he Story of the Fisherman is part of
a much larger collection of folklore and literature popularly known as the Arabian Nights or The One
Thousand and One Nights. The stories originated from ancient Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian
sources collected over hundreds of years during the Islamic Golden Age, that is, from the eighth to the
thirteenth centuries. These stories reflect the enormous, highly civilized Islamic world that existed
at the time. And it was a time when a traveler could wander through an extensive portion of the known
world speaking Arabic, studying and praying in mosques, and being a stranger yet sharing a familiar culture.
There is a frame story common to all the editions of the Arabian Nights that involve the ruler
of the Persian Empire, King Shahrayar, and his bride Shahrazad. The core scene is the bedchamber
of King Shahrayar. His new bride for the night is Shadrazad, daughter to the king's own vizier.
She is one more virgin destined to die at sunrise after spending just a single night in the
king's bed. The king has sworn to work his way through all the virgins of his kingdom, putting
each to death the following morning because his former queen (and therefore all women, in his
view) was without virtue. So he decreed that the young women in the kingdom would pay the ultimate
penalty for their queen's transgressions.
The Arabian Nights is a collection of stories told against death. Starting with the frame
story of Shahrazad and King Shahrayar, the stories unfold, stories within stories, many of them
with the intention of prolonging the life of the one telling the story. This present book, titled
The Story of the Fisherman, is typical of the Arabian Nights stories in that it is
a series of stories tucked within the opening story.
For this edition, illustrator Brian Bowes
has transformed Shadrazad's narration into a panorama
of imposing images setting before the reader a visual extravagance of place and time and character.
Mr. Bowes is the former Illustrator Coordinator for San Francisco North & East Bay Region of the
Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (SCBWI).
He is an illustrator, graphic designer and art instructor. Once printed, the illustrations
are hand colored in a French method called pochoir where paint is applied with a brush
through cut-out stencils.
This edition of The Story of the Fisherman has evolved both as a story of words and, at the
same time, a story told in graphic art form. Due to the accordion nature of the binding, the book
can be opened to display the story in images and the reader will discover visual connections
between the linked illustrations.
The illustration on the front and back covers is based on an illuminated page from a Koran made for
Sultan Uljaytu Hamadan in 1313 by Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Hamadani.