What could the Tale of Buluqiya and Hamilton: An American Musical possibly have in common? On the surface, the modern musical and the fictitious tale from One Thousand and One Nights seem to have nothing alike, but a deeper analysis reveals similar sentiments in the stories regarding immortality and legacies.

Hamilton: An American Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of Hamilton: An American Musical, starring as Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton is a musical that follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, an influential statesman at the time of the American Revolution. Debuting on Broadway in 2015, the musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda quickly gained in popularity and won many Tony awards. Hamilton, born in Puerto Rico, travels to America, plays a key role in the American Revolution, and then works with the founding fathers to help design the American governmental and economic system. The musical concludes with Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr, his lifelong friend and enemy. [1]

The Tale of Buluqiya from One Thousand and One Nights

The Tale of Buluqiya, on the other hand, follows a king on an epic journey. Within his palace, Buluqiya finds a gold box that contains a scroll with Greek writing which provides instructions on where to find Solomon’s ring that can provide immortality. Buluqiya sets off with his companion ‘Affan. They receive a special plant from a queen that allows them to walk across the seven seas to the tomb of Solomon. They find Solomon’s body donning the ring, and ‘Affan approaches the body. Meanwhile, Buluqiya recites conjurations, but he accidentally says some of the words backwards and ‘Affan dissolves into dust. Buluqiya finds himself wandering and alone, until he is captured by an army who brings him to their king – King Sakhr. He provides Buluqiya with a feast and describes the world’s origins and the coming of Muhammad. He also explains that he is immortal because he drank from the Fountain of Life which is guarded by al-Khadir. Buluqiya then returns home. [2]

A tapestry depicting the scene from the overarching story from One Thousand and One Nights.

Surface Connections

At first glance, these two stories seem vastly different; and while the plots themselves may not share a lot of similarities, the sentiments behind the actions of the main characters are surprisingly similar. In regard to plot, both tales follow a government official who sets off on an adventure. Both of the main characters also lose someone important to them – Buluqiya loses his travel companion ‘Affan, and Hamilton loses his son in a duel. Furthermore, both characters feel responsible for this death – Hamilton’s son died defending his father’s honor, and Buluqiya messes up the conjurations. But that’s about where the plot connections end.

Drawn to Adventure

Of course, Hamilton is based on the real life of Alexander Hamilton, and therefore the plot is less of a tale and more of a fact. However, in writing Hamilton, Miranda got to prescribe traits, feelings, and thoughts to Alexander that not only add to the story, but make the tale more of a conception versus a simple biography. One of these traits is Hamilton’s love of adventure. As a teenager, he travels to America and starts life over following the death of his parents. In addition, Hamilton stands up for what he believes in and stands down to no one. This is made evident in the song, “Non-Stop,” in which Burr asks Hamilton, “Why do you always say what you believe?” [3] This stubbornness ultimately cost him his life in a duel. Similarly, in the Tale of Buluqiya, Buluqiya finds the scroll and immediately drops everything to find it. He is not fainthearted, as he takes on many challenges along the way. Even following his failure to obtain immortality, Buluqiya owns it and is proud to tell his tale.

https://open.spotify.com/track/7qfoq1JFKBUEIvhqOHzuqX

Immortality and Legacy

Furthermore, the Tale of Buluqiya focuses on a king who is obsessed with becoming immortal. Hamilton shares this obsession – throughout the musical, Hamilton is “writing like he’s running out of time,” all to create a new nation and cement his place in American history. Hamilton knows he cannot live forever, but he realizes his actions can. Even on his deathbed, Hamilton speaks of his legacy. His wife, Eliza, goes on to continue his work and “tell his story” in the concluding song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” [4] Similarly, at the end of the Tale of Buluqiya, Buluqiya, after returning from his long, failed journey, sits down, tells his “history” to a passing stranger. In this way, through their stories, both characters find the immortality they have sought.

https://open.spotify.com/track/7EsSVPxaYoAZjQwhspJBs2

Cultural Connections

These connections between characters created millenniums apart suggest similar concerns of human mortality. Thousands of years later, humans are still afraid of dying, and especially afraid of dying without achieving anything. Perhaps this is another reason One Thousand and One Nights is still a popular text – people still can connect with the characters. Therefore, while on the surface Hamilton: An American Musical and the Tale of Buluqiya would seem to have nothing in common, the main characters share similar traits and obsessions. Their quest for immortality demonstrates that concerns of mortality are still present today and serve as a connection between pre-Islamic Middle Eastern culture and today’s modern world.

Sources

[1] “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) – Act II Script.” Warner Music Group. https://warnermusicgroup.app.box.com/s/98o13fgs1vrb2wxqe1zel2ugw7ppryv9/file/38329308850.

[2] “One Thousand and One Nights.” Wollamshram. http://www.wollamshram.ca/1001/Vol_5/tale132.htm.

[3] Miranda, Lin-Manuel, Ahmir Thompson, Alex Lacamoire, Bill Sherman, Christopher Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Leslie Odom, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Thayne Jasperson, Jon Rua, and Sydney James Harcourt, writers. “Non-Stop.” In Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording. Atlantic Records, 2016, MP3.

[4] Ibid., “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”