Stories within Stories within Stories within...

I'm sure that there's some specific literary term for stories that contain stories/narratives that contain narratives, but despite my long literary history, I have mostly failed at term-retention except for "hubris" which was one of my every English teachers' favorite words since freshman year of high school.

Anyway, in our Holiday Cookie, Krispy and I have boldly set forth to accomplish exactly that! No, not hubris, of which I'm sure I've plenty and probably Krispy has a healthy portion because we both lead tragic, tragic lives that incite fear and loathing in many and hey, every hero needs a tragic flaw—nay, but stories within stories! The Holiday Cookie has become the nesting ground for separate little tales contained within the larger narrative.

Why? Because I bullied Krispy into doing so. Our characters are finally at the dinner table and dinnertime conversation has drifted towards tale-telling. Also, it's a midwinter feast, and the grand tradition of Christmastime/wintertime ghost stories is a long and celebrated one—although, well, there haven't been any ghosts in the stories so far. Except for Krispy's, which had zombies. Zombies count.

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights is, of course, the most iconic example of stories within stories. Some crazy-nut of a king discovers that his wife is a bitch unfaithful and has her put to death, and then decides that he's going to marry a new virgin every day and have her put to death the next morning. Ah, the benefits of kinghood. This goes on for an unspecified but very loooong time, until eventually the daughter of one of the king's closest advisors decides to volunteer her pretty neck for the chopping block.

Nay, says her father, who loves her and incidentally does not relish the prospect of her imminent decapitation.

But Scheherazade is as clever as she is pretty! She has a plan! And so her father reluctantly yields to her will and she marries the king. That night she tells the king a fascinating story—but when the sun rises, like Battlestar Galactica, 24, and Heroes, Scheherazade ends the story on a cliffhanger, and the king decides to put off her execution until the next morning so he can hear the rest of the story. This gives her ample opportunity to continue weaving the tail of each tale into the next tale, until lo and behold, 1001 nights have passed and the king decides his earlier decision to execute his wives the morning after is bunk, and he keeps Scheherazade as his queen and they live happily ever after. Hooray.

Alice in Wonderland is a slightly different example more along the lines of what Krispy and I are doing. The novel is a novel, not a story collection with an initial story acting as a frame for the individual tales within; in Alice, the little mad tales of the Wonderland folk tend to be incidental rather than integral to the main narrative.

I know I've read quite a few other stories which incorporated further stories within their structure but for the life of me I cannot remember authors or titles except for Jane Yolen, who wrote at least two such short stories: "The Five Points of Roguery" and "Dream Weaver."

The first story contains the three much shorter and fairly clever anecdotal stories regarding the titular five points of roguery, including "One: The Eye," "Two: The Hand," "Three: The Voice," and the framing story which contains the other two points. The frame is essential for the final punch line.

The second story contains a blind dream-weaving woman who, for a coin, weaves visions and stories for passersby. The stories she weaves are fairytales and folktales ranging from humorous to dark to touching. In order, they are "Brother Hart," "Man of Rock, Man of Stone," "The Tree's Wife," "The Cat Bride," "The Boy Who Sang for Death," "Princess Heart O'Stone," and "The Pot Child." In this case, the frame is a little less essential compared to the other story; the individual tales can stand alone fairly well. The frame, however, pitches the stories in a deliberate context and allows for commentary and insight via the characters who receive the woven dreams. I daresay the stories are richer for the framework around them.

In the Holiday Cookie, well, the stories (there are four of them so far, each told by a different character, although two of them are actually the same story, just from different points of view) are nonessential. They don't have to be there, I suppose. Krispy and I started this whole shebang with a pretty basic premise—what happens if we throw all these people together for a dinner party?—and have been exploring and exploiting the situation for all that we're worth. Our stories within stories serve two basic functions: dinnertime conversation and personal entertainment.

Actually, the entire Cookie is for personal entertainment, ours and others'.

Upon such fragile sheets are monstrosities of literary confection half-baked.