Do Stories Come Out of Thin Air?: Salman Rushdie’s Answer

The hero of Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the son of Rashid Khalifa, a storyteller his admirers call “Rashid the Ocean of Notions” and his detractors, the “Shah of Blah.”  When Haroun tries to get a straight answer out of his plot-juggling parent about where stories come from, he would “stick his thumb between his lips while he made ridiculous drinking noises, glug glug glug.  Haroun hated it when his father acted this way.  ‘No, come on, where do they come from really?’ he’d insist, and Rashid would wiggle his eyebrows mysteriously and make witchy fingers in the air.

‘From the great Story Sea,” he’d reply.  “I drink the warm Story Waters and then I feel full of steam.’

Haroun found this statement intensely irritating.  ‘Where do you keep this hot water, then,’ he argued craftily.  ‘In hot-water bottles, I suppose.  Well, I’ve never seen any.’

‘ It comes out of an invisible Tap installed by one of the Water Genies,’ said Rashid with a straight face. ‘You have to be a subscriber.’

‘And how do you become a subscriber?’

‘Oh,” said the Shah of Blah, ’that’s much Too Complicated to Explain.’”

Haroun might not have continued to pursue the question if he had not broken his father’s heart by accusing him of being a superfluous and unserious person: “What is the point of it?  What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” Having voiced the same complaints as their dreadful neighbor Mr. Sengupta, who ran off with Haroun’s mother, he feels partly responsible for his father losing the miraculous gift of gab.  Haroun will try to help restore it, whatever it takes, wherever their wanderings take them.  When the local politician Snooty Buttoo brings Rashid to the Valley of K, also known as the Moody Land, to win over constituents and quibbles over the terms of the contract, Haroun  watches the weather mirror the emotions of his father’s words. He quickly silences everyone and orders his father to remember times that made him very happy.  When the moon breaks through the smelly fog in response, Haroun assures his father it wasn’t only a story, his faith restored in the belief that “the real world was full of magic, so magical worlds could easily be real.”

Martin Rowson’s realization of the Sea of Stories.

So dip your golden cup, like Haroun, into the wondrous Sea of Stories, that ocean, the biggest library in the universe, whose fluidity gives it greater life than a ”storeroom of yarns.”    Drink up and replenish the storyteller’s powers.