The Arabian Nights
The collection of stories entitled, The Arabian Nights are folktales written in Arabic from the Islamic Golden Age (between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries), originating in the Middle East. The collection is also known as One Thousand and One Nights because it is believed that the sultan’s wife Scheherazade told a different tale to her husband every night for one thousand and one days.
Whilst the stories are as varied as the cultures they came from, there is one common tale to all versions of the collection. This tale is known as a ‘frame story’ because it sets the stage for the other stories of The Arabian Nights. Aladdin and Ali Baba are familiar characters who are often associated with The Arabian Nights but these characters did not feature in the original Arabic stories. They were added by the French translator Antoine Galland when he translated the collection in 1704.
One Thousand and One Nights
(For Older Children):
There once was a sultan named Shahryãr who found out that his wife had been unfaithful. In a fit of rage and jealousy, he had her executed. Before long, the king married again and choose a virgin for his bride. However, through his anger and grief, King Shahryãr decided that all women were the same and so he executed his new wife the next morning before she had the chance to betray him. This pattern of marriage and execution continued until the vizier could not find any more virgins for the king to marry. The vizier had a duty to provide the king with a wife, and when he could not complete his task, his daughter Scheherazade offered to be the sultan’s next bride.
On their wedding night, Scheherazade started to tell her new husband a tale, but she didn’t finish the story. Sultan Shahryãr was interested to find out the ending of the story so he postponed her execution. The following night, Scheherazade finished her story but then began a new one; and once again the king delayed her execution. This continued for one thousand and one nights until the king spared Scheherazade’s life.
(For Younger Children)
There once was a king named Shahryãr who found out that his wife no longer loved him. The king was so angry, he decided to kill her. Soon, the king married again but he didn’t trust his new wife and so killed her before she stopped loving him. The king kept marrying and killing his wives until he could find no more women to marry. Scheherazade, the daughter of one of the king’s servants said she would be the king’s new bride.
On their wedding night, Scheherazade started to tell her new husband a story, but she didn’t finish it. The king was interested to find out the ending so he didn’t kill her that evening. The following night, Scheherazade finished her story but then began a new one; and once again the king decided not to kill her. This continued for one thousand and one nights until the king learnt to trust his wife and let her live.
Written by: Holly Pigache