The Arabian Nights, more accurately known as One Thousand and One Nights, is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. The work as we have it was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators and scholars across the Middle East and North Africa. Though the oldest Arabic manuscript dates from the 14th century, scholars generally date the collection's genesis to around the 9th century.
The main frame story concerns a Persian king and his new bride, Scheherazade, who tells a succession of stories, night after night, in an effort to postpone the threat of execution. The tales vary widely: they include historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems, burlesques and various forms of erotica. Numerous stories depict djinns, magicians, and legendary places, which are often intermingled with real people and geography, not always rationally. Sometimes a character in Scheherazade's tale will begin telling other characters a story of his own, and that story may have another one told within it, resulting in a richly layered narrative texture.
Marc Chagall, arguably the pre-eminent colour lithographer of his age, began his relationship with the medium in Four Tales from the Arabian Nights. As in his later illustration series, Chagall conceived the pictures as augmentations of the text, serving to arouse the interest of both the reader and the viewer. It has come to be regarded as one of his finest essays in the medium of lithography, in large part because the literary source required no change in the artist's style. Chagall found himself confronted by a text which inspired and responded to his art like no other.