Don’t worry, I’m sure that guy will swim to the island in the distance and get picked up by a Roc or something. That shit happens like thirty times in the Arabian Nights.

Ah, finally, an Arabian Nights strip! I’ve been itching to do one for some time as there are so many great things in it to talk about and make jokes out of. Andrew Lang (a wonderful translator and deliverer of folklorist from various places) was largely responsible for bringing the tales to Western audiences in 1898 and his edition is still sold in stores today (I highly recommend it). The stories contained within are, among other things, remarkably modern in their style. The overarching meta-story is a tale in and of itself with a surprising hero given the times. A woman, determined to stop the daily murder of the sultan’s wife (he marries each day and kills his wife the next after finding his heart broken by his first wife) decides to marry the sultan. The next morning, before she can be killed, she begins telling stories to her maiden. The Sultan, fascinated despite himself, listens on, and after many nights of stories, decides it would be a terrible waste to murder the woman. The stories end with the Sultan’s withdrawal of his barbaric law.

This comic is from a particular story titled Prince Ahmed and The Fairy, a very widely read tale that has been the basis of several spin-off stories in later years (namely The Adventures of Prince Achmed, a German silhouette animation). The character in this strip is NOT the titular hero, however, but rather, his youngest brother Prince Houssein. In the first part of the tale, each brother is vying for the hand of their lovely cousin (this was totally cool back then), the princess Nouronnihar. The Sultan, unable to decide which of the three princes should be wed to her, tasks each with finding the most fabulous and rare object they can in foreign lands. Each brother departs with some money and spends a year searching. Prince Houssein, departing to Bisnagar, a large city in a country of the same name, travels busy marketplaces until he chances upon a merchant selling a tapestry for an outrageous price. Intrigued, he questions the man and finds, as in the comic, that it is able to transport him anywhere. He pays for it right then and there and uses it to go back to the rendezvous point where he waits to meet his brothers.

The rest of the story gets even more interesting and progressively more ridiculous. I seriously suggest giving it a read sometime, either in a copy of the book or on the web. It’s free right here. Gods bless public domain literature!

Anyway, the whole thing with the carpet/tapestry got me thinking. If I could go anywhere on a test ride of a magic carpet, why would I ever pay for it? Why not just remove the one roadblock in my path?

Come to think of it, I’ve thought about this on test rides in a car as well…

Anyway, the whole series of tales are truly incredible reading and I imagine that you’ve been influenced by them even if you haven’t actually read them. Motifs, themes, monsters, and dramatic style are all borrowed from heavily in today’s literature, especially in fantasy. There are plenty of great things to discover inside. Cracking open my copy (which my totally awesome brother picked up for me) was like rubbing an old dingy lamp and finding a genie inside.

I didn’t get three wishes but I did get one: an amazing reading experience.

(cue audience, “awwww”)