This is a novel that introduces us to a sultan who after being deceived by his wife, whom he loved and cherished so much, his perception and actions negatively changes towards women. He starts by ordering the strangling of his wife in total disregard of the law of the land, and also concludes that all women are evil who cannot be trusted but rather be used and dumped. He therefore begins to marry every evening and the following morning, she lets the bride to be strangled by the grand-vizir. The trend continues like that until one day, the daughter (Scheherazade ) of the vizir gains courage to stop the sultan by proposing to marry him. To achieve this, she ensures that the sultan keeps on postponing her death, by telling him captivating stories with lots of suspense that makes the sultan yearn for more, and thus keeps on sparing her life until after one thousand and one nights, where he gets so impressed by Scheherazade`s prowess and ability, and he decides to marry her and they live happily thereafter. Accordingly, this paper seeks to analyze how power is manifested in the sample of tales told by the sultana (Scheherazade) in the one thousand and one nights.
Power can be said to refer to the position of influence or authority or superiority or ability that is conferred to individuals differentially, by the social system (Haugaard 425). The power might be brought about economically, politically, historically, culturally, socially or through ability bestowed by God or gods. This endowment enables one to exercise authority or power over others.
The use of political power has highly featured in the various stories in Arabian nights. The political power enables individuals to have authority over others by virtue that they control a territory courtesy of the people`s votes, culture and norms or force. In many of these stories, we are told of sultans, kings, viziers, soldiers and princes. The kings, sultans and princes are the rulers who have authority over their subjects. Some of the sample kings and sultans mentioned include the kings mentioned in the Story of the Greek King and the Physician Douban, The Story of the Husband and the Parrot, the Story of the Vizir Who Was Punished and many more (Lang 1). These kings use their kingship positions to serve or at times to victimize their subjects. For instance, in the story of the Second Calendar, Son of a King, we see how the king uses her princess`s ability to re-change the young man who had been turned into a monkey by a genii back to normal. In the process the princess dies but the king still manages to spare the life of the young man (second calendar) under the condition that the calendar runs away and never come backs. Sultana Schahriar on the other hand, gets into a killing spree of his brides after being disappointed by his sultana. This is exercising absolute power which does not take into consideration the feelings and aspiration of your subjects. Historically, these positions are skewed in favor of men child.
Secondly, we are also introduced to stories that depict economic powers of individuals. This is depicted in the merchants who are talked about in the different stories. One example is the Story of the Merchant and the Genius. In this story, we are told of a wealthy merchant who moved around from one town to another to sell goods. In one of his trips, he encounters a prince of genii (demon) who claims that, in the process of the wealthy merchant eating his food and throwing the pits everywhere, he hit the genii`s son to death. Therefore, the genii seeks to avenge his son`s death by killing the merchant as well. The merchant pleads for forgiveness which the genii refuses, but heeds to his request for a year in order to say goodbyes to his family and also distribute his wealth (Haddawy p.18). Through this act, the genii benefits the downtrodden because the merchant returns home and deicide to free all the slaves, divide his property, give gifts, appoints guardians to his little ones and also shares his wealth with his wife according to their marriage contract (Haddawy p. 19). As much as his life is later spared through the storytelling of the three old men, his wealth was already distributed to the poor as well.
Subsequently, in the story of the second old man and the two dogs, we are told how he was a great merchant with a big heart. He was always willing to share with his brothers despite their inadequacies of spending carelessly. Because of his good heart, he is loved by the fairy lady who saves his life when the two brothers become jealousy of him and try to him. Furthermore, he pleads with the fairy that she spares his brothers lives. Even with his brothers being turned into dogs by the fairy, he still takes care of them.
Consequently, the other power that comes out strongly in the stories is the use of supernatural powers. Supernatural powers refer to the extraordinary abilities depicted by beings. In the Arabian nights, there are the mention of the ogres, demons, magicians and genii. These are beings with abilities beyond human being’s comprehension. These extra ordinary beings use these abilities or powers for their own good, to help others and at times to even harm others.
In the story of the old man with the hind (female deer), we are informed of how his wife out of jealousy, studies and then uses magic to turn their slave and the son whom they had adopted into a cow and a calf respectively. Even though, the daughter of the old man`s steward is able to as well use magic to undo the spell and make the calf into a human being again, she does not spare the old man`s wife, whom she turns into a hind because she had caused the slave to die. This is a clear manifestation of three fold usage of power. First, the steward’s daughter uses power to help the old man get his son back, plus also giving the son opportunity to be human again. Secondly, she uses her power for egoistic purposes. This is because, she gives the condition that the young man will be his husband, which she is granted. Thirdly, she uses power to punish the old man`s wife by turning her into a hind. This threefold usage of power, can also be said of the second old man with the two dog`s story. The fairy disguises herself as a beggar in order to win over the merchant`s heart, she then uses her power to save the merchant from the death attempt orchestrated by his brothers and eventually punishes the two brothers by turning them into dogs.
Moreover, the other aspect of power depicted in the stories of Arabian nights, is the individual talents and abilities that are God given either at birth or through studies. Scheherazade, who is the main character in the stories of the Arabian nights, is the elder daughter to the grand vizir of the sultan Schahriar. We are told that Dinardzade was gifted with great courage, excellent beauty that was unmatched in the whole of Persia Kingdom and highest degree of cleverness. She was taught and mastered medicine, philosophy, fine art and history subjects. However, prowess and ability that she displays with finesse is that of a story teller. She is able to tell the king one thousand and one tales with lots of themes that range from love, sorcery, war, rogues, beggars, lands of diamond, cities and towns, characters with array of traits and refined literary techniques such as the use of suspense, audience participation, story within a story and many more. Through these abilities, she is able to eventually relieve the entire kingdom off the evil actions of their king, who changes for the better after marrying her. In addition, the physician douban, who was learned in languages, medicines and herbal, uses his ability to heal the king of Greece, but at the same time manages to kill him after he becomes ungrateful to the service he been given by the physician.
In conclusion, the Arabian night’s tales have lots of power display scenarios that can offer great lessons to readers. However, for the sake of this paper, I just sampled a few power illustrations to show where they were used, how they were used and why they were used.