It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English language edition, which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights' Entertainment.
The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa.
The main frame story concerns Shahryar. He is shocked to discover that his brother's wife is unfaithful; discovering his own wife's infidelity has been even more flagrant, he has her executed: but in his bitterness and grief decides that all women are the same. Therefore, he resolved to marry a new virgin each day as well as behead the previous day's wife, so that she would have no chance to be unfaithful to him. He had killed 1,000 such women by the time.
Eventually, the vizier, whose duty it is to provide them, cannot find any more virgins. Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter, offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dunyazade, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The king lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story.
The king asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was no time, as dawn was breaking. So, the king spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. The next night, Scheherazade finished the story and then began a second, even more exciting tale, which she again stopped halfway through at dawn. Again, the king spared her life for one more day so she could finish the second story.
And so the king kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of the previous night's story. At the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, Scheherazade told the king that she had no more tales to tell him. During these 1,001 nights, the king has grown into a wise ruler and rekindles his trust in women. He also had fallen in love with Scheherazade. He spared her life and made her his queen.
Aladdin is an impoverished young ne'er-do-well in a Chinese town, who is recruited by a sorcerer from the Maghreb, who passes himself off as the brother of Aladdin's late father Qaseem, convincing Aladdin and his mother of his goodwill by apparently making arrangements to set up the lad as a wealthy merchant. The sorcerer's real motive is to persuade young Aladdin to retrieve a wonderful oil lamp from a booby-trapped magic cave of wonder. After the sorcerer attempts to double-cross him, Aladdin finds himself trapped in the cave. Fortunately, Aladdin retains a magic ring lent to him by the sorcerer as protection. When he rubs his hands in despair, he inadvertently rubs the ring, and a jinn, or "genie", appears, who takes him home to his mother. Aladdin is still carrying the lamp, and when his mother tries to clean it, a second, far more powerful genie appears, who is bound to do the bidding of the person holding the lamp.
With the aid of the genie of the lamp, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful and marries Princess Badroulbadour, the Emperor's daughter (after magically foiling her marriage to the vizier's son). The genie builds Aladdin a wonderful palace – a far more magnificent one than that of the Emperor himself.
The sorcerer returns and is able to get his hands on the lamp by tricking Aladdin's wife, who is unaware of the lamp's importance, by offering to exchange "new lamps for old". He orders the genie of the lamp to take the palace along with all its contents to his home in the Maghreb. Fortunately, Aladdin retains the magic ring and is able to summon the lesser genie. Although the genie of the ring cannot directly undo any of the magic of the genie of the lamp, he is able to transport Aladdin to Maghreb, and help him recover his wife and the lamp and defeat the sorcerer.
The sorcerer's more powerful and evil brother tries to destroy Aladdin for killing his brother by disguising himself as an old woman known for her healing powers. Badroulbadour falls for his disguise, and commands the "woman" to stay in her palace in case of any illnesses. Aladdin is warned of this danger by the genie of the lamp and slays the imposter. Everyone lives happily ever after, Aladdin eventually succeeding to his father-in-law's throne.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Ali Baba and his elder brother Cassim are the sons of a merchant. After their father's death, the greedy Cassim marries a wealthy woman and becomes well-to-do, building on their father's business. Ali Baba marries a poor woman and settles into the trade of a woodcutter.
One day, Ali Baba is at work collecting and cutting firewood in the forest, and he happens to overhear a group of 40 thieves visiting their treasure store. The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "open sesame" and seals itself on the words "close sesame". When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself and discreetly takes a single bag of gold coins home.
Ali Baba and his wife borrow his sister-in-law's scales to weigh their new wealth. Unbeknownst to them, Cassim's wife puts a blob of wax in the scales to find out what Ali Baba is using them for, as she is curious to know what kind of grain her impoverished brother-in-law needs to measure. To her shock, she finds a gold coin sticking to the scales and tells her husband. Under pressure from his brother, Ali Baba is forced to reveal the secret of the cave. Cassim goes to the cave, taking a donkey with him to take as much treasure as possible. He enters the cave with the magic words. But in his greed and excitement over the treasure, he forgets the words to get out again. The thieves find him there and kill him. When his brother does not come back, Ali Baba goes to the cave to look for him, and finds the body quartered and with each piece displayed just inside the cave's entrance, as a warning to anyone else who might try to enter.
Ali Baba brings the body home where he entrusts Morgiana, a clever slave-girl from Cassim's household, with the task of making others believe that Cassim has died a natural death. First, Morgiana purchases medicines from an apothecary, telling him that Cassim is gravely ill. Then, she finds an old tailor known as Baba Mustafa whom she pays, blindfolds, and leads to Cassim's house. There, overnight, the tailor stitches the pieces of Cassim's body back together so that no one will be suspicious. Ali Baba and his family are able to give Cassim a proper burial without anyone's asking awkward questions.
The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that yet another person must know their secret, and they set out to track him down. One of the thieves goes down to the town and comes across Baba Mustafa, who mentions that he has just sewn a dead man's body back together. Realizing the dead man must have been the thieves' victim, the thief asks Baba Mustafa to lead the way to the house where the deed was performed. The tailor is blindfolded again, and in this state he is able to retrace his steps and find the house. The thief marks the door with a symbol so the other thieves can come back that night and kill everyone in the house. However, the thief has been seen by Morgiana who, loyal to her master, foils the thief's plan by marking all the houses in the neighborhood similarly. When the 40 thieves return that night, they cannot identify the correct house, and their leader kills the unsuccessful thief in a furious rage. The next day, another thief revisits Baba Mustafa and tries again. Only this time, a chunk is chipped out of the stone step at Ali Baba's front door. Again, Morgiana foils the plan by making similar chips in all the other doorsteps, and the second thief is killed for his failure as well. At last, the leader of the thieves goes and looks himself. This time, he memorizes every detail he can of the exterior of Ali Baba's house.
The leader of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba's hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with 38 oil jars, one filled with oil, the other 37 hiding the other remaining thieves. Once Ali Baba is asleep, the thieves plan to kill him. Again, Morgiana discovers and foils the plan, killing the 37 thieves in their oil jars by pouring boiling oil on them. When their leader comes to rouse his men, he discovers they are all dead and escapes. The next morning, Morgiana tells Ali Baba about the thieves in the jars. They bury them, and Ali Baba shows his gratitude by giving Morgiana her freedom.
To exact revenge after some time, the leader of the thieves establishes himself as a merchant, befriends Ali Baba's son (who is now in charge of the late Cassim's business), and is invited to dinner at Ali Baba's house. However, the thief is recognized by Morgiana, who performs a sword dance with a dagger for the diners and plunges it into the thief's heart, when he is off his guard. Ali Baba is at first angry with Morgiana, but when he finds out the thief wanted to kill him, he is extremely grateful and rewards Morgiana by marrying her to his son. Ali Baba is then left as the only one knowing the secret of the treasure in the cave and how to access it.
Khusrau and Shirin with the Fisherman
King Khusrau of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he sat in his saloon, he and Shirin his wife, there came a fisherman, with a great fish, and presented it to the King, who was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhems. When he was gone, Shirin said to the King, 'Thou hast done ill.' 'Wherefore?' asked he; and she answered, 'Because if, after this, thou give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will disdain it and say, "He hath but given me the like of what he gave the fisherman." And if thou give him less, he will say, "He makes light of me and gives me less than he gave the fisherman."' 'Thou art right,' rejoined Khusrau; 'but the thing is done and it ill becomes a king to go back on his gift.' Quoth Shirin, 'An thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to get it back from him.' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'Call back the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female. If he say, "Male," say thou, "We want a female," and if he say, "Female," say, "We want a male."'
So he sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and discernment, and said to him, 'Is this fish male or female?' The fisherman kissed the ground and answered, 'It is of the neuter gender, neither male nor female.' The King laughed and ordered him other four thousand dirhems. So the fisherman went to the treasurer and taking his eight thousand dirhems, put them in a bag he had with him. Then, throwing the bag over his shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirhem; so he laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now the King and Shirin were looking on, and the latter said, 'O King, didst thou note the meanness and greediness of yon man, in that he must needs stoop down, to pick up the one dirhem, and could not bring himself to leave it for one of the King's servants?'
When the King heard this, he was wroth with the fisherman and said, 'Thou art right, O Shirin!' So he called the man back and said to him, 'Thou low-minded fellow! Thou art no man! How couldst thou put the bag off thy shoulder and stoop to pick up the one dirhem and grudge to leave it where it fell?' The fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered, 'May God prolong the King's life! Indeed, I did not pick up the dirhem, because of its value in my eyes; but because on one of its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set his foot upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the King, and I be blamed for the offence.' The King wondered at his wit and shrewdness and ordered him yet other four thousand dirhems. Moreover, he let cry abroad in his kingdom, saying, 'It behoveth none to order himself by women's counsel; for whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirhem, other two.'
The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou
The Sultan of the Indies has three sons, Hussain, Ali and Ahmed. His niece, Princess Nouronnihar, is old enough to marry, and the three princes each want to marry her. The Sultan declares a contest, and all three go traveling to find the most wonderful item they can. Hussain buys a magical flying carpet. Ali finds an ivory telescope that lets him see anything anywhere. Ahmed finds an apple that can cure any illness. The brothers reunite and compare their gifts, but Ali looks through his telescope and sees that Nouronnihar has fallen ill. They use the carpet to go home, and Ahmed uses his apple to cure her. However, afterwards no one can decide which prince should marry her, as they were all instrumental to curing her. The Sultan declares an archery contest. Ali's arrow flies the farthest, and he wins Nouronnihar's hand.
Ahmed's arrow, however, cannot be found, and he goes looking for it. He winds up at a mysterious cave, where there lives a beautiful lady named Paribanou with all of her servants. They fall in love but Ahmed returns home to his father, who believes that he is dead after all this time. Paribanou instructs Ahmed not to tell anyone about her. Ahmed makes regular visits to his father, but people at court grow suspicious of his obvious wealth and prosperity, and encourage the Sultan's jealousy. A sorceress goes to spy on the prince and find out where he lives. When she can't get into the cave, she pretends to be ill, and he takes her inside. Paribanou realizes immediately that the sorceress is shamming. The sorceress, having seen the fairy's amazing palace, returns to the Sultan and suggests that Ahmed and his wife may try to dethrone him.
As an excuse to imprison Ahmed, the Sultan demands he bring him a tent small enough to fit in a man's hand but large enough to house an army; a magical healing water from a fountain guarded by fierce lions; and a man one and a half feet high, with a thirty-foot-long beard and a huge iron staff. With Paribanou's help, Ahmed retrieves all of these things. The dwarf with the long beard is Paribanou's hideous and fearsome half-brother, Schaibar. When Schaibar arrives at the palace, the Sultan recoils from him, so Schaibar kills him, the sorceress, and most of the people of court with his iron bar. He then sets up Ahmed as the new sultan.
- There are two emperors: one is the ruler of the entire land, while the other rules a single providence.
- The sorcerer is the illegitimate son of one of the Emperor, who comes to him as a child after his mother dies.
- The sorcerer betrays his lover and teacher of sorcery to turn her into his serpent staff.
- The sorcerer looks for three bottles in order to cast a spell to make him all-powerful.
- The genie was originally human, but was turned into genie by a powerful guardian as punishment for stealing magic water.
- The genie did not assist in the defeat of the sorcerer; instead, Aladdin himself had magic able to take back the kingdom and only encountered the genie in subsequent adventures.
|Original Character||Adapted as||First Featured in|
|The Sorcerer||Jafar||"Down the Rabbit Hole"|
|The Emperor||Sultan (Street Rats)||"Street Rats"|
|Old Prisoner||"Trust Me"|
|The Genie||Magic Mirror||"The Thing You Love Most"|
|Cyrus||"Down the Rabbit Hole"|
|The Other Genie||Jafar||"A Wondrous Place"|
|The Vizier||Jafar||"Down the Rabbit Hole"|
|Shirin||Jasmine||"Strange Case" (used as alias)|
|Ali Baba||Aladdin||"The Savior" (allusion)|
|Ali Baba||"Street Rats" (mentioned)|
|Prince Ahmed||Prince Achmed||"A Wondrous Place"|
|Scheherazade||Scheherazade||"A Wondrous Place" (mentioned)|
|Original Location||Adapted as||First Featured in|
|The Emperor's Palace||Agrabahn City Palace||"Trust Me"|
|Capital of Agrabah Palace||"Street Rats"|
|The Magic Cave||Cave of Wonders||"Street Rats"|
|Forty Thieves' Cave||Cave of Wonders||"Street Rats" (allusion)|
|Original Item||Adapted as||First Featured in|
|The Lamp||Genie Lamps||"That Still Small Voice"|
|The Ring||The Agrabahn Jewel||"A Wondrous Place"|
|The Magic Carpet||The Flying Carpet||"Street Rats"|
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