Born: In tide of yore
Died: In time long gone before
There once was a king named Shahryar. Upon discovering that the queen had betrayed him with a slave, the king sent for his Chief Minister, the father of the two damsels who (Inshallah!) will presently be mentioned and said “I command thee to take my wife and smite her to death; for she hath broken her plight and her faith. So the wazir carried her to the place of execution and did her die. Then King Shahryar took brand in hand and repairing to the Serraglio slew all the concubines and their Mamelukes. He also sware himself by a binding oath that whatever wife he married he would abate her maidenhead at night and slay her next morning to make sure of his honour; “For,” said he, “there never was nor is there one chaste woman upon face of earth.”
And so, he ordered his wazir to bring him a virgin to marry every day which he would then have executed the next morning before she could dishonour him. Three years later, the wazir couldn’t find any more virgins and returned home in sorrow and anxiety fearing for his life from the King. So his eldest daughter, Shahrazad, volunteered to marry the king.
Secretly, Shahrazad had asked her younger sister, Dunyazad, to join her in the king’s chambers at night and ask her for a story. Dunyazad did as she was asked and Shahrazad agreed and started telling a story which she stopped in the middle since dawn was breaking. So the king spared her life for one day so she could finish the story the next night. The following night Scheherazade finished the story and then began a second, more exciting tale, which she again stopped halfway through at dawn. Again, the king spared her life for one more day so that she could finish the second story. Thus the king kept Shahrazad alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the conclusion of each previous night’s story.
Eventually, after 1001 nights, Shahrazad told Shahryar that she had no more stories to tell. By that time however, the king had already fallen in love with her, so he spared her life permanently and made her his queen.
Why she’s on the list:
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.”
Shahrazad is the first fictional character on my list. And as a fictional heroine, her description will naturally be shaped to ideal standards that would please most readers, including myself.
And for the feminists out there, she should be a role model. She shows that women can actually control the men around them if they know how to properly wield their power to their advantage.
What I also like about Shahrazad is that she understands the power of a good story to entice an audience and always leave it wanting more. And since this is my first blog post after almost 10 years, I found it befitting to continue my little stories with the queen of storytelling herself. =)