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The Thousand and One Nights. The Thousand and One Nights. Author: unknown Culture: Arab, from a collection of pre-Islamic Middle Persian tales. Time: 14 th century Genre: prose, contains lots of different genres from poetry to prose adventure tales, romances, etc.

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the thousand and one nights1
The Thousand and One Nights
  • Author: unknown
  • Culture: Arab, from a collection of pre-Islamic Middle Persian tales.
  • Time: 14th century
  • Genre: prose, contains lots of different genres from poetry to prose adventure tales, romances, etc.
  • Names to know: Shahrazad, Shahrayar
1 001 nights
1,001 Nights
  • Oral and written versions existed side by side.
    • The tales are rooted in daily life, but are made magical by their settings, fantastic adventures, and the intervention of sorcerers and demons (djinn).
  • The Prologue sets forth the themes
    • Lust, madness, violence, justice, retribution, heroism.
the narrator
The Narrator
  • Shahrazad succeeds through the power of story-telling (narrative) to ward off tyranny and to suspend time.
  • Overall narrative structure: “nesting tales” that flow from and lead into each other.
  • Framing Narrative is set out in the Prologue.
generic importance
Generic Importance
  • This is one of the richest reservoirs of narrative genres in Medieval times. E.M. Forster in his Aspects of Fiction (1927) considers One Thousand and One Nights to be the origin of the modern novel.
  • The Greeks invented the novel in the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st centuries BCE) but these were adventure/romance tales only.
  • Novel form is developing in medieval Japan, as well.
two part narrative structure
Two-part Narrative Structure
  • Baghdad part: the characters and action focus on Baghdad in the time of Haroun al-Rashid.
  • Egyptian part: characters and settings are Egyptian, jinn are manipulated through talismans rather than directly.
  • Tales reflect the influence of all the Islamic world (& the Koran) as well as ancient Babylonian & Mesopotamian narratives and historical events & figures such as those surrounding Alexander the Great.
  • Sets out the reason for the tale-telling, and the main characters.
  • Explains why Shahzaman visits his brother Shahrayar, why he is depressed, and what makes him feel better.
  • Describes male/female sexuality
male vs female p o v
Male vs. Female P.O.V.
  • Men are comfortable when in control
  • Men react violently when they realize they do not have control
  • Women dislike the bonds put upon and actively seek escape
  • Women can be powerful as even Djinn cannot control them
  • Some women and men do find balance
what to do when you have no control
What to do when you have no control?
  • When Shahrayar returns home he says, “There is not a single chaste woman anywhere on the entire face of the earth” Thus he plans to gain control through violence.
    • Violent control comes with a heavy cost [much death]
    • There is a reminiscence of Gilgamesh ,“He continued to do this until all the girls perished, their mothers mourned, and there arose a clamor among the fathers and mothers, who called the plague upon his head, complained to the Creator of the heavens, and called for help on Him who hears and answers prayers.”
aim of the tales
Aim of the Tales
  • Shahrazad’s tales may be chosen to teach Shahrayar that not all women are like his first wife.
    • In many of the tales a benign but powerful woman undoes the harm done by a bad woman.
    • The wicked characters are punished according to their crimes, but are never put to death (unlike all of Shahrayar’s other innocent wives!).
  • After a thousand and one nights, Shahrayar finally embraces Shahrazad as a virtuous woman and gives over his unjust behavior.
  • She reveals their three sons.
  • Dinarzad marries Shahzaman.
  • The vizier becomes king in Shahzaman’s place.