“One Thousand and One Nights” , a collection of Mid-Eastern folk tales, was compiled during the Islamic Golden Age, a period of culture, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam.This period is traditionally dated from the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid in 786 to 809 and extended, by some scholars’ estimate, as late as the end of the 15th to 16th centuries. The tales have their roots in Arabic, Persian, Indian, Greek, Jewish and Turkish folklore and literature. Collected by various authors and scholars, the stories have been presented in many editions; some contained a few hundred tales and others included a thousand in poem or prose form.
There are two main Arabic manuscript traditions of the “One Thousand and One Nights”. The Syrian tradition includes the oldest manuscripts, with shorter and fewer tales. Believed the purest expression of the style of the medieval “Arabian Nights”, it has been republished most recently in 1984 and is known as the Leiden Edition. The Egyptian tradition emerged after the Syrian tradition and contains more tales of more varied content, collected over the centuries, including up to the 19th century. This tradition includes 1001 tales and is known as the “Calcutta II” or the “Macnaghten” edition, published between 1839 to 1842.
The first European version, translated into French by Antoine Galland from the Syrian tradition and other sources, was a twelve-volume work entitled “Les Mille et Une Nuits, Contes Arabes Traduits en Francais”. This work included stories not found in the original Arabic manuscripts but which later became traditionally associated with “Nights”, such as the well-known “Aladdin’s Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Since this first European version published from 1704 to 1717, many other editions have appeared through the years. In 2008, a translation of the Calcutta II edition was made by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons and published in three volumes by Penguin Classics. Although not a complete translation, it contains the standard text of the “1001 Nights”, includes the Ali Baba and Aladdin tales, and all the poetry.
The genre of the “One Thousand and One Nights” tales varies widely. They include tragedies, comedies, poems, historical tales, tales of love, and tales of erotica. Mixed with real people and geographic locations are sorcerers, jinns, apes, magicians, and places of legend. Probably the best known translation to English is Sir Richard Francis Burton’s “The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night”, a ten-volume version published in 1885. Printed during the Victorian era in England, it contained all the erotic nuances of the original material, complete with sexual imagery and gay allusions added as appendices. Sir Richard Burton avoided the strict obscenity laws of the Victorian era by printing an edition for subscribers only instead of a formal publishing.
The exotic atmosphere of “One Thousand and One Nights” lent itself easily to film, influencing Fritz Lang’s “Der müde Tod”, a parable fantasy of love and death with the figure of Death transporting the heroine to Persia, Venice of the 15th century, and China. In 1924, Raoul Walsh’s “The Thief of Bagdad” starred Douglas Fairbanks on a magical journey to win the hand of the Caliph of Bagdad’s daughter. The collection of tales also influenced the 1926 feature-length animated film “The Adventures fo Prince Achmed” by Lotte Reiniger The oldest surviving animation feature film, it contained exotic lands, magical adventures, flying horses, and a handsome prince meeting Aladdin.
The gif images of Nyle DiMarco are from Ariana Grand’s “7 Rings”, the ASL Version, located at this site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTkIsqdBCtk. This production was directed by Jake Wilson with cinematography by Matthew Tompkins. The ASL Version’s translation is by Nyle DiMarco, co-produced by Nyle DiMarco and Sami Housman.