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1001 Stories Collection

Layla and Majnun

1001 Laylaand Majnun
Added on 27th August 2020

Oral tradition Story from Persia

A romantic legend from Persia.

Story

When he was just a young boy, Qays b. al-Molawwah fell deeply in love with Layla and began to write her beautiful love poems. He was so passionate that he earned the nickname Majnun, meaning madman, or possessed. But Layla’s father forbade them from being together and forced her to marry another, leading to great heartbreak and tragedy.

Why we chose it

A beautiful story, that has travelled across the world from Arabia to the Caucasus, to Iran, to India and Central Asia….

Where it came from

The story of Layla and Majnun originates in seventh century Arabia. Majnun is a semi-historical character, and at first his legend circulated in oral and anecdotal forms, most of which were short fragments. These early anecdotes are recorded in Kitab al-Aghani, or The Book of Songs, by 10th century Arabic writer Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani. One of the most popular longer versions of the story is by the 12th century Persian poet Nezami of Ganja. His romance, Leyli o Majnun, is the third of his five narrative poems known as the Khamseh, or ‘The Quintuplet.’ Nezami made several changes to the legend, including expanding the plot and adding more Persian motifs. For example, in Persian verse romances, the hero tends to be royal or noble, so Nezami portrays the lovers as more aristocratic, having them meet for the first time at school, rather than in a desert.

Where it went next

Layla and Majnun remains a very popular folktale. Nezami’s poem has become one of the most-imitated works in Persian and in many other languages associated with Persian culture and literature, including Pashto, Urdu, Kurdish, and the Turkic languages. The story’s popularity has not waned since, and it has been retold in verse, referenced in literature, and adapted for film, theatre, dance, and opera countless times. It has been filmed in Hindi and other South Indian languages particularly often, generally as Laila Majnu, including a 1927 silent film directed by Manilal Joshi and a popular Telugu film in 1949, directed by P. S. Ramakrishna Rao.

Associated stories

The tale, particularly as told by Nezami, belongs to the ‘Udri genre of romance. ‘Udri stories are simply plotted and revolve around unrequited or thwarted love. The characters and plots tend to be interchangeable with other ‘Udri romances.

Added on 27th August 2020

Oral tradition Story from Persia