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Brief/Interesting Facts About The Book "Thousand and one Arabian nights"

Updated on February 13, 2012

Facts about thousand and one arabian nights


The Thousand And One Nights

Ibn Nadim, the author of the Fihrist, writing in 988 A.D., thus begins his chapter on "the Story Tellers and the Fabulist and the names of the books which they composed":

"The first who composed fables and made books of them and put them by in treasuries and sometimes introduced animals as speaking them were the Ancient Persians. Afterwards the Parthian Kings, who form the third dynasty of the kings of Persia, showed the utmost zeal in this matter. Then in the days of the Sasanian Kings such books became numerous and abundant, and the Arabs translated them into the Arabic tongue, and they soon reached the hands of philologists and rhetoricians, who corrected and embellished them and composed other books in the same style. Now the first book ever made on this subject was the Book of Thousand Tales (Hazar Afsana), on the following occasion.

A certain king of Persia used to marry a woman for one night and kill her the next morning. And he wedded a wise and clever princess, called Shahrazad, who began to tell him stories and brought the tale at daybreak to a point that induced the king to spare her life and ask her on the second night to finish her tale. So she continued till a thousand nights had passed, and she was blessed with a son by him. And the king had a stewardess named Dinarazad who was in league with the queen.

It is also said that this book was composed for Humani, the daughter of Bahman, and there are various traditions concerning it. The truth, if God will, is that Alexander the Great was the first who heard stories by night, and he had people to make him laugh and divert him with tales; although he did not seek amusement therein, but only to store and preserve them (in his memory). The kings who came after him used the "Thousand Tales" (Hazar Afsan) for this purpose. It covers a space of one thousand nights, but contains less than two hundred stories, because the telling of a single story often takes several nights.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abdus Al-Jahashiyari (d. 942 or 943 A.D.), the author of the "Book of Viziers", began to compile a book in which he selected one thousand stories of the Arabs, the Persians, the Greeks, and other people, every piece being independent and unconnected with the rest. He gathered the story-tellers round him and took from them the best of what they knew and were able to tell, and he chose out of the fable and story-books whatever pleased him. He was skillful craftsman, so he put together from this material 480 nights, each night an entire story of fifty pages more or less, but death surprised him before he completed the thousand tales as he had intended."

Masudi (d. 956 A.D.) mentions an old Persian book, the Hazar Afsan (Thousand Tales) which "is generally called the Thousand and One Nights; it is the story of the King and his Vizier, and of the Vizier's daughter and her slave-girl: Shirazad and Dinazad."

Now it is evident from the Hazar Afsan was the chief source of the Thousand and One Nights. But as the time went on, the original stock received large additions which may be divided into two principal groups, both Semitic in Character: the two belonging to Baghdad and the other to Egypt. So in the course of centuries it accumulated and absorbed an immense number of Oriental folk-tales of every description, equally various in origin and style. At las the Alf Layla wa Layla (Thousand and One Nights) received its final shape in the Mameluke period.

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