With Odysseus’s adventure with Polyphemus out of the way, we’re wide open for something really interesting. We’ll segue into Sinbad the Sailor, who is famous for having his own adventures. We’ll skip his first and second voyages, going straight for the third. Why? Simple, we know this story. If you don’t have your own copy of the 1 Nights, you can read Sinbad’s third here.
Sinbad’s third adventure finds him restless, as usual, and soon shipwrecked, also as usual, on an island. This island is home to an evil giant that will eat the crew. It is up to Sinbad to come up with a cunning plan to blind the giant using to spears after heating them—
Wait! Come back! No, really, this is the story, and, yes, I know it’s a direct plagiarism of The Odyssey. If this were modern day and Homer were alive, he would be suing . . . well, we don’t know who wrote Sinbad—they weren’t even part of the original Arabian Nights—but Homer would sue somebody.
So, yes, it’s a direct rip off. There’s no way around it. It’s easier to count the differences than the similarities with this one. For one, there’s a castle instead of a cave, the giant has two eyes instead of one, there are no sheep anywhere, and there are some ill-tempered apes in Sinbad.
Those are all superficial, though. There is one overriding difference that really makes this important, and that’s the inclusion of Allah, who is repeatedly attributed in the story. Though the deity never makes an appearance, it’s clear that all the characters in the story feel a great reverence and faith in God.
This is big. This is the—wait, no, better add more emphasis—THE difference between Odysseus’s story and Sinbad’s. It’s a complete inversion of the story, but for the same purpose, oddly enough.
Okay, at its core, Odysseus and Polyphemus were about respect for the gods. Odysseus had it, the Cyclopes didn’t. Polyphemus is punished for this by Odysseus—ostensibly at the behest of Zeus due to a prophetic loophole.
Sinbad’s story, though, is also about respect for God, but told in a different manner. Because Sinbad and the other sailors show reverence and respect to Allah, their actions are blessed (though there are no direct interventions), and they are able to escape.
There’s no denying the similarities of the stories. The question then becomes, who copied who? Okay, it’s not really much of a question. A quick Google search will turn up the results that these stories are separated by well over a thousand years, with Sinbad written later. Now the question is why? If Muslims had access to Odysseus, why create Sinbad? Why not just keep Odysseus’s story? Clearly, they thought it a good story if they copied it. Patience, Grasshopper. Next week we’ll dig in.