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Literature: The Sheik
The Sheik is a (by modern standards) rather horrifying novel written in 1919 by a woman named Edith Maude "E.M." Hull. A rather less horrifying movie was made in 1920, starring Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres.

Diana Mayo, an independent, strong-willed young English noblewoman, undertakes a solo exploratory trip through the desert, only to be captured by Ahmed Ben Hassan, an Arab Sheik. Said Sheik proceeds to rape her on a more or less daily basis for around a month, giving her a (somewhat) accurate case of PTSD.

She finally manages to escape, only to get caught and brought back to the camp, and while she's alone in the desert she abruptly realizes she's fallen in love with her captor, which also cures her of her "unnatural" coldness and lack of femininity.

Eventually, after she's been kidnapped and rescued, the Sheik realizes he's in love with her too, which makes him want to send her away so he won't hurt her anymore. The only thing that convinces him to allow her to stay is the fact that she tries to shoot herself in the head.

In The Movie, thanks to the Moral Guardians of the time, the actual rape doesn't happen. As it's in the public domain it can be read here.

Not related to Sheik at all.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Even more so in the book.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Take a shot every time you run across the words "boyish", "savage", "slim", "brutal", and "mutinous".
  • Bastard Boyfriend: The eponymous Sheik.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Diana only falls for the Sheik after he's "tamed" her and basically proved she'll never be as strong as him so she might as well not try.
  • Break the Cutie: The original point behind the Sheik's abduction and rape of Diana.
  • Damsel in Distress: Diana turns into one of these.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Diana.
  • Exposition Bomb: The first two paragraphs of the story.
  • Faux Action Girl: Diana, who can supposedly ride and shoot and otherwise hold her own in a brawl, appears to only actually be able to ride a horse.
    • She does take part in a shootout at the end of the film.
  • Faux Interracial Relationship: Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan isn't Arab after all.
  • First Father Wins/Thicker Than Water: Averted with the Sheik's biological father. One of the few cases in the literature of the time where the abusive husband's eventual change-of-heart does not result in reconciliation, and he has to forever live with the consequences of his actions. Including that his son wishes to have nothing to do with him, and develops a complete hatred for all the English, showing reverence only towards his adoptive Arab father.
  • Going Native: The Sheik.
  • Gossipy Hens: The older British women at the start of The Sheik who do not approve of Diana's "madcap" plan to travel alone in the desert.
  • Happily Adopted: The Sheik.
  • Happily Married: The aged Sheik and Diana in the sequel.
  • Heel Realization: The Sheik eventually comes to regret what he has done to Diana.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: For a given value of hero, anyway.
  • Hollywood Genetics: A white English man and a Spanish noblewoman with very distant Moorish ancestry produce a son who can pass for 100% Arab.
  • Hot Guys Are Bastards: The Sheik is repeatedly described as handsome, and he's definitely a bastard.
  • Interrupted Suicide: When the Sheik tells Diana he is sending her away to make sure he can't hurt her again, she tries to shoot herself in the head with his pistol. This is what convinces him to let her stay with him, though he warns her she might come to regret it.
  • Karma Houdini: The Sheik never pays for what he does for Diana. The worst that happens to him is being called out by his best friend over it, and being injured in a fight with his hereditary enemy.
  • A Taste of the Lash: In "The Son of the Sheik" the sheik's tied-up, bare-chested son is subjected to a prolonged whipping by a rival sheik who creepily calls him "My young lion." His rape of Yasmin is presented as revenge for this whipping as he wrongly believes she is responsible.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Movie. Many of the more disturbing aspects, namely the rape, are left out of the film (though not in the sequel).
  • Lima Syndrome: The Sheik winds up with this for Diana. After he's tortured her for around a month, he starts wondering why her pain gives him no satisfaction. 'Guilt' isn't a word that figures into his vocabulary until much later.
  • Love Martyr: Diana becomes this, enduring all the Sheik's physical and emotional abuse yet not wanting to imagine a life without him, and she means it, too.
  • MST: S. J. Perelman mocks this book in his comedic essay "Cloudland Revisited: Into Your Tent I'll Creep," focusing on the Purple Prose and Cliché Storm.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Sheik after Raoul has talked some sense into him regarding his abuse of Diana.
  • Near-Rape Experience: In the movie, the Sheik catches Diana crying and praying in the tent and realizes he can't go through with it.
  • Pass Fail: Sort of. The Reveal is that the Sheik isn't actually Arab at all, but is so disgusted by his English heritage he'd rather pretend he was an Arab.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Sheik's mother leaves his father because he's an abusive drunk, then dies when he's two years old, leaving him the adopted heir to the former Sheik.
  • Promotion to Parent: Diana's older brother Aubrey became her guardian after her mother died in childbirth and her father committed suicide. The fact that he raised her as he would a boy is said to contribute to her "unnatural coldness" and lack of feminine feeling.
  • Purple Prose: Especially towards the second half of the book.
  • Rape Is Love: Of course.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: Less obvious than the above, but the implication is still there.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Diana feels this way at the beginning of the story; considering nearly every man in the book was in love with her and she regularly had to give Better as Friends speeches to her unlucky childhood friends, it's not surprising in the least.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The Sheik's entire motivation for kidnapping Diana was the fact that he'd seen her for about five minutes in the nearby city and thought she was hot. He sneaks into her room at night to replace the bullets in her gun with blanks, then pays her guides to lead her right to him, following her caravan the entire time.
  • Translation Convention: The characters are actually speaking French in the majority of the story, and some French expressions ("Bon dieu!") are peppered in the dialog. The Sheik can actually speak perfect English, but refuses to do so due to his hatred of his biological father.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Aubrey.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Sheik's French friend Raoul, when he comes to visit the camp, is quite appalled and calls the Sheik out on this, literally saying "This is unworthy of you, Ahmed." Not that this stops him.
    • Sheik Amhed gives a similar speech to his son in the sequel when he learns he has kidnapped and raped a young dancer out of revenge. Clearly he has mellowed.
  • Wicked Cultured/Cultured Warrior: Diana's initial impression of the Sheik after her abduction and rape. She sees that he is multilingual and has an extensive library of French literature in his home.

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alternative title(s): The Sheik
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