Story of Aladdin beginning…
Majesty, in the capital of one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms, whose name escapes me at present, there lived a tailor named Mustafa, who had no other distinction but his craft. This tailor was very poor, and his work scarcely earned him enough to feed himself, his wife, and a son that God had given them.
The son, whose name was Aladdin, had received a careless upbringing, which instilled in him wild tendencies: he grew to be cruel, stubborn, and rebellious. After a certain age, his parents could not keep him indoors, and he spent his days playing in the streets and public squares with idle boys, some even younger than himself.
When Aladdin was old enough to learn a craft, his father, who knew only his own, took him into the shop and tried to teach him needlework. But neither gentleness nor punishment could still his son’s wandering mind. As soon as the tailor had his back turned, Aladdin would escape and stay out until evening, and, unable to change his ways, Mustafa was forced to abandon his son to his dissipation. This pained him, and the grief of failing to guide his son to his duty brought about such a violent illness that he died a few months later.
Aladdin’s mother, seeing her son renounce his father’s craft, closed the shop and had all his tools melted into silver, which, together with the little she earned spinning cotton, kept them both alive.
No longer restrained by the fear of his father, and so untroubled by his mother that he turned on her at the slightest rebuke, Aladdin gave in fully to his dissolute ways. He surrounded himself with boys of his own age and threw himself into their games, idling the years away until he was fifteen, without the slightest curiosity for anything at all and with no thought of what he might become. Then one day, while Aladdin was playing in a square with his band of vagabonds, a stranger passing by stopped to look at him.
This stranger was a remarkable sorcerer, whom the authors of this story have called the Maghrebi magician, and that is what I shall call him since he was indeed from North Africa, and had arrived only two days before.
Whether or not the magician, who knew the art of reading faces, had seen in Aladdin’s features the answer to his journey’s quest, he inquired discreetly about his family, his condition, and his character. When he had learned all he wished to know, he approached the young man and steered him a little way from his friends.
“My boy,” he said, “isn’t your father Mustafa the tailor?”
“He was,” replied Aladdin, “but he has been dead a long time.”
At these words, the magician threw his arms around Aladdin and kissed him many times, sighing and full of tears. Aladdin asked him why he wept.
“Ah, my boy,” cried the magician, “how could I not? I am your uncle, and your father was my dear brother. My travels have kept me away for many years, and just as I return in the hope of seeing him again and giving him the pleasure of my homecoming, you tell me he is dead. It aches to be deprived of that consolation. But I see his face in yours, and that, at least, is some comfort.”
Reaching for his purse, he asked Aladdin where his mother lived, and when the answer came, the magician handed him a pocketful of change.
“Go to your mother,” he said, “give her my compliments, and say that if time permits I will visit her tomorrow, so that I may see the house where my dear the brother lived and died.”
When the magician took his leave of the nephew he had just invented, Aladdin ran to his mother’s house, pleased with his pocketful of coins.
“Mother,” he said, “do I have any uncles?”
“None,” replied his mother, “neither on your father’s side nor on mine.”
“And yet I have just seen a man who claims to be my father’s brother. He even set about kissing me, weeping, when I told him my father was dead. If you don’t believe me, look at what he gave me. He sends you his compliments and said he would come and greet you in person tomorrow, to see the house where my father lived and died.”
“It is true,” said his mother, “that your father had a brother, but he died a long time ago, and I never heard him mention another.”
The following day, the magician approached Aladdin a second time, as he was playing in another part of town with other children. Again he embraced him, and, handing him two gold coins, he said: “Take these to your mother, and tell her to expect me for supper this evening. But first, tell me where the house is.” He told him, and the magician let him go.
Aladdin brought the gold coins home to his mother. She spent the money on provisions and the day preparing supper, and, as she lacked much of the tableware she would need, she went to borrow some from the neighbors. When it was ready she said to Aladdin: “Your uncle may not know how to find us. Go out and lead him here if you see him.” He was ready to leave when there was a knock at the door. He opened it and the magician entered, laden with wine and fruit. These he gave to Aladdin, and, after greeting his mother, he asked her to show him the place on the sofa where Mustafa used to sit. She showed him, and he fell upon the spot with kisses and tears.
“My poor brother!” he cried. “How sad I am to have come too late to embrace you once more before you left us!” Though Aladdin’s mother offered, he could not bring himself to sit in the same place. “I would not dare,” he said, “but allow me to sit across from it, here, and imagine his presence among us.” Aladdin’s mother did not insist and let him sit where he pleased.
When the magician had chosen his seat, he spoke.
“My dear sister,” he began, “do not be surprised that this is our first meeting it has been forty years since I left this country, which is mine no less than it was my late brother’s. In that time, I have traveled to India, to Persia, to Arabia, to Syria, and to Egypt, and stayed in their finest cities, before moving on to the Maghreb, where I settled. In the end, since it is natural, however far one stray from the land of one’s birth, never to let its memory fade, I formed such a strong desire to see my country again and to embrace my dear brother, while I still had the strength to undertake the journey, that I made my preparations and set off without delay. I will say nothing of the time it has taken me, nor of all the obstacles I met and the trouble, I suffered to arrive here. I will only tell you that nothing has caused me more distress on my travels than the news of my brother’s death. I recognized his features in my nephew’s face, and that is how I picked him out from the other children. He will have told you how I received the dreadful news, but we must praise God for all things. I am comforted, at least, to see his face in that of his son.”
The magician, seeing the mother falter at the memory of her husband, changed the subject, and, turning to Aladdin, asked him for his name.
“My name is Aladdin.”
“Well, Aladdin, how do you occupy yourself? Do you have a craft?”
Unsettled by the question, Aladdin averted his eyes. His mother answered instead.
“Aladdin is lazy,” she said. “His father did all he could to teach him his trade and got nowhere. Since he died, despite all my efforts, my son’s only occupation has been to roam the streets where you found him, playing with the other children, though he is no longer a child. Unless you can talk some shame into him, I despair of what he will become. He knows that his father had nothing to his name and that for all my spinning I struggle to feed us both. One day I will show him the door and send him out into the world alone.”
At these words, Aladdin’s mother began to weep. “This is no good, my boy,” said the magician. “You must think of earning your keep. There are all kinds of trades, and you are bound to find one you like more than the others. Perhaps what suited your father is not right for you. There is no need to hide anything from me I only want to help.” As Aladdin said nothing, he went on. “If you are reluctant to learn a craft and wish to become a gentleman, I can set you up as a cloth merchant. You would have your own shop, and you would make an honorable living. Consider it, and tell me frankly what you think. You will always find me ready to keep my promise.”
The offer flattered Aladdin, who disliked manual work, and who was not such a fool that he did not know that the shops in question were clean and sought-after, and their merchants well dressed and well respected. He declared to the magician, whom he now regarded as his uncle, that he felt more drawn to the cloth trade than to any other, and that he would always be indebted to him for his kindness. “Since you like the idea,” said the magician, “I will take you with me tomorrow and have you dressed in splendid new clothes worthy of the richest merchants in this city. The following day we shall set you up in your shop.”
Aladdin’s mother, who until then had not believed that the magician might be her husband’s brother, banished all doubt after hearing what he pledged to do for her son. She thanked him for his good intentions and, after urging Aladdin to show himself worthy of all the blessings his uncle had promised, served supper. Their talk ran on the same subject all through the meal, until the magician, who saw that it was late, took leave of the mother and her son.
The next morning he returned as promised, and took Aladdin off with him to a merchant who sold clothes made from the finest fabrics and cut for every age and circumstance. He asked for Aladdin’s size, and, after setting aside the most beautiful items and discarding the others, told him to take his pick. Charmed by his new uncle’s generosity, Aladdin chose an outfit, and the magician paid for it
When Aladdin saw himself so magnificently dressed from head to toe, he thanked his uncle in every way he knew, and the magician repeated his promise never to abandon him. He took him to the most fashionable parts of the city, where the shops of rich merchants were, and when they came to the street with the grandest shops selling the very finest cloth, he said to Aladdin: “As you will soon be a merchant like these, you should acquaint yourself with them, and they with you.” Then he took him to the most impressive mosques, to the khans where the foreign merchants lodged, and to those parts of the sultan’s palace that they had the liberty to enter. At last, having seen their fill of the city, they came to the khan where the magician had taken a room. They were met by a party of merchants he had befriended since he arrived, and whom he had invited to dinner in order to introduce them to his so-called nephew.
The feast went on until evening. At length, Aladdin made his excuses, and the magician insisted on walking him to his mother’s door. When she saw her son in his new clothes, she let out a cry of rapture and a thousand blessings on the magician.
“Dear brother!” she said. “I know that my son does not deserve your gifts and that he would be unworthy of them if he did not rise to the confidence you have placed in him. As for me, let me thank you again with all my soul, and wish you a life long enough to be a witness to his gratitude, for which he could find no better expression than to govern himself as you have proposed.”
“Aladdin is a good boy,” the magician replied. “He listens to me, and I believe we will make something of him. My only worry is that I cannot fulfill what I promised to do tomorrow, as it is Friday and the shops will be closed, and we cannot hope to rent and furnish one of our own while the other merchants have a mind only for leisure. We will put off our business on Saturday, but let us
still keep our appointment tomorrow. I will take him to the gardens where the fashionable crowd likes to be seen. I do not think he knows much of the entertainment they enjoy there. He has tasted so far only childish pleasures. Now he must see those of men.” Then the magician went on his way. Aladdin, elated by his new clothes, was now thrilled at the thought of seeing the gardens outside the city, for he had never left its walls, nor glimpsed its surroundings.