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Literature / Aladdin

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Yes, that's a woman (Aladdin's mother). Yes, she's Chinese. Read on and be educated.

Aladdin is an Arabian folk tale originally written by Syrian Maronite writer Hanna Diyab sometime in the early 18th century. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually not one of the original stories found in A Thousand and One Nights. More on that in the Other Wiki.

Like most folktales, "Aladdin" has undergone some major revisions, but the original story is as follows: Aladdin is a poor young man from a Chinese city (Chinese In Name Only. The setting is completely Islamic), living with his mother and making a living as a pickpocket. One day, an evil Maghreb sorcerer approaches him, claiming to be his father's brother. He gives Aladdin a ring and tricks him into entering a booby-trapped magic cave to retrieve an old oil lamp, but when Aladdin insists on getting out of the cave before handing over the lamp, the sorcerer flies into a rage and tosses him back down into the cave. Fortunately for Aladdin, the ring the sorcerer lent him is a Magic Ring that, when rubbed, releases a Jinn who brings him home, along with the lamp. When he gets home, Aladdin's mother starts cleaning the lamp, releasing a far more powerful Jinn who grants Aladdin his every wish.


Aladdin wishes for riches and an enormous palace, which win him the hand of the Emperor's daughter. However, the sorcerer learns of Aladdin's good fortune and plots to steal the lamp. He tricks Aladdin's wife into trading an old lamp for a new one and, not knowing about the power of the lamp, she does. The sorcerer then wishes for Aladdin's palace, along with his wife, to be moved to Maghreb.

Aladdin despairs, but all is not lost, because he still has that magic ring. While that Jinn can't simply undo the lamp Jinn's magic, he transports Aladdin to his palace where he frees his wife, rescues his castle, beats the bad guy, and gets his lamp back.

A version of the tale can be read here


Contains examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Though the setting still has a large dose of artistic license, it isn't completely implausible because China does in fact have Muslims. If the story was always set in China, it was most likely set in one of China's far western provinces, such as Xinjiang, which has a culture similar to that of other parts of Central Asia. Or it could have originated in Central Asia among people with some but not complete knowledge of Chinese and Muslim traditions. Any number of intermediate versions could also be to blame as it could have been turned more Muslim as it spread through that part of the world but still kept the China as a vague far-east. Or Galland just goofed. Needless to say, with many tales like this with so much uncertainty it's really unknown whether these aluminum Christmas trees have a practical or chance explanation.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Just selling the dishes from a single genie-provided meal provides enough money for Aladdin and his mother to live for several months, even when being fleeced blind by the buyer. After Aladdin has his palace built, he leaves a single window unfinished (the others all have gems everywhere) so the sultan can finish it using his own treasury. The sultan sends his artisans and treasurer, who tell him there's not enough gold and jewels in their vaults to finish it. Aladdin then proves his wealth by completing it overnight (with the Genie).
  • Arranged Marriage: As would be common for royalty in the Islamic world and everywhere else at the time. The Sultan agrees to marry off his daughter to Aladdin as soon as he sees how much money Aladdin has.
  • Avenging the Villain: In the original version, the evil magician has a brother who is even more evil that comes to avenge him, but is vanquished by Aladdin with the lamp Djinni's help. This final episode is sometimes omitted from adaptations.
  • Berserk Button: The genies grant Aladdin's every last wish, but when he asks for a roc's egg (after the princess asks him, after the sorcerer tells her about it) the genie of the lamp blows up at him, only sparing him because it wasn't his idea.
  • Big Bad: The Sorcerer who spends the book trying to steal the lamp.
  • Buried Alive: The evil sorcerer does this to Aladdin, sealing up the magic cave and leaving Aladdin trapped down below when Aladdin won't hand over the lamp.
  • Canon Immigrant: "Aladdin" wasn't originally a part of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (a.k.a. the Arabian Nights). Galland included it after hearing the story from a Syrian named Hanna Diyab.
  • Cassandra Truth: The vizier is the only one who figures out that Aladdin's riches and the incredible things he can do — like build an enormous palace in a single night — must be the result of shady magic. The sultan writes him off as being jealous because the vizier's son was thrown over for Aladdin.
  • Chastity Dagger: When Aladdin kidnaps the princess, he puts a big sword between them in bed to ensure he won't touch her.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The more evil brother impersonates the old woman he has killed.
  • Disappeared Dad: Aladdin's father, a tailor, died of disappointment after Aladdin preferred being a juvenile delinquent to following him into the tailoring business. The sorcerer from Maghreb mentions that he knew Aladdin's father but it was a ruse to get a somebody to help get the lamp.
  • Disguised in Drag: The evil sorcerer's more evil brother murders an old holy woman and disguises himself as her in order to worm his way into Aladdin's home. The genie of the lamp isn't fooled.
  • Driven to Suicide: Aladdin gets ready to drown himself, but remembers he should pray first. As he does, he rubs the magic ring on his finger, releasing the genie inside.
  • Ethnic Magician: The evil sorcerer is Moroccan, while the main characters are Chinese. Or at least Uyghurs or some other west Chinese Muslim ethnic group since ethnic Han Chinese aren't really a Muslim people.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Aladdin turns to crime, but his first instinct is always to make sure his mother is well cared for. Not that this stops him using her in his schemes.
  • Evil Chancellor: Though not the main villain (as he is in Disney's Aladdin), the Grand Vizier is still something of a Jerkass Obstructive Bureaucrat who wants to get rid of Aladdin so that his own son can marry the princess. (Of course, Jerkass Has a Point; see the entry for Cassandra Truth above.)
  • Evil Sorcerer: Two of them, the first one and his more powerful brother.
  • Genie in a Bottle: And also a magic ring. Both the genie of the lamp and the genie of the ring are bound to serve whomever possesses the lamp/ring. However, the original story does not include the idea that the genie's master is limited to three wishes.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: Aladdin and the Princess, who's been kidnapped by the Evil Sorcerer, concoct a plan to get Aladdin into the palace and steal back the lamp that involves doing this.
  • Greedy Jew: Aladdin gets gold plates from the genie of the lamp, which he sells to a Jewish merchant that cheats him.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Aladdin stupidly leaves the magic lamp out where anybody can get at it.
    • Then he forgets that he still has the magic ring, and is on the verge of drowning himself in the river when he accidentally rubs it and brings forth the other genie again.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: The lamp and ring. In fact, this is the inspiration behind the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott.
  • Insane Proprietor: When Aladdin is out hunting, the sorcerer disguises himself as an old woman exchanging old lamps for new ones. This creates a commotion, attracting the princess' attention. Then one of her handmaidens mentions they have an old beat-up lamp in their palace, and exchanges the genie's lamp for a regular lamp.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Aladdin himself, though part of it may be Values Dissonance - a lot of the heroes of the 1001 Nights were unafraid to be callous or ruthless. Most notably: in order to get the princess away from her betrothed Aladdin sends his djinn to kidnap and torment them both every night, until they come to the conclusion that the marriage is cursed and split up - at which point he swoops in and romances her.
  • Love at First Sight: When the princess goes to the baths, the entire city is placed under lockdown, with anyone trying to look out punished by death. Aladddin, naturally, gets a good look at the princess and falls in love.
  • Make a Wish: The entire premise.
  • The Makeover: Aladdin goes from poor man to wealthy prince with the help of a Genie in a Bottle. Some versions even have it that Aladdin wishes himself to be turned handsome, which is part of the reason the Sultan turns him out.
  • Meaningful Name: Aladdin is the Anglicized form of Ala Al-Din which means "excellence of religion" or "light of Allah".
  • Modest Royalty: How Aladdin's mother catches the sultan's attention: though dressed like a pauper, she shows up every day at the audience until he finally wonders why she's there. Once called forth, she presents him with a big basket of enormous jewels, asking for her son to marry the princess.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: The evil sorcerer discovers through his necromancy that Aladdin is the only one that can lift the door and gain entrance to the magic cave. This is why he goes to all the trouble of pretending to be Aladdin's Long-Lost Relative. The story does not explain exactly what is special about Aladdin or why he is the only one who can gain entrance to the cave.
  • Race Lift: The origins of the story are usually ignored and the characters made Arab to fit in with the general "Arabian Nights" theme.
  • Rags to Royalty: Aladdin goes from a poor boy to the Sultan's son-in-law.
  • Ring of Power: Which has the Djinn of its own, although less powerful than the lamp's one.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: The Genie.
  • Slipping a Mickey: This is how Aladdin eventually retrieves the magic lamp from the evil sorcerer.
  • Spear Counterpart: To "Cinderella", arguably.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Sort of— Aladdin's wishes for wealth and a neat palace make him a viable husband for the princess, but he's already married to her by the time he actually does anything heroic.
  • Uptown Girl: Firmly in the Zany Scheme category, with Aladdin going to enormous lengths to get the rich princess.
  • Villain Ball: The evil sorcerer could have just given Aladdin a lift out of the cave, and then taken the lamp. Instead, after Aladdin doesn't hand the lamp over (he needs help getting up the last step to the surface), the sorcerer throws a tantrum and seals up the cave with Aladdin and the lamp inside. If that wasn't bad enough, the sorcerer completely forgets that he gave Aladdin a magic ring to keep him safe in the magic cave. The ring has a genie in it, and said genie brings Aladdin out of the cave.

Alternative Title(s): Aladdin Or The Wonderful Lamp


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