Aladdin

Aladdin

[uh-lad-n]

Aladdin (an Anglicisation of the Arabic name (originally Syrian) Alāʼ ad-Dīn, Arabic: علاء الدين literally "nobility of the faith") is one of the tales of medieval Arabian origin in the The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), and one of the most famous, although it was actually added to the collection by Antoine Galland (see sources and setting).

Synopsis

The original story of Aladdin is a Middle-Eastern folk tale. It concerns an impoverished young ne'er-do-well named Aladdin, in a Chinese city, who is recruited by a sorcerer from the Maghreb (who passes himself off as the brother of Aladdin's late father) to retrieve a wonderful oil lamp from a booby-trapped magic cave. After the sorcerer attempts to double-cross him, Aladdin finds himself trapped in the cave. Fortunately, Aladdin retains a magic ring lent to him by the sorcerer. When he rubs his hands in despair, he inadvertently rubs the ring, and a djinni appears, who takes him home to his mother. Aladdin is still carrying the lamp, and when his mother tries to clean it, a second, far more powerful djinni appears, who is bound to do the bidding of the person holding the lamp. With the aid of the djinni of the lamp, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful and marries princess Badroulbadour, the Emperor's daughter. The djinni builds Aladdin a wonderful palace - far more magnificent than that of the Emperor himself.

The sorcerer returns and is able to get his hands on the lamp by tricking Aladdin's wife, who is unaware of the lamp's importance, by offering to exchange "new lamps for old". He orders the djinni of the lamp to take the palace to his home in the Maghreb. Fortunately, Aladdin retains the magic ring and is able to summon the lesser djinni. Although the djinni of the ring cannot directly undo any of the magic of the djinni of the lamp, he is able to transport Aladdin to Maghreb, and help him recover his wife and the lamp and defeat the sorcerer.

Sources and setting

No medieval Arabic source has been traced for the tale, which was incorporated into The Book of One Thousand and One Nights by its French translator, Antoine Galland, who heard it from an Arab Syrian Christian storyteller from Aleppo. Galland's diary (March 25, 1709) records that he met the Maronite scholar, by name Youhenna Diab ("Hanna"), who had been brought from Aleppo to Paris by Paul Lucas, a celebrated French traveller. Galland's diary also tells that his translation of "Aladdin" was made in the winter of 1709–10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710.

John Payne, Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp and Other Stories, (London 1901) gives details of Galland's encounter with the man he referred to as "Hanna" and the discovery in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris of two Arabic manuscripts containing Aladdin (with two more of the "interpolated" tales). One is a jumbled late 18th century Syrian version. The more interesting one, in a manuscript that belonged to the scholar M. Caussin de Perceval, is a copy of a manuscript made in Baghdad in 1703. It was purchased by the Bibliothèque Nationale at the end of the nineteenth century.

Note that although it is a Middle-Eastern tale, the characters in the story are neither Arabs nor Persians, but rather are from "China". The country in the story is however an Islamic country, where most people are Muslims. There is a Jewish merchant who buys Aladdin's wares (and incidentally cheats him), but there is no mention of Buddhists or Confucians. Everybody in this country bears an Arabic name and its monarch seems much more like a Persian ruler than a Chinese emperor. The country of the tale is a fabled place in a distant land, definitely eastwards - but of course has little or no relationship to a "real" or historic China. This sort of thing is common enough in fairy tales - whether due to an unsophisticated narrator's ignorance, or as a deliberate device.

For a narrator unaware of the existence of America, Aladdin's "China" would represent "the Utter East" while the sorcerer's homeland of Morocco represented "the Utter West". In the beginning of the tale, the sorcerer's taking the effort to make such a long journey, the longest conceivable in the narrator's (and his listeners') perception of the world, underlines the sorcerer's determination to gain the lamp and hence the lamp's great value. In the later episodes, the instantaneous transition from the east to the west and back, performed effortlessly by the Djinn, make their power all the more marvelous.

In literature, the stage, film, and games

Adam Oehlenschläger wrote his drama Aladdin in 1805. Carl Nielsen wrote incidental music for this play.

In the United Kingdom, the story of Aladdin was first published in England between 1704–14; and was dramatised in 1788 by John O'Keefe for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. It has been a popular subject for pantomime for over 200 years. The traditional Aladdin pantomime is the source of the well-known pantomime character Widow Twankey (Aladdin's mother). In pantomime versions of the story, changes in the setting and plot are often made to fit it better into "China" (albeit a China situated in the East End of London rather than Medieval Baghdad). One version of the "pantomime Aladdin" is Sandy Wilson's musical Aladdin, from 1979. Since the early 1990s Aladdin pantos tend to be influenced by the Disney animation - for instance the 2007/2008 Birmingham version, which starred John Barrowman, and featured a variety of songs from the Disney movies Aladdin and Mulan.

In the 1960s Bollywood produced Aladdin and Sinbad, very loosely based on the original, in which the two named heroes get to meet and share in each other's adventures. In this version, the lamp's djinni (genie) is female and Aladdin marries her rather than the princess (she becomes a mortal woman for his sake).

The tale has been adapted to animated film a number of times, including Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, the 1939 Popeye the Sailor cartoon.

In 1962 the Italian branch of the Walt Disney Company published the story Paperino e la grotta di Aladino (Donald and Aladdin's Cave), written by Osvaldo Pavese and drawn by Pier Lorenzo De Vita. In it, Uncle Scrooge leads Donald Duck and their nephews on an expedition to find the treasure of Aladdin and they encounter the Middle Eastern counterparts of the Beagle Boys. Scrooge describes Aladdin as a brigand who used the legend of the lamp to cover the origins of his ill-gotten gains. They find the cave holding the treasure which is blocked by a huge rock and it requires a variation of "Open Sesame" to open it, thus providing a link to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

A Soviet film Volshebnaia Lampa Aladdina ("Aladdin's Magic Lamp") was released in 1966.

In 1982 Media Home Entertainment released Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.

Currently the form in which the medieval tale is best known, especially to the very young, is Aladdin, the 1992 animated feature by Walt Disney Feature Animation. In this version several characters are renamed (for instance the Sorcerer is renamed "Jafar" and has become a royal vizier), have new motivations for their actions (the Lamp Genie now desires freedom from his role) or are simply replaced (the Ring Genie disappears, but a magic carpet fills his place in the plot). The setting is moved from China to the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah, and the structure of the plot is simplified.

Broadway Junior has released Aladdin Junior, a children's musical based on the music and screenplay of the Disney animation.

One of the many retellings of the tale appears in A Book of Wizards and A Choice of Magic, by Ruth Manning-Sanders.

There was also a hotel and casino in Las Vegas named Aladdin from 1963 to 2007.

The game Sonic and the Secret Rings is heavily based on the story of Aladdin and the main villain is the genie from the story Aladdin as well.

See also

External links

Notes

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