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- The Thousand and One Nights
The Book of 1001 Nights
Unknown, Baghdad, 950
While the book is now a consistent collection of fables, the original of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights was complied over hundreds of years and drew on stories from as far afield as Syria, Persia, Yemen and modern day Iraq. The collections began to take on their modern form around 800.
What remained common through out the early editions was the set up story concerning the ruler Shahryar and his wife Scheherazade. Some editions contain all one thousand and one tales while most popular versions on contain a hundred or so stories.
The Book is immensely influential in not just the Arab world but also throughout the west. Some of the stories such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, Aladdin and the Genie and the adventures of Sinbad are staples of Western film and children’s literature.
There is no one author of the tales or one editor who can be accredited with pulling the tales together. The tales in the collection can be traced to Persian, Arabic and Indian ancient storytelling traditions and there are a number of the tales whose origins are found in Indian and Persian folktales. There are also a number of stories that are common to the
Arabian peninsula and the cities of Basra and Baghdad. Most of the original tales, however, were probably in circulation before they were collected and codified into a single collection somewhere in Baghdad in the ninth century. The stories are tales of adventure, love stories, tragedies and comedies and Muslim legends.
The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
The ruler Shahryar, upon discovering his former wife's infidelity has her executed. Believing all women are unfaithful Shahryar begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning. Eventually no more virgins are to be found. Finally, one of Shahryar’s advisers offers up his daughter Scheherazade. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade tells the king a tale, but does not end it. The king is thus forced to keep her alive in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins) another. So it went for 1,001 nights.
Sometimes a character in Scheherazade's tale will begin telling another a story and one story sometimes contain other stories. Each night ends in a cliff hanger…the hero of the tale is about to be killed, a complex exposition or some explanation of Islamic philosophy is begun but not finished.
Finally, while different versions have slightly different endings they all end with the king giving his wife a pardon and sparing her life.
The first European version of the Book of the Thousand and One Nights was translated into French by Antoine Galland from an Arabic text and other sources and included stories that were not in the original Arabic manuscript. "Aladdin's Lamp" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” Galland's version of the Nights were immensely popular throughout Europe. A well- known English translation is that by Victorian adventurer and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, and retained all the all the erotic nuances of the original material