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A celebration of Scheherazade the Storyteller

"But please remember that Araby, as Europe came to know it in the Middle Ages and subsequently, was and is not so much an historically and anthropologically accuate representation of various cultures but rather a spendid amalgam of people, creatures, and places that never existed, except in storytellers' and readers' imaginations."
— Susan Shwartz, Arabesques


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Beyond One Thousand and One Nights

Image - La Sultane Bleue

La Sultane Bleue by Léon Bakst[*]

The folk tales told by Scheherazade the Storyteller as captured in One Thousand and One Nights — the Arabian Nights as they came be to known in Europe — represent a body of literature and legend — that might be called the "Matter of Araby" (or perhaps "Silk Road Fantasy") — which rivals that of the Arthurian folks tales — the medieval "Matter of Britain" — and of the Caroligian folks tales — the corresponding "Matter of France."  But while the Arthurian and Carologian tales are products of European (Christian) civilization, the tales of the Matter of Araby are products of the medieval civilizations of (Islamic) Southwestern and Central Asia.

The historical era of the Arthurian and Carolingian legends has inspired (early) modern adventure fiction set in medieval Europe while the fantastical elements of Arthurian and Carolingian legend have inspired fantasy and other speculative fiction which maintains many of the elements of medieval European civilization.  Likewise, Scheherazade's tales have inspired both (early) modern adventure fiction set in post-classical Southwest and Central Asia as well as speculative fiction which reflects the fantastical milieu of One Thousand and One Nights.

Inspired by Scheherazade's Tales

Image - Jirel of Joiry

Uncredited illustration served by ISFDB[*]


Susan Shwartz has edited a pair of anthologies of speculative fiction specifically focused on Araby and written other Silk Road Fantasy (and sword & sorcery heroine) works.  Judith Tarr has written several connected speculative fiction novels which include elements of Araby and Silk Road Fantasy.  Barry Hugart's trilogy "of an Ancient China That Never Was" is one of the earliest examples of Silk Road Fantasy.  Elizabeth Bear has written a series of connected Silk Road Fantasy novels.

Scheherazade told tales of swords and sorcery which likely also served as inspiration for many heroines of modern sword and sorcery, beginning with C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry.

The post-classical history of Central and Southwest Asia has also inspired historical adventure fiction by authors Harold A. Lamb and Robert E. Howard.


[*] No endorsement of Scheherazade's Bedchamber has been made or is implied.



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