Saturday, May 10, 2014

One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة‎ Kitāb alf laylah wa-laylah). It is a brilliant collection of folktales in Arabic language often called as as the Arabian Nights! The tales have roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature. Now this is just the introductory part! One can read about it from wikipedia or any other source.


What inspired me to write about this is "Scheherazade". One Thousand and One Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade. Scheherazade was a Persian queen and the narrator of the stories and the collection of her stories called "The Arabian Nights". The popular legend says that King Shahryar, a sultan who was upset upon all the women after his first wife had been unfaithful to him; He vowed that every night he would wed a woman and have her beheaded the next morning.

After only a few years, all of the marriageable women in his kingdom either moved far away or had been killed under his orders. No suitable women were left to marry Shahryar except for Scheherazade and Dinarzade, the daughters of the kingdom’s vizier (highest Minister of the Sultan; also spelled as Vazeer). Scheherazade, the older daughter, is a very well-educated. She studied the legends, books, histories, and stories about preceding Kings and humankind in general. She had learned all about poetry, philosophy, arts, and the sciences. Not only was she well read, but also was well bred, polite, and pleasant to all she encountered.


Against her father's wishes, Scheherazade challenged King Shahryar. The night of their wedding ceremony, Scheherazade instructed her sister to ask for a story. King Shahryar listened in awe as Scheherazade spun a fascinating, adventurous tale, but she quit speaking before the story was finished. The King asked her to finish the tale, but Scheherazade said there was no time left because it was almost dawn and time for her beheading. She added that she really regretted not finishing this story, because her next story was even more thrilling.


King's curiosity whetted, he decided not to execute Scheherazade just so he could hear the rest of the story later that night. This strategy of anticipation continues for a thousand nights, with Scheherazade telling her husband a new tale every night, but stopping just before dawn with a cliffhanger. This forced the King to keep her alive. On the one-thousand-first night, however, Scheherazade admitted her plan and King Shahryar forgiven her because of her intelligence and behaviour. Scheherazade had not only entertained her husband with her tales, but she had also educated the man in kindness and morality.


Scholars acknowledge the storyteller Scheherazade’s character, the greatest female strategist of all times. King Shahryar is originally portrayed as the supreme ruler who commands life and death, but slowly a simple, yet daring, many even says the “powerless female” is able to educate him and explore his positive qualities. She demonstrates, that words can overcome violence. Her storytelling proves that language has a transformative ability, healing the king and restoring prosperity to the kingdom.

Thanks for reading

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