Yet more on Aladdin:
Authenticity, however, has always been complicated where Aladdin is concerned. The stories of the Thousand and One Nights derive from Persian, Indian, Arabic, Turkish, and Egyptian folk tale and literary traditions that span several historical periods and were passed on orally for centuries within Islamic society and culture before being recorded. Extant Arabic manuscripts fall into two main manuscript traditions, the one Syrian, the other Egyptian, which differ in which tales they include and in what order. The various manuscripts share a common core of stories, which include an Arabic cycle involving the 9th century caliph Harun al-Rashid and others from his era, including vizier Ja’far and Abu Nuwas, and another group involving 13th and 14th century figures from medieval Cairo. They also share a narrative framework for the collection, the story, from 7th century Persia, of Shahrazad (or, as she is better known, Scheherezade), the new bride who begins, without concluding a new story for her husband, King Shahriyar, each night to avoid execution the next morning, eventually, after a thousand nights, winning his pardon and her life.
Continue reading “Aladdin and authenticity”
Continuing last week’s post about Aladdin:
The Disney film made Aladdin Arabic (and an accused thief instead of a ne’er-do-well tailor’s son) and renamed the princess of his affections Jasmine—from the original’s Badroulbadour (Bedrulbudour, Bedr-el-Budur, Badr al-Budur). Perhaps more significantly, its villain was not the African magician/sorcerer of the literary versions. Instead, following the 1940 adaptation of Thief of Bagdad, the Disney film’s villain was the evil and conniving court advisor, Grand Vizier Jafar (Jaffar in the 1940 film, played by Veidt, its star). The name and title derives from a figure who appears in several of the Thousand and One Nights tales and is loosely based on an actual 9th century historical figure, Ja’far al-Barmaki, vizier to the caliph of Baghdad. Another 9th century historical figure, the poet Abu Nuwas, who appears as a court jester figure in the Nights, provided the name for the thief in the 1940 film—which had divided the 1924 film’s title character into two: a prince, Ahmad, and a thief, Abu—and Aladdin’s sidekick monkey in the Disney film.
Continue reading “Disney’s Aladdin“
I’ve been interested in Aladdin for many years since I learned working on a Smithsonian project on ethnic imagery in advertising that in the 19th and into the 20th century, he was presented as a Chinese figure. Recently I’ve been working on and off on a piece about Aladdin that I don’t quite know how to finish. Here’s the first part of it:
I’ve always loved to read. When I discovered libraries growing up, I read anything and everything I could find. One of the subjects I devoured was fairy tales and folktales and one of my earliest sources for them were the various colored books of stories collected and published in the late 19th century by Andrew Lang. It was in The Blue Fairy Book that I first encountered the story of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.” At the time, I found the story simple and straightforward, but magical and marvelous nevertheless. As an adult and as a historian, I’ve learned the story of the story is anything but simple.
Continue reading “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp”