A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

The Miraculous in the Literary Text: The Example Of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’

Issue 59
The Miraculous in the Literary Text: The Example Of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’

Dr. Muhammad Ali Amin

Researchers agree that ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ is a miraculous text. As is well-known, the book is full of fairy tales, and magic dominates their narrative structure.

In the tales of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, the miraculous narrative fabric shrouds its various forms. This is what I and most of the researchers who have studied this unique folk literature text have found. What many of these researchers failed to notice is that the miraculous plays a significant role in the broad literary semantic space of the tales of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. 

It is noteworthy that the miraculous adds elements that are not meant to only entertain the reader. Rather, they open the text up to various interpretations, which require a deep reading with extensive experience in literature and its various genres, criticism, analysis, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and other fields.

‘The miraculous' is a critical term referring to metaphysical events that fall within the realm of the impossible and that defy logic. miraculous literature, as such, is the literature of impossible imagination; it is literature that transcends everything realistic or reasonable and opens to that which is beyond reality and reason. The miraculous is defined as "the process of forming fantasies that do not exist in reality and are impossible to achieve."

Anyone who examines the tales of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ closely will notice that, as previously stated, the miraculous dominates various components of the narrative; for example, it dominates characters remarkably. This is evidenced by the exaggerated image of the character of the sage Doyyan in the story of King Jonah. This sage managed to cure the king of leprosy after doctors were unable to do so. After Doyyan had been in the city for a few days, he heard about what had happened to the king. One morning, he put on his most luxurious clothes and went to the palace of King Jonah, where he kissed the ground and said, to the astonishment of the king, “O King, I will relieve you of this disease without medicine or ointment.” 

Anyone who enjoys reading the titles of the ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ stories will notice how the miraculous dominates. The majority of these titles invoke a world of the grotesque and fantastic, enticing the reader to discover what follows these titles. Examples include ‘The Tale of the Trader and the Jinn’, ‘The Tale of the Hunter and the Jinn’, ‘The Tale of the Enchanted City’ and ‘The Tale of the Dispossessed City’.

Furthermore, the miraculous also dominates time, events, and other elements of the narrative structure in the ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ stories. There is no need to examine and identify these components; as it is not an end in itself. Rather, it is merely a means of confirming the miraculous' dominance in the tales of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ and, perhaps more importantly, studying the effect of the miraculous on the tales’ semantic openness.

All Issue