In The Arabian Nights, what kind of acts do the three sisters commit that scare the porter and the other men so much, in "The Porter and the Three Ladies" tale? How is this story important within the larger frame story involving Scheherazade?
When the ladies in The Arabian Nights' tale of "The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad," invite the group into their home to be fed, each visitor must make a promise:
Whoso speaketh of what concerneth him not shall hear what pleaseth him not!
This means that whoever sticks his nose into what is not his business (or whoever is nosey) will receive an answer that will make him very unhappy.
The eldest woman has two beautiful female dogs brought to her that she beats terribly, while also sobbing with grief. With tears on her face and no explanation, she has the dogs led away.
The next lady (the "cateress") sings a very sad song. Upon hearing it, the "porteress" starts to rip her clothes in grief. However, in doing so, she exposes terrible bruises on her flesh.
At this point, the men begin to ask questions (as they were told not to do) and are put in chains. The only thing that will save them is that each tells his own tale.
The Arabian Nights is a collection of stories within stories, also known as ‘‘frames.’’
This tale uses the same techniques Scheherazade used in telling the story of the man who accidentally kills the genius' son and demands the merchant's life in return.
When he was thus employed he saw an enormous genius, white with rage, coming towards him, with a scimitar in his hand.
"Arise," he cried in a terrible voice, "and let me kill you as you have killed my son!"
The condemned man is given a year to put his affairs in order, say goodbye to his family and to return for his punishment. While waiting for the genius to arrive, three other men come along and ask why the merchant is so sad; he tells his tale. The first man arrives...
Whilst [the merchant] was thus waiting an old man leading a hind came towards him. They greeted one another, and then the old man said to him, "May I ask, brother, what brought you to this desert place, where there are so many evil genii about? To see these beautiful trees one would imagine it was inhabited, but it is a dangerous place to stop long in."
The merchant told the old man why he was obliged to come there. He listened in astonishment.
When the genius arrives, three men have finally joined the merchant, and each man asks the genius to let him tell his own sad story in an attempt to save the merchant's life.
Then the old man leading the hind threw himself at the monster's feet and said, "O Prince of the Genii, I beg of you to stay your fury and to listen to me. I am going to tell you my story and that of the hind I have with me, and if you find it more marvellous than that of the merchant whom you are about to kill, I hope that you will do away with a third part of his punishment?"
The genius considered some time, and then he said, "Very well, I agree to this."
The second man does the same thing, and then the third.
The secondary purpose of "The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad" in telling their stories is the same as Scheherazade's purpose to tell her tales as she does...to make the stories longer. However, it is Scheherazade who begins all the tales to begin—extending them in order to put off her impending execution by telling long stories that took more than one night to hear.
As new stories are told in this segment of The Arabian Nights, additional "frames" are added, which makes the original story.