Arabian Nights - Medieval Islam for Kids
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The Arabian Nights

Persian miniature
Princess (ca. 1540 AD)

People in India and Persia have been telling these stories for a long time - nobody knows how long. Around 850 AD, a Persian writer in the Abbasid Empire collected a bunch of stories into a book called "Alf Layla wa Layla", or the Thousand and One Nights - which we also call the Arabian Nights. The book is about a Sassanian king, Shahryar, who decides to make sure his wife is always faithful to him by marrying a new girl every night and killing her in the morning.

King Shahryar's vizier is in charge of finding a new girl every day to marry the king. One day, the vizier's own daughter Scheherazade comes to him and insists that she should marry the king. Scheherazade (shuh-HAIR-ah-zadd) explains that she has a plan to stop the king from killing all these women, so the vizier unhappily agrees to let her marry the king.

So Scheherazade marries King Shahryar. That night at bedtime, she offers to tell her new husband a story. She tells a great story, but just at the most exciting part she stops because the sun is coming up and it's time for her to be killed. But King Shahryar wants to hear the end of the story, so he agrees to let Scheherazade live another day.


Scheherazade continues her story that night, and again she ends at the most exciting part, and again the king lets her live. She does that every night, for a thousand and one nights, and finally King Shahryar sees that this was a dumb idea and lets Scheherazade live as his queen.

Here are some of the stories Scheherazade told the king:

To find out more about the Arabian Nights and Scheherazade, check out these books from Amazon or from your library:

Islamic poetry
African stories
Medieval stories
Greek mythology
Islamic Empire
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