Arabian Nights and Its Implications Across Culture and Linguistic Boundaries

Topics: Arab, One Thousand and One Nights, Western culture Pages: 5 (1687 words) Published: October 19, 2011
The stories in the Arabian Nights have gripped the world’s imagination now for more than 1000 years. From at least the 9th century part of the repertoire of storytellers in India, China, Iran, Turkey and the Arab world that is why this paper aims not only to give a suffice background of one of the most celebrated tales of the millennia but also explore the cultural treasury it has brought world that serves a fertile material ready to discover—The Arabian Nights. It delves in most cultural elements hugely various like lands it come from. It further supports information which gives a bird’s-eye-view of the cultural resource developing from early times up to the present; and devotes itself primarily on the cultural implications it has given across cultures and linguistic boundaries through time. The tales which are orally transmitted and composed over the course of several centuries, are mainly of Asian and Arabic origin, they have become an inextricable part of the Western cultural heritage as well. The stories of Princess Scheherazade, Aladdin, Sinbad the sailor, and Ali Baba, for example, are firmly established in the Western imagination. The original collection, comprised of legends, fairytales, romances, and anecdotes, stems from a number of folk traditions and contains motifs and fables from various geographical areas and historical periods. Since the eighteenth century, when it reached Western audiences, The Arabian Nights has been one of the most popular works of world literature, spawning numerous adaptations, imitations, and tributes from writers. The Arabian Nights, known as Alf Layla wa Layla in Arabic, although one of the most famous and influential works in English literature, is never regarded by Arabic scholars as a work of literary worth. As cited by Joseph Campbell in his introduction to The Portable Arabian Nights, condemned the stories, saying "I have seen the complete work more than once, and it is indeed a vulgar, insipid book" (48). The tales are regarded as lowbrow literature both for their frank and comedic dealings with sexuality and for their form; they are not intricately composed works of literary craftsmanship, but stories passed down orally through the generations; in other words, they are folktales. They are considered vulgar especially in comparison to what was considered high literature in medieval Arabic culture.

The characters of the Arabian Nights are defined by their social classes and include slaves, prostitutes, mendicants, merchants, the upper class, Princes, Kings. The clear definition and delineation of the characters' classes is indicative of the social structure of the medieval Arabic society in which the tales originated. Although they are traditionally associated with medieval Arabic culture, the tales of The Arabian Nights are rooted in several oral traditions, containing motifs from a variety of geographic areas and historical periods, including ancient Mesopotamia, India, early medieval Persia and Iraq, and Egypt of the middle Ages. Below is a section that compares and contrasts and further criticizes the variations in cultural elements as discussed by Knipp C.: Middle Ages: As portrayed in The Arabian Nights, women are regarded largely as property: a woman who is unfaithful to her husband can lawfully be executed. Single women who exercise sexual freedom are designated to a separate, lower class from married women. Today: In many parts of the world, the inequality and mistreatment of women is still a major problem. However, due to women's rights movements working from the late nineteenth century onward, in Western society in the early 2000s women have the same legal rights as men and can exercise both economic and sexual freedom and independence. Late Nineteenth Century: Burton's translation of The Arabian Nights includes copious anthropological notes that, in many cases, reveal an attitude of cultural and racial superiority, reflecting an institutionalized racism that is...
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