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The Man of Wiles in Popular Arabic Literature

A Study of a Medieval Arab Hero

M. C. Lyons

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The Man of Wiles - terrorist or saint?

The Man of Wiles (otherwise known as the Master Thief, the Trickster or the Fool) appears in every hero cycle within classical Arabic literature - proof of this figure's popularity with the audiences of Arab story-tellers. He embodies views acceptable to an otherwise inarticulate part of the population, allowing Islam to be treated in a paradoxical and sometimes humorous light in contrast to conventional piety. And he shares with Odysseus not only his wiles but his function as 'the sacker of cities', redressing the idea that classical Arabic literature is unrelated to anything outside its own borders. The study of this popular form sets out in detail the recorded lives of these Men of Wiles for those to whom the original texts are not available.


List of Sources
Chapter 1, Section 1: ͨ Ali al-Zaibaq
Section 2: Sirat ͨ Antar
Chapter 2, Section 1: Qissat al-Zir Salim
Section 2: Sirat Bani Hilal
Chapter 3, Section 1: Hamzat al-Pahlawan
Section 2: Qissat Firuz Shah
Section 3: Saif b. Dhi Yazan
Chapter 4, Dhat al-Himma
Chapter 5, Section 1: Sirat Baibars
Section 2: Shiha
Chapter 6, Analysis and Conclusion
Index of Names

About the Author

M. C. Lyons is Emeritus Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Professor Lyons is the founding editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature and author, editor and translator of several books, the most significant being the three-volume The Arabian Epic (CUP, 1995) and the three-volume edition of The Arabian Nights (Penguin Books, 2008).


‘For readers to whom the original lengthy Arabic texts are not available, this book presents the Man of Wiles as an important character who, considered also as a saint, helps show the collective mind of the audiences of the medieval story-cycles trying to understand, as Lyons says, "the role of contradiction at the heart of the forces that control human life".’

- Issa J. Boullata, McGill University, Journal of the American Oriental Society

'The amount of data and information given in these five chapters is unparalleled and can be enough to make the work by Lyons a landmark study on the subject.'

- Francesca Bellino, Bulletin critique des Annales islamologiques