Literature: Arabian Nights
aka: Thousand And One Nights
"You must learn how to leave your audience in suspense."
The Arabian Nights
They lived happily until there came to them the One who Destroys all Happiness.
, correctly known as One Thousand and One Nights
(Persian Hezār-o yek šab
, Arabic Kitāb 'alf layla wa-layla
), is a massive collection of Fairy Tales
drawn from sources as far apart as the Middle East, India, North Africa, and even China and Greece. It has for centuries shaped the European view of the [relative to Europe] '(Near) East' or 'Orient', even though only several of the stories
are widely known. Genies
, evil wazirs
and flying carpets
all stem from its pages.
In fact, early Arabic versions only contain about 300 nights. The 701 others were added later; most of the additions were by Arab writers, but European translators added some other folktales they'd collected in their editions. Some of these additions were based on other Arabian sources, but others, including "Aladdin
" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
," appear to have been original stories that the European translators had heard from random Arab storytellers in their time. Of course as all oral stories evolve anyway and the framework is fairly flexible, one can theoretically have as many nights as they like. Despite the English name, it should be noted that many of the characters (and most of the characters in the framing story) are Persian/Iranian, rather than Arabs.
The frame for the story cycle is the tale of King Shahryar and Scheherazade. The King's first wife had cheated on him, so he had her executed. Then, feeling that no woman could be trusted, he hit upon a plan only a powerful and insane tyrant
could pull off: He'd marry a woman, spend the night with her, and then, in the morning, send her off to the royal Wazir (aka 'vizier') to be executed. No woman would ever betray him again!
After a great many wives were executed in this manner (the Burton translation says the King did this for three years, which would be about 1100 wives), the Wazir was running out of marriage prospects to present to the King. Then the Wazir's daughter, Scheherazade, came to him with a plan. Since her plan involved marrying the King, the Wazir objected in the strongest manner possible, but nothing would deter the girl, and finally he brought her to the King.
Come the wedding night, once he started putting the moves on her, she feigned becoming upset, and pleaded to see her younger sister one last time. The King acquiesced, and allowed Scheherazade's sister Dunyazad to stay in the room with them until dawn. Even while they consummated the marriage
and the three of them went to sleep, the sisters woke up at midnight. Just as planned, Dunyazad asks Scheherazade to tell her a story, but by the morning she was not finished, and ended the story on a Cliff Hanger
. The awoken King was so hooked on the story that he postponed the execution for one night, in order to hear the rest. But after Scheherazade ended that story, it was still the middle of the night, and she started up another story, again ending on a cliffhanger in the morning.
The nightly routine continued. Some of the stories were simple, some complex and multi-layered; sometimes a character in one story would begin to tell a second story, and sometimes the story was never actually ended because Scheherazade had gone on two or three layers and never returned to wrap up. Or sometimes she claimed she didn't know the ending, but had another tale that was even more intriguing than the unfinished one. But all of the stories were so compelling that the King could never bear to order her execution without hearing the ending.
So Scheherazade kept up the stories for three years — in the meantime bearing Shahryar three sons — and finally, after 1,001 nights, she said that she had told all of her tales and was ready to die. But the King had fallen in love with her, and had been calmed by her entrancing stories. He declared that no woman in the kingdom was as wise as Scheherazade, and he made her his queen for keeps this time, and they lived Happily Ever After
From the 1,001 Nights
, the three best known stories are "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
" and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad
, which include tropes traceable to Homer
. All three have been filmed, and many other movies
draw on the Arabian Nights
Unlike many legends which deal primarily with the deeds of the nobility (who after all were the ones who could afford to have a bard as a permanent resident at their palaces), Arabian Nights has the fascinating twist that it covers people from myriads of occupations in a highly-complex society.
Lesser known, but no less interesting, stories from Middle Eastern folklore are the Arabian Hero Cycles
Note: This list of tropes is based for the most part on the famous 19th century Richard Burton translation, which is in the public domain. Several versions, including the entire Burton version, are available on Kindle at Amazon or otherwise available for download, for free or less then a dollar. Project Gutenberg also has a free copy. Make sure to get one with an active table of contents; for that is extremely useful for this. In 2012 Penguin Publishing released a new three-volume English translation by Malcolm Lyons. It used the same source as the Burton translation and mostly corresponds to the same list of stories.
Stories from the Arabian Nights with their own trope pages include:
Adaptations with their own trope pages include:
Media Uses of Arabian Nights
- The Prime Minister And I: The lead female of this Korean Series reads the book to her husband to help with his insomnia. Coincidently, it is implied that his late wife was unfaithful to him before she died.
- The first expansion set to Magic: The Gathering was named "Arabian Nights" and, for obvious reasons, contained many references to the stories.
- Fables introduced several characters from the collection in the story arc 'Arabian Nights (and Days)'. It also has a graphic novel prequel titled '1001 Nights of Snowfall', which places Snow White in the role of Scheherazade after she has been sent as an envoy to the Arabian lands, and is forced to tell stories of the secret histories of other Fables characters to keep her head off the chopping block.
The remaining stories provide examples of:
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- Action Girlfriend / Badass Princess / Non-Action Guy: "Ali Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl". The Arabian Nights have their share of warrior women but Miriam is perhaps unique in that her boyfriend Nur Al-Din is an admitted Lover Not A Fighter, kind of clueless, and basically a coward, while she is the brave fighter who protects the both of them. In one sequence when Miriam's family is pursuing the lovers, she asks Nur Al-Din for help, he begs off, and she proceeds to kill all three of her brothers one at a time in single combat.
- Adaptational Heroism: Shaharya in the Hallmark version has yet to take a new wife, saving him from executing 1100 innocent women like in the source material.
- An Aesop
- Anachronism Stew: Subtle version. Many Real Life historical figures that appear in the stories, including Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, his Grand Vizier, Jafar al-Barmaki, and the famous poet Abu Nuwas, lived about two centuries after the fall of the Sassanid Empire in which the frame tale of Scheherazade is supposedly set, making the whole collection not completely logical.
- Alchemy Is Magic: "Hasan of Bassorah", a coppersmith, meets a man who can turn copper into gold by applying a powder.
- All Women Are Lustful: Many examples, starting with the Framing Device.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Black slaves and savages. This can be semi-justified as Scheherazade Pandering to the Base, as the king's original wife cheated on him with a black slave. The exception may be Mesrur, the Chief Eunuch of Harun al Rashid, who's a good guy.
- And I Must Scream: Situation of the genie imprisoned in a bottle under the sea for centuries in "The Fisherman and the Genie."
- Anti-Climax: "The Story of Janshah", begun on the premise of explaining what he's doing in the middle of nowhere looking depressed, rather abruptly ends with "and then his wife got eaten by a shark on vacation.". This after a fairly long story that runs in Burton from Night #499 to #530, in which Janshah works his ass off to find said wife and bring her home.
- Apparently Human Merfolk:
- Julnar of "Julnar the Sea-Born and Her Son King Badr Basim of Persia" belongs to a race of merfolk who look just like humans and can live on land without difficulty but prefer living on the bottom of the ocean.
- "Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman". The former catches the latter with his fishing net. The Merman then gives the Fisherman an ointment that allows the Fisherman to walk around underwater as well.
- Arabian Nights Days: Trope Maker, of course.
- Artistic License – Biology: In "The Tale of Hammad the Badawi," an ostrich flies.
- Author Avatar: Lampshaded in the Hallmark adaptation about Ali Baba's servant girl (and eventual wife) Morgiana. When she's introduced, the first shot of the character has Millie Lavendal playing her as well. Shaharya says "she sounds like you" - only for Scheherezade to say that she isn't like her at all and then Morgiana is replaced with a different actress. The character is very much like Scheherezade though.
- Author Filibuster: This is a long, long, looong series of stories told about and by a woman who's a genius Muslim theologian...
- Justified, however. After all, the reason why Scheherazade is telling so many stories in the first place is to delay her husband from executing her.
- Badass Bookworm: Sheherarzade. Not so much a fighter, but enchanting as a lover, highly intelligent and possessing Nerves of Steel.
- Baleful Polymorph:
- Many times, usually when a sorceress or a Djinn turns someone into a beast to teach him a lesson.
- ... and sometimes just because they can do it. Queen Lab in "Julnar the Sea-Born and Her Son King Badr Basim of Persia" is an example of the latter type of sorceress: the first thing King Badr notices on entering her kingdom is the abnormally large number of donkeys, mules and horses on the streets. He later learns they were all her formerly human lovers whom she had transformed into animals after she tired of them.
- A big example comes in the latter half of "The Fisherman and the Genie," wherein the titular fisherman is led by the titular genie to a lake that is full of fish of four different colors. Each day the fisherman brings four of these fish, one of each color, to the Sultan to be fried and eaten, but due to the strange things that happens when he goes to cook them, the Sultan comes to realize that these are no ordinary fish. On trying to find out what's so special about these fish, he comes across a man who is half turned to stone, who is more than willing to tell him; long story short, the man's adulterous wife turned their entire city into the lake, and the fish are its people, with the four colors representing the four religions that they belonged to. And the Sultan was trying to cook them and eat them. Ouch.
- The Barber: A talkative "man of few words" ("The Tailor's Tale").
- Beautiful Slave Girl: Many stories involve a hero falling in love with a beautiful slavegirl.
- Beauty Equals Goodness
- Because Destiny Says So / You Can't Fight Fate: So many of the stories revolve around the themes of fate and destiny that some consider fate and destiny themselves to be leading characters in the Nights.
- Invoked by "The Queen of Serpents" when her tale turns tragic: "there is no fighting against fate".
- Bedsheet Ladder: In "Uns Al-Wujud and the Wazir's Daughter Al-Ward Fi'l-Akmam or Rose-In-Hood", Rose makes one of these out of her clothes and escapes after she is shut away in a castle.
- Best Her to Bed Her: In the "Story of Prince Behram and the Princess Al-Datma", this is Al-Datma's precondition for marriage.
- Bestiality Is Depraved:
- In "Wardan The Butcher; His Adventure with the Lady and the Bear", the first catches the second having relations with the third. Violence ensues.
- This theme is continued in the next tale, "The King's Daughter and the Ape". In this case it turns out that the king's daughter is making it with the ape because of worms in her vagina that have turned her mega-slutty.
- BFS: In one of the stories, appears a huge cannibal black man who is said to wield a really large broadsabre. It doesn't help him in the end...
- Bring My Brown Pants:
- In "The Fisherman and the Jinni" the Fisherman "piddled in his clothes" for fear of the Genie.
- The same happens in "The Reeve's Tale" (nested inside "The Hunchback's Tale") when a young man, hiding in a trunk so he can be smuggled in to see his lover, wets himself with fear when a guard is about to open the trunk.
- In the "History of Gharib and His Brother Ajib", a Persian prince poops in his pants when he is awoken in the court of his enemy Gharib and introduced to the two genies that brought him there in his sleep.
- Brother-Sister Incest: "The First Kalandar's Tale" (nested inside "The Porter and the Three Ladies")
- Buried Alive: "Masrur and Zayn Al-Mawasif" is one of the more disturbing tales in the collection. Having cheated on her husband and lied her way into getting her marriage annulled, Zayn Al-Mawasif proceeds to have a slave girl tell her ex-husband that she is dead. When the grieving ex-husband visits the grave, the slave girl chucks him in and buries him alive.
- By the Hair: "Hasan of Bassorah" wins control of his beloved via grabbing her by the hair and dragging her away, caveman-style.
- Call Back: In "The Tale of the Wolf and the Fox," a fox, tired of taking abuse from a bullying wolf, lures the wolf to his death in a pit. Shortly thereafter comes "The Fox and Crow," in which a fox tries to convince a crow to get him food. The crow is skeptical, and at one point answers "The tidings lately reached me of thy treacherous dealing with...a wolf."
- Canon Immigrant: Many of the stories do not appear in the earliest manuscripts. This includes three of the most famous tales in the series — "Sinbad the Sailor," "Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp," and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." "Aladdin" and "Ali Baba" for their part do not appear in any manuscript or copy before Antoine Galland's translation. In Burton's translation, only "Sinbad" makes the main collection; "Aladdin" and "Ali Baba" are relegated to the supplemental volumes.
- Captured by Cannibals: In "Abu Mohammed Hight Lazybones," a merchant ship sails too close to an island inhabited by one. Several of them are eaten before a djinn saves the rest.
- Carry a Big Stick: The Djinn Shaibar, who's one feet tall, has a 10 feet long beard, hunchback and front and wields a really heavy iron staff as a weapon.
- Sa'adan from "The History of Gharib and His Brother Ajib" wields an uprooted tree as a weapon.
- The Casanova: In "Nur Al-Din Ali and the Damsel Anis Al-Jalis," Nur Al-Din is described as "a Satan for girls [who] leaves no maid in the neighborhood without taking her maidenhead."
- Chekhov's Gun: There are repeated references to some character or object which appears insignificant at first but reappears later to intrude suddenly in the narrative. One example of this is in "The Three Apples" tale.
- Cinderella Circumstances: Several tales similar to the later story of "Cinderella" occur in several Arabian Nights tales, including "The Second Shaykh's Story," "The Eldest Lady's Tale," "Abdallah ibn Fadil and His Brothers," and "Judar and His Brethren." The latter subverts the trope by departing from the usual happy ending and instead features a tragic ending.
- Cliffhanger: Amusingly, one thousand and one cliffhangers.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: This is part of the nightly routine of the Framing Device. Scheherazade's sister Dunyazad comes into the royal bedroom, waits politely on the bed until King Shahryar finishes having sex with her sister, then asks to hear a story.
- The Corpse Stops Here: Everyone in "The Story of the Hunchback" in turn assumes that if they're found with the hunchback's body they'll be accused of his murder, so they find some way of disposing of it in secret, only for the next person to find it. In the end, it turns out that he's not really dead.
- Country Matters:
- In "The Porter and the Three Ladies" each lady shows hers to the porter and ask him what it's called. He runs through every synonym he can think of.
- In "Ali Shar And Zumurrud", Ali Shar is happily surprised to find that the king has a "coynte"—it's actually his long-lost slave-wife Zumurrud in disguise.
- When a merchant in "The Rogueries of Dalilah the Crafty and Her Daughter Zaynab the Coney- Catcher" is promised a rich young lady to wed, he charmingly remarks that Allah has given him "coin, clothing, and coynte".
- Crazy Jealous Guy / Honor Before Reason: In the tale of "The Three Apples," a man murders his wife because he suspects her of unfaithfulness, much like the later story of Othello.
- Death by Adaptation: The Hunchback in the original story turns up alive. In the Hallmark version, he's definitely dead.
- Decapitation Presentation:
- In "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan," Zau's son Kanmakan kills the bandit Kahrdash's head and totes it around to prove that he did it.
- Ali in "The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo" throws down the Jewish merchant's head at the feet of the Caliph. He didn't do it, though—the merchant's daughter did.
- Demonic Possession: "Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan, the Merchant of Oman" features a princess possessed by a demon that turns her homicidal. How she came to be possessed is not explained, but she's cured by a magic amulet.
- Detective Story: "The Three Apples" may be the Ur Example.
- Discreet Drink Disposal: In "Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife", Kamar does this so he can have sex with the jeweller's wife after the jeweller passes out.
- Disguised in Drag:
- In "Ni'Amah Bin Al-Rabi'A And Naomi His Slave-Girl," Ni'Amah does this to rescue Naomi after she's kidnapped into a harem.
- In "Ibrahim Bin Al-Mahdi and the Barber- Surgeon," Ibrahim does this after fleeing the wrath of the nephew that he refuses to recognize as Caliph.
- In "The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo", Ali does this to steal some money.
- In "Ardashir and Hayat Al-Nufus", Ardashir, a prince disguised as a merchant, does this to meet his girlfriend, the noble lady Hayat.
- "Abu Al-Hasan of Khorasan" has to escape after sneaking into the Caliph's palace to romance one of the Caliph's slave girls.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In "The Reeve's Tale" a young man forgets to wash his hands after dinner and before embracing his wife on their wedding night. She has his thumbs and big toes chopped off.
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- In "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan," Sharrkan is challenged to wrestle by the Christian princess Abrizah, and he keeps losing, because she's so good looking.
- In the "Story of Prince Behram and the Princess Al-Datma", the title characters are jousting. Behram is winning until Al-Datma lifts her visor to reveal her pretty face, whereupon he is stunned by her beauty and she beats him.
- Doorstopper: The Burton version has sixteen volumes.
- Double In-Law Marriage: At the conclusion of the tales, after Night #1001, the Framing Device ends with King Shahryar letting Scheherazade off the hook, and her sister Dunyazade marrying Shahryar's brother, King Shah Zaman. This also happens a few times in various tales within the Nights.
- Downer Ending: Some of the tales end in tragedy. "Judar and His Brethren" is one notable example, in which the protagonist is murdered by his evil brothers.
- In one stage version of the play, the last line of the play is repeated several times as bomber radio chatter fades in. At the very end there's a sound of a bomb dropping, an explosion, and then all falls silent.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Ali does this in "The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo".
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: In the "Tale of Ghanim Bin Ayyub, the Distraught, the Thrall O' Love," the girl that Ghanim discovers actually instructs him to wait until she's passed out drunk to kiss her.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first tale, "Tale of the Bull and the Ass" is told not by Scherezade but by her father, the Wazir, to her, in an effort to dissuade her from her scheme.
- Erotic Dream: In "The Tale of the Hashish Eater," the titular eater enjoys some hashish in a bathhouse until he passes out. He then has a sex dream, and just when he's about to fuck the girl he's woken up by a crowd of people who are laughing at his nudity and Raging Stiffie. He reproaches them for not waiting until after he had sex with the girl in his dream.
- Evil Chancellor
- Eye Scream: Ali of "Ali Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl" hits his father in the face and puts his eye out.
- In The Porter and the Three Ladies the three Dervishes have lost one eye (and have had their beards shaved) and of course each has a long elaborate story about how that happened; featuring arrows, eye puckings, magic djinn ash-type-stuff and more.
- Fainting: All the damn time.
- Family Un Friendly Aesop: So many.
- Finger-Licking Poison: In "The Tale of the Vizier and the Sage Duban," the King, quite unjustly, has decreed that the sage Duban must die. Duban gives the King a magic book and tells the King that after he is beheaded, if the King reads from the book Duban's severed head will answer his questions. What the King doesn't know is that Duban has coated the pages with poison. The King flips through the book, licking his finger as he flips pages, until he dies.
- Filler: Most of the book depending on the translator. The original cycle is about 275 nights and based off an older Persian work called Hazar Afsana "a Thousand Legends". When the Egyptians copied Arabian Nights they actually tried to make 1000. Anything and everything was used including Egyptian, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Mongolian, and even European stories. This is also why some nights are very short, splitting the story several times.
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: In the tale of the three princes who each go to seek a marvel, Prince Ahmed finds a magic apple that restores health to anybody who smells it, even if they are at the point of death, and presents it to his father the Sultan. This tale has a sequel, in which the Sultan's advisors poison his mind against Prince Ahmed and persuade him to send Ahmed on a series of impossible quests; one of these is for a MacGuffin reputed to cure all diseases — and not one person, not even Prince Ahmed who gave it to him, thinks to mention that he's already got one.
- Framing Device: A classic example of a story within a story.
- Gag Penis: The tale called "Ali with the Large Member" pokes fun at the obsession with a man's penis size.
- In "The Three Wishes, Or the Man Who Longed to See the Night of Power", the man uses his first wish to ask for a bigger penis. Allah gives him one so big he can't even stand up.
- Gasshole: "How Abu Hasan Brake Wind". In fairness, he only does it once, but he will Never Live It Down.
- Gender Bender: "The Enchanted Spring", in which a prince is changed into a woman because another man covets his girlfriend.
- Genie in a Bottle: Interestingly, although this trope is strongly associated with the Arabian Nights, it is mostly averted.
- There's one in "The Fisherman and the Jinni", which is the second story Scherezade tells. The trope pops up again over 500 Nights later in "The City of Brass". Neither tale includes the modern notion in which the genie must serve whoever liberates him from the bottle. In fact the Jinni from "The Fisherman and the Jinni" is so bitter over being stuck in a bottle for centuries that he says he will kill the fisherman, and the fisherman has to use his wits to trick the Jinni back into the bottle.
- "Judar And His Brethren" and "Ma'aruf the Cobbler and His Wife" (the latter being the last tale in the Burton translation) also plays this trope straight, except that genie is bound to a ring. Neither of these tales, the only two in the collection in which a genie must serve a human master, include the idea of being limited to three wishes.
- In the many other examples of genies popping up in the stories, they are free agents who sometimes help humans but just as often screw with them for fun.
- The real Trope Maker is "Aladdin", which as noted above is a very late addition to the collection, and still doesn't play it completely straight—see the "Aladdin" page for details.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Scheherazade is a Lady and a Scholar.
- Ghost City: Everyone in "The City of Brass" is dead. There was no great calamity, though; they simply starved to death after many years of drought.
- Giant Equals Invincible: Averted twice because of Plot Armor. The first is a giant, tower-sized black man who killed many caravans in the past and is instantly brought down by two (TWO) sword slashes. The second one in the following story is a huge man (his meal consist in a whole roasted ox) who, despite his size, is instantly killed by a single arrow.
- Giant Flyer: The Roc bird ("rukh" in Burton), whose eggs are fifty feet broad and is strong enough to carry a piece of mountain in his claws. ("Abd Al-Rahman the Maghribi's Story of the Rukh").
- "Hasan of Bassorah" is flown to the top of a mountain by a giant vulture.
- The Good Chancellor: Most notably Ja'far ibn Yahya, but several other good viziers exist. In a few other tales, however, Jafar is depicted as a Treacherous Advisor instead.
- Good For Bad:
- "The Story of the Chief of the Bulak Police" and "The Chief of the Kus Police and the Sharper" both are stories in which the victims—policemen—are tricked into exchanging their money for seemingly valuable items that are actually worthless.
- In "The Rogueries of Dalilah the Crafty and Her Daughter Zaynab the Coney- Catcher", Dalilah pulls a series of these, but she's not really a thief at heart—she's a widow who is upset about not getting her late husband's job.
- Greedy Jew:
- In "The Hunchback's Tale" the Jewish doctor "rose quickly in his greed of gain" when the hunchback is dropped off at his door.
- "The Rogueries of Dalilah the Crafty and Her Daughter Zaynab the Coney- Catcher" features a Jewish merchant who is described as wealthy but still jealous if anyone else makes a sale but he does not.
- The Grim Reaper: The destroyer of happiness, that no man however rich can bargain away.
- Besides being referenced at the end of many stories, the Reaper stars as a character in three tales—"The Angel of Death with the Proud King and the Devout Man", "The Angel of Death and the Rich King", and "The Angel of Death and the King of the Children of Israel".
- Guile Hero: Scheherazade's best weapon, aside of her good looks, was her mind.
- In fact, most of the heroes in the collection were of this sort. Indicative of the era being one of trade, commerce and prosperity, the archetypical adventurer was a average (if not physically weak) man or woman who used their impressive cunning to get out dangerous situations and overwhelming force - usually making some kind of profit or social advancement on the side.
- Happily Ever After
- Healing Potion
- The water from the Fountain of Lions in the tale of Prince Ahmed and the peri.
- The magic apple in the tale of the Three Princes isn't a potion, but it has the same effect.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Schehererzade risked not only her life but her happiness by marrying the Sultan to save her people.
- Heroic Spirit: Shehererzade's audacity and sheer nerve for 1001 nights makes her this.
- Historical-Domain Character: Harun Al-Rashid, mentioned many times and starring in several tales, was a real guy, who ruled as Caliph from 786 to 809. His vizier Jafar was also a real person.
- Historical Hero Upgrade - Harun al-Rashid. Okay, maybe he did sometimes go out into the city in disguise, but in real history he was really not a lovable adventurer. Even before he killed his Vizier and the vizier's entire family, leading to a political crisis that took years to resolve, there's not much to suggest he was an extraordinarily good ruler, although he probably wasn't an extraordinarily bad one either. He's mainly in the stories because of the greatness of his empire, not of himself.
- Historical Villain Upgrade - the specific vizier whom Harun al-Rashid killed. However, a few tales sometimes give Jafar a Historical Hero Upgrade instead, playing roles ranging from a detective in "The Three Apples" to a heroic adventurer in "The Tale of Attaf".
- Holding the Floor: Probably the Ur Example.
- Hot Consort: Scheherazade
- Hurricane of Excuses: In "The Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince", the unfaithful princess goes into mourning for her lover, but gives her husband the excuses that "My mother has died, my father has been killed in a holy war, one of my brothers has died of snakebite and the other has fallen off a cliff."
- I Call Him "Mr. Happy": In "The Porter and the Three Ladies" each of the four title characters comes up with a name for their private parts. (The third Lady probably wins the creativity prize by naming hers "The Khan of Abu Mansur".note
- I'm a Humanitarian:
- The savage ghoul Sa'adan from "The History of Gharib and His Brother Ajib" likes to eat people. Surprisingly, he keeps doing this even after converting to Islam and serving the hero, Gharib.
- In the "Story of Prince Sayf Al-Muluk and the Princess Badi'A Al-Jamal", the Prince's ship stops at an island that turns out to be full of cannibal ghouls. One slave gets left behind to be dinner. Later the Prince and his party land on yet another cannibal island, where they are kept as slaves.
- Impossible Task
- Ingesting Knowledge: In "The Queen of Serpents", protagonist Hasib acquires all the learning in the world by eating the titular Queen after she is killed.
- Invisibility Cloak: "Hasan of Bassorah" gets ahold of a cap that makes the wearer invisible.
- Iron Lady: With due allowances for limitations by cultural context Scheherazade would qualify quite well for this.
- Jerk Ass:
- Harun al Rashid. His solution for many of the problems he has to face seems to be "execute Jafar along with 40 members of his family."
- Many male genies are this. On a second thought, the female genies too..
- Karma Houdini:
- The Sultan never receives any comeuppance for having a whole bunch of girls executed. He gets to live Happily Ever After with Scheherazade and their children. The Conclusion reveals that his brother has been doing the same thing, and of course nothing happens to him either.
- The guy who chopped up his wife and threw her in a trunk in "The Tale of the Three Apples" because he mistakenly thought she was cheating on him is rewarded with a stipend and a concubine.
- The Evil Vizier in "King Yunan and the Sage Duban." The sage is dead because the vizier convinced the king to kill him, but the king is dead because the sage's book was poisoned. No mention of who becomes king and whether the vizier was punished. It's possible he was if the king had sons who could take the throne; it's just not mentioned. It's just as possible the Vizier became king.
- [invoked] Due to Values Dissonance, this happens many, many times.
- Kissing Cousins: The society of these tales allowed first cousins to marry, so this trope appears regularly.
- Literal Genie
- Long-Lost Relative: At the end of "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan," Zau's son and his family have fallen into the hands of Ruzman, the Christian "King of the Greeks." Ruzman is about to execute the lot of them when he finds out that they are his family; he is the long-lost son of King Omar by Princess Abrizah, who was murdered as she was giving birth.
- Love at First Sight: Many times.
- Lover, Not a Fighter: Nur Al-Din of "Ali Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl" admits to this when Miriam asks him for help in fighting off the army that's pursuing them.
- Made of Plasticine: The son of the Djinni in "The Fisherman and the Jinni": according to his vengeful father, he was hit in the eye by a date seed and died soon afterwards.
- Magical Girlfriend: The young boy's slave girl, who also patronizes him.
- Magic Carpet:
- In the tale of the three princes who each go to seek a marvel, Prince Houssain finds a magic carpet; not a flying carpet, but a teleporting carpet, that will instantly transport itself and whoever is sitting on it wherever they wish to go.
- There's a flying carpet in "The City of Brass", in which it's just another way for King Solomon to get around.
- Make a Wish: Several of the tales
- Mistaken for Gay: In "The Lovers of Bassorah", the lady has a female friend over for the night. When they're in their pajamas and horsing around, her boyfriend walks in and gets the wrong idea.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Which may be why a beautiful female Arab Storyteller gives a Geeky Turn-On.
- Motifs: Recurring motifs are used to bind together several seperate tales into a story cycle.
- Motor Mouth: The Barber from "The Tailor's Tale," called in merely to give a haircut, who will not stop talking, much to the storyteller's displeasure.
- Mystery Arc: The tale of "The Three Apples" is an early story covering most of the tropes associated with this. "The Hunchback's Tale" also covers some of these tropes.
- Start to Corpse: In the tale of "The Three Apples," a dead corpse is discovered near the very beginning of the story, setting up a suspenseful murder mystery. On the other hand, "The Hunchback's Tale," a more humorous murder mystery, the dead corpse doesn't appear until after quite some time into the story.
- Evidence Scavenger Hunt: In "The Three Apples," the caliph Harun al-Rashid, orders the The Good Chancellor, Grand Vizier Jafar ibn Yahya, who gets a Historical Hero Upgrade in this tale, to play the role of a Detective and sends him on a scavenger hunt to solve the murder mystery and bring the culprit to justice.
- Perp Sweating: In "The Three Apples," two potential suspects are interrogated, although the interrogation is only verbal and very mild compared to today's Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
- The Summation: In "The Three Apples," there is a Summation Gathering mid-way through the story. Near the end of the story, Jafar gives the final summation, explaining the truth behind the mystery to Harun.
- Neck Snap: In the "History of Gharib and His Brother Ajib", Gharib does this to a princess who is holding him prisoner and demanding sex.
- Nerves of Steel: Scheherazade. Oh Yeah!
- Nested Story: The Arabian Nights takes this further than most other classical literature by occasionally featuring a story within a story within a story, and sometimes goes up to six or seven layers deep.
- No Ending: Some storytellers throw up their hands and say "I don't even know the rest. But here's an even better story!"
- No Name Given: In older versions, the Three Ladies of Baghdad aren't named.
- No Pronunciation Guide:
- Many characters, especially Sheh-herr-uh-ZAUD. If you have a version with good transliteration in a transliteration system you're familiar with, it's possible to avert this trope. If not, you'll just end up pronouncing Jafar the way they do in Disney's Aladdin and, like everything else in that movie, that isn't accurate.
- In the Burton translation, the girls' names are given as Sharázad and Dunyázad - meaning city-freer and city-saver, according to the footnotes.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: The hunchback.
- Off with His Head!: the penalty for marrying the sultan. Averted in Scheherazade's case.
- Offscreen Inertia: In the Framing Device, the Sultan and his brother are betrayed by their wives at the same time, and decide together to marry a new woman every day and execute her every night. They rule two separate kingdoms. We follow Sharyhar, who at some point marries Scheherazade and is stopped in his mad quest, until 1,000 nights later his soul is healed. But only then does he travel to visit his brother and tell him of how his heart has been healed — reminding us that his brother hasn't stopped killing innocent women.
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier:
- In a tale, a sorceress is seen leaving her house at night and join a ghoul in the cemetery, where they dig out and eat a corpse together.
- In "The Tale of the Prince and the Ogress," a prince encounters a beautiful woman who claims to need help, and accompanies her back to her house, where he discovers she is actually a ghoul planning to feed him to her children.
- Many more examples follow in other stories. Ghouls are usually presented as not supernatural in any way, but just really creepy people who like to eat the dead.
- Padding: Invoked. Various stories have long conversations repeated word for word, minute detail, lengthy titles and epigraphs, overly-flowery answers, and any number of storytelling conventions that suggest a nervous young woman trying to fill time.
- Some translations avert or downplay certain elements of this padding. The translation by Dr. J.C. Mardrus and Powys Mathers usually skips over repetitive content with the phrase, "but nothing would be gained by repeating it here." That's still repetitive in its own right, but takes much less time to get through and comes across as more of a narrative flourish.
- Pegasus: In the "History of Gharib and His Brother Ajib",Gharib and his genie buddy each have a flying horse.
- Personal Raincloud: "The Devotee to Whom Allah Gave a Cloud for Service and the Devout King" has an unusual twist on this trope—the titular devotee has a personal raincloud, but it's a reward for his piety, a permanent water supply for washing and drinking. Definitely a case of Values Dissonance- anyone from an hot, arid climate which experiences frequent droughts immediately relates to the notion of this being a reward of infinite value.
- Plucky Girl: Scheherazade
- Politically Incorrect Villain: King Shahryar is this, technically. The madness caused by his first wife's betrayal made him a misogynist, and Scheherazade's true goal was to cure him. (And she succeeded, ultimately.)
- Raised as the Opposite Gender: One of the stories had a groom reveal to the bride on their wedding night that he was actually a woman raised as a man due to her father putting pressure on her mother for a son.
- Recursive Reality: Scheherazade tells stories of people who tell stories of people who tell stories and so on. For instance, in "The Fisherman and the Genie," the fisherman keeps the genie from killing him by telling it "The Tale of the Vizier and the Sage Duban," during which the evil wazir tells his king "The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot."
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The only good serpent in these tales is a winged one who was later revealed as a Fairy (Female Djinni).
- Ridiculous Procrastinator: Shahryar spends the entire story putting off executing Shahrazad for just one more day.
- Roof Hopping: In "The Tale of Ali Bin Bakkar and of Shams Al-Nahar," Shams Al-Nahar's handmaid and her companions resort to this to escape a band of robbers.
- Sacred Hospitality
- "The Adventures of Bulukiya" gives his origin story.
- In an odd little tale called "Ibrahim of Mosul and the Devil", the Devil shows up at Ibrahim's place in disguise, teaches him a song, and leaves. The End.
- In "Ishak of Mosul and His Mistress and the Devil",the Devil shows up, gets Ishak laid, and leaves.
- Scheherezade Gambit: Trope Namer.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: What the jinni in "The Fisherman and the Jinni" became during his And I Must Scream ordeal. (He had started out as just a Sealed Badass in a Can but ran out of patience).
- Secret Test:
- In "The Hermits," Allah tests a shepherd's piety by sending an angel in the form of a sexy woman to tempt him. He passes.
- In "The Devout Israelite" it's an angel dressed as a beggar to test the Isrealite's charity. He also passes.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
- Some of the tales revolve around self-fulfilling prophecies, such as "The Tale of Attaf" and "The Ruined Man who Became Rich Again through a Dream." The latter used a unique variant of this trope, the self-fulfilling dream, where the prophecy is seen through a dream.
- In the tale of Prince Ahmed and the Peri, Ahmed's father becomes convinced that Ahmed is planning to overthrow him and take his place as Sultan. No such thought ever crosses Prince Ahmed's mind, even as the Sultan tries several increasingly elaborate attempts to be rid of him — the last of which results in the Sultan's death and Prince Ahmed's succession.
- Self-Parody: Sheherezade sometimes follows up a relatively serious tale with a Parody version of the same tale to humorous effect.
- Serial Killer:
- In "The Barber's Tale of His Fifth Brother," said brother runs afoul of an old woman who promises men sexy fun times with a pretty young lady, only to murder them and take their money.
- "Hasan of Bassorah" meets a pagan who likes to kill Muslims.
- Series Continuity Error: At the end of the "Tale of Harun Al-Rashid and the Slave Girl and the Imam Abu Yusuf", the speaker says "So consider thou, O polite reader, the pleasantness of this anecdote...." Apparently the compiler of this particular tale forgot the Framing Device of Scherezade telling stories to her husband.
- Slipping a Mickey:
- In "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan," King Omar drugs Princess Abrizah (his son's girlfriend) and rapes her while she's unconscious. Abrizah's father eventually has King Omar murdered for this.
- This happens many times in other tales.
- Spared by the Adaptation: The Hallmark film spares the 1100 nameless wives that were executed in the source material - as Scheherezade is the first new sultana.
- Soul Jar: The "Story of Prince Sayf Al-Muluk and the Princess Badi'A Al-Jamal" features an evil genie who puts his soul inside a bird which he puts inside a bunch of nested boxes. Luckily, he tells the woman he's holding prisoner where he put the Soul Jar, and luckily, Prince Sayf has a special ring which allows him to find the Jar.
- The Storyteller: Scherezade herself, as well as many of the characters in her stories about other people telling stories and them telling stories about people telling stories.
- Surprise Incest: In "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan," Sharrkan unknowingly marries his long-lost sister Nuzhat. They have a daughter together before Sharrkan figures this out and fobs his sister-wife off on one of his courtiers. And then they win some kind of incest prize when said daughter later knowingly marries her double cousin, son of Nuzhat and Sharrkan's brother Zau Al-Makan. It's kind of just...not mentioned that they're so heavily related.
- Sweet Polly Oliver:
- In the "Tale of Kamar Al-Zaman," the princess Budur disguises herself as a man to go find her husband Kamar when he disappears. She winds up blundering into marriage with another princess.
- A very similar scenario occurs in "Ali Shar And Zumurrud", in which Zumurrud dresses as a man to escape a band of rapists and winds up being made king.
- Miriam of "Ali Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl" kills a sea captain, disguises herself as a man, and takes his ship in order to escape with her lover Nur Al-Din.
- Jamilah of "Ibrahim and Jamilah" also does this to escape a palace guard and meet up with her boyfriend.
- Talking in Bed
- Taken for Granite:
- In "The Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince" said prince is turned into a stone from the waist down.
- In "The Eldest Lady's Tale" a whole city of pagans is turned into stone statues by Allah, and also all those who turn around on their way to the Talking Bird gets turned into black stones.
- Abdullah of "Abdullah Bin Fazil and His Brothers" finds another city of pagans that got turned to stone by Allah.
- Thieving Magpie: "The Stolen Necklace" is actually stolen by a magpie, but a holy woman is unjustly accused.
- Title Drop: At the very beginning and again at the very end.
- Together in Death: In "The Lovers of the Banu Uzrah", after the female lover is eaten by a lion, her boyfriend dies of grief and, per his request, they are buried together.
- Three-Way Sex: Played for comedy in "Harun Al-Rashid and the Two Slave-Girls" and its follow-up "Harun Al-Rashid and the Three Slave-Girls",
- Three Wishes: "The Three Wishes, Or the Man Who Longed to See the Night of Power". Unsurprisingly, the man botches his wishes badly.
- Treacherous Advisor: The Grand Vizier Jafar ibn Yahya is depicted like this in a few tales, though this is contradicted by a few other tales that depict him as The Good Chancellor.
- Unreliable Narrator: This literary device of the unreliable narrator is used in several tales, to create suspense in "The Seven Viziers" (also known as "Craft and Malice of Women" or "The Tale of the King, His Son, His Concubine and the Seven Wazirs") and "The Three Apples," and to create humor in "The Hunchback's Tale."
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: "The Tale of the Jewish Doctor" — "she took out from the bosom of her shift fifteen dinars...."
- In "Ali Shar And Zumurrud", Zumruud the slave wants Ali to buy her, but he's broke, so she pulls a purse with a thousand dinars out of her Compartment and gives it to him.
- Villain Protagonist: This occasionally applies to the historical figures of Caliph Harun al-Rashid and Grand Vizier Jafar ibn Yahya in some tales, where one is a Historical Hero Upgrade and the other a Historical Villain Upgrade, and vice versa in some other tales.
- Walk on Water: "The Adventures of Bulukiya" features the title character and a friend finding a plant, the juice of which allows them to walk on water when applied to the feet.
- Where Da White Women At?: King Shahrayar snaps and goes on his virgin-killing spree after finding his wife in the arms of a "blackamoor" slave. Other tales within the Nights repeat this trope.
- Wicked Witch: Zat al-Dawahi in "The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu’uman, and his sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan" the evil old Christian crone who is a Master Poisoner and a Depraved Homosexual to boot.
- Wish Fulfillment: What would a laid back, quiet, coffeehouse storyteller want more in a wife but a beautiful princess who could exchange stories with him?
- Writers Cannot Do Math: The frame story is set at an earlier time than many of the stories that it's framing.
- Women Are Wiser: Whenever someone suffers a Baleful Polymorph, the first person to figure it out is always a woman who was raised by an old lady who taught her witchcraft.
- Would Hit a Girl: Depressingly common theme throughout the Nights. Does your wife backtalk you? Smack her around. Did your wife cheat on you? Kill her, and get a new one. Somewhat tempered by the prevalence of strong female characters, including Scheherazade herself, and that in the Crapsack World of the stories women seem equally likely to assault, maim, and kill their male cohorts.
- Youngest Child Wins: The Three Brothers
- Your Cheating Heart: Faithless wives cheat on their husbands all the time, starting with the Framing Device and repeated many times in the tales.