There is no single author who wrote all the Arabian Nights tales, nor do they all come from the same place.

The Arabian Nights are a collection of stories that have been told and retold by generations of nomadic peoples, by sailors and merchants and by parents to their children. Ancient storytellers would adapt and embellish their stories to please different listeners and new tales would be added along the way. Collected and translated throughout the centuries by different authors, the Arabian Nights tales trace their roots back to the ancient and medieval literature of Arabia, Persia, India, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The Islamic Golden Age, said to have started around 786 – 809, was a period of great scientific and cultural flourishing. Many great libraries, mosques, schools and hospitals were founded in Baghdad and scholars came from far and wide to share their knowledge and ideas. Many classic books of antiquity – from the Greek, Roman, Persian, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian and Phoenician civilizations – that might otherwise have been lost were translated into Arabic and Persian and preserved in a library known as the House of Wisdom. A Persian collection of the Arabian Nights tales was translated into Arabic around 850, probably in Baghdad at the House of Wisdom. From these languages these books were later translated into Latin, Hebrew and Turkish and eventually into European languages.

The Arabian Nights tales were first translated into a European language (French) by Antoine Galland between 1704 and 1717.  Also known as The Thousand and One Nights, these editions became the primary source for many subsequent translations into English. This is how the stories, thoughts and ideas in these ancient tales and books were preserved and handed down to us.

The Islamic Golden Age continued until its decline which began with the crusades of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and continued with the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century and finally culminated in 1258 with the siege of Baghdad and the destruction of that city’s great mosques, palaces and libraries.

Fact or Fiction?

It is believed that the story Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp never existed in any of the early collections of Arabian Nights stories in Arabic, but was actually added to the collection by its French translator Antoine Galland. In a diary entry dated 25th March 1709, Galland claims that he heard the tale from a Syrian storyteller from Aleppo who he met in Paris!

LOOK OUT FOR Arabian Nights Adventures, a collection of thirteen contemporary editions of these these all-time classic tales published by Harpendore. Beautifully retold by Kelley Townley they include wonderful illustrations by Anja Gram. Though designed for children aged 7+ years, they are much adored by older children and adults too!

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