Today is Day 265 of My Daily Giveaway. Only 100 days left. And I am feeling it! After meeting with our son Theo’s teachers in the morning, and then giving a lecture to the docents of my former museum, finishing up an essay for my book, helping Theo with his homework and making dinner, I wasn’t feeling up to the Giveaway. There have been very few days when I’ve actually entertained the thought of not giving something away, but today was one of them. But I’ve made a commitment, and I have to follow through. So while my husband David took Theo to his soccer practice, I set out for my daily walk and opened up the back of my car to see if there was something that might feel right for a guerilla gift this evening. I still have a handful of CDs so I pulled one of them out – a CD of Rimsky-Korsakov’s music including his most famous work, Scheherazade. I pondered the CD for a few seconds and then laughed to myself as I thought about the story that had inspired the Russian composer’s symphonic poem.
Scheherezade is a legendary Persian character and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian folk tales. According to the traditional legend, Scheherezade was the daughter of a vizier and was asked to marry the king, a bitter man who had been cuckolded by his first wife so now married a new virgin every day and then had each of them executed the next day. Scheherezade had spent many years studying history, literature, philosophy and science and was very clever, so she wasn’t worried. She arranged for her sister to interrupt her night with the king and asked him if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister by telling her a story. The king agreed and listened enraptured as she told the story.
Just before dawn broke, she stopped in the middle of the story, saying they were out of time. The king was so keen to hear the end of the story that he spared her life for one day so that she could finish the story the next night. She returned the next night and finished the story but then began a second, even more exciting tale and again stopped midway at dawn. The king spared her life for another day to finish the second story. The King kept Scheherazade alive day after day, eagerly awaiting the ends of her stories each night. By the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, when Scheherazade told the king that she had run out of tales to tell him, the king was deeply in love with Scheherazade. He spared her life, and made her his queen.
Now I am half Persian but not nearly as well read and clever as the legendary Persian story teller, but at this moment in my life, as I sit writing my 265th blogpost in a row, I can’t help feeling a connection with this woman who was forced to tell a new story every night. Ok, there’s one big difference. Her life depended on her storytelling and mine doesn’t, but keeping this giving-and-writing project going is a very important personal commitment. To all the readers who have stuck with me so far, I am truly grateful for your attention and I hope you will keep reading for another 100 nights.