My Blog of Blogs
Current and historical attempts to chronicle my life and thoughts
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Monday, April 2, 2012

The Third Tale

[This essay was originally posted to "The Third Tale," a blog on Weebly. In transferring it I have updated and made corrections where necessary.]

I'm James, and here are some of the things I'm interested in (in alphabetical order and no other--mostly): alternative photo processes, anthropology, art, blogging, books, Buddhism, China, classics, compassion, cultural literacy, curriculum design, dinner with friends, education, ESL, FaceBook, fairy tales, gratitude, Great Books, humor, Japan, Joseph Campbell, literature, mindfulness, Mircea Eliade, movies, music, my Kindle, mythology, parables, Parabola Magazine, peace, philosophy, photography, Pinterest, quotations, rituals,, Sanskrit, spirituality, Sri Ramakrishna, statuary, symbolism, the American Southwest, the Bible, the Philippines, travel, Twitter, TV, vegetarianism, Weibo, world religions, and writing.

So far.

Why "The Third Tale"?

In pursuing some of the above-stated interests, I ran across a children's retelling of the old Arabian Nights (you can find it starting here). Now, I had read various versions of the tales before, most recently the ones adapted from the Richard Burton translation by Jack Zipes in two volumes.

So anyway, I was reading the Lang version of the first cluster of stories, under the title "The Story of the Merchant and the Genius," in which a merchant gets tangled up with a genius (better, a genie) and is about to lose his life.

Along come three old men, each accompanied by an animal or animals (a hind, two dogs, and--although Lang doesn't mention it--a mule). Each old man in his turn promises to tell the genie a tale, and if the genie is amazed, he will give the teller a third of the merchant's life.

As these things go, each gets his wish.

But Lang does something peculiar. Perhaps because the third tale is rather similar to the first, or perhaps because it begins with the old man finding his wife and a "black slave" in Sir Richard Burton's translation "playing the close buttock game," Lang leaves the third tale out. In its stead, he says, "he told his story to the genius, but I cannot tell you what it was, as I do not know."

Wow! The third tale, the one that saved the merchant's life, was unknown! Brilliant!

Then I remembered, of course, that the third tale IS known. But that just adds another layer: at first unknown, it can be found through seeking.

So there you have it. The contents of this site will constitute (I hope) a "third tale," one that is not always known, but will save those who seek it out.

Read on!

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