Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Aladdin finds the wonderful lamp inside the cave. A c. 1898 illustration by Rene Bull.
Folk tale
NameAladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Aarne–Thompson groupingATU 561 (Aladdin)
RegionMiddle East
Published inOne Thousand and One Nights, compiled and translated by Antoine Galland

Aladdin (/əˈlædɪn/ ə-LAD-in; Arabic: علاء الدين, romanizedʻAlāʼu d-Dīn/ʻAlāʼ ad-Dīn, IPA: [ʕalaːʔ adˈdiːn], ATU 561, 'Aladdin') is a Middle-Eastern folk tale. It is one of the best-known tales associated with The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights), despite not being part of the original text; it was added by the Frenchman Antoine Galland, based on a folk tale that he heard from the Syrian Maronite storyteller Hanna Diyab.[1]


Further information: Hanna Diyab

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 textual source, but was incorporated into the book Les mille et une nuits by its French translator, Antoine Galland.[2]

John Payne quotes passages from Galland's unpublished diary: recording Galland's encounter with a Maronite storyteller from Aleppo, Hanna Diyab.[1] According to Galland's diary, he met with Hanna, who had travelled from Aleppo to Paris with celebrated French traveller Paul Lucas, on March 25, 1709. Galland's diary further reports that his transcription of "Aladdin" for publication occurred in the winter of 1709–10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710, without any mention or published acknowledgment of Hanna's contribution.

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.[3] As part of his work on the first critical edition of the Nights, Iraq's Muhsin Mahdi has shown[4] that both these manuscripts are "back-translations" of Galland's text into Arabic.[5][6]

Ruth B. Bottigheimer[7] and Paulo Lemos Horta[8][9] have argued that Hanna Diyab should be understood as the original author of some of the stories he supplied, and even that several of Diyab's stories (including Aladdin) were partly inspired by Diyab's own life, as there are parallels with his autobiography.[10]

Plot summary

The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave.

The story is often retold with variations. The following is a précis of the Burton translation of 1885.[11]

Aladdin is an impoverished young ne'er-do-well, dwelling in "one of the cities of Ancient 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 (chirag) 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 genie appears and 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 impostor.

Aladdin eventually succeeds to his father-in-law's throne.


The opening sentences of the story, in both the Galland and the Burton versions, set it in "one of the cities of China".[12] On the other hand, 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 and their conversation is filled with Muslim platitudes. A Jewish merchant buys Aladdin's wares, but there is no mention of Buddhists, Daoists or Confucians.

Notably, ethnic groups in Chinese history have long included Muslim groups, including large populations of Uyghurs, and the Hui people as well as the Tajiks whose origins go back to Silk Road travelers. Islamic communities have been known to exist in the region since the Tang dynasty (which rose to power simultaneously with the prophet Muhammad's career.) Some have suggested that the intended setting may be Turkestan (encompassing Central Asia and the modern-day Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang in Western China).[13]

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.[14] In early Arabic usage, China is known to have been used in an abstract sense to designate an exotic, faraway land.[15][16]

Motifs and variants

Tale type

The story of Aladdin is classified in the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index 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.[17] All of these 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. In this tale type, the magical item is stolen, but eventually recovered thanks to the use of another magical object.[18]


Since its appearance in The One Thousand and One Nights, the tale has integrated into oral tradition. Scholars Ton Deker and Theo Meder located variants across Europe and the Middle East.[19]

An Indian variant has been attested, titled The Magic Lamp and collected among the Santal people.[20][21]


Adaptations vary in their faithfulness to the original story. In particular, difficulties with the Chinese setting are quite often resolved by giving the story a more typical Arabian Nights background.



Western comics



An 1886 theatre poster advertising a production of the pantomime Aladdin

Other musical theatre

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)

Theatrical films

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917)

Animation: Europe and Asia

Animation: United States

Live-action: English language films

Live-action: Non-English language films


Animation: English language

Animation: Non-English language

Live-action: English language

Live-action: Non-English language

Video games


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.[41] At an average price of about $5,000,[42] this is equivalent to approximately $2.85 billion in pachinko sales revenue.


See also


  1. ^ a b Razzaque (2017)
  2. ^ Allen (2005) pp.280–
  3. ^ Payne (1901) pp. 13-15
  4. ^ Irwin (1994) pp. 57-58
  5. ^ Mahdi (1994) pp. 51-71
  6. ^ Dobie (2008) p.36
  7. ^ Bottigheimer, Ruth B. "East Meets West" (2014).
  8. ^ Horta, Paulo Lemos (2018). Aladdin: A New Translation. Liveright Publishing. pp. 8–10. ISBN 9781631495175. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  9. ^ Paulo Lemos Horta, Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017), pp. 24-95.
  10. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (May 23, 2019). "Was Aladdin Based on a Real Person? Here's Why Scholars Are Starting to Think So". Time. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  11. ^ Burton (2009) pp. 1 ff
  12. ^ Plotz (2001) p. 148–149
  13. ^ Moon (2005) p. 23
  14. ^ Honour (1973) - Section I "The Imaginary Continent"
  15. ^ Arafat A. Razzaque (10 August 2017). "Who was the "real" Aladdin? From Chinese to Arab in 300 Years". Ajam Media Collective.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Ranke, Kurt (1966). Folktales of Germany. Routledge & K. Paul. p. 214. ISBN 978-81-304-0032-7.
  18. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 70-73. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  19. ^ Deker, Ton; Meder, Theo. "Aladdin en de wonderlamp". In: Van Aladdin tot Zwaan kleef aan. Lexicon van sprookjes: ontstaan, ontwikkeling, variaties. 1ste druk. Ton Dekker & Jurjen van der Kooi & Theo Meder. Kritak: Sun. 1997. p. 40.
  20. ^ Campbell, A., of the Santal mission. Santal Folk-Tales. Pokhuria, India : Santal Mission Press. 1891. pp. 1-5.
  21. ^ Brown, W. Norman (1919). "The Pañcatantra in Modern Indian Folklore". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 39: 1–54. doi:10.2307/592712. JSTOR 592712.
  22. ^ "Profile of Paperino e la grotta di Aladino". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  23. ^ Adam Robert, The History of Science Fiction, Palgrave Histories of Literature, ISBN 978-1-137-56959-2, 2016, p. 224
  24. ^ Witchard (2017)
  25. ^ "Aladdin". Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  26. ^ "Cole Porter / Aladdin (London Stage Production)". Sondheim Guide. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  27. ^ " Music Theatre International". Archived from the original on 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Letterboxd. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  30. ^ "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.
  31. ^ "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  32. ^ Article on Arabian Nights at Turner Classic Movies accessed 10 January 2014
  33. ^ "What It Takes to Make a Hollywood Mockbuster, the "Slightly Shittier" Blockbuster". Vice News. 2019-05-24. Archived from the original on 2019-05-29. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  34. ^ Adventures of Aladdin (2019), retrieved 2019-05-29
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. ISBN 9780851706696. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  36. ^ "Dhananjaya became Aladin". Sarasaviya. Archived from the original on 2018-10-02. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  37. ^ "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp - Rabbit Ears". Archived from the original on 2019-04-10. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  38. ^ Buck, Jerry (February 25, 1990). "Barry Bostwick 'explores other worlds' in 'Challenger' movie". The Sacramento Bee.
  39. ^ "Aladin et la Lampe Merveilleuse PC, Mac | 2010". Planete Jeu (in French). Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  40. ^ The Magical Lamp of Aladdin
  41. ^ Beyond Expectations: Integrated Report (PDF). Sega Sammy Holdings. 2017. p. 73. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-26. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  42. ^ 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