On Taletelling

“The jinni shook with delight: The jinn resemble humans in their ability to appreciate the value of a marvelous tale. Mia Gerhardt suggests that the terms of this ransom tale are ultimately rooted in the values of early Islamic society, where storytelling was an important source of entertainment and a fundamental way of asserting one’s status as a civilized being. The ability of the three storytellers to entrance the jinni listener represents the superiority of human abilities: ‘Jinn may be stronger than men and often redoubtable, but men’s words charm them, men’s lives are more interesting than theirs‘ (p. 404). Ferial Ghazoul sees the exchange of stories as metonymic, as the old men sacrifice the intimate stories of their lives as a substitute for the sacrifice of the life of the merchant (p. 85).”

—from The Annotated Arabian Nights, translated by Yasmine Seale and with notes by Paulo Lemos Horta

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