The Arabian Nights is a collection of different works of middle-eastern medieval literature. These works were collected throughout a period that came to be known as the Islamic Golden Age, an epoch marked by the rapid expansion of the Islamic faith. The stories collected come from different backgrounds within the region, including tales of ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian, and Turkish origin (Marzolph 183). The tales themselves have overcome age and have become timeless classics of middle-eastern literature. One of the key aspects of the collection of stories is the manner in which the stories are presented.
The story commences with the Sasanian king as he discovers that his wife has been unfaithful. Enraged by such betrayal, he decides to marry and execute all the virgins in the kingdom. As the number of available virgins is being depleted, the vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade, offers herself as the king’s next bride. The night after the nuptials, she starts to narrate a story to the king but stops midway through the story. Captivated by curiosity, the king has to postpone his plans in order to hear the end of the story. This repeats itself through one thousand nights. In the final night, the king desists of his plans (there are multiple, different accounts as to why).
The power of storytelling is represented in this manner, as the newlywed’s life is spared thanks to the cunning strategy she employed. Unmentioned is the fact that in doing so, she saved the lives of multiple other women onto whom the king’s rage would have befallen. So the power of storytelling saved not only the heroine’s life but the lives of the young women of the kingdom.
Another example of the power of storytelling is the fact that these stories were passed through generations. As mentioned before, these folk stories come from different parts of the region and date back centuries before they were compiled. These stories were kept alive through the narration of themselves. Thanks to that, we now have a window to look into the past to better understand those civilizations.
In conclusion, the power of narration should never be underestimated. It not only can be used to persuade a powerful monarch to spare your life, but it also gives us a looking glass into times long past. Storytelling has given us human beings culture and religion, aspects that are present during all of our lives. In the end, storytelling is what makes us human.
Marzolph, Ulrich “The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective”. Wayne State University Press. 2007
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