Tuesday, August 7, 2018

First Impressions of 1001 Tales of Arabian Nights

(Written by Tahlia Merrill Kirk, editor of Timeless Tales Magazine)

A few years ago, my husband Ron delighted me with the news that he had started reading Tales of 1,001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights) on his Kindle.

“This is great!” I squeed. “I’ve never read it, so you can tell me all about it as you go!”

I suppose I should be at least a tad embarrassed that I have zero desire to read the entirety of Arabian Nights, but have you seen the SIZE of it?! There are three volumes. All combined, they add up to a staggering 2600 pages. There isn’t even a Sparknotes available for it, that’s how big it is. So I ignore the mournful wails of my English degree--secondhand reading is good enough for me on this one.


It took him almost 5 years to get through it all (taking breaks to read other books, of course), but this week, he finally finished. Since I immediately knew that I wanted to turn this experience into a blog post, I made sure that Ron filled me in about all the interesting parts of the stories. I even had him send me relevant/funny quotes as he went.


I started writing this as one post, but there is too much to say, so we’re going to make a whole series out of it! Here are a few topics I want to cover (Let me know if there's something you really want me to discuss):


1. Which Translation Did Ron Read? (I promise it won't be as boring as it sounds)

2. Is Arabian Nights Sexist? 

3. Is Arabian Nights Sexy? 

4. How Does Aladdin Fit Into Arabian Nights?

5. Djinn and Their Kind (or not-so-kind...hehe)

6. Religion in Arabian Nights

7. The Arabian Nights Board Game

8. Doughnuts (Nope, won’t explain. Saving the best for last)


In the meantime, here’s a funny mini-tale to give you a taste of how great these stories are:

My master the sultan, here is my most remarkable experience during my time in office. I had ten thieves hanged, each on a gibbet of his own, and I told the guards to watch to see that nobody removed any of the corpses. The next day, when I came to look at them, I found two corpses hanging from the same gibbet.

‘Who has done this,’ I asked the guards, ‘and where is the gibbet belonging to this second corpse?’

They disclaimed any knowledge of the affair, but when I was about to have them flogged, they said: ‘We fell asleep last night, emir, and when we woke up we found that one of the corpses, together with its gibbet, had been stolen. We were afraid, and when we saw a passing peasant coming up towards us with his donkey, we seized him, killed him and hanged him on this gibbet in place of the corpse that had been removed.’

I was taken by surprise and asked them what the peasant had had with him. They told me that he had had a saddlebag on his donkey, and when I asked what was in it they said that they didn’t know.
‘Bring it to me,’ I told them, and when they did, I ordered them to open it. There inside it was the body of a murdered man cut into pieces. I was astonished at this sight and said to myself: ‘Glory be to God. The reason that this peasant was hanged was that he was guilty of murder, and God does not treat His servants unjustly.’

Malcolm C. Lyons. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 2 (The Arabian Nights or Tales from 1001 Nights) (pp. 107-108). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

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