Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Ali-Baba.jpg
Cassim, Ali Baba's elder brother, in the cave by Maxfield Parrish (1909)
Folk tale
NameAli Baba and the Forty Thieves
Data
RegionArabia
Published inThe One Thousand and One Nights, translated by Antoine Galland

"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" (Arabic: ? ‎) is a folk tale added to the One Thousand and One Nights in the 18th century by its French translator Antoine Galland, who heard it from the Maronite storyteller Hanna Diyab. As one of the most familiar of the "Arabian Nights" tales, it has been widely retold and performed in many media, especially for children, for whom the more violent aspects of the story are often suppressed.

In the original version, Ali Baba (Arabic: ??Al? B?b?) is a poor woodcutter who discovers the secret of a thieves' den, and enters with the magic phrase "Open Sesame". The thieves try to kill Ali Baba, but Ali Baba's faithful slave-girl foils their plots. Ali Baba's son marries her and Ali Baba keeps the secret of the treasure.

Textual history

The tale was added to the story collection One Thousand and One Nights by one of its European translators, Antoine Galland, who called his volumes Les Mille et Une Nuits (1704-1717). Galland was an 18th-century French Orientalist who heard it in oral form from a Maronite story-teller, called Hanna Diyab, who came from Aleppo in modern-day Syria and told the story in Paris.[1] In any case, the earliest known text of the story is Galland's French version. Richard F. Burton included it in the supplemental volumes (rather than the main collection of stories) of his translation (published as The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night) and thought its origins were Greek Cypriot.[2]

The American Orientalist Duncan Black MacDonald discovered an Arabic-language manuscript of the story at the Bodleian Library;[3] however, this was later found to be a counterfeit.[4]

Story

Ali Baba and his older brother, Kasim, are the sons of a merchant. After their father's death, the greedy Kasim marries a wealthy woman and becomes well-to-do, building on their father's business. Ali Baba marries a poor woman and settles into the trade of a woodcutter.

One day, Ali Baba is at work collecting and cutting firewood in the forest, when he happens to overhear a group of 40 thieves visiting their stored treasure. Their treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by a huge rock. It opens on the magic words "open sesame" and seals itself on the words "close sesame". When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself and takes a single bag of gold coins home.

Ali Baba and his wife borrow his sister-in-law's scales to weigh their new wealth. Unbeknownst to them, Kasim's wife puts a blob of wax in the scales to find out what Ali Baba is using them for, as she is curious to know what kind of grain her impoverished brother-in-law needs to measure. To her shock, she finds a gold coin sticking to the scales and tells her husband. Under pressure from his brother, Ali Baba is forced to reveal the secret of the cave. Kasim goes to the cave, taking a donkey with him to take as much treasure as possible. He enters the cave with the magic words. However, in his greed and excitement over the treasure, he forgets the words to get out again and ends up trapped. The thieves find him there and kill him. When his brother does not come back, Ali Baba goes to the cave to look for him, and finds the body quartered and with each piece displayed just inside the cave's entrance, as a warning to anyone else who might try to enter.

Ali Baba brings the body home where he entrusts Morgiana, a clever slave-girl from Kasim's household, with the task of making others believe that Kasim has died a natural death. First, Morgiana purchases medicines from an apothecary, telling him that Kasim is gravely ill. Then, she finds an old tailor known as Baba Mustafa whom she pays, blindfolds, and leads to Kasim's house. There, overnight, the tailor stitches the pieces of Kasim's body back together. Ali Baba and his family are able to give Kasim a proper burial without anyone suspecting anything.

The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that another person must know their secret, and they set out to track him down. One of the thieves goes down to the town and comes across Baba Mustafa, who mentions that he has just sewn a dead man's body back together. Realizing the dead man must have been the thieves' victim, the thief asks Baba Mustafa to lead the way to the house where the deed was performed. The tailor is blindfolded again, and in this state he is able to retrace his steps and find the house. The thief marks the door with a symbol so the other thieves can come back that night and kill everyone in the house. However, the thief has been seen by Morgiana who, loyal to her master, foils the thief's plan by marking all the houses in the neighborhood similarly. When the 40 thieves return that night, they cannot identify the correct house, and their leader kills the unsuccessful thief in a furious rage. The next day, another thief revisits Baba Mustafa and tries again. Only this time, a chunk is chipped out of the stone step at Ali Baba's front door. Again, Morgiana foils the plan by making similar chips in all the other doorsteps, and the second thief is killed for his failure as well. At last, the leader of the thieves goes and looks himself. This time, he memorizes every detail he can of the exterior of Ali Baba's house.

The leader of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba's hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with 38 oil jars, one filled with oil, the other 37 hiding the other remaining thieves. Once Ali Baba is asleep, the thieves plan to kill him. Again, Morgiana discovers and foils the plan, killing the 37 thieves in their oil jars by pouring boiling oil on them. When their leader comes to rouse his men, he discovers they are all dead and escapes. The next morning, Morgiana tells Ali Baba about the thieves in the jars. They bury them, and Ali Baba shows his gratitude by giving Morgiana her freedom.

To exact revenge, the leader of the thieves establishes himself as a merchant, befriends Ali Baba's son (who is now in charge of the late Kasim's business), and is invited to dinner at Ali Baba's house. However, the thief is recognized by Morgiana, who performs a sword dance with a dagger for the diners and plunges it into the thief's heart, when he is off his guard. Ali Baba is at first angry with Morgiana, but when he finds out the thief wanted to kill him, he is extremely grateful and rewards Morgiana by marrying her to his son. Ali Baba is then left as the only one knowing the secret of the treasure in the cave and how to access it.

Classification

The story has been classified in the Aarne-Thompson classification system as AT 676.[5]

In popular culture

Audio recordings & Music

Audio readings/dramatizations include:

Books and comics

  • Tom Holt's mythopoeic novel Open Sesame is based on characters from the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.[]
  • In an Alvin comic book (Dell Comics No. 10, Jan.-Mar. 1965), The Chipmunks (Alvin, Theodore, and Simon) join eccentric scientist Dr. Dilby in his time machine. Their first stop is ancient Persia, where they meet Ali Baba and help him fight the 40 Thieves.[]
  • Although not a direct adaptation, the characters of Ali Baba, Cassim, and Morgiana as well as part of the concept of the Forty Thieves are featured in the Japanese manga series Magi. In 2012, this manga was adapted to anime.[]
  • Ali Baba was referenced in the classic Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, whom Ebenezer Scrooge recalls from his childhood.[]

Theatre - Stage

Poster for 40 Thieves at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 1886

Theatrical Films

Live-action Foreign-language films

Live-action English-language films

Animation - USA

  • A Popeye cartoon, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937), features Popeye meeting and defeating the titular group and their leader Abu Hassan (portrayed by Popeye's nemesis Bluto).[]
  • A Merrie Melodies Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck cartoon, Ali Baba Bunny (1957), has a similar premise to the concept of the treasure-filled magical cave.[]
  • The Disneytoon Studios film DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp uses the reference of the folk tale but alters the name of Ali Baba to Collie Baba, the story origins reveals that the DuckTales version of the greatest thief that he stolen the magic lamp from the evil sorcerer name Merlock for good.[]
  • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), the 40 thieves play an integral part in the story. However, the story is very different from the original Ali Baba story, particularly Cassim's new role as Aladdin's father and the King of Thieves.[]
  • In the animated movie Ali Baba and the 40 Thievess-The Lost Scimitar of Arabia (2005), Ali Baba, the son of the Sultan of Arabia, is worried about his father's safety when he discovers that the Sultan's evil brother, Kasim, has taken over the throne and is plotting to kill him. With his friends, Ali returns to Arabia and successfully avoids his uncle's henchmen. Out in the desert, Ali becomes the leader of a group of forty men who are ready to fight against Kasim.[]

Animation - Europe & Asia

  • The story was adapted in the 1971 anime Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (40?, Aribaba to Yonjuppiki no Tozoku), storyboarded by Hayao Miyazaki.[]
  • Ali Baba is a 1973 Bengali short animated musical drama film directed by Rohit Mohra.
  • In the anime Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (serialized since June 2009), Ali Baba appears as one of the main characters and one of Aladdin's friends. At some point in the show, he is shown as the leader of a gang of thieves called Fog Troupe. Morgiana is his loyal friend, whom Ali Baba freed from slavery, and Cassim is his friend from the slums, who is constantly jealous of Ali Baba and tries to bring him ill fate, when he can.[]

Television

Live-action

  • Indian TV serial based on Arabian Nights named Alif Laila 1993 by Ramanand Sagar had a 12 episode retelling of Alibaba and 40 thieves.[]
  • Ali Baba (2007) is a French telefilm starring Gérard Jugnot and Catherine Zeta-Jones.[]
  • In the American/British television mini-series Arabian Nights (2000), the story is told faithfully with two major changes. The first is: when Morgiana discovers the thieves in the oil jars, she alerts Ali Baba and, together with a friend, they release the jars on a street with a steep incline that allows the jars to roll down and break open. Furthermore, the city guard is alerted and arrest the disoriented thieves as they emerge from their containers. Later, when Morgiana defeats the thief leader, Ali Baba, who is young and has no children, marries the heroine himself.
  • 2019 BBC/FX adaptation, in which Ali Baba was portrayed by Kayvan Novak, Ali Baba's role was expanded form the reference in the original novel in this TV adaption of the Dickens's novel[19]

Animation

Video games

  • Ali Baba (1981) is a computer video game by Quality Software[20]

Military

At the United States Air Force Academy, Cadet Squadron 40 was originally nicknamed "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" before eventually changing its name to the "P-40 Warhawks".[]

The name "Ali Baba" was often used as derogatory slang by American and Iraqi soldiers and their allies in the Iraq War, to describe individuals suspected of a variety of offenses related to theft and looting.[21] Additionally, British soldiers routinely used the term to refer to Iraqi civilians.[22] In the subsequent occupation, it is used as a general term for the insurgents.[23]

The Iraqis adopted the term "Ali Baba" to describe foreign troops suspected of looting.[24]

Miscellaneous

Gallery

Notes

  1. ^ Goodman, John (17 Dec 2017). Marvellous Thieves adds a new chapter to Arabian Nights - Paulo Lemos Horta gives 'secret authors' their due in his study of the World Literature classic. North Shore News.
  2. ^ Burton, R. F. Supplemental Nights to the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night with Notes Anthropological and Explanatory. III, fasc. 2. p. 369. (n.)
  3. ^ MacDonald, Duncan Black (April 1910). "'Ali Baba and the forty thieves' in Arabic from a Bodleian MS". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland: 327-386. JSTOR 25189681.
  4. ^ Mahdi, Muhsin (1994). "Galland's Successors". The Thousand and One Nights: From the Earliest Known Sources; Part 3, "Introduction and Indexes".
  5. ^ Ashliman, D.L. (3 February 2019). "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ "Leading Dancers to Present Ali Baba". Cinema.com. Archived from the original on 29 December 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ "Alibaba 1940". Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ Ganesh Anantharaman (January 2008). Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song. Penguin Books India. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-14-306340-7.
  10. ^ Sanjit Narwekar (1994). Directory of Indian film-makers and films. Flicks Books.
  11. ^ "Alibaba 1940". Alan Goble. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2014.
  12. ^ Spaas p.148
  13. ^ Malhotra, A. P. S. (4 March 2017). "Alibaba Aur 40 Chor (1979)". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ The Illustrated Weekly of India, Volume 101, Issues 18-34
  15. ^ " -? ? - ? ? ". Nashfilm. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  16. ^ "Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (Banner)". Chitr.com.
  17. ^ "Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (Direction)". Filmiclub.
  18. ^ "Ali Baba 40 Dongalu (Cast & Crew)". gomolo.com. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  19. ^ Fienberg, Daniel (18 December 2019). "'A Christmas Carol': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Barton, Matt (23 February 2007). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  21. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan. "Court martial hears of drowned Iraqi's final moments". Retrieved 2007.
  22. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (21 September 2009). "Baha Mousa inquiry: 'rotten' UK military blamed for death in army camp". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Fumento, Michael. "Back to Falluja: The Iraqi Army versus the Keystone Kops insurgency". Retrieved 2007.
  24. ^ Levin, Jerry (3 May 2003). "Will The Real Ali Baba Please Stand Up". CPT. Archived from the original on 11 April 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  25. ^ "Alibaba's IPO Filing: Everything You Need to Know - Digits - WSJ". blogs.wsj.com. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  26. ^ Quisquater, Jean-Jacques; Guillou, Louis C.; Berson, Thomas A. (1990). "How to Explain Zero-Knowledge Protocols to Your Children" (PDF). Advances in Cryptology - CRYPTO '89: Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 435: 628-631. doi:10.1007/0-387-34805-0_60. ISBN 978-0-387-97317-3.

External links


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