List of One Thousand and One Nights characters

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This is a list of characters within the medieval collection of Middle Eastern folk tales One Thousand and One Nights.

An artistic expression of a city from the One Thousand and One Nights.

Characters in the frame story[edit]

The daughters of the Grand Vizier: Scheherazade and Dunyazade

Scheherazade[edit]

Main article: Scheherazade
Scheherazade in the palace of her husband Shahryar

Scheherazade (Persian: شهرزادŠahrzād also called Shahrazad) is the legendary Persian queen and the storyteller and narrator of The Nights. She is the daughter of the kingdom's vizier and sister of Dunyazad (Persian: دنیازاد‎).

She marries King Shahryar, who has vowed that he will execute a new bride everyday. For 1001 nights, Scheherazade tells her husband a story every night, stopping at dawn with a cliffhanger, forcing the King to keep her alive for another day.

Dunyazad[edit]

Dunyazad, Dunyazade, (also called Dunyazatde, Dinazade, or Dinarzad) (Persian: دنیازاد‎) is the younger sister of Queen Scheherazade. In the story cycle, it is she who (at Scheherazade's instruction) initiates the tactic of cliffhanger storytelling to prevent her sister's execution by Shahryar. Dunyazad, brought to her sister's bedchamber so that she could say farewell before Scheherazade's execution the next morning, asks her sister to tell one last story. At the successful conclusion of the tales, Dunyazad marries Shah Zaman, Shahryar's younger brother.

She is recast as a major character as the narrator of the Dunyazadiad segment of John Barth's novel Chimera.

Scheherazade's Father[edit]

Scheherazade's Father, sometimes called Jafar, is the vizier of King Shahryar. Every day, on the king's order, he beheads the brides of Shahryar. He does this for many years until all the unmarried women in the kingdom have either been killed or run away, at which point Scheherazade offers to marry the king.

The vizier tells Scheherazade the Tale of the Bull and the Ass, in an attempt to discourage his daughter from marrying the king. It does not work and she marries Shahryar anyway.

At the end of the 1001 nights, Scheherazade's father goes to Samarkand where he replaces Shah Zaman as sultan.

Shahryār[edit]

Shahryār or Shahriār or Shahriyār or Schahryār or Sheharyar or Shaheryar or Shahrayar or Shaharyar (Persian: شهريار‎, meaning The Great King) is the fictional Persian Sassanid King of kings who is told stories by his wife, Scheherazade.

He ruled over a Persian Empire extended to India, over all the adjacent islands and a great way beyond the Ganges as far as China, while Shahryār’s younger brother, Shāhzamān (شاهزمان) ruled over Samarkand.

In the frame-story, Shahryār is betrayed by his wife, which makes him believe that all women will, in the end, betray him. So every night for three years, he takes a wife and has her executed the next morning, until he marries Scheherazade, his vizier’s beautiful and clever daughter. For 1001 nights in a row, Scheherazade tells Shahryār a story, each time stopping at dawn with a cliffhanger, thus forcing him to keep her alive for another day so that she can complete the tale the next night.

As a name in a separate entity, Shahryār can be found throughout modern-day Iran. In Pakistan, the name has grown in popularity and is commonly given and not limited to a high number of Punjabi-speaking people, specifically the Jat Muslim community within the nation. It is also prominent with Muslims in India as well as within Bangladesh.

Shah Zaman[edit]

Shah Zaman or Schazzenan is the Sultan of Samarkand, sometimes called Samarcande and brother of Shahryār. Shah Zaman catches his first wife in bed with a cook and cuts them both in two. Then, while staying with his brother, he discovers that Shahryār's wife is unfaithful. At this point, Shah Zaman comes to believe that all women are untrustworthy and he returns to Samarkand where, as his brother does, he marries a new bride every day and has her executed before morning.

At the end of the story, Shahryār calls for his brother and tells him of Scheherazade's fascinating, moral tales. Shah Zaman decides to stay with his brother and marries Scheherazade's beautiful younger maiden sister, Dunyazad with whom he has fallen in love.

Characters in Scheherazade's stories[edit]

Ahmed[edit]

Sons of the Sultan of the Indies with scimitars. (from Boulanger's painting, A Tale of 1001 Nights)

Prince Ahmed is the youngest of three sons of a Sultan of the Indies. He is noted for having a magic tent which would expand so as to shelter an army, and contract so that it could go into one's pocket. Ahmed travels to Samarkand city and buys an apple that can cure any disease if the sick person smells it. Ahmed rescues the Princess Peri Banu (or Paribanou), a genie.

Aladdin[edit]

Main article: Aladdin
Aladdin and the Jinni.

Aladdin is perhaps one of the most famous characters from One Thousand Nights and appears in the famous tale of Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp.

Ali Baba[edit]

Main article: Ali Baba

Ali Baba (Arabic: علي بابا‎) is a poor woodcutter who becomes rich after discovering a vast cache of treasure, hidden by evil bandits.

Ali Shar[edit]

Ali Shar is a character from Ali Shar and Zumurrud who inherits a large fortune on the death of his father but very quickly squanders it all. He goes hungry for many months until he sees Zumurrud on sale in a slave market. Zumurrud gives Ali the money to buy her and the two live together and fall in love. A year later Zumurrud is kidnapped by a Christian and Ali spends the rest of the story finding her.

Prince Ali[edit]

Prince Ali is a son of Sultan of the Indies. He travels to Shiraz, the capital Persia, and buys a magic perspective glass that can see for hundreds of miles.

Badroulbadour[edit]

Princess Badroulbadour is the only daughter of the Emperor of China in the folktale, Aladdin, and whom Aladdin falls in love with after seeing her in the city with a crowd of her attendants. Aladdin uses the genie of the lamp to foil the Princess's arranged marriage to the Grand Vizier's son, and marries her himself. The Princess is described as being somewhat spoiled and vain. Her name is often changed in many retellings to make it easier to pronounce.

The Barber of Baghdad[edit]

The Barber of Baghdad is wrongly accused of smuggling and in order to save his life, he tells Caliph Mustensir Billah of his six brothers:

  • Bacbouc who was hunchback
  • Al-Fakik who was toothless
  • Al-Bakbuk who was blind
  • Al-Kuz who lost one of his eyes
  • Al-Haddar who was very lazy
  • Shakashik who had a harelip

Cassim[edit]

The Forty Thieves attack greedy Cassim when they find him in their secret magic cave.

Cassim is the rich and greedy brother of Ali Baba who is killed by the Forty Thieves when he is caught stealing treasure from their magic cave.

Duban[edit]

Duban appears in The tale of the vizier and the Sage Duban and is a sage described as being a man of extraordinary talent. The ability to read Greek, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Byzantine, Syriac and Hebrew, as well as a deep understanding of botany, philosophy and natural history are only a few.

He cures King Yunan from leprosy. Duban works his medicine in an unusual way: he creates a mallet and ball to match, filling the handle of the mallet with his medicine. When the king plays with the ball and mallet, he perspires, thus absorbing the medicine through the sweat from his hand into his bloodstream. After a short bath and a sleep, the King is cured, and rewards Duban with wealth and royal honor.

Yunan's vizier, however, becomes jealous of Duban, and persuades Yunan into believing that Duban will later produce a medicine to kill him. The king eventually decides to punish Duban for his alleged treachery, and summons him to be beheaded. After unsuccessfully pleading for his life, Duban offers one of his prized books to Yunan to impart the rest of his wisdom. Yunan agrees, and the next day, Duban is beheaded, and Yunan begins to open the book, finding that no printing exists on the paper. After paging through for a time, separating the stuck leaves each time by first wetting his finger in his mouth, he begins to feel ill. Yunan realises that the leaves of the book were poisoned, and as he dies, the king understands that this was his punishment for betraying the one that once saved his life.

Hussain[edit]

Prince Hussain, the eldest son of Sultan of the Indies, travels to Bisnagar (Vijayanagara) in India and buys a magic teleporting tapestry, also known as a magic carpet.

Maruf the Cobbler[edit]

According to the story Maruf is a diligent and hardworking Cobbler in the city of Cairo; he is then married to a mendacious and pestering woman named Fatimah.

Due to the ensuing quarrel between him and his wife Fatimah; Maruf flees the city of Cairo and enters the ancient ruins of Adiliyah there he takes refuge from the winter rains. After sunset Maruf meets a very powerful Jinni, he is then transported by the Jinni to a distant land known as Ikhtiyan al-Khatan.

Morgiana[edit]

Morgiana and the Duff.[disambiguation needed]

Morgiana or "Morgana" or Marjanah is a clever slave girl from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. She is initially in Cassim's household but on his death she joins his brother Ali Baba and through her quick wittedness she saves Ali's life many times and eventually kills his worst enemy, the leader of the Forty Thieves. As reward, Ali frees her and Morgiana marries Ali's son.

Sinbad the Porter[edit]

Sinbad is a poor porter from Baghdad who one day pauses to rest on a bench outside the gate of a rich merchant's house. The owner of the house is Sinbad the Sailor, who hears the porter's lament and sends for him. Amused by the fact that they share a name, Sinbad the Sailor relates the tales of his seven wondrous voyages to his namesake.[1]

Sinbad the Sailor[edit]

Main article: Sinbad the Sailor

Sinbad the Sailor is perhaps one of the most famous characters from the Nights. He is from Basra, but in his old age, he lives in Baghdad. He recounts the tales of his seven voyages to Sinbad the Porter.

Sultan of the Indies[edit]

Sultan of the Indies has three sons Husain, Ali and Ahmed. All three want to marry their cousin Princess Nouronnihar, so the Sultan says he will give her to the prince who brings back the most extraordinary rare object.

Yunan[edit]

King Yunan is a fictional king of one of the ancient Persian cities, in the province of Zuman, now modern Azerbaijan who appears in The tale of the vizier and the Sage Duban. At the start of the story, Yunan is suffering from leprosy but he is cured by Duban the physician whom he rewards greatly. This makes Yunan's vizier become jealous and he persuades the King that Duban wants to overthrow him. At first Yunan does not believe this and tells his vizier the Tale of the Husband and the Parrot to which the vizier responds by telling the Tale of the Prince and the Ogress. This convinces Yunan that Duban is guilty and he has him executed. Yunan later dies after reading a book of Duban's, the pages of which had been poisoned.

Zayn Al-Asnam[edit]

Prince Zayn Al-Asnam appears in The Tale of Zayn Al-Asnam. He erects eight statues of gold (or diamond) and in quest for a statue for the ninth unoccupied pedestal, finding what he wanted in the person of a beautiful woman for a wife.

Al-Asnam is given a mirror by a Genie. Called the touch-stone of virtue, the mirror would inform Al-Asnam, upon looking into it, whether his damsel was faithful or not. If the mirror remained unsullied so was the maiden; if it clouded, the maiden had been unfaithful.

Zumurrud[edit]

Zumurrud-the Smaragdine (Persian زمرد سمرقندی Zumurrud e Samarkandi), which means "emerald from Samarkand" (at the time of the story, Samarkand had been famous for its emeralds), is a slave girl who appears in Ali Shar and Zumurrud. She is bought by, and falls in love with, Ali Shar with whom she lives until she is kidnapped by a Christian. Zumurrud escapes from the Christian only to be found and taken by Javan (Juvenile) the Kurd. Again, Zumurrud manages to get away from her captor, this time by dressing up as a man. On her way back to Ali Shar, Zumurrud is mistaken for a noble Turk and made Queen of an entire kingdom. Eventually, Zumurrud is reunited with Ali Shar.

Real people[edit]

Abu Nuwas[edit]

Abu-Nuwas al-Hasan ben Hani al-Hakami was a renowned poet at the court of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid. The hedonistic poet appears in several of the tales.

Al-Mustansir[edit]

The flying horse.

Mustensir Billah (or Al-Mustansir) was the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad from 1226 to 1242. The Barber of Baghdad tells Mustensir stories of his six brothers.

Al-Mustazi[edit]

Az-Zahir (or Al-Mustazi as he is called in the Nights) was the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad from 1225 to 1226 and appears in The Hunchback’s Tale.

Harun al-Rashid[edit]

During the reign of the Harun al-Rashid, the city of Baghdad began to flourish as a center of knowledge, culture and trade.

Harun al-Rashid, fifth Abbasid Caliph who ruled from 786 until 809. Hārūn the wise Caliph serves as an important character in many of the stories set in Baghdad, frequently in connection with his vizier, Ja'far, with whom he roams in disguise through the streets of the city to observe the lives of the ordinary people.

Ja'far[edit]

Ja'far ibn Yahya, Ja'far (also known as Jafar al-Barmaki) was Harun al-Rashid's Persian Vizier and appears in many stories, normally accompanying Harun. In at least one of these stories, "The Three Apples", Ja'far is the protagonist of the story, depicted in a role similar to a detective. In another story, "The Tale of Attaf", he is also a protagonist, depicted as an adventurer alongside the protagonist Attaf.

Khosrau[edit]

Khosrau II was a King of Persia from 590 to 628. He appear with his wife, Shirin, in a story on the three hundred and ninety-first night called Khusrau and Shirin and the Fisherman.

Shirin[edit]

Shirin was the wife of the Sassanid King Khosrau II. She appears with her husband, Khosrau, in a story on the three hundred and ninety-first night called Khusrau and Shirin and the Fisherman.

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