Frame story (a frame narrative or a frame tale) is a widely popular literary technique used in storytelling and even cinematography because it helps involve readers’ attention in several stories within the whole narration. An excellent example of this method is One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of folk tales from ancient and medieval Middle Eastern countries. This paper aims at discussing the frame story within the One Thousand and One Nights and presenting the ways in which the frame story organizes the embedded narratives within the text.
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A frame story is a literary method that unifies a story within which one or more narratives or tales are connected and told by the chief or supporting characters. According to Gerber, frame narrative possesses considerable flexibility, which allows for embracing various literature styles, themes, and lengths (3). In the frame story, an introductory or central narrative establishes the ground for either a set of small stories that are coherent to some extent or a special second narrative.
In One Thousand and One Nights, the frame story is set by the main character Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter, narrating a series of fairy tales to the Sultan Shahriyar, her bridegroom, over many nights. Most of the stories begin from this original narrative, and many of Shahrazad’s tales also contain frame stories or embedded narratives, including The Tale of Sinbad the Seaman and Sinbad the Landsman. In particular, in the tale of Sinbad the Sailor, the protagonist Sinbad the Sailor tells Sinbad the Porter about his seven voyages. This tool is also applied in other stories such as The Seven Viziers and The Three Apples. The tale Fisherman and the Jinni has an exclusive composition that contains the Tale of the Wazir and the Sage Duban that, in turn, develop a narrative about three other tales.
Gerber, Amanda. Medieval Ovid: Frame Narrative and Political Allegory. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.