The One Thousand and One Night also known as The Arabian Nights is collection of folklore stories that have been used to lay the foundation of many stereotypes towards the Middle East. When Westerners talk about this collection one of the first associations people think about is the relationship between harems and passive partners. Most fail to see how the stories represent the idea of strong independent women across-cultures., presented as the main narrator in the collection, is a brave and incredibly well-read women that sacrifices her freedom to stop the king from continuing the killing of his brides after sleeping with them. The preface of the Norton critical ediction by Daniel Heller-Roazen and Husain Haddawy includes a sentence that portrays the power dynamic in the collection.
“Who runs the greater risk in the Nights, the one who speaks or the one who listens, the writer or the reader, Shahrazad or Shahrayar?”
This collection contains different myths depending on which culture is analyzing it. For the Western world, the collections are associated with sex and are interpreted as portraying passive submissive women. For the Middle Eastern perspective, the relationship between beauty and intelligence is primary to the survival and the only pathway to overcome the obstacles created by men. Regardless of the different perspectives, in both cultures women are urged to educate themselves to acquire the best skills to deal with the obstacles imposed upon them by patriarchal societies. In other words, both cultures associate independence and knowledge. Modern independent ideas, mostly associated with Western perspective, is related to economic independence, which is also presented in the Nights.
In the Tale of the First Lady, the Mistress of the House,” the primary female character is a wealthy silk merchant that manages her own business and has no plans on getting married. The myth centered in economic independence as a way to have a life where women does not depend on men is clearly depicted. While the folktale cannot be used a document that accurately describes the attitudes of its time, the common themes that correlate to feminist theories today are still present and worth considering. In the “The Story of the Porter and the Three Ladies,” the women in the house lay the rule that the men cannot speak of what they see or ask any questions. This tale portrays a reversed role as most patriarchal societies are rooted in not allowing women speak. It is essential to notice that the power dynamic in the Arabian Nights are rooted in Scheherade speaking, a symbol of power often ignored. Reversed roles and feminist ideas are presented in the collection, some stories even presenting women as the savior with the power to lay and revoke magical curses, and she-devils that save men. While misconceptions regarding the collection have been utilized to create stereotypes, the stories have details that depict feminist attitudes present today.