17 Mar 2022


Love versus Deception: "The Tales from the Thousand and One Nights"

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Love versus Deception

The Tales from the thousand and One Nights is identified as one of the most famous collection of stories in the world. The prologue is used to frame the entire collection of stories which are believed to be drawn from Indian folklore. These stories are centered on sultan Shahrayar and his wife Scheherazade. It is stated that the sultan finds out that his first wife was unfaithful to him and killed her for that. On the same note he swore that he would marry a woman every night before killing her the following morning. He is able to undertake this practice for quite a while before he marries Scheherazade the daughter of his vizier. However, he does not know that she has come up with a plan in order to put an end to his pattern of marrying a woman and killing her in the night. The following paper looks into the representation of women and whether their behaviors deviate from the acceptable norms of the times.

Women Representation

Shahzaman’s is the first woman to be mentioned in the tales and sets the pace for the other women mentioned. Shahzaman’s brother, Shahrayar and the ruler of India would like him to visit and send his chief advisor to summon him. It is after this that Shahzaman finds his wife having an affair with the cook and without wasting any time kills them both. While in India he also finds the wife of his brother in bed with a slave. The two brothers cannot believe their misfortune and immediately leave the city in search of a man who may be unhappier than they are. In this case, it is seen that the women are presented as the root selfish individuals who only care for their sexual desires (Barry, 2016). Despite the fact that these women were of a high status in society, they sought to get their extramarital affairs from low level workers in the same palace where their husbands resided.

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As the two men continue in their journey, they meet a demon that emerges from the ocean. It comes out with a glass chest that has a beautiful woman trapped inside. However, the demon sleeps and the woman engages in sexual intercourse with both men before taking their rings. It is indicated that she takes the rings as a representation of the lovers she has had of which she amassed 98 of them. Through this depiction of women, it is seen that they cannot be trusted. As e beautiful had had sexual intercourse with 98 other lovers it is clear that women are presented as promiscuous despite having their sworn partners with them. She has intercourse with the two brothers as a means of showing the demon that it is worthless and meaningless to her. This also demonstrates that women are vengeful people and will do anything to retaliate against those who wrong them (Sallis, 2013).

It is at this point that the two rulers realize that their lives are not as bad as they had thought and thus return home. They return to India where Shahrayar orders the killing of his wife and begins the practice of marrying a different woman each night before killing them in the morning. This is a strategy that he believes will help him avoid future betrayal. The women in this case are seen to be naïve women willing to be married to a man yet they are aware of his plan to kill them later in the day. According to the gender norms of the time, the women are adhering to the practices of the time as it was expected any one of them would be honored to b the wife of a sultan. It seems that it was worthwhile for the women to be the wife of a sultan even if it was just for a night. 

The daughter of the vizier, Scheherazade, is seen to have come up with a plan of how she will end the ill practice of the sultan. Scheherazade goes against the wishes of her father as she decides to marry Shahrayar. She also orders her sister Dinarzad to come and find her on her wedding night so that she can narrate a story for her. She will only tell the story and stop it mid-way to ensure that she can live to the next day when the sultan can hear the end of it before starting another one. In this way, she will continue the same trend until the sultan changes his mind on killing her. Scheherazade is presented as a woman of great wisdom and incredible bravery to overcome the challenges that are facing women in the current society (Crossette, 1999). This is where the young beautiful woman risks losing her life in a bid to put an end to the barbaric practices of the sultan. This is clearly against the socio-sexual order of the times of telling the story. Women were seen as weak and unable to boldly face danger.

The story is a clear indication of the lack of personal strength of women in the society. The women are unable to stand for themselves as they are seen as lacking the status and power equal to the men (Sallis, 2013). In this case, it is seen as honorable for the man to kill his wife for having sexual relations outside the marriage institution. On the contrary, the men are seen to engage in extramarital affairs and not all of them suffer the same fate as the women do. There is a clear difference in the gender norms of the society.


Barry, B. N. (2016). “Gender Roots: Conceptualizing "Honor" Killing and Interpretations of Women's Gender in Muslim Society”. What All Americans Should Know About Women in the Muslim World. Paper 2 . Retrieved from http://cupola.gettysburg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=islamandwomen  

Crossette, B. (1999) Muslim Women Hear the Call of a Storyteller . The New York Times, Online. Retrieved 23 July 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/06/books/muslim-women-hear-the-call-of-a-storyteller.html?pagewanted=all  

Sallis, E. (2013).  Sheherazade through the Looking Glass: The Metamorphosis of the ‘Thousand and One Nights' . London: Routledge.

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