Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: Tales from the East

Once upon a time, years and years ago (like, three whole years, you guys) I worked as a screenwriter on an online MMORPG based on the Arabian Nights. It was a wonderful project, and it gave me an excuse to dig deep into Arab and Persian tales. I have been in love with them ever since. Last week, while I was at a conference in Arizona, I found a book on a hidden shelf in a used book store. I was instantly transported back into the world of jinn, lost cities, and endless deserts.
With all that in mind, this week I wanted to give you a short list of some of my favorite books of Arab and Persian tales:

Fabled Cities, Princes & Jinn from Arab Myths and Legends
This is the book I found last week. While it is a gloriously illustrated picture book, it is definitely not written for children. It contains background information on Arab history and culture, as well as tales from many pre-Islamic and Islamic sources. Most of them were new to me, and they are all gorgeous. I especially liked that there were many tales about brave, clever and independent women.

Mirror of the Invisible World
A collection of tales by Nizami, my ever favorite medieval Persian author (yes I have a favorite medieval Persian author, did I mention I'm a storyteller? :). Contains, among other things, the Seven Wise Princesses, the story I based my A to Z challenge on this year. Also, gorgeous, absolutely stunning illustrations copied from Persian miniatures.

Falnama: The Book of Omens
I first came across the Falnama when the Smithsonian did an exhibition on it, and I happened to be in Washington D.C. just in time to visit. They also published the gorgeous (albeit expensive) book I linked above. While not exactly a story collection, it is worth a read just for the illustrations, and the stories behind them. Also, the rainbow-colored angles I can't get enough of.

Arab Folktales
Part of the classic Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, this book is a collection of all the Arab stories you will ever want to delve into in one place. I treasure it as one of the folktale collections that included an unusually high number of tales I wanted to tell (normally a good collection has two or three - storytellers are picky).

The Romance of Antar
If you like medieval hero stories, you will love this one. Antar is born as the child of a black slave woman and the chief of an Arab tribe, and is raised as a slave. But through his strength, courage, and honor, he rises not only to become accepted by the tribe as their equal, but also becomes one of the most legendary heroes of the Arab middle ages. Oh, and also a poet. The romance exists in many translations. Take your pick.

Shahnameh, the Book of Kings
This is essentially THE Persian epic. Full of heroes, wonderful creatures, and also one of my top 3 favorite stories of all time, Zal and Rudaba (the earliest known version of the Rapunzel story type, except infinitely more badass). Definitely should be a part of common cultural knowledge.

And, of course, if you have not read the Arabian Nights yet: Read it. Definitely worth the three years, one night at a time :)

As usual, you can find Csenge (@TarkabarkaHolgy) at
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...
Her new book, Tales of Superhuman Powers - 55 folktales featuring superpowers - is available on Amazon.


Anonymous said...

Excuse my ignorance, but what does MMORPG mean? I enjoyed the descriptions of the books. Sue

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hiya - how fascinating to be given your list of Persian and Arabian Tales's such an interesting area and where so many great stories have come from .. interesting about reading Arabian Nights over three years .. a possibility ..

Then your project what a great opportunity, which you obviously grabbed - cheers Hilary

Mason Canyon said...

Arab and Persian tales can be quite fascinating. A nice group you've mentioned here.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. A form on online video gaming, like World of Warcraft, for example. Ours was called Nadirim. Sadly, it's not online anymore.