14 Dec 2012

Arabian Nights

I thought you might like to take a look at our latest family read-aloud. It's a beautiful book, and it seems a shame to keep it to ourselves. It's this lovely old Ward Lock edition of Tales from the Arabian Nights, without a printing date, and without an author, although we do know that the illustrator is one A E Jackson, and since Mr Jackson was actively illustrating between 1910 and 1920, we can hazard a guess that my book dates from this period as well.

These are the beautifully illustrated endpapers.  I guess the Genii has just been released!!

I chose to read this book to Jemimah (and her Daddy) because I discovered in general discussion recently that she didn't know the real story of Sinbad the Sailor.  She was familiar with Aladdin, because Andrew Lang's marvellous version of that story was included in a lovely book of read alouds that we read over and over in her preschool years, but alas, Sinbad and Ali Baba were known to her only via the Disney Corporation.  She did know a bit about Ali Baba - there were forty thieves, the password was Open Sesame; she didn't even know that Sinbad was a Sailor!

Nowadays the tales are not read much in original unedited versions, probably because of their length and convoluted storyline - there are stories within stories within stories.  It's a shame, because the tales have entered into our speech and our imagination.  Today's kids are missing out on terrific stories filled with exotic climes, thrilling action and adventure, dramatic plots and weird, enthralling magic.  Scheherazade managed to keep herself alive for 1001 nights by stopping mid way through these tales and keeping the angry Shahryar in suspense.  Surely we can do the same with our kids!!

Interestingly, it is believed that these three best know stories, those of Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin are thought not to have been part of the original tales, but to have been included by a Frenchman, Antoine Galland, who translated the tales in 1704 from a manuscript sent to him from the Middle East. Have a read of the Wikipedia entry for 1001 Nights.  It's fascinating.

Jemimah loved the story of Aladdin when she was in kindergarten. She's enjoying them just as much now, and so is her Dad.  These books are ageless, really, just be sure to read them sometime.

What is your family read aloud right now?


  1. A book about Apolo Anton Ohno. We are finding it really interesting.

  2. When the Hallmark mini series came out a dozen or so years ago, I borrowed the Andrew Lang compilation of the Arabian Knights (it may have been the olive fairy tale book?) as well as my library's system's complete version with Joseph Cambell's comments. (There are two dvd versions of that mini series by the way, one flows naturally, the other is edited to absurdity to fit some arbitrary time frame.)

    I was more familiar with Andrew Lang's version (and I liked them better, although in several cases they were obviously cleaned up and de-sexualized for the nursery.)

    It so happened a few years later that the Providence Symphony did a children's performance of Rimski Korsacov's Scheherazad, with a comedian who sang "Every night I'll cut her head off, head off." to the king's liet motif.

    What glorious illustrations you found - beautiful book!

  3. What a gorgeous edition. I'll have to see if I can track down a reprint soon. We're reading Swallow and Amazons right now. I'm not loving it, but the kids are enjoying it. I remember very well that imaginary world I could create as a child, but now as a mother I wonder how I'll ever be able to give my children as much independence as those kids in the story enjoy. I think it interferes with my ability to appreciate the book. :(

  4. We are reading Doctor Dolittle ATM. Thanks for this, you just reminded me of a book I had put away lol. Might get it out for Rebekah's free reading.:)

  5. We are reading A Christmas Carol! :) The PJ Lynch version you recommended! We are loving it!

    I absolutely ADORE these illustrations!! Thank you for sharing them with us and the background on some of these characters...I did not know all of this!


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