My knowledge of The Arabian Nights is greater than the average person walking down the street, but not by too much. It has not been my focus of study and I have usually only explored further when I needed to know more about how a tale connected to one of the many European fairy tales I have studied or to read about Scheherazade, one of the most interesting women in folklore. So when I need help, I have a few carefully selected books on my shelf to reference, especially The Arabian Nights: An Encyclopedia (Two Volume Set) by Ulrich Marzolph and Richard van Leeuwen.
For example, when I was working on Sleeping Beauties: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White Tales From Around the World, I spent way too long trying to figure out the source for The Ninth Captain's Tale which is sometimes referenced as a Sleeping Beauty tale. With the help of the encyclopedia and some other detective work, I finally found an answer. I wrote about it last year. I was very happy and the encyclopedia guided me to the answers I had sought.
About the book from the publisher:
The most comprehensive treatment of the Arabian Nights ever published, with more than 800 detailed encyclopedic entries and a wealth of authoritative essays and resources.It also provides an appendix with an AT System guide to the tales. Very helpful. It is now out of print, but still available used. Some universities also have online access to it through their databases since ABC-CLIO provides subscription services like that. I don't have easy access to those, so a paper version was my best choice. I don't use it all the time, but when I do, it saves me a lot of time and either answers my questions or sends me off in the right direction for my answer.
An ancient source of wisdom and perhaps the most pervasive Islamic influence on Western culture, the tales of the Arabian Nights have inspired the imagination of young and old. From fantastic characters to love and magic powers, these tales have stimulated creative works of Western literature, art, architecture, music, and popular culture for many centuries.
The tales of the Arabian Nights have long been the focus of scholarly research and critique, but no English language work has ever attempted an all-embracing treatment of them. The fruit of years of research, The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia is the first comprehensive reference work introducing both the Arabian Nights and the context of their genesis and aftermath in Near Eastern, European, and world culture.
Editors Ulrich Marzolph, one of the world's foremost scholars of Near Eastern narrative culture, and Richard van Leeuwen, a prominent scholar of the Arabian Nights, present detailed, authoritative, and up-to-date research on virtually all aspects of the tales, including major protagonists, themes, important translations, textual history, adaptations, reworkings, works inspired by the Arabian Nights, and aspects of literary theory, and provide extensive bibliographies for each tale. In addition to the 800+ encyclopedic entries and numerous essays, the work introduces research that has not previously been published, making it an invaluable resource to scholars, educators, students, and the general public, as well as an essential addition to the core collection of academic and public libraries.
• Includes 800+ encyclopedic entries covering all aspects of the Arabian Nights
• Begins with a fascinating introduction and a variety of essays by renowned scholars, presenting areas of pivotal interest and concern
• Includes a concordance of tales in different editions and translations
• Provides an extensive bibliography, featuring reference works published in English and other languages
• The most comprehensive reference work on the subject
• Combines detailed information with impeccable research drawn from primary sources and previous work
• Written by leading scholars of the Arabian Nights
• Provides up-to-date, accessible information on virtually all aspects of the tales