Scheherazade is a major character of the Middle Eastern collection of tales known as the One Thousand and One Nights. She was storyteller.
The name Scheherazade derives from the Arabic form of the Middle Persian name Čehrāzād which is composed of the words words čehr (lineage) and āzād (noble, exalted). The spelling “Scheherazade” first appeared in English texts in 1801, borrowed from German.
The monarch Shahryar found out one day that his first wife was unfaithful to him. He thus decided to marry a new virgin each day as well as behead the previous day’s wife, so that she would not have any opportunity to be unfaithful to him. He had killed 1001 such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter, who volunteered to spend one night with the king, against her father’s wishes.
Scheherazade was a pleasant, witty, wise, and polite young woman, known for been well read. Indeed, she had read the books, annals and legends of preceding kings, stories and examples of bygone men and things, as well as the works of the poets, philosophers, scientists, artists. It was said that she had collected books about the antique races, departed rulers and accomplishments.
Once in the king’s chambers, she asked if she to say one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dunyazad, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The king lay awake and listened with awe as she told her first story. The night passed by and Scheherazade stopped in the middle. When the king asked her to finish the story, she answered that there was no time, as dawn was breaking. So, the king spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night.
The following night she finished the story and then began a second and more excited tale, that she again stopped halfway through dawn. Once again, the king spared her life for one more day so she could finish the story.
And so, the king kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finish of the previous night’s story. After 1001 nights and 1000 stories, Scheherazade told the king that she had no more tales to tell him, but at that moment the king had already fallen in love with her, so he spared her life and made her his queen.
The Middle Eastern story collection One Thousand and One Nights has had a deep influence on culture of all around the world, inspiring writers, musicians, and artists.
In literature, for example, we can find the tale Thousand and Second Night by Edgar Allan Poe, which is also called The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade; and Maurice Ravel composed in 1902 a set of three poems for voice and orchestra called Shéhérazade.
In the visual arts some of the most famous example is probable the sculpture Shahriyar and Scheherazade created by Iraqi artist Mohammed Ghani Hikmat,the sculpture is located at Abu Nuwas Street in Baghdad; and, the painting the Iranian painter Sani ol Molk Scheherazade and the sultan.
Among the women artists, I could find this beautiful painter of Scheherazade by Sophie Gengembre Anderson in which the artist highlight the exoticism of the character in details of her attire such as the jewellery or the peacock’s feather.
- Princesse Shéhérazade was a French animated series broadcasted from 1996 until 1999.
- The Magic of Sheherazade is a game produced by the Japanese company Culture Brain for Nintendo in 1989.
- The Culture Trip
- The Gutenberg Project
- All images are from Wikimedia Commons and WikiArt
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