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This article is about the original Middle Eastern folk tale. For other uses, see Aladdin (disambiguation) and Aladdin (name).
"Magic lamp" redirects here. For other uses, see Magic lantern (disambiguation).
Aladdin in the Magic Garden, an illustration by Max Liebert from Ludwig Fulda's Aladin und die Wunderlampe[1]

Aladdin (Arabic: علاء الدين‎‎, ʻAlāʼ ad-Dīn, IPA: [ʕalaːʔ adˈdiːn]) is a Middle Eastern folk tale. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights ("The Arabian Nights"), and one of the best known—though it was actually added to the collection in the 18th century by Frenchman Antoine Galland.

Plot summary[edit]

The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave.

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. Fortunately, 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 so that he can return to his mother, fortunately still carrying 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. Fortunately, 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.

Sources and setting[edit]

No Arabic source has been traced for the tale, which was incorporated into the book Les Mille et Une Nuits by its French translator, Antoine Galland, who heard it from a Syrian storyteller from Aleppo. Galland's diary (March 25, 1709) records that he met the Maronite scholar, by name Youhenna Diab ("Hanna"), who had been brought from Aleppo to Paris by Paul Lucas, a celebrated French traveller. Galland's diary also tells that his translation of "Aladdin" was made in the winter of 1709–10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710.

John Payne, in Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp and Other Stories (London 1901), gives details of Galland's encounter with the man he referred to as "Hanna" and 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. However, modern scholars such as Muhsin Mahdi[2] and Husain Haddawy[3] claim that both manuscripts are forgeries—"back-translations" of Galland's text into Arabic.

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.[4] On the other hand, there is practically nothing in the rest of the story that is inconsistent with a Persian or Arabian setting. For instance, the Sultan is referred to as such rather being called the "Emperor", as in some re-tellings, and the people we meet 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).

Of course, 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 commentators have even suggested that the story might be set in Turkestan (encompassing Central Asia and the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang).[5]

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.[6]


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.


  • 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 says me") to open.[7]
  • 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.


An 1886 theatre poster advertising a production of the pantomime Aladdin.

In the United Kingdom, the story of Aladdin was dramatised in 1788 by John O'Keefe for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.[8] It has been a popular subject for pantomime for over 200 years.[9]

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. Disney Theatricals itself produced a Broadway-style musical in Seattle in 2011, and another musical premiered in Toronto in 2013 and then opened on Broadway in 2014.


Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917)


  • 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.
  • Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp is a 1939 Popeye the Sailor cartoon.
  • The 1959 animated film 1001 Arabian Nights starring Mr. Magoo as Aladdin's uncle and produced by UPA.
  • The animated feature Aladdin et la lampe merveilleuse by Film Jean Image was released in 1970 in France.[10] The story contains many of the original elements of the story as compared to the Disney version.
  • 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.
  • 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 the same person, named "Jafar", while the Princess is re-named "Jasmine"), have new motivations for their actions (the Lamp Genie now desires freedom from his role) or are simply replaced (a magic carpet fills the place of the Ring Genie in the plot, while a royal "magic ring" is used by Jafar to find Aladdin). Names from and elements of the 1940 live-action The Thief of Bagdad are borrowed (for instance, the names "Jafar" and "Abu" and the Sultan's delight in toys). The setting is moved from China to the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah, and the structure of the plot is simplified.
  • Also in 1992 came Aladdin by Golden Films, released directly on video.

Live action


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).


  • The ongoing Japanese comic series Magi is not a direct adaptation, but features Aladdin 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 animation was made in October 2012.

Video games[edit]

  • 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.
  • The Disney version of Aladdin appears throughout the Disney/Square Enix crossover series Kingdom Hearts, with Agrabah being a visitable world.
  • In 2010, Anuman Interactive launched Aladin and the Enchanted Lamp, a hidden object game on PC and MAC.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aladdin at Project Gutenberg
  2. ^ Mahdi, Muhsin (1994). The Thousand and One Nights Part 3. Brill. pp. 51–71. ISBN 90-04-10106-3. 
  3. ^ Haddawy, Husain (2008). The Arabian Nights. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393331660. 
  4. ^ Plotz, Judith Ann (2001). Romanticism and the vocation of childhood. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 148–149. ISBN 0-312-22735-3. 
  5. ^ Moon, Krystyn (2005). Yellowface. Rutgers University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-8135-3507-7. 
  6. ^ Honour, Hugh. Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay, Section I "The Imaginary Continent", 1961.
  7. ^ Profile of Paperino e la grotta di Aladino
  8. ^ Pantomime Guided Tour: Aladdin (PeoplePlay – Theatre Museum) accessed 10 July 2008
  9. ^ "Aladdin". Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  10. ^ Aladdin et la lampe merveilleuse at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Allauddin Adhbhuta Deepam at IMDb.
  12. ^ Allavudeenum Arputha Vilakkum at IMDb.
  13. ^ Alladin Ka Chirag at IMDb.
  14. ^ Aladdin and the Death Lamp on
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^
  17. ^

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