Retold by Frances Jenkins Olcott
Illustrated by Willy Pogany
Edited, annotated and produced by ARVAND LTD
In these stories, wonder-loving boys and girls will find Good Genii, Wicked Marids, Flying Afrites, Peris, Witches, and Enchanters. They may wander through Oriental gardens fragrant with spices and redolent with the perfume of roses, and listen to the sweet singing of many-coloured birds and the music of a thousand fountains, or they may feast under silken pavilions and dwell in crystal palaces. They may gaze on subterranean treasures of sparkling jewels and heaps of precious metals, and pluck jewel-fruits and gold and silver branches from Peri-trees; while throughout the stories runs a delightful vein of allegory, which lends a subtle charm and ethical value to the tales.
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The first two series of stories — the foundation of the book — are retold from a quaint old volume published in England in 1765, under the title Tales of the Genii; or, The Delightful Lessons of Horam the Son of Asmar. The book became widely popular, and went through many editions, passing through the hands of numerous editors, one of whom was Archbishop Whately. Its popularity continued into the nineteenth century, and then died out, but not before the tales had become the delight of Gladstone’s boyhood, and had formed a part of the treasured library of little David Copperfield. Dickens, in his Uncommercial Traveller, speaks of the story of “Abudah,” as having made a deep impression on his own childhood. The third series of stories — The History of Farrukruz the Favourite of Fortune — is retold from The Delight of Hearts, by Barkhurdar bin Mahmud Turkman Farahi, surnamed Mumtaz, which may be found in its English translation in W. A. Clouston’s Eastern Romances. The fourth series — The History of King Azad and the Two Royal Sheykhs — is retold from the famous romance, The Bāgh 0 Bahār of Mir Amman of Dilhi, from the English translation edited by Duncan Forbes. All the stories have been recast with great freedom, and moulded into a continuous narrative; the aim being to keep them truly Oriental and at the same time to preserve all the detail that will delight the imaginative modern boy and girl. Each story has its ethical teaching, which has been emphasized without too much moralizing, but this is not the only educational value of the book. Modern life in the West is too colourless, lacking in richness and warmth. To counteract this, and to develop and foster in children their natural love of rich colour and an appreciation of beautiful objects, there is no more effective method than to steep their imaginations in the best of Oriental literature. And in order that the stories in this volume may aid in the education of the sense of colour in children, Oriental warmth and richness of description have been infused when lacking in the originals.