The magic lamp from Aladdin

The tale as we know it

Aladdin is a poor boy, often described as a ‘street rat’ living hand to mouth in one of the cities in China. An evil sorcerer convinces him that they are related and that he will help him overcome his dire financial situation if he helps him find a magic lamp in a dangerous cave.

The sorcerer tries to double cross him, leaving him in the cave but as Aladdin wrings his hands in despair he rubs a magic ring that was actually lent to him by the sorcerer. A genie appears and helps him return home to his mother and the magic lamp.

While cleaning the lamp to sell it to buy food, another more powerful genie appears (can you see a pattern emerging?). They get riches beyond their wildest dreams, Aladdin marries the sultan’s daughter, the sorcerer gets annoyed and tricks the princess into giving him the lamp. All of this new wealth is transported away from Aladdin and his bride by the powerful genie (now serving the sorcerer).

The small genie still living in Aladdin’s ring and assists with bringing the riches back to him. Confused? You will be…

History and Trivia

The story of Aladdin was found in The Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights which were first introduced to Europe by scholar and archaeologist Antoine Galland in 1704 who translated them into French.

Usually associated with the Middle East and Persia, the original tale was set in Western China. Some scenes were based in North Africa but it’s films like The Thief of Baghdad (1940) and Disney’s cartoon version of Aladdin that lead us away from it’s original setting.

The original story had two genies (one of the lamp, one of the ring) which assisted Aladdin with infinite wishes. Over time this has become reduced to just one genie who is limited to only three wishes per owner of the lamp.

The number of villains has also been reduced from three (the sorcerer, his brother and the vizier whom the princess was originally engaged to) down to one.

The first recorded pantomime version of Aladdin was in 1788 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. During the mid-eighteenth century, tea houses were becoming increasingly popular in Victorian London as the first clipper ships started to make their deliveries there. Aladdin’s mother, a widow, originally played by a man, was renamed ‘Widow Twankey’ in 1861 with a name derived from a popular tea at the time exported from the ‘Tuon Ky’ region of China.