Once upon a time, Shahriyiir, the king of the islands of India and China was overwhelmed by a desire to see his brother Shiihzamiin, the king of Samarcand and Tartary, whom he had not seen for twenty years. He sent for him on the spot. As Shiihzamiin was on the point of leaving, he discovered his wife asleep on his bed with a black slave. Overwhelmed by pain, he killed them both and left at once on his journey to his brother's kingdom. He arrived at his brother's noticeably affected by grief and despair. However, a few days later by chance he saw his brother's wife and ten slaves and slave girls make love in the garden and he cheered up with the realisation that his brother's misfortune was greater than his own. Shahriyiir asked him that
evening for an explanation of both his unhappiness and his recovery and, reluctantly, Shahzaman told him the whole story. Shahriyar insisted on seeing the betrayal of his wife for himself and when he did, he left the palace with only his brother, profoundly unhappy. Both kings were determined to roam the world until they found someone more unfortunate than themselves. After a while they came to a meadow by the sea, and rested themselves under a tree. Suddenly an enormous jinni rose out of the sea and, as the brothers leapt into the branches to hide, came up to the tree and put a great chest on the ground. The jinni opened the chest and took out of it a beautiful woman. He laid his head in her lap and fell asleep. The woman looked up and saw the two brothers and insisted, using the threat of waking her captor, that they come down and make love to her. Eventually they complied and she added their two rings to the five hundred and seventy she already had. She then told them that the jinni had abducted her on her wedding night and despite his keeping her padlocked in a box under the sea, she had nonetheless managed to sleep with anybody she desired. Shahriyar and Shahzaman cheered up at once, for they realised that the jinni's misfortune was greater than theirs. They went home and had the unfaithful women and slaves killed. For three years Shahriyar then married a virgin girl every night and had her killed in the morning. At the end of three years, his wazir was in a terrible predicament, for he could not find a new bride for the king. The wazir had two daughters, Sheherazade and Dunyazad. Sheherazade was wise and intelligent and very highly educated and when she realised her father's dilemma, she persuaded him to let her marry the king, saying that either she would ransom the daughters of the people, or she would live.2 Sheherazade married the king and when night fell, after the king had taken her virginity, she asked to see her younger sister to say goodbye. She had prepared Dunyazad beforehand to ask her to tell one of her tales to while away their last night, which Dunyazad did. The king and the younger sister listened as
Sheherazade began a riveting tale, a tale which was unfinished when the day broke. The king decided to let her live until he had heard the rest of the tale. Nearly three years followed in which Sheherazade told tale after tale and, at the end of that time, the king's heart was changed. He had learned to love Sheherazade and he had had three sons born in that time. At the end of one thousand and one nights he renounced his cruel vow and he and Sheherazade lived happily until they died.