One Thousand and One Nights and Arabic Culture

One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of West and South Asian stories and folk tales. It was compiled in Arabic and is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English language edition which was published in 1706. It rendered the title as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment (Kennedy, 2004).

The work was poised over many centuries by many authors, interpreters, and intellectuals across Arabic Asia and North Africa. Therefore, the stories included in One Thousand and One Nights are numerous works by dissimilar authors that have been composed and included in the volumes of this legendary piece of texts. Kennedy (2004) mentions that, the primary known variety of the Nights dates back from the fourteenth century and many of the stories that we think of as usual as them, such as Ali Baba and AlaIDin, date later after that.

One Thousand and One Nights’ arrangement, ancient and cultural value, and overall impact were all chief factors that led to the interpretation of the work into a number of different languages. The original man to translate the accounts was Antoine Galland, and the gatherings and works were first transformed as “Les Mille et Une Nuits” making the eminent Arabic book accessible for the first stint in the French language. It was possibly the Western realm’s first starter to the amazing literary work. Antoine Galland was a French intellectual who lived, toured and operated in the 1600s. He was from a family of seven kids and it was a poor. In spite of this, however, Galland still accomplished to obtain an education and well-read in languages such as French, Latin, Hebrew and Greek. He went on with his studies to the college level joining well-known universities in Paris.

Although he was known for many legendary works, he is most recalled for his rendition of One Thousand and One Nights into the first western language. It is has been said that Galland decoded the chief Arabic piece from the Syrian language. Toler (2008) says that if Galland’s assertion is true, then the French academic can be credited for being the first to enhance the most widespread of the Arabic tales like “AlaIDin” and “Ali Baba” to the volume Arabian Nights. Galland made several changes in the Arabian Night. These changes were better for the European rendition of the tales. According to Toler (2008), the French man would pick and select the tales that he considered most useful and significant to the European population. His versions were often inaccurate because of the way he deciphered some Arabic connotations and versions of words into his language. He also displaced parts of stories that he thought were too immoral or incorrect for the European people and their era. The volumes of the stories were gradually printed in Europe from the years of 1704 to around 1717. Once completed, the European lovers of the tales were left needing more. Many trailed in translating the legends, but all varieties seemed to emulate Galland’s.

The interpretation of Arabian Nights by Galland, presented for the first time, Arabic stories and fork-tales to the European people. Above all, it functioned as a welcome for Arabic custom and culture to the western domain.

Another widely held rendition of the Arabian Nights was Sir Richard Burton’s book- The Thousand Nights and a Night, which contained about sixteen works of fictions in the English language and was made public around 1888. From Toler (2008), it is known that Burton was an English tourist and linguist and learned thirty and above world tongues. He was particularly skilled and had excessive interest for the Arabic dialects, which may have been the chief reason for his task of translating of the Arabic legends. Burton’s interpretation of the tales although more factual, was somewhat scowled upon by the European population. His versions included extreme references to sexual particulars and were unsuitable for all readers.

Kennedy (2004) expounds that Burton’s significant other was known to have loathed his fictional translations of the explicit content of the tales, and is said to have set ablaze copies of his documents and works after his demise. Many other English men tried to translate the Arabic tales, making numerous altered versions of the stories. Looking past the validity of the conversions, people everywhere took delight in reading the fictions and historians and authors began to study and teach the arrangement and content of the definitive Arabic tales. (Toler, 2008)

The book can be mapped out to as early as the 9th century, and was identified at the time as a mythical book by the title Hazar Afsaneh. The book has traces of Persian, Arab, and some Indian culture and the stories were composed by several diverse authors and organized to create an artistic plot.

The replication of Arab culture and antiquity that the assortment brings to readers is outstanding and may have been impossible without the works of the academics and legendary works of the well-known “Golden Age of Learning” that overtook Baghdad during Abbasid rule.

The Arab world expands from Morocco in Northern Africa to the Persian Gulf. It is approximately equal to the area known as the MiIDle East and North Africa. Although this excludes Djibouti, Somalia, and the Comoros Islands, they are also part of the Arab region. Esherick (2006) explains that Arab can also be referred to as those countries where Arabic language is the dominant language. Most of the people who practice Arabic culture are supporters of Islam and are called Muslims. There are around a billion and a half Muslims in the world. However, Muslims should not to be mixed up with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, or other nationalities.

To be an Arab, is not to originate from a specific race or lineage. To be an Arab, like an American, is a cultural attribute rather than ethnic. The Arab world comprises of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Anybody who adopts the Arabic language and lifestyle is normally called an Arab. Arabic is the authorized and the unique language of the Qur’an. The book One Thousand and One Nights is based on Arabian culture and Muslim religion (Esherick, 2006).

One Thousand and One Nights or Kitab Alf Laylah Wa-Laylah, as it is referred to in Arabic, is possibly the most renowned gathering of Arabic tales and poems and assists as the world’s paramount starter to Arabic culture through literature.

One Thousand and One Nights is not just a volume of thoughtless tales, but a piece of award-winning literature that is extensively read and studied presently in countries the world over today. At the rate at which scholars, intellectuals and academicians are growing, the book will continue being read and enlightening the western world.

This paper contains the summary of the main plot of the book and focuses the importance of the book’s capability to introduce Arab culture to the outer world.

One Thousand and One Nights has not only unwrapped the thoughts of scholars and students to archetypal Arabic literature, but it has also betrothed great impact on some of today’s paramount authors and film producers, making it an important fragment of history that will be carried to the future.

Arabian Nights has a stimulating structure; the stories and poems by different authors all come collected over an over-arching story of the Persian King and his ruthless habit. The story starts as King Shahry?r discovers that his wife has slept with another man. He is outraged by this betrayal and puts in mind that all women are similar and will cheat, tell falsehood and cause him embarrassment. Because he cannot live without the darling of a woman and at the same time cannot rely on anyone, King Shahry?r orders his prime-minister to get him a different virgin each night. The vizier (prime-minister) obeys, and begins the King’s sequence of lying with a virgin every night and butchering her before the next morning to ensure that no women will fraud him again (Toler, 2008).

One day, however, the prime-minister fails to catch a virgin to take to the King, and instead the vizier’s daughter called Scheherazade, submits herself as the King’s lover. Conscious that she may very well be likely to death the next morning, Scheherazade formulates a plan to begin telling the King a story. She does not finish the tale that night and she promises the King to finish the tale the subsequent night, obliging him to go contrary to his will and save her existence. The following night Scheherazade does away with the tale and starts a different one ensuring to leave the story at suspense and the King waiting to catch the end. Scheherazade repeats this night after night until she has narrated the tales by many authors and attained her thousand and one nights with the King, in which she pleads with the king to spare her life and he agrees (Kennedy, 2004).

The stories that Scheherazade narrates to the king are of various subjects and include a range of inventive information and designs. These stories; the stories that classical Arabic writers have contributed to, vary and include tales that encompass historical records, love stories, poetries, disasters, dramas, pleasantries, and even romance.

The tales have fictional and ingenious characters like jinnies, jugglers, and animals. The stories are gathered from other different cultures too. Some tales are recognized to be influences by Persian and Indian novelists and writers in accumulation to those which were inscribed by Arabs. In aIDition to the designs’ interesting arrangement, Scheherazade is represented as the central character of the leading story, who narrates tales to the King and frequently the persona in her stories are expressing their own tales to other persons. This creates what is called a encrusted narrative feel, and literary scholars all over have found this one as the most multifaceted yet strange characteristics of One Thousand and One Nights.

Within the book’s outstanding essential association and attractive design, lie absolute features of Arab culture. More importantly, the tales untangle a description of the Abbasid period that greatly enriched Arabia. Esherick (2006) recalls that the Abbasids, with support from the Khurasanis-a Persian ethnic group from what is now present day northern Iran, took over the Islamic Empire in 750. They claimed to be A posterity of the Prophet Muhammad uncle Al-Abbas ensuring their association with Muhammad.

The Abbasids suIDenly started building Baghdad, or as they called it, the city of peace. It was to be the managerial capital of the reign and embrace groups of persons from all faiths and traditions. It turned out to be one of the greatest and most well-to-do and flourishing cities in the world.

Baghdad’s growth, prosperity and township is regularly renowned in various of the Arabian Nights tales, and the Abbasid era is pronounced as engaging importance on the impacts that the Persians had on the Caliphs of Abbasid; Caliph is the official name given to Sultans in the early Muslim empires. For iinstance, the Persian King in the stories, and the Arabs which Scheherazade gives to him, portrays the livelihood that Arabs and Persians had for each other during the Abbasid era.

H?r?n al-Rashid, a caliph, greatly permitted Persians to become involved with the Abbasid rule. H?r?n al-Rashid allowed for the Persian from the Barmakid family to perform a great part in the Abbasid rule. Toler (2008) puts it that they were made governing generals and regional rulers, and also became the instructors of early princes. He even hired Ja`far bin Ya?y?, the same Barmakid family as his minister who was to oversee and administrate over all aspects of the system of government. Al-Rashid was also interested in education and nonfiction thus making him a significantly leading persona in One Thousand and One Nights. Perhaps his great curiosity in literature and exploration and voyages allowed writers during the time to exhort him as the hero symbol of many stories. Several tales in Arabian Nights also consist of Ja`far bin Ya?y? as a character who is trusted and befriended by the Caliph.

Kennedy (2004) writes that in Arabian Nights, the caliph boasts that he is the caliph who explores the lanes of his center by night in cover and joins the lives and escapades of his subjects. He is convoyed by a small crowd of companions, most notably his closest ally Ja’far the Barmakid, his principal drudge the eunuch Masrur, the poet and court jester Abu Nuwas. All these are historical figures in the modern day Arab world.

The fictions told about the Sultan reflect upon his exploratory nights, his strict rule, and his distribution of wealth. These individualisms can particularly be seen in one tale where there is a poet who has been called to swiftly attend to the Sultan because he is very sick. On his way to comprehend the Caliph’s sickness, he is enticed into entering a women’s harem as the women in a specific household allow him to.

He does not rush to see the caliph but instead stays with the women and certainly the Caliph is upset with this later. Once the Caliph realizes where the person supposed to assess his illness got caught up, he decides to masquerade himself and surreptitiously goes to the women’s harem at night with the poet. They got wind by some means that the Caliph was on his way and the women hid and did not agree for the men to enter. The Caliph informs the poet that the women have behaved well for not accepting them into the harem, and if they had, the Caliph would have got them killed. Instead, the Caliph rewards them all (Kennedy, 2004).

This tale shows the Caliph’s hobby of exploring the Baghdad streets at night as well as showing his generosity towards his people-something that is a vital part of Arab culture.

It lays importance to the fact that the stories within Arabian Nights are not just folktales without any significant value. Instead, they serve as a version of historical information and explanation of the time of the Abbasid Caliph and are very critical to the conservation of Arab culture at the time.

They also prove to booklovers that Arabs and Persians relied on and helped each other at the time, as can be inferred from the Caliph’s Barmakid minister, and that much of Al-Rashid’s responsibilities were carried out by the minister.

Therefore, the fictions indicate that H?r?n al-Rashid is not conspicuously known for his powerful authoritative political rule of his caliphate, but rather more renowned and most remembered for his appearance in quite a lot of of Scheherazade’s stories in the book One Thousand and One Nights.

Caliph Rash?d’s insistence as the real Caliph of the Arabian Nights was not merely a portion of Scheherazade’s creativity. As put forward by Kennedy (2004) in his article of history, the caliph’s role in the stories was acknowledged in the writings in Al-Isfahan’s Book of Song the earliest book that the stories were lifted from. Abu al-Faraj, was a famous historian and intellectual in Baghdad who lived during the time of the Abbasid dynasty, and specifically, during Caliph Harun’s. He penned the lyrical and choral collection, which was entitledAl-Alghani(Book of Songs) at the time, and most of the songs were passionate to the nocturnal escapades of the eminent Abbasid Caliph (Eshserick, 2006).

In the modern day, influences of that One Thousand and One Nights have been felt and noticed in the world. The book is recycled in many categories of daily life and platforms ranging from entertainment, to education, and from lecture halls and movie displays to auditorium stages.

Scholars from Europe started studying the tales’ configuration and used them as models for their own. Authors were inspired to pen folktales of their own after the Arabic work was distinguished as the most famous category of Arabic literature introduced to the western world. Disney shows like AlaIDin (1995) and the Hunchback (1996) have been prepared based on the Arabian Nights legends in order to interest and entertain young children and include stories of Arab royals and nomads (Eshrieck, 2006).

The tales took to the theatre stage at the Edinburgh International Festival and actors depicted the tales factually and acted them out as audacious adventures, and ruthless tragedies in 2011.The theater creation was targeted at unfolding the actual Arab tales placing weight on the willpower and cunning characters and the portrayals of luck and fate that Scheherazade had on one occasion termed in her tales.

The tales conglomerate the culture and religion of classical Arabia and exhibit the Golden Age of Scholarship that happened in the course of the Islamic era. Tales of philosophy, humor and tragedy can be detected all through the assortment of the fairytales which has amazed authors and translators for their structure.

In conclusion, the book “One Thousand and One Nights” has played a prominent role in numerous facets of drama, world history and literature. Its blend of the Arab and Persian cultures has familiarized the western world with the era of Islam in Arabia. Great stories of the Abbasid Caliph and imageries of a fruitful and rich Baghdad allow readers to learn about the historical happenings that were documented in the tales. Hints of antique texts of the manuscripts make it trustworthy as a dependable foundation for authenticating certain happenings that had happened in the then Islamic Arabia. The Nights have remained as the influencers of contemporary movies, theater creations and literatures. It can be said that no aIDitional effort of distinctive Arabic literature has realized similar global effects on learning, culture an entertainment.

One Thousand and One Nights is an astonishing part of definitive Arabic history and shall carry on defining Arabic culture for several years to come.


Esherick J (2006).Women in the Arab World.Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers.

Kennedy, Hugh (2004). The True Caliph of the Arabian Nights. History Today, 54(9),

Toler, Pamela D., (2008). The Hakawati of Paris.Saudi Aramco World, 59(1),




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