Scheherazade was with her younger sister, Dinarzade, when they both heard the news.
Everyone in the world knew how much the Sultan Schahriar loved his wife, and to hear of her betrayal of the Sultan. No one was happy. Although Scheherazade, more than anyone, thought of how the Sultan would react. She had observed him for most of their lives – he was not much older than she – and Scheherazade understood the Sultan’s temperament very well. She admired him deeply for the kindness he showed his people, but he was also apt to be impulsive, stubborn, and unlikely to forgive the wrong that had been committed against him.
And so Scheherazade worried.
When her father, the Grand Vizier, announced what the Sultan had decided, Scheherazade and Dinarzade weren’t even present for the proclamation. But the reaction of the people brought the two girls out into the streets. At first Scheherazade thought that the news must be false, and the people hysterical; it seemed impossible that the king had decided to protect his heart by marrying a new woman each night and having her killed in the morning. She and her sister ran to their home in the palace and asked to speak to their father. When he did arrive, he seemed to have aged years in the few hours since Scheherazade had seen him. She didn’t even have to ask to know that the rumors were true.
At first Scheherazade held out the hope that Sultan Schahriar would change his mind. But as night after night passed and more and more young women fell victim to the Sultan, Scheherazade knew something had to be done. As upset and frightened as everyone was, no one seemed to be prepared to do everything, and nothing came close to breaking the sultan’s resolve. But this could not be allowed to continue.
And so Scheherazade planned.
She thought through everything she had learned of Sultan Schahriar over her whole life, wracking her brain for anything that could be more powerful that his fear and sorrow. Scheherazade grew more determined every day that the sultan took a new wife, but each scheme she created seemed bound to fail. Until one day she told her sister Dinerzade a story that she had forgotten the ending to. Dinerazade queationed Scheherazade for days about the ending, even asking her to create something. Scheherazade was reminded of the insatiable curiousity that the young sultan had never grown out of.
When Sultan Schahriar was young, all of his tutors loved that he would learn anything they could teach him. As he grew older, his tutors despaired because they had already taught him everything, and now he asked questions they couldn’t answer.
A story then, Scheherazade decided. A story that would never end, to hold the sultans curiosity until he remembered that he was a good and kind man, and not a monster. But it would have to be a truly wonderous story to convince Sultan Schahriar to go against his original proclamation. Scheherazade all but locked herself in her room, Hardin each day that she wasn’t ready and another girl died, but knowing she would join them if she didn’t prepare properly.
At last, Scheherazade felt that she was ready. She could go up against the sultan and remind him of who he really was behind the hurt and the fear. All that was left was to put her plan into motion. Scheherazade knew she could do this.
“Father, I have a favor to ask of you. Will you grant it to me?”
Author’s Note: This story is based on the frame tale story of the Arabian Nights (or 1001 nights) where a sultan is betrayed by his wife and declares that he will take a new wife each night and see her killed the next day. A young woman named Scheherazade marries the sultan and tells him a wonderful story that she isn’t able to finish in one night. The sultan allows her to live until she finishes the story, and he ends up falling in love with her and trusting her enough to let her live. I thought that the beginning of the story was too rushed, and I wanted to show some of what I image Scheherazade was thinking as all of the events leading up to her storytelling were happening
Bibliography: The Arabian Nights translated by Andrew Lang. Web Source.
Image: Arabian Nights by Quentin088. Source: Pixabay