Haroun and the Sea of Stories


Salman Rushdie

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Salman Rushdie

Rushdie was born in Bombay, India, to a Muslim family of Kashmiri descent. He worked briefly in Pakistan as a television writer before moving to England to work as a copywriter. His first novel, Grimus (1975), was mostly ignored, but his second novel, Midnight's Children (1981) won the 1981 Booker Prize and was awarded several other prizes over the next 30 years. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), created a major scandal, as many Muslims worldwide took offense to Rushdie's irreverent portrayal of Muhammad. The book was banned in 13 countries, and the following year, the spiritual leader of Iran issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's execution. British police placed Rushdie and his family under police protection for several years. The fatwa persists to this day in some regards, as Iran neither actively supports nor discourages individuals from attempting to murder Rushdie. Haroun and the Sea of Stories was written so that Rushdie could explain the situation to his first son, born in 1979. Rushdie has been married four times and has two sons. He currently lives in New York City.
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Historical Context of Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was written in response to the events caused by Rushdie's publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988. Following the release of The Satanic Verses, several countries with substantial Muslim populations banned the book, and the religious leader of Iran issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death. The combination of the fatwa and the book itself incited violence, book burnings, and bombings of bookstores around the world. In light of this, Haroun and the Sea of Stories stands as a response to a violent attempt at censorship (à la Khattam-Shud) championing the power and necessity of both free speech and storytelling.

Other Books Related to Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is most commonly compared to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865) and L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz (1900) in that they all concern children embarking on a fantastic, dreamlike journey through fantasy worlds. However, as Haroun and the Sea of Stories makes numerous references to outside works, it also shares themes and similarities with J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan (1911), and Mudra battling his shadow can be seen as a nod to Peter's shadow. Haroun also draws heavily from the framing device and the many stories in One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of South Asian and Middle Eastern tales collected between the 8th and 13th centuries BC, with the first English translation published in 1706. The folktale Rapunzel also makes a literal cameo.
Key Facts about Haroun and the Sea of Stories
  • Full Title: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
  • When Written: Between 1988 and 1990
  • Where Written: London, England
  • When Published: 1990
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult/Children's Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Setting: The fictional land of Alfibay; Kahani, the earth's second moon
  • Climax: When Haroun's wish causes the moon Kahani to rotate
  • Antagonist: Khattam-Shud; Mr. Sengupta; Mr. Buttoo
  • Point of View: Primarily third person with occasional second-person asides to the reader

Extra Credit for Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun revisited. In 2011, Rushdie published Luka and the Fire of Life, which he wrote for his second son. Rushdie considers it a companion to Haroun rather than a sequel, as it follows the same family but considers different themes and threats.

A Story for Children and Adults. Rushdie has been quoted as saying that he hopes that Haroun can dissolve the boundary between adult and children's literature, as he attempted to write a novel that can provide satisfaction for children and can continue to provide satisfaction when re-read in adulthood.