Frame tale

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A frame tale is a narrative technique whereby a main story is composed, at least in part, for the purpose of organizing a set of shorter stories. The frame tale acts as a convenient conceit for the organization of a set of smaller narratives which are either of the devising of the author, or taken from a previous stock of popular tales slightly altered by the author for the purpose of the longer narrative. Generally, frame tales are organized as a gathering of people in one place for the exchange of stories. Each character tells his or her tale, and the frame tale progresses in that manner. Sometimes only one storyteller exists, and in this case there might be different levels distance between the reader and author. In the most distant form, the single teller is speaking to a single listener or audience which exists inside of the frame. 1001 Arabian Nights Is a good example of this case where the king is audience and the woman is the storyteller. However, in the on storyteller mode, the frame tale can sometimes become more fuzzy. In the case of Washington Irving's Sketch Book which contains "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" among others, the conceit is that the author of the book is not Irving, but a certain gentleman named Crayon. Here the frame includes both the world of the imgined Crayon, his stories and the possible reader who is assumed to play along and "know" who Crayon is. As with all literary conceits, the frame tale has many variations, some clearly within the confines of the conceit, some on the border, and some pushing the boundaries of understanding. The main goal of a frame tale is as a conceit which can adequately collect otherwise disparate tales. It has been mostly replaced, in modern literature, by the short story collection or anthology absent any authorial conceit.

Texts which concretely deploy the frame tale:


see: literature, false document, short story