Story of Aladdin beginning…
Aladdin rose and dressed early the next morning so he would be ready when his uncle came to fetch him. After he waited for what seemed a long time, impatience sent him to the door. He stood on the threshold, hoping to see his uncle arrive, and when he spotted the magician he called goodbye to his mother and ran to meet him.
The magician was full of tenderness for Aladdin. “Let us go, my boy,” he said with a smile. “I want to show you some wonderful things.” They passed through a gate which led to a series of splendid houses, or rather palaces, each with magnificent gardens that could be freely entered. Before each palace they passed, the magician asked Aladdin whether he found it beautiful, and Aladdin, seeing the next one loom into view, would answer ahead of the question: “Uncle, that palace is even lovelier than all those we have seen.” Still they pressed on into the countryside, and the wily magician, who wanted to go even further to carry out his design, stepped inside one of the gardens. He went to sit by a large fountain, which the nostrils of a bronze lion supplied with fresh water, and feigned exhaustion. “You must be just as tired as I am,” he said to Aladdin. “Let us catch our breath here. We shall need all our strength for the rest of our walk.”
While they were sitting there, the magician unfolded a handkerchief that hung from his belt, where he had concealed all sorts of cakes and fruits, and which he spread out on the edge of the fountain. He shared a cake with Aladdin and let him choose from the fruit. As they ate, he advised the boy to part ways with his childish friends and instead to seek the company of wise and cautious men. “Soon,” he said, “you will be a man like them, and it is never too early to learn from their example.” When they had finished their meal, they got up and proceeded through the gardens, which were set apart from each other only by the slim furrows that marked their borders without impeding access such as the good faith of the city’s inhabitants that they needed no other boundaries to protect themselves from trouble. By degrees, the magician led Aladdin out of the gardens and into the countryside, until they had almost reached the mountains.
Aladdin, who had not walked so far in his life, was weary.
“Uncle,” he said, “where are we going? We have left the gardens far behind us, and all I see now are mountains. If we walk any farther, I am afraid I would not have the strength to go back to the city.”
“Take courage, my boy,” said the false uncle, “I want to show you another garden, which outshines all those you have seen. It is only a few paces from here. When we arrive, you will tell me yourself what a shame it would have been to have missed it, having come so close.”
Aladdin yielded, and the magician took him much farther still, beguiling him all the while with stories.
At last, they reached a narrow pass between two mountains. It was to this strange place that the magician had sought to lure Aladdin now he could realize the dream that had brought him from the edge of Africa all the way to China. “We will go no farther,” said the magician. “I want to show you rare and wonderful things. But first, gather up the driest brushwood you can find while I kindle a fire.”
The undergrowth was so dense that Aladdin had soon collected enough in the time the magician took to light a flame. As the wood burned, the magician scattered a few drops of fragrant oil over the fire. A thick column of smoke rose up, which he swayed this way and that with a sweep of his hand, muttering words Aladdin did not understand.
At that moment the earth trembled and cracked, revealing beneath its surface a stone, about a foot square, laid flat and fitted with a bronze ring by which it could be lifted. Aladdin, terrified, tried to flee, but the magician detained him, and in his anger struck him so hard across the cheek that he fell to earth. There flowed from him such a quantity of blood it seemed that his front teeth had been knocked clean out of his mouth.
“Uncle!” poor Aladdin cried, trembling and tearful, “what have I done to deserve your blows?”
“I have my reasons,” replied the magician. “I am your uncle I may as well be your father. You are not to talk back to me. But fear nothing,” he said more softly. “All I ask is your obedience if you are to be worthy of the great reward that will soon be yours to enjoy.”
These promises appeared to ease Aladdin’s fears. When the magician saw that he had regained his trust, he went on.
“Beneath this stone is a treasure destined for you, which will make you richer than the greatest kings of the earth. No one but you is allowed to touch the treasure even I am forbidden from going near it. But to find it you must do exactly as I say.”
At the thought of the treasure, Aladdin forgot his fears. “I will obey,” he said. “What should I do?”
“Take that ring,” said the magician, “and lift up the stone.”
“But I am not strong enough,” said Aladdin, “I need your help.”
“You do not need anyone. Besides, nothing would happen if I helped you. You must lift it alone. Say the names of your father and grandfather when you take hold of it, and you will find it no weight at all.”
Aladdin did as the magician said and lifted the stone with ease.
Space beneath revealed a set of steps leading into a vault three or four feet deep.
“Go down,” said the magician. “At the foot of those steps is an open door leading into three large rooms. There you will find many bronze vessels full of gold and silver, but you must go through the rooms without touching anything. Not even your cloak must brush the walls keep it wrapped close around you. Otherwise, you would die in an instant. The third room will lead you into a garden of fine trees heavy with fruit. Walk on until you see a flight of fifty steps. At the top is an alcove, and in the alcove, a lamp. Take the lamp, throw out the oil it contains, and bring it to me. Do not worry about staining your cloak: the fuel is not really oil, and the lamp will be dry as soon as you have poured it out. As for the fruits in the garden, you may pick as many as you wish. That is not forbidden.”
He slipped a ring off his finger and gave it to Aladdin, saying it would protect him from harm. “Go now,” he said, “and be brave. We shall both be rich for the rest of our lives.”
Aladdin went into the vault and passed through the rooms with great caution, afraid of death. He crossed the garden like the wind, flew up the stairs, took the burning lamp from its niche, threw out the wick with the oil, and, finding it as dry as the magician had said, put it in his cloak. Back down the steps, he went, pausing only to consider the trees, which were bright with extraordinary fruit there were white fruits, others clear and smooth as crystal, and red fruits, some darker than others, and also green, blue, violet, and yellowish fruits, and other colors too. Looking closer, Aladdin saw that the white ones were pearls; the clear and smooth ones, diamonds; the red were rubies, some darker than others the green, emeralds; the blue, turquoise the violet, amethysts; the yellowish ones
were sapphires, and so it was with the others, all of the jewels. Their size was unimaginable and their beauty without description. Aladdin, who had no idea of their value, was not struck by the sight of these fruits and was not drawn to them as he might have been to figs or grapes, or any of the other fine fruits that grow in China. Nor was he old enough to know their worth: he thought them nothing more than colored glass. And yet he was compelled, by their beauty and size, and by the variety of their colors, to pick them from the trees. He filled both his pockets with these fruits, as well as the two new pouches which the magician had bought with his clothes, and even wrapped some in the fabric of his belt, which was a long bolt of silk, to keep them from falling.
Unaware of the riches he carried, Aladdin hurried back through the rooms with the same caution as before and arrived at the mouth of the vault, where the magician stood ready to meet him.
“Please,” said Aladdin, “give me your hand and help me up.”
“First give me the lamp,” said the magician. “It might weigh you down.”
“Forgive me,” replied Aladdin, “it is no weight at all. I will hand it to you as soon as I am out.”
The magician insisted on having the lamp first, but Aladdin, who had buried it beneath the piles of fruit he carried, refused. The magician went into a dreadful rage, and, throwing some of his oil on the fire, he spoke a few magic words, and the stone rolled back over the vault, and the earth closed over the stone.
NOW, THIS MAGICIAN was not, as he had claimed, the brother of Mustafa the tailor. It follows that he was no uncle of Aladdin’s either. He was, in fact, from North Africa, where he had been born, and since the Maghreb is a place more given to magic than any other, he had applied himself to it since childhood. After forty years of spells and study, of divination by sand and by smoke, he had discovered the existence of a magic lamp, which would make him more powerful than any ruler in the universe if he could only become its owner. His last geomantic reading had revealed to him that the lamp was buried underground in the middle of China. Certain of this revelation, he had left the edge of Africa, and after an arduous journey had arrived in the town that lay closest to the treasure.
And yet, though he had discovered the lamp’s location, it was not permitted to him to remove it, nor to enter the underground chamber himself. Another had to go in his place, find the lamp, and bring it back to him. For this purpose he had picked out Aladdin, who seemed to him a boy of no consequence, and determined, once he had the lamp in his hands, to perform the sorcery I have described and sacrifice the poor fool to his greed so that there should be no witnesses. By striking him on the face and imposing his will, he sought only to encourage in Aladdin a habit of fear and submission, so that when the magician came to ask for the lamp, Aladdin would hand it over at once. But the opposite ensued. In the end, he betrayed Aladdin sooner than he had intended, fearing that if they argued any longer, someone might overhear them and make known what he had tried to conceal.
When the magician saw his great hopes dashed, he had no choice but to return to his homeland, which he did the very same day. He took a circuitous path to avoid the city he had left with Aladdin, fearing that he would be seen returning without the boy.
That should have been the last anyone heard of Aladdin. But the man who believed he had erased him from the earth had also supplied him with a means of escape. Indeed, the ring was to be Aladdin’s salvation, and it is a wonder that its loss, along with that of the lamp, did not drive the magician to despair. Yet magicians are so accustomed to setbacks and disappointments that they never give up on their lifelong diet of dreams, smoke, and visions.