The Thousand and One Nights Essay

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The Thousand and One Nights, generally known to the English, speaking world as the Arabian Nights, is a compendium of Arabic tales compiled between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries. The collection starts with the story of King Shahrayar. Betrayed by his adulterous wife, he swears never to trust a woman again, deciding instead to marry a different virgin every night and have her executed the next day. He carries out his plan for three years, until his Vizier can no longer find a virgin to offer the king. The Vizier's courageous daughter, Shahrazad, then attempts to change the king's mind and save the remaining maidens of the kingdom. Shahrazad offers herself as a bride. With the help of her sister, Dinarzad, she obtains permission …show more content…
At the same time, the organizing story - teller, who is, it should be emphasized, a woman, enacts through her narrative the everlasting human desire for earthly life, which suggests that literature storytelling preserves life.
Even the frame story itself is revealing. The king, the oppressor, can destroy cities and kill their inhabitants, but he cannot guess the outcome of imaginary tales or compete with the common sense of an inexperienced young woman, to whom he, the omnipotent, ultimately surrenders. Regardless of his stature, he has to wait in order to satisfy his curiosity. Never in any European literary setting has such a glorious tribute been paid to the powerful influence of literature. It is interesting that Arabic society under - valued the tales because they were of popular origin and denigrated them as unsophisticated, unpolished folklore. Consequently, the tales probably have had less influence on Islamic than on European literatures, which have been indebted to A Thousand and One Nights for almost a thousand years, even though the tales were not translated into a European language until Antoine Galland produced a French version in the early eighteenth - century. Medieval writers, who generally did not invent their own tales but reworked existing ones, tailoring and transforming them to suit their own purposes and design, made free use of narrative resources passed on orally without the mediation of writing.
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