The Thousand and One Nights: Abridged, Restructured, but Ever Lasting
You may have read the story many times; you may have even watched the live-action movie or animated film, but only a few have been able to discern the unique traits inherent in The Thousand and One Nights. Willis G. Regier, a writer for World Literature Today, wrote that “the Nights has been read, admired, studied, illustrated, adapted for the stage, and Disneyfied” (321). The traits that I would like you to remember are how I used interruption to structure the story and how I implemented love within the stories to help me win back King Shahrayar’s trust and pacify his fear of psychosexual replacement.
While telling the king stories of grandeur and impossibility, I snuck in little snippets of truth and morality. Richard Burton, once said, “Without the nights, no Arabian nights,” by which he meant that in dividing the story into separate evenings it was given structure and without that structure The Arabian Nights would be no more than a collection of short stories (qtd. in Van Leeuwen 183). Burton could not have been any more correct. However, I would also like to point out that without the nights themselves, my own story would have ended long before the king changed his mind in the case of my death sentence. Structure in a story like The Arabian Nights is like the branches of a tree that bears fruit; not every branch will produce the fruit, but all the branches will have leaves to help collect the energy to make the fruit. In the same way that a tree bears its fruit, my mini-stories bear the fruit of change within King Shahrayar’s heart. Through my stories, I was able to help the king reclaim some of the hope, understanding, and even love that he had once lost because of his unfaithful wife. I also showed him that women could yet be good and kind, faithful and true, and be intelligent without the wickedness which so many other storytellers have been unwilling to show over the centuries. Van Leeuwen wrote an excellent article that mentions how odd it must seem in my breaking up the stories with the nights, but he also says that by breaking them up I multiplied the dimensions and meanings within the stories themselves and gave a kind of fluidity to the whole thing. I like Van Leeuwen’s interpretation of my actions. He describes the most basic interruption as the break between the fantasy world of the stories that I tell and the world of the frame story in which I, myself, take part. Incidentally, he did his homework on the subject. During that time it was quite usual for my people to use frame stories in order to create a more profound and comprehensive anthology. In using these frame stories, rather than teaching a lesson directly to the listener, we can teach vicariously through the understanding of the frame story’s characters’ understandings. When I decided to try and save the rest of the kingdom’s women from our vengeful king I knew that a direct approach would never work, so I had to drop him coy little hints in the form of fairytales, bedtime stories, and religious parables and sayings. Although a king be a foolish man, it doesn’t make him less of a king, it just means he is less of a man. So, using the art of interruptive story telling has been around for a very long time, even long before my own time, but Van Leeuwen has a much better grasp on the many useful techniques that using frame stories and interruptive techniques can yield as well as how they help to structure a story by allowing intervals between different perspectives. Van Leeuwen also describes how the stories that I told King Shahrayar could be directly related to the frame story in which he experiences so many wrongs on behalf of women. My poor husband was practically raped by a woman being held captive by a demon, he was cheated on in his own home by his wife and a common servant, and he watched as his brother...