Jan 7: If He Yawned, She Lost Her Head!

The kids are back at school, Allah be praised. This is the first day of seeing whether I can do this under normal conditions (although, to be fair, I’m on strike, so things are not completely “normal”. But, even so, here we are.

Also, my cable is out, so I have to read this the old-fashioned way, the way they would have done it in 1995 – with books. the selection is from “The Thousand and One Nights” (“If he yawned, she lost her head!”) -- Vol. 16, p. 5-13.

It turns out it’s the introduction, and I realized I’ve never read the Thousand and One Nights and have no idea who it’s author might be. You know who would know, though, is Edward William Lane, the translator, or Stanley Lane-Pool, who revised it. (or who, it turns out from the introductory note, translated “Ala-ed-din and the Wonderful Lmap” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

Ah… it turns out, from the introductory note, that it was translated into French in the first decade on the eighteenth century…Could be Persain, perhaps?

I don’t know how to feel about this passage, from the Introductory Note:

“In the two hundred years of their currency in the West, the stories of the “nights” have engrafted themselves upon European culture. They have made the fairy-land of the Oriental imagination and the mode of life of the medieval Arab, his manners and his morals, familiar to young and old; and allusions to their incidents and personages are wrought into the language and literature of all the modern civilized peoples…how pervasive has been the influence of this wonder-book of the mysterious East.”

Not so mysterious now, of course, now that we know it has oil.

So it’s the setup to the tales, which involve two kings who are brothers, both of whom have the same predicament, which is that their women can’t keep their hands off of the black slaves. Disheartened, the two brothers go a journey, and find a Jinni who’s wife says, “when one of our sex desires to accomplish any object, nothing can prevent her.” Yeah! Grrl power!

Naturally, the King’s reaction to this is to take virgins to bed and then behead them. This leads to Shahrazad (the vizier’s daughter, I didn’t know that) volunteering for the suicide mission. The vizier then tells a story that takes two pages, about the ass and the bull, but what it’s really about is a man who got his wife in line by beating her. But Shahrazad is undeterred, thus making the two pages of story about the Ass and the Bull meaningless.