The Tale of Queen Scheherazade
So I’ve mentioned before about this tale from 1001 (Arabian) Nights but it had a massive impact on me as a child.
I first read this story when I was six years old.
It starts by telling you about the Iranian (written as Persian in my old story book) King Shahryar and how his wife betrays him. In a fit of anger he vows to marry a new girl every day and then have them beheaded.
After a while his Visier struggles to bring him more girls and the King demands one of his two daughters, Scheherazade(Shaharazad) and Dinazade (Dunyazad) He cannot refuse otherwise the King will execute him but doesn’t not want to part with one of his daughters.
His eldest daughter Scheherazade tells him to send her to the King. He refuses at first but his daughter persuades him to trust her and so she goes, with her youngest sister at her side. But first she gives her sister secret instructions to beg for a story during the night.
Her sister does just this and so Scheherazade tells her sister and the King a story but leaves it at a cliffhanger as soon as the sun begins to rise. The King is so enthralled by the tale that he spares her life for a night to find out the ending.
But when she ends the story, the next night, she offers another, even better story than the last and does the same thing again.
She does this for 1001 nights, telling 1000 stories (which are the Arabian Nights stories themselves).
On the final night she finishes the tale completely and does not leave a cliffhanger or offer another tale. The King begins to weep as he has fallen in love with Scheherazade but doesn’t want to break his vow. She tells him that wicked vows must not be kept and she asks him to spare her life in return for the stories she has told him.
He agrees and she becomes his Queen.
The reason this story resonates with me so much, is that there are no real villains in the story. It’s told from a very human, compassionate angle and tells of the power of storytelling on the human spirit. The King is made wiser from the tales and realises his error and the reader in turn is made wiser and develops an understanding that villains can sometimes be just misguided people.
Another way it has influenced me it that the Queen is one of the few female characters I came across, as a child, that wasn’t a victim. She was intelligent, wise, caring, and dutiful. She was a wonderful role model for any young girl and is the King’s equal. Her presence has a profound effect on the King and, in some versions, she is mentioned to have become a powerful and fair Queen ruling alongside Shahriyar.
It frustrated me to no end when I was growing up, the sheer lack of assertive women on television. I would watch TV programmes where the woman just screamed for help and tried nothing to survive for herself, not even trying to run away, and I wondered why there was only this one-dimensional view of women in the world around me.
I think the message of intelligence and compassion winning out over violence and anger is a very important one and is still applicable today. The story certainly influenced my morals as I grew up and has stayed with me every since the first time I read it.
It was (to my delight) turned into a television mini-series, starring Mili Avital and Dougray Scott.
- Day 10: Who are the authors who have inspired your work? (bardicblogger.wordpress.com)
- Review: One Thousand and One Nights (arts.nationalpost.com)
- The Potential of Princesses (blog-aauw.org)
- Lucius Fogg Makes Jump To E-Readers (graphicpolicy.com)
- Luscious temptations (boston.com)
- Luminato’s new reading of Arabian Nights (theglobeandmail.com)