chapter
Thief Escapes Detection
Motif K400
ByD.L. Ashliman
Pages 5

Crime and detection have been staples in folklore and fiction throughout history, and in many instances the storyteller's sense of justice sides with the lawbreaker, especially when the latter is from an oppressed class and the victim is from a privileged group. An exemplary account of a thief escaping detection by trickery, is "The Simpleton and the Sharper" from the Thousand and One Nights. The Priest's Guest and the Eaten Chickens circulated widely in European jest-books from the thirteenth century onward. It is also found in the Thousand and One Nights and as a folktale from India westward through the Arabic world, virtually all of Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and North America. Most folkloric accounts of unpunished theft are more mundane than the burglary of a king's treasury. Many folktales describe a servant stealing food from a master's kitchen, a commonplace act that many storytellers and their listeners could identify with.