List of One Thousand and One Nights characters

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This is a list of characters in 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]

Scheherazade[edit]

Scheherazade in the palace of her husband Shahryar

Scheherazade or Shahrazad (Persian: شهرزاد‎, romanizedŠahrzād, or شهرازاد, translit. Šahrāzād; from the Middle Persian čehrāzād, composed of čehr, "lineage", and āzād, "noble or exalted", and hence meaning "of noble or exalted lineage," or "of noble appearance/origin")[1][2] 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, romanizedDunyāzād).

She marries King Shahryar, who has vowed that he will execute a new bride every day. 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, (Dunyazatde, Dinazade, or Dinarzad) (Persian: دنیازاد‎, romanizedDunyāzād) 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 (Arabic: جعفر‎), 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.

Jafar, the treacherous sorcerer in Disney's Aladdin is named after him.

Shahryar[edit]

Shahryar or Shahriar or Shariar or Shahriyar or Schahryar or Sheharyar or Shaheryar or Shahrayar or Shaharyar (Persian: شهریار‎, romanizedŠahryār; derived from the Middle Persian šahr-dār, meaning literally "holder of a kingdom" and hence, "prince, king.")[1] 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, Shahzaman (Persian: شاهزمان‎, romanizedŠāhzamān) ruled over Samarkand.

In the frame-story, Shahryar 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 Shahryar 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. After 1,001 stories she has told Shahryar, she tells him that she has no more stories to tell him. However, during the stories, Shahryar has grown into a wise ruler and rekindles his trust in women.

Shah Zaman[edit]

Shah Zaman or Schazzenan (Persian: شاهزمان‎, romanizedŠāhzamān) 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 Gustave Boulanger's painting, A Tale of 1001 Nights)

Prince Ahmed (Arabic: الأمير أحمد‎) 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 Paribanou (Persian: پریبانو‎, romanizedParībānū), also spelled Paribanon or Peri Banu, a fairy or female genie.

Aladdin[edit]

Aladdin (Arabic: علاء الدين‎) is one of the most famous characters from One Thousand and One Nights and appears in the famous tale of Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp.

Ali Baba[edit]

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 (Arabic: علي شار‎) 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.

Ali[edit]

Prince Ali (Arabic: الأمير علي‎) 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 (Arabic: الأميرة بدر البدور‎) 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 (Arabic: المزين البغدادي‎) 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 (Arabic: قاسم‎) 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/Douban[edit]

Duban/Douban (Arabic: دوبان‎) appears in The tale of the vizier and the Sage Duban and is a man of extraordinary talent with the ability to read Greek, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Byzantine, Syriac, Hebrew and Sanskrit, as well as a deep understanding of botany, philosophy and natural history to name 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 (Arabic: الأمير حسين‎), 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 (Arabic: معروف‎) 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 Daf

Morgiana or Marjanah or Micaela Ben (Arabic: مرجانة‎) 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 the Porter (Arabic: السندباد الحمال‎; Hindbad in some versions) is a poor man who one day pauses to rest on a bench outside the gate of a rich merchant's house in Baghdad. 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.[3]

Sinbad the Sailor[edit]

Sinbad the Sailor or Sindbad the Sailor (Arabic: السندباد البحري‎) 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 (Arabic: سلطان جزر الهند‎) has three sons Hussain, Ali and Ahmed. All three want to marry their cousin Princess Nouronnihar (Arabic: الأميرة نور النهار‎), so the Sultan says he will give her to the prince who brings back the most extraordinary rare object.

Yunan[edit]

King Yunan (Arabic: الملك يونان‎; al-Yunān is the Arabic name for Greece) or the Graecian King 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.

Zeyn Alasnam/Zayn Al-Asnam[edit]

Prince Zeyn Alasnam/Zayn Al-Asnam (Arabic: الأمير زين الأصنام‎; Asnām means idols in Arabic) 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, romanizedZumurrud-i Samarqandi, which literally means "emerald of Samarkand," the city being well-known for its emeralds at the time of the story), 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 (Arabic: أبو نواس‎) was a renowned poet at the court of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid. The hedonistic poet appears in several of the tales.
  • Abu Yusuf (Arabic: أبو يوسف‎) was a famous legal scholar and judge during the reign of Harun al-Rashid. Abu Yusuf was also one of the founders of the Hanafi school of islamic law. Abû Yusuf makes his appearance in the stories of "Abu Yusuf with Harun al-Rashid and Queen Zubayda" and "Harun al-Rashid and the Slave-girl and the Imam Abu Yusuf".
  • Al-Amin (Arabic: الأمين‎) was the sixth Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid, in 809 and ruled until he was deposed and killed in 813, during the civil war with his half-brother, al-Ma'mun. He appears in the nights in "Al-Amin ibn al-Rashid and His Uncle Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi" and "Muhammad al-Amin and the slave-girl".
  • Al-Hadi (Arabic: الهادي‎‎) was the fourth Abbasid caliph who succeeded his father Al-Mahdi and ruled from 785 until his death in 786 AD. He appears in the stories "Harûn al-Rashid and the Barmakids" and "The Tale of the Slave of Destiny".
  • Al-Ma'mun (Arabic: المأمون‎) was the seventh Abbasid caliph who reigned from 813 until his death in 833. He succeeded his half-brother al-Amin after a civil war. Al-Ma'mun is one of the most frequently mentioned characters in the nights and features in such stories as "The Story of Al-Ma’mun and the Kilabite Girl", "The Story of Al-Ma’mun and the Parasite", "The Caliph Al-Ma’mun and the Pyramids of Egypt", "The Caliph Al-Ma’mun and the Strange Scholar", "Al-Ma’mun and Zubayda", "Abu Hassan al-Ziyadî and the Khorasan Man", "The Loves of Al-Hayfa’ and Yusuf", "Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi and the Barber-surgeon" and "The Story of the Kiss".
  • Al-Mahdi (Arabic: المهدي‎) was the third Abbasid Caliph who reigned from 775 to his death in 785. He succeeded his father, al-Mansur. He features in " Ma‘n obtains Pardon for a Rebel" and "The Tale of the Slave of Destiny".
  • Al-Mu'tadid (Arabic: المعتضد بالله‎‎) was the Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate from 892 until his death in 902. He appears in such tales as "Abu ’l-Hasan of Khorasan" and "The Tale of the warlock and the Young Cook of Baghdad"
  • Al-Mutawakkil (Arabic: المتوكل على الله‎‎) was an Abbasid caliph who reigned in Samarra from 847 until 861. He appears in such tales as "Al-Fath ibn Khâqân and the Caliph al-Mutawakkil" and "Al-Mutawakkil and His Concubine Mahbûba".
  • 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.
  • Al-Walid II (Arabic: الوليد بن يزيد‎) was an Umayyad Caliph who ruled from 743 until his Assassination in the year 744. He appears spuriously in the tale "Yûnus the Scribe and Walîd ibn Sahl".
  • Baibars (Arabic: الملك الظاهر ركن الدين بيبرس‎) was the fourth Mamluk sultan of Egypt and the real founder of the Bahri dynasty. He was one of the commanders of the Egyptian forces that inflicted a defeat on the Seventh Crusade. He also led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. In the Nights, Baibars is the main protagonist of a romance focusing on his life "The Adventures of Sultan Baybars". He also features as a main character in the frame story of one cycle called "Al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baybars al-Bunduqdari and the Sixteen Captains of Police"
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 (Arabic: هارون الرشيد‎), 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.
  • Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (Arabic: هشام ابن عبد الملك‎) was the 10th Umayyad caliph who ruled from 724 until in 743. He appears in such tales as "Hishâm and the Arab Youth" and "Yûnus the Scribe and Walîd ibn Sahl".
  • Ibrahim al-Mawsili (Arabic: إبراهيم الموصلي‎) was a Persian singer and Arabic-language poet. He appears in several stories like "The Lovers of al-Madina", "Abdallah ibn Fadil and His Brothers", "Ibrahim of Mosul and the Devil".
  • Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi (Arabic: إبراهيم بن المهدي‎) was an Abbasid prince, singer, composer and poet. He features in several tales including "Al-Amîn ibn al-Rashîd and His Uncle Ibrâhîm ibn al-Mahdî", "Ibrâhîm ibn al-Mahdî and the Barber-surgeon" and "Ibrâhîm ibn al-Mahdî and the Merchant’s Sister".
  • Ishaq al-Mawsili (Arabic: إسحاق الموصلي‎‎) was a Persian musician and a boon companion in the Abbasid court at the time of Harun al-Rashid. Ishaq appears in several tales in the Nights including, "Ishaq of Mosul and the Lost Melody", "Ishaq of Mosul and the Merchant", "Ishaq of Mosul and His Mistress and the Devil" and "The Story of Ishaq and the Roses"
  • Khosraw Parviz/Khosrow II (or Khusrau) (New Persian: خسرو پرویز, translit. Khusraw Parvīz) or Kisra the Second (Arabic: كسرى الثاني‎) was a King of Persia from 590 to 628. He appears with his wife, Shirin, in a story on the three hundred and ninety-first night called Khusrau and Shirin and the Fisherman.
  • Ma'n ibn Za'ida (Arabic: معن بن زائدة‎) was an 8th-century Arab general of the Shayban tribe, who served both the Umayyads and the Abbasids. He acquired a legendary reputation as a fierce warrior and also for his extreme generosity. Ma'n appears as a main character in four tales in the nights. "Tale of Ma‘n ibn Zâ’ida", "It is Impossible to Arouse Ma‘n’s Anger", "Ma‘n Obtains Pardon for a Rebel", "Ma‘n ibn Zâ’ida and the Badawî".
  • Muawiyah I (Arabic: معاوية بن أبي سفيان‎) was the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate. He appears in the tales "Qamar al-Zamân and Budûr" and "The Badawî and His Wife".
  • Shirin (Persian: شيرين‎, romanizedŠīrīn) was the wife of the Sassanid King Khosrow II. She appears with her husband, Khusrau, in a story on the three hundred and ninety-first night called Khusrau and Shirin and the Fisherman.
  • Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik (Arabic: سليمان ابن عبد الملك‎) was the seventh Umayyad caliph, ruling from 715 until 717. He appears in the tale "Khuzaymaibn Bishr and ‘Ikrima al-Fayyâd".
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See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ch. Pellat (2011). "ALF LAYLA WA LAYLA". Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  2. ^ Hamori, A. (2012). "S̲h̲ahrazād". In P. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_6771.
  3. ^ "Sindbad the Seaman and Sindbad the Landsman - The Arabian Nights - The Thousand and One Nights - Sir Richard Burton translator". Classiclit.about.com. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-08-15.

External links[edit]