The Arabian Nights is a collection of tales from the Islamic Golden Age, compiled by Various authors over many hundreds of years. “A truth once seen by a single mind ends up by imposing itself on the totality of human consciousness. ” Though each collection features different stories, they are all centered on the frame story of the sultan Shahrayar and his wife, Scheherazade. After finding out that his first wife is Unfaithful, Shahrayar kills her and swears to marry a different woman each night before killing Her following morning to prevent further betrayal.
Scheherazade, his vizier’s daughter, Concocts a plan to end this pattern. She marries Shahrayar, and then begins to tell him a story that night. However, she stops the story in the middle, so that he will be excited to hear the rest the following night. The next evening, she finishes that story and then begins another, following the same pattern for 1,001 Nights, until Shahrayar has a change of heart. The stories she tells comprise the collection. “Aladdin’s Lamp” tells of a peasant boy who is tricked by an evil magician into retrieving a magic genie lamp from a cave.
However, Aladdin outsmarts him, keeping the lamp for himself. Through the genie’s power, Aladdin grows rich and marries the sultan’s daughter. When the magician steals the lamp back, Aladdin and his wife thwart and kill the villain. The magician’s brother then attempts to avenge the dead man, but is equally defeated, so that Aladdin lives happily ever after. In “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” hardworking Ali Baba stumbles upon a thieves’ hideout full of treasure, protected by a magic entry. When Ali Baba accidentally reveals the secret to his icher brotherCassim, Cassim gets trapped in the hideout, and killed by the thieves. The villains then try to track down and kill Ali Baba, but their plans are consistently thwarted by the quickwitted slave Mariana. “Aladdin had won the hearts of the people by his gentle bearing. He was made captain of the Sultan’ armies, and won several battles for him, but remained as courteous as before, and lived thus in peace and content for several years. ” In “The Three Apples,” a fisherman finds a chest in the ocean containing a woman’s body.
Both her father and her husband try to take the blame, but the caliph discerns that the husband had killed her, believing her unfaithful. He had brought her three rare apples when she was sick, then got mad when he saw a slave with one of the apples, claiming he had received the fruit from his girlfriend. Believing the slave, he killed the woman. He then learned that his son had actually given the apple to the slave, who then lied to stir up trouble. The ruler’s vizier Ja’far ascertains that his own slave is the culprit, and the caliph pardons everyone. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor” are told by a famous sailor to an impoverished porter, to explain the trials and tribulations that the sailor suffered at sea. Over the course of his seven voyages, Sinbad faced: various shipwrecks; strange beasts such as giant eagles, rocs, and giants; malicious figures such as the Old Man of the Sea; and many other obstacles.
Even though he dealt with danger on every voyage, Sinbad continued to sail, lured by the thrill and excitement of the sea. Finally, after seven voyages, he decided to settle down with his wealth. The Fisherman and the Jinni” tells the story of a fisherman whose nets retrieve a yellow jar from the sea. He opens it to release a dangerous genie, who has been trapped for hundreds of years and had decided to kill the man who rescues him. The fisherman tricks the genie into returning to the jar, and then tells him the story of “The Vizier and the Sage Durban,” detailed below. After the story, the genie promises to reward the fisherman, and indeed shows him a magic lake full of strange fish.
“My story is of such marvel that if it were written with a needle on the corner of an eye, it would yet serve as a lesson to those who seek wisdom. The fisherman sells the fish to the sultan, who explores the area of the lake to meet a sad prince who had been turned half to stone. He helps the prince, and then rewards everyone involved. In “The Vizier and the Sage Durban,” a wise healer named Durban heals King’s leprosy, but Yunnan’s vizier convinces the king that Durban is out to kill him. Yunnan has Durban executed on that suspicion, and Durban gifts him a magic book before he dies. After the wise man is beheaded, the king flips through the book, and then dies himself from a Poison that Durban has left on its pages.
Finally, “The Three Princes and Nouronnihar” details the journeys of three brother princes who each want to marry their cousin Nouronnihar. Their father, the Grand Sultan, promises that whichever brother finds the most valuable item will win the woman’s hand. “So I conjure thee, by the honor of thine ancestors, make haste to kill me and do her justice upon me, as there is no living for me after her! ” They each find amazing items – a magic carpet that transports its owner, a tube that shows whatever the viewer wishes, and an apple that heals anyone.
When the brothers learn that Nouronnihar is ill, they pool the items and manage to save her life. The first European edition was a free translation by Abe Antoine Gallant into French (1704-17). Most subsequent French, German, and English versions lean heavily upon Gallant. Among the English translations include the expurgated edition of E. W. Lane (1840), with excellent and copious notes; the unexpurgated edition by Sir Richard Burton in 16 volumes (1885-88); that of John Payne in 9 volumes (1882–84); Powys Mather’s translation from the French text of J. C. Madras (rev. ed. , 4 vol. , 1937); and that of Husain Hardaway (2 vol. , 1990, 1995).