Before the live action version of Disney’s Aladdin ABC released Arabian Nights a three part mini-series based on the novel ” A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” The complete mini-series can be found on Amazon Prime and is broken into three parts that are each about an hour long. This is a must watch for anyone that is a fan of Aladdin or Sinbad.
The series starts of in Baghdad during the reign of the Sultan Shahryar at an unknown point in time. At the beginning of the story the Sultan Shahryar (Dougray Scott) is suffering from nightmares after surviving an assignation attempt on his life by his brother Schahazenan (James Frain) and his wife the Sultana. The sultan, Shahryar, clearly traumatized by this event and is distrustful of women. He believes that they are all plotting to kill him. However, the law requires Shahryar to marry by the next full-moon or he will concede the throne to his brother, Schahazenan. The mad sultan Shahryar forms a plan to marry a woman from the harem and then to have her executed the very next morning. The Grand Vizier Jafar (Jim Carter) plans on finding a woman from the harem with no future but is stopped by his daughter Scheherezade (Mili Avital) who offers herself to be Shahryar’s bride. Scheherazade has loved Shahryar since they were children and believes that she can reach with her stories and cure his madness. While Scheherezade is trying to cure Shahryar, his brother Schahazenan, is amassing an army to take the throne by force after learning of his brother’s madness.
Scheherezade tells five stories, which are Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Tale of Poor Hunchback, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, The Sultan and the Beggar and The Three Princes. The first four stories are crafted specifically for curing Shahryar’s madness while the fifth is to give him courage before the final confrontation with his brother. While movie calls Shahryar’s affliction “madness” it is clearly something akin to PTSD. The trauma from this assignation attempted is clearly illustrated in the opening scene, which is a nightmare. In the nightmare, a giant red-skinned demon (djinn) is holding a beautiful woman who is dancing for him. The woman asks the demon to use his magic to raise her to the heavens and shower her with gold. The demon goes to sleep after using his magic. The woman goes to Shahryar who was watching from a tree and tries tempting him into having sex with her and threatens to wake the demon to kill him if he refuses. He strangles the life out of the woman in the dream and wakes up distraught. Nightmares and intrusive memories are common symptoms of PTSD and Shahryar deals with both throughout the series.
There is a power in story telling that transcends human emotions and can even cure madness. In the original novel, Scheherezade tells the King 1001 stories before she runs out of stories and then the King falls in love with her. Jesus in the Bible uses stories to teach his followers about the kingdom of heaven and the ancient Greeks used plays to teach us about the human condition. There is something powerful about stories that allow them to transcend time and speak straight to the human soul. This article is just the first in a series that is going to analyze how Scheherezade uses these to stories to bring Shahryar out of his madness and help save the kingdom from destruction.