Frame narrative form
A frame narrative or a frame story is a story or narrative that contains another story or several other stories within the main story (Richardson 159). The main part of the narrative is usually introduced which sets the precedence of the other stories that build up the entire story. The proceeding stories are usually smaller but part of the main narrative introduced at the onset of a particular story.
Frame stories are a convenient for the purpose of setting up the entire story as a whole. This technique helps to juxtapose the individual stories into one. The smaller stories included in the longer narrative are sometimes the author’s novel creation or are sometimes borrowed from foreign sources then juxtaposed to form one long narrative.
A good example of such a work is the Metamorphoses. This work written in Latin language by Ovid, an acclaimed Roman poet is contained in fifteen books. The work is a narrative Latin poem which describes the world’s history from creation to the veneration of Julius Caesar. Ovid is inconsistent in the manner in which he presents this history. He consistently jumps from one story to another and often retells some of the tales he has already told. Ovid draws his tales from Greek mythology that describes the four ages in the development of humanity. The longer poem’s theme is the creation process in which several other events that occur in the course of the creation are incorporated within the poem. The smaller stories are important in Ovid’s poem as they help to explain the creation story in a detailed manner (Ovid and Riley 226). They strive to explain the origin of specific elements as they are observed in the iron and last age. The frame stories in this work contribute to the development of the story of creation significantly since they aid in understanding the specific details of the story.
In a Thousand and one nights the frame technique is utilized to tell the numerous tales that capture the North African, West, South and Central Asia’s culture and literature. The work incorporates the tales of many authors and story tellers that traverse a long period of time. The stories can be traced to medieval and ancient Indian, Egyptian, Arabic, Mesopotamian and Persian folk tales and literature.
The larger narrative in which the other tales are incorporated is that of a Persian king Shahryar and his queen Scheherazade. The king upon discovering his initial queen and wife’s infidelity decides to have her executed “As soon as they had entered the palace, Shahryar caused his wife to be beheaded, and in like manner the women and black slaves” (Eliot 116). King Shahryar had apparently invited his younger brother King Shah-Zeman who he had not seen for a long time. After leaving his palace, king Shah-Zeman remembers that he had left a jewel which he was to offer to his elder brother as a gift. He returns to the place only to find his wife on his matrimonial bed with a black slave. He immediately draws his sword and kills the two and departs again. On arriving at the king Shahryar palace, he appears dull and withdrawn and refuses to tell his brother the cause of his condition. It is then that king Shahryar organizes a hunting expedition and asks his younger brother to join him to try and lighten his mood but king Shah-Zeman declines the offer. King Shahryar thus goes alone leaving his brother behind in the palace. It is during king Shahryar absence that king Shah-Zeman witnesses his brother’s wife infidelity with black slaves and decides that his affliction was far less than his brother’s. He immediately changes and becomes lively thus further confusing his brother. Later on, king Shah-Zeman relays to his brother what he had witnessed and the two hatch a plan in which King Shahryar goes on another hunting expedition, but later returns disguised to witness what his younger brother had told him.
King Shahryar gets into a marrying spree where the vizier a minister or a political advisor in Islamic governments has to provide the king with a virgin every morning whom the King marries and executes the following morning to deny any of them a chance for infidelity and thus dishonoring him (Eliot 157). The Vizier finally runs out of virgins to provide the King with. It at this juncture that Scheherazade, the vizier’s elder daughter decides to get married to the King. The vizier agrees though half heartedly.
Elements of the frame technique are evident all through this narrative. When the two kings set out to see whether there are others who were affected by the same affliction, they meet a genie with a beautiful woman who seduces them into having intercourse with her. The woman then tells of her story of her sexual escapades with married men and even shows the rings she had collected from the men.
The vizier before allowing her elder daughter who had offered herself to be married by the king after citizens in this kingdom ran off with their daughters leaving no marriageable virgins behind, he tells her the story of the Ass and the Bull saying that he fears that a similar fate like that of the case of the ass and the bull befall on her “Then, said he, I fear for thee that the same will befall thee that happened in the case of the Ass and the Bull and the husbandman.—And what, she asked, was that, O my father?” (Eliot 108).
When the vizier daughter finally goes to the palace, she asks if her younger sister would join her. Apparently, they had a plan that the younger sister would request the elder sister to narrate for them a story. This marks the beginning of a thousand and one nights in which the new queen narrates stories without end to the king. The king is compelled to post pone executing her to hear each night’s story ending but the queen narrates another new one thus preventing her execution (Eliot 178).
The essence of this narrative is to display the wisdom inherent in the vizier’s daughter which saves the other girls in this kingdom from imminent death. The stories incorporated in the larger narrative are all very diverse but serve as important elements to have this narrative continue on end. They immensely contribute to the richness of the larger narrative.
The frame technique if used wisely is thus a very important literature style that can be used to produce novel literary works in modern day literature. Though the audience is taken to a world far off from the main story, they in one way or another still relate with the overall theme of the larger narrative while learning a lot from the minor stories.
Eliot, Charles W. Stories from the Thousand and One Nights: The Five Foot Shelf of Classics,
Vol. XVI (in 51 Volumes). New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2010. Print.
Ovid and Henry T. Riley. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Kansas: Digireads.com Publishing,
Richardson, Brian. Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frame. Ohio: Ohio
State University Press, 2002. Print.