The Arabian Nights Entertainments HTML version

The stories in the Fairy Books have generally been such as old women in country
places tell to their grandchildren. Nobody knows how old they are, or who told
them first. The children of Ham, Shem and Japhet may have listened to them in
the Ark, on wet days. Hector's little boy may have heard them in Troy Town, for it
is certain that Homer knew them, and that some of them were written down in
Egypt about the time of Moses.
People in different countries tell them differently, but they are always the same
stories, really, whether among little Zulus, at the Cape, or little Eskimo, near the
North Pole. The changes are only in matters of manners and customs; such as
wearing clothes or not, meeting lions who talk in the warm countries, or talking
bears in the cold countries. There are plenty of kings and queens in the fairy
tales, just because long ago there were plenty of kings in the country. A
gentleman who would be a squire now was a kind of king in Scotland in very old
times, and the same in other places. These old stories, never forgotten, were
taken down in writing in different ages, but mostly in this century, in all sorts of
languages. These ancient stories are the contents of the Fairy books.
Now "The Arabian Nights," some of which, but not nearly all, are given in this
volume, are only fairy tales of the East. The people of Asia, Arabia, and Persia
told them in their own way, not for children, but for grown-up people. There were
no novels then, nor any printed books, of course; but there were people whose
profession it was to amuse men and women by telling tales. They dressed the
fairy stories up, and made the characters good Mahommedans, living in Bagdad
or India. The events were often supposed to happen in the reign of the great
Caliph, or ruler of the Faithful, Haroun al Raschid, who lived in Bagdad in 786-
808 A.D. The vizir who accompanies the Caliph was also a real person of the
great family of the Barmecides. He was put to death by the Caliph in a very cruel
way, nobody ever knew why. The stories must have been told in their present
shape a good long while after the Caliph died, when nobody knew very exactly
what had really happened. At last some storyteller thought of writing down the
tales, and fixing them into a kind of framework, as if they had all been narrated to