Publish at January 25 2023 Updated January 25 2023

The true story of 1001 nights

Very far from the fantasized oriental vision

As soon as the "Thousand and One Nights" is mentioned, Western audiences can imagine an East where fantasy, oversized palaces and stories of thieves are mixed. Whether it is Ali Baba, Aladdin or Sinbad, all these figures are forever associated with it. Not to mention the clever Scheherazade who will manage to stay alive thanks to her imagination, keeping the Sultan Sharyar captivated.

Yet, as Laurent Turcot describes in this capsule, this version known today would have nothing to do with the one of the time. This collection would come from Persia or India, probably of Sassanid origin. It was not until the 8th or 9th century that the first Arabic translations were made. Over time, it became part of the traditions especially since it skillfully mixed fantasy and "mirror of the princes", i.e., it made people think about the moral principles of each story.

It is said that the manuscripts of the time would be composed of 200 texts but all those before the 15th century have disappeared. Indeed, only the "Manuscript of Paris" remains, which contains only the framework story and 35 tales. It will thus be the basis of Antoine Galland's adaptation, the most famous of all. Galland, after several successful volumes, will continue the story by borrowing stories heard by a Syrian acquaintance. Thus appear the figures of Ali Baba, Aladdin and Sinbad, among others. He would add a more moral approach, finding some of the original tales too naughty.

Since then other versions of the 1001 Nights have appeared, some trying to get closer to the fables of the time and others moving away from them. In the end, we will never get our hands on the basic stories. Nonetheless, this Arabic-flavored work will have managed to enter popular culture over the centuries.

Runtime: 16min41

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