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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


for the eunuch

to be tortured




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


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 her

and 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




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


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


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


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


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


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"

he said

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 Sultans 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


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


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


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