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The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights:…
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The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 2 (Penguin Classics) (edition 2010)

by Anonymous (Author)

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Every night for three years the vengeful King Shahriyar sleeps with a different virgin, executing her next morning. To end this brutal pattern and to save her own life, the vizier's daughter, Shahrazad, begins to tell the king tales of adventure, love, riches and wonder - tales of mystical lands peopled with princes and hunchbacks, the Angel of Death and magical spirits, tales of the voyages of Sindbad, of Ali Baba's outwitting a band of forty thieves and of jinnis trapped in rings and in lamps. The sequence of stories will last 1,001 nights.… (more)
Member:dawbre42
Title:The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 2 (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Anonymous (Author)
Info:Penguin Classics (2010), Edition: 1, 800 pages
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The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 2 (Penguin Classics) by Anonymous

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Volume 2 of The Arabian Nights begins with night 295 of tales and goes through night 719. The stories at the beginning of the book are all very short, some only around a page or two long, and it wasn't until about halfway through the book that the tales grew into longer epics once again, including the seven voyages of Sindbad. There's a lot of risk of tedium when you binge read these books like I'm doing. The shorter tales all stacked on top of each other begin to blur together and longer tales can grow to such epic lengths as to be too long, and long or short there are repeated kinds of stories, themes, and phrases throughout. But if I had not read these books in the rapid way I'm going, I'm not sure that I would have figured out the genius of Shahrazad.

Shahrazad is Brilliant

At the beginning of The Arabian Nights, readers are introduced to Shahrazad and King Shahriyar. Following a betrayal by his wife, the king has been marrying young women and executing them the morning after consummating the marriage. Shahrazad agrees to marry Shahriyar in order to save other women from a similar fate and preserves her own life by telling tales, stopping each night so that the king will have to keep her alive if he wants to learn the ending. After a few nights, her story fades into the background of the tales, the only reminder that she is the tale-spinner being a single sentence: "Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say, and then when it was the one hundred and fifteenth night, she continued."

And yet, Shahrazad's own story is ever present and the reader can see this in the arc of the stories she chooses to tell. Her selection of stories is very methodological and careful, based on her audience and what will mostly keep him interested and her alive.

At the beginning of The Arabian Nights, when her life is at the greatest risk, she has to catch his attention and speak to his sympathies. So, she tells stories involving men betrayed by women and how they get retribution. With the king in an 'all women are evil, so I have to kill them after marrying them" mentality, these stories are likely to grab his interest and keep it.

As she weaves story after story, she begins to include stories of humor and adventure, entertaining tales and epic sagas of brothers and kings going to war. These tales focus less on the "women are root of evil" theme and more on the daring deeds of men. Some of these stories even feature good women as companions to the heroes. By this point, she would have his interest fully engaged; the king is more wrapped up in the stories than in his need for revenge.

At which point, Shahrazad switched tone again. The tales presented at the beginning of Volume 2 are religious or morality tales. It seems clear to me that now that Shahrazad has King Shahriyar's trust and complete attention, she feels safe enough to present him with a few life lessons. These tales include:

  • death comes to a wealthy, squandering man begs for more time to get his affairs in order, but death gives him none; meanwhile the noble, generous man meets death prepared

  • virtuous women who refuse to be seduced by men choose death in order to remain holy in the eyes of God

  • good kings who treat their people well and are remembered fondly by their people



Shahrazad seems to be guiding King Shahriyar toward a new perspectives. First, in proper behavior for Kings as with the common man, there are rules for treatment of others. And second, that women can be as noble and virtuous as men, a clear change from the stories she began with.

Following these morality and religious tales, the stories became more mixed with adventure, religion, romance, and so forth. I'm curious to see if the tales in Volume 3 reflect other levels of Shahrazad's personal story arc.

And because it ran really long, The rest of my observations, awesome female characters, funniest moment, and repeated phrases are on my blog. ( )
3 vote andreablythe | Jul 2, 2014 |
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Shahrazad continued: The story is also told that one night, when the caliph Harun al-Rashid was feeling restless, he summoned his vizier, Ja'far the Barmecide.
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Every night for three years the vengeful King Shahriyar sleeps with a different virgin, executing her next morning. To end this brutal pattern and to save her own life, the vizier's daughter, Shahrazad, begins to tell the king tales of adventure, love, riches and wonder - tales of mystical lands peopled with princes and hunchbacks, the Angel of Death and magical spirits, tales of the voyages of Sindbad, of Ali Baba's outwitting a band of forty thieves and of jinnis trapped in rings and in lamps. The sequence of stories will last 1,001 nights.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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