The Arabian nights HTML version
Selected and Edited by Andrew Lang
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 a cruel Sultan by his wife. Probably the tales were written down
about the time when Edward I. was fighting Robert Bruce. But changes were made in them at different times,
and a great deal that is very dull and stupid was put in, and plenty of verses. Neither the verses nor the dull
pieces are given in this book.
People in France and England knew almost nothing about "The Arabian Nights" till the reigns of Queen Anne
and George I., when they were translated into French by Monsieur Galland. Grown-up people were then very
fond of fairy tales, and they thought these Arab stories the best that they had ever read. They were delighted
with Ghouls (who lived among the tombs) and Geni, who seemed to be a kind of ogres, and with Princesses
who work magic spells, and with Peris, who are Arab fairies. Sindbad had adventures which perhaps came out
of the Odyssey of Homer; in fact, all the East had contributed its wonders, and sent them to Europe in one
parcel. Young men once made a noise at Monsieur Galland's windows in the dead of night, and asked him to
tell them one of his marvellous tales. Nobody talked of anything but dervishes and vizirs, rocs and peris. The
stories were translated from French into all languages, and only Bishop Atterbury complained that the tales
were not likely to be true, and had no moral. The bishops was presently banished for being on the side of
Prince Charlie's father, and had leisure to repent of being so solemn.
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
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.
The Arabian Nights
In the chronicles of the ancient dynasty of the Sassanidae, who reigned for about four hundred years, from
Persia to the borders of China, beyond the great river Ganges itself, we read the praises of one of the kings of
this race, who was said to be the best monarch of his time. His subjects loved him, and his neighbors feared
him, and when he died he left his kingdom in a more prosperous and powerful condition than any king had
done before him.
The two sons who survived him loved each other tenderly, and it was a real grief to the elder, Schahriar, that
the laws of the empire forbade him to share his dominions with his brother Schahzeman. Indeed, after ten
years, during which this state of things had not ceased to trouble him, Schahriar cut off the country of Great
Tartary from the Persian Empire and made his brother king.
Now the Sultan Schahriar had a wife whom he loved more than all the world, and his greatest happiness was
to surround her with splendour, and to give her the finest dresses and the most beautiful jewels. It was
therefore with the deepest shame and sorrow that he accidentally discovered, after several years, that she had
deceived him completely, and her whole conduct turned out to have been so bad, that he felt himself obliged
to carry out the law of the land, and order the grand-vizir to put her to death. The blow was so heavy that his
mind almost gave way, and he declared that he was quite sure that at bottom all women were as wicked as the