Scheherazade regaling Shahryar with a story. © Wikicommons

One Thousand and One Nights

During the Islamic Golden Age (8th-13th centuries), a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian tales was compiled by authors, translators and scholars across West, Central Asia and South Asia as well as North Africa. Written in Arabic, One Thousand and One Nights – also known as Arabian Nights in the English editions – drew from ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Mesopotamian, Indian, Jewish and Egyptian folklore and literature.

Common throughout all editions of the Arabian Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryar and Scheherazade. Developed from the first tale about how Shahryar, on discovering that his first wife has been unfaithful, executes her, then proceeds to marry a succession of virgins, only to execute each girl the next morning. The vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade, offers herself as his bride. To force Shahryar to postpone her execution, Scheherazade does not finish her story on the same night. On the next day, Scheherazade ends her first story, and begins a new one, and again she does not complete it on the same day. This pattern continues for 1,001 nights until the ruler eventually gives in and spares her life.

The bulk of One Thousand and One Nights is in prose, but some verse is used for the songs and riddles, or for effect.

Check out Asian Geographic's Languages of Asia Issue 5/2016




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