Monday 13 November 2017

Tales from the Past 1001 Nights

The 1001 Nights Premise

by Sharon Bryant

I was talking with my husband about which fairy tale to choose for my final blog for 2017. He suggested 1001 nights, often called The Arabian Nights in English.

The story is based on a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales put together between the 8th and 13th centuries.

They revolve around a ruler called Shahryar who has his wife murdered when he learns she is unfaithful. He becomes embittered, concluding that all women are alike in this regard, and announces that he will marry a new bride daily, only to execute her the following morning. Scheherazade, the heroine, volunteers to be his next wife.

The Author's Challenge

How I wondered, could such a tale possibly become the central premise for a romance novel? How could an author, retelling such a story, possibly hope to create a hero with whom modern-day readers could empathise? I wondered about Scheherazade too. It would take, I thought, a highly talented author to create a heroine with whom the reader could identify, given the character would volunteer for near-certain death. Fortunately, I found two fabulous Arabian Nights retellings that I strongly recommend you read.

Two Fantastic 1001 Nights Retellings

The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey is a beautifully written novel. Shahrazad comes from a long line of storytellers. She comes to believe it is her destiny to volunteer to be Shahryar's wife. After the wedding, she weaves a tale that continues night after night. Shahryar wants to know how the story ends so he keeps her alive. With each tale, his journey of personal growth continues and he comes to love Shahrazad and she comes to love him. Then an unexpected event changes everything.

Dokey creates a beautiful, brave, intelligent and gentle Shahrazad and a well-constructed, sympathetic Shahryar who has much to learn.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is the first novel in a two-novel series. There is also a fascinating short story providing further information about the emotional journey of the hero.

The series tells the tale of Khalid, the King of Khorasan, and Shahrzad who volunteers to be his wife in order to exact revenge for the murder of her best friend. Ahdieh does a superb job, weaving a gripping tale of two brave people caught in a world of magic and superstition who despite their flaws, and desperate circumstances, truly belong together. Not surprising, The Wrath and the Dawn was a New York Times bestseller.

Have you read 1001 Nights or a 1001 Nights retelling? What did you think of it? Did the author succeed in enabling you to empathise with the hero and heroine?

I love to love: spending time with my family.

I love to laugh: watching romantic comedies on DVD is the best.

I love to learn: researching the background to each fairy tale in this series and finding engaging romance novels associated with each story has been so much fun.


  1. Sharon, I agree with you - how to find sympathy with a ruler who executes his wives, night after night?!!! A bit like trying to find sympathy for Henry VIII...which is a whole other story. But the Scheherazade story is just so fascinating, especially as inspiration for writing! Glad you reminded me about it. I've loved your fairy story series this year, and look forward to reading more posts in 2018. Can't wait to see what you come up with next.

    1. Thanks Malvina. I too loved the story of Scheherazade. I have an idea for a series of posts for 2018. It is still percolating in the back of my mind. Hopefully it will work.

  2. I lapped up the Arabian nights' tales as a kid, so I'm sure I'll enjoy these takes on Scheherazade's story. Thanks for the suggestions.

  3. I grew up with 1001 Nights and loved every story within. Especially that Scheherazade ends up happily ever after. Thanks for the 2 modern versions. Have to read them.

    1. Thanks Enisa. I hope you enjoy both books as much as I did.

  4. It always surprises me that the fairy tales we know are a pretty watered down account of the original. Thank you for these recommendations


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