You guys, we gotta talk about Aladdin.
For real. This definitely needs discussing.
I don’t mean the dewey-eyed Disney-fied Aladdin with catchy songs and a hilarious genie and hidden adult humor. When I say Aladdin, I mean ALADDIN. The original one. The one that I’ve spent a LOT of time with over the past few months.
Dudes. Aladdin is… and I really hate to break this to everyone… but he is most definitely not a hero. And he probably shouldn’t be a hero to anyone. If you didn’t click that link above, click this one. THAT is Aladdin. That’s what Disney looked at and decided “ehhhhh, maybe let’s fix some things here.”
And that’s what I want to talk about today.
So let’s break this down. I’m going to assume a lot of you aren’t clicking over to read Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (but really, you should definitely do that), so let me give you some highlights.
There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son called Aladdin, a careless, idle boy who would do nothing but play ball all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself. This so grieved the father that he died; yet, in spite of his mother’s tears and prayers, Aladdin did not mend his ways.
I’ll go out on a limb here and assume the father maybe died of hunger because he could only afford to feed two people, so he chose his wife and worthless kid. I suppose maybe seppuku could’ve been an option, but whatever. It begins by telling us Aladdin is such a crappy person, it killed his father. Clearly hero material. But people change, right? This must get better.
Let’s fast forward a bit. Aladdin falls for a trick, bumbles his way out of a magic cave, and goes home to his mother to continue doing nothing FOR YEARS. Until…
One day Aladdin heard an order from the Sultan proclaimed that everyone was to stay at home and close his shutters while the Princess, his daughter, went to and from the bath. Aladdin was seized by a desire to see her face, which was very difficult, as she always went veiled. He hid himself behind the door of the bath, and peeped through a chink. The Princess lifted her veil as she went in, and looked so beautiful that Aladdin fell in love with her at first sight. He went home so changed that his mother was frightened. He told her he loved the Princess so deeply that he could not live without her, and meant to ask her in marriage of her father.
So… he “falls in love” with a princess after watching her in the bath. Uh… okay, so maybe love at first sight can be a thing, but WTF, Aladdin? If I was his mother, I’d have marched him to the police myself. Seriously gross. But whatever, he’s the hero, so he’s gotta redeem himself, yes? Let’s fast forward again to his “beloved” being married off to someone else.
Aladdin then went to his chamber, where, sure enough, at midnight the genie transported the bed containing the Vizier’s son and the Princess. “Take this new-married man,” he said, “and put him outside in the cold, and return at daybreak.” Whereupon the genie took the Vizier’s son out of bed, leaving Aladdin with the Princess. “Fear nothing,” Aladdin said to her; “you are my wife, promised to me by your unjust father, and no harm shall come to you.” The Princess was too frightened to speak, and passed the most miserable night of her life, while Aladdin lay down beside her and slept soundly.
He slept soundly. Of course he did. Aladdin has demonstrated several times already that he cares NOTHING for other people’s wellbeing. And this isn’t even the halfway point of the story. He does this kidnapping a terrified woman thing twice before the Vizier’s son says “no thanks, I’m out” and Aladdin gets his way.
But maybe there’s a hero somewhere in this story, right? There’s gotta be.
When the three months were over, Aladdin sent his mother to remind the Sultan of his promise. She stood in the same place as before, and the Sultan, who had forgotten Aladdin, at once remembered him, and sent for her. On seeing her poverty the Sultan felt less inclined than ever to keep his word, and asked his Vizier’s advice, who counselled him to set so high a value on the Princess that no man living could come up to it.
Sultan said “I think this dude’s lying. I don’t trust him. Lemme try to stop this nonsense.” He’s a good guy, right?
Good woman, a Sultan must remember his promises, and I will remember mine, but your son must first send me forty basins of gold brimful of jewels, carried by forty black slaves, led by as many white ones, splendidly dressed. Tell him that I await his answer.
*sigh* Of course he’s pro-slavery AND racist (yeah, yeah, cultural and historical context, whatever). Somewhere along the way, someone has be redeemed here, don’t they?
Aladdin had won the hearts of the people by his gentle bearing. He was made captain of the Sultan’s armies, and won several battles for him, but remained modest and courteous as before, and lived thus in peace and content for several years.
I’m sorry, what? There’s a mention that he did this one thing where he scatters gold in the streets this ONE TIME, but that’s really about it. Is this the same lazy, self-absorbed, creepy ass Aladdin we’ve been reading about up to this point? The people apparently really love that dude for some reason.
Unluckily, Aladdin had gone a-hunting for eight days, which gave the magician plenty of time. He bought a dozen copper lamps, put them into a basket, and went to the palace, crying: “New lamps for old!” followed by a jeering crowd. The Princess, sitting in the hall of four- and-twenty windows, sent a slave to find out what the noise was about, who came back laughing, so that the Princess scolded her. “Madam,” replied the slave, “who can help laughing to see an old fool offering to exchange fine new lamps for old ones?” Another slave, hearing this, said: “There is an old one on the cornice there which he can have.” Now this was the magic lamp, which Aladdin had left there, as he could not take it out hunting with him. The Princess, not knowing its value, laughingly bade the slave take it and make the exchange. She went and said to the magician: “Give me a new lamp for this.” He snatched it and bade the slave take her choice, amid the jeers of the crowd.
So even the Princess is terrible and laughs at an old man, then does something really stupid. I’m sort of cheering for the magician, TBH. Everyone in this story is terrible.
This goes on for a while, but you already know the ending. Aladdin wins the day and lives happily ever after with his Princess.
All right, so if you’ve read my other Flipped Fairy Tales, you already know I have a thing for fixing these broken stories. This one needed some SERIOUS fixing. Enter Alida in Ride the Wind.
I already knew the moment she hit the page what my little street thief would become. I already knew the hardships she endured and I wanted better for her. So, I set my writer’s brain to work, and Dust in the Desert blossomed to life, much the same way as the city of Istara does within the book’s pages.
This month, I finished her story. It’s nearly ready for my editor, barring some last minute feedback from trusted eyeballs. You guys, I love my Flipped Fairy Tales so very much, but this one feels special to me. It feels vibrant, lively, yet sad in so many ways. It’s devastation and loss. It’s recovery and hope. It’s learning about oneself and moving forward despite any obstacle. It’s everything Aladdin should be. It takes note of the old, but refuses to fall into the same traps. But mostly, it’s about sacrifice. It’s about giving to others when you have nothing more to give than a smile. It’s doing the right thing when it costs you everything.
Stealing from the sultana had only one punishment. If I remained silent, a man would be hung and flayed in the market square in my place. I’d be free of reprisal, and all I had to do was nothing.
Perhaps the name Alida would vanish from the lips of the guards after that. Perhaps I’d become no more noticeable than the rest of the dust clinging to the city. Perhaps his death would allow my hope to come true, in that all I needed was another day or two of life before happiness found me.
If I did nothing, I still had a chance.
But if I did nothing, could I bear that cost in my heart?
Even more, would I deserve to get the things I most desired?
So allow me take this opportunity to invite you all to mark your calendars. On Monday, May 16th, 2016, Dust in the Desert will be released. I’ll reveal the cover about a month prior, which is a few short weeks from now. If you’re one of my mailing list subscribers, you’ll see this a full day before anyone else, so you may want to get on that now.
And so I leave you with that. I can’t wait to share this new tale with all of you, and I hope you’re excited to read it!
Elizabeth Barone says
Oh wow. I’d never read the original Aladdin. No wonder Disney doctored it up! I can’t wait to read Alida’s story.