Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from The Arabian Nights illustrated by Edmund Dulac

Most of us are familiar with the Tales from 1001 Arabian Nights told in Syria and Persia during the ninth and tenth centuries. These stories are credited to Scheherazade who spun the exciting tales as a way to stay an execution from her husband for her unfaithfulness. In 1704 they were published in French and other translations in various languages followed. Sir Richard Francis Burton created a version with a more erotic twist in 1885 which both scandalized and titillated the oh-so-proper British.

This particular book, Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from The Arabian Nights, Is an unabridged reprint from Hodder and Stroughton’s 1914 edition by Laurence Housman with illustrations by Edmund Dulac. It includes the 7 Voyages of Sindbad, Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, The Story of the Three Calenders (ascetic one eyed wanderers seeking to reclaim their former thrones), and The Sleeper Awakened (a humorous tale full of practical jokes). There are about two dozen color plates of glorious watercolors influenced by classic Persian art interspersed throughout the book.

The language is old fashioned reflecting the nature of these ancient narratives, and although there is quite a bit of violence, the sexual nature of the tales is subdued, making it appropriate for middle schoolers on up. There is one sequence with an antisemitic slant, some dark references to blackamoors, and several acts of harm perpetuated against women, which might be offensive to some, but overall the stories are fanciful fairy tales full of the blood and guts which children seem to adore. With numerous references to Allah and Baghdad, it is obvious these stories originated from the Middle East.

In my youth, we often went to the Saturday morning movies featuring badly dubbed films featuring Sindbad or other wayfarers, such as Jason and the Argonauts and Hercules, with lots of battles against supernatural forces including humongous birds, one eyed Giants, and awesome sea serpents. It was the 60s version of zombies and vampires, and, even while recognizing how horrible they all were, we loved every minute of our time spent in the darkened theater. These entrancing stories bring back the flavor those days where all sense of reality is suspended and we sit back waiting to be entertained with each subsequent story more incredulous than the last.

A thank you to Netgalley and Calla Editions from Dover Publishers for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Four stars.


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