The story of a well-educated slave girl who exchanges learning for riches, rescuing her master from poverty by defeating several learned men in public debate in front of the caliph or king, was composed in Arabic in Islamic Baghdad between the ninth and eleventh centuries and retold in three other languages and cultures during the next eight centuries. The tale is extant in some editions of The Thousand and One Nights, Arabic and Castilian manuscripts from the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, numerous Spanish and Portuguese prints from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and later chapbook versions. In America it was incorporated into some of the Maya books of Chilam Balam, and in Brazil it was adapted to the popular libro de cordel verse format. This study presents Castilian manuscript and printed versions of the text and a Brazilian verse version, along with English translations. It also explores the complex transmission history of the story; develops a theory for its reception and popularity in several cultures; and considers it for the first time in the context of the Thousand and One Nights and Spanish and Portuguese popular literature. MARGARET R. PARKER teaches in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Louisiana State University.
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Professor MARGARET R. PARKERteaches in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Louisiana State University.Language Notes:
Text: English, Portugese
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