From The Arabian Nights- “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”
This version is abridged from “The Arabian Nights” published in 1924 by Hodder and Stoughton.
..................................in the far city of Cathay, there dwelt a poor tailor who had an only son named Aladdin.
Although Aladdin was a “born ne’er-do-well”, he was destined for great things. The Father fell ill and died, and the Mother found great difficulty in supporting herself. While she toiled, Aladdin would amuse himself with fellow urchins on the street, only returning for meals.
One day along came a Moorish Dervish- he was a sorcerer who had discovered many secrets of the black arts. He made enquiries as to the whereabouts of Aladdin, and learned the history of the boy’s family. He approached Aladdin . “Boy, I seem to recognise in you some family likeness. Art thou the Tailor’s son?” Aladdin told him that his Father was dead, at which point the sorcerer wept bitterly.
“I have come from a distant country to find my Brother, and now thou tallest me he is dead?”
Aladdin had never been told that he had an Uncle, and was about to doubt this when the Dervish gave him ten pieces of gold from his purse, and begged to be shown the way to the house of Aladdin’s Mother.
“Give this to thy Mother with my blessing, and say that her Brother-In-Law, who has been absent for Forty years, has returned and will weep over the place where his Brother is buried”. With that he departed.
The next morning the Widow busied herself preparing for the coming of this long-lost relative. In due course the Dervish arrived and comforted the Widow. He asked Aladdin if he knew any art or trade. The Widow replied “Alack! He is nothing but an idler, and I- I am an old Woman and ugly through toil and hardship and grief at his behaviour. Oh Brother-In-Law, it is he who should provide for me, not I for him!”
The Dervish promised that he would set Aladdin up as a merchant with his own shop, and arranged to take him to the market the following day to show him how to deal in the buying and selling of goods.
They visited a shop with some of the finest garments on display, and Aladdin was given a splendid set of clothes, and a sumptuous meal. Aladdin thanked his kindly Uncle again and again. They went for a walk, beyond the confines of the city and began to climb a hill. Aladdin was in no mood for climbing, but his “Uncle” promised him that at the top he was discover a beautiful garden.
At the top of the hill the Dervish stopped, saying to himself “This is the spot I have journeyed so far to find”- But to Aladdin he said “Rest here awhile, O my son, and gather some wood for a fire, and, when thou art refreshed I will show you a most wonderful thing”
When the fire was lit, the Dervish drew some fine powder from a little box and scattered it over the fire, uttering an incantation. Immediately amid rumblings of thunder, the earth reeled and opened. Aladdin in terror started to flee, but the Dervish followed him and smote him on the head, so that he fell to the earth stunned.
“What have I done, O Uncle that thou should’st strike me?” The Dervish explained he had not intended to hurt him, and, if he would but follow his wishes he would show him things of great wonder. He directed the boy to the opening in the earth where there lay a slab of marble, with a brass ring let into it. “Know this my son, that beyond that slab lies vast treasure which none but thee can acquire and live. It is predestined that thou art the only one on this earth that hath the power to do this thing”.
Aladdin saw that the stone was too heavy to lift, and asked for assistance. “Nay- it will yield to no hand but thine. Grasp the ring and repeat the names of as many of thine ancestors as thou can’st remember- then all the riches beyond that stone are for thee”.
Aladdin lifted the stone, and saw that beyond it was a stairway of twelve steps leading into a passage. The Dervish took a ring from his finger and placed it on the middle finger of the boy’s right hand as a protection against all evils.
“Go down the steps and traverse the passage to the end, where you will find a chamber divided into four parts, each containing four vessels of gold. Touch not these on thy life, for if as much as the fringe of your robe cometh into contact with them, you will immediately be turned to stone. Pass through and you will see a door. Open this, repeating the names of your ancestors, and you will behold a beautiful garden”
The Sorcerer told Aladdin how he must then pace forty-nine cubits, and see a staircase of forty-nine steps. “Look not to ascend- it is not for thee nor me. Direct thine attention to a lamp hanging above the alcove. Take it from its fastening, and pour out the oil therin, and bring it to me”
Aladdin entered the passageway, avoided the jars filled with gold, and found the garden filled with birds singing in the branches . The branches bore no fruit but bright coloured jewels. Aladdin plucked these as he proceeded until his pockets were full, thinking them to be coloured glass. “These are lovely things to play with” he thought. Then he saw the lamp, hanging from a crystal beam.
With difficulty he unhooked the lamp, emptied the oil, and began to hasten back to his Uncle. The jewels grew heavier, and the lamp weighed upon his bosom. He began to climb the stairs but sank exhausted before the last, which was far higher than the others. Aladdin begged his Uncle to give him his hand, but the sorcerer dared not touch him, for so the spell of fate was worded, and he must abide by it. “It is the lamp that hampers thee! Reach up and place it on the ledge here; then thou canst mount easily thyself”
Aladdin grew obstinate. “If thou wilt not give me thy hand I will not give thee the lamp.”
This enraged the Dervish to a point beyond control, and he vowed if he did not get the lamp, then the boy would perish with it. Muttering curses he threw the powder on the fire- the earth shuddered, the hillside rushed together and Aladdin was sealed in the cavern without hope of escape.
Aladdin rushed through the garden, searched for a way out, and finally sank exhausted to the floor, raising his hands in supplication. He felt the ring on his middle finger- he saw a light from within, and he rubbed the shiny jewel. Lo! The Spirit of the Ring appeared before him.
"Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done! I am the Slave of the Ring, and the slave of him on whose finger my master placed the ring”
Aladdin was terrified and could not speak, but on being reassured by the Efrite, he asked to be released from the cavern. Scarcely had he spoken when there was a clap of thunder, the cavern opened and he was conveyed through the opening. The entrance had now closed up behind him.
Aladdin hurried back to his home where he found his Mother weeping. ”Where hast thou been my son? And where is thine Uncle?”
Aladdin could not answer her. He was exhausted, and fell into swoon at her feet. When he recovered he told her all that had befallen him- about the lamp, the jewel-fruit and his subsequent escape through the Slave of The Ring. He placed his “coloured glass” jewels and the lamp infront of his Mother, and neither knew why the lamp was so coveted by the Dervish, or that the stones were valuable.
A few days later Aladdin had to take some spinning to market, and they decided that the lamp could be sold at market that day too. On regarding it closely Aladdin’s Mother thought the lamp dirty, and she set to work to polish it with some fine sand. Lo! As soon as she began to rub the lamp the air before her danced and quivered. Looking up, she saw, towering above her, a being monstrous and terrible, with a fierce face in which gleamed fiery eyes beneath frowning brows.
“Thou hast invoked me: What is thy wish? I am the Slave of The Lamp which is in thy hand. What is thy desire?”
Aladdin rushed in and took the lamp from his Mother’s hand. “I desire food, O Slave of the Lamp! The finest food that was ever set before a King!”
The Efrite vanished, only to return with a Tray of solid silver, upon which were twelve golden dishes with fruit and meats, and flagons of wine and silver goblets. The Efrite set down the tray and vanished in a flash.
Mother and son continued to live on the food for several days- Aladdin’s Mother feared the spirit was a devil, and begged her son to have nothing to do with both the Ring and the Lamp. Aladdin took one of the plates to sell, for which he received a single gold piece. Aladdin bought food with this, and so this went on day after day, with Aladdin receiving less money each day. Finally, when there was no more food, he once again rubbed the magic lamp.
Again the Spirit brought food and vanished, and again Aladdin sold the gold plate, but this time for the correct value-each dish worth seventy gold pieces. He realised too that his coloured glass jewels were in fact the richest jewels in the earth.
It was while Aladdin was at market a herald passed by crying “Take heed! By command of the Sultan let all doors be closed, and let none come forth to look upon the face of the Sultan’s daughter- Bedr-el-Budur!”
Aladdin hid himself so that he might see her as she passed by. She lifted her veil, and Aladdin saw her features clearly. His heart turned to water, and then sprang wildly into flame!
He returned home and told his Mother that he would not rest until the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was his wife. His Mother reasoned with him, argued with him and beseeched him, but his mind was set.
Finally it was agreed that he would approach the Sultan and, despite his mother’s plea not to rub the lamp again, that he would do so one more time, and approach the Sultan with a fabulous gift- presented on his behalf by his mother.
Finally Aladdin’s mother was ushered into the presence of the Sultan, kissing the ground at his feet. She pleaded her son’s case to the Sultan, who began to laugh, but stopped laughing when she unwrapped Aladdin’s gift- a jewel encrusted bowl of such beauty that left him speechless.
The Sultan had pledged his daughter to his Vizier’s son. “O Vizier, what sayest thou? The man who sends me this Kingly gift is worthy of my daughter. I withdraw my promise to bestow her on thy son”
The Vizier replied “But is not thy promise worth most of all? The Vizier begged the Sultan to ponder this matter for a further three months. The Sultan thought and told the old woman “Tell thy son he hath my Royal Assent, and that I will give him my daughter in marriage-but he must be patient for, shall we say three months.”
Two months later Aladdin overheard that the Grand Vizier’s son was to take to himself the Princess Bedr-el-Budur as his bride. Aladdin fetched out the lamp. He commanded the spirit to bring him the wedded pair, which the spirit did, depositing them in Aladdin’s chamber. “Take that scurvy thief” said Aladdin, “And bind him and lodge him in the wood closet for the night”.
This achieved, Aladdin ordered the spirit to return them both to their own chamber at the very instant the Sultan knocked upon their door to congratulate them. He turned to the Princess. “Know that I love thee too much to harm you, but your Father the Sultan has violated his word. I am determined that none other shall call thee his”. He then stood guard over the weeping Princess until she fell asleep. As the Sultan approached the bedchamber next morning, both were magically transported back, as if nothing had happened.
This occurred each night- the spirit would bring them both to Aladdin, and return them to their own chamber as the Sultan approached. Finally the Vizier’s son begged to be released from this marriage wherin each night he was locked up in a wood closet, and the marriage was annulled.
Aladdin asked his Mother to once again approach the Sultan. The Spirit of the lamp provided him with forty beautiful maidens, each carrying a golden bowl of jewels on her head, each accompanied by a slave. Aladdin’s Mother processed to the Palace.
“Tell your Son he need fear not but that I shall keep my promise. Bid him come hither with haste, that I may look upon his face and accept him as my son-in-law”.
Aladdin approached the Sultan in splendour. Jewelled robes, a retinue of forty-eight outriders, with Aladdin seated upon a Stallion. Each of the forty-eight retinue would scatter one thousand gold pieces each along the path to the Palace- and twelve maidens of unequalled grace to accompany his Mother.
At a great feast, during which the Sultan was charmed by his future son-in-law, Aladdin withdrew to build a Palace for his bride in the royal grounds. He summoned his Slave of the Lamp.
“I desire thee to build for me in all haste a Palace of such magnificent design and construction, and filled with rare and costly things. And let it be incomplete in one small respect, so that, when the Sultan offers to complete it to match the whole, all the wealth and artifice at his command will not suffice for the task!”
The Palace was built before sunrise. One niche was left incomplete in order to tempt and tax the Sultan to finish it.A magnificent jewelled carpet joined the two Palaces. The Sultan awoke and gazed on the magnificent structure. The Vizier accused Aladdin of the vilest of sorcery, but the Sultan would hear none of it. On seeing all Aladdin had done to win her hand, Bedr-el-Badur renounced herself to the exquisite joy of sudden love.
The Sultan discovered that no matter how many men, and no matter how many jewels were applied, he could not complete the niche to the standard of the rest of the Palace built by Aladdin. Overnight Aladdin completed it, as final proof to the Sultan of his integrity.
Stories of Aladdin’s wealth and fame reached the ears of the sorcerer in a far off land. He now knew that not only was Aladdin alive, but that the lamp was in his possession. He vowed to retrieve it by whatever means. Through his magic arts, the sorcerer discovered that the lamp was not about Aladdin’s person, but in his Palace. He went to the market and purchased a great number of new lamps which he put in a basket. He went about the city crying:
“New lamps for old! New lamps for old!”
The people thought he was a madman, and nobody brought him an old lamp. He took no heed of the boys who mocked him. As fate would have it, Bedr-el-Badur was sitting by a window and heard the tumult. Her maid informed her that Aladdin had an old lamp in his chamber, and was dispatched to fetch it. No sooner had the “pedlar” grasped Aladdin’s lamp, he fled through the city, and, when he found himself alone he rubbed the lamp.
In a flash appeared the Slave of the Lamp. “What is thy wish?” The Dervish replied “I desire thee to take the Palace of Aladdin, with all it contains, and convey it to Africa, and set it down within the gardens of my dwelling in that land.” With that, in the blinking of an eye, the sorcerer found himself in his homeland, on the threshold of Aladdin’s Palace. Inside was the Lady Bedr-el-Badur, but not Aladdin.
The Sultan gazed out of his window and saw that the palace had vanished. “Can it be that the Vizier was right, and that this splendid thing was but the fabric of sorcery? And my daughter- where is she? Oh woe! Oh woe!”
The Sultan issued a decree, and Aladdin was brought before him chained and shackled, and was sent to the executioner. Aladdin was kneeling blindfolded upon the scaffold when a great tumult arose outside the walls. The cries of the people grew louder, and they began to storm the walls of his palace. At that the Sultan signalled the executioner to stay his hand, and had it proclaimed that Aladdin was pardoned.
The Sultan decreed that Aladdin had forty days to return his beloved daughter, “And if thou can’st not find her, then I will cut off thy head!” Aladdin replied “O King of the age, If I find her not within forty days, then I no longer wish to have a head on my body”
Aladdin reached a dark pool, where he resolved to drown himself, such was his sorrow. He stooped, took water in his hands and rubbed them together, when lo! In a flash the slave of the ring appeared. Aladdin beseeched her to bring back his Princess, but the slave told him that this matter was protected by the Slave of the Lamp. “Then”, urged Aladdin, “transport me to the Palace wherever it may be upon the earth”. Immediately Aladdin found himself flying through the air and set down by his palace in the land of the moors. Exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning the Princess went to her window and saw Aladdin sitting on the ground outside. And they both cried and flew to one another, and their greeting was full of joy. When they had embraced and shed tears of joy, Aladdin said to her “O my beloved, before all else answer me one question: in my apartment there was an old copper lamp which…..”
“Alas!” said Bedr-el-Badur, “that lamp was the cause of it all, for the man who obtained it told me of its virtues, and how he had achieved this thing by its aid”. At that Aladdin knew that it was indeed the Dervish who had worked this woe upon him.
The Princess related how the sorcerer would come to her each day to win her love. He had told her that the Sultan had struck off Aladdin’s head, and comforted her for what she had suffered. Aladdin asked “Where does this accursed keep the lamp?” The Princess replied “Always in his bosom, where he guards it with greatest care, and none knows of it but me”.
“My beloved” said Aladdin, “I wish thee to attire thyself gaily, and adorn thyself with jewels in the sparkle of which no grief can live. When the accursed cometh, greet him with a smile. Invite him to sup with thee, and, when thou hast aroused a blinding passion, he will forget the lamp. See…” he drew forth a powder of Benj- “son of an instant” The powder, he told her “cannot be detected in red wine. Pledge him in a cup, and see to it that the benj is in his and not in thine”
Bedr-el-badur did as Aladdin asked The sorcerer arrived. When he feigned to comfort her, she stood before him a vision of loveliness in resplendent attire. A smile was on her face. She invited the Dervish to sup wine with her, and commanded her servant to bring forth the wine. The Dervish drew her close to him, and she felt the lamp in his bosom.
“This wine of thine has set me on fire, beloved”, said the Princess. “This shall be a loving cup, for it is the fashion in my country for the lover to take the loved one’s cup and drink it” She handed him the cup. The Dervish took it, and looked into the eyes of Bedr-el-Badur brimming with love. They drank. Immediately the Dervish fell senseless at her feet, while the cup, flung from his nerveless hand, clattered across the floor.
In the space of moments Aladdin was on the spot. Bedr-el-Badur's arms were around his neck, and she was sobbing on his breast, while the Dervish lay stretched helpless before them. When he had comforted her she went, and the slave girls with her. Aladdin locked the door, and approaching the Dervish, drew the lamp from his bosom. This done, he stood over him and swore a fearful oath, then, without further shrift, he drew his sword and hewed off his head, after which he drove the point of the sword through his heart, for only in this way can a wizard be warned off the realm of mortals.
Once in possession of the lamp, Aladdin summoned the Slave. “I am here O Master; what is thy wish?” “Bear this Palace and all that is in it to the land of Cathay, and set it down on the spot from which thou did’st take it at the command of that”. Aladdin pointed at the sorcerer. “I hear and Obey, on the head and the eye”, and, in an instant the palace was carried swiftly back to the original site from which it had been taken.
The Sultan looked forth and saw the Palace standing as it had stood, and was rapt with joy. Aladdin came out to greet him, and led him towards the apartments of Bedr-el-Badur. She too was radiant with joy. Like a bird in the air she flew into his arms, then in a torrent of words she told him all about the accursed Dervish: how by his sorcery he had conveyed the palace to Africa, how Aladdin had slain him, thus releasing the spell and restoring everything to its place.
But not a word did she say about the lamp and its virtues. Then they arose and went to the chamber which contained the trunk and severed head of the Dervish. And, by the Sultan’s orders, these remains of the sorcerer were burnt to ashes and scattered to the four winds of heaven.
And so Aladdin was restored to the Sultan’s favour, and he and the Lady Bedr-el-Badur dwelt together in the utmost joy and happiness.
This page was last updated 4th July 2006