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Aladdin (/əˈlædɪn/; Arabic: علاء الدين, ʻAlāʼ ud-Dīn/ ʻAlāʼ ad-Dīn, IPA: ) is a folk tale of Middle Eastern origin. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights), and one of the best known—despite not being part of the original Arabic text. It was added to the collection in the 18th century by the Frenchman Antoine Galland, who attributed the tale to a Syrian storyteller, Youhenna Diab. Since it first appeared in the early 18th century "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" has been one of the best known and most retold of all fairy tales.
Aladdin (//; Arabic: علاء الدين, ʻAlāʼ ud-Dīn/ ʻAlāʼ ad-Dīn, IPA: [ʕalaːʔ adˈdiːn]) is a folk tale of Middle Eastern origin. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights), and one of the best known—despite not being part of the original Arabic text. It was added to the collection in the 18th century by the Frenchman Antoine Galland, who attributed the tale to a Syrian storyteller, Youhenna Diab.
Since it first appeared in the early 18th century "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp" has been one of the best known and most retold of all fairy tales.
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 jinnī (or "genie") appears who 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 imposter. Everyone lives happily ever after, Aladdin eventually succeeding to his father-in-law's throne.
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 source, but was incorporated into the book Les mille et une nuits by its French translator, Antoine Galland.
John Payne quotes passages from Galland's unpublished diary: recording Galland's encounter with a Maronite Syrian storyteller from Aleppo, Youhenna Diab. According to Galland's diary for March 25, 1709, he met the man he called "Hanna", who had travelled from Aleppo to Paris with Paul Lucas, a celebrated French traveller. Galland's diary reports that his translation of the Arabic version of "Aladdin" into French, was first made in the winter of 1709–10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710. 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.
The opening sentences of the story, in both the Galland and the Burton versions, set it in China and imply, at least, that Aladdin is Chinese. On the other hand, there is practically nothing in the rest of the story that is inconsistent with an Arabian or Middle Eastern setting. For instance, the Sultan is referred to as such rather than being called the "Emperor", as in some re-tellings, and the people in the story are Muslims: 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 Han Chinese people).
China's ethnic makeup has long included Muslim groups, including large populations of the Hui people whose origins go back to Silk Road travellers. In addition, large communities of Muslim Chinese have been known since the Tang Dynasty, as well as Jewish communities. Some have even suggested that the intended setting may be Turkestan (encompassing Central Asia and the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang).
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.
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.
Since the early 1990s Aladdin pantomimes have tended to be influenced by the Disney animation. For instance, the 2007/8 production at the Birmingham Hippodrome starring John Barrowman featured songs from the Disney movies Aladdin and Mulan.
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