One Thousand and One Nights is one of the most famous collections of stories and is famed piece of literature from the Arab land. In order to understand the context in which the stories are narrated, one must look at the setting. There was once a King named Shahriyar. The King was subject to infidelity by his wife and from then on, he entrusted his Vizier to get him a virgin, whom he would marry and who would be executed the next morning. This continued until no more virgins could be found in the kingdom.
Finally, Shaharazade, the daughter of the Vizier had to be given in hand to the King. The shrewd Shahrazade escapes the execution by starting a story every night so that the King has to postpone the execution. She continues the story the next night and then immediately starts off another one! In this context, we discuss one of the stories related by Shaharazade. The story is that of the Husband and the Parrot. There was a merchant who was exceptionally possessive and jealous, since he had a wife of perfect beauty. He never left her alone. Once, it so happens that he is forced to travel.
In order to make up for his absence and quench his bouts of suspicion, he buys a parrot and leaves it at home. On his return, the parrot narrates that his wife was being unfaithful. On hearing this, he thrashes his wife. Later, the wife plans and asks the women in the house to bring a hand-mill under the cage, a water sprinkler and a mirror. This causes the parrot to believe there is an earthquake and the parrot says so to its master, who finds it hard to believe since it is summer. This leads him to believe that the parrot lied earlier. He kills the parrot.
He later gets to know of his wife’s infidelity and then repents for his hastiness. This story in some ways, is symbolic of the relation between Shahriyar and Shaharazade. The mistrust from the King’s side is symbolized in the mistrust of the merchant. The manner in which the King misjudges all women from the experience of his infidel wife, is symbolized by the manner in which the merchant mistrusts the parrot blindly after he construes that the parrot had lied. In addition to this, the manner in which the parrot was faithful even though it was mistrusted later, is symbolic of Shaharazade’s position.
The story, in short, reveals the sheer lack of love, commitment and trust that Shaharazade perceived in her relationship with the King. The story could, hence, be said to provide some wise insight to the King. The epilogue suggests that she did succeed indeed, since the King falls in love with her and pardons her from being executed.
REFERENCES • Notes provided • Stories from Thousand and one nights (the Arabian nights’ entertainments), translated by Edward William Lane; revised by Stanley Lane-Poole, The Harvard classics, edited by Charles W. Eliot, New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909–14, Vol. 16, of 51.