It is possible that our race may be an accident, in a meaningless universe, living its brief life uncared for, on this dark, cooling star: but even so - and all the more - what marvelous creatures we are! What fairy story, what tale from the Arabian Nights of the jinns, is a hundredth part as wonderful as this true fairy story of simians! It is so much more heartening, too, than the tales we invent. A universe capable of giving birth to many such accidents is - blind or not - a good world to live in, a promising... Read more »
The other thing about the Nights is that it is quite racist. One parentheses is that I think this is one of the negative things that appeal to people, that The Arabian Nights could be used as a disguise for racism. It suited the West. You could smuggle racism into children's literature, you see. The African magician in the story of Aladdin, he's labeled explicitly as the "African Magician." He's not a character but a stereotype, and a lot of this got into nursery literature in this Oriental disguise.
There are a range of women not represented in the Western fairy tale tradition. Husband-beaters are particularly interesting, as well as male pederasts. Children are often told in The Arabian Nights, "This man likes to abduct boys, be careful of him." These issues are explored through the medium of the stories, but actually the architecture of the book is such that there are many examples of women who are loyal, brave, devoted - especially to their lovers.
India was China's teacher in religion and imaginative literature, and the world's teacher in trignometry, quandratic equations, grammar, phonetics, Arabian Nights, animal fables, chess, as well as in philosophy, and that she inspired Boccaccio, Goethe, Herder, Schopenhauer, Emerson, and probably also old Aesop.
Scheherazade, of course, was always in the back of my mind, because she's also a storyteller identified as female who tells a lot of anti-female stories. There's a parade in The Arabian Nights of sorceresses, adulteresses, ghouls, sirens, harridans.
Marvelous wonders don't have to happen of a sudden, the way they do in the Arabian Nights. They can also take a long time, like crystals growing, or minds changing, or leaves turning. The trick is to keep an eye peeled, so they don't slip by unappreciated.