The Arabian Nights take its readers on an exciting, even though slightly morbid, journey of an endless tale that serves as the main salvation for a woman who faces the threat of constant impending doom. The cunning and resourcefulness of the main character, who also doubles as the narrator, are at the forefront of the novel. However, these are the basic human values and the importance of literacy as an aspect of art that make The Arabian Nights a truly timeless and philosophical piece of literature. By creating a unique interaction between a character and a mythological being, the narrator emphasizes the importance of kindness and the value of human life.
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Role of Literacy and Art
Accommodating people’s need for self-development and self-discovery, literacy and art need to be viewed as crucial. The Tale of the Fisherman and the Demon explores how the tenth night ends point to an important aspect of literacy and art as an essential constituent of one’s development. The described discovery also unravels the twofold nature of art, which can serve both as an object and a process.
At the end of the tenth night, leaving her story on another cliffhanger, Scheherazade tells the rest of Shahrayar’s wives: “What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and lets me live!” (The Arabian Nights 35). Though the promise that the next morsel of the story is going to surpass the recent one pales in comparison to the weight of Scheherazade’s possible execution, it clearly outlines the task of an artist and a narrator, which is to use literacy and art as the tools for continuous development and personal growth.
The intended meaning of the story told by Scheherazade to Shahrayar seemingly lies on the surface. The demon offers the fisherman a horrendous fate instead of gratitude for his kindness. The fisherman responds in kind, using his wit and quick thinking to trick the demon to return to his jug: “To God we belong and to Him we’ll return” (The Arabian Nights 34). However, after taking a second look at the story, one will realize that the story centers on demon’s loss of faith in humanity. It is only after having been tricked several times that he becomes bitter and lets his disappointment take the best of him: “Then he commanded his demons to carry me and throw me into the middle of the sea” (The Arabian Nights 34).
Thus, apart from the importance of resilience, the story also teaches one that meanness and deception cause people to grieve and become bitter. Therefore, the essential moral of the story is to be fair, kind to others, and honest to be treated the same way (Seal and White 133). The idea of being fair and forgiving might seem simple and self-evident, yet people need to be reminded of it to keep their good nature.
Studying human nature and showing the importance of gratitude and being well-meaning, The Tale of the Fisherman and the Demon remains one of the most iconic stories in The Arabian Nights. The tale outlines the significance of gratitude, justice, and human life along with the importance of literacy and art. Therefore, the narrative provides an example of how the principles of morality are shaped and applied to personal interactions. Moreover, the importance of art and literacy is emphasized heavily in the story, proving that the two can be used as the vehicle for personal development.
The Arabian Nights. Translated by Husain Haddaway. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.
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Seal, Graham, and Kim K. White. Folk Heroes and Heroines around the World. 2nd ed., ABC-CLIO, 2016.