Tales from the Arabian Nights

Tales from the Arabian Nights - Anonymous, N.J. Dawood This is a compilation of tales of jinn and sorcerers and bold adventures come from India, Persia, Arabia, Egypt and Mesopotamia. They're framed as being told by Scheherazade, the newest bride of Shahryār, a ruler who after finding his first wife committed adultery had been killing a succession of wives after their wedding night. Scheherazade tells her husband a new tale every night, breaking off at dawn unfinished and thus postponing her execution another day. The entertainment continues for 1,001 nights, by the end of which Shahryār decides to spare her life. I remember as a child considering that frame tale romantic, of course as an adult I can only find Shahryār monstrous. But the tales themselves still enchant. From what I can gather from the introduction and online sources, the genesis of this work is complex. The earliest versions with a small core of perhaps 200 stories derived from a collection of Persian fairy tales is thought to have first appeared in the early 8th century, with the earliest extant fragments of manuscript from the 9th century. Over the centuries stories were added to the core until they reached that number of 1,001. ("Complete" versions such as that by Sir Richard Francis Burton run to 10 volumes). But different editions have different stories included, different versions. The first European translation (into French) was in 1704, but it's thought the tales might have spread through Muslim Spain and influenced earlier works such as Boccaccio's Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, both of which feature collections of tales within a frame. This edition translated by Dawood is just a small selection of the most famous tales: "The Tale of the Hunchback," "The Donkey," "The Fisherman and the Jinnee," "The Young Woman and Her Five Lovers," "Sinbad the Sailor," "The Historic Fart" (Yes, really), "Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp," "The Tale of Kafur the Black Eunuch," "The Porter and the Three Girls of Baghdad," "The Tale of Khalifah the Fisherman," "The Dream," "The Tale of Judar and His Brothers," "The Tale of Ma'aruf the Cobbler." No "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" alas and also missing was the favorite tale of my childhood: "Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber." Still, magical, readable translation, with a chance to see the source of the iconic Sindbad and Aladdin. What's not to love?