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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)
RegionPersia, China, Arab
Published inThe One Thousand and One Nights, translated by Antoine Galland

Aladdin (/əˈlædɪn/ ə-LAD-in; Arabic: علاء الدين‎, ʻAlāʼu d-Dīn/ ʻAlāʼ ad-Dīn, IPA: [ʕalaːʔ adˈdiːn], ATU 561, ‘Aladdin') is the eponymous character in Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (simply Aladdin), a folk tale from Baghdad associated with the One Thousand and One Nights.

Despite the story of Aladdin not being part of the original Arabic text of One Thousand and One Nights, it is one of the best known tales associated with the whole collection.[1] (The tale was actually interpolated by French translator Antoine Galland, who acquired it from Syrian Maronite storyteller Hanna Diyab.)[1]


Known along with Ali Baba as one of the 'orphan tales', Aladdin was not part of the original Nights collection and has no authentic Arabic textual source; rather, it was incorporated into the French version, Les mille et une nuits, by its translator, Antoine Galland.[2]:280

Poet John Payne quoted passages from Galland's unpublished diary, recording Galland's encounter with a Syrian Maronite storyteller from Aleppo, named Hanna Diyab.[1] According to the diary, Galland met with Hanna, who had travelled from Aleppo to Paris with celebrated French traveller Paul Lucas, on 25 March 1709. Galland's diary further reports that his transcription of "Aladdin" for publication occurred in the winter of 1709–10. It was included in the 9th and 10th volumes of his 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]:8–10

In Paris' Bibliothèque Nationale, Payne also records the discovery of two Arabic manuscripts containing Aladdin (with two more of the "interpolated" tales): one written by Dionysios Shawish (alias Dom Denis Chavis), a Syrian-Christian priest living in Paris; the other supposedly being a copy, made by Mikhail Sabbagh, of a manuscript written in Baghdad in 1703.[4]:13–5 The manuscripts were purchased by the Bibliothèque Nationale at the end of the 19th century.[4] As part of his work on the first critical edition of The Nights, Iraq's Muhsin Mahdi has shown that both these manuscripts are "back-translations" of Galland's text into Arabic.[5]:57–8[6]:51–71[7]:36

Plot summary[edit]

The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave.

Aladdin is often retold with variations. The following is a précis of the 1885 translation by Richard Burton.[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 goodwill by pretending to set up the lad as a wealthy merchant. The sorcerer's real motive, however, 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, still wearing the magic ring that the sorcerer lent him. When Aladdin rubs his hands in despair, he inadvertently rubs the ring and a jinnī (or 'genie') appears, releasing him from the cave and allowing him to return to his mother while in possession of the lamp. When his mother tries to clean the lamp, hoping to 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 both the Galland and Burton versions set the story in "one of the cities of China."[9] However, 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 "Emperor" (as in some retellings), and the people in the story are Muslims whose conversations are larded with devout Muslim platitudes. A Jewish merchant buys Aladdin's wares (and incidentally cheats him), but there is no mention of either Buddhists, 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 folktale (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[edit]

In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index, the story of Aladdin is classified 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 have replaced 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.

Books and comics[edit]

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

Musical theatre[edit]

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)


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.


Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917)

Animated films[edit]

  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the earliest surviving animated feature film, combined the story of Aladdin with that of the prince. In this version, the princess who 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 saves 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.
  • In Have You Got Any Castles? (1938), Aladdin makes a brief appearance asking for help but gets punched by one of the Three Musketeers.
  • Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp is a 1939 Popeye the Sailor cartoon.
  • 1001 Arabian Nights (1959), produced by UPA, stars Mr. Magoo as Aladdin's uncle.
  • Released in France, Jean Image's Aladdin et la lampe merveilleuse (1970) contains many of the original elements of the story as compared to the Disney version.
  • A Thousand and One Nights (1969) is a 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 (1982) 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.
  • Golden Films' Aladdin (1992) is a 48-minute animated film based on Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, translated by Antoine Galland. Like all other Golden Films productions, the film featured a single theme song, "Rub the Lamp", written and composed by Richard Hurwitz and John Arrias. It was released directly to video on 27 April 1992 by GoodTimes Home Video (months before Disney’s version was released) and was reissued on DVD in 2002 as part of the distributor's "Collectible Classics" line of products.
  • Walt Disney's Aladdin (1992), possibly the best-known retelling of the story (spawning a franchise of the same name), includes several characters who are renamed or amalgamated, and have new motivations for their actions. For instance, the Sorcerer and the Sultan's vizier become one character named Jafar, while the Princess is re-named Jasmine; the Genie of the Lamp only grants three wishes and desires freedom from his role; and a sentient magic carpet replaces the Genie of the Ring, while Jafar uses a royal magic ring to find Aladdin. Moreover, the names "Jafar" and "Abu", the Sultan's delight in toys, and charactres' 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.
  • The Return of Jafar (1994), direct-to-video sequel to the 1992 Walt Disney movie.
  • Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), direct-to-video second and final sequel to the 1992 Walt Disney movie.

Live-action films[edit]


  • Aladdin –Naam Toh Suna Hoga (2018 - present) - An Indian Television series revolves around Aladdin, a kind-hearted thief, as he falls in love with Princess Yasmine, befriends the wish-granting Genie of the Lamp, and battles Zafar and later the evil enchantress Mallika, and again with Sultan Aiyyar Zafar after his rebirth.




  • A number of video games were based on the Disney movie:
  • The video game Sonic and the Secret Rings is heavily based on the story of Aladdin, and both genies appear in the story. The genie of the lamp is the main antagonist, known in the game as the Erazor Djinn, and the genie of the ring, known in the game as Shahra, appears as Sonic's sidekick and guide through the game. Furthermore, the ring genie is notably lesser than the lamp genie in the story.
  • In 2010, Anuman Interactive launched Aladin and the Enchanted Lamp, a hidden object game on PC and Mac.[35]
  • In 2016 Saturn Animation Studio has produced an interactive adaptation of The Magical Lamp of Aladdin for mobile devices.
  • 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.[36] At an average price of about $5,000,[37] this is equivalent to approximately $2.85 billion in pachinko sales revenue.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Razzaque, Arafat A. (10 August 2017). "Who wrote Aladdin?" Ajam Media Collective. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  2. ^ Allen, Roger (2005). The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Development of Its Genres and Criticism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521485258.
  3. ^ Horta, Paulo Lemos (2018). Aladdin: A New Translation. Liveright Publishing. ISBN 9781631495175. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b Payne, John (1901). Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp and Other Stories. London.
  5. ^ Irwin, Robert (2004). Arabian Nights, The: A Companion. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 1 86064 983 1. Google Books: FYWlfx1FpDwC.
  6. ^ Mahdi, Muhsin (1994). The Thousand and One Nights Part 3. Brill. ISBN 90-04-10106-3.
  7. ^ Dobie, Madeleine (2008). "Translation in the contact zone: Antoine Galland's Mille et une nuits: contes arabes." In The Arabian Nights in Historical Context, edited by S. Makdisi and F. Nussbaum. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199554157.
  8. ^ Burton, Richard. [1885] 2009. Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. Publishing. ISBN 1-4209-3193-8. 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 2020-07-07.
  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 2007-07-24.
  18. ^ Adam Robert, The History of Science Fiction, Palgrave Histories of Literature, ISBN 9781137569592, 2016, p. 224
  19. ^ "Cole Porter / Aladdin (London Stage Production)". Sondheim Guide. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  20. ^ 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 2 January 2019.
  21. ^ " Music Theatre International". Archived from the original on 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  22. ^ Witchard (2017)
  23. ^ "Aladdin". Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  24. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Letterboxd. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 8 September 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 2017-09-08.
  26. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  27. ^ Article on Arabian Nights at Turner Classic Movies accessed 10 January 2014
  28. ^ "Dhananjaya became Aladin". Sarasaviya. Archived from the original on 2018-10-02. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  29. ^ 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 2019-05-29.
  30. ^ Adventures of Aladdin (2019), retrieved 2019-05-29
  31. ^ "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp - Rabbit Ears". Archived from the original on 2019-04-10. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  32. ^ "চেরাগের দৈত্য I Humayun Ahmed I Jayanta Chattopadhyay" (in Bengali). NTV Natok – via YouTube.
  33. ^ "নগরে দৈত্য I Humayun Ahmed I Jayanta Chattopadhyay" (in Bengali). Laser Vision – via YouTube.
  34. ^ "নিতুর ঘরে ফেরা I Humayun Ahmed I Jayanta Chattopadhyay" (in Bengali). Laser Vision Natok – via YouTube.
  35. ^ "Aladin et la Lampe Merveilleuse PC, Mac | 2010". Planete Jeu (in French). Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  36. ^ Beyond Expectations: Integrated Report (PDF). Sega Sammy Holdings. 2017. p. 73. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-26. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  37. ^ 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 23 November 2019.


Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • "9. The Unpromising Rascal Makes His Fortune with the Help of a Magic Object (ATU 561)". In: Marzolph, Ulrich. 101 Middle Eastern Tales and Their Impact on Western Oral Tradition. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2020. pp. 74-85.
  • 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[edit]