One Thousand and One Nights (Part 1)

This blog is for anyone who has found therapy through literature. It is about people who have felt the magic of written words. One Thousand and One Nights stories are about a woman who decides to try to use this magic.

We have all heard the name of the One Thousand and One Nights. We know a whole lot about its adventures. Most of us are familiar with the entire context: A princess once told stories to a prince for One Thousand and One Nights. But why? What happened when Scheherazade started telling these stories? Why only One Thousand and One Nights? Did she tell stories night after night? Why what she did was so grand?

It all goes back to when a woman betrayed his husband. Scheherazade is not in the story yet. That man happened to be a regional King of Iran named Shahryar. There are so many details about One Thousand and One Nights we don’t know.

Shahryar for instance could be the name of any king because the word itself means KING. Anyway, was he a good man or evil? We do not know. We could only guess that he was sensitive and perhaps had a terrible mother. The thing is, he loved his wife and trusted her above all. When that much trust and love parishes by betrayal, it turns into a nervous breakdown.

One Thousand and One Nights

Shahryar was in disbelief, denial, and pain. Then rage took over and vengeance. The king, the man underneath the crown, suddenly turns into a beast and a demon.

So, each night the avenger king marries a young and beautiful girl and kills her in the morning. It seems so that he had a philosophy. It was not to give the woman the opportunity to betray him ever again. Shahryar was hurt, and by making others suffer, he suffocated his own.

This revenge system and philosophy took on for several years. It got to the point where many people either ran away with their daughters or made them ill.

Shahryar was after fresh meat like a lion in the grid. If the court knew of such cases and didn’t tell or bring them to the king, it would be counted as high treason and result in decapitation. The people were about to revolt, and the kingdom was running out of women.

The Vizier was in charge of finding the girls, and from the book, we could see he was a good man. He had the same role as Armyel and Carmayel in the story of Zahak in Shahnameh. We will discuss the resemblances between these two stories and the grand myth underneath them in the second chapter of this blog.

This one is about Scheherazade. Here is where she enters One Thousand and One Nights. She is the one who creates One Thousand and One Nights. Why? To simply stay alive.

Scheherazade was the eldest daughter of the Vizier, and she stepped forward. Was she in love with Shahryar? Who could tell? Was she playing the heroine? Did she feel sorry for the people and the kingdom? Maybe. Did she think her plan would work out? Definitely, No!

But one thing is definite here. Scheherazade, as any gifted writer, believed in the magic of literature. Above all, she believed in the healing power of stories and her ability to tell stories. Scheherazade was sure that stories could save lives.

On the night of the wedding, when Scheherazade thought it was her last chance, she asked Shahryar to let her tell a story to her younger sister as she did before. The final story she was about to tell was the start of many others. There is how she changed her fate and others.

Donyazad enters their chamber, and Scheherazade starts. Shahryar listens. Maybe unwillingly at first because he had no choice but then, when he finds himself entwined with the story and curious enough to want to know what will happen in the end, Scheherazade dexterously stops.

Shahryar was in a dilemma. Listening to stories was new to him, and the stories meant something to him. He got engaged with the characters. He wanted to know about their fate. And this is when Scheherazade, aware of his curiosity, asks Shahryar to let her live another night so that he could hear the rest of the story.

Scheherazade chose a style in storytelling. When one story has not ended yet, she started another, leaving the audience in suspense. She goes on like this for One Thousand and One Nights.

It took her three years. She gave birth to three sons. But did she stop? No! The fate of a nation depended on these stories. Scheherazade was not yet free of the fear of her life.

The situation Scheherazade was dealing with was indescribable. It was like giving the correct answer to an endless list of questions with a gun to your head.

One night in the middle of one story, Shahryar yawned, and Scheherazade grasped her breath, waiting for the gun to shoot her head off, all her body intense. She died a thousand times each night. What if the king realized her storytelling plot? What if she told the same story twice? Shahryar had a good memory.

It was enough to make Scheherazade slip somewhere, and yet, she continued to tell her stories under such pressures.

Scheherazade followed her belief. The things she was trying to show the king were the things he needed to heal. Her efforts pay off. One night the king turns to her and says, you have redeemed me, Scheherazade. I was a beast, and now I can feel again.

Shahryar was no longer in pain, and the hatred was gone. The stories had fulfilled their mission. Shahryar was treated, a nation was saved.

This was how Scheherazade created the book One Thousand and One nights. But is that all? Why are there so many mysteries behind such a tale? Where did all these stories come from? How it has influenced so many writers even now? Does the magic continue?

When Scheherazade reached this part, she became silent and slept…