1. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    The Desert Song by Romberg/Hammerstein and The Sheik by E.M. Hull- plot similarities?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Morwen Edhelwen, Jun 19, 2012.

    Has anyone noticed similarities between The Desert Song and The Sheik? Beautiful, independent Western woman is travelling in North Africa. She has a suitor of her own race who she doesn't like and is kidnapped by a noble savage local ruler who took her because of romantic attraction and eventually falls in love with him after he's frightened her a few times. At the end, he is revealed to be a European in disguise. This storyline has tons of unfortunate implications (They may be less obvious in TDS, but they're still there, part of what attracted me to it in the first place.

    I hate that type of plot, so I wanted to subvert it by making the hero an actual Arab (with a West African grandmother who was originally a slave) and having him challenge the heroine's expectations of what, in her opinion, Arab guys are like. The implications of the "Arab-guy-is-really-a-European" plot are messed up. He's good because he's really European? And having knowledge of so-called "Arab ways" makes him both a "savage" and "civilised"? Really? And of course, all Arab men are kidnappers and are never good, unless they have at least partial European ancestry. (*she said sarcastically*).

    And another thing, why on earth does Arab=exotic? TDS is basically The Sheik with a secret identity- the boring White suitor and the exciting Arab one are one and the same.)
     
  2. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    Another question I'm interested in which is related to this question about similarities between the two works is the use of the abduction or harem plot. Where does that come from? Anyone have a clue? Is it a folk memory of pre-18th-19th century incidents of Arab slavers taking Europeans captive? ETA: Just found the 1921 song The Sheik of Araby, inspired by the Valentino Sheik. One obvious similarity is in the scene in The Desert Song where Margot picks up the sabre after the Red Shadow has kidnapped her, then left her alone, and she sings this really complicated aria (I've tried to sing it, but I just can't do it) about how she could kill him by stabbing him in the heart, but has fallen in love with him, which IMO is kind of like the scene in The Sheik where Diana attempts to commit suicide with a pistol after the Sheik has repeatedly raped and emotionally abused her. In both, the hero acts really aggressively towards the heroine, and in the end she falls in love with him when he's revealed to be European. Why was the trope of "hero/heroine of different race is suddenly revealed to be European" so common? And also, is this an
    example of the kind of thinking that leads to ideas like 'All Middle Eastern men are sexist?"


    ETA: Is anyone else interested in discussing this, or is it just me?
     

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