You Don’t Know The Real Aladdin – The Original Text Revisited: Part 1

by Tito W. James

With Disney revisiting the story of Aladdin, there are many vocal opinions as to what is the best, truest and most authentic version of that story. As someone who’s read the original Aladdin story, I’m here to tell you that everyone’s wrong and you don’t know the real Aladdin.

I’ll add in a caveat that Aladdin is part of the Tale of a Thousand and One Nights often referred to as The Arabian Nights. The text I’m referencing is The Arabian Nights book illustrated by Earle Goodenow. As with any mythology, there will be variations.

Aladdin Is Chinese

Yes, you read that correctly. Aladdin is an Arabian fairy tale about a Chinese boy. There are those who accuse Disney’s Aladdin of being racist or inauthentic, but honey, it ain’t got nothin’ on the original.

Aladdin was a blatant Chinese stereotype and was depicted as being a lazy good-for-nothing. He was such a bad kid that his own father died of shame. The storyteller of Aladdin obviously knows nothing about China. There are references to mosques, sultans, and none of the characters have Chinese names.

Jafar Is Not The Bad Guy

The villain in the original Aladdin is referred to only as the African Magician, and he’s evil because he’s from Africa. You still think Disney’s Aladdin is racist?

The Magician poses as Aladdin’s uncle (despite zero family resemblance) and lures him to a hidden cave. The Magician instructs Aladdin to enter the cave, ignore all the other treasure, and retrieve the lamp. The Magician also gives Aladdin a magic ring as a talisman (this will be important later).

Aladdin gets the lamp but can’t get out of the cave on his own. There’s a standoff where Aladdin insists that the Magician pull him up while the Magician insists that Aladdin give him the lamp first. Thoroughly fed up with Aladdin, the Magician seals the cave entrance, trapping the boy inside.

There Are Two Genies With Unlimited Power

Here’s where the plot stops making any damn sense. Aladdin accidentally rubs, not the lamp, but the magic ring, summoning a genie who teleports him out of the cave. Why would the Magician give Aladdin a ring with an all-powerful genie inside, and then trap the kid in a cave with a second genie that the Magician was trying to obtain in the first place?

Also the genie never mentions Aladdin’s wishes having rules or there being a limited number of wishes. So Aladdin just got two genies and unlimited power while the Magician forgets about Aladdin and returns to Africa. That’s literally what happens!

Aladdin Forgets The Fact That He Has All-Powerful Genies

There’s a short scene where Aladdin goes home to his mother, nearly faint from hunger. It never occurs to him to use the genie in the ring to teleport him home or get him food, or give him money to buy food.

His mother decides to sell Aladdin’s lamp so they can buy food. Before selling the lamp, Aladdin’s mother polishes it to make the lamp look better. As you can guess, the second genie appears and Aladdin remembers that he can ask them for stuff.

Aladdin asks the genie of the lamp to bring him food and the genie conjures up a meal served on silver platters. Aladdin is too stupid to know what silver is or to think of asking the genie for more food. We spend the next part of the story watching Aladdin get ripped off by selling all the silver platters for a fraction of what they’re worth. The text even says that Aladdin can wish for whatever he wants, and yet he doesn’t.

Though Aladdin and his mother had an inexhaustible treasure in their lamp, and might have had whatever they wished for, yet they lived with the same frugality as before.

Aladdin or The Wonderful Lamp

Aladdin Is A Crazy Stalker

Aladdin becomes infatuated with the Sultan’s daughter, Princess Buddir al-Buddoor, when he sees her face (amongst other things) while spying on her in a bathhouse. Aladdin decides that he must marry her, but she is already set to marry the Grand Vizier’s son. Keep in mind that neither the Grand Vizier nor his son are evil characters in the original story.

Aladdin uses the genie of the lamp to kidnap the princess and her groom on their wedding night. The genie holds the Vizier’s son captive while Aladdin tries to sweet-talk the terrified princess. It doesn’t go over well. But Aladdin uses this same tactic several nights in a row until finally the trauma and sleep deprivation cause the royal couple to call off the wedding.

Aladdin winds up buying the Sultan’s affections so that he can marry the princess. What was the price for the Princess you might ask? Here’s what the Sultan asked for…

Send me forty trays of massive gold, full of the same sort of jewels you have presented me, and carried by the like number of black slaves, who shall be led by as many young and handsome white slaves, all dressed magnificently.

The Sultan

Just when you thought this story couldn’t get any worse, Aladdin bought the princess with slaves. Also, both genies are referred to as slaves and that’s why they have to obey Aladdin’s orders. Aladdin orders his lamp genie-slave to build him a golden palace to live in with the princess.

Aladdin’s life is looking perfect, with virtually no effort on his part. But wait, dear reader–for his nemesis, the African Magician, who will return. The story continues in You Don’t Know The Real Aladdin: Part 2!

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