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Dorfman brings ‘Arabian Nights’ to Speak Series

By Staff | Aug 18, 2017

Storyteller Jane Dorfman brought stories from “Arabian Nights” to Shepherdstown on Tuesday, Aug. 8 for the Speak Story Series.

Jane Dorfman, a performing member and president of Voices-in-the-Glen, enchanted the town with tales of genies, exotic fish, deception, sexual humor, and magic.

Dorfman shared stories from “Arabian Nights” by telling them though Scheherazade, a woman that used storytelling to save her own life from a vengeful king.

After catching his wife with another man, the king married a new woman every night then beheaded her the next morning. Scheherazade outwitted the king by captivating him within stories that would often end with a cliffhanger. After 1,001 nights, the king realized his love for Scheherazade and spared her life.

The first of Scheherazade’s stories that Dorfman shared was the one of the Fisherman and the Jinn. After trying for days to catch fish to feed his family, a fisherman caught an old jar in his net. Upon removing the lid, a jinn appeared and announced that he would let the fisherman decide how he would die. The fisherman outwits the jinn, captures him, and after much pleading from the jinn, releases him again. In return for his freedom, the jinn tells the fisherman where he can find beautiful and exotic fish, but they end up being more than the fisherman expects.

The final story of Scheherazade’s that Dorman told was about Kamar al-Zaman and Budur. Kamar and Budur are both beautiful, royal, and strictly opposed to marriage until two genies bring them together and they fall in love. It takes several years of being separated, locked up, and heartbroken before the two are married. Shortly after their wedding, the couple are separated again and to save herself, Budur has to disguise herself as Kamar and marry a princess.

Dorfman’s telling of “Arabian Nights” was far different than the Disney versions that most people are used to hearing – like “Aladdin” and “Sinbad” – they were gritty, sexual, funny and violent.

To research “Arabian Nights,” Dorfman read different translations to better understand and tell the stories.

Dorfman has told stories at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington Folk Festival, Rockville Festival of the Arts and Elva Van Winkle Memorial Storytelling Festival.