Thousand and One Nights

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Why are Scheherazade's tales are of many genres in One Thousand and One Nights?

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One can consider the many genres of the stories within One Thousand and One Nights in two different ways. When one focuses on the context of the story itself, one realizes that it was to Scheherazade's benefit to keep the king as enthralled as possible with her stories. As his revenge upon women for the unfaithfulness of his wife, the king was marrying and murdering one wife a day. Scheherazade's plan was to keep herself alive and prevent further killings by stringing the king along with a series of wonderful tales, each one to be finished the following night. Therefore, she would want a wide variety of stories—from humorous, to adventurous, to mysterious, to scary—to hold the king's interest and curiosity. If her tales became too similar or predictable, the king might not want to hear the ending of the next one and might execute her.

Beyond that internal explanation, the practical reality of the composition of the story collection suggests why it has so many different styles. The stories did not have a single author nor even a single country of origin. The tales included in the series of stories were written over multiple centuries and were versions of narratives told in countries including Iran, India, Greece, and Egypt. These tales represent genres that were popular in their cultures in the periods they were told and recorded in the collection.

Though the compilation of a variety of genres makes sense within the frame story, the actual reason the collection contains so many different kinds of stories revolves around the source of the work and its structure as a repository for tales from disparate lands and times.

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