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Invitation to World Literature


Map & Timeline

The stories in The Thousand and One Nights have traveled the world repeatedly over the centuries. But this region is where they originated, first told by storytellers in the 600s-900s CE in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and India. They journeyed to Baghdad, capital of the Abbasid Empire, and spread west from there. Even within the empire, the stories were changed and amplified. When this empire broke up, the stories remained.

?-9th century
Folktales are told in Persia, Arabia, and India that will form the basis of The Thousand and One Nights.

9th century
The tales reach Baghdad, capital of the Abbasid Empire.

Haroun al-Rashid rules as the third Caliph and greatest leader of the Abbasid Empire.

Al-Rashid appears as a character in some of the tales of The Thousand and One Nights.

The Abbasid Empire reaches its peak of power.

late 1200s
The collection of stories that became Alf Laylah wa Laylah (The Thousand and One Nights) was written down, most likely in Syria.

late 1300s The Syrian archetype copy was written down.

1300s-1700s The tales circulate throughout the Middle East, including Cairo, where copyists record the tales. These versions become the basis for later editions.

French translator Antoine Galland is born.

Galland's pathbreaking translation is published.

Edward Lane's English translation is published.

Lane uses the Bulaq, and edits the stories to make them "decent."

Richard Burton's English translation is published.

Burton uses the Bulaq, and adds florid language, together with copious ethnographic notes, using the tales to explain Islam and Middle Eastern customs.

1984 Muhsin Mahdi, an Iraqi scholar of Arabian history, literature, and philosophy publishes a definitive modern edition of the Syrian archetype.

Husain Haddawy publishes a collection of stories based on Mahdi's translation called The Arabian Nights.

© 2010 Map Resources, All rights reserved.
The region where The Thousand and One Nights originated as oral tales.
Image ©Chad McDermott , 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Map of the area where the tales originated
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Arabian story telling
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Haroun al-Rashid, king and character
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Abbasid architecture
An early version of Alf Laylah wa Laylah (The Thousand and One Nights)
Antoine Galland
Frontispiece of Galland's translation
Edward Lane's translation
Richard Burton's translation
Table of Contents for Husain Haddawy's translation