paid twelve acres of land, while another paid with a carriage and twelve horses.
One wealthy man paid for a bulb, by its weight in gold. When he found out a poor cobbler owned the same variety of tulip, he bought that one as well…and then stepped on the bulb.
“I am the only one who owns this variety now,” the man sneered at the wide-eyed cobbler. “And I’d have paid you ten times that amount, you fool!”
Upon hearing that, the cobbler became so depressed, he went up to his loft and hung himself.
Eventually, the prices of tulips dropped and livelihoods were lost, but not our admiration of these beautiful spring flowers. To this day, they remain a symbol of deep and perfect love.
And there’s your interesting fact of the day. The fascinating history of…tulips.