Haroun and the Sea of Stories | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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Course Hero. "Haroun and the Sea of Stories Study Guide." May 10, 2019. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Haroun-and-the-Sea-of-Stories/.


Course Hero, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories Study Guide," May 10, 2019, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Haroun-and-the-Sea-of-Stories/.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories | Symbols


Sea of Stories

The titular "Sea of Stories" is the Ocean of the Streams of Story on the hidden Moon of Kahani and the source of all stories. The stories are colorful currents within the Ocean, and they weave in and out of one another. Some creatures that live in the Ocean can merge stories to create entirely new ones of disparate parts. People on Earth, such as Rashid, Haroun's father and a famous storyteller, can subscribe to a service that gives them access to the stories in the Ocean to facilitate their own storytelling.

The Sea of Stories symbolizes the nature of stories in the real world. Their primordial origins are rarely examined, and although they stand alone, they are also deeply interwoven. They can change—they can join together and form something new, and they can be poisoned and dulled. They come in all different types and moods, like the different colors in the Ocean of the Streams of Story.

Arabian Nights Plus One

In Chapter 3, Haroun and Rashid are taken to a luxurious houseboat on Dull Lake by Mr. Buttoo, who has engaged Rashid to tell upbeat stories at his political rally the next day. Mr. Buttoo has named the houseboat Arabian Nights Plus One, a reference to the collection of stories One Thousand and One Nights, commonly called Arabian Nights. The décor on the houseboat is story themed and fantastical, including windows in the shapes of fantastical creatures from different stories, carved wooden tables decorated with fairies, and bookshelves full of books both real and fake, including a set of volumes titled The Ocean of the Streams of Story, which Mr. Buttoo notes would be a good place to look for more stories if Rashid ever runs out of ideas. In addition, it is from Arabian Nights Plus One that Rashid and Haroun find their way to Kahani, the setting of their own adventure story.

Arabian Nights Plus One symbolizes, then, a new story added to the multitude of existing stories. It represents the "plus one" that is the novel itself: Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The symbol of the houseboat also incorporates Rushdie's ideas about the nature of stories. It is decorated with a jumble of different creatures from all sorts of stories, just the way the Ocean of the Streams of Story on Kahani provides a jumble of story elements from which new stories can be made.


Blabbermouth, a Guppee Page, has a gift for juggling. As Haroun watches, she juggles up to 11 golden balls. The Chupwala ambassador also juggles an assortment of objects, including lit cigarettes and live animals. He uses his amazing skills to hide the fact that he has a bomb. Blabbermouth must use her own superior juggling skills to pluck the bomb out of the other items being juggled and save the day.

In the novel, juggling is a symbol of storytelling. Haroun thinks of his father's storytelling as juggling various plots and skillfully keeping them all in the air. Haroun says as much to Blabbermouth. "I always thought storytelling was like juggling," he says, "You keep ... different tales in the air ... and if you're good you don't drop any."

Sign of the Zipped Lips

On Kahani, Khattam-Shud's personal guards wear a special insignia—the Sign of the Zipped Lips. This is a reference to their vow of silence. Khattam-Shud also kidnaps Princess Batcheat and plans to sew up her lips on the Feast of Bezaban before offering her as a sacrifice to the idol, Bezaban. Fittingly, Bezaban is worshipped in complete silence.

These images symbolize the absence of verbal communication, which is appropriate for the enemy of a talkative people such as the Guppees and for the villain who wants to poison the Ocean of the Streams of Story. They support two important themes—stories and storytelling and censorship. Khattam-Shud wants to end all stories and storytelling because he dislikes and does not value stories. His disdain for stories leads to a central conflict in the novel and allows the novel to elaborate on the value of stories. Further, by using his power to destroy certain kinds of communication, Khattam-Shud effectively censors the kind of communication that is allowed. Tying censorship to the story's villain suggests that censorship is a villainous act.

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