These Freshmen Are Jumping In With Both Feet

, , , , , | Learning | February 22, 2021

In my freshman World Literature class, one of our units is “1001 Arabian Nights,” not an uncommon choice of study for a high school.

Many of us are surprised by the book’s inciting incident: a king finding out about his queen’s affair, losing all trust in women, and taking a new bride every night only to have her executed the next morning before she can be unfaithful to him. The book is built on the premise of one bride continually telling him stories, causing her death to be put off just one more night until he no longer wants to kill her.

The king finds out about his wife’s affair because he discovers her in their bedroom with a stable boy who is holding her veil, deeply shocking for the original Muslim audience of the early Middle Ages.

Students in the class each have to have their own copy of the book; however, we are confused by the teacher’s unusual strictness about exactly which version of the book we need to purchase. When we ask about this, she tells us this story.

One day, my teacher saw one of her students looking oddly at his book, face pale and eyes wide. He looked like he was about to faint. Before she could say anything, he got up from his desk, shuffled over to her, and squeaked.

Student: “Uhh… Mrs. [Teacher]? Are you sure this is the right book?”

He showed her the page he’d been looking at. Skimming the text, my teacher found what had prompted him to ask the question: a passage about the king discovering the affair, with a long and explicit description of the queen’s state of undress.

The next time she taught that unit, she made sure everyone knew EXACTLY which version of the book to get.

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