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Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Aladdin finds the wonderful lamp inside the cave.
Folk tale
NameAladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 561 (Aladdin)
Published inThe One Thousand and One Nights, translated by Antoine Galland

Aladdin ( ?-LAD-in; Arabic: ? ‎, ?Al?' ud-D?n/ ?Al?' ad-D?n, IPA: [?ala:? ad'di:n], ATU 561, 'Aladdin') is a folk tale most probably of Middle-Eastern origin. Despite not being part of the original Arabic text of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights), it is one of the best known tales associated with that collection. It was actually added by the Frenchman Antoine Galland, who acquired the tale from Maronite Christian storyteller Hanna Diyab.[1]


Known along with Ali Baba as one of the "orphan tales", the story was not part of the original Nights collection and has no authentic Arabic textual source, but was incorporated into the book Les mille et une nuits by its French translator, Antoine Galland.[2]

John Payne quotes passages from Galland's unpublished diary: recording Galland's encounter with a Maronite storyteller from Aleppo, Hanna Diyab.[1] According to Galland's diary, he met with Hanna, who had travelled from Aleppo to Paris with celebrated French traveller Paul Lucas, on March 25, 1709. Galland's diary further reports that his transcription of "Aladdin" for publication occurred in the winter of 1709-10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710, without any mention or published acknowledgment of Hanna's contribution. Paulo Lemos Horta, in the introduction to his translation of Aladdin, speculates that Diyab might even be the original author of at least some of the "orphan" tales, including Aladdin.[3]

Payne also records the discovery in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris of two Arabic manuscripts containing Aladdin (with two more of the "interpolated" tales). One was written by a Syrian Christian priest living in Paris, named Dionysios Shawish, alias Dom Denis Chavis. The other is supposed to be a copy Mikhail Sabbagh made of a manuscript written in Baghdad in 1703. It was purchased by the Bibliothèque Nationale at the end of the nineteenth century.[4] As part of his work on the first critical edition of the Nights, Iraq's Muhsin Mahdi has shown[5] that both these manuscripts are "back-translations" of Galland's text into Arabic.[6][7]

Plot summary

The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave.

The story is often retold with variations. The following is a précis of the Burton translation of 1885.[8]

Aladdin is an impoverished young ne'er-do-well, dwelling in "one of the cities of China". He is recruited by a sorcerer from the Maghreb, who passes himself off as the brother of Aladdin's late father, Mustapha the tailor, convincing Aladdin and his mother of his good will by pretending to set up the lad as a wealthy merchant. The sorcerer's real motive is to persuade young Aladdin 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. Aladdin is still wearing a magic ring the sorcerer has lent him. When he rubs his hands in despair, he inadvertently rubs the ring and a jinn? (or "genie") appears and releases him from the cave, allowing him to return to his mother while in possession of the lamp. When his mother tries to clean the lamp, so they can sell it to buy food for their supper, a second far more powerful genie appears who is bound to do the bidding of the person holding the lamp.

With the aid of the genie of the lamp, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful and marries Princess Badroulbadour, the sultan's daughter (after magically foiling her marriage to the vizier's son). The genie builds Aladdin and his bride a wonderful palace, far more magnificent than the sultan's.

The sorcerer hears of Aladdin's good fortune, and returns; he gets 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 genie of the lamp to take the palace, along with all its contents, to his home in the Maghreb. Aladdin still has the magic ring and is able to summon the lesser genie. The genie of the ring cannot directly undo any of the magic of the genie of the lamp, but he is able to transport Aladdin to the Maghreb where, with the help of the "woman's wiles" of the princess, he recovers the lamp and slays the sorcerer, returning the palace to its proper place.

The sorcerer's more powerful and evil brother plots to destroy Aladdin for killing his brother by disguising himself as an old woman known for her healing powers. Badroulbadour falls for his disguise and commands the "woman" to stay in her palace in case of any illnesses. Aladdin is warned of this danger by the genie of the lamp and slays the impostor.

Aladdin eventually succeeds to his father-in-law's throne.


The opening sentences of the story, in both the Galland and the Burton versions, set it in "one of the cities of China".[9] On the other hand, there is practically nothing in the rest of the story that is inconsistent with a Middle Eastern setting. For instance, the ruler is referred to as "Sultan" rather than being called the "Emperor", as in some re-tellings, and the people in the story are Muslims and their conversation is larded with devout Muslim platitudes. A Jewish merchant buys Aladdin's wares (and incidentally cheats him), but there is no mention of Buddhists or Confucians (or other distinctively Chinese people).

Notably, ethnic groups in Chinese history have long included Muslim groups, including large populations of Uighurs, and the Hui people whose origins go back to Silk Road travelers. Islamic communities have been known to exist in the region since the Tang Dynasty. Some have suggested that the intended setting may be Turkestan (encompassing Central Asia and the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang in Western China).[10]

For all this, speculation about a "real" Chinese setting depends on a knowledge of China that the teller of a folk tale (as opposed to a geographic expert) might well not possess.[11] In early Arabic usage, China is known to have been used in an abstract sense to designate an exotic, faraway land.[12][13]

Motifs and variants

The story of Aladdin is classified in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther index as tale type ATU 561, "Aladdin", after the character. In the Index, the Aladdin story is situated next to two similar tale types: ATU 560, The Magic Ring, and ATU 562, The Spirit in the Blue Light. All stories deal with a down-on-his-luck and impoverished boy or soldier, who finds a magical item (ring, lamp, tinderbox) that grants his wishes. The magical item is stolen, but eventually recovered thanks to the use of another magical object.[14]

A South Asian variant has been attested, titled The Magic Lamp and collected among the Santal people.[15][16]

Western variants of the Aladdin tale replace the lamp with a tinderbox.


Adaptations vary in their faithfulness to the original story. In particular, difficulties with the Chinese setting are sometimes resolved by giving the story a more typical Arabian Nights background.


  • One of the many literary retellings of the tale appears in A Book of Wizards (1966) and A Choice of Magic (1971), by Ruth Manning-Sanders.
  • "The Nobility of Faith" by Jonathan Clements in the anthology Doctor Who Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas (2007) is a retelling of the Aladdin story in the style of the Arabian Nights, but featuring the Doctor in the role of the genie.


Western Comics

  • In 1962 the Italian branch of Walt Disney Productions 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. As in many pantomimes, the plot is combined with elements of the Ali Baba story: 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--blocked by a huge rock requiring a magic password ("open sesame") to open.[17]
  • The original version of the comic book character Green Lantern was partly inspired by the Aladdin myth; the protagonist discovers a "lantern-shaped power source and a 'power ring'" which gives him power to create and control matter.[18]


  • The Japanese manga series Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is not a direct adaptation, but features Aladdin (voiced by Kaori Ishihara) as the main character of the story and includes many characters from other One Thousand and One Nights stories. An adaptation of this comic to an anime television series was made in October 2012.


An 1886 theatre poster advertising a production of the pantomime Aladdin.
  • The traditional Aladdin pantomime is the source of the well-known pantomime character Widow Twankey (Aladdin's mother). In pantomime versions, changes in the setting and story are often made to fit it better into "China" (albeit a China situated in the East End of London rather than Medieval Baghdad), and elements of other Arabian Nights tales (in particular Ali Baba) are often introduced into the plot. One version of the "pantomime Aladdin" is Sandy Wilson's musical Aladdin, from 1979.

Other musical theatre

New Crowns for Old, a 19th-century British cartoon based on the Aladdin story (Disraeli as Abanazer from the pantomime version of Aladdin offering Queen Victoria an Imperial crown (of India) in exchange for a Royal one)

Theatrical Films

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917)

Animation - Europe & Asia

  • The 1926 animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed (the earliest surviving animated feature film) combined the story of Aladdin with that of the prince. In this version the princess Aladdin pursues is Achmed's sister and the sorcerer is his rival for her hand. The sorcerer steals the castle and the princess through his own magic and then sets a monster to attack Aladdin, from which Achmed rescues him. Achmed then informs Aladdin he requires the lamp to rescue his own intended wife, Princess Pari Banou, from the demons of the Island of Wak Wak. They convince the Witch of the Fiery Mountain to defeat the sorcerer, and then all three heroes join forces to battle the demons.
  • The animated feature Aladdin et la lampe merveilleuse by Film Jean Image was released in 1970 in France. The story contains many of the original elements of the story as compared to the Disney version.
  • A Thousand and One Nights is a 1969 Japanese adult anime feature film directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, conceived by Osamu Tezuka. The film is a first part of Mushi Production's Animerama, a series of films aimed at an adult audience.
  • Aladdin and the Magic Lamp was a rendition in Japanese directed by Yoshikatsu Kasai, produced in Japan by Toei Animation and released in United States by The Samuel Goldwyn Company in 1982.

Animation - USA

  • Aladdin, the 1992 animated feature by Walt Disney Feature Animation (possibly currently the best known re-telling of the story). In this version several characters are renamed or amalgamated. For instance the Sorcerer and the Sultan's vizier become one character named Jafar while the Princess is re-named Jasmine. They have new motivations for their actions. The Genie of the Lamp only grants three wishes and desires freedom from his role. A sentient magic carpet replaces the ring's genie while Jafar uses a royal magic ring to find Aladdin. The names "Jafar" and "Abu", the Sultan's delight in toys, and their physical appearances are borrowed from the 1940 film, The Thief of Bagdad. The setting is moved from China to the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah and the structure of the plot is simplified.
  • Aladdin by Golden Films was released directly on video in 1992.

Live-action English-language films

Live-action Foreign-language films


Animation - English Language

Live-action - English Language

Live-action - Foreign Language

Video games


Sega Sammy have released a line of pachinko machines based on Aladdin since 1989. Sega Sammy have sold over 570,000 Aladdin pachinko machines in Japan, as of 2017.[33] At an average price of about $5,000,[34] this is equivalent to approximately $2.85 billion in pachinko sales revenue.


See also


  1. ^ a b Razzaque (2017)
  2. ^ Allen (2005) pp.280-
  3. ^ Horta (2018) pp. 8-10
  4. ^ Payne (1901) pp. 13-15
  5. ^ Irwin (1994) pp. 57-58
  6. ^ Mahdi (1994) pp. 51-71
  7. ^ Dobie (2008) p.36
  8. ^ Burton (2009) pp. 1 ff
  9. ^ Plotz (2001) p. 148-149
  10. ^ Moon (2005) p. 23
  11. ^ Honour (1973) - Section I "The Imaginary Continent"
  12. ^ Arafat A. Razzaque. "Who was the "real" Aladdin? From Chinese to Arab in 300 Years". Ajam Media Collective.
  13. ^ Olivia B. Waxman (2019-05-23). "Was Aladdin Based on a Real Person? Here's Why Scholars Are Starting to Think So". Time. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 70-73. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  15. ^ Campbell, A., of the Santal mission. Santal Folk-Tales. Pokhuria, India : Santal Mission Press. 1891. pp. 1-5.
  16. ^ Brown, W. Norman. "The Pañcatantra in Modern Indian Folklore." Journal of the American Oriental Society 39 (1919): 1-54. Accessed May 9, 2020. doi:10.2307/592712.
  17. ^ "Profile of Paperino e la grotta di Aladino". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Adam Robert, The History of Science Fiction, Palgrave Histories of Literature, ISBN 9781137569592, 2016, p. 224
  19. ^ Witchard (2017)
  20. ^ "Aladdin". Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved .
  21. ^ "Cole Porter / Aladdin (London Stage Production)". Sondheim Guide. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ Slater, Shawn (9 September 2015). "All New 'Frozen'-Inspired Stage Musical Coming to Disney California Adventure Park in 2016". Disney Parks Blog. Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ " Music Theatre International". Archived from the original on 2015-05-15. Retrieved .
  24. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Letterboxd. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ "The Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Survival Catalog:Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Archived from the original on 2017-09-09. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  27. ^ Article on Arabian Nights at Turner Classic Movies accessed 10 January 2014
  28. ^ News, VICE (2019-05-24). "What It Takes to Make a Hollywood Mockbuster, the "Slightly Shittier" Blockbuster". Vice News. Archived from the original on 2019-05-29. Retrieved .
  29. ^ Adventures of Aladdin (2019), retrieved
  30. ^ "Dhananjaya became Aladin". Sarasaviya. Archived from the original on 2018-10-02. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp - Rabbit Ears". Archived from the original on 2019-04-10. Retrieved .
  32. ^ "Aladin et la Lampe Merveilleuse PC, Mac | 2010". Planete Jeu (in French). Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ Beyond Expectations: Integrated Report (PDF). Sega Sammy Holdings. 2017. p. 73. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-26. Retrieved .
  34. ^ Graser, Marc (2 August 2013). "'Dark Knight' Producer Plays Pachinko to Launch Next Franchise (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019. Retrieved 2019.


Further reading

  • Gaál, E. "ALADDIN AND THE WONDERFUL LAMP." In: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 27, no. 3 (1973): 291-300. Accessed May 9, 2020.
  • Gogiashvili, Elene (2018). "The Tale of Aladdin in Georgian Oral Tradition". In: Folklore, 129:2, pp. 148-160. DOI: 10.1080/0015587X.2017.1397392
  • Haddawy, Husain (2008). The Arabian Nights. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393331660.
  • Huet, G. "LES ORIGINES DU CONTE DE ALADDIN ET LA LAMPE MERVEILLEUSE." In: Revue De L'histoire Des Religions 77 (1918): 1-50. Accessed May 9, 2020.
  • Larzul, Sylvette. "Further Considerations on Galland's "Mille Et Une Nuits": A Study of the Tales Told by Hanna." In: Marvels & Tales 18, no. 2 (2004): pp. 258-71. Accessed May 9, 2020.
  • Marzolph, Ulrich. "Aladdin Almighty: Middle Eastern Magic in the Service of Western Consumer Culture." The Journal of American Folklore 132, no. 525 (2019): 275-90. Accessed May 9, 2020.
  • Nun, Katalin; Stewart, Dr Jon (2014). Volume 16, Tome I: Kierkegaard's Literary Figures and Motifs: Agamemnon to Guadalquivir. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781472441362.

External links

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