|"What a wonderful story this is!|
The remainder of it is more surprising if the Sultan will permit me
to live this day and allow me to proceed on the morrow"
- Queen Scheherazade
|The Arabian Nights illustrated by Rene Bull - Hardcover|
tells her stories
to the Sultan
|The Story of Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp|
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Sinbad the Sailor all came from. Considered to be one of the great classics of literature, it is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories compiled in Arabic in about 7th century AD. Here is how stories of sultans, genies, magic rings, and flying carpets all started.
|Illustration of the Genie, in Aladdin or The Wonderful Lamp|
|Arabian Nights - Framing Structure|
|Arabian Nights illustrated Calla Edition - Contents|
A theme which I found to be recurring is the amassing of wealth by chance or discovery. It appears in almost all the stories that wealth is usually discovered or found, and not made or something you work for. Think about the stories of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad and how they were all fortunate enough to discover gold and jewelry. All of us dream to be rich and this is probably what inspires our imagination, but this might give kids today the wrong attitude about wealth if told repeatedly. Although there are several businessmen (merchants) in the collection not all of them gained their wealth through their own business or hard work (perhaps only Abou Hassan's family.) In fact, the story of the merchant Ali Cogia was about how he cheated his neighbor of a thousand pieces of gold.
Another theme is how women are portrayed in the story. With the exception of Scheherazade and Morgiana, most of the women are portrayed as unfaithful, evil, and scheming. Though this is something I didn't find enjoyable to read about, it probably has a lot to do with the culture and times when the stories were originally told.
Nevertheless, there is always some value or lesson to be learned in all of the stories, such as the importance of honesty, loyalty, and bravery. Here are some of my favorites:
Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers
I loved this story primarily because of Morgiana and the role she played in it. While women are usually portrayed as scheming unfaithful wives in several Arabian Nights stories, in this particular one Morgiana, who starts out as a maid in her master's house, is the epitome of loyalty, wit, and beauty. In the end her master rewards her by offering her his son's hand in marriage.
|Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers|
|The beautiful and loyal Morgiana, in Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers|
The Fourth Voyage of Sinbad
What struck me was the husband-wife burial custom that was described here. When a husband or wife dies the surviving spouse is to be buried with him/her.
|The Story of Sinbad the Sailor|
The Story of Abou Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened
In this story Abou Hassan and his wife find their funds to be wanting so they worked as a team to execute a humorous ploy on the sultan in order to earn some gold. I loved their teamwork in this story which to me made it one of the lightest and most entertaining stories in the collection.
The Story of Aladdin; or the Wonderful Lamp
Perhaps the most popular in the collection. Disney's rendition was similar but omitted several elements from the original story. These elements included a magic ring, Aladdin's mother and how her persistence was able to help obtain the Sultan's consent for Aladdin to marry the princess, Aladdin's wedding, the evil magician who tried to take the lamp, and Aladdin and his wife's new palace built by the genie.
|The Princess in The Story of Aladdin|
|The evil Magician in The Story of Aladdin|
The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Perie Banou
A story about three princes, it reminded me of Ibong Adarna from Philippine Folklore. This is where the flying carpet came from, not from Aladdin.
So there you go. I hope I was able to inspire you to pick up the book and start reading :-)