Haroun and the Sea of Stories Summary

Salman Rushdie

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories Summary

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a 1990 children’s book by British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie. A contemporary fable that serves as an allegory for problems that Rushdie sees as existing in the Indian subcontinent, Haroun and the Sea of Stories focuses on a young boy, Haroun, who father is a legendary storyteller. When his father suddenly loses his ability to tell stories, Haroun heads out on an epic and surreal adventure that takes him through many strange realms until he confronts the villain who stole his father’s creativity. The book, Rushdie’s next work after The Satanic Verses, focuses primarily on the theme of censorship, a topic that was close to Rushdie’s heart after the fatwa, a call for Muslims to kill Rushdie resulting from the publication of The Satanic Verses, that sent him into hiding. The book is dedicated to Rushdie’s son, who he was separated from while in hiding, and has been adapted into an audiobook narrated personally by Rushdie.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories begins as a young boy, Haroun Khalifa, lives with his parents, Rashid and Soraya. Rashid is a famous storyteller. However, his mother is soon enticed to leave home by their neighbor Mr. Sengupta. Rashid is soon hired by local politicians to speak for them, but struggles with his new job. While traveling on a yacht courtesy of politician Snooty Buttoo, Haroun discovers that a Water Genie named Iff has been deputized to steal Rashid’s gift of stories. Haroun demands to speak to Iff’s supervisor, The Walrus. Iff and Haroun are taken to a mystical place called the “Sea of Stories” by a giant Hoopoe bird. When Haroun arrives at the Sea of Stories, he learns that the realm – and all creativity – are threatened by a villain named “Khattam-Shud”, whose name translates to “the end”.

In the nearby kingdom of Gup, a young prince named Bolo is conspiring with his ally General Kitab and The Walrus to launch a war against the neighboring kingdom of Chup. Bolo’s fiancée, Princess Batcheat, has been kidnapped, and he blames Chup. Rashid, who has witnessed Batcheat’s kidnapping, joins with them here and begins to find some new purpose in this quest. As Haroun and his companions join the Guppee army, they encounter Mudra, a former ally of Khattam-Shud. This fearsome warrior has become disgusted with his former master’s policies and switched sides. Although this armored man doesn’t talk much, he communicates with sign language and soon becomes a powerful and fearless ally to the group.

Haroun finds a new ally in Mali, the gardener of stories, as they investigate the old zone of the sea. However, they are soon captured by Khattam-Shud and his living shadow. Khattam-Shud’s plan to seal up the Story Source at the bottom of the sea and prevent any more stories from leaking out of the Sea of Stories is revealed to the heroes. However, before he can accomplish his evil goals, Mali destroys the machine he intends to use and Haroun restores daylight to the Sea of Stories. This destroys the villain’s shadow and allows them to get rid of the giant plug he was planning to use. Meanwhile, in Chup, the Guppee forces free Princess Batcheat, and Khattam-Shud is crushed by one of his own statues while trying to escape. Before Haroun and Rashid return to their world, The Walrus promises them a happy ending to their story. Back in their world, the people of the city are happier than ever, the corrupt politician Snooty Buttoo is expelled from office, and Soraya returns home to her family. Rashid’s gift of storytelling has returned as well, and Haroun has found his happy ending. The book ends with an appendix explaining each major character’s name and how it fits into the book’s themes.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories has not received as much critical acclaim as Rushdie’s many works of adult fiction, although it is critically acclaimed and has been adapted into a stage show and opera in Rushdie’s native United Kingdom. Rushdie released his second children’s book, a sequel-in-spirit titled Luka and the Fire of Life, in 2010. However, Rushdie is best known for his ten novels, released over a forty-year stretch from 1975 to 2015. His second novel, Midnight’s Children, not only won the Booker Prize upon its release but was twice named the best novel to ever receive this award. In addition to his abundant works of fiction, he is acclaimed for his non-fiction writing, which often deals with themes including religion, political oppression, and the immigrant experience. In 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, an action which inflamed anger among many countries due to his work that has been interpreted by some as critical of Islam. He is highly active in British politics, and is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He is considered one of the most important and prolific names in modern literature.