The Seven Sages is a multilingual and transcultural narrative. Due to its popularity, The Seven Sages is uniquely placed to give insights into literary history in its global – or at least pancontinental – dimensions.

Its multilingual traditions with their many transcultural and interreligious links cannot be adequately understood within the parameters of current research, which has split the transmission into separate “Eastern”/”Oriental” and “Western” corpuses, further divided it by modern national languages, and attempted to identify a monolingual “original”. Instead we consider the individual manuscripts and prints as part of the transmission as a whole, written in a milieu in which polyglot communication was the norm.

Instead of aiming at a comprehensive literary history tracing the earliest to the latest transmission and the “rise and decline” of genres, we hold that genres do not need to have a clear and identifiable starting point, evolve at times simultaneously in different cultures, and/or engage in different transcultural entanglements. The common label of the narrative as a “story cycle” or “story compilation” is in many cases misleading, and there is good reason to consider it a novel instead.