Haroun and the Sea of Stories

by Salman Rushdie

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Why is a chapter in Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories titled "The Shah of Blah"?

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A justification of the chapter title "The Shah of Blah" in Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories is that this section of the book revolves around Haroun's father, Rashid. A master storyteller, Rashid is known as "The Shah of Blah" by his enemies, meaning that he's very good at spinning tales without any meaningful content.

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Haroun's father, Rashid Khalifa, is a master storyteller, a man who regularly spins his legendary tales before enthusiastic audiences. To his admirers, of whom there are many, he's known as "The Ocean of Notions," a man full of wonderfully original ideas.

To his detractors, however, he's nothing but a windbag whose stories are almost entirely devoid of meaningful content. They too have a nickname for Rashid: "The Shah of Blah." This is the title of the opening chapter of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and is entirely appropriate because Rashid is the main character here.

The Shah was the name given to the Persian emperor—it derives from the word Caesar, as in Julius Caesar. So by calling him this, Rashid's detractors and critics are saying that he's sitting on the top of the tree, that there is no one above him. But this is not intended to be a compliment, because Rashid is allegedly "The Shah of Blah," meaning that he's streets ahead of anyone else when it comes to spewing out meaningless blather.

Even Haroun finds himself irritated by his father, who, upon being asked by his son where his stories come from, answers with a perfectly straight face that they are piped into their house by the Water Genie from the waters of the Story Sea. Without being cruel, one can certainly see where Rashid gets his unflattering nickname from.

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