After reading both Stephen Fry’s books on Greek Myths and Heroes I picked up two volumes of The Arabian Nights (or One Thousand and One Nights) and I started reading the first one today.
Whilst I was reading I was conscious of the fact that I often take something in from the story and then almost immediately forget the details. For instance, I started reading a new bedtime book last night and today I can’t even remember what it is. Just being a file on my iPad doesn’t help with trying to remember things either.
So as I was reading this first story, which sets up the premise for the rest of the book, I decided I should write down a summary of the events, without too much detail, to help me remember, but also to understand more deeply.
Summary of the Story Of King Shahryar and His Brother
There were two brothers. One found his wife cheating with another man, so killed her. He was devastated by her betrayal and also remorseful for having killed her. He made himself sick.
The other brother, seeing him sick, took him in but whilst there found his brother’s wife cheating too. He realised that whilst he was suffering, others were also suffering. Telling himself things weren’t so bad he started to feel better.
His brother asked what had brought about this change and he reluctantly told of what he saw. Once the brother also saw this betrayal with his own eyes, he too, killed his wife.
They decided to get away from their betrayals and perhaps seek others who were suffering even more, a way to make themselves feel better.
They came across a monster, who kept his wife locked up. He had let her out and promptly fallen asleep, whereupon she saw the two brothers and insisted they make love to her whilst the monster slept.
They saw that the monster was suffering even more than themselves but the actions of the woman were immoral and vowed never to trust a woman again.
They returned to their lives and after sleeping with a virgin woman, killed her the following day so she would never be able to twist the hearts of men.
Eventually, virgins were becoming scarce and one brother asked his friend where to find more. The friend repeated the story to his two virgin daughters and one insisted she knew a way to put an end to this difficult situation.
These weak men, never challenging themselves as complicit in their wives actions, prefer to blame and punish what they dare not understand. Of course, women have suffered in every region and era of history yet it begs belief that if tales such as this become established amongst children they are likely to take that into adulthood and pass it on from generation to generation.
Should tales of old be updated for modern audiences and cultures? Cut the wheat from the chaff? Should they be completely replaced?
Of course, the summary ends on a more positive note as a woman is prepared to put herself in danger to provide a solution. Does it work? I don’t know yet.
I purposely left out the fact that the brothers are kings and tried to make the summary more human. The downside of this is that it is not in most human minds or possibility to kill every woman they sleep with. Being a king (or having that illusion) seems to allow for that possibility!
I used monster instead of jinn or genie as I was trying to understand what difference this makes. I feel that a human can be a monster but not a genie.
As in all good stories, I want to know what happens next.