Shahryar (Shah-ry-ar), a king in Central Asia, had fallen in love with a beautiful young woman. In Shahryar’s kingdom, a woman was property and the king’s woman of choice was obliged to be his wife. Case closed.
Unfortunately, this beautiful young woman had a mind of her own and was determined to exercise her right to choose her own partner. Shortly after her marriage to the king, she uh well “transgressed.”
When the king learned of her unfaithfulness, he was enraged. We Commoners know what infidelity feels like, but imagine the wrath of a king who believes he is invested with divine power, which includes the right to control other people’s minds.
This rebellious young woman was probably tortured to death for her disobedience, and from that time forth, King Shahryar determined he would never allow himself to fall in love with another woman. “Never again will I suffer betrayal!” he vowed.
The king’s solution was easy. To protect himself from this painful fate of falling in love, directly after the wedding ceremony, the two would retire to the king’s chambers to consummate the marriage. Then the king would have his bride murdered.
Needless to say, this agenda did not sit too well with parents who had eligible daughters. Anyone who did the math could see that such a rapid turn-over rate would soon destroy most of the kingdom’s beautiful young virgins. What the king wanted, the king could have. Any parent who refused to give their daughter in marriage to Shahyrar was subject to severe punishment. Most likely their fate would be the same as that rebellious young woman who decided no one was going to tell her what to do—not even a king.
Terror reined in King Shahryar’s kingdom until one day a young woman named Scheherazade, concerned for her father's well-being, sent word to the king’s vizier that she would consent to marry the king.
Scheherazade was not only beautiful and clever; she was also a gifted storyteller. Her stories, filled with magic and mystery, had another ingredient as well: they were pithy. Scheherazade was wise beyond her years.
Even though Scheherazade’s father knew about his daughter’s storytelling skills (had he not been her teacher?!), he did have a few pangs of discomfort during the wedding ceremony. Nevertheless, he believed in personal sovereignty and what Scheherazade wished, she should have.
On their wedding night, Scheherazade used Shahryar's insomnia as an excuse to tell him a story. Come dawn’s light, the tale had not yet ended, and the king, eager to know the ending of the story, permitted Scheherazade to live one more night so she could complete it.
Early the next evening, not only did Scheherazade finish telling the first story; she also immediately began telling another… and yet another.
So it went, for a thousand and one nights. During these almost three years, the king fell deeply in love with this amazing woman and she bore him three children. Shahryar was convinced that never before had a man experienced such happiness. To immortalize his lady love, he had Scheherazade’s stories, known as The Thousand and One Nights written down on scrolls, or, as we say today, published. Today, The Thousand and One Nights is considered a classic.
What is the golden nugget or kernel of wisdom in this story? That “love conquers all”? Yes, well, of course. And….
Good writing is a life and death matter!