VIDEO: Richard E Grant unravels origins of The Arabian Nights
21-Apr-2011 (one comment)

The Arabian Nights introduced readers the world over to a bewitching world of magic, genies, evil spirits and iconic heroes. Actor Richard E Grant investigates their origins and examines their enduring appeal.

The Arabian Nights story that most transfixed me as a boy was Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves.

It appealed because there were caves near the house where I grew up in Swaziland, so a story that featured a cave full of hidden treasure, that could be "opened and closed" with the magic words "Open Sesame" seemed more immediate than other fairy stories I had read.

Darius Kadivar

Arabian Nights Not Just "Arabian" ...

by Darius Kadivar on

  • The tales have their roots in oral storytelling thousands of years ago including folk tales from India and mystical stories from Persia
  • They were carried and spread by traders travelling on the great trade routes of the East where they began to take shape
  • The oral stories were collected and written down in the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo
  • In the 10th Century, an Arab historian recorded the tales and called them A Thousand Nights
  • The earliest manuscript of the tales is in Arabic and was written in Syria in the 14th Century
  • French traveller and scholar Antoine Galland translated it from Arabic in to French in the 1600s
  • He began with Sinbad the Sailor, which was an immediate sensation in Parisian high society
  • After fans stood outside his house and demanded more, he is believed to have written more stories and embellished others, such as Ali Baba and Aladdin
  • In 1706 an anonymous translation of Galland's book called The Arabian Nights arrived in Britain
  • Records show the first theatrical performance of Aladdin was held in 1788 in London's Covent Garden

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