Can Sinbad the Sailor go anywhere without getting shipwrecked? I’m pretty sure he cannot. Whether it’s setting sail to look for treasure or just going down the street to visit the local apothecary, he somehow manages to ruin his vessel and survive while his crew perishes.

If only this sailor knew how to sail.

Sinbad (or Sindbad) the Sailor is the star of a seven part tale within a tale included in the 1001 Arabian Nights. Of the seven voyages Sinbad takes around the seas of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, he is shipwrecked five times and meets terrible danger on each voyage. Somehow the fellow lucks out every time and returns home with vast riches and usually with the bad news that his crew mates have all been slain. You’d think that someone famous for being a sailor and explorer of that caliber maybe wouldn’t end up shipwrecked so much, but I guess that wouldn’t make for a very good story, now would it?

Sinbad’s adventures make for some of the most fun bits of reading in The Arabian Nights. With seven journeys full of magic, monsters, and other dangers, Sinbad displays great courage, strength, and wit and is easily one of the most well developed characters in the stories presented, and possibly one of the best developed characters in short fantasy fiction for quite some time. As unbelievable as it may be that someone would find himself shipwrecked time after time and yet continually return to the sea, Sinbad’s nature compels him to seek adventure. Having returned from his first voyage a wealthy man, any other man would have simply retired from sailing to live a life of luxury, but not Sinbad. Soon after his return home, he is struck by boredom and wanderlust and, rather than be sensible about it, decides to get on another boat. Where others might seek only physical treasure, Sinbad seeks something more. Sure, he returns each time richer than the last, but it is clear that what he truly craves is new experiences. Material wealth is never enough for Sinbad, he is always ready to take to the sea, to experience life and to face its dangers with cunning and courage. As reckless as he may be, there is something terrifically admirable about his strength of spirit.

Eventually, he does settle down with plenty of money to keep him happy and healthy until the end of his days, but I always picture him staring out the window toward the sea, wishing he might return to those cerulean waves once more.

I think it’s safe to say that even if he never went out to sea again, Sinbad had a life well lived with experiences enough for at least ten men.

Even after settling down, I’m fairly sure Sinbad would find some way to shipwreck himself even if he didn’t head out to sea. Going down to the apothecary, walking the dog, taking the garbage out for his wife, there is nothing he couldn’t manage to shipwreck himself doing.

And each wreck would just be another story to tell, another adventure experienced. Maybe that seems a little more mundane than his famous voyages, but I’d be incredible interested to know how one could get shipwrecked on his way to the doctor.

There’s a story there somewhere.