The World’s Best English Epic Poetry – Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer

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The world’s best English epic and narrative poetry includes Southey‘s Thalaba the Destroyer.

Thalaba is born to become a warrior-hero: so states the prophecies spoken over him at the time of his birth. Thalaba has been sent by Allah to liberate the Caliphate from a maleficent coven of black sorcerers, who dwell in an impregnable fortress beneath the sea at Domdaniel.

But the black sorcerers are vigilant: and have many ways of finding things out. When the sorcerers hear of the prophecy and learn of the potential threat to their existence, they quickly dispatch an assassin to put Thalaba out of the way. The assassin waits until nightfall to force an entrance into Thalaba’s family’s dwelling: and commences slaughtering all its sleeping occupants in cold blood, in order to cover his tracks. His grisly work complete, the assassin flees: but upon the next day as the corpses are discovered, two are missing. The bodies of Thalaba and his mother, Zeinab, were absent.

Indeed, it was Zeinab’s quick thinking that preserved the lives of herself and her son that night. Hearing the disturbance and realising at once what was happening, Zeinab escaped with Thalaba into the desert. After wearily wandering through dismal waste-lands, they eventually entered inside the ancient ruins of Irem. There they choose to remain – under the protection of a powerful and benevolent chieftain – Moath – who continues to care for the growing Thalaba even after the death of his mother some years later.

The sorcerers soon learn that their attempted assassination of Thalaba failed. Their servants are instructed to pursue him: but time has passed – Zeinab and Thalaba have long made good their escape and vanished without leaving a trace. But the coven is not restricted to human agents: using occult charms to conscript powerful demons as servants, their hunt for Thalaba continues…

Approaching manhood, Thalaba forces himself to confront the horrific facts in his past. His mother’s reciting of his birth-prophecy remains indelibly planted upon his memory: and Thalaba feels the stirrings of destiny inside his soul. His decisions will determine his fate – and that of countless others – as he sets out to follow his calling: as Allah decrees.

  • Is it now time for Thalaba to identify and revenge his father’s murderer? Or should Thalaba put aside thoughts of revenge to follow the paths of destiny foretold in his birth-prophecy?

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Arabian Nights


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