“The most famous of all story collections, The Arabian Nights, also known as The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, is beloved around the world. Composed of Persian, Arabic, Greek, Indian, and other sources that accumulated over hundreds of years, these fabulous stories-within-stories have long fired readers’ imaginations with an enchanted world of flying carpets, magic lamps, genies, demons, magicians and sorceresses, carnivorous giants, and bloodthirsty bandits.”*
Do not assume that The Arabian Nights is an anthology of children’s stories and cast Disney’s Aladdin from your mind. The Arabian Nights encompasses a wide variety of adult fairy tales and fantasies full to the brim with innuendos and awakenings. Prepare yourself for a hefty page count and a wealth of imagination.
First, the not so good. The first half of this story hold stories within stories within stories within stories. Readers will find it hard to keep track of when one story begins and one story ends. What makes this more difficult to attend, is the repetitive nature of the tales. Many of these fairy tales share the same elements, plot points and characters. While I enjoy Sinbad popping up every now and then throughout the anthology, the endless parade of beautiful princesses, evil magicians and conspiring wazirs proved a little tiresome.
Pushing all the objectionable points aside, The Arabian Nights inhabits a wildly magical, fantastical realm that operates on the concept that anything is possible. A world full of djinns and genies take second place to a world full of men and women who prove to be clever and quick on their feet. A place where women use not just magic, but their brains to get ahead in the world.
Moreover, readers will truly appreciate the breadth of society and culture that this anthology explores. Yes, an unseemly amount of princesses, princes, and djinn appear, but readers also visit merchants and adventurers, and fishermen and slum boys. From palaces to desert islands, from magic lamps to flying carpets, a reader can visit all types of places and people. No fate is too big or too small to read about.
Verdict: As a gateway into the mystical East, The Arabian Nights delivers magic, excitement and adventure. Sit back and enjoy the stories and characters that populate this legendary anthology. The only suggestion I put forward, is for the reader to take heed of Scheherazade’s strategy, and slowly move through the pages of this anthology. Slow down, and luxuriate in the many tales and adventures promised by The Arabian Nights.
*Anonymous. The Arabian Nights: An Anthology. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2014.