Analysis of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie

Analysis of Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Haroun and the Sea of Stories is written by Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, a British Indian novelist and essayist. His second novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’ won the Booker Prize in 1981 and is considered as the ‘best novel of all winners’. ‘The Satanic Verses’, his fourth novel which was published in 1988 brought about a huge controversy with protests from Muslims in many countries. There were death threats against him and the British government gave Rushdie under police protection. Since 2000 Rushdie has been living in the United States. Most of his stories are set in India and Haroun and the Sea of Stories is also set in India but is an allegory to many situations in India. However it is a book for children with many fictional characters and situations.


The plot opens in a sad city in a country called Alifbay. HarounKhalifa, the protagonist, lives with his father Rashid who is a storyteller. One day when Haroun returns from school he realises that his mother had run off with their neighbour, Mr.Sengupta. Haroun finds it difficult to concentrate on his school work, so his father takes Haroun with him for a storytelling job to the Land of G and Valley of K. However Rashid finds himself at a loss of words and earns the wrath of his bosses the politicians. From Land of G they travel to the Valley of K. It is believed that “Khattam-shud”, silence had caught hold of Rashid and the rest of the story was to get rid of the curse of Kahttam-shud. They meet many characters and travel to different places and they form the sea of stories.

One is Butt a parrot-looking man who drives them from the Land of G to the Valley of K. Mr.Buttoo is the politician who takes them to the Dull Lake. They meet some challenges after which they board a luxurious yacht. There they meet a man with onion-shape head who disappears as soon as he sees Haroun. This man is Iff, a water genie who wants to turn off the water stream of Rashid with his wrench. Haroun confiscates the wrench and protests with Iff. Iff tells him that Walrus in the Gup City could help him and finally Iff agrees to take Haroun there.

They travel on a magical bird Hoopoe who looks like Mr. Butt, so Haroun names the bird Butt the Hoopoe. They land on the Earth’s second moon, Sea of Stories of Kahani, which moves very fast. They land on Wish water hoping it would help Haroun and Rashid. Haroun drinks the water of Wishwater and wishes his father’s story telling skills are restored. But it does not happen as he could not concentrate as he was distracted by the thoughts of his mother. Haroun drinks water from the sea and then he sees himself in the role of a hero in a Princess Rescue story. In this story the hero’s work is stalled and Iff tells him that Khattam-Shud is poisoning his stories.

Haroun, Butt the Hoopoe, Ifffly to Gup and there they see that all are preparing for a war with Chupwalas who had stolen their Princess Batcheat. Also they had polluted the sea of stories. So Walrus, General Kitab, Prince Bolo brief the pages about the war strategy. They have a spy with them and Haroun soon realises that it was his father. From there it is a series of incidents in the war between Gup and Chup. Finally Khattam-shud is killed, Gups win the war, Haroun finds himself I the Valley of K. His father tells the story of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and when they get back home their mother is back home apologising for her act. Haroun wakes up the next day which is his birthday and as ever finds his mother singing to herself in the next room.

Characters in the novel

There are many characters in the novel and each of them has strange looks and characteristics. The main characters are


Haroun is a young boy who is upset that his mother has left him and suffers from attention –deficit disorder. He eventually overcomes it and in the process he meets very challenging situations which he overcomes with a little help.


Rashid is the father of Haroun who could create stories on the go. He is also shattered when his wife leaves him and his skill for story telling is lost. In the story he also travels with Haroun and slowly regains his confidence in telling stories.

Iff the water genie is helpful but pretends to be tough. Butt the Hoopoe is described as ‘the bird that leads all other birds through many dangerous places to their ultimate goal’ and it leads Haroun to his destination as well.Khattam-Shud is the villain of the story as he is an advocate of silence and foe of speech. He is the king of Chup. So, people of Gup are against them as they had captured Batcheat their princess. There are many more characters who are named after speech or books like General Kitab, Bolo, King Chattergy and more.


The main theme is of this novel is the importance of stories in one’s life. Rashid finds himself hapless without his story telling skills. Another theme is the censorship put on words by people through different ways. Here it is depicted by the character Khattam-Shud. Balance between speech and silence is another theme. Gup is the talkative side and Chup is the quite side; they both are the two sides of a whole. Foolishness of war, the playfulness of language, the beauty of darkness are the other themes touched upon by the Rushdie.


The setting moves from the sad city of Alifbay to the Land of G and Valley of K. From there it moves to moon and other out-of-world places and finally returns to Valley of K and then back to the city where the story began. It takes a full circle.

Critical Reviews

“Displaying influences that range from Tintin to Peter Pan, the book is of now and today, and of tomorrow and anytime, and is destined to become a children’s classic, illustrated next year, made into an animation film the year after.” – Tarun J. Tejpal

“Rather than retreating under the famous death threats, Rushdie reiterates the importance of literature, stressing not just the good of stories “that aren’t even true” but persuading us that these stories convey the truth.” – Viking Books

“A strong winner, though the storyline fades in and out of the prose–a fault that may pass unnoticed if the book’s not read in one sitting.” – Kirkus


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