Once upon a time, a young man’s father died. Aladdin, as that was the young man’s name, took his father’s place in running the family store with his mother. One day, a stranger walked into the store.
“I am your uncle,” said the stranger to Aladdin. “I have come to see you.”
“But my father never spoke of a brother,” said Aladdin.
Aladdin’s mother turned around. “My husband had no brother,” said she to the stranger, narrowing her eyes.
“I assure you it is true,” said the stranger. “Years ago your husband and I agreed that if something should happen to him, since I have been very fortunate in my life, I would help to bring the same good fortune to your family.”
The mother was interested. “What do you have in mind?” she said.
“I know of a secret place that holds many riches,” said the stranger. “I will take your son. With the wealth he will find there, you and he will be set for life.”
And so the mother agreed. The old man and the boy traveled for days throughout the desert. At last they came to a cave. “You must know that I learned a bit of magic in my life,” said the old man to Aladdin. “Don’t be surprised by anything you might see.”
They stepped inside the cave. Pitch-black it was. The old man shook open his fist and a ball of light suddenly appeared, brightening the cave. Under the light with one long finger, he drew the shape of a circle over the ground. He pulled from his pocket some red dust and threw it over the circle, and at the same time said some magic words. The earth trembled a little before them. The floor of the cave cracked open, and the cracks grew wider and deeper. Then up from below the ground rose a giant white quartz crystal and it filled the circle.
“Do not be alarmed,” said the magician. “Under this giant white crystal lies a treasure that is to be yours.”
He chanted a few magic words and the giant crystal rose up several feet in the air, moved to the side and landed. Aladdin peered into the hole. He saw steps that led down to a dark hole.
“Fear nothing,” said the magician to Aladdin. “But obey me. Go down, and at the foot of the steps, follow a long hall. You will walk through a garden of fruit trees. You must touch nothing of them. Walk on till you come to a large flat stone and on the stone will be a lighted lamp. Pour out the oil in the lamp and bring it to me. Now go!”
Aladdin slowly stepped down the stairs. Through the garden of fruit trees and marvelous to behold, the trees held fruits that sparkled and shone. He could not help but reach out and touch one.
Then – too late – he remembered what his uncle had said. But nothing terrible happened. So he figured he might as well put the fine jewel-fruit in his vest pocket. Then he plucked another and another jewel-fruit, till all his pockets were filled.
Aladdin came to the large flat stone, and on it was a lighted lamp, just as his uncle had said. He poured out the oil and took it back to the opening of the cave.
Aladdin called out, “Here I am, Uncle!”
The magician called out in a great hurry, “Give me the lamp!”
“Just as soon as I’m up,” said Aladdin, wondering why the magician seemed in such a hurry.
“No, give me the lamp NOW!” cried the old man, reaching down his hand. For you see, the only way the lamp could come out of the cave was as a gift, from one person to another.
The magician knew this, and he wanted to get the lamp from the boy as soon as he could, and then kill him. Aladdin felt a chill in the air. Something was wrong. Somehow he knew he must not give up that lamp.
“Let me up first," said Aladdin. "Then will I give you the lamp.”
Aladdin felt a chill in the air. Something was wrong.
The magician was furious. He fell into a rage and barked out more magical words. The giant white quartz crystal rose up, hovered over the hole and landed. All went dark below. Aladdin was trapped!
For two days, Aladdin despaired. “Why didn’t I just hand over this old lamp? Who cares about it, anyway? Whatever might have come of it, it couldn’t have been worse than this! What was I thinking?”
Rubbing the lamp, he moaned, “Oh, how I wish I could get out of here!”
At once, a huge Genie rose up into the air. “You are my master!” boomed the Genie. “Was that your first wish - to get out of this cave? Three wishes are yours to command.”
Aladdin’s mouth fell open, amazed. He mumbled yes, of course! More than anything he wanted to get out of the cave and go home! The very next moment, Aladdin was outside his own home, still holding the lamp and with all his jewel-fruits in his vest pockets.
His mother could not believe the tale her son told her. “Magic lamp?” she laughed. “That old thing?” She took the lamp, grabbed a rag, and started to clean it. “If there were really a Genie in this old lamp, I would say to it, ‘Genie, make a feast for my son and me, and serve it on plates of gold!’”
You can imagine the mother’s surprise! The Genie rose up out of the lamp, and a feast fit for a king weighed down her kitchen table, on plates of glimmering gold.
Mother and son enjoyed a feast like no other. Then the mother washed and sold the gold plates, and bought necessary things to live. From then on, Aladdin and his mother lived well.
One day, Aladdin thought to himself, “Why think small? With my jewel-fruits, I could marry the princess and become the prince of this land!”
His mother laughed. “You can’t just go to a palace with some fine gifts and expect to marry the princess!” But Aladdin urged her to try. They wrapped some of the jewel-fruits in silk cloth, and the mother went to the palace.
The guards stopped her at once. But as she insisted she had something very valuable for the Sultan, they let her in.
They wrapped some of the jewel-fruits in silk cloth.
Said the Sultan, “What have you brought me in those silk rags?”
She showed him the jewel-fruits. The Sultan was impressed. “But if your son is as worthy of my daughter as you say, he must bring me 40 golden trays of the same gems, carried in by servants.”
The mother went home and told her son the Sultan’s demand. “It's no problem,” said Aladdin. “Call for the Genie and make your second wish.” And so his mother rubbed the lamp and made her second wish. Before long, she was at the steps of the Sultan’s palace with 40 golden trays of the jewel-fruits, carried in by as many servants.
The Sultan was pleased. “But you cannot think this is enough to win the hand of my daughter!” he said. “To truly win my favor, your son must build a golden palace for he and my daughter to live.”
The Mother brought back this news, too. So for her third wish, the Mother asked the Genie to create a golden palace. The next morning, right outside the Sultan’s bedroom, appeared a huge golden palace, gleaming in the sun.
Meanwhile back at Aladdin’s home, his Mother said, “It is time for you to go, my son, to meet your princess.” Her wishes spent, she gave him the lamp.
The next morning, the Sultan called for his daughter. “Look at this palace!” he said, pointing out the window. “This is the husband for you!”
“What do you mean, Father?” said his daughter. “What do you know about this man? Have you ever met him?”
“What’s there to know?” said the Sultan. “He can make a golden palace appear overnight. He’s even more powerful than my royal adviser, the Vizier.”
“What’s there to know?” said the Sultan. "He can make a golden palace appear overnight."
“Yesterday, your Vizier was most powerful man in the kingdom," said his daughter, "and I was to marry him. Today, this stranger is the most powerful one and I’m to marry him. Why do you think it matters to me who’s the most powerful?”
“It matters to ME!” said the Sultan. In a lower voice he said, “Daughter, you’re just excited to get such a fine husband.”
“I can’t believe this!” The princess threw her arms up in despair, and she left.
In her dressing room, the princess groaned. To Nadia, her lady-in-waiting, she said, “My father is determined to marry me off, no matter what!”
“But Madam,” said Nadia, “isn’t this wonderful stranger an excellent match for you?”
The princess sighed. She looked at her lady-in-waiting. “You don’t know how lucky you are,” she said. “I would rather live your life than be handed off in this way.”
“And I would rather live yours,” said Nadia. The two of them stared at each other for a couple of moments. They were about the same height, with the same color hair. With all the scarves maidens like them wore…
“Let’s do it!” they said together. And the two of them changed clothes.
Just then, Aladdin was riding to the Sultan’s palace on a white horse, ready to meet his bride. The Sultan warmly greeted him.
“Let’s do it!” they said together.
“Stay here in my palace until the preparations for your wedding are complete,” he said. Aladdin could not meet the princess until their wedding day. He caught a glimpse of Nadia from a distance, covered in scarves, thinking she was the true princess. Aladdin, the Sultan, and everyone else in the palace waited with growing excitement for the wedding day.
Except for one person. The uncle-magician who had left Aladdin trapped in the cave was also the Sultan’s Vizier.
He had recognized Aladdin at once. He knew there could be only one reason the young man could present all this magic to the Sultan. Aladdin must have escaped from the cave, and with the lamp!
“I will get my revenge!” swore the Vizier. “If anyone is to have the lamp, it is ME!” By his magic, he could tell where Aladdin had hidden the lamp. While Aladdin was sleeping, the Vizier crept in and took it.
“If anyone is to have the lamp, it is ME!"
In a quiet place, the Vizier made his first wish: “Genie, do as I say. I want you to take Aladdin’s palace to a faraway place in the desert that no one can find!”
What the Vizier did not know was at that very moment, Nadia was exploring Aladdin’s palace. And there is something else the Vizier did not know. The Genie thought the Vizier had commanded to be taken away also, along with the palace. So the Genie sent the Vizier, the golden palace, and Nadia inside it, all together to the faraway place in the desert.
The next morning, the Sultan awoke and saw nothing outside his bedroom window where Aladdin’s palace had stood the day before. The next moment his servants rushed in, announcing that the princess had disappeared. Furious, he called for Aladdin.
“What have you done?” he yelled in a rage. “Because of your magic tricks I have lost my daughter! You must bring her back to me in three days or it will cost you your head!”
"What have you done?" he yelled in a rage.
Aladdin thought he would simply use his second wish and the Genie would bring back the princess and the castle too. But his magic lamp was gone - he looked everywhere!
In despair, Aladdin could do nothing but to leave the Sultan’s palace on the white horse he had rode in on. Sadly, he rode from town to town but no one knew anything about a palace that had appeared overnight, no to mention one with a princess inside.
You may wonder, where was the true princess all this time? Dressed as a servant girl, she had crept out of the palace the very day she had switched clothes with Nadia. Down to the marketplace she had gone, and there she met an aging merchant. The old merchant told her he was tired from riding so many years from town to town, selling his potions and perfumes.
The princess was dressed humbly, yet she still carried herself like royalty. She gained the confidence of the old merchant, and when she offered to ride his camel train for him and share what she earned, he was delighted. That is how our princess found herself up clop-clopping through the desert, selling potions and perfumes from town to town.
Two days passed. Aladdin was no closer to finding his lost palace than he had been before he left the Sultan. Crouched in front of his tent, Aladdin held his head in his hands.
“Why the sad face?” The princess was riding by and she stopped her camel train. “Perhaps a potion will make you feel better.”
"Why the sad face?"
“No, thank you,” said Aladdin. “The only thing that could help is if I could bring back a princess and find my lost palace. You see, my palace vanished overnight to a place I know not where. The princess was probably inside it. Oh, this is an impossible task!”
“Maybe not,” said the princess. “In my travels, I heard of a palace in the desert that appeared out of nowhere, not long ago.”
“Really?” said Aladdin. He looked up. “Do you know where?”
“I think so. I could take you there. If we left now, we could get there by morning.”
“I’d be so grateful!” said Aladdin. He had left all the jewel-fruits with his Mother except one. This he offered to the camel-rider as payment.
“Oh, keep it,” said she with a wave of her hand. “It’s no trouble. Bring your horse to ride alongside my camel.”
“Really?” said Aladdin. He looked up. “Do you know where?”
Riding through the night, the two of them spoke of many things. Aladdin marveled at the young lady’s easy manner and generous spirit. He somehow knew she could be trusted. Before long, he told her his story of how he had discovered the magic lamp in the cave and how it had been stolen from him, along with the palace.
As the morning’s light brightened, they were riding between two very tall walls of rock, rose-colored they were, with thin bands of white and blue. Suddenly the rock walls ended, and they arrived at a clearing.
“Look!” said the princess, pointing ahead. “Is that it?”
“It is!” Aladdin cried out with joy, recognizing his palace. “I hope the princess is still in there!" he said. "Though without my lamp, I have no way to get them both back in time.”
Just then Nadia, who had been carried away along with the palace as you no doubt remember, was looking out the window at the new guests. To her surprise, she recognized the rider of the camel train as none other than her beloved former mistress. She waved at them both to come to the front door.
The servants let in the guests. Nadia took them to the drawing room and shut the door. She said, “Mistress! How glad I am to see you!”
“I'm glad to see you too, Nadia.”
Aladdin was amazed. “You two know each other?”
But the princess only said to Nadia, “Tell me, how do you find being a princess?”
Aladdin was amazed. “You two know each other?”
“At first, the gowns were marvelous,” she said. “Everything I dreamed of! And I liked well enough all the attention I got. But when I was carried away with this palace, the Vizier came with it, too. For the last two days he has done nothing but fly about in a rage and smash things. He locked me up in here!”
“That’s terrible!” said the princess.
“There’s more,” said Nadia. “He said with his lamp, that tomorrow we’ll return to the Sultan’s land and I will have to marry him!”
“He said…with his lamp?” Aladdin and the princess looked at each other.
The princess turned to Nadia. “Wait a minute! I have a plan.”
The princess turned to Nadia. “Wait a minute! I have a plan.”
The princess gave Nadia one of the sleeping potions in her stock. She told Nadia that when the Vizier returned that night, she must pour the sleeping potion into his wine. He would fall into a sleep so deep that he would not be awakened by any noise. That is what she did. When the wicked man was snoring, Nadia, the princess, and Aladdin searched everywhere for the magic lamp. At last they found it!
The lamp in his hands again, Aladdin said, “Now I can make a second wish. I am going to wish for this castle and everyone in it to go back to the Sultan’s kingdom – except for the Vizier.”
“Wait!” said the princess. "Leave me behind, too.”
Aladdin urged her to come with him, but the princess would have none of it. She liked too well the life of freedom she led. Aladdin did not like at all that she would be left behind with the Vizier. But she assured him the Vizier would not awaken for hours, and she would have plenty of time to get far away.
So Aladdin rubbed the lamp and stated his wish to the Genie.
In a whoosh, Aladdin, the palace and Nadia were all transported back to the very spot where the palace had stood before.
The Sultan was delighted to have his daughter back, or you might say, the young woman he believed to be his daughter, covered as she was in scarves. “We will hold the wedding in three days!” the Sultan said to Aladdin.
Yet a sadness was growing in Aladdin’s heart. Nadia was indeed a nice young woman, and pleasant to look at, too. But there was something about that woman who rode the camel train, selling perfumes and potions. He could not get out of his mind the sound of her laugh, her clever mind, and the comfort of her company. At last, he rubbed the lamp.
“Master,” said the Genie, “Is it mountains of jewels you want for your third wish, power over all the neighboring lands, or the strength of 100 men?”
But there was something about that woman who rode the camel train.
“None of that,” said Aladdin. “I wish you to take me to that young woman I met, the camel rider, the seller of perfumes and potions.”
“But Master, this is your third and last wish!” said the Genie. “What if you were to offer this woman your heart, and she didn’t choose you back? You’ll miss your chance to marry the Sultan’s daughter and become a prince.”
“I don’t care!” said Aladdin. “I must share with her what is in my heart. Whatever comes of it, so be it.”
“But Master, this is your third and last wish!” said the Genie.
So Aladdin made his third and last wish and was taken to the true princess. In her travels, she was not all that far from the Sultan’s land, as it turns out. Aladdin shared his true feelings to her and she returned the same feelings.
She told him her story – that she had been born a princess but now was happier living as a traveling merchant. Aladdin said he wanted nothing better than to spend the rest of his days with her by his side. And so they agreed to marry and together ride the camel train, selling potions and perfumes from town to town.
Then – such surprising news! Aladdin and the princess learned that the Sultan had suddenly died. Said Aladdin to his new bride, “Since your father is gone, would you return now to your father’s palace? We could rule the kingdom together, side by side.”
As a last goodbye to their life on the camel train, Aladdin and the princess mixed a very special magical potion. In a cloud of smoke, a magic carpet appeared! And on this magic carpet Aladdin and the princess flew back to the palace.
Nadia was very pleased to see them. She gladly stepped down to serve again as lady-in-waiting to the princess.
For the rest of their lives, Aladdin and the princess ruled the kingdom wisely and well. And they lived happily ever after, as should you.
Adapted from the original story of “Aladdin" from The Arabian Nights, also known as One Thousand and One Nights Folktales. Told with a Modern #MeToo twist.
- Choose one character. How did that person or animal change/grow/learn by the end of the story?
- Say what you think this story is trying to show you.