Iranian Stories and Fables (130)
Welcome to this edition of Iranian stories and fables. In this program we take a brief look at the role of names chosen for the characters in the precious collection of the One Thousand and One Nights. This section is followed by a new story from the collection titled "Khalifey-e Qollabi" (Bogus Caliph).
Literary critics, particularly the contemporary ones, including Roland Barthes and Louis Strauss, believe that special names chosen for the characters of the story are based on different aspects including the written, conceptual, symbolic, and phonetic ones. Novelists have always taken into consideration the names they put on the characters. It is said that Honoré de Balzac, French novelist and playwright chose the appropriate name for the hero of his stories by ruminating in the streets and looking at the names carved walls. Today also novelists choose the name of their characters after contemplation.
Studying the descriptive value of special names of some of the characters and heroes of the One Thousand and One Nights is of great significance. This study in regards to the global status of the piece is much more important.
As you know One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Iranian, Indian and Arabic stories which is translated into several languages. However the translators rarely paid attention to the concept, spelling or even pronunciation of the special names and therefore the cultural and historical connotations of these names have been camouflaged from the view of the readers who don't know Farsi or Arabic.
Roland Barthes believes that in studying a piece, the names should be analyzed and pondered upon precisely since a name is a key to the story and its connotative meaning is important both from the social and symbolic aspects. This is while after the translation, the descriptive meaning of names is destroyed and names become meaningless for the readers. And the worse is that even if the name has a connotative meaning, after being translated into another language, it would be just meaningless for the reader as it has a very difficult pronunciation for him. The special names in the One Thousand and One Nights are just the same. The narrator of these stories has chosen the names of heroes and characters in a way that they have a direct relationship with the fate, characteristic, behavior and mood of the hero.
Here we wrap up our discussion and skip to the next section of our program. Today we have chosen a story from the One Thousand and One Nights titled, "Khalifey-e Qollabi" (Bogus Caliph).
Once upon a time Haroun al- Rashid, the usurper Abbasid caliph told his vizier, Jafar al-Barmaki:
"Jafar! I feel blue tonight. I want to take a walk outside the palace in Baghdad alleys. Let's go out incognito in the guise of traders to be informed of the people's condition in the city."
The vizier said:
"As you wish your Majesty!"
So they two took off their royal garbs and wore simple clothes.
Haroun al-Rashid then said:
"I don't want any entourage accompany us in the city. Just call a swordsman to come with us."
The vizier did so and the trio left the palace.
They went on and on until they reached the River Tigris. They stood by the river for a while till they spotted an old man in his boat near the river bank. They called him and he came forward. Then the caliph told the old man:
Give us a tour with your boat and we'll give you a gold coin.""
The old man then said:
"It's not possible! This is not the appropriate time for touring in the Tigris since Haroun al- Rashid takes his ship here and he will decapitate anyone who crosses the river at the time he is sailing."
Haroun al-Rashid and Jafar Barmaki were taken aback by the old man's words. Then they suggested the old man that they would give him two gold coins if he takes them where the caliph sails so that they could watch Haroun al-Rashid secretly. The old man agreed. They paid the money and the old man took them to the river where they spotted a vessel with its lights on. Then the old man said:
May God help us! This is the caliph! If they spot us, they'll decapitate us!""
Then he sailed toward a lighthouse where they got out of the boat and went up the stairs to hide.
A powerful man was standing onboard the vessel with a golden torch in his hand. Incenses were being burned in the torch scattering a good scent everywhere. Inside the ship there were several men working.
And in the middle there was a big golden bed on which a young man was lying and two other men were guarding him.
It was dark and nothing was clear so Haroun al-Rashid asked his vizier:
"Isn’t that man one of my sons? I cannot see him well."
The vizier replied:
"No I don't think so. He looks as a stranger."
Haroun al-Rashid then said:
"Look at him! He lacks nothing to be a caliph like me! And the man standing by him looks like you Jafar. Tell me, am I right?"
The vizier answered:
"I'm speechless! I don't know what to do!"
After a few minutes the ship sailed away and the old man said:
"Thanks God! Let's get on board!"
Then Haroun al-Rashid asked him:
"Does this vessel cross the river every night?"
And the old man answered:
"Yes! It's for a year that the caliph's ship has been crossing the Tigris every night."
Then the caliph suggested:
"Oh man! We'll give you five gold coins if you bring us to the Tigris tomorrow night!"
And the old man cheerfully agreed…..