Type: Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 606
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Princess Shahrazad is a legendary storyteller in a well-known Middle East collection of folk stories known as the Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights. The Persian king Shahryar demands to have a new young virgin girl every night to sleep with and then to be beheaded. Shahrazad volunteers to be one of those women even against her father’s will. Being young, beautiful, intelligent and noble, she makes up her mind to become a prisoner in the bed of a cruel Persian ruler. However, she is independent, strong-willed and witty enough not only to cheat death, but also to try to influence the king and his policy, telling him tales. She is trying to save her life, but the main purpose of her stories is not mere procrastination.

Shahrazad is a well-educated woman, with profound knowledge of poetry, legends, history, philosophy, arts and even sciences. Moreover, she is exceptionally smart and shrewd, as she manages to touch the most burning questions and expose the evil things to the Persian king without irritating or displeasing him. She is good at compassing her purpose using the most appropriate methods. She is a wise and cunning woman, who knows how to behave in different situations. She succeeds in diffusing the rage of a man who was betrayed by his wife, being flexible and deliberately obedient. She manages to get everything she wanted in such a way that nobody noticed it, being a smart policy-maker. She tames the king’s manhood and mood and tells him stories that are full of love, betrayal, adventure and sexual fantasies. She has learnt at such an early age to be crafty in order to survive the oppression and to help other women express their individuality, develop and get more than a role of a wife and mother in the family.

While entertaining the royal listener and telling him stories, she tries to send to him a message regarding prejudice, jealousy, violence and iniquity. She does not rush, being very patient and consistent in her actions. Every story she tells is symbolic; it clearly mirrors the king’s behavior or the attitude to women and the poor customary at that time. In all her stories, there is an underlying message that everybody deserves fair treatment. She protects the rights of both single and married women. She tells the stories about various princes and kings and teaches Shahryar to think more clearly and resolve conflicts peacefully. The tales that may seem just amusing make the King revise his views and attitude to women, equality and justice.

The king gets used to Shahrazad’s stories, and eventually falls in love with her. So, she manages to win and get power over a man not only through her sexuality, but also with the help of her wit, intelligence and independence. She takes efforts to change the stereotype of a woman accepted in the society of that time. Shahrazad emphasizes the idea of intelligence and wit of a woman, rather than her sexuality or loyalty. She uses her devised strategies and imagination to combine the reality and the imaginary world and dare to touch the forbidden ground. She is no longer a victim; she takes a difficult role of a creator, an artist and a story-teller, and the king is turned into a spectator and an admirer at her feet. She provokes, excites, thrills, educates, persuades and delights. 

Shahrazad has become a major player in a delicate game of sexual politics and intelligence. It is possible to characterize her as a heroine, since she takes hazards and faces challenges head-on. She calls for a new status of women within and beyond the Arabic world.

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