11 Sep 2015

This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to have a girlfriend or a wife; at least for now.

This excerpt is from Tales from The Thousand and One Nights, translated by N.J. Dawood.

While Shahzaman sat at one of the windows overlooking the king’s garden, he saw a door open in the palace, through which came twenty slave girls and twenty negroes. In their midst was his brother’s [King Shahriyar’s] queen, a woman of surpassing beauty. They made their way to the fountain, where they all undressed and sat on the grass. The king’s wife then called out: “Come Mass’ood!” and there promptly came to her a black slave, who mounted her after smothering her with embraces and kisses. So also did the negroes with the slave girls, reveling together till the approach of night. . . .

. . . And so Shahzaman related to [his brother King Shahriyar] all that he had seen in the king’s garden that day. . . .

Upon this Shahriyar announced his intention to set forth on another expedition. The troops went out of the city with the tents, and King Shahriyar followed them. And after he had stayed a while in the camp, he gave orders to his slaves that no one was to be admitted to the king’s tent. He then disguised himself and returned unnoticed to the palace, where his brother was waiting for him. They both sat at one of the windows overlooking the garden; and when they had been there a short time, the queen and her women appeared with the black slaves, and behaved as Shahzaman had described. . . .

As soon as they entered the palace, King Shahriyar put his wife to death, together with her women and the black slaves. Thenceforth he made it his custom to take a virgin in marriage to his bed each night, and kill her the next morning. This he continued to do for three years, until a clamor rose among the people, some of whom fled the country with their daughters.

Now the vizier had two daughters. The elder was called Shahrazad, and the younger Dunyazad. Shahrazad possessed many accomplishments and was versed in the wisdom of the poets and the legends of ancient kings.

That day Shahrazad noticed her father’s anxiety and asked him what it was that troubled him. When the vizier told her of his predicament, she said: “Give me in marriage to this king; either I shall die and be a ransom for the daughters of Moslems, or live and be the cause of their deliverance.” He earnestly pleaded with her against such a hazard; but Shahrazad was resolved, and would not yield to her father’s entreaties. . . .

So the vizier arrayed his daughter in bridal garments and decked her with jewels and made ready to announce Shahrazad’s wedding to the king.

Before saying farewell to her sister, Shahrazad gave her these instructions: “When I am received by the king, I shall send for you. Then when the king has finished his act with me, you must say: ‘Tell me, my sister, some tale of marvel to beguile the night.’ Then I will tell you a tale which, if Allah wills, shall be the means of our deliverance.”

The vizier went with his daughter to the king. And when the king had taken the maiden Shahrazad to his chamber and had lain with her, she wept and said: “I have a young sister to whom I wish to bid farewell.”

The king sent for Dunyazad. When she arrived, she threw her arms around her sister’s neck, and seated herself by her side.

Then Dunyazad said to Shahrazad: “Tell us, my sister, a tale of marvel, so that the night may pass pleasantly.”

“Gladly,” she answered, “if the king permits.”

And the king, who was troubled with sleeplessness, eagerly listened to the tale of Shahrazad: Once upon the time, in the city of Basrah, there lived a prosperous tailor who was fond of sport and merriment. . . .

[Nearly three years pass.] Now during this time Shahrazad had borne King Shahriyar three sons. On the thousand and first night, when she had ended the tale of Ma’aruf, she rose and kissed the ground before him, saying: “Great King, for a thousand and one nights I have been recounting to you the fables of past ages and the legends of ancient kings. May I be so bold as to crave a favor of your majesty?”

The king replied: “Ask, and it shall be granted.”

Shahrazad called out to the nurses, saying: “Bring me my children.”

. . . “Behold these three [little boys] whom Allah has granted to us. For their sake I implore you to spare my life. For if you destroy the mother of these infants, they will find none among women to love them as I would.”

The king embraced his three sons, and his eyes filled with tears as he answered: “I swear by Allah, Shahrazad, that you were already pardoned before the coming of these children. I loved you because I found you chaste and tender, wise and eloquent. May Allah bless you, and bless your father and mother, your ancestors, and all your descendants. O, Shahrazad, this thousand and first night is brighter for us than the day!”

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