Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Write a Paragraph: The Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights))

One thousand and one nightsImage by cod_gabriel via Flickr

The Arabian Nights (also called The Thousand and One Nights is a collection of short stories originally written in Arabic, but from oral sources. During the Middle Ages about three hundred stories formed the core of the collection. By the early Renaissance the book grew to about one thousand stories.

Just as Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Boccaccio’s Decameron are framed stories, so is the The Arabian Nights. A narrative frame usually contains invented narrators who tell stories within stories. The invented narrator in The Thousand and One Nights is Shararazad. She tells of her personal plight as a chosen wife marked for death and how she put off her execution by telling stories to her jealous Sultan Shah­riar.

Having been hurt by the faithlessness of women, Shahriar married a new wife each evening only to put her to death the follow­ing morning. But the ingenious Shaharazad, found a way to hold the sultan’s curiosity —and put off her death— by suspending the stories with suspenseful hooks.

Eventually the sultan granted her a pardon for life. Shaharazad’s characters became household name: Ali Baba, Aladdin and his Magic Lamp, and Sinbad the Sailor.

Through the years, The Arabian Nights became a great influence in world literature. Jorge Luis Borges made constant allusions to the book and the narrator in his own fantastic stories. In music, Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakoff paid his homage with the sym­phonic suite Scheherazade. .

Although there is no specific social redeeming values advocated in the collection, Westerner can learn about the different way of life that people lived in the exotic East. .

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