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The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor

A sailor is carried off by a bird

A shipwrecked sailor is carried off by a giant bird. From Wonders of Creation, Persian manuscript, Herat, 1503-4
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The voyages of Sindbad the Sailor, undertaken initially in order to restore his lost fortune and subsequently in search of adventure, appear in the great compilation of eastern stories popularly known as The Arabian Nights.

They are a series of stories told by Sindbad, a merchant of Baghdad, about seven fantastic journeys he has made. In the course of them he suffers many disasters from which he always makes a miraculous escape, often using great ingenuity and cunning. He encounters giant birds, huge serpents, cannibals and other monsters; he is buried alive and he is sold into slavery. Despite his many misfortunes he always manages to amass a fortune and return home a rich man.

The stories, which are a mixture of fact and fantasy, were probably composed in the 9th or 10th century. They are thought to be of Arabic origin, probably from Baghdad or the port of Basra. The exhibition will attempt to show, using oriental manuscripts and other material, the genre of early fiction to which they belong and their possible origins in the mythology and literature of other cultures. Sindbad is familiar to us today mainly through the lavishly illustrated versions produced for children, which will combine in the exhibition with images from pantomimes, films and musicals to show the enduring popularity of the stories.

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