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The Story of Scherazade

A Thousand and One Arabian Nights - Peter Malakoff


upon a time

in Ancient Arabia

There was a Sultan

who had a splendid harem of over 500 young women

who all belonged to him

just as animals might belong

to a person of our day

Blessed by the injunctions of his religion and culture

they were there for his pleasure

all picked for their beauty


and special gifts

of dancing and singing


And of all the beautiful concubines

the Sultan had a favorite

one whom he loved to dally and sport with

more than all the rest

One day

word was brought to the Sultan 

that the hunting was excellent

and he desired to go on an expedition for some sport

outside the walls of his palace


camels and gun-bearers supplies and cooks

beaters and hunters horses and dogs and a legion of men

were assembled to go with the Sultan

on his hunting expedition

He was to be away almost a fortnight

One evening

After only a week of hunting

although he loved the excitement of the hunt

the Sultan began to miss his favorite concubine

and the sweet pleasures of the bed

He thought it would be a great idea to steal back secretly into his palace and surprise his chosen girl

for a night of delicious love

The next morning

he had his swiftest horse brought to him

and taking only three men set out back for the palace

Arriving in the evening all unannounced

he stole into his inner chambers with his three guards

without anyone knowing that he was there

As he came to his bedroom

where he had spent so many delicious nights with his favorite

and he flung open the door

he found the object of his desire in his bed with a black eunuch

They both flung themselves to the floor

and piteously cried for mercy

The Sultan's eyes grew red with anger and he flew into a rage

In an angry voice, he called for both of them to be seized

and for the eunuch to be tortured slowly to death

For his concubine he didn't even look at her

His heart had been spoiled and its doors were now shut

He told his guards to gather together the harem

To take all of them

to the wall above the river and then in front of all of them

to put the young woman in a burlap bag with three cats from the palace

and throw them in the river to drown

From that time on he lived as one betrayed by life

and especially as one who had seen the source of that betrayal as a woman

Indeed all the women of his harem 

for he felt surely they were all in this together

From that time on

Whenever a girl was called to be his companion for the night

She was never seen by her sisters again

for after he had made love to the girl, he had her killed


All the women lived in utter fear of the Sultan

and the atmosphere in the palace became one of a graveyard

There was no real happiness

not a soul dared to show delight nor humor 

nor joyous laughter

Whenever a girl was chosen to spend a night

with the Sultan

she knew it was to be her last night alive

All her sisters in the harem comforted her

knowing that this was to be their fate as well

All suggested ways of pleasing the Sultan

and perhaps pleasuring him so exquisitely 

that he would be compassionate towards herand let her live

Whenever a new woman was brought before the Sultan

he told her to undress and come to bed with him

Each young girl sought to do his bidding

in such a sensual beautiful seductive delightful eager and alluring way

praying that she would please him with her beauty and charm alone

pleasure him so well that he would not kill her. 

But none of them ever returned

One night the Sultan chose a concubine

by the name of Scheherazade

to come to him

She heard that the Sultan had chosen her

as he watched her bathe from behind the carved screens

where he often came to pick his companion for the night

She knew that her life was now in immediate danger

She knew that tonight was to be her last night alive unless she could please the Sultan

She wondered whether she would ever see her young friends or family again

She knew that

unless she did something extraordinary tonight

many more indeed all

of the young girls who lived within the harem would die

That evening

a Full moon rose in the east

and sweet-scented jasmine

wafted through the shutters of the palace windows

The Sultan lay on satin sheets on his huge bed

Frankincense, myrrh and camphor

filled a room lit only by candles

Scheherazade was brought in by the eunuchs 

freshly washed

and the door was closed behind her

She looked at the Sultan

The Sultan lay on his bed and looked at her

Not a sound could be heard from anything or anyone

She bowed before him

He continued to look at her as at something

but not at someone

As a man might look at something he pitied and yet loved

He spoke

"Take off your clothes"

She took a step forward

radiant and strong in the acceptance of her fate

She then addressed him:

"O Great Sultan

it is said that the beauty of a woman is one of the delights that has been given to man by God

Do you know how this gift was first given and why?

Do you know who the first woman was

and how she looked and why God gave her to the man?

Do you know the story of their first night together and what became of them?"

The Sultan heard the words of the concubine Scheherazade 

and sat up a little and looked at her

He was intrigued None of the girls had ever came to him like this

Most he knew were scared scared to death and

they sought only to please him immediately with their beauty and feminine charms

Here was something different

"Tell me this story and then we will make love"

And so she began. . . . . .


began a story that started high up in the mountains of the heart

and like a small spring burst forth in such happy and delightful purity

that the Sultan was absorbed in its flow and turns and twists and delights and adventures

so that the whole night went by like a single moment of pleasure

and the sun had begun to lighten the sky in the East

and she had still not finished her story

The Sultan

both pleased and delightfully exhausted from listening bade her go to sleep

and told her to continue the story the next evening 

and that next evening was much like the first except the story became more interesting

and was still not finished as the sun lit the minarets of the Sultan's palace

Again the Sultan bade Scheherazade go to sleep

and he would continue the story the next evening

And again and again and again

the evenings passed in story 

and for season after season year after year night after night until

A Thousand and One Arabian nights had passed

and Scheherazade noticed that the Sultan had changed in his disposition

He was able to feel again beyond his hurt

and he was able to trust and appreciate and to laugh

and to marvel at the wondrous story

that was spread out before him and he began to marvel

at the wondrous life that was spread out before him

And he felt remorse for what he had done

to the young sisters of Scheherazade

His heart softened

and he fell in love with the one who had been the bringer

of this gift in the world for him

and he married Scheherazade

and made her his sweet wife

and the harem was set free from the threat of death

and the palace once again came to life

and the land and the people blossomed

under the wise and compassionate rule of the Sultan

and his consort Scheherazade

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