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The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat al-Himma (Paperback)
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Published in English for the first time, and the only Arabic epic named for a woman, The Tale of Princess Fatima recounts the thrilling adventures of a legendary medieval warrior universally known throughout the Middle East and long overdue to join world literature's pantheon of female heroes.
A Penguin Classic
A fearsome, sword-slinging heroine who defeated countless men in stealth attacks on horseback, Dhat al-Himma, or Princess Fatima, was secretly given away at birth because she wasn't male, only to triumph as the most formidable warrior of her time. Known alternately as "she-wolf," "woman of high resolve," and "calamity of the soul," she lives on in this rousing narrative of female empowerment, in which she leads armies of more than seventy thousand men in clashes between rival tribes and between Muslims and Christians; reconciles with her father after taking him prisoner; and fends off her infatuated cousin, who challenges her to a battle for the right to marry her. Though her cousin suffers an ignominious defeat, he impregnates Fatima against her will and, when she gives birth to a Black son, disowns his own son, who also grows up to be a great warrior, eventually avenging his mother's honor. The epic culminates in a showdown between Fatima and another formidable warrior woman, and earns Fatima a place alongside the likes of Circe, Mulan, Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen and other powerful women.
About the Author
Melanie Magidow (editor/translator) is an independent scholar and professional translator with a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of Texas at Austin. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Commission. She lives in Rhode Island.
“A gift and a wonder, deftly capturing the nuance and flavor of these tales for a new generation. As someone who’s waited untold years to read these stories: thank you, thank you, thank you.” ―Jason Porath, author of Rejected Princesses
“This powerful epic with its all-conquering heroine brings the world of Arab chivalry to blazing life, in a wonderful translation with a very informative introduction.” ―Humphrey Davies, award-winning translator of Naguib Mahfouz, Elias Khoury, and Alaa Al-Aswany
“In her beautiful translation, Melanie Magidow captures the forceful yet melodic language of this epic. It is an epic that reveals the wisdom of women through the centuries while tackling issues of gender, color, race, beauty, courage, and war that are pertinent to our times. Indispensable to any library, it should be taught to generations of readers all over the world. One has to be grateful to Magidow for editing and translating it: not only does it contribute to the knowledge of humanity and promote acceptance and tolerance, but it is also a page turner and really fun to read.” ―Reem Bassiouney, author of The Pistachio Seller
“By combining delightful, accessible prose with painstaking research and academic rigor, Melanie Magidow has brought medieval Arab history and its narrative traditions to life for a contemporary audience.” ―Nancy Roberts, award-winning translator of Naguib Mahfouz, Salwa Bakr, and Ibrahim Nasrallah
“An emotive, dynamic rendering that exquisitely captures the spirit of the original text, the variety of its characters, and the versatility of its messages. The Tale of Princess Fatima has much to tell us about what it has meant—in different times and places—to be a hero.” ―Rachel Schine, University of Colorado Boulder
“Melanie Magidow’s eminently readable translation brings to life the excitement and adventure of this female hero from the early medieval Islamic world. Fatima is a nuanced heroine who composes poetry, fends off potential rapists, wins battles, tricks villains, and governs her kingdom in a turbulent world. The Arabic Epic of Dhat al-Himma provides us with a warrior, mother, politician, and strategist for the ages.” ―Mary Dockray-Miller, Lesley University
“This engaging and reader-friendly translation brings to life a very important moment in world history, capturing through epic proportions the timeless social issues of race, gender, and class.” ―Heidi Morrison, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
“Dr. Magidow’s selection and translation of this timeless Arabic epic is a watershed event in the history of Arabic literature in the west. The translation is a work of art unto itself. And going against the grain of stereotypes and orientalism, the translation turns the perennial problem of patriarchy and hypermasculinity on its head and reverberates with themes in Shahrazad’s stories, the poetry of Hujayja of the Banu Shaban, Rabi'a al-Adawiyya, and Wallada bint al-Mustakfi. Readers are generously rewarded as they witness the intrepid spirit of Fatima.” ―Samer Ali, University of Michigan