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Beyond One Thousand and One Nights

"But please remember that Araby, as Europe came to know it in the Middle Ages and subsequently, was and is not so much an historically and anthropologically accuate representation of various cultures but rather a spendid amalgam of people, creatures, and places that never existed, except in storytellers' and readers' imaginations."

— Susan Shwartz, Arabesques


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A celebration of Scheherazade the Storyteller

Image - La Sultane Bleue by Léon Bakst

La Sultane Bleue by Léon Bakst

Araby: Historical adventure and speculative fiction

The folk tales captured in One Thousand and One Nights—the Arabian Nights as they came be to known in Europe—represent a body of literature and legend—that might be called the "Matter of Araby"—which rivals that of the Arthurian folks tales—the medieval "Matter of Britain"—and of the Caroligian folks tales—the corresponding "Matter of France."  But while the Arthurian and Carologian tales are products of (Christian, western) European civilization, the tales of the Matter of Araby are products of the medieval civilizations of (Islamic) Southwestern and Central Asia.

The historical era of the Arthurian and Carolingian legends has inspired (early) modern adventure fiction set in medieval Europe while the fantastical elements of Arthurian and Carolingian legend have inspired fantasy and other speculative fiction which maintains many of the elements of medieval European civilization.  Likewise, the stories of One Thousand and One Nights have inspired both (early) modern adventure fiction set in the medieval Middle East and Asia as well as speculative fiction which reflects the ideas and themes of the Arabian Nights.


Image - Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore

Jirel of Joiry, Paperback Library, 1969 (served by Bill Crider)

Heroines of sword and sorcery

Scheherazade told tales of swords and sorcery but there were no sword-wielding heroines in her stories.  Nevertheless many peoples have historical tales of women warriors.  Some of these, like Mulan, Tomoe Gozen and Bradamante, may have served as inspiration for heroines of modern sword and sorcery.  The first sword and sorcery heroine was likely C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry who first appeared in a story published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in October 1934.



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