My brother-in-law bought Arabian Nights (aka 1001 nights) to read to his 2 year old daughter, thinking they’d be nice, quaint stories. He thought better of it and gave it to me, so I gave it a quick read.
You probably know the general story: there’s a cruel king that marries a woman each day and kills her the next, until one special girl enchants him with 1001 stories so intriguing that he can’t bear to kill her.
Well, here’s the start of the whole story, explaining why the king is so cruel:
Two brothers rule two kingdoms. One invites the other to come over for a visit. Shortly after the visiting brother leaves his palace, he misses his wife so much he decides to go back and give her a final kiss. On returning he finds his wife and her court having far too good a time with their male slaves.
Devastated, he kills the wife and leaves to visit his brother.
He’s happy to see the brother, but is so distraught over his wife he’s not much of a sport. He decides to skip the hunting party and stay at the palace.
The brother’s wife, thinking the men are away, throws a party of her own, and proceeds to similarly get down with the slaves. The visiting brother accidentally witnesses this and eventually tells his brother, who promptly strangles the wife.
The two brothers are so distraught they decide to leave their kingdoms and not return until they find someone more miserable than themselves.
As they’re about to make camp in the wilderness they see a giant genie (a nasty, gnarly one, not a cute one like the movies) emerge out of the lake. They quickly hide in a tree.
The genie comes over to the tree, produces a locked chest out of which he brings out a woman, and decides to take a nap while resting his head in her lap.
As the genie sleeps, the woman spies the men in the tree and orders them down. At first they refuse, but she threatens to wake the genie, so down they head.
She produces a string with 98 rings attached, and explains there’s a ring for each man she’s had a chance to party with since the genie has held her captive, and that she wants to make it an even 100.
The brothers, convinced that the genie is indeed more miserable than them, return to their kingdoms, and one of them takes up the lovely habit of marrying a virgin each day and killing her the next, since, clearly, womens can’t be trusted.
Now with a start like that, how can you not read the rest? Enchanting stories indeed.