Princess Scheherazade: A Melting Pot of 1001 Tales

You might have heard of One Thousand and One Nights, or colloquially Arabian Nights, a collection of folktales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. Fewer people would know of Scheherazade (also Shahrazad), the heroine behind the entire series. Her name is a popularised German derivation from the Persian name Čehrāzād, carrying the meanings lineage (čehr) and noble (āzād), fitting for a daughter of the royal vizier.

In the story, the Neo-Persian king Shahryār was shocked when he discovered the infidelity of his brother's wife, and even more so when he found his wife doing the same. Angered, he killed his wife immediately and decided that all women are the same. Bitter, he started a succession of marrying a virgin every day and killing her off in the morning before she had any chance to dishonour him. Soon, the royal vizier responsible for finding new virgins for the king ran out of women, and against his wish, his daughter Scheherazade volunteered to spend a night with the king.

Lladró's Princess Scheherazade Sculpture Limited Edition portrays the intelligent protagonist of the 1001 Nights story. This masterful rendition is made in a limited numbered series of 300 and is available for pre-order.

Scheherezade was a well-educated and witty person who grew up reading the books of preceding kings, legends and myths, historical accounts, and the vast library of works by poets, philosophers, scientists and artists. She was said to be a collector of tales of ancient civilisations and departed rulers and their accomplishments. On the night of her marriage, she started telling Shahryār a tale but did not end it due to dawn breaking. Shahryār was eager to finish the tale, so he postponed her execution until the next day.

This continued repeatedly for 1001 nights (hence the collection's name). In the end, Scheherezade proclaimed to Shahryār that she had no more stories to tell. However, after nights of listening to her mesmerising stories, Shahryār fell in love with her, so she made her his queen to rule with. There are other variations of endings depending on the source, but they all end up with her staying alive.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about the 1001 Nights:

1. The three most famous stories within the collection are Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. However, they were actually not part of the original Arabic 1001 Tales but were added in addendums by translators. Many stories within share similarities with stories around the region as far as India due to the composite nature of the work.

2. This body of work has profound cultural influences on artwork around the world. Examples include Maurice Ravel's orchestral piece Shéhérazade, Iraqi artist Mohammed Ghani Hikmat's public sculptures in Baghdad Shahriyar and Scheherazade, and Sophie Anderson's oil painting Scheherazade.

3. In addition to Princess Scheherazade, Lladró artisans also pay homage to this tale with their 1001 Lights collection (top left), a series of decorative candles shaped like Arabic spires and building tops and imbued with turquoise, deep blue and shimmery red hues. Their new 2024 release, Majestic Nights (top right), expands the collection further with crescent moon-topped domes.

4. 1001 Nights is an excellent example of the framing narrative, a literary device where a story is just a medium to tell other stories within itself. This is exemplified in the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering's Shahrazad, a card from their first expansion Arabian Nights which enables players to play a game within a game.

5. The portrayal of Scheherezade as an intelligent heroine is atypical for its time considering the traditionally patriarchal societies it came from. Her fierce individuality and charisma allowed her to save the lives of other women in the kingdom and stand with women leaders like Cleopatra, Frida Kahlo and Diana/Artemis.

Lladró's Princess Scheherazade Sculpture Limited Edition is now available for pre-order and will start shipping in June 2024 when it becomes available.

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