Folk tales and story-telling in Arab and Ottoman lands
In societies where illiteracy was high, folk literature was invoked to cater for the needs of the many by bringing the creations of folk artists and elite writers to non-readers.
The folk literary genre found its clearest expression in two forms: religious performances to celebrate the birthday of holy men and story-telling in coffee houses. Sufi groups executed these performances at religious festivals in the form of religious songs. At religious festivals, secular and religious activities took place side by side and were the main outlet for folk artists; but story-tellers recited extracts from the Arabian Nights and Taghribat Bani Hilal and many other popular tales, including stories from Antara ibn Shaddad (Antara bin Abs), in coffee houses and occasionally in folk theatres as well. The translator of Arabian Nights, Edward W. Lane, in his book Manners and Customs of Modern Egyptians (1833‒5), describes in detail how poetic citations were inserted to reinforce the context during performances and how tales were accompanied by music. The oral tradition was never static and new tales continued to be added up until the 19th century.
One Thousand and One Nights: Arabic fairytales tanslated by Galland, illustrated by the best French artists…

This edition of the One Thousand and One Nights is a beautiful new volume of eleven hundred and twenty pages […] subscriptions available in all bookshops: published in 52 installments.


National Library of France , Paris, France

Engraver: Andrew-Best-Leloir

The story behind The Thousand and One Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights) is puzzling. There are various Arabic editions and a number of translations. The origin of each tale is ancient, however, and rooted in various geographical and cultural areas.

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