The theme for school holidays events this April is storytelling – the perfect excuse to look at one of the all-time greatest hits of children’s literature, the Arabian Nights, known in Arabic as Alf Layla wa Layla –The Thousand and One Nights.
Their Chief in a low but distinct voice uttered the two words, “Open Sesame”.
Ref: Plates from Stories from the Arabian nights / retold by Laurence Housman; with drawings by Edmund Dulac. New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, IL: 1907 DULA.
Storytelling is one of the repeated themes of the Nights, with the collection well-known for its ‘stories within a story’ framing device. In most full editions the Nights begin with the tale of the jealous king Shahriyar, who is a serial killer of wives – marrying daily and executing his brides the next morning. Into this deadly situation steps Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter and an expert storyteller.