En toen, Sheherazade, en toen?
A beautiful adaptation of The One Thousand and One Nights in words and pictures, which does justice to the frame narrative’s universal themes.
The stories from The One Thousand and One Nights have their roots in the Indian, Persian and Arab cultures. They came about in the ninth century and have travelled all over the world. Imme Dros has made a personal selection from this colourful collection of stories, rewriting thirty-one tales in an impressive, smoothly flowing metre that begs to be read aloud. Annemarie van Haeringen has created expressive pictures with a suitably eastern atmosphere to accompany the stories.
As in the original, Dros begins with the frame story that unites The One Thousand and One Nights. Two royal brothers discover that their wives have been unfaithful, after which one of them (Shahryar) has his sweet revenge by taking a new virgin every night and then beheading her in the morning. Enter Scheherazade, who seduces Shahryar with her stories, so preventing her own execution while also healing the damaged king.
Dros beautifully shares her own role as a passionate storyteller with the heroine of her title. In every tale, however briefly, Scheherazade has her say, subtly becoming part of the flow of stories, while Dros shapes a coherent whole, assisted by Annemarie van Haeringen’s lively full-page illustrations. Not only does her bold yet nuanced colour palette lend the book an eastern atmosphere and allure, but her consistent, elegant play with patterns forges visual unity throughout the illustrations. The sumptuous shapes of the waves upon which Sinbad the sailor bobs around are, for example, magnificent. The lush green vegetation in the parallel opening and closing images is also striking, alluding to the vengeful start and loving conclusion of the frame narrative.
Anyone who is already aware of Dros’s love of Odysseus and the sea will not be surprised that she has included all of Sinbad’s seven sea voyages. Together with the large number of animal stories she has selected, these symbolise the human search for wisdom and happiness. Dros’s enchanting storytelling shows us that, without imagination, this quest is doomed to fail.