"The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" is a humorous short story by the American author Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the Philadelphia magazine Godey's Lady's Book in February 1845. The story is presented as a continuation of The Thousand and One Nights and another adventure of the famous character Sinbad the Sailor.
In the story, on the thousand and second night after her wedding, Scheherazade tells her husband the King a story in which Sinbad travels the world on what he believes to be the back of a monster. Sinbad is not aware that he is really traveling on a 19th century steamship. He sees and hears about many things which, from the descriptions Sinbad gives, appear to be the stuff of fantasy. Thirty-four footnotes to the story explain that all of the amazing things which Sinbad describes are scientific facts or genuine historical events.
The story's unnamed narrator says that he has read a book from the Orient, called Tellmenow Isitsoornot, which is not very well known in Europe and almost completely unknown in the United States. According to Tellmenow Isitsoornot, the version of The Thousand and One Nights which most people know does not tell the complete story. In the familiar version of the story, the King marries a different woman every day, spends one night with her, and has her executed the following morning. Scheherazade, the daughter of the grand vizier, thinks that she can make sure that no more women are put to death if she marries the King. On their wedding night, Scheherazade begins to tell a story but does not finish it. The King allows Scheherazade to live for another day because he wants to know how the story ends. On the second night, Scheherazade completes her story and begins another one that she leaves unfinished. She continues this for a thousand and one nights, by which time it appears that she has escaped execution and made sure that the King has changed his ways.
According to Tellmenow Isitsoornot, on the thousand and second night after her wedding, Scheherazade says that she has another story to tell about Sinbad the Sailor.
In his old age, Sinbad decides that he wants to go to sea again and see more of the world. He hires a porter to carry his possessions and goes down to the harbor. Something approaches the harbor, which Sinbad believes to be a monster with vermin that resemble people on its back. The monster is really a 19th century steamship manned by British sailors. A cannon is fired. The porter runs away, taking Sinbad's possessions with him. Sinbad is captured and taken aboard the ship.
Sinbad befriends the ship's captain and learns his language. The captain explains that he is on a voyage around the world and invites Sinbad to accompany him. Sinbad is surprised to find that he is traveling on a world which is indeed round and not flat. On the journey, Sinbad sees many strange natural phenomena, such as forests of trees which have turned to stone and plants which do not grow in soil. Sinbad describes seeing monsters that build "vast caverns". Other animals fall into the caverns and the monsters feast on their blood. A footnote explains that the monsters are ant-lions. Monsters do not have to be large and "vast" is a relative term. The holes which ant-lions make are vast in comparison to those of other ants.
Sinbad visits 19th century America and Britain. He sees a hot air balloon (which he takes to be an enormous round bird) and a steam locomotive (which he believes to be a strong, fast animal that eats black stones). He is amazed by the skills of the strange people that he meets and thinks that they must all be wizards. However, he is puzzled by 19th century women's concept of beauty. He cannot understand why they have bustles which make them look like they have camels' humps under their backs.
The King soon begins to make it obvious that he is not enjoying Scheherazade's tale. He frequently interrupts the story with outbursts which clearly show that he thinks it is nonsense. Scheherazade, however, usually ignores the King's interruptions and continues with her story. When the King hears about women who think that adding things like camels' humps beneath their backs makes them look beautiful, he cannot stand to listen to the story any longer. The King orders that Scheherazade be put to death and complains that his marriage to her has lasted too long. At her execution, Scheherazade takes some comfort in the fact that she had not finished telling the story of Sinbad's fantastical adventures and the King will now never hear the end of the tale.
The 1989 Italian fantasy adventure film Sinbad of the Seven Seas, directed by Enzo G, Castellari and starring the American actor Lou Ferrigno as Sinbad, is credited as an adaptation of "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade". The movie's plot, however, in which Sinbad searches for five magical gems that are needed to save the world from an evil sorcerer, bears hardly any resemblance to Poe's story.
- Sound file of public domain audiobook of "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade' from LibriVox.
- "The Flying Trunk"