Majnun among the wild animals' (1420) by Mahmud al-HusayniPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Why are our greatest love stories always so tragic? Romeo & Juliet, Jack & Rose (Titanic), Majnun & Layla ...
The story of Majnun & Layla, two young oriental lovers, was first told in the 7th century. Layla was blessed with great beauty.
The Bedouin Qais was totally smitten. He didn’t want to be a single day longer without her and composed songs about his love for her.
But he was so obsessed that he sang about Layla too soon, before they were married (!), and so besmirched the honour of Layla and her family.
And then her family did everything to stop their relationship. Layla was married off to another one and sent away.
Qais, whose obsession with Layla made the locals call him Majnun (“crazy”), went completely mad. He went out into the desert and lived among the wild animals, with birds nesting in his hair – this delicate 15th century illustration shows him.
Incidentally, Layla didn’t just inspire Majnun. Many, many years later she also inspired Eric Clapton, himself unhappily in love at the time, to write ‘Layla’, one of the most famous love songs in pop history.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz