September 8th, 2008


Jinn and Juice

So, I've set myself with the daunting task of reading all of The Arabian Nights, a feat that Inkheart claims is rumored to be impossible. The library had the Powys Mathers translation from the French, which I'm told works in more raunchiness than other translations. I've found it very readable so far, so I think I'll stick with it, although I'll probably read it on and off. So far, I've made it through eighteen days, which means I'm less than 2% through the whole thing. I'm not sure how many times I'm allowed to renew the volume.

A few things I've noticed, or that I'm looking for while reading:

  • The motif of stories within stories, which probably isn't in evidence in abridged versions of the tales. Within the frame story of Scheherazade managing to stave off murder through the power of the cliffhanger, we have characters telling their own stories to other characters, making for a rather confusing narrative.
  • There have already been a few treacherous viziers, although the one named Jafar does not appear to be one of them. There might well be other Jafars in the story, though. There's already been a story about a Sindbad who presumably isn't the same as the sailor (or the comedian, for that matter). I recently saw the 1940 Thief of Bagdad, which seems to have been the inspiration for a lot of the stuff in Disney's Aladdin (the evil sorcerer/vizier Jaffar (although Disney removed an F), the thief Abu, the love interest's father being an absent-minded sultan with an interest in toys, etc.), but I don't know how many of those elements are present in the actual Arabian Nights tales.
  • In one of the stories, there's a bit about a man being in love with a young boy, whom he accidentally kills. Sounds rather more Greek than Arabic, although I'm sure there were some similarities in culture. Isn't Islam really uptight about homosexuality, though? Still, I think there's something about the faithful being rewarded in the afterlife with beautiful young boys in addition to the perpetual virgin women, so maybe male-on-male attraction is okay as long as there's no actual intercourse. And this guy is certainly no stranger to heterosexuality, since he also scores with forty women.
  • I'm interested in where the now-common idea of a genie granting three wishes comes from. I've read the Aladdin story, and it's not present there, the jinn in that story performing as many tasks as their masters order. It would have made things way too easy if it hadn't been for Aladdin's mother giving up the lamp. Isn't that always the way, though? Not that most kids have magic lamps, but you hear stories of parents getting rid of valuable comic books or baseball cards, or sometimes things of little monetary value that are nonetheless very important to the kids. But I digress. One of the first stories, that of the fisherman and the jinni, has the jinni/genie claiming that he had earlier planned to grant his rescuer "three wishes of his heart." He doesn't, instead granting the fisherman success in a more convoluted way, but the idea of exactly three wishes is still present. I'll be interested in whether it comes up again.