Thursday, December 21, 2006
Scheherazade or Shahrazada (Persian: Šahrzād) is a legendary Persian queen and the storyteller of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The frame tale goes that every day Shahryar (Persian: "king") would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday's wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was betraying him.
He had killed three thousand virgins by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter.
Against her father's protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King's chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dunyazad, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The King lay awake and listened with awe to Scheherazade's first story and asked for another, but Scheherazade said there wasn't time as dawn was breaking, and regretfully so, as the next story was even more exciting. And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, the King had not only been entertained but wisely educated in morality and kindness by Scheherazade who became his Queen. The nucleus of these stories is formed by an old Persian book called Hezar-afsana or the "Thousand Myths." The earliest forms of Scheherazade's name include Šīrāzād in Masudi and Šahrāzād in Ibn al-Nadim, the latter meaning "she whose realm or dominion (šahr) is noble āzād)". Harun al-Rashid's mother, Al-Khayzuran, is also said to have influenced the character of Scheherazade. Scheherezade was identified, confused with, or partly derived from the legendary queen Homāy, daughter of Bahman, who has the epithet Čehrzād or Čehrāzād "she whose appearance is noble".
References: The Arabian Nights Entertainments Project Gutenberg
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