|One Thousand and One Nights character|
Queen Scheherazade as painted in the 19th century by Sophie Anderson
|Portrayed by||Mili Avital, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Claude Jade, Anna Karina, María Montez, Cyrine Abdelnour, Sulaf Fawakherji, Meredith Stepien|
|Family||Chief Vizier (father)
|Other names||Shahrazad, Shahrzad|
The story goes that every day Shahryar (Persian: شهریار - Šahryār, "city-server" or the king) would marry a new virgin, and after doing so would dispatch the previous day's wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was unfaithful to him. He had killed 1,000 such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter.
In Sir Richard Burton's translation of The Nights, Scheherazade was described in this way:
- "[Scheherazade] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred."
Against her father's wishes, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the king. Once in the king's chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dunyazade (Persian: دنیازاد - Donyāzād), who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The king lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story. The king asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was no time, as dawn was breaking. So, the king spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. The next night, Scheherazade finished the story and then began a second, even more exciting tale which she again stopped halfway through at dawn. Again, the king spared her life for one more day to finish the second story.
And so the King kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of the previous night's story. At the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, Scheherazade told the king that she had no more tales to tell him. During these 1,001 nights, the king had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and spared her life, and made her his queen.
The earliest forms of Scheherazade's name include Shirazad (Persian: شيرازاد - Šīrāzād) in Masudi, and Shahrazad (Persian: شهرازاد - Šahrāzād) in Ibn al-Nadim, the latter meaning "the person whose realm or dominion (Persian: شهر - šahr) is free (Persian: آزاد - āzād)". It is shortened as "Shahrzad" (Persian: شهرزاد - Šahrzād/Šarzād) in Persian.
In explaining his spelling choice for the name, Burton says, "Šahrāzād = 'city-freer'; in the older version Scheherazade (probably both from Šīrzād = 'lion-born'). Donyāzād = 'world-freer'. The Bres[lau] Edit[ion] corrupts the former to Sharzad or Shahrazad; and the Mac[naghten] and Calc[utta] to Shahrzad or Shehrzad. People have ventured to restore the name as it should be." Having introduced the name, Burton does not continue to use the diacritics on the name.
The nucleus of these stories is formed by an old Persian book called the Thousand Myths (Persian: هزارافسانه - Hezār-afsāne / هزارافسان - Hezār-afsān).
Scheherazade was derived from the legendary queen Homai (Persian: همای - Homāy), daughter of Kay Bahman (Persian: کی بهمن - Key Bahman), who has the epithet Chehrzad (Persian: چهرزاد - Čehrzād) or Chehrazad (Persian: چهرازاد - Čehrāzād, "the person whose appearance is noble"). Harun al-Rashid's mother, Al-Khayzuran, is also said to have influenced the character of Scheherazade.
- Burton, Richard F. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Burton Club, p.14, footnote.