"The Wrath & The Dawn" by Renée Ahdieh
In the first blog of the summer, I wrote about Philip Pullman and a little of what inspired his "Northern Lights" trilogy, and the power of story. Pullman was certainly not the first author to exploit the power of stories within stories, and once you start to think about it, I am sure that many examples of stories within stories will come to you. You could even share the ones that you remember that were particularly effective.
Pullman was following a long established literary tradition of making stories utterly irresistible, not only to the readers but also to the characters within these stories, who cannot help but listen to the tale being told. There is something uniquely, magically human about storytelling and its impact.
Does this tradition go any further back than "The Tales of the Arabian Nights"? These exotic tales are gathered from all over the Eastern world, over many centuries, going back as far as the 9th Century. These collected tales are also known by the title of "One Thousand and One Nights". Many tales were from folklore of different cultures. Some of the stories we love best were late additions to the Tales: "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad" and even "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp" were added by Antoine Galland and other European translators. (The audiobook of Antoine Galland's "Tales of the Arabian Nights" is available on YouTube). The "frame" story is totally iconic, and thought to originate in the Persian tradition. The sultan (or sovereign) is named Shahryar, and his new wife is known as Scheherazade (meaning 'of noble lineage').
This, I am sure you already know, is the tale which opens the thousand and one nights. Shahryar discovers that his wife has been unfaithful and in his sense of betrayal and anger, executes her. Then his bitterness and desire for revenge on all women take hold and he selects a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise the next morning. Soon, he runs out of brides - the vizier can find no more young women to satisfy the sultan's quest for revenge. The vizier's daughter - Scheherazade - is clever and wise. She volunteers to become Shahryar's next bride and her father agrees, with great reluctance. So, on her wedding night, she enchants her new husband with a tale, woven with such skill and so enthrals the sultan that he spares his bride's life so that she might finish the tale the next night. This she does, and spins and spins so many more tales that fill one thousand more nights until the sultan relents, and pardons her.
In "The Wrath & The Dawn", Renée Ahdieh reinvents the Tales for a new generation. The name of the central character Shahrzad is taken from one of the early versions of the "One Thousand and One Nights". (This author has clearly done her research). Like her predecessor, Scheherazade, Shahrzad is a character who has agency. She is clever, cunning, and more than a match for the sullen Caliph of Khorasan who fully expects to execute his bride at dawn. But Shahrzad has a trick up her sleeve and begins to tell the Caliph a story about a hapless sailor; she weaves a tale so rich, so enticing, so luscious, and halts so abruptly in the middle of telling, that he grants her a stay of execution so that she might finish her tale the next night. And so begins a brilliant story...
This mirrors the author's own achievement in weaving a lush, compelling, magical tale; the first of two books up to this point. "The Rose and the Dagger" is the second book, and I certainly look forward to reading it!!