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Tales from the Thousand And One Nights
(The Arabian Nights; 1001 Nights)
(Kitab Hadith Alf Layla, Alf laylah wa laylah, etc.)
Outline by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 2003

Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the Penguin 1973 edition (Tales from the Thousand And One Nights) translated by N. J. Dawood 1954, revised 1973.

Overall Impression: This large and heterogeneous collection consists of clever stories, fables, fairy tales, romances, legends, parables, anecdotes, morality tales, adventure stories, bawdry, etc. The earliest extant manuscript fragment, the so-called Abbott fragment, dates to the 9th Century, but the tales have Indian, Persian, and Arabic roots probably going back much further, perhaps to the era of the Sassanid kings predating the rise of Islam.  While quite uneven in quality and at times unpolished, crude, cruel, or politically incorrect, the stories offer a great deal of entertainment as well as detailed and uncensored glimpses of medieval Arabic life.  They have been the inspiration for many works of art through the centuries, including other stories, novels, poetry, plays, movies, symphonic works, operas, ballets, etc.  The Dawood edition is a much-abbreviated excerpt of much larger versions.  (See, for instance, the Richard Burton 16-volume The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night, a translation of the Calcutta II edition.)

Outline of Tales Included in the Dawood Edition

Prologue: The Tale of King Shahriyar and his Brother Shahzaman

This is the frame story.  The Vizier's daughter, Sharazad, volunteers to entertain and distract the cruel Sassanid king, King Shahriyar, by telling him stories.  She drags these out over 1001 nights, in order to prevent him from killing more of the virgins of  the realm (a rampage he began after killing his wife for adultery).

The Fable of the Donkey, the Ox, and the Farmer

The Tale of the Hunchback (a clever sequence of nested tales involving an unwanted corpse)

The Tailor's Tale

The Tale of the Lame Young Man and the Barber of Baghdad

A young man loves the Cadi's daughter.

The Barber's Tale

The talkative barber tells how he came to care for his brothers.

The Tale of Bakbook, the Barber's First Brother

The cunning cruelty of women.

The Tale of Al-Haddar, the Barber's Second Brother

A cruel trick is played by a woman.

The Tale of Bakbak, the Barber's Third Brother

The Tale of Al-Kuz, the Barber's Fourth Brother

The Tale of Al-Ashar, the Barber's Fifth Brother

The Tale of Shakashik, the Barber's Sixth Brother

The Donkey

Tricksters steal a simpleton's donkey.

The Fisherman and the Jinnee (the fisherman frees a cruel Jinnee from a bottle, and tells his stories)

The Tale of King Yunan and Duban the Doctor

The doctor cures King Yunan, but his Vizier is jealous and plots his death.

The Tale of King Sindbad and the Falcon

The murdered doctor takes vengeance on the king.  The Jinnee provides fish.

The Tale of the Enchanted King

The king's wife is unfaithful.

The Young Woman and Her Five Lovers

A clever adulteress foils the plans of 5 would-be seducers.

Sindbad the Sailor and Sindbad the Porter (Sindbad recounts his fantastic voyages to a porter of the same name)

The First Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

A giant whale, King Mahrajan and his mares.

The Second Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

The egg of the roc, diamonds, the karkadan.

The Third Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

Ape-like savages, a giant like Polyphemus eats the crew, a serpent.

The Fourth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

Cannibals; he marries, the Cavern of the Dead.

The Fifth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

The Old Man of the Sea, gathering coconuts using apes.

The Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

Another shipwreck, the underground river, jewels.

The Last Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor

Whale attack, marries again, flying men, brothers of Satan.

The Historic Fart

Abu Hasan's embarrassing episode will not be forgotten.

Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp

The poor tailor wins the magic lamp and the Chinese Sultan's daughter despite the evil designs of the Moorish sorcerer.

The Tale of Kafur the Black Eunuch

Kafur wreaks havoc with the one lie a year he is compelled to tell.

The Porter and the Three Girls of Baghdad

A porter is attracted to 3 seductive half-sisters who live together.

The Tale of the First Dervish

His cousin loved his half-sister; the Vizier put out the dervish's eye.

The Tale of the Second Dervish

A Jinnee punishes him for sleeping with the woman he abducted.

The Tale of the Third Dervish

Shipwrecked, he kills a boy...

The Tale of the First Girl

How her 2 full sisters were turned by a jinniyah into bitches which she must whip daily.

The Tale of the Second Girl

She is beaten after being made to appear unfaithful.

The Tale of Khalifah the Fisherman

He catches an ape, later magic fishes, rescues the favorite wife of the Caliph...

The Dream

A poor merchant finds treasure through his dream.

The Tale of Judar and His Brothers

Judar, the youngest brother, is cruelly treated by his brothers.

The Tale of Ma'aruf the Cobbler

A jinnee helps him get away from his shrewish wife and win a princess and great riches.


Sharazad has had 3 sons by the King.  He spares her life and repents his murderous ways.