Before Homer created his masterpiece, The Odyssey, the journeys of Odysseus probably resembled these tales from The Arabian Nights. Sinbad the Sailor, in fact, can be viewed as an Arabian Odysseus. In this tale a poor porter finds himself the guest of a mysterious and generous host who embarks on the tale of his seven voyages from which he accrued enormous wealth and respect. The host is none other than the famed Sinbad.

Sinbad, seeking a life of adventure and excitement, joins the crew of a merchant ship. On each voyage, he is either abandoned accidentally by his comrades or left as the sole survivor of some disaster. Subsequently he encounters fantastical lands and creatures that test his limits. Through ingenuity, luck, and perhaps divine intervention he survives and escapes, always with a hefty load of treasure.

Many of the tales parallel those in the Odyssey. The episode of the Cyclops is almost line for line an exact copy. At one point Sinbad’s crew finds the egg of a Roc and proceed to eat it despite Sinbad’s protests. Of course, the adult birds return to shatter the ship and kill the crew, leaving only Sinbad to cling to the wreckage. This is an obvious reference to the Cattle of the Sun. Of course, there are plenty of unique encounters. The tales, obviously, have an oriental feel to them that effectively triggers the imagination. I particularly enjoyed Sinbad’s escape from the Valley of Diamonds and his escape from live internment.

 I wanted to read the Arabic interpretation of these adventures, and I was not disappointed. Though it would be nice, if someone could compile them into one cohesive story rather than just separate episodes. Perhaps it has already been done.

Advertisements