This is my telling of the frame story of the Arabian Nights. It is lifted from my novel (you’d expect there to be storytelling in a storyteller’s novel, right?).
I’ve always loved this story, sometimes more than the other stories it brackets. So here you go.
This story tells of a king gone mad, suspecting all women of being evil.
As he desired the pleasures of marriage without its trials and demands, he married each evening and the next morning caused his bride to be executed.
He killed her, so he reasoned in his twisted mind, before she could destroy or betray him.
It was this tormented soul’s Grand Vizier who had the unhappy task of collecting a new bride each day, knowing he was sending her to her death. And this torture was made all the more painful as he had two beautiful daughters of his own. He felt his terror for them intensify with each morning’s execution.
First the daughters of the slaves were taken. When they were gone, the Grand Vizier was forced to collect next from the serving class, then the merchants.
The king’s madness did not abate. If things continued thus, no maiden would remain in the entire city. Families were attempting to flee the country in their efforts to protect their daughters.
Finally Scheherazade, the Vizier’s elder daughter, could stand it no longer.
She battered her father with words: an endless stream of reason from a woman whose mind was set before she had reasons.
Scheherazade wore him down, and with a breaking heart he presented her to his lord and master.
That the vizier would offer his own daughter brought the king enough out of his self-centered madness that the girl was able to attempt her desperate plan.
Scheherazade begged leave to have her young sister spend the night.
Shortly before dawn, as they had arranged between them, the younger sister woke the new queen to ask for a last story in the presence of the great King, her husband.
The elder daughter began a story that twisted and tangled in and out with so many others that the king spared her life that day, then the next, and the next; always promising to execute her the next morning, when the story was finished.
But of course it never was—or when it was, another story just as tantalizing was left at a critical moment that would again allow the young queen a day of amnesty.
Thus the words of a woman held off her master’s madness and her own death for one-thousand-and-one nights, and in the end, they were both free.