After Haroun Khalifa's mother Soraya runs off with a neighbor, Haroun's father, a storyteller named Rashid, finds it difficult to continue telling stories, so Haroun must stumble onto a way to keep his father's stories coming. Haroun is also depressed by his mother's sudden disappearance, but his father's sudden inability to tell stories on top of this is even more alarming. After all, that's what his father does. What will he do for a living?
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Nonetheless, Haroun's father's reputation brings him an unavoidable job with a local politician who will not be refused. While waiting in the hotel after arriving at their destination, Haroun encounters a water genie named Iff who claims to have been sent to turn off the flow of stories to his father - as if stories were water. Haroun is confused and insists upon an explanation. As he digs deeper, he is surreptitiously taken away to the source of all stories (Gup, which is of course on the moon), where he makes several interesting friends and discovers that stories are made in Gup's seawater. These stories are the source of his father's eloquence and are themselves also being threatened by the dark and horrible Khattam-Shud. Khattam-Shud rules the land of Chup on the dark side of the moon, but has been trying to take over Gup as well.
While first in this curious world in secret, Haroun eventually meets the royal family and is recruited - along with his father who has also shown up - to fight Khattam-Shud to rescue the stories and the royal family's precious Princess Beatcheat who has also been captured. His father takes his helpers to the dark side of the moon, where the princess and Khattam-Shud are supposed to be. Haroun takes his crew towards the source of the sea of stories, a logical target for Khattam-Shud and the likely source of their recent corruption. Haroun there finds a ship manned by Khattam-Shud himself, but discovers the ship and its occupants (including the supposed Khattam-Shud) to be made of shadows, and uses this to destroy it. Rashid is successful on the dark side of the moon.
After receiving gifts and thanks from the Guppees, including the promise of a happy ending, Rashid and Haroun, much encouraged, go home. They indeed receive their happy ending, as Rashid recovers his story-telling abilities, his mother Soraya returns home, and the formerly depressed and nameless town they live in remembers its name and good spirits. As for the power-grabbing politician Rashid was coerced into working for? Oh yes, Rashid told that audience a fantastic story that also allowed them to see the politician for who he was. That politician was quickly abandoned for better prospects, never to be seen or heard from again.
Best part of story, including ending:
Rushdie's humorous tone and constant puns along with the thoughtful ideas presented keep the story quite amusing.
Best scene in story:
When Haroun and Rashid return home and find their town with a name and with a more upbeat mood in spite of pouring rain, they realize it is the guppee's seawater that is pouring down - a story-rain of happy endings. At that moment also, they go inside to find Soraya waiting - just the ending they needed.
Opinion about the main character:
Haroun is what he needs to be for this story. He knows little enough to discover a lot, but enough to know when to be stubborn and curious about what is going to happen next.