Most of us have heard of Aladdin at some time in our distant past, whether as a children’s tale or as the 1992 Disney Movie. We might not remember much about this story, but there are often a few questions that sit in the back of our minds, particularly when someone mentions it to us.
So if you are thinking about hosting a themed party, why not consider an Arabian theme? You won’t have any problems hiring a genie costume, but you MUST know something about the story and the main Aladdin characters, so you can WOW your guests.
Some questions that you might need to answer for your party guests include:
- Where is Aladdin set?
- Where is Aladdin from?
- Is Aladdin a true story?
- Who are the main characters?
In this blog post, we will answer all of these questions and more! Making you an expert on the topic of this fabulous rags to riches old time favourite children’s story.
1. Where is Aladdin set and where is Aladdin from?
The original story was set in China, so the character of Aladdin is actually Chinese, not Arabian. That might come as a surprise to many of you, because many people believe that the story was set in the Middle East, but China is in the Far East, which might have led to the confusion. A lot of this mix-up has come about because of the interpretation of this story by Disney in their movie, where the stage was set with the opening song called ‘Arabian Nights’.
It seems that the 1992 movie was originally going to be set in Baghdad, which is the capital of Iraq (because of how exotic the location was set), but with the onset of the Gulf War, it was changed to a fictitious Arabian location. The boy’s character was portrayed by Disney as an Arabian and the setting was somewhere in the Middle East. In fact, many of the character’s names are Arabic in the movie. Browse Disney costumes now to get in the groove of Aladdin.
2. Is Aladdin a true story?
This is the story of a poor Chinese boy who finds a magic lamp and releases a genie who grants him three wishes, allowing him to win the love of a princess.
The context of the story is that it was one of the tales told by Scheherazade, who volunteered to be the wife of the tyrannical King Shahryar. Since his first wife had been unfaithful, the King decided to take a new virgin bride each night and execute her the next day, before she has time to cheat on him.
He had executed 1001 new brides by the time he married Scheherazade, who to prevent being executed the following day, starts to tell the King an entrancing story on their wedding night, but promises to finish the story the following night. She ends the previous story and begins a new story each night, but at the end of 1000 days, she runs out of stories. The King however, had fallen in love with her by this time, and so she kept her life.
There is one school of thought that believes the story of Scheherazade is actually true, but the jury is still out. It’s a bit convoluted, but one theory is that the story of Scheherazade was originally written down by Hanna Diyab, a Syrian who recounted the tale to Antoine Galland in the 1700s, a French translator, scholar and diplomat. He published it as part of his translated version of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, also known as ‘One Thousand and One Arabian Nights’.
Apparently, most of the stories included in ‘One Thousand and One Arabian Nights’ were collated from oral stories that were handed down since the 1300s. It was only during the 1700s when Scheherazade’s tale was first noted widely, and that was when it was published by Antoine Gallard. It’s thought that since many of the character’s names in Aladdin sounded Arabic, Gallard included it in his Arabian Nights tales, which is where the confusion originated.
There is a problem with these origins however, because scholars have found no written evidence of the tale before being published by Gallard. His meeting with Hanna Diyab in 1709 and the retelling of the story was mentioned in his diary however, but nothing prior to this date has been found.
What we do know is that Gallard met Diyab through his friend and rival Paul Lucas, who spent his time treasure hunting for Louis XIV, with Diyab acting as an interpreter for his travels through the Middle East. Gallard asked Diyab if he knew of any Arabian Night tales to add to his own, which had become extremely popular with the public.
Diyab told Gallard a number of different tales, including Aladdin, as well as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. These tales were included in Gallard’s translation of the One Thousand and One Nights, that covered multiple volumes, ending in 1717.
So whilst scholars acknowledge that Gallard heard the tales from Diyab, they still don’t know where Diyab found Scheherazade’s tale. Diyab himself however, noted in his travel diaries that he had told the tales to Gallard (his journal was found in the Vatican’s library by historian Jerome Lentin in 1993).
Some believe that the boy’s character is actually Diyab, because in his journal he describes his poor upbringing and his marvel at the riches and extravagances of Versailles. There are also some parallels between the lives of Diyab and the young, as Diyab wanted to have a market stall, whilst the African Magician in the tale promised to set the young lad up as a cloth merchant to make his fortune.
This adds another layer of confusion to the tale’s origins, because now it could be a tale passed down through the ages or simply a recounting of Diyad’s own life impressions.
Who are the main Aladdin characters?
Obviously, the main character of this tale is Aladdin, but there are other prominent characters within this tale, such as Princess Jasmine and the blue genie.
Jasmine, Aladdin’s girlfriend, was previously called an Arabic name going by Badroulbadour in the original version.
Other main characters are Jafar, the Sultan’s most trusted councilman, Iago who is Jafar’s red plumed sentient pet bird, and Abu, who is the boy’s kleptomaniac pet monkey. Finally, there is the Sultan, who is the father of Princess Jasmine, Aladdin’s love interest in the Disney movie, and kind ruler of Arabah.