Scheherazade or Shahrazad is a legendary Persian queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.
In Sir Richard F. Burton's translation of The Nights, Shahrazad was described in this way: "[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred."
According to the frame tale, Shahryar (Persian: شهريار or "king"), the king, was betrayed by his first wife, which caused him to go mad and believe that all women would betray him. So every day he would marry a new virgin, and the following morning he would send her to be beheaded. He had killed three thousand such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter.
Against her father's protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King's chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dinazade, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The King lay awake and listened with awe to Scheherazade's first story and asked for another, but Scheherazade said there was not time as dawn was breaking, and regretfully so, as the next story was even more exciting.
And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, the King had not only been entertained but wisely educated in morality and kindness by Scheherazade, who became his Queen.
The nucleus of these stories is formed by an old Persian book called Hezar-afsana, or the "Thousand Myths" (Persian: هزارافسانه).
The earliest forms of Scheherazade's name include Šīrāzād (شیرازد) in Masudi and Šahrāzād (شهرازاد) in Ibn al-Nadim, the latter meaning "she whose realm or dominion (شهر šahr) is noble (ازاد āzād)". In explaining his spelling choice for the name, Burton says, "Shahrázád (Persian) = City-freer; in the older version Scheherazade (probably both from Shirzád = lion-born). 'Dunyázá' = world-freer. The Bres[lau] Edit[ion] corrupts the former to Shárzád or Sháhrazád; and the Mac[naghten] and Calc[utta] to Shahrzád or Shehrzád. I have ventured to restore the name as it should be." After introducing the name, Burton does not continue to use the diacritics on the name.
Scheherazade was identified, confused with, or partly derived from the legendary queen Homāy, daughter of Bahman, who has the epithet Čehrzād or Čehrāzād (چهرازاد) "she whose appearance is noble". Harun al-Rashid's mother, Al-Khayzuran, is also said to have influenced the character of Scheherazade!