Since it’s the day after Mother’s day, I thought I’d shed some light on the mother of stories: Scheherazade. The story of who she was and how her stories became known is pretty easy to explain but the lessons and connotations are awe-inspiring.
Scheherazade was the daughter of the Vizier, the consultant to the sultan. The sultan was not evil as most people aren’t inherently evil, but all that changed. His wife was unfaithful to him and in his grief, anger, and indignation he killed and made a vow. He vowed that every night he would bed a virgin and in the morning she would be beheaded. After many women were slaughtered by the Sultan, the only women left eligible were the vizier’s daughters. Scheherazade was the oldest and would therefore marry the Sultan, but she was also smart, dignified, and beautiful. She studied everything she could get her hands on and when faced with this tragic situation devised a plan. She would tell her sister to implore that Scheherazade tell a story on the night of the wedding. The Sultan allowed Scheherazade to begin her story and like that the Sultan was mesmerized. She stopped at an important part in the story and said she would love to finish her tale but it was dawn and therefore time for her to die.
She began to weave exciting tales full of lessons, love, and life. I imagine the lilt of her voice, her gestures, her eyes, all being tools to bring these tales to life. It is these tales that make up the Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One nights. On the thousandth night, Scheherazade finally finished her tale and the Sultan found that he not only loved her but he was a changed man. In some versions, Scheherazade has born him two sons giving the Sultan cause to rejoice even further. In other versions she has simply saved her life and in hind sight the life of the Sultan.
Scheherazade has been looked to for inspiration and empowerment for years. Any fiction writer can tell you how important it is to captivate one’s audience and Scheherazade is a prime example. Her story is also an example of the core of story telling. Before we wrote down stories they were passed on from word of mouth and that tradition is still vital to us today even if it has morphed. Aren’t we told to read to our children once a day? Isn’t that supposed to spark interest and ‘good’ practices later in their life?
Also, being a woman and a writer of fiction, I think Scheherazade holds a special significance in my work. My ultimate goal would be to captivate my audience with my stories. I love fairy tales, myths, legends, and fables, so it only makes sense to hold the story of Scheherazade and her One thousand and one tales in high esteem. There is something to be said about a fairy tale: in it we mostly find the truth of what makes us human. The Sultan might not have been as enthralled had she told him what it was like to grow up as the vizier’s daughter. (I’m not saying that this story is not interesting, but it is very straight forward) In a fairy tale, the lesson that is learned or the essence that is remembered is implied and therefore not a direct address. Yes, she could have said, “Killing women for what your former wife has done to you is wrong.” But that would have gotten her killed. The Sultan ultimately learns the same lesson, but with different words and that is why words have so much power. The way in which they are used could literally be the difference between life and death.
I could go on and on about Scheherazade and her significance, the mistreatment of women throughout history, and how stories are crafted, hence the name of my blog, but I will stop here to say, Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who I call the Mother of Stories.
Learn more about Scheherazade at some of these sites.