1001 Ways to Save Your Life: Shahrazad and The Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights is a story of stories. Not only is it a rich interwoven carpet of stories within stories within stories within stories, it is also a story about the power of stories, the power of fiction to save lives, to tame murderers and to change the world.

Arabian NightsThe most authentic English translation (by Husain Haddawy) begins, “It is related — but God knows and sees best what lies hidden in the old accounts of bygone people and times — that long ago, during the time of the Sasanid dynasty, in the peninsulas of India and Indochina, there lived two kings who were brothers” (5), reminding us from the very start that we are reading a story “related” by someone. Unlike the other stories in The Arabian Nights, we do not know who is telling us the frame story, the big tale that includes all other tales, instead we get the passive form “it is related,” followed by a warning that only God knows “what lies hidden in the old accounts,” in other words only Allah knows the truth of these fictions or even the secret meaning of them.

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