My wife wanted to teach 1001 Arabian Nights without the difficulty of language or most of the back story because they are a bit young for all the details. I used a couple of translations in order to create a simplified version for her 8th grade class. Since it's basically fan fiction, I'll offer it up on this website for any teacher looking to use an easier and cleaner version of the stories.

 

1001 Arabian Nights

Introduction

 

King Shahrayer (Ray) was betrayed by his wife, so he decided to marry a new wife each day and then have her executed the next morning. This went on for two years, and people in King Ray’s land were very upset, worried for themselves and their daughters.  A young woman named Shahrazad (Shari) decided that she would try to survive as the king’s wife in order to save other young women and the kingdom itself.

 

Shari’s father was King Ray’s advisor, and he was also in charge of executing the king’s wife each morning. The only positive aspect of this man’s job was that he was able to protect his own daughters, Shari and Dinarzad (Dina). He said to his daughter, “You are a fool if you think you can marry the king and change his ways. He has sworn an oath that he will marry each woman for one night and then have her killed the next day. I have found for him the most beautiful, most intelligent, youngest, oldest, funniest, quietest, and best girls in the entire kingdom, and not one of them have survived a second night.”

 

“But, Father,” Shari replied. “All of these others either did not know their fate or were fearful of their fate. I will either succeed in saving the people or die like all the rest, but it is my decision and my turn. Besides, I have a plan.” Shari’s father did not believe any amount of confidence or sense of duty would save her, but he did know his daughter to be excellent at getting her way. He was sad that he would have to execute such a fine daughter the next morning, but he did as she asked.

 

Without fanfare, King Ray and Queen Shari were married, with the expectation that Shari would have to be put to death by her own father (the king’s advisor) the very next day. Well into the evening of their wedding night, Shari sent for her sister Dina. King Ray, as had become his routine, was planning on having Shari executed in the morning, so he allowed Dina to come in so that the sisters could say their farewells.

 

Shari and Dina had a plan that they hoped would keep Shari alive for more than one night, so when Dina came into the bedroom, she asked her sister the following: “Shari, will you tell one of your stories that our family loves to hear, one last time, in order to pass the night?”

 

“My king, may I tell you a story as this night passes into day?” Shari asked her husband.

 

“By all means, tell your story. But do not beg for your life or attempt to persuade me to grant your freedom, for you will die in the morning.” The king had heard plenty of arguments and weeping, but no wife had yet to sway him away from his daily custom. Shari said, “With pleasure, my dear King. Now, listen.”






The First Night

 

The Story of the Merchant and the Demon

 

A wealthy merchant with a large family was traveling to another country on vacation. He filled his saddlebag with bread and dates for the journey, and he rode his horse for many days. He spent several days sightseeing in this new country, and then he headed back home.

 

The merchant decided to stop near an orchard of trees in order to rest and sit in the shade. He sat next to a creek under a walnut tree, and he reached into his saddlebag for a loaf of bread and a handful of dates. As he ate the dates, he threw the pits onto the ground beside him.

 

Just as the merchant was finishing his meal, a giant demon appeared beside him. The demon stood taller than the walnut tree and held a sword in one hand. “Stand up so that I may kill you, as you have killed my son!” said the demon. The merchant was terrified of the demon. “What is my crime for which you would kill me?” “You killed my son,” said the demon.  “Who has killed your son?” asked the merchant. “You!” repeated the demon.

 

“I did not kill your son. How and when could this have happened?” The merchant had never done harm to another, so he was confused. “Did you not sit right here and eat a handful of dates, throwing the pits all around?” asked the demon.  “Yes, I did,” admitted the merchant. “My son was walking by, right down there, as you threw those pits. He was struck and killed by one, so now I must kill you,” argued the demon.

 

The merchant begged for his life. “If I killed your son, I did it by mistake. Please forgive me. “I must kill you, as you killed my son.” The demon grabbed the merchant and threw him to the ground, raising his sword. The merchant began to weep because he thought of his wife and children. The demon hesitated, so the merchant began reciting a rhyme he’d learned.

“Life is made up of two days

One, happiness, never stays

The second, worry, will win at last

As we regret what we’ve done in the past.

The end is like a thief in the night

Creeping in and taking life with no fight.”

 

The demon was not moved by the merchant’s wailing. “By God, I must kill you, just as you killed my son, even if you were to weep blood.” “Must you?” asked the merchant. “I must,” said the demon, and he again raised his sword to strike the merchant.

 

Now the sun was coming up, and Shari remained silent. King Ray was burning with curiosity as to the outcome of the story. Dina said to her sister, “What a wonderful story!” To this, Shari replied, “That is nothing compared to what I will tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and allows me to live. Tomorrow’s story will be even better!”

 

The king decided that he would spare Shari so that he could hear the rest of the story. He would then have her killed when she finished telling her tale. The king left without a word, but he did not command Shari’s father to have her put to death.

 

Late that evening, when it was time for bed, the king found Shari and Dina waiting for him in his room. Dina said to her sister, “Shari, will you tell one of your stories that our family loves to hear, one last time, in order to pass the night?” To this, the king added, “Let this story be the conclusion of the demon and the merchant. I would like to hear it.” Shari said, “With pleasure, my dear King. Now, listen.”



The Second Night

“Wait!” said the merchant to the demon, whose sword was raised and ready to strike. “Would you please give me time to travel home to say goodbye to my family and divide my property among those I love? I will then come back and you can kill me.” The demon paused and said, “I do not believe you will return here if I allow you to return to your family.” “I swear my oath to God that I will return,” said the merchant. The demon, knowing that he must kill the merchant but also that the merchant did not mean to kill his son, considered granting the man some time. “How much time would you need?” asked the demon. “One year,” replied the merchant. “With a year, I would be able to spend time with my family and take care of my obligations to others.” The demon asked, “Do you swear to God that if I let you go you will return one year from this day?” “Yes, I swear to God,” said the merchant.

 

The demon allowed the merchant to return to his house, and the merchant rode home as fast as he could to see his family. The merchant’s wife and children greeted him with happy faces, but they were surprised to see him frowning as he hugged them. “Why do you frown and cry when you should be delighted to see your family?” asked the merchant’s wife. He replied, “I am glad to see you, but I mourn for myself, for I will be dead in one year’s time.” The merchant then explained his encounter with the demon and the deal he had made to return in one year to be killed.

 

The merchant’s wife begged the merchant to stay, but he told her that he had sworn an oath to God. He spent time with his children, made out a will, paid off his debts, and prepared himself for his own death. When nearly a year had passed, it was time for the merchant to return to the place where he had sat for his lunch in order to face his fate. His sons tried to hold onto their father, his daughters cried, and his wife wailed hysterically. At this, the merchant himself, who had tried to hold himself together, also began to weep. Since he had given his solemn word, the man hugged his family, mounted his horse, and rode to the place where he’d eaten the dates.

 

As the merchant awaited the demon, an old man, who was leading a deer on a leash, came up beside him and inquired, “Why do you sit here in this orchard, which is known as a place of demons and devils?” The merchant replied, “I am from another land, and I did not know this was such a place.” The merchant then recounted his story of how he had killed the demon’s son and vowed to return one year later in order to be put to death. The old man was amazed at the merchant’s story, saying, “I will not leave until I see what has happened to you.”

 

As the merchant and the old man waited, a second old man, along with two black hounds, approached. He, too, was amazed by the story, and he said, “I will not leave until I see what has happened to you.”

 

Before the demon appeared, a third old man, carrying a sack of rotten figs, approached. This man was amazed by the story of the merchant and the demon, and he said, “I will not leave until I see what has happened to you.”

 

As the four men talked...

 

Now the sun was coming up, and Shari remained silent. King Ray was burning with curiosity as to the outcome of the story. Dina said to her sister, “What a wonderful story!” To this, Shari replied, “That is nothing compared to what I will tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and allows me to live. Tomorrow’s story will be even better!”

 

Later in the stories that Shari tells King Ray, the first old man offers to tell the story about why he travels with a deer on a leash in order to help the merchant escape the demon. The second old man tells the story of his black hounds, and so on, each story leading into another, for 1001 nights, at which point King Ray decides he will not have Queen Shari executed.

 

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