Aladdin was the only son of a poor widow who lived in China; but instead of helping his mother to earn their living, he let her do all the hard work, while he himself only thought of idling and amusement.
One day, as he was playing in the streets, a stranger came up to him, saying that he was his father's brother, and claiming him as his long-lost nephew. Aladdin had never heard that his father had had a brother; but as the stranger gave him money and promised to buy him fine clothes and set him up in business, he was quite ready to believe all that he told him. The man was a magician, who wanted to use Aladdin for his own purposes.
The next day the stranger came again, brought Aladdin a beautiful suit of clothes, gave him many good things to eat, and took him for a long walk, telling him stories all the while to amuse him. After they had walked a long way, they came to a narrow valley, bounded on either side by tall, gloomy-looking mountains. Aladdin was beginning to feel tired, and he did not like the look of this place at all. He wanted to turn back; but the stranger would not let him. He made Aladdin follow him still farther, until at length they reached the place where he intended to carry out his evil design. Then he made Aladdin gather sticks to make a fire, and when they were in a blaze he threw into them some powder, at the same time saying some mystical words, which Aladdin could not understand.
Immediately they were surrounded with a thick cloud of smoke. The earth trembled, and burst open at their feet disclosing a large flat stone with a brass ring fixed in it. Aladdin was so terribly frightened that he was about to run away; but the Magician gave him such a blow on the ear that he fell to the ground.
Poor Aladdin rose to his feet with eyes full of tears, and said, reproachfully
"Uncle, what have I done that you should treat me so?"
"You should not have tried to run away from me," said the Magician, "when I have brought you here only for your own advantage. Under this stone there is hidden a treasure which will make you richer than the richest monarch in the world. You alone may touch it. If I assist you in any way the spell will be broken, but if you obey me faithfully, we shall both be rich for the rest of our lives. Come, take hold of the brass ring and lift the stone."
Aladdin forgot his fears in the hope of gaining this wonderful treasure, and took hold of the brass ring. It yielded at once to his touch, and he was able to lift the great stone quite easily and move it away, which disclosed a flight of steps, leading down into the ground.
"Go down these steps," commanded the Magician, "and at the bottom you will find a great cavern, divided into three halls, full of vessels of gold and silver; but take care you do not meddle with these. If you touch anything in the halls you will meet with instant death. The third hall will bring you into a garden, planted with fine fruit trees. When you have crossed the garden, you will come to a terrace, where you will find a niche, and in the niche a lighted lamp. Take the lamp down, and when you have put out the light and poured away the oil, bring it to me. If you would like to gather any of the fruit of the garden you may do so, provided you do not linger."
Then the Magician put a ring on Aladdin's finger, which he told him was to preserve him from evil, and sent him down into the cavern.
Aladdin found everything just as the Magician had said. He passed through the three halls, crossed the garden, took down the lamp from the niche, poured out the oil, put the lamp into his bosom, and turned to go back.
As he came down from the terrace, he stopped to look at the trees of the garden, which were laden with wonderful fruits. To Aladdin's eyes it appeared as if these fruits were only bits of colored glass, but in reality they were jewels of the rarest quality. Aladdin filled his pockets full of the dazzling things, for though he had no idea of their real value, yet he was attracted by their dazzling brilliance. He had so loaded himself with these treasures that when at last he came to the steps he was unable to climb them without assistance.
"Pray, Uncle," he said, "give me your hand to help me out."
"Give me the lamp first," replied the Magician.
"Really, Uncle, I cannot do so until I am out of this place," answered Aladdin, whose hands were, indeed, so full that he could not get at the lamp.
But the Magician refused to help Aladdin up the steps until he had handed over the lamp. Aladdin was equally determined not to give it up until he was out of the cavern, and, at last, the Magician fell into a furious rage. Throwing some more of the powder into the fire, he again said the magic words. No sooner had he done so than there was a tremendous thunder-clap, the stone rolled back into its place, and Aladdin was a prisoner in the cavern. The poor boy cried aloud to his supposed uncle to help him; but it was all in vain, his cries could not be heard. The doors in the garden were closed by the same enchantment, and Aladdin sat down on the steps in despair, knowing that there was little hope of his ever seeing his Mother again.
For two terrible days he lay in the cavern waiting for death. On the third day, realizing that it could not now be far off, he clasped his hands in anguish, thinking of his Mother's sorrow; and in so doing he accidently rubbed the ring which the Magician had put upon his finger.
Immediately a genie of enormous size rose out of the earth, and, as Aladdin started back in fright and horror, said to him:
"What wouldst thou have of me?"
"Who are you?" gasped Aladdin.
"I am the slave of the ring. I am ready to obey thy commands," came the answer.
Aladdin was still trembling; but the danger he was in already made him answer without hesitation:
"Then, if you are able, deliver me, I beseech you, from this place."
Scarcely had he spoken, when he found himself lying on the ground at the place to which the Magician had first brought him.
He hastened home to his Mother, who had mourned him as dead. As soon as he had told her all his adventures, he begged her to get him some food, for he had now been three days without eating.
"Alas, child!" replied his Mother, "I have not a bit of bread to give you."
"Never mind, Mother," said Aladdin, "I will go and sell the old lamp which I brought home with me. Doubtless I shall get a little money for it."
His Mother reached down the lamp; but seeing how dirty it was, she thought it would sell better if she cleaned it. But no sooner had she begun to rub it than a hideous genie appeared before her, and said in a voice like thunder:
"What wouldst thou have of me? I am ready to obey thy commands, I and all the other slaves of the lamp."
Aladdin's Mother fainted away at the sight of this creature; but Aladdin, having seen the genie of the ring, was not so frightened, and said boldly:
"I am hungry, bring me something to eat."
The genie disappeared, but returned in an instant with twelve silver dishes, filled with different kinds of savory meats, six large white loaves, two bottles of wine, and two silver drinking cups. He placed these things on the table and then vanished.
Aladdin fetched water, and sprinkling some on his Mother's face soon brought her back to life again.
When she opened her eyes and saw all the good things the genie had provided, she was overcome with astonishment.
"To whom are we indebted for this feast?" she cried. "Has the Sultan heard of our poverty and sent us these fine things from his own table?"
"Never mind now how they came here," said Aladdin. "Let us first eat, then I will tell you."
Mother and son made a hearty meal, and then Aladdin told his Mother that it was the genie of the lamp who had brought them the food. His Mother was greatly alarmed, and begged him to have nothing further to do with genies, advising him to sell the lamp at once. But Aladdin would not part with such a wonderful possession, and resolved to keep both the ring and the lamp safely, in case he should ever need them again. He showed his Mother the fruits which he had gathered in the garden, and his Mother admired their bright colors and dazzling radiance, though she had no idea of their real value.
Not many days after this, Aladdin was walking in the streets of the city, when he heard a fanfare of trumpets announcing the passing of the Princess Badroulboudour, the Sultan's only daughter. Aladdin stopped to see her go by, and was so struck by her great beauty that he fell in love with her on the spot and made up his mind to win her for his bride.
"Mother," he said, "I cannot live without the Princess Badroulboudour. You must go to the Sultan and demand her hand in marriage for me."
Aladdin's Mother burst out laughing at the idea of her son wishing to be the son-in-law of the Sultan, and told him to put such thoughts out of his head at once. But Aladdin was not to be laughed out of his fancy. He knew by this time that the fruits which he had gathered from the magic garden were jewels of great value, and he insisted upon his Mother taking them to the Sultan for a present, and asking the hand of the Princess in marriage for her son.
The poor woman was terribly frightened, fearing lest the Sultan should punish her for her impudence; but Aladdin would hear of no excuses, and at last she set forth in fear and trembling, bearing the jewels on a china dish covered with a napkin.
When she came before the Sultan, she told him, with many apologies and pleas for forgiveness, of her son's mad love for the Princess Badroulboudour. The Sultan smiled at the idea of the son of a poor old woman asking for the hand of his daughter, and asked her what she had under the napkin. But when the woman uncovered the jewels, he started up from his throne in amazement, for he had never before seen so many large and magnificent jewels collected together. He thought Aladdin must be a very unusual and extraordinary person to be able to make him such a valuable present, and he began to wonder whether it might not be worth while to bestow the Princess's hand upon him. However, he thought he would ask for some further proof of his wealth and power; so, turning to the woman, he said:
"Good Mother, tell your son he shall have the Princess Badroulboudour for his wife as soon as he sends me forty basins of gold, filled with jewels as valuable as these, and borne by forty black and forty white slaves. Hasten now and carry him my message. I will await your return."
Aladdin's Mother was dismayed at this request.
"Where can Aladdin get such basins and jewels and slaves?" she thought, as she hurried home to him. But Aladdin only smiled when his Mother gave him the Sultan's message. He rubbed the lamp, and at once the genie stood before him, asking him what was his pleasure.
"Go," said Aladdin, "fetch me forty basins all of massive gold, full of jewels, borne by forty black and forty white slaves."
The genie brought these things at once, and Aladdin then sent his Mother with them to the Sultan.
The Sultan was amazed at this wonderful show of wealth and at the quickness with which it had been brought, and he sent for Aladdin to come to the Court.
Aladdin first summoned the genie to bring him fine clothes and a splendid horse, and a retinue fit for the future son-in-law of the Sultan; and then, with a train of slaves bearing magnificent presents for the Princess, he set out for the Palace.
The Sultan would have married him to his daughter at once; but Aladdin asked him to wait until the next morning, when he hoped to have a Palace worthy to receive his wife.
Once again he summoned the genie to his aid, and commanded him to build a Palace that in beauty and magnificence should surpass any that had ever been built on the earth before.
The next morning when the Sultan awoke and looked out of his window, he saw, opposite to his own, the most wonderful Palace he had ever seen. The walls were built of gold and silver, and encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, and other rare and precious stones. The stables were filled with the finest horses; beautiful gardens surrounded the building, and everywhere were hundreds of slaves and servants to wait on the Princess.
The Sultan was so overcome with all this magnificence, that he insisted upon marrying his daughter to Aladdin that very day, and the young couple took up their residence in the Palace the genie had built.
For a time they lived very happily, but the Magician, who had gone to Africa after he had left Aladdin to perish in the cavern, at length happened to hear of Aladdin's fame and riches; and guessing at once the source of all this wealth, he returned once more to China, determined to gain possession of the magic lamp.
He bought a number of new and beautiful lamps, disguised himself as an old beggar-man, and then, waiting until Aladdin was out hunting, he came to the windows of the Palace, crying out:
"New lamps for old; new lamps for old."
When the Princess heard this strange cry she was very much amused.
"Let us see," she said to her ladies, "whether this foolish fellow means what he says; there is an ugly old lamp in Aladdin's room," and taking the precious lamp, which Aladdin always kept by his bedside, she sent it out to the old man by one of the slaves, saying
"Give me a new lamp for this!"
The Magician was overjoyed. He saw at once that it was the very lamp he wanted, and giving the Princess the best of the new ones in exchange, he hurried away with his treasure. As soon as he found himself alone, he summoned the slave of the lamp, and told him to carry himself, the Palace, and the Princess Badroulboudour to the farthest corner of Africa. This order the genie at once obeyed.
When Aladdin returned from hunting and found that his wife and his Palace had vanished, he was overcome with anguish, guessing that his enemy, the Magician, had by some means got possession of the lamp. The Sultan, whose grief and anger at the loss of his daughter were terrible, ordered him to leave the Court at once, and told him that unless he returned in forty days with the Princess safe and well, he would have him beheaded.
Aladdin went out from the Sultan's presence, not knowing what to do or where to turn. But after he had wandered about for some time in despair, he remembered the ring which he still wore on his finger. He rubbed it, and in a moment the genie stood before him. But when Aladdin commanded him to bring back the Palace and the Princess, the genie answered
"What you command is not in my power. You must ask the slave of the lamp. I am only the slave of the ring."
"Then," said Aladdin, "if you cannot bring my Palace to me, I command you to take me to my Palace." No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he found himself standing in Africa, close to the missing Palace.
The Princess Badroulboudour, who, since the moment when the Magician had had her in his power, had not ceased to weep and lament for her foolishness in exchanging the lamp, happened to be looking out of the window; and when she saw Aladdin she nearly fainted with joy, and sent a slave to bring him secretly into the Palace.
Then she and Aladdin made a plan to get the better of the Magician and to recover the lost lamp. Aladdin summoned the genie of the ring, who procured for him a very powerful sleeping-powder, which he gave to the Princess. Then Aladdin hid himself behind some curtains in the room, and the Princess sent a message to the Magician asking him to take supper with her.
The Magician was delighted at the Princess's invitation, and accepted it joyfully, never dreaming that Aladdin had found his way to Africa.
As they were eating and drinking together, the Princess put the sleeping-powder into the Magician's cup of wine and no sooner had he tasted it than he fell down in a deep sleep as if dead.
This was Aladdin's chance. Hastily coming out from behind the curtains, he snatched the lamp from the Magician's bosom, and called the genie to come to his assistance.
The genie, having first thrown out the Magician, then carried the Palace with the Princess and Aladdin back to the spot from which it had been taken.
Great was the Sultan's joy at receiving back his daughter. The whole city was given over to rejoicings, and for ten days nothing was heard but the sound of drums and trumpets and cymbals, and nothing was seen but illuminations and gorgeous entertainments in honor of Aladdin's safe return.
Aladdin and the Princess ascended the throne after the Sultan died and they lived long and happily and had many beautiful children.