Literature can reveal the innermost aspirations of a civilization. “Eastern Tales,” in particular, depicts the goals and mores of Middle Eastern culture through several stories. This essay uses five stories from this collection and explores its implications on Middle Eastern living, especially their motivations and goals. These stories demonstrate that people value their religion as the predominant guiding force of their lifestyle, they place great importance on social relationships and the subjugation of women, and they do not aspire for extreme miserliness, impatience, or extravagance, but a balance between material and cultural values.
These stories depict how people value their religion as the primary driving force of their affairs. Jalaladdin has strayed from a good Muslim’s path. Before he discovers his fortune, he was a good Muslim who follows Allah’s orders: “…Jalaluddin had always been in the habit of treating all religious tenets with the greatest respect” (4). After he discovers wealth, however, he changes his manners and violates the commandments. His fair-weather friends leave him after consuming his wealth, which teaches readers that religion should be paramount in their lives, or else, dire consequences await them. Rabbi Jochonan the Miser also survives the demons because of his faith. No matter how miserly he is, he gets strength from his faith.
These stories also emphasize the importance of social mores to Middle Eastern people. Jalaluddin values his newfound relationships: “…but, as he had pledged his word, he was reluctant to quit them at so early a stage” (5). He forgets to analyze the soundness of their company, because of the inner desire to please social relations, which is part of the Middle Eastern culture. “The History of the Princess of Cassimir” entails that women are expected to follow their men’s orders, or else, they will endure worse experiences. This happened to the Princess of Casimir, who defied her parents’ wishes to marry the Prince of Georgia, and instead, fled with a slave. She realizes that the slave is a magician, under which she suffered before she was released: “Such, Sultan of India, were the consequences of my imprudence; and thus are our sex, by the smallest deviations, often led through perpetual scenes of misery and distress” (291). Her life depicts the “logic” of patriarchal structure in Middle Eastern culture.
The stories also underscore the goals of balance for the Middle Eastern culture, where too much miserliness, impatience, and materiality are shunned. It is not acceptable to be too miserly in the Middle East. Abon Casem’s story, “The Pantofles,” illustrates the downsides of not buying a new pair of shoes: “…the miser learned to his cost the ill effects of not buying a new pair of shoes” (78). The people of these stories, however, shun love of materiality per se. Rabbi Yochanan the Miser loves gold per se but discovered that only demons would place so much value on material belongings: “…he avowed his former love of gold and the danger to which it had exposed him” (104). Impatience is also not a cherished virtue in the Middle East. Because of Bhazad’s impatience, he was “punished with the loss of [his] sight” (426).
These stories highlight that Middle Eastern culture is religious, patriarchal, and socially-oriented. They place importance in balancing extreme material conditions by considering social and religious aspirations. These stories demonstrate that for these people, what is important is that they follow Allah’s commandments, cherish and nurture meaningful social relationships, and know-how to balance between miserliness and conviviality because life is supposed to be enjoyed in the company of good families and friends too.
“History of Bhazad the Impatient.” Eastern Tales. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.
“Jalaladdeen of Bagdad.” Eastern Tales. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.
“The City of the Demons.” Eastern Tales. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.
“The History of the Princess of Cassimir.” Eastern Tales. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.
“The Pantofles.” Eastern Tales. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.