The Thousand and One Nights

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1.    Short Answer Question: Define/explain/show the significance of, etc., in a couple of complete sentences, ONE of the following terms: Alf Layla Wa-Layla / Frame story/ Influence of The One Thousand and One Nights / Jinn / Shahrazad.

The Thousand and one night is Arabic literature that is made up of collections of narratives from different authors in the Islamic Golden Age. The stories revolve around a frame story of King Shahrayar and Shahrazad who turned out to be the king's wife after her first wife was discovered to be unfaithful.

2.  Who is the better storyteller, Shahrazad or her father?  Who convinces the audience?  Is the fault in the tales or the tellers?

Shahrazad is a better storyteller and tells more convincing stories as compared to her father. Shahrazad knew that not even her charms or beauty could keep her alive in the hands of the king and therefore she decided to use her unique storytelling skills to convince her audience to save her life. She narrated captivating stories that kept the king from killing her night after night so that he could continue to enjoy listening to her sweet stories the next night and in the end, she won his heart and became his queen. The storytellers are the ones that decide on the stories they want to tell their audience, and through their words, they connect these stories to create a new world, and for this reason, faults are in the storytellers.  

3.    How are we to understand Shahrayar’s madness?  Does it make sense to you?  That is, are male egos in macho societies that frail, or is his a special case?

Shahrayar is mad because he discovers that her wife was sleeping with their chef while he was away despite him being faithful in their marriage. The Shahrayar’s anger makes sense because he expected her wife being a queen to remain loyal to him even when he is not around. However, she does the opposite and utilizes his absence as an opportunity to cheat on him with another man an act that brings shame and embarrassment to the king. King Shahrayar’s case is not unique because a man’s ego is frail; he is jealous and enjoys being in control, and when he cannot control the one thing he values the most, wife, then anger and madness will overwhelm him. 

4.    How are women portrayed in these stories?  Does “good daughters/bad wives” about cover it?  What are we to make of that?

In the stories of the thousand and one nights, women have been cast in the bad light, portrayed as evil, untrustworthy, unfaithful and disrespectful.  The good daughters and the bad wives represent how women are viewed in the society. In all the stories the wives are concerned more with their desires and go ahead to do what they want even if their actions go against moral values they are supposed to uphold. These women though married they lack the attributes of a wife, they are not trustworthy, they disobey their husbands, some cheat on them with other men and even use magic to accomplish their desires. In these stories, the women took up the characters that are naturally seen to be possessed by men like deceiving and controlling others which are contrary to what they are always perceived to be: peacemakers, caregivers and mothers.

5.    Shahrayar and Shahzaman are appalled by the actions of their wives. Should we be as well?

The wives of these two kings did not respect their marriages and instead developed evil desires forgetting they had a duty to safeguard their marriage and the crown by maintain their integrity and dignity as queens and upholding moral values as married women. Instead, they went against this duty and cheated on their husbands with other men whenever they get any slight opportunity. We should be appalled with these immoral, inappropriate and unacceptable actions of these wives and indeed discourage such behaviors as they have no place in the modern society.  

6.    Both the vizier and his daughter, Shahrazad, tell tales that surround their human characters with essential animals, but the animals play different roles in the imaginative worlds of father and daughter.  Compare and contrast the powers attributed to the animal world.  How may these differences reflect the contrasting visions of gender relations so central to The Thousand and One Night?

In the first story, vizier tells Shahrazad the story about the Ox and the mule where the mule while trying to help the Ox it found itself taking up the role of the mule. The Shahrazad’s father is worried that her daughter might be acting as the mule. In the second story, the man is unable to control his wife, and the rooster advises him to beat her to save his life. In the last story, a jealous wife turns her husband’s mistress into a cow and the boy into a bull an indication that the woman is feeling inadequate. When her husband discovers this, he still feels compassion for her wife and gives her a lenient punishment by turning her into a deer. The man is sad after realizing the cow he slaughtered was his mistress, but again he is grateful because his son is still alive even though as a bull. The second story reveals the softer side of the men while the instance in the first story where the husband is unable to control his wife is considered lack of wisdom. However, in all the cases, no single woman shows that she is wise.

7.  “When supper came, [King Shahzaman] ate and drank with relish and zest and, feeling better, kept eating and drinking, enjoying himself and feeling happy. He thought to himself, ‘I am no longer alone in my misery; I am well.’” Discuss the context of the scene and comment on why Shahzaman is no longer losing weight, growing thin, and becoming pale. Why is he able to eat now?

After king Shahzaman had discovered her wife was cheating on him with another man, he decided to go to his brother’s Palace, King Shahrayar where his condition continues to deteriorate as a result of the stress he was experiencing following the incidence. One day his brother went out on a journey to hunt that lasted for some days living him behind in the Palace. While in the Palace he witnessed the wife and the women of his brother having sex with black slaves in his palace while he was away. This incidence made Shahzaman feel he is not alone in this calamity letting go of the sorrow that was making him unable to eat. The fact that his brother a great king and a master of the world could not protect his wife against infidelity made him feelt his misfortune was even lighter and therefore making him feel better.

November 24, 2023


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Literature Review

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