ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
With captivating adventures of rancorous genies trapped inside magical lamps, to the fearless sailor Sinbad, who's voyages through fantasy realms leads to encounter with sea monsters and supernatural phenomena, to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Arabian Nights is a piece of classic literature and a cultural expression that achieved unprecedented global influence. The collection of short folktales are best known as the One Thousand and One Nights, and were originally published together during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories ranging from historical tales to tragic romances to comedies, were collected over many centuries by a huge range of scholars and authors. Although the original manuscript was first published in Arabic, the tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval culture from across the Arabian Peninsula and southern Asia. It frames the story of a fictional king who rules over India and China. Shahryar, as he was known, becomes aware of his wife’s infidelity and has her executed, and afterward, in anger and sadness, condemns all women and decides they must be executed. Shahryar, hence, marries and executes several virgins, each on the morning after they are married. When the king takes Scheherazade as his wife, she comes up with an ingenious idea to spare her life.
Scheherazade starts to tell the king a story on the night of their marriage, but doesn’t finish it. So, the king postpones her execution to find out the end of the story. The next night she finishes the story, but begins a new one, and Shahryar postpones her execution once again. This enchanting drama continues for 1,001 nights. The tales of The One Thousand and One Nights transcend many different genre of literature; romance, crime and adventure. Over the centuries, however, storytellers have added, subtracted and changed the structure of the expansive narrative. Nonetheless, the narrative still shows innovative and sophisticated technical writing skills. It takes the reader through a journey of psychological and emotional complexity with multi-dimensional characters that enrich the baseline of each story. If you look closely, Scheherazade chose stories that mirror her predicament. All the characters in her tales were pleading for life, in a way, with a power they end-up defeating. The One Thousand and One Nights might have been attacked for its sexual explicitly, scenes of violence and murder, but the tales are only reflecting the brutal reality of the times, and how women are treated in society. They, hence, highlight the role of literature as a powerful tool to educate people in the hope of influencing positive change.
[Painting Above: Walter Charles Horsley, English (1855-1934) | Middle Painting: Fabio Fabbi, Italian (1861-1946) | Painting Below: John Frederick Lewis, English (1804-1876)]