How can it be that the same story is found in Scotland and also in Pre-Columbian America? What can account for the durability and persistence of tales? Was the tale of Aladdin and his wondrous lamp really taken from Wales (where it has been found) to the ancient East and, if so, when and by whom?
These questions and more are answered in Idries Shah’s remarkable volume World Tales, which is subtitled, ‘The extraordinary coincidence of stories told in all times, in all places’. In his introduction, Shah remarks, ‘Working for thirty-five years among the written and oral sources of our world heritage in tales, one feels a truly living element in them which is startlingly evident when one isolates the ‘basic’ stories; the ones which tend to have travelled farthest, to have featured in the largest number of classical collections, to have inspired great writers of the past and present’.