Tales from The Thousand and One Nights is an anthology of tales as narrated by Scheherazade, the bride to the ruthless King of Persia, Shahryar. The tales can be traced back to the medieval and ancient period in Persia, also known as Arabia. The king is appalled when he discovers the infidelity of his brother’s wife. He mercilessly makes a decree commanding her execution. King Shahryar is traumatized by his amorous sister-in-law and, sadly, his perception of women suffers. In his state of disillusionment, he convinces himself that all women are loose and hence befitting of cruelty. Consequently, he decides to execute each of his virgin wives shortly after wedding. He is not about to let any woman to dishonor him. This goes on until he meets Shahrya. She enchants the king with numerous tales and leaves him in suspense. The king spares her life, so that he can hear the remaining part of each tale. These tales collectively comprise the tales from The Thousand and One Nights. Her tales last for one thousand and one nights, and during this duration, her life is spared. The role of women in this story will be reviewed in this essay (Dawood 14).
The amorous sister-in-law really went against the convention of the time. Bearing in mind that the events occurred during the golden age of Islam, this woman really contravened the set decorum. Islam upholds divinity and sanctity, especially for the female gender. Moreover, a wife is expected to love, respect, obey and elevate her husband. Their purity solely belongs to the husband. An amorous act brings shame on her entire family. I concur that it was totally wrong for a woman in her station (a member of the royal family) to carry on such a shameful act. However, I do not agree with the barbaric punishment of execution. A divorce or banishment would have sufficed. The purity of brides was revered as can be exhibited by the status of the King’s newly-weds. The young ladies were virgins and worthy to be royal brides. Unfortunately, they were victims of the King’s insecurities of the female gender and were shortly executed after matrimony (Dawood 26). This was done in order to avert shame as the King had a strong inkling that his brides were no different from his sister-in-law. Women in this age had no vote and were subject to draconian rules and punishments. It is sad that their emancipation would come after several centuries.
Scheherazade emerges as the beautiful and witty enchantress, who manages to captivate the King, and, in the process, she manages to redeem her life. She is courageous as she marries the king out of her free will despite opposition from the family. The fate of the king’s brides is no secret. Scheherazade is up for the challenge, and she survives one thousand and one nights. Her tales range from comedies, burlesques, love stories and tragedies to erotica. All these literary works depict a talented, creative and intelligent woman. The love stories and erotic tales are a true testimony of a somewhat liberated medieval woman, who is in touch with her sexuality. These love stories and erotic tales exhibit strong courage as the king was already suspicious of females in this respect (Dawood 38). However, she won him over with her entertaining accounts. This act definitely contravenes the social-sexual order. Females were expected to be passive on the subject of sex. Scheherazade went out of her way to entertain the king with vivid accounts on the subject. Overall, she capitalized on all her traits to escape execution. She was outspoken and engaged the king at a philosophical and logical manner. This exhibition of knowledge was not expected of the female gender during the time.