A Linguistic and Literary Examination of the Rukh Bird in Arab Culture


When the Arabian Nights was translated into various European languages in the early eighteenth century, the Rukh was reintroduced into the European popular culture due to the publication of Marco Polo's (1914) travel work. By relying on classical Arabic sources, this work provides a new insight into the Rukh's origin by arguing that it has Arabic roots because of its connection to the 'Anqā' bird more than to the Persian Simurgh or the Indian Gāruda legendary birds, as commonly believed. The important implication here is that there are many unique Arabic and Islamic elements in the Arabian Nights that can be deduced from the thorough study of Middle Eastern animal legends. This article focuses on the Arabic influences on the description of this bird, thereby developing an alternative theory of its Arab roots rather than its possible Asian roots.