78 pages 2 hours read

Salman Rushdie

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1990

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Summary and Study Guide


Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a 1990 book for young adults, written by Salman Rushdie. Haroun is the follow-up to Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which was deemed blasphemous by the Ayatollah (a high-ranking Iranian clergyman) at the time, who pronounced a death sentence on the author. As a response to the ayatollah’s decree, Haroun explores themes of free speech, the need for storytelling, and the value of fiction.

Plot Summary

The novel begins with a young boy named Haroun Khalifa. Haroun lives with his parents in a city that is so sad it no longer remembers its name. Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a celebrated storyteller known for his ability to entertain, instruct, and persuade crowds on behalf of politicians. In the first chapter, Haroun’s mother leaves her husband for a man named Mr. Sengupta. Shortly after, Rashid finds that he has run out of stories to tell. His creativity is gone.

That night, Haroun learns something disturbing—a water genie named Iff has taken his father’s storytelling gift. Rashid was a subscriber to a storytelling service, and Iff has disconnected it. Iff travels with Haroun to Kahani, a fictional moon of earth that contains the Sea of Stories—the source of all stories and creativity. The Sea of Stories is under threat by an evil ruler, Khattam-Shud, whose name means “The End.”

Haroun learns that Khattam-Shud has a plan to plug the hole that produces the currents of stories. Khattam-Shud forbids free speech and has enacted a series of decrees called the Silence Laws, which forbid his people from speaking. Haroun manages to help destroy the machinery that was going to plug the Wellspring. He uses a substance called Wishwater—given to him by Iff—to wish for the sun to rise. When the sun rises on the dark land of Chup, it melts the shadows away. The idol of Bezaban topples from a tower and lands on Khattam-Shud during an earthquake, killing him.

Afterward, Haroun meets with a man named The Walrus, who grants him one wish. Haroun wishes for his city to become happy again. The Walrus manufactures a happy ending for Haroun’s city, which remembers its name: Kahani. Haroun’s mother returns to Rashid, and the family is whole once again.