My favorite radio station here plays an incredibly cheesy radio soap opera called The Love of Qays and Layla
. It's about a woman named Layla, who is in love with Qays despite her upcoming marriage to someone else, and Qays' devolution into a madman due to his love for her. So far we've heard two episodes; in the first, Layla was receiving the sage advice that she could be true to Qays by refusing to have sex with her soon-to-be-husband, and in today's episode she sent Qays away and got married to the Other Man. This soap represents BAD acting at its finest, although I have to say Qays' despairing "Nooo!" was about twice as believable as Annikin's.
I just looked up the radio station's claim that this cheesy and overly romantic tale is "based on a centuries-old Saudi Arabian love story," and it is indeed true. The famous version of it -- Layla and Majnun
, majnun meaning "madman" -- was written in the 12th century by a Persian Sufi poet named Nizami. It was set in seventh century Arabia and is based on an oral tradition that, at least according to some, may actually date back to that period.
According to something random called the History News Network
, this story -- though unfamiliar to most of us in the West -- has influenced a number of classic Western love stories, such as Romeo and Juliet
and, of course, the Eric Clapton song.
And, since I've read a bit about the epic, I now know that Layla is NOT going to have sex with her new husband, and that they're all going to die tragically. Hope that doesn't spoil the plot for anyone else.
Each grain of sand takes its own length and breadth as the measure of the world; yet, beside a mountain range it is as nothing. You yourself are the grain of sand; you are your own prisoner. Break your cage, break free from yourself, free from humanity; learn that what you thought was real is not so in reality. Follow Nizami: burn but your own treasure, like a candle -- then the world, your sovereign, will become your slave.
-from Nizami's version of Layla and Majnun