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  • Writer's pictureNadine Selem

One thousand and one nights

Nadine gives us a fascinating recap of the characters and stories in the classic collection of tales, One Thousand and One Nights, which has origins set in themes of feminism, murder, royalty, and female heroism.

The story of One Thousand and One Nights is a giant literary work in which myth is mixed with legend and dreams. It has had a monumental impact on all literary genres, whether it is poetry, storybooks, novels, or theatre. The influence of this great work is not only limited to Arabic literature only, but also on the various literatures of contemporary peoples and civilizations.

The importance of One Thousand and One Night's stories lies in the fact that they express a holistic view of the life of humanity in multiple civilizations, concurrent with their dreams, joys, sorrows, misfortunes, disappointments and contradictions.

The tales extend far to include civilizations that have existed throughout history, since the stories are ancient Arab, Persian and Indian tales. The collaboration between these civilizations had an important role in making the One Thousand and One Nights a great work, because the intersections of knowledge and intellectual trends from the civilizations connecting are reflected in the work.

Well, the background is very interesting and complex, but what is the origin of One Thousand and One Nights?

These are the stories that Scheherazade, King Shahryar's wife, used to delay the date of her execution. But, you're probably wondering, who's Scheherazade and who's Shahryar? What do those names mean? Why she was about to be executed?

The meaning of Scheherazade is girl of the country, and it is a name that has its origins in the Persian language. The meaning of Shahryar is owner of the city, referring to a Sultan or ruler. This is also a Persian name.

Shahryar went on a hunting trip with his brother Shah Zaman, and after Shahryar returned from his trip, he knew of his wife's betrayal to him. He then executed his wife, and developed a belief that all women are guilty and sinful by nature. Shahryar, having lost his powerful reputation as a tyrant, decided to take revenge on all women by marrying a new girl everyday, and killing one after the other everyday during dawn. Sadly, this was the only way for Shahryar to regain his power and influence.

This horrible process lasted for a full three years until families started fleeing their daughters out of town. At one point, there were no more girls in the city other than the two daughters of the king's minister, Scheherazade and Dunyazad. Scheherazade was chosen.

Scheherazade was distinguished by her intense intelligence, since she was excellent at authoring stories. To break away from the system of murder the king followed, she used to tell Shahryar stories with the story-ending intentionally missing at the end of the night (a cliffhanger, you could say), so Shahryar was so interested in these stories that he didn't kill her the next dawn, just so he could let her finish.

Scheherazade continued like this for a thousand and one nights, in which she narrated more than a thousand stories, and after Scheherazade finished her stories, the sultan fell in love with her, and retracted her killing and the killing of other girls. Thus, Scheherazade protected the girls of the kingdom with her pure intelligence, wisdom, and power.


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