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The legend at the heart of Andalucían Nights

The legend at the heart of Andalucían Nights

The legend at the heart of Andalucían Nights

edmund

Last year, I wrote about one of my favourite works of literature, One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of stories from ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore compiled during the Islamic Golden Age (ninth to thirteenth centuries). I grew up on these fairy tales, which my father read to me, and the romance, adventure, mystery and exoticism in the stories shaped the imagination of a writer-to-be.

With my Andalucían Nights trilogy set in a region influenced strongly by the Moors, I felt the influence of One Thousand and One Nights as I wrote, as you can see in some little references peppered through the text. But I saved the best until last: in the final book, Legacy (published last week in ebook format and later this month in paperback), I unveil the legend at the heart of Andalucían Nights, that of Prince Kamar and Princess Budur (pictured; by Golden Age illustrator Edmund Dulac).

According to One Thousand and One Nights, the two, who lived on opposite sides of the world, refused any match their respective fathers presented them for marriage. Then came the intervention of two meddling genies, who brought them together in their sleep on a magic carpet. In their dreams, they fell in love and consummated their passion – but when they awoke, they were lost to each other, but for the rings they had exchanged. With much complication, a heroic journey ensued as Prince Kamar began a quest to find Princess Budur, which took him through the City of All Magicians and the Ebony Islands and brought him face to face with giants and dragons. Ultimately, Prince Kamar found his love, and the story – told by Ruy, hero of Legacy, ends thus:

As their eyes met, the lovers fell into each other’s arms. There was a great celebration and all the sultans of the world were invited to their wedding. Naturally, Prince Kamar Al-Zaman and Princess Budur lived happily ever after.

When I heard this story as a little girl, I did no more than sigh dreamily at its conclusion. But of course adulthood can sweep away the innocence and guile of childhood, and this is reflected in my heroine in Legacy, Luna, whose response to Ruy’s tale is to frown and point out:

‘It seems slightly illogical that suddenly the lovers were allowed to marry when previously their fathers had insisted on making a match themselves.’

Ruy’s answer: ‘Stop being so logical, Luna. It’s a legend. The romance and symbolism is what’s important.’

Therein lies the power of the legend: its romance and symbolism. And whether they believe in romance and symbolism – in magic, in fate, in destiny – each of my heroines in the Andalucían Nights trilogy is affected by the Prince Kamar and Princess Budur legend. For the twist in the legend is this: whoever dresses in Kamar Al-Zaman’s or Princess Budur’s costume will meet the love of their life the first time they wear it. Where would one have need to wear such a costume? A masked ball of course, which features in each novel in the trilogy.

In Indiscretion, Salvador wears the sultan’s costume, and he meets Alexandra. In Masquerade, Luz wears the sultana’s costume, and she meets both Leandro and Andrès. In Legacy, Ruy wears the sultan’s costume and Luna the sultana’s… will the legend prove true?

Luna scoffs at the idea; ‘I try to keep my feet solidly fixed on the ground. Losing sight of reality can often come at a price,’ she tells Ruy.

But Ruy is a romantic – and a believer – like me. He has what Luna calls ‘an almost childlike innocence that made him believe in the magic of the moon and the stars and the One Thousand and One Nights fairy tales, in legends and in fate; and that, of course, included happy endings’. The question, perhaps, is not so much whether the legend will prove true, but whether Luna and Ruy will make it come true: by completing their own personal quests to slay their dragons and find each other.

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