I like this story a lot. It has been with me since I was a kid as my sister used to read to me until I fell asleep...always before the story ended.
The story goes that every day Shahryar (Persian: شهریار, "king") would marry a new virgin, and after doing so would despatch the previous day's wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was unfaithful to him. He had killed 1,000 such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter.
In Sir Richard Burton's translation of The Nights, Scheherazade was described in this way:
- "[Scheherazade] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a
Against her father's wishes, 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 as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story. The king asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was not time, as dawn was breaking. So, the king spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. So the next night, Scheherazade finished the story and then began a second, even more exciting tale which she again stopped halfway through at dawn. So the king again spared her life for one day to finish the second story.
And so the King kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of last night's story. At the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, Scheherazade told the king that she had no more tales to tell him. During these 1,001 nights, the king had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and so he spared her life, and made her his queen.