On this Day:
On March 19, 1821 Richard Burton, English explorer and one of the translators of the Arabian Nights, was born in Torquay, Devon (d. 1890).
One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English-language edition (c. 1706–1721), which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.
The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central and South Asia, and North Africa. Some tales trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Mesopotamian folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid and Mamluk eras, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (Persian: هزار افسان, lit. A Thousand Tales), which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.
The thing common to all the editions of the Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves. The stories proceed from this original tale; some are framed within other tales, while some are self-contained. Some editions contain only a few hundred nights, while others include 1001 or more. The bulk of the text is in prose, although verse is occasionally used for songs and riddles and to express heightened emotion. Most of the poems are single couplets or quatrains, although some are longer.
Some of the stories commonly associated with the Arabian Nights—particularly “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”—were not part of the collection in its original Arabic versions but were added to the collection by Antoine Galland after he heard them from the Syrian Maronite Christian storyteller Hanna Diab on Diab’s visit to Paris. Other stories, such as “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor”, had an independent existence before being added to the collection.
The main frame story concerns Shahryār (Persian: شهريار, from Middle Persian: šahr-dār, ‘holder of realm’), whom the narrator calls a “Sasanian king” ruling in “India and China.” Shahryār is shocked to learn that his brother’s wife is unfaithful. Discovering that his own wife’s infidelity has been even more flagrant, he has her killed. In his bitterness and grief, he decides that all women are the same. Shahryār begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning, before she has a chance to dishonor him.
Eventually the Vizier (Wazir), whose duty it is to provide them, cannot find any more virgins. Scheherazade (Persian: شهْرزاد, Shahrazād, from Middle Persian: شهر, čehr, ‘lineage’ + ازاد, āzād, ‘noble’), the vizier’s daughter, offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale, but does not end it. The king, curious about how the story ends, is thus forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins another one, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion of that tale as well, postpones her execution once again. This goes on for one thousand and one nights, hence the name.
The tales vary widely: they include historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems, burlesques, and various forms of erotica. Numerous stories depict jinn, ghouls, ape people, sorcerers, magicians, and legendary places, which are often intermingled with real people and geography, not always rationally. Common protagonists include the historical Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, his Grand Vizier, Jafar al-Barmaki, and the famous poet Abu Nuwas, despite the fact that these figures lived some 200 years after the fall of the Sassanid Empire, in which the frame tale of Scheherazade is set. Sometimes a character in Scheherazade’s tale will begin telling other characters a story of his own, and that story may have another one told within it, resulting in a richly layered narrative texture.
Different versions differ, at least in detail, as to final endings (in some Scheherazade asks for a pardon, in some the king sees their children and decides not to execute his wife, in some other things happen that make the king distracted) but they all end with the king giving his wife a pardon and sparing her life.
The narrator’s standards for what constitutes a cliffhanger seem broader than in modern literature. While in many cases a story is cut off with the hero in danger of losing their life or another kind of deep trouble, in some parts of the full text Scheherazade stops her narration in the middle of an exposition of abstract philosophical principles or complex points of Islamic philosophy, and in one case during a detailed description of human anatomy according to Galen—and in all of these cases she turns out to be justified in her belief that the king’s curiosity about the sequel would buy her another day of life.
The first European version (1704–1717) was translated into French by Antoine Galland from an Arabic text of the Syrian recension and other sources. This 12-volume work, Les Mille et une nuits, contes arabes traduits en français (‘The Thousand and one nights, Arab stories translated into French’), included stories that were not in the original Arabic manuscript. “Aladdin’s Lamp”, and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” (as well as several other lesser-known tales) appeared first in Galland’s translation and cannot be found in any of the original manuscripts. He wrote that he heard them from the Christian Maronite storyteller Hanna Diab during Diab’s visit to Paris. Galland’s version of the Nights was immensely popular throughout Europe, and later versions were issued by Galland’s publisher using Galland’s name without his consent.
As scholars were looking for the presumed “complete” and “original” form of the Nights, they naturally turned to the more voluminous texts of the Egyptian recension, which soon came to be viewed as the “standard version”. The first translations of this kind, such as that of Edward Lane (1840, 1859), were bowdlerized. Unabridged and unexpurgated translations were made, first by John Payne, under the title The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (1882, nine volumes), and then by Sir Richard Francis Burton, entitled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885, ten volumes) – the latter was, according to some assessments, partially based on the former, leading to charges of plagiarism.
In view of the sexual imagery in the source texts (which Burton emphasized even further, especially by adding extensive footnotes and appendices on Oriental sexual mores) and the strict Victorian laws on obscene material, both of these translations were printed as private editions for subscribers only, rather than published in the usual manner. Burton’s original 10 volumes were followed by a further six (seven in the Baghdad Edition and perhaps others) entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night, which were printed between 1886 and 1888. It has, however, been criticized for its “archaic language and extravagant idiom” and “obsessive focus on sexuality” (and has even been called an “eccentric ego-trip” and a “highly personal reworking of the text”).
Later versions of the Nights include that of the French doctor J. C. Mardrus, issued from 1898 to 1904. It was translated into English by Powys Mathers, and issued in 1923. Like Payne’s and Burton’s texts, it is based on the Egyptian recension and retains the erotic material, indeed expanding on it, but it has been criticized for inaccuracy.
Muhsin Mahdi’s 1984 Leiden edition, based on the Galland Manuscript, was rendered into English by Husain Haddawy (1990). This translation has been praised as “very readable” and “strongly recommended for anyone who wishes to taste the authentic flavour of those tales.” An additional second volume of Arabian nights translated by Haddawy, composed of popular tales not present in the Leiden edition, was published in 1995. Both volumes were the basis for a single-volume reprint of selected tales of Haddawy’s translations.
In 2008 a new English translation was published by Penguin Classics in three volumes. It is translated by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons with introduction and annotations by Robert Irwin. This is the first complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) since Burton’s. It contains, in addition to the standard text of 1001 Nights, the so-called “orphan stories” of Aladdin and Ali Baba as well as an alternative ending to The seventh journey of Sindbad from Antoine Galland’s original French. As the translator himself notes in his preface to the three volumes, “[N]o attempt has been made to superimpose on the translation changes that would be needed to ‘rectify’ … accretions, … repetitions, non sequiturs and confusions that mark the present text,” and the work is a “representation of what is primarily oral literature, appealing to the ear rather than the eye.” The Lyons translation includes all the poetry (in plain prose paraphrase) but does not attempt to reproduce in English the internal rhyming of some prose sections of the original Arabic. Moreover, it streamlines somewhat and has cuts. In this sense it is not, as claimed, a complete translation.
A new English language translation was published in December 2021, the first by a female author, which removes earlier sexist and racist references. The new translation includes all the tales from Hanna Diyab and additionally includes stories previously omitted featuring female protagonists, such as tales about Parizade, Pari Banu, and the horror story Sidi Numan.
First, a Story:
News Release: Aladdin is Banned from Flying Carpet Racing.
Sources say it was due to his use of Performance Enhancing Rugs…
Second, a Song:
Aladdin is a 1992 American animated musical fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is the 31st Disney animated feature film and was the fourth produced during the Disney Renaissance. It was produced and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and is based on the Arabic folktale of the same name from the One Thousand and One Nights. The voice cast features Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, and Douglas Seale. The film follows the titular Aladdin, an Arabian street urchin, who finds a magic lamp containing a genie. He disguises himself as a wealthy prince and tries to impress the Sultan and his daughter, Princess Jasmine.
Lyricist Howard Ashman first pitched the idea, and the screenplay went through three drafts before then-Disney Studios president Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to its production. The animators based their designs on the work of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, and computers were used for both finishing the artwork and creating some animated elements. The musical score was written by Alan Menken and features six songs with lyrics written by both Ashman and Sir Tim Rice, who took over after Ashman’s death.
Aladdin was released on November 25, 1992, to critical and commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1992 with an earning of over $504 million in worldwide box office revenue. Upon release, it became the first animated feature to reach the half-billion-dollar mark and was the highest-grossing animated film of all time until it was surpassed by The Lion King (1994).
Aladdin garnered two Academy Awards, as well as other accolades for its soundtrack, which had the first and only number from a Disney feature to earn a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, for the film’s “A Whole New World”, sung by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. The film’s home video VHS release also set a sales record and grossed about $500 million in the United States. Aladdin’s success led to various derived works and other material inspired by the film, including two direct-to-video sequels, The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996); an animated television series of the same name; and a Broadway adaptation. A live-action film adaptation directed by Guy Ritchie was released on May 24, 2019.
Here is Robin Williams as the Genie from Disney’s film Aladdin, performing “Friend Like Me” courtesy of DragonQ and YouTube.com. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“”Al, you’re not going to find another girl like her in a million years. Believe me, I’ve looked.” – The Genie of the Lamp
Subscribe to the Smile Blog: Smile delivered to your Inbox daily https://bit.ly/3JniFkq
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky