THE TWO SINBADS: A Guest Post by Clive Johnson
Clive Johnson, author of the newly-published ‘Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights’, reflects on the common nature of Sinbad the Sailor and his patient companion, Sinbad the Porter.
The adventures of Sinbad the Sailor occupy most of the column inches in the seven tales that feature him in the canon of the Arabian Nights. His voyages, discoveries in strange lands, and many near-death experiences are described in wonderful detail, enchanting anyone who hears them. In many ways, these tales embody much of what is enthralling in The Nights – they are filled with color, intrigue, magic, and surprise, to mention just a few of their many virtues.
However, there’s another Sinbad who features in each of these tales – Sinbad the Porter. This poor street-dweller doesn’t have a shekel to his name–at least before he meets Sinbad the Sailor he doesn’t–and spends much of his time bewailing the injustice of his lot. How can it be, he ponders, that some people such as the sailor can have so much, while so many lack even a daily meal or clothes to protect their bodies?
This is a question that we may well ask today, but that’s a topic for another time. What interests me is how the two Sinbads interact. Their first encounter is cordial, but the porter wonders what the motive of the sailor is. The poor man is invited each night to join the sailor in his house, to enjoy a lavish meal, and be entertained with another of the great adventurer’s stories. He even is offered a monetary gift each time the meal ends, leaving him in no doubt that his host is genuine in his wish to show hospitality.
As the seven tales unfold, it becomes clear that the sailor uses his storytelling as a way of expunging his guilt for some of the bad things he has done during his voyages (like killing). With the ever-more fantastical adventures that he describes testing credulity, we might begin to wonder whether he doesn’t occasionally embellish what really happened. He seems desperate to impress, and possibly lost in something of a fantasy himself.
The porter, meanwhile, becomes more comfortable in himself, increasingly feeling satisfied when he leaves the sailor’s house each evening. The two begin to act out a dance, indulging each other’s company, and possibly even becoming slightly dependent on each other. One projects aspects of himself onto the other; even if they don’t see it, there’s a person they recognize in the character of the other.
Some commentators on The Nights suggest that the two Sinbads are really meant to represent one person. Both may have faults, seen in their shadow selves. It’s by coming together and seeing how they can complement and teach other that both men are able to move on from their current states of mind.
We all have shadow selves, the part of us that is unseen and gets projected onto others. Often it’s those closest to us who are best able to reflect back something of this hidden character. That’s one reason why we are attracted to some people – they are perfect partners for helping us grow. I think that there’s something of the porter and the sailor in all us.
Title: ARABIAN NIGHTS & ARABIAN NIGHTS. TRADITIONAL TALES FROM A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, CONTEMPORARY TALES FOR ADULTS
Author: CLIVE JOHNSON
Genre: FICTION / SHORT STORIES (CLASSIC AND CONTEMPORARY)
Publisher: LABYRINTHE PRESS
Audible version available soon.
Magic carpets and flying horses, caverns glittering with gold, unexpected plotlines following the fortunes of heroes and villains–who cannot fail to be enchanted by the magic and wonder of the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights?
This most celebrated collections of tales feature shape-shifting and miraculous transportation across continents, powerful jinn who rise like smoke from simple vessels, dreams that delve into the secrets of the subconscious, and gigantic, man-carrying birds.
The backdrop for the tales moves from barren deserts to spectacular cities, from the edge of the world to the inner sanctuaries of mighty rulers. Kings and paupers, benevolent sages and devious magicians, worthy princesses and unscrupulous harlots–all play their part in teaching important truths and providing lively entertainment.
This innovative book offers retellings of a selection of tales that have captured the imaginations of countless people over many centuries. Accompanying each is a short story set in a contemporary context, which reframes the messages and teachings of the original, specifically written for an adult audience.
Here are stories of betrayal and murder, exploitation and sibling rivalry, soul-searching and discovery. The modern parallel tales swap the busy alleyways of old Baghdad for the horror of Saddam’s prisons, move from following caravans sweeping across the Sahara to modern day pilgrims trekking along the Caminos of northern Spain, and lift Aladdin out of his cave to unwittingly face Triad gangsters and antiques smugglers.
Wayward Baptist ministers, adulterous accountants, and eco-warrior backpackers follow in the footsteps of the no-less colourful characters than those that feature in the original tales.
Each pair of stories is accompanied by a commentary on how they might be interpreted. The result is a gripping collection of tales that may continue to bring the mystery and magic of the Nights to life, as well as provoking fresh thought and feeling for adult readers. Prepare to be surprised, uplifted and–in the spirit of the original Arabian Nights Entertainments–enthralled.
A journalist had picked up on the news of Todd’s arrest, and by some means had been able to identify him as a Baptist pastor. Soon, the news of my husband’s escapade with the prostitute had made not only the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal, but had carried across the state to Lexington too. I dreaded to think what the decent people of our church would say when they saw the photograph of their pastor being paraded in front of a police identification plate.
When we returned to Lexington, most people seemed to want to avoid mentioning the topic. It was obvious to me that they had been deeply unsettled by Todd’s indiscretion, but to our faces at least, they promised their love, assuring us that ours is a God of love, able to forgive every sinner–even a wayward minister.
Todd was not afraid to show his contrition before his flock. Were Oscars awarded for emotional outpouring by those in church ministry, Todd would surely be nominated for an award. Whether or not his tears were genuine I do not know, but he certainly gave a powerful example of how to show repentance when he took his place on the dais.
“O my Father, how I have failed you! How I have let these, my beloved brothers and sisters, down! Forgive me, for I am the worse among sinners!”
His cries and wailing knew no limit. Kneeling before the congregation, Todd accepted the prayers and blessings of the people. Two of the deacons laid hands on him, commanding the demons that were in him to depart.
Perhaps this display was good for our community. Other men in the congregation came forward to confess their infidelity, and to receive the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus and those of us who serve Him. In fact, I don’t think that our church had for a long time felt so overcome by the love and warmth of The Holy Spirit.
The experience had certainly been a shock for Todd. He knew that his position as a pastor would be under threat were he to backslide again. More than anything, I think that he was genuinely aware that he’d been unfaithful to his Lord.
He had been unfaithful to me too, and privately I went through a period of hurt and suffering. But the fast pace of events, and Todd’s apparent regret for his actions, kept me focused on supporting my husband.
Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/mIP8kB
Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights is Clive Johnson’s seventh book, and the second in the series that takes old and often familiar tales and retells them alongside modern-day versions. Taking this approach, Clive says that he aims to recapture some of the magic and important messages that can be found in traditional fairytales, stories from mythology, etc, while inspiring fresh wonder among adult readers.
His earlier books were aimed at business readers, and he’s also edited an anthology of interfaith wisdom. Recently, Clive has also started narrating and producing audible audiobooks for other authors, which is an activity that he says he particularly enjoys.
Clive spends most of his time in the UK, where he was born, although he has no fixed home. This allows him to follow his heart from place to place, often house and pet sitting for friends and others who are taking a break away. He also often takes in or hosts retreats and workshops on various themes. Many house sits introduce him to some wonderful furry friends, and provide the perfect opportunity for settling into some serious writing!
Having an autistic condition and with a strong interest in mysticism, Clive likes to approach his work with a keen curiosity. He says that he enjoys researching and imagining a story almost as much as he does writing it.
Clive is an avid reader, and an ordained interfaith minister.
Social Media Links:
Clive’s Author Facebook page: http://goo.gl/hVrz3e
Clive’s blog (‘The autistic mystic’): http://goo.gl/ZcBNnD
Clive’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/AuthorClive
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