?The Thousand And One Nights? Essay, Research Paper
In the text, ?The Thousand and One Nights,?(926) there are several moral issues introduced. The story of the merchant and the demon, as presented by Shahrazad, displays most of these morals. In fact, first told thousands of years ago, this story presents many of the morals that humanity lives by today. The story advocates grace, virtue, sharing pain, the depravity of jealousy, and forgiveness; morals, that to this day are prominent in the lives of people all over the world. But perhaps the most important message that is initiated in the story of the merchant and the demon is to stand by your own personal morals and values, though hardship may provoke desertion.
One of the morals presented by the story of the merchant and the demon, is that of grace. Although the Jinn is called a demon, he is not completely horrible. He shows grace when he allows the merchant a one-year reprieve to settle his affairs, furthermore, the Jinn takes the word of the merchant that he will return. The Jinn also demonstrates grace when he listens to the men?s stories. By listening to these stories and agreeing to relinquish parts of his claim on the merchant?s life the Jinn is allowing the old men to consequently free the merchant.
Another moral that is displayed in this story is virtue. The merchant is virtuous because he keeps his word to the Jinn even though it means his death. When the merchant gave his word to the Jinn he swore to God that he would return, to then break this contract, out of his own fear of death, would mean that he would no longer be virtuous because he has dishonored God and himself. The story shows the reward for his courage when the men stay to find out what will happen when the Jinn appears. These men similarly exhibit virtue, when they put themselves in danger by staying with the merchant.
The moral of sharing someone else?s pain and that of helping without a promised compensation is also implied in this story. The first man first stops to warn the merchant that he is in a ?place of demons and devils.?(940) That man is then in danger himself when he stays to witness the conclusion of the encounter between the merchant and the Jinn. The second and third men, when they hear the tale of the merchant, also stay to find out what the Jinn will do when he emerges. When the Jinn does appear, all of the men, with no assurance of reward, stay to support the merchant and in turn tell their own stories of woe. As each relates his story they not only share the pain of the merchant but also inevitably facilitate in saving his life.
The individual stories of each man also hold certain morals. The first man?s story of his wife, mistress and son exposes the evils of jealousy. Although his wife is taken care of and loved she becomes jealous of her husbands mistress and son. She turns the mistress into a cow and the son into a bull and sends them out to the pasture with the other cattle. The wife then lies to her husband about their disappearance. When it is time for the Great Feast of Immolation (941) his mistress in her guise of a cow is brought forth for the sacrifice. The man is unknowingly reluctant but his wife forces the butcher. When his wife is found out she is punished by being transformed herself into a deer. All of her treacherous actions reveal her jealousy and the extent of what she must to do cover it up.
The second man?s story illustrates the moral of forgiveness. He tells of how his brothers were scoundrels and though they misused all of their wealth, the man helped them without reproach. When the brothers become envious of the man?s life they conspire to kill him and his new wife. However, the wife of this man is a Jinn herself and vows to kill the brothers for there corrupt acts. The man, on the other hand, refuses her and forgives his brothers. He does this with the words ?Be kind to those who harm you.?(946) The brothers are transformed into dogs and kept by the man for ten years, as was their sentence. Although the actions of his brothers were wrong, the man forgives them because to repay them in kind would be to betray his own values.
The most prominent moral that prevails throughout the entire story of the merchant and the Jinn as well as the individual stories of the three men is therefore: even in times of distress and vulnerability, never compromise your integrity. The merchant demonstrates this by returning to meet the Jinn, though he will die when he does so. The first man shows this when he does not kill his wife for her misdeeds caused by jealousy; the second man, when he does not allow his brothers to be killed for their transgressions. All of these men are virtuous and will not permit fear, sorrow, or ill treatment to discredit this. Today, as in the past, many people still believe and follow that when a man has virtue, he will not disown his morals and values, even if his very life is in danger.
?The Thousand and One Nights? The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces: Expanded Edition in One Volume. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1997. 926-948
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