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SindbadtheSailor
09-21-2005, 10:54 AM
I think the one fantasy book that has inspired hundreds, possibly even J.R.Tolkien and J.K.Rowling in a measure is Alf laylah wa laylah or The Thousand and One Nights. It is written in the context of medieval Arabic literature. The author/authors seems to have polished and breathed more life into independent stories, compiling them in The Thousand and One Nights. A book with very rich texture and purple phraseology emptied into a magical and inspiring backdrop of fairies and jinnees; and a bit of puff could make every reader's eyes shine in mystical romance. As you weave your way through bazaars (or souks) in Cairo today, you'll feel so enchanted with their kingdom; and men sitting on stools with hookahs. The adhan from the mosques travelling into you like the memories of church-bells in childhood. As I sat and had tea with an old man, I could see him bored and sad. "Have you read Alf laylah wa laylah?" A bright smile came on his face. "Aiwa," he said. Although he didn't understand English, the words Alf laylah wa laylah made him happy.

I've always been interested in other religions and cultures. By fantasy, we come to understanding. As we look at the Mid East today, all we get from the paper and T.V. is an unbalanced view. All we hear of is dictators and modern pharoahs ruling the people with iron hearts. An uncivilized race of people doomed to hell as some of the White House inhabitants might think. But as a person who has studied all religions. I think it is underestimating an enlightened tribe of people who were the first among astronomers, doctors and poets. When Europe was having a Dark Age, the Muslim World was rejoicing as the Golden Empire of the times with great rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent and Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who were known for their tolerance. They had Christian ministers at the very top of the order; and in Andalusia (Spain) churches, synagogues and mosques existed side by side.

It is after reading books like The Thousand and One Nights that we come to appreciate each other. I'm told the children in the Mid East love the Harry Potter books. I'm not a fan but it gives me immense pleasure where books, especially books of magic and fantasy, play a successful role as cultural ambassadors (more than people) in this world of prejudice and ignorance.

Sindbad

preyer
09-21-2005, 10:13 PM
i've never read it, though i know vaguely of the story of sheharizad (sp) telling a story to her despotic husband-ruler. for every story she told him at night, he granted her another day of life. if i'm not mistaken, sinbad and aladdin come from that, doesn't it?

then you went into a kind of sociological thing that has nothing really to do with the story. since you went to the trouble of mentioning it, i'll take the trouble to comment on it.

first of all, telling the news is like anything else: it's an industry. lest you think the information *we* get on the middle east is slanted, consider the idea that it's downright scout's honour here compared to the information they've gotten. since you've been there, you're probably somewhat familiar with their phone monopoly Etisalat which, it's my understanding, monitors phone calls. it's also my understanding that their newspapers don't report murders or rape as if that doesn't happen. you mention this world of prejudice and ignorance (and where would history be without those?), well, there it is.

the news industry does tend to focus on the negative. but, there's also the positive side, human interest stuff. if you've not been picking up on the positive stories coming out of the region (albeit not as prominent or as with the same frequency) i can only suggest finding a new news source. thing is, the news doesn't exist to focus only on the arab world, it's there to report the major happenings all *all* places basically as it relates to us, americans (assuming you're american). watch the BBC reports on american activities and you'll probably not see a lot of who won the pie eating contest at the ice cream social in nebraska instead of some horrible event taking place here.

but, historically, the near east has been high on philosophy and science. before alexandria was destroyed, it had probably the best library in the world up to that point. nevertheless, you probably would never have, and still wouldn't, want to be a native woman in these places. i think you could still consider their justice system barbaric. if you want to talk about unbalanced, i'd imagine you'd have to go no further than to check out their immigration/emigration numbers (if, indeed, you can find a set of numbers you can trust) and draw your own conclusions from that. that is, you don't find a lot of people flocking to live there, but there's sure a helluva lot trying to get out. it's great for a tourist to enjoy the romance of the bazaar and all that, but you couldn't pay most of us enough to live there outside major metropolitan areas, which, it's been my experience, are almost invariably more liberal in terms of acceptance. i don't believe 'the big city' is any kind of cultural mecca that is indicative of anything other than the big city: most people don't live in the city, and as such doesn't necessarily share its values, culture, customs and philosophies.

i think you're trying to paint an anecdotal picture here, which is fine, but all romance and history aside, you don't want to be an american in a lot of places over there right now. trying to say they're 'noble, enlightened and proud tribesmen' is fine, too, as long as you mention the fact they've been slaughtering one another for thousands of years. you said it yourself, it's 'enchanting.' i saw a blonde with a huge rack yesterday who i was 'enchanted' by, doesn't mean that she wasn't a raving lunatic once you got to know her, either. but, for a weekend, i'm sure i could maintain the fantasy of her being wonderful in all ways despite the clues to the contrary. come monday and the adventure is over. best to walk away with a great memory rather than find a box of tampons in your medicine cabinet and her talking about getting a pet together. charm and allure wears off quick.

sociology is one of the four main areas of archaeology, so it's no wonder that as writers most of us are interested in these things. it's our responsibility to ourselves and as readers, though, to at least try to see things for what they are. trying to depict it as this wonderfully colourful, fascinating, 'enchanting' place is all fine and well as long as the reader understands that's just a fantasy, else who's infusing an unbalance now? what's truly ignorant is suddenly wanting to move to the west after reading 'harry potter' as were it truly indicative of our culture. the book being an ambassador is rather a funny notion (though i'm not disagreeing with it) because that and 'the thousand...nights' is escapist fantasy and should be viewed as such. (what *is* funny is one of the examples you provide to show their greatness has a christian tag attached to its toe. i'm sure it's evidence of their tolerance as opposed to an unintentional insinuation, but one has to wonder about the political machinations that allowed these ministers to have a powerful influence in the first place. i find it highly suspect that these ministers were allowed an inside track just because those in power were trying to be as all-inclusive as possible. for the sake of argument, let's say that for a minute that was the case: how long did that last? where's all that tolerance and leneancy now? in thousands of years of history, the ability to pull out a few good *historically verifiable* rulers based on our ideals really shouldn't be taken as the norm, eh?)

i used to work with a guy who came from the gaza strip. he got an engineering degree and moved over here and went straight into where i worked, which was a factory (at the time with over a thousand people working). in his mind, being a man made him have authority over all women there. you can imagine how that worked out. in his first week we thought he'd explode. not only did the women *not* do what he said, it drove him absolutely bonkers that when he accompanied one to the committeeman's office because he was being an asss, they wouldn't follow, like, ten paces behind him. well, he got wise real fast. once the culture shock wore off, he became tolerable. his brother, who's involved in the convenience store business (not trying to label them here by putting him in a stereotypical situation, it just happens to be what he does) married one of the girls i worked with, a loud, opinionated woman to begin with, so i wonder how that family reunion works out, lol. that's just my own anecdotal thing in an effort to balance-out the fantasy vs. reality. note that this story didn't originate from the AP or white house. :)

SindbadtheSailor
09-22-2005, 04:00 PM
if i'm not mistaken, sinbad and aladdin come from that, doesn't it?

Yes, Aladdin and Sindbad are from The Thousand and One Nights.



then you went into a kind of sociological thing that has nothing really to do with the story.


Oh, no. It has a lot to do with the reality and the story. I took up the topic to show the modern fantasy genre in the West is actually influenced by tales from the East like The Thousand and One Nights. While people there have drawn upon folk tales and totally imaginary monsters and characters, people in the West have relied upon fables and mythologies, especially the Greek mythology.

As for me going into the sociological realm, I think that is significant when you take into account the present world of hatred. I've had very pleasant experiences in places that would be listed as "alien". Above all, it is human kindness and love that transcends the voices of political commentators.



it's great for a tourist to enjoy the romance of the bazaar and all that, but you couldn't pay most of us enough to live there outside major metropolitan areas, which, it's been my experience, are almost invariably more liberal in terms of acceptance.


I understand what you're trying to say but I didn't go there as a tourist but a pilgrim.



trying to say they're 'noble, enlightened and proud tribesmen' is fine, too, as long as you mention the fact they've been slaughtering one another for thousands of years.


I don't want to get into a political debate here. It is true that they have had dictators and despots, largely as a consequence of colonial rule. The only slaughter I know of is being done by our forces in Iraq. I'm trying to live the gentle side of everything. Fantasy as I've said earlier promotes cultural understanding by not necessarily living in total reality. Instead, by metaphor and imagination we paint a picture of good Vs evil that all people can apply to. The names of the characters that were "alien" turn into "household". That's the power of fantasy writing and literature.



trying to depict it as this wonderfully colourful, fascinating, 'enchanting' place is all fine and well as long as the reader understands that's just a fantasy, else who's infusing an unbalance now?


That is indeed unbalanced but it is an effort to balance the earlier infamous view, which is that all the people out there are murderers and suicide bombers. I have been to other places, and I have seen weakness and strength in all people. Their media also needs to take an account of this. A balanced view of the East in the West and the West in the East needs to be presented.



i find it highly suspect that these ministers were allowed an inside track just because those in power were trying to be as all-inclusive as possible. for the sake of argument, let's say that for a minute that was the case: how long did that last?


Yes, they were the ministers at the top. They were given all information. Both the kings are renowned for their wisdom and tolerance. Sulieman the Magnificent is even referred to as the successor of the Biblical Prophet Solomon a.k.a Suleiman bin Doud. There's a wonderful short-story by Rudyard Kipling in Just So Stories about King Solomon.


for the sake of argument, let's say that for a minute that was the case: how long did that last? where's all that tolerance and leneancy now? in thousands of years of history, the ability to pull out a few good *historically verifiable* rulers based on our ideals really shouldn't be taken as the norm, eh?)


That's a question that should be put to all the world leaders in Court!

Lastly, I would like to say what I've wanted to bring about in what I wrote. I think fantasy literature has proven that differences can be set aside in the mind because that is the root where the words go and from where differences come.

Sindbad

preyer
09-23-2005, 02:49 AM
oops, i really mispelled 'leniency.'

i wasn't looking for a political debate, either. their tribes have been killing one off throughout their history, just as native american tribes had done so. in that i was trying to illustrate my belief that balance begins with the truth, the good and the bad, and presenting only one side in an effort to 'right the wrongs' and bring 'balance' doesn't have as much inherent goodness in practice as in the philosophy. in other words, if a people are being maligned by the media (again, i posit you might consider changing news sources if this is the case) and someone is trying to correct that 'injustice' (regardless of the facts) may over-correct, and in that embellish the truth or unintentionally be misleading with their own selective facts. not that you have, mind. therein lies a perfect example of the old saying, 'the path to hell is lined with good intentions.' assuming the negative media attention is truthful, lying to balance it out not only makes the person a liar but a hypocrite as well, 'good intentions' or no, eh? again, not that you're lying, not suggesting that, just one has to be careful in what they believe.

'I took up the topic to show the modern fantasy genre in the West is actually influenced by tales from the East like The Thousand and One Nights. While people there have drawn upon folk tales and totally imaginary monsters and characters, people in the West have relied upon fables and mythologies, especially the Greek mythology.' ~ i agree the east has had a terrific influence, but i'm not so hep to agree with the rest of the assessment that us westerners haven't drawn upon folk tales and totally imaginary monsters and characters, too. can you explain that more?

bluejester12
09-23-2005, 06:43 AM
My first real story was based on 1001 nights. I think it's great (The Arabian Nights, not my story). Just had to pick up the Green Lantern graphic novel called 1001 Emerald nights.


For those who never knew, Aladdin is Chinese, or at least the story takes place in China, not Disneys Agrabah :Lecture:

Mike Coombes
09-23-2005, 09:44 AM
lest you think the information *we* get on the middle east is slanted, consider the idea that it's downright scout's honour here compared to the information they've gotten.

It's suprising how people will eat what the tv spoon-feeds them.

I suggest you actually try watching a few hours of Al Jazeera (which I assume you're referring to, I'm willing to bet you don't know any other arabic news services). If you ignore western media hysteria, you'll find that Al Jazeera's news coverage is pretty balanced and honest. Far more so than, say, Fox news.

And the only reason there are so many dangerous places to be an american, it's because a whole bunch of people are really pissed off about being shat on by US foreign policy.

SindbadtheSailor
09-23-2005, 11:16 AM
Hi Preyer!



their tribes have been killing one off throughout their history, just as native american tribes had done so.

Who hasn't been killing? All the people have been hurting each other. This isn't a selective phenomenon.


my belief that balance begins with the truth, the good and the bad, and presenting only one side in an effort to 'right the wrongs' and bring 'balance' doesn't have as much inherent goodness in practice as in the philosophy.


Exactly, which is why I believe that fantasy literature, indeed any literature, has the power to uphold that truth better than people. Charles Schulz once wrote: "The pen is mightier than the sword...but not the mouth." On the surface, it may seem that he is saying that the writer is weak. Outside humour (humor), I understand that we must not be supressed by loud-mouthed world leaders. The writer must understand this world for others as well as himself or herself. This understanding can only come from a positive reflection of facts and knowledge.

By balance, I don't mean that we should show things that are not true. Certainly not! In fact, that is what I'm opposed to. And that is where our media is lagging behind. As for the other point, all I can say is that philosophy ferments practice.



i agree the east has had a terrific influence, but i'm not so hep to agree with the rest of the assessment that us westerners haven't drawn upon folk tales and totally imaginary monsters and characters, too. can you explain that more?

While the West has had mythologies to fall back upon, the Arab world has been very firm in their monotheism. That also includes Christians and Jews living in that part. It has to do with their past history. first as a pagan land and later on as a cradle of Islam. I will be happy to elaborate if you like.

Sindbad

SindbadtheSailor
09-23-2005, 11:30 AM
Hi blue!


My first real story was based on 1001 nights. I think it's great (The Arabian Nights, not my story). Just had to pick up the Green Lantern graphic novel called 1001 Emerald nights.

Then you have joined the ranks of the likes of Hans Christian Anderson.


For those who never knew, Aladdin is Chinese, or at least the story takes place in China, not Disneys Agrabah


Very true. Disney's Aladdin has been the subject of a lot of criticism, particulary in South East Asia:

http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/white951.htm

Also, Aladdin is the Americanized name of the real Ala' al din,meaning nobility of faith.

Sindbad

preyer
09-23-2005, 10:22 PM
al-Jazeera is in a partnership with the BBC and *still* has been known to censor things, like a documentary of executions in their 'puritanical country' which threatened to shut the network down.

http://www.msnbc.com/news/643471.asp?cp1=1

'FOR MANY of BBC Arabicís staff, that day marked the death of a long-held dream: uncensored news for the Middle East, reports shorn of the crazy conspiracy theories, anti-Israel sentiments and sniveling praise for venal regimes that is standard fare on state-controlled broadcast networks from Algiers to Islamabad.'

this article is actually in defense of the network, but it also proves it stands alone as evidenced in this:

'First, that to be anything but a lackey in the Arab media is to invite beatings, torture or death. The Society for the Protection of Journalistsí annual list of reporters killed in the line of duty is littered with the corpses of moderate, tolerant Arab journalists who have stood up to their bullying dictatorships, on the one hand, or their puritanical mullahs, on the other.'

al-Jazeera is the only 'honest' game in their town. even then it's not beyond reproach. certainly we've got our biased news reporting, but the difference is we have options on which journalistic standard (a big term here which means everything) you're going to follow.

'...(which I assume you're referring to, I'm willing to bet you don't know any other arabic news services).' ~ let's try not insulting me: you won't like how fast i bury your argument. try to keep it friendly, eh?

okay, this may not be the best example, but it's an anecdotal one and should be taken for what it's worth. in particular, i refer to the second post:

http://maddox.xmission.com/c.cgi?u=uae

bottom-line, most of these countries don't enjoy a freedom of speech like we do. here, we can have a 'reporter' literally make-up stories about the places and nothing terribly bad happens other than he loses his job. there, he risks his life. pointing out al-Jazeera and trying to prop it up as the norm is ridiculous.

preyer
09-23-2005, 10:54 PM
i should probably amend this a bit to include sources like sahafa, which basically culls its stories from a lot of sources, one being msnbc, for example. the point it, slamming western news for bias is fine and dandy and which i agree, but then to say arabic news is less biased for using selective sources (even our own 'biased' sources) isn't proving any point other than how wrong that line of thinking is.

now, i have to admit i have to generally go off the critiques of other people here since i don't read the language and most actual newspapers like atillata (sp) might not print an english version.

preyer
09-24-2005, 07:21 AM
aaanyway, what other stories might we know from it?

just from a purely fantasy standpoint, i love the whole arabic adventure thing. flying carpets, genie in the bottle, scimitars, caravans, all that is great stuff. as an aside, you might really enjoy the movie 'secondhand lions.' great flick, that. just for entertainment, that kind of thing is hard to beat for me. (one of my stories on the back burner, 'the golden rules,' has an arabic prince in it, come for the hand of a princess. it's my nod towards that whole romantic milieu. foolishly, i'll probably do as a script.)