From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, the King had not only been entertained but wisely educated in morality and kindness by Scheherazade who became his Queen." --Sholem Stein
"The Fihrist narrates the opening tale of the series; the king's heartbroken oath that every night he will wed a virgin whom he will have beheaded at dawn, and the resolution of Scheherazade, who diverts him with marvelous stories until a thousand nights have revolved over the two of them and she shows him his son. This invention-far superior to the future and analogous devices of Chaucer's pious cavalcade or Giovanni Boccaccio's epidemic." --"The Translators of "The Thousand and One Nights"" (1934) by Jorge Luis Borges
Scheherazade is the virgin storyteller of the king in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. For 1001 nights in a row, Scheherazade tells the king a story, each time stopping at dawn with a cliffhanger, thus forcing him to keep her alive for another day so that she can complete the tale the next night.
The frame tale goes that every day king Shahryar would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday's wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was betraying him. He had killed three thousand such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter.
In Sir Richard F. Burton's translation of The Nights, Shahrazad was described in this way:
- "[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred."
Against her father's protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King's chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dinazade, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The King lay awake and listened with awe to Scheherazade's first story and asked for another, but Scheherazade said there was not time as dawn was breaking, and regretfully so, as the next story was even more exciting.
And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, the King had not only been entertained but wisely educated in morality and kindness by Scheherazade who became his Queen.
The nucleus of these stories is formed by an old Persian book called Hezar-afsana or the "Thousand Myths" (Persian: هزارافسانه).
The earliest forms of Scheherazade's name include Šīrāzād (شیرازد) in Masudi and Šahrāzād (شهرازاد) in Ibn al-Nadim, the latter meaning "she whose realm or dominion (شهر šahr) is noble (ازاد āzād)". In explaining his spelling choice for the name Burton says, "Shahrázád (Persian) = City-freer; in the older version Scheherazade (probably both from Shirzád = lion-born). 'Dunyázá' = world-freer. The Bres[lau] Edit[ion] corrupts the former to Shárzád or Sháhrazád; and the Mac[naghten] and Calc[utta] to Shahrzád or Shehrzád. I have ventured to restore the name as it should be." Having introduced the name Burton does not continue to use the diacritics on the name.
Scheherazade was identified, confused with, or partly derived from the legendary queen Homāy, daughter of Bahman, who has the epithet Čehrzād or Čehrāzād (چهرازاد) "she whose appearance is noble". Harun al-Rashid's mother, Al-Khayzuran, is also said to have influenced the character of Scheherazade.