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Scheherzade - heroine of the 1001 nights

Updated on July 26, 2013
Queen Scheherazade as painted in the 19th century by Sophie Anderson.
Queen Scheherazade as painted in the 19th century by Sophie Anderson. | Source

Scheherazade: storyteller, seductress and Queen

There is a story about an ancient Persian King whose wife betrayed him. The king was so disillusioned by her affair that he cut off his wife's head and made up his mind to hate all women. However, his bitterness did not end there. He formed the habit of marrying a new woman every day and cutting off her head in the morning. This went on for three years, until the king married a young woman called Scheherazade, or so the story goes.

Schererazade (pronounced Sha-hare-ah-zaad) was the beautiful daughter of King Shahyar's Chief Vizier. A vizier is a term for a senior advisor or minister. King Shahyar was a fictional king who was supposed to have ruled over a vast Persian empire. The story of Scherazade and King Shahyar is told in 1001 Nights, a collection of stories from the Middlle East.

In the story 1001 Nights, Scheherazade convinces her father to let her marry the King. Her father is naturally reluctant to do this as he believes he will be condemming his daughter to death. However, Scherazade manages to persuade him that she has a plan that will put a stop to the king's brutality.

On her wedding night, Scheherazade begs the King to allow her to say goodnight to her younger sister. The younger sister, who has been carefully coached by Scherazade, begs her older sister to tell her a story.

Scheherazade begins to tell her bedtime story to her little sister and the king listens in. Just as dawn breaks Scheherazade reaches the climax of the story. The king decides to let Scheherazade live for one more night in order to listen to the conclusion of the story. However, the following night Scheherazade manages to continue the story until dawn of the next day, and again the King agrees to suspend her execution for another night. This eventually goes on for 1001 nights. By which time the king has fallen in love with his wife and no longer wishes to execute her. They eventually have three children together.

The story of 1001 Nights tells of characters and stories that will be familiar to many today. They include the legends of Sinbad the Sailor. Sinbad was a poor man who, over the course of many adventures on sea and land, won his fortune. Other stories include Aladdin and his magic lamp and Ali Baba and the 40 thieves.

In reality Scheherazade and her king were fictional characters. The real stories in 1001 Nights are a collection of stories from across the Middle East by a range of authors.

The story of Scheherazade has inspired a symphony, films and literary offshoots. Scheherazade has also become synonomous with an image of an exotic, beautiful woman from the Middle East.

Other works referenced in the writing of this hub include

Sinbad the Sailor, 1979, produced by Tellastory



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