The Arabian Nights

“Is it possible, that by telling these tales, one might indeed save one’s self?”

The character, Scheherezade thought so. In fact, she tells each of the Arabian Nights tales in order to survive a little longer at the mercy of her listener, the Sultan.

The Arabian Nights stories are some of the world’s great treasures. They have existed for thousands of years, consisting of tales told in Persia, Arabia, India and Asia. The Arabian Nights (also known as The 1001 Arabian Nights) have inspired writers the world over with the ancient power of story.

There are versions of these stories in many languages and they all convey the great sense of adventure, truth, fantastic imagination, justice, and faith embodied by the great civilizations that contributed stories and ideas to the collection.

The Arabian Nights include fairy tales, fables, romances, farces, legends, and parables. The tales use a sweeping variety of settings, including Baghdad, Basrah, Cairo and Damascus, as well as China, Greece, India, North Africa and Turkey.

These fanciful, sometimes brutal tales, revel in the art of storytelling. The underlying suggestion of the Arabian Nights is that a fantastically precious jewel exists which, when it comes into contact with people, actually changes them. The jewel is the maginicently powerful art of story. There may not be any better examples in the world of how art, trickery, magic and craft can swirl together and form a world that every reader and listener wants to enter. Regardless of the situation presented in any particular Arabian Nights story, the assumption contained in the story is that life is always worth living and that human endeavor, along with human weakness, is a wonderful and fascinating thing to behold. These stories form a powerful mental connection between the ancient civilizations of the East and those of the West. Moreso than any other piece of writing in history, these stories illustrate that the minds of the East and of the West consider carefully the same subject matter.

We offer here a selection of the Arabian Nights tales. There are hundreds in existence. These are versions translated by Andrew Lang in 1898 and Edward Lane in 1909. They are in the public domain and may be freely copied and shared.

We will be adding interesting things to our Arabian Nights pages over the next few months. You will find audio versions of some stories, illustrations, animations, additional stories by different translators, and information about the history of the stories.

The Arabian Nights are not necessarily intended for young children. They contain violence and mature situations. Please exercise care when reading them to young children. Try reading the story you are interested in first, then decide if it is appropriate material for your young listener.

An Arabian Nights Audio Story

If you want to listen to our 1-hour audio version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, click here.

The Andrew Lang Version (published in 1897):

The Edward Lane Version (published in 1841):

The John Payne Version (published in 1901):

More Arabian Nights Information

Scheherazade Telling the Tales
Kay Nielsen (1922)

“The Arabian Nights” translations by Andrew Lang (1898) and Edward Lane (1841) are in the Public Domain

19 thoughts on “The Arabian Nights

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