The Role of Narrative Technique in "A Thousand and One Nights" and "Heptameron"

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Storytelling and Otherness in A Thousand and One Nights

Storytelling is a narrative technique that captures the audience attention as it engages the audience in the telling of the story. It also grows their interest and builds a magnetic field of significance so that one does not want to miss a bit of the story as the narrator unfolds the events from one piece to another. In the two works, A Thousand and One Nights and Heptameron, the narrators tie the audience in the plot of the stories so that each of the narrators achieves otherness in the way in which their stories engulf the audience. Otherness is indeed significant not on the usage of the style in itself but on the impact the stories through the style of narration reveal on the audiences. Each of these two stories therefore helps us to underscore on the plot, themes, and the style of the other as portrayed by the narration technique used in both of them.

Otherness in A Thousand and One Nights

The story telling technique as used in A Thousand and One Nights reveals otherness in the woman character who is the main narrator in the story. Scheherazade, the narrator reveals a wide difference between the other women the king had been meeting. In this book, we are introduced to king Shahryar who embarks on a vengeance spree against women he encounters having developed a notion of infidelity about all women. He kills all the women he engages with so that they may not have the opportunity to cheat on him as the first wife did. Typically, this in itself reveals a patriarchal society where women are subject to men without little freedom and questioning. Contrary, the character of the narrator presents otherness in the book in the sense that she captivates the king through her narrations of stories rich in magnetic field of significance; the king finds himself powerless to carry his vengeance mission on her like he did to the consequent wives he meets after the first wife who cheats on him.

Bravery of Scheherazade

As she makes the decision to be married to the king, the father keeps his warnings straight. “Then Shahrazad said: ‘By Allah, father, you must marry me to this king; for either I shall live or, dying, I shall be a ransom for the daughters of the Mussulmen and the cause of their deliverance out of the hands of the King.’ Then said he: ‘Allah be with you! You shall never expose yourself to such a danger.’ And she answered: ‘It is necessary that I do this.’ So he said to her: ‘Take care that the fate of the ass with the bull and the husbandman befall not you also…’” (Mardrus and Mathers 6). Her bravery gives a difference of the other young virgins who had no power to tame the king and survive against his vengeance. The narrator thus uses her knowledge and skills of storytelling to break bondage of patriarchy and contempt with which male folk, represented by the king, treats women in this particular society.

Otherness in Heptameron

On the other hand, the writer of Heptameron underscores the theme of infidelity with storytelling technique. The book contains 72 stories that revolve around one theme and vengeance against immorality as is most dominant as the short stories unfolds. Moreover, this book embraces and illustrates the theme of patriarchy and authoritarianism as befits the historical culture of that particular time. Contrary, the author underscores otherness in the manner in which storytelling used portrays the characters and the theme of infidelity among couples. The first story in this book for example portrays peculiarity in the character of the noble woman who decides to have two men, one for pleasure, and the other for profit.

Weird Culture of Infidelity

“This affair lasted a long while, the prelate being entertained for her purse, and the other for her pleasure. She vowed to Du Mesnil that if she received the bishop well, it was only that she might be the more free to continue her caresses to himself; and that whatever she did, the bishop got nothing but words, and he might be assured that nobody but himself should ever have anything else of her.” (De Navarre 45)

It shows a weird culture where women keep more than one man as that is more domineering among the male folk. Comparison of the two books reveal that the the use of characters and the narration technique brings a contrast of the theme itself. This otherness then equalizes the theme so that it makes a balance between the two genders.


Storytelling is a traditional narration technique of oral literature that writers use to embed tradition and verbosity in the written story. For these two works, the technique works so well to produce otherness in the telling of the story so that one similar theme of infidelity among nobilities is produced differently. Moreover, the style portrays otherness in the characters that the two different authors have used to contrast how the theme and plot of the two works have been achieved.

Works Cited

Mardrus, Joseph Charles, and Edward Powys Mathers. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (Vol 2). Routledge, 2003: 1-550

Marguerite de Navarre. Heptaméron (vol 2): 1-333

November 24, 2023


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Literature Review

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