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The Sultan sends his son the young Prince to be educated away from the court in the seven liberal arts by Seven Wise Masters. On his return to court his stepmother the empress seeks to seduce him. To avert danger he is bound over to a week's silence by Sindibad, leader of the Seven Wise Masters. During this time the empress accuses him to her husband, and seeks to bring about his death by seven stories which she relates to the emperor; but her narrative is each time confuted by the Seven Wise Masters led by Sindibad. Finally the prince's lips are unsealed, the truth exposed, and the wicked empress is executed.
The frame narrative served as the flexible way to transmit tales to other listeners.
Hundreds of surviving European texts are known. These normally contain fifteen tales, one for each sage, seven from the stepmother, and one from the prince; though the framework is preserved, only four of the commonest European tales are also found in the Eastern version.
The cycle of stories, which appears in many European languages, is of Eastern origin. An analogous collection occurs in Sanskrit, attributed to the Indian philosopher Sindibad/Syntipas in the first century BC, though the Indian original is unknown. Other suggested origins are Persian (since the earliest surviving texts are in Persian) and Hebrew (a culture with similar tales, such as that of the biblical Joseph) .
Runte, Hans R., J. Keith Wikeley and Anthony J. Farrell, The Seven Sages of Rome and the Book of Sindbad: An Analytical Bibliography, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1984 (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities).
The Seven Sages Society, founded in 1975, maintains a perpetual scholarly bibliography, with annual updates in its on-line and printed (free of charge) Newsletter, at <http://sevensagessociety.org>.
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