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In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (Persian: What is common throughout all the editions of the Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves.
The stories proceed from this original tale; some are framed within other tales, while others begin and end of their own accord.
The narrator's standards for what constitutes a cliffhanger seem broader than in modern literature.
While in many cases a story is cut off with the hero in danger of losing his life or another kind of deep trouble, in some parts of the full text Scheherazade stops her narration in the middle of an exposition of abstract philosophical principles or complex points of Islamic philosophy, and in one case during a detailed description of human anatomy according to Galen—and in all these cases turns out to be justified in her belief that the king's curiosity about the sequel would buy her another day of life.
It is possible that the influence of the Panchatantra is via a Sanskrit adaptation called the Tantropakhyana.
Only fragments of the original Sanskrit form of this work exist, but translations or adaptations exist in Tamil, The frame story is particularly interesting, as it follows the broad outline of a concubine telling stories in order to maintain the interest and favour of a king—although the basis of the collection of stories is from the Panchatantra—with its original Indian setting.
Common protagonists include the historical Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, his Grand Vizier, Jafar al-Barmaki, and the famous poet Abu Nuwas, despite the fact that these figures lived some 200 years after the fall of the Sassanid Empire, in which the frame tale of Scheherazade is set.The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa.