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1001 Stories Collection

Abla and Antarah

1001 Abla Antarah Jeremy Bishop
Added on 19th August 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Arabic

A poetic saga telling a tale of heroic adventure and romance.


A poetic saga based on the life of Antarah Ibn Shaddad, his heroic adventures and journey to escape his slavery in the pursuit of winning the hand of the unattainable princess Abla.

Why we chose it

These famous pre-Islamic stories are known throughout the entirety of the Middle East and have withstood the test of time. They have been described as the Arabic version of the Arthurian Legends and highlight important prevalent issues during pre-Islamic Arabia such as racism, slavery, love and war. Originating as oral stories, these tales have taken on many forms worldwide, such as poems, novels and film. They have also been the source of inspiration in fine art and music.

Where it came from

The story of Abla and Antarah comes from Najd-Per-islamic Arabia (what is now Saudi Arabia) and was long handed down by oral tradition only. The first written evidence is found as part of a poetic saga on the life of Antarah ibn Shaddad, which is credited to al-Asmaʿi (740-828), a poet in the court of Hārūn al-Rashīd.

Where it went next

The story continues to be told by story-tellers in Arab coffee houses. In 1868, the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote a symphony based on this legend. In 1898 the French painter Étienne Dinet published his translation of a 13th-century epic Arab poem Antar, which brought Antarah to European fame.

Associated stories

Poems written by Antarah Ibn Shaddad, including the ‘seven hanging odes’ ‘Muallaqat’ are said to be suspended in the Kaaba in Mecca.

Added on 19th August 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Arabic