A Little Teaser

This is the prologue to the thing I’ve been working on for the last few months. I can’t announce it properly, yet, but it should whet your appetites a little…

The Thousand And Second Night, as translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton, part one

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Compassionate!

It is related (and Allah is all-knowing) that King Shahryár did, after the one thousand nights and a night in which Shahrazad told him the tales of the ruined man of Baghdad and his slave-girl, and the tale of Ibrahim of Mosul and the Devil, and the tale of the woman who made her husband sift dust, and many other tales, give to Shahrazad the boon of her life.

This has come down to us (and Allah is all-knowing), but a darker tale has come down alongside it, and it would not be meet to keep this tale untold, for only Allah now knows the truth of the matter.

It is related (by those who relate such things) that on the night after the one thousandth night, when she had told the tale of Ma’aruf the cobbler and of his wife, that Shahrazad did beg her husband, King Shahryár, that she be allowed to see her sons, and on seeing them did beg for her life.

But while some say that the heart of King Shahryár then softened to Shahrazad, and that he allowed her to live, and that his brother King Shah Zaman did take Shahrazad’s sister Dunyazad as his handmaid, it is also related that King Shahryár spake thus:

“O Shahrazad, thou art chaste and pure, ingenious and pious! I will give thee thy life gladly, for thou hast pleased me greatly lo these thousand nights and a night. But grant me first one final story, before I pardon thee.”

And Shahrazad, gladdened in her heart that she would be granted her life that night, agreed and began the

TALE OF THE MALAKH

“It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in the barbarian lands to the West there dwelt…”

She stopped.

“O my handmaiden, why hast thou stopped in your telling of this tale?”

“I know not,” saith Shahrazad. “I shall try again.” And so she began again the

TALE OF THE MALAKH

“It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in the barbarian lands to the West there dwelt…”

She stopped again.

“Sire, I cannot continue. I know not why, but this story will not be told, try as I may.”

And King Shahryár wept, for he remembered that he had sworn an oath to Allah, the creator of all things, that he would see that any woman with whom he had had his carnal will executed. And such oaths, however regretted, must be kept. Shahrazad had been able to stay her execution with her tales, but Shahryár’s obligation to Allah the almighty must be kept.

And so at dawn, Shahrazad walked out into the palace courtyard, and did so with her head held high. Truly is it said of her:

Her beauty passeth all her sex * Her courage and her grace

All women in the Caliphate * Between cannot replace

For she showed no fear as she knelt before the headsman, and said only to King Shahryár “I forgive you. God is the greatest!”

And as the headsman drew his sword, and cleft off Shahrazad’s head, King Shahryár prostrated himself in front of her and wept sore, and as her head fell he caught it and clutched it to his bosom, and rent his robes in despair.

And then Shahrazad’s head opened its eyes, and looked up at the King, and spake thusly:

TALE OF THE MALAKH

“It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in the barbarian lands to the West there dwelt a Malakh…”

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5 Responses to A Little Teaser

  1. prankster36 says:

    Weeeeird.

    I assume you’re familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade”?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ah, Sir Richard Burton. I remember reading some translation he did of an Arabian erotic instruction text. The footnotes seemed to imply he regretted being surrounded by stuffy Victorian English ladies. They’d never be down for any of the crazy stuff he read about.
    It was oddly touching. Like he felt born in the wrong time and place.

  3. S. Barrios says:

    yes, looking very forward to this Text !

    (and your Anonymous is talking about .. ‘Perfumed Garden’? there’s some excellent phrasing therein, sure !)

  4. Oliver Townshend says:

    I wait with excitement.

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