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Vol. XXV
p143
Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor

Sindbad the Sailor, Voyages of, a collection of Arabic travel-romances, based upon real experiences of Oriental navigators in the seas S of Asia and E of Africa (especially in the 8th‑10th centuries) partly upon ancient poetry, Homeric and other; partly upon Indian and Persian collections of mirabilia. In Sindbad's First Voyage, from Bagdad and Basra, the incident of the Whale-Back Island may be compared with the Indian Ocean whales of Pliny and Solinus, covering four jugera, and the pristis sea-monster of the same authorities, 200 cubits long; Al Kazwini tells a similar tale of a colossal tortoise. Such Eastern stories are probably the original of the whale-island in the Irish travel-romance of St Brandan. With the Island of the Mares of King Mihraj, or Mihrjan, we may find (rather imperfect) parallels in Homer's Iliad (the mares impregnated by the wind), in Ibn Khurdadbih and Al Kazwini, and in Wolf's account of the three Ilhas de Cavallos near Ceylon, so called from the wild horses with which they abounded, to which the Dutch East India merchants of the 17th century sometimes sent their mares for breeding purposes. Sindbad's account of the Kingdom of Mihraj (Mihrjan) is perhaps derived from the Two Musulman Travellers of the 9th century; it would seem to refer to one of the greater East Indian islands, perhaps Borneo. With the Rukh ("roc") of the Second Voyage we may compare Al Kazwini, and, more particularly, Ibn Al Wardi, who mentions the Island of the Rukh among the isles of the China Sea, and relates two incidents parallel to adventures with the rukh of Sindbad's Second and Fifth Voyages. Marco Polo in a famous passage describes this monstrous bird in detail, locates it apparently to the S of Madagascar, and relates how one of its supposed feathers had been taken to the grand khan of the Mongols. Sindbad's Valley of Diamonds has fairly complete parallels in Al Kazwini, in Benjamin of Tudela, in Marco Polo and in the far earlier Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, who died A.D. 403. As to the Mountain, or Island, of Apes in the Third Voyage, Ibn Al Wardi and Idrisi each recognizes an island of this kind, the former in the China Sea, the latter near Sokotra. Sindbad's negro cannibal adventure, next following, reproduces almost every detail of the Cyclops story in the Odyssey; among the Spice Islands, and perhaps at Timor, may be located the island rich in sandal-wood, where the wanderer rejoins his friends. The cannibal land of the Fourth Voyage, producing pepper and coco-nuts, where Sindbad's companions were offered food which destroyed their reason, has suggested the Andamans to some inquirers and certain districts of Sumatra to others: with this stale we may compare the lotus-eating of the Odyssey, Plutarch's story of Mark Antony's soldiers maddened and killed by an "insane" and fatal root in their Parthian wars, a passage in Davis's Account of Sumatra in 1599, and more complete parallels in Ibn Al Wardi and Al Kazwini. The burial of Sindbad in, and his escape from, the cavern of the dead is faintly foreshadowed in the story of Aristomenes, the Messenian hero, and in a reference of St Jerome to a supposed Scythian p144custom of burying alive with the dead those who had been dear to them; the fully-developed Sindbad tale finds an echo in "Sir John Mandeville." For the "Old Man of the Sea," in the Fifth Voyage, we may also refer to Al Kazwini, Ibn Al Wardi and the romance of Seyf Zu‑l Yezen; Sindbad's tyrannical rider has usually been explained as one of the huge apes of Borneo or Sumatra, improved to make a better story. The account of pepper, somewhat later in this Voyage, has a good deal in common with Idrisi's; Sindbad's pearl-fishing is probably to be located in the famous beds off Ceylon, of which Marco Polo has an excellent description. The romance of Seyf Zu‑l Yezen has a voyage along a subterranean river similar to that of Sindbad on his Sixth Voyage; the elephant adventure of the Seventh Voyage adds another to the many stories of the elephant's sagacity which were already told in every southern country, and of which we have many examples in Pliny's Historia Naturalis, and in Aelian's Historia Animalium.

See Richard Hole, Remarks on the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, in which the Origin of Sindbad's Voyages. . . is particularly considered (London, 1797); Eusebius Renaudot's edition of the Two Musulman Travellers (1718, translated into English, 1733, as Ancient Accounts of India and China by two Mahommedan Travellers. . . in the 9th Century); J. T. Reinaud, Relations des voyages faits par less Arabes et les Persans dans l'Inde et à la Chine dans le IXe siècle (1845); E. W. Lane's translation of the Arabian Nights (London, 1859), especially the notes in vol. III pp77‑108; M. J. de Goeje, La Légende de Saint Brandan (1890); C. R. Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography (1897), I.235‑238, 438‑450. besides the works noticed in the text of this article, the 12th‑century Romance of Duke Ernest of Bavaria, written in German rhyme by Henry of Veldeck about 1160, gives parallels to Sindbad's flight through the air (tied to his rukh) in Voyage II, to the subterranean river-excursion in Voyage VI, and to some other incidents.

[C. R. B.]


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