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1001 Stories Collection

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

1001 Haroun And The Seaof Stories
Added on 06th August 2020

Author Salman Rushdie
First published 1990
Publisher Granta Books, London

Playful language and a melding of the fantastical and the everyday help to make this a memorable story.


Haroun's father Rashid is a doctor and the greatest of all storytellers. His magical stories bring laughter to the sad city of Alifbay. But things start to go wrong after Haroun's mother runs away with a neighbour and Rashid is hired by a local politician to tell stories to help win over the public. When Rashid finds that he can no longer tell stories, Haroun is helped by Iff the water genie as he sets off on a fantastical journey on the back of a mechanical Hoopoe bird to the Sea of Stories.

Why we chose it

The book is an allegory exploring problems of contemporary society and in particular the issue of censorship - an issue of particular relevance for Rushdie himself following the proclamation of a fatwa against him after the publication of The Satanic Verses. The story is full of magic realism where fantastical elements combine with the everyday. The writing is also full of puns and playful use of language all of which reinforce the allegorical nature of the story.

Where it came from

Rushdie draws on a wealth of literary and popular references. The concept of the quest and the unexpected encounters along the way is an ancient and long-established story trope. Rushdie also makes specific references particularly in the naming of his characters including the hero, Haroun, whose name recalls that of Harun al-Rashid who often features in stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Sea of the River of Stories refers to an eleventh century collection of Indian legends. Iff, the water genie, bears many similarities to the genie of Aladdin's lamp and the Walrus whom Haroun meets recalls Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter, as well as the Beatles song, 'I am the Walrus'.

Where it went next

Rushdie himself recorded an audio version of the book. It has also been adapted as a stage play which premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London in 1998 and as an opera which premiered in New York in 2004.

Associated stories

Other stories that use word play and nonsense in an allegorical way include Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth.

Added on 06th August 2020

Author Salman Rushdie
First published 1990
Publisher Granta Books, London