When the Arabian Nights come alive...

What hasn’t, is the core: the fascinating stories of Scherazade. In Anushka Ravishankar’s ‘The Storyteller’, Scherazade hatches a plan to stop King Schariar from killing a wife every morning.

Such behaviour in those days was common, because ‘people were not too bothered by death and and killing’. Off with her head, was in vogue. Scherazade’s father, the Chief Minister, alarmed, cautions his daughter who is set to marry the king. She tells him not to worry for she’s no donkey, it’s that ‘ass of a king’ who needs to learn a lesson. Her sister Dinarazade helps her carry out her plan to save the lives of many girls.

Clever, beautiful Scherazade tells King Schariar a story every night. And stops when there is no stop in the tale. So the king is dying to hear the next part and the next. The Royal Executioner is ready each morning with his sharpened axe. But no head rolls. The stories are just too engrossing. The king asks his wife to continue the story each day. 

The Fisherman and the Djinn is about a fisherman who has a strange rule – when he goes fishing he always casts his net four times. One day he finds a jar in his net. And a troublesome djinn.

Ali Baba and the Bandits’ Cave is an intriguing tale about two brothers Kasim and Ali Baba. Ali Baba has the habit of having conversations with himself.  Saying ‘Open Simsim’ he enters the bandits’ cave full of treasures. His adventures will leave you saying, like Schariar, ‘What next’?

In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Marjane’s wisdom helps Ali Baba. Most of the women in the tales have ‘a pinch of brain that’s better than a sack of brawn’. The Diamond and the Anklet is about three sisters. Shahin, one of them, is young and generous. She finds a magic pot and a prince who marries her when he sees her wearing the ‘teeniest tiniest anklet ever worn by woman’.

The Blind Man’s Tale has an interesting dervish and The Case of Ali Khwaja and the Jar of Olives has an interesting ending. The storyteller’s spell is on you now. There’s no moving away. You are right in the middle of it all, waiting like Schariar, for the next story. You don’t even mind if the moon is shining outside your window. For the djinns are calling, you hear the thundering of horses’ hooves. Now what was that? It must be a bandit saying ‘Close Simsim’.

Writer Anushka Ravishankar’s style carries you along with the story, with zest and humour. But you’ll surely want to find out for  yourself!

The Storyteller: Tales from the Arabian Nights
By Anushka Ravishankar
Illustrated by Harshvardhan Kadam. A Puffin Original Rs 199

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