Literature: Sinbad the Sailor

Sinbad the Sailor is an outcome report about a venture capitalist who goes on seven high risk business ventures to open new trade routes to oversea markets, only to have unforeseen complications create areas of opportunity for his negotiating skills to create mutually beneficial outcomes.

Or at least, that would be the modern interpretation of Sinbad. This middle eastern fable is a collection of stories told in a manner similar to the Thousand And One Nights; Sinbad the Porter stops to rest outside the mansion of Sinbad the merchant, and laments that for chance he missed out on the amazing riches of the latter, which he won very easily. However, who should hear him but Sinbad the Sailor? Rather than be angry at his jealousy, he invites the porter to sup with him and regales him for seven consecutive nights with the tales of his fortunes and misfortunes, adventures and perils, giving him a hundred gold coins at the end of each.

The tales of Sinbad the Sailor were originally independent of the Thousand and One Nights. Antoine Galland added Sinbad to the "Nights" when compiling his 18th century French translation, which was the first translation into any European language and which introduced the Nights to European culture. The "Sinbad" stories have since become closely associated with the Thousand and One Nights and are usually included in Nights translations. The original Arabic name is most closely transliterated as "Sindbad"; this is how it's spelled in the famous Richard Burton translation and the 2008 Lyons translation. Note that there are two radically different versions of Sinbad's seventh voyage (one where he spends a long period in a city of intermittently winged men, the other where he's enslaved and encounters an Elephants' Graveyard); some translations include both.

Despite being commonly called "the Sailor," Sinbad is a merchant and a ship-owner, and has adventures in places reached by sailing, but is not himself a sailor of any sort; at most, he occasionally improvises rafts for emergency travel. Some translations call him something like "Sindbad of the Sea", which might be more accurate.

Sinbad has proven a popular figure in the cinema and on TV, where, however, his adventures have generally had little connection with his original 1,001 Nights version.

Not to be confused with Popeye The Sailor, though they did "costar" together in Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor.

Tropes used in the Seven Voyages:

  • Aesop Amnesia: Whenever Sinbad gets in a really bad spot on one of his journeys he regrets leaving home and wishes he hadn't taken a risky sea voyage. After he finally does get home, he gets bored and winds up going to sea again.
  • Arabian Nights Days: The baseline setting.
  • City of Gold: Sinbad gets to visit some very wealthy kingdoms, though none of them really hit the peak version of the trope.
  • Disproportionate Reward: Perhaps filtered by Values Dissonance, but the rich kings and caliphs in Sinbad's tale do seem to enjoy lavishing him with presents and riches just for being an interesting guy. They may be flaunting their wealth to a foreigner there, of course.
  • Doom Magnet: Sindbad is unlucky, very unlucky. However, his crews tend to be a lot unluckier — at least Sindbad always survives. Most of the stories end with him the sole survivor of some terrible cataclysm, or begin that way. Then it gets worse. Then he got rich(er). Then he goes out on more adventures and does it again!
  • Dwindling Party: Sinbad tends to be the lone survivor of a lot of his tales.
  • Framing Device: Sinbad tells his stories to Sinbad the Porter over several dinners.
  • Guile Hero: Only rarely does Sinbad ever need to use violence to escape his predicaments.
  • The Homeward Journey: Every time he goes off on an adventure, Sinbad eventually gets homesick and looks for a ship heading back to Baghdad.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Sinbad's schtick. He does seem to have a gift for trading.
  • Non-Action Guy: Despite the habit of portaying him as a swashbuckling hero in modern times (just look at the page image), like a lot of 1001 Nights heroes Sindbad was more of an explorer and businessman than a fighter and primarily used his cunning to find was to avoid conflict. When he was forced to fight it was always as a last resort, he wasn't particularly good at it, he rarely did so in a very action packed or heroic way - typically, he would spring upon his enemies when they were vulnerable and beat them down before they could react.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Sinbad is a lot like Scrooge McDuck, ambitious (but not evil, Values Dissonance not withstanding) and out to make a buck. In fact, by the end he's one of the richest men in Baghdad.
  • One Steve Limit: Notably averted when Sinbad the Porter attracts the attention of Sinbad the Sailor, who proceeds to tell the porter of his seven voyages.
  • Sole Survivor: Often Sinbad's status by the mid-point of a story.
  • Walking the Earth: Well, more like sailing the ocean, but still.

Tropes used in the First Voyage:

  • That's No Moon!: The sailors mistake the giant sea creature for an island.
  • Turtle Island: The sleeping giant whale/fish has a forest growing on it.

Tropes used in the Second Voyage:

Tropes used in the Third Voyage:

  • Eye Scream: Sinbad and the other sailors blind the giant with two red-hot iron spits with which the monster has been kebabing and roasting the ship's company.
  • Giant Mook: The giant.
  • Go for the Eye: The way to take out something that's basically too big to kill.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Mmm. Mmm. Sailors!

Tropes used in the Fourth Voyage:

  • Captured by Cannibals: Sinbad just keeps walking into this sort of thing, doesn't he?
  • Grave Robbing/Serial Killer: After escaping from the tombs, Sinbad periodically returns, murders whoever else was thrown in there alive, and takes their stuff.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Well, plain old "Lotuses" anyway. The cannibals make their other captives docile with an herb to fatten them up.
  • Together in Death: The bad kind. The kingdom has a custom that when one member of a married couple dies, the spouse will be entombed with them.

Tropes used in the Fifth Voyage:

Tropes used in the Sixth Voyage:

Tropes used in the Seventh Voyage:

  • Elephants' Graveyard: Sinbad finds one in the variant version.
  • Made a Slave: In the variant version.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The inhabitants of the distant city where Sinbad settles for a while turn out to be demons, or at least demon-worshipers.
  • Revised Ending: Some versions, such as Burton and Lyons, include the alternate version in which the Caliph sends Sinbad back to Serendib bearing gifts — in effect, an eighth voyage, especially once things go wrong for Sinbad yet again.
  • Sea Monster: The enormous fish that threaten Sinbad's ship.
  • Shapeshifting: The demons/demon-worshippers change form and grow wings once a month.

Works Featuring Sinbad (Sometimes In Name Only) Include:

Alternative Title(s):

Sinbad The Sailor