December 07, 2020

#08-019: The "Real" Aladdin

a veiled woman trading lamps with a turbaned dealer
"New lamps for old!"

Note: Most of us have enjoyed watching Disney's Aladdin, whether the animated or live-action version. Some may believe that this was part of the original Book of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights). However, like the also-famous "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," it is one of the "orphan tales"; that is, long after the collection's original publication, the story was added by a Frenchman. It has no original Arabic source.

Get Ready: Have you seen the film Aladdin? What can you tell of the story?

The "original" version of Aladdin's tale has many variations, but it generally goes like this:

Aladdin was a poor young ne'er-do-well living in a city in China (really!). An African sorcerer from the Maghreb (now in Morocco), claiming to be brother to the boy's late father, recruits him to steal a magical oil lamp from a booby-trapped cave. Double-crossed, Aladdin is caught in the cave and accidentally releases a genie from a magic ring (not the lamp!) that the sorcerer had lent him. Released from the cave, he returns with the lamp to his mother, who polishes it and frees a second genie, hideous looking and far more powerful than the first.

With the genie's help, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful. He marries the Sultan's daughter, Princess Badroulbadour (not Jasmine) after foiling her marriage to the Grand Vizier's son, and has the genie build for them a magnificent palace.

The sorcerer hears of the boy's success and returns while Aladdin is away, tricking the unsuspecting wife into giving him the lamp by exchanging "new lamps for old." He then orders the genie to transport the palace and all that is in it to Maghreb. Returning, Aladdin uses the genie of the ring to take him to the palace. Together with his wife, he tricks the sorcerer into drinking poisoned wine. Once he is dead, Aladdin commands the lamp genie to return the palace to its proper place.

There is a further story, telling how the sorcerer's younger brother attempts revenge on Aladdin by dressing up in the clothes of a holy woman (after killing her) and gaining access to Aladdin's palace. But the now-prince is too wily for him, too, and defeats him. After some years the Sultan dies, and Aladdin becomes Lord of the land.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. foiling
  2. booby-trapped
  3. double-crossed
  4. hideous
  5. live-action
  6. ne'er-do-well
  7. sorcerer
  8. Sultan
  9. unsuspecting
  10. wily

  1. worthless person; good-for-nothing
  2. horrible to look at
  3. not thinking anything is wrong
  4. magician
  5. clever
  6. "real," not animated
  7. betrayed; tricked
  8. preventing; stopping
  9. Muslim ruler
  10. rigged with dangerous defenses

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 7, 2020

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. j; 3. g; 4. b; 5. f; 6. a; 7. d; 8. i; 9. c; 10. e