“The Tale of the Three Apples” can best be described as a murder mystery (such as in the novel, Clockers). The event surrounds the Caliph’s encounter with a fisherman whom he challenges to fish again in an effort to encourage the fisherman to feed his family, given the fisherman had been down on his luck. Instead of fish, however, the fisherman discovers a box that has the cut-up body of a woman in it. The Caliph asks the Ja'far to find out who the murderer is. The issue, however, is that more than one individual comes forward admitting to murdering the woman. One of the individuals is a younger man who received three apples for his wife, who was sick. The young man witnesses a slave with an apple and inquires where the slave got it from too which the slave responds that he received it from his mistress. The young man realizes that the mistress and his wife were the same people and in a rage, killed her; but later discovers that the slave had not in fact been with his wife as he initially thought. Ja'far then asks that the slave be located on behalf of the Caliph's orders. The Caliph realizes that the slave was his very own slave.
Ultimately, this tale presents many of the remarkable facets of murder mysteries, which is both patience and sequencing of events. Moreover, there are two prominent themes that run throughout - irony and justice. The ironic presentation of the mistress being the same individual as the wife is not uncommon for murder mysteries, but is irony nevertheless. Furthermore, the slave is an individual who does duties for the Caliph who set the whodunit quest in motion from the beginning. Justice is carried out in the sense that the Caliph wants to discover who has in fact murdered the woman. To further highlight the two themes, the writer adds a dash of humor at the end of the story by noting that "then [Ja'far] took the slave's hand and, leading him to the Caliph related the story from first to last and the Caliph marveled with extreme astonishment, and laughed till he fell on his back and ordered that the story be recorded and be made public amongst the people" (153). The writer wants the reader to understand that while justice and perceived social equity was in essence served, that the dilemma was purely about something as simple as three apples. Essentially, it was written to expose the minuscule issues of society more or less fighting and quivering over frivolous items juxtaposed against the issues of adultery and murder.
“Wardan the Butcher; His Adventure with the Lady and the Bear” begins with a woman whom every day gives a butcher, a dinar, and requests lamb. The butcher begins to wonder as to her intention in doing this. He states "this woman buyeth of me a ductwork of meat every morning, paying ready money and never misseth a single day. Verily this is a strange thing!" (354) In his seeking to understand her reasoning, he follows her one day after she departs the shop unbeknownst to the woman. He sees the woman feeding a bear who "sprang upon her and rogered her" (354). The butcher then takes it upon himself to kill the bear and the lady for their misgivings against Allah despite the proposition the lady gives him. Wardan then must give an account about why he killed the lady and the bear to the prince who inquires on behalf of the king. The king then instructs Wardan to get the treasure that was in the same place as the woman and the bear.
The purpose of this tale is to reveal the issue of telling the truth contrasted with gaining a reward for doing so. Additionally, the tale explores the sin of bestiality given the woman and the bear were enjoying each other’s company. It is not as overt what Wardan witnesses as the text has to be read a few times to ascertain what the writer was trying to convey. Wardan, subsequently receives a reward from the king for essentially fulfilling the vision of Allah in ending the life of the woman for disavowing the god she proclaimed to serve.
Burton, Richard. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: The Complete Burton Translation with the Complete Burton Notes, the Terminal Index, and 1001 Decorations by Valenti Angelo (3-Volume Set). Reprint. Signal Hill, CA: Heritage Press, 1962. Print.