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Arabian Nights Essay

In The Arabian Nights, a collection of Arabic folktales, Shahrazad uses the “˜Chinese box effect’ to connect her stories to one another in order to continue telling the story to King Shahrayar. The tale of the Husband and the parrot has number of tales that are related to each other tales and to the original story in many complex ways. The subtales of The Story of the Fisherman and the Demon focus on a particular theme, trust, with relations between the characters and the analogy of the situations. A close reading of The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot reveals this particular tale told by King Yunan to the vizier is placed in the book particularly to increase the importance of trust. By linking the tragic death of King Yunan to his distrustful action, Shrazad ultimately tries to convince King Shahrayar to make the right decision: not to kill Sharazad herself and other women.

The tale makes an analogy with the tale of the King Yunan and the sage Duban. It parallels the king to the husband and the sage to the parrot. The parrot appears as “intelligent, knowledgeable, smart and retentive,” (p. 41) just like the sage is described in the story. By listing these adjectives about the parrot, the king emphasizes the parrot is a trustworthy bird that should not be killed. On the other hand, the king thinks the wife, who is “splendidly beautiful that she was perfect itself” (p. 41) and does not let her husband travel and leave her behind, should not be trusted. King Yunan suggests that the vizier is playing a trick on him like the husband “had been tricked by his wife” (p. 42). The effect of this clear analogy between the tales is that it leads the readers to expect the king not to kill the sage because “the same thing will happen,” (p. 42) meaning that the king will have regrets if he kills the sage.

The purpose of this particular tale is to strongly advise the virtue of trust. Against expectation, King Yunan kills the sage just like the husband killed the parrot in The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot. In both cases, the main characters regret what they have done. King Yunan does not take his own advice: “Don’t do what you will regret afterward” (p.41). Instead he kills the sage, which he regrets afterwards which destroys the expected ending of the tale. Then, the readers start to wonder what significance this one-page tale has in The Story of the Fisherman and the Demon. As the tale of the King Yunan and the sage Duban proceeds, the significance of the tale of the husband and the parrot becomes clear.

As a result of King Yunan mistrusting the sage and lacking the confidence in his belief, the king dies of a tragic death. By presenting this tragedy of the king who made the wrong choice by trusting the jealous vizier, the story emphasizes the importance of making a morally correct decision and having a faith in it. If the tale of the husband and the parrot had not been in the story, the king would not have had the choice that was morally right and therefore would not have shown his indecisive nature. The existence of the correct decision that the king should have made causes the death of the king to be more tragic which reveals a stronger message to trust in others that have good conscience and believe in oneself.

Another role of the Tale of the Husband and the Parrot involves its purpose to the original situation of Shahrazad and the king. The king has a big difficulty in trusting women due to his wife’s unfaithfulness, like the husband’s distrust of the parrot and the King’s distrust of the sage in the tales. The main goal of Sharazad is to convince the king to make the decision with his good conscience not to kill the women he mistrusts. She suggests that the king should “not do what he will regret afterward,” because “the same thing will happen to” him (p. 41) as did to the husband and King Yunan. The tale of the King Yunan and the Sage Duban is used as Sharazad’s prophecy that applies to the king Shahrayar if he determines not to trust her. The tragedy teaches King Shahrayar a strong lesson of the faith in moral judgment and the trust in people with good conscience.

The amazing influence of the “˜chinese box effect’ in the whole book can be well observed in the Tale of the Husband and the Parrot. The fact that this tale does not influence King Yunan’s decision of the sage enhances the misfortune hence making the theme of the whole story even stronger. The close relation of characters in the sub-tales allows the advice of the tale to affect the characters in all of the tales as well as the ultimate target of Sharazad’s persuasion, King Shahrayar. Sharazad influences King Shahrayar’s decision upon trusting women and his morality in the process of telling stories that are related to the theme, trust.


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