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Arabian Night Series: The Healing Power of Tragedy

Scheherazade’s last story is the tragic story of the Sultan and the Beggar. Up until this point, Scheherazade has been trying to reach Shahryar with varying success. Shahryar came very close to killing her a couple of times but she still wants to save him. In this story, she places both Shahryar and his brother Schahazenan as characters in her story. In the story, she makes the beggar named Amin who looks exactly like Shahryar, and the Sultan Abraschild who looks like Schahazenan.

The story begins with Amin the beggar going into a tavern with his last coin to buy some ale and the Sultan Abraschild is in disguise deciding to pull a mean prank on him.  Abraschild has Amin kidnapped and brought to the palace of Cario where he orders everyone to treat Amin as if he were Sultan. Behind in a secret chamber, Abraschild watches everything and to his chagrin, Amin is taking his role as Sultan much more seriously than expected. In his short time as sultan, Amin lowers the taxes by half, doubles the wages of the army, and sets out to reduce the excess expenditure in the palace.

Then Abraschild sends Amin back into the streets where people mistreat him thinking that he has gone mad. This leads the guards to place the poor Amin in an insane asylum. Abraschild then decides to repeat the joke but this time drugs Amin. Amin always distressed as a sultan and is distressed. Perceiving that he is being watched and thought it a demon he proceeds to kill Sultan Abraschild. The Sultan’s commander and vizor enter the room to find him dead. In order to avoid a civil war, they decide to make Amin Abraschild’s successor and then tell everyone that he has taken a pilgrimage to Mecca.

At the end of this story, Shahryar realizes that he, like Abraschild, was being consumed from within. Abraschild from his desire to prank others and Shahryar from his grief. Shahryar relates to Abraschild in the story because of Abraschild’s obsession but not his pranking. Shahryar grief over killing his wife in self-defense during the coup attempt. It is because of this story that he is finally able to confront this PTSD and his guilt over killing his wife and acknowledge that he loves Scheherazade. This is the magic of tragedy, that so many people miss. When we see tragic films or TV. episodes we often get caught up in the pain and sadness. Tragedy as a genre of storytelling lets us confront the deepest darkness and pain within our own souls. Through the emotions and pain, it inflicts we learn how to cope with the harsh realities of human existence. In the case of Shahryar, it took a persistent woman trying to reach the boy she loved to get him to confront his grief and love again. Perhaps somewhere in there is a lesson for all of us there.

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