The Classics Club results are in and unfortunately, the unlucky number for me is 4 which means I will be reading The Arabian Nights Entertainment by Andrew Lang ((also known in other translations as the One Thousand and One Nights). The last thing I wanted to do was read another collection of fairy tales and folklore, but obviously the universe has other plans.
The Arabian Nights begins with the famous tale of Scheherazade, the wife of a king who delays her own execution by telling the king a fascinating story every night, but ending with a cliff hanger so he will keep her around for another day and another story. The stories make up the collection of the book and include Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.
The stories in the Arabian Nights are believed to originate from Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature, dating back to the 8th or 9th century. The collection was translated over the centuries in Persian and Arabic, but not introduced to a Western audience until the 19th century when it was translated in French by Antoine Galland.
My collection I will be reading is edited by Andrew Lang who was a Scottish journalist, poet, critic, historian and collector of fairy tales and folklore. He mentions in his preface how the stories have changed over the centuries in their translations, but how he hopes the imaginations of children will get fired up and they will be as excited as he was reading the tales as a boy.
In this book “The Arabian Nights” are translated from the French version of Monsieur Galland, who dropped out the poetry and a great deal of what the Arabian authors thought funny, though it seems wearisome to us. In this book the stories are shortened here and there, and omissions are made of pieces only suitable for Arabs and old gentlemen. The translations are by the writers of the tales in the Fairy Books, and the pictures are by Mr. Ford.
I can remember reading “The Arabian Nights” when I was six years old, in dirty yellow old volumes of small type with no pictures, and I hope children who read them with Mr. Ford’s pictures will be as happy as I was then in the company of Aladdin and Sindbad the Sailor.