Thursday, October 15, 2009

1001 Nights' Tales

We are told when we hear the beginning of the background of the 1001 Nights' tales, that the younger brother of the king of the land was going out to visit his older brother the king, and just happening to pop back in his place around midnight to say goodbye to his wife, he found her wrapped up with a kitchen boy. He took a sword and cut them down, and then rashly sped away on the road, beginning, as sorry as any cavalier, the course of the cuccold's education. Feeling heartsick and liferavened, he tossed around and he wrung his hands, until sitting alone in the garden-view window of his guest palace quartres at his brother's, he saw the orgy which brought him a new perspectiveon things, a perspective that was even farther away from the innocent one he had once had. Then on he consumed food and drink and ravished life's offerings, seeming merry. After he was forced to tell the truth to his older brother, the king invited him to leave their kingdom and travel unattached throughout the world, until they found a sheep blacker even than the king was himself. Not long afterwards, then, after being forced down out of the tree where they had been hiding, and after giving the 99th and 100th rings to the treasured honeymooner, and jumping and marvelling at the wiles of women, the king bid his brother return with him to their homes and marry to not again. As for the king, he would show his personal solution when he got back to his palace, and that he did, by slashing down all the girl slaves in his hold and replacing them. His wife also he had taken care of. From then, every night, he would take a virgin daughter of some commoner, a soldier's daughter or a merchant's daughter, wed her, and after the night, slay her in the morning to save from any breach of fidelity. Surely this can't be the first time someone has tried to solve this old problem this way.
Scherazade volunteers herself, despite her father the visier's words: "Foolish child, if I give you to him, he will sleep with you for one night and will ask me to put you to death in the morning, and I shall have to do it, since I cannot disobey him." He furiously tries to disuade her with many timeless adages:
"The misbehaver ends up in trouble!"
"He who doesn't think about the effects is unhappy in the world!"
"If I wasn't so adventurous I'd be much better off now!"
Then he said, "I'm afraid what happened to the Donkey and the Ox will happen to you, my daughter."
She looked up, "What happened to the Donkey and the Ox, father?"
The visier starts on the tale for her. To spoil it in short, the cunning Donkey talks the honest Ox into playing sick so he can lounge around like the Donkey. The Farmer overhears, and so he does let the Ox rest, but puts the Donkey to work, from which he thinks he'll die.
"You, my daughter, will likewise die because of your miscalculation. Give it up, sit quietly, and don't expose yourself to trouble. If you don't give it up, I'll do to you what the farmer did to his wife."
Sharazad perks up and asks what happened.
So he tells her how the Donkey said he heard the Farmer saying he'd turn that good-for-nothing Ox into meat, so the Ox goes back to work. But he couldn't tell his wife what they said, because he was not allowed to tell the secrets of the animal language. She became very curious, and insisted, though he would die. She still insisted, so he spent a year putting his things in order, releasing his slave girls and so forth, and then he overheard a Rooster chatting with a Dog. The Rooster told the Dog what the Farmer ought to do, which was take his wife into a room and fix her with an oak branch until she'd not want him to explain anything anymore, and then keep on until she's fixed for life. The Farmer did this, and everybody was happy because he'd learned good management and the wife had become docile.
"If you don't give it up, Sharazar, I'll do you like the Farmer did his wife."
"Father, such stories don't put me off my intention. If you want, I could tell a million such stories. If it comes down to it, I'll tell the king you'd deny me such a match, and that you'd deny him such a girl."
When the wedding comes around, Sharazar asks her little sister to hide under the bed, and when the king is all finished for the night, to ask Sharazar to tell them one of her great stories. "May I have the kings permission to tell one story?" says Sharazar. He assented. She began to tell a story about a wealthy, content merchant who was travelling, and he was taking a rest on his way back. It was under a walnut tree by a spring and threw some of the date seeds he was eating on the ground. When he's done and about to go, an old demon appears and blames him for killing his son by throwing his date seeds. He pleads his innocence, but the demon insists on taking "blood for blood." The merchant prays to God, but the demon insists. He recited a poem, but the demon insists just the same. "By God I must kill you, as you killed my son, even if you weep blood." "Must you?" "I must," and he raises his sword to strike. But morning overtook Sharazar, and she was too sleepy to go on, though Shahrazad the king was burning with curiousity what would become of these happenings. "What a strange, lovely story, sister," said Dinarzad. "That is nothing compared to what I will tell you tomorrow night, if the king permits. It will be even better and more entertaining, sister." The king thought that he would just put her death off until after the next night when she would tell the end of the story. He would then slay her the next day. Even when a man is as firmly determined as this king was, how long do you think a woman's words could lead him to delay?

The Three Apples. Earliest murder mystery and suspense thriller with multiple plot twists and detective fiction elements.

1 comment:

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