Saturday, April 21, 2012

A History of Pantomime (1901) - RJ Broadbent

Pantomimes, stage musicals popular in the UK featuring satires of politics and pop culture things, have long been associated with the Nights, there are versions of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sindbad to name the most well-known ones.

Below is a short snippet from:

Title: A History of Pantomime (1901)

Author: R. J. Broadbent

It outlines some background (some more solidly "true" than others) to the Nights related pantos.

You can access the entire book for free on, in many formats.


"Of the Pantomime subjects, whose origin we are going to enquire into,
let us first commence with "Aladdin."

According to the many versions of this popular story in Europe and Asia,
it would seem that its origin originally was of Buddhist extraction. In
our common English version of "Aladdin," in "The Arabian Nights," which
was taken from Galland's French version, it is doubtless an Eastern
picture. It does not occur, however, in any known Arabian text (says
Mr. Clouston, in "Popular Tales," and to whose work I am indebted for
much of the information for this chapter) of "The Thousand and One
Nights" (_Elf Laila wa Laila_), although the chief incidents are found
in many Asiatic fictions, and it had become orally current in Greece and
Italy before it was published by Galland. A popular Italian version,
which presents a close analogy to the familiar story of "Aladdin"
(properly "_Ala-u-d-Din_," signifying "Exaltation of the Faith") is
given by Miss M.H. Busk, in her "Folklore of Rome," under the title of
"How Cajusse was married."

A good natured looking old man one day knocks at the door of a poor
tailor out of work; his son, opening the door, is told by the old man
that he is his uncle, and he gives him half a piastre to buy a good
dinner. When the tailor comes home--he was absent at the time--he is
surprised to hear the old man claim him as a brother, but finding him so
rich he does not dispute the matter. After the old man had lived some
time with the tailor and his family, literally defraying all the
household expenses, he finds it necessary to depart, and with the
tailor's consent takes the boy Cajusse with him, in order that he may
learn some useful business. But no sooner do they get outside the town
than he tells Cajusse that it is all a dodge. "I'm not your uncle," he
says, "I want a strong, daring boy to do something I am too old to do.
I'm a wizard--don't attempt to escape for you can't." Cajusse, not a bit
frightened, asks him what it is he wants him to do; and the wizard
raises a flat stone from the ground, and orders him to go down, and
after he gets to the bottom of the cave to proceed until he comes to a
beautiful garden, where he will see a fierce dog keeping watch. "Here's
bread for him. Don't look back when you hear sounds behind you. On a
shelf you will see an old lantern; take it down, and bring it to me." So
saying the wizard gave Cajusse a ring, in case anything awkward should
happen to him after he had got the lantern, when he had only to rub the
ring, and wish for deliverance. Cajusse finds precious stones hanging
like frost from the trees in the garden underground, and he fills his
pocket with them. Returning to the entrance of the cave, he refuses to
give up the lantern till he has been drawn out; so the wizard thinking
merely to frighten him replaces the stone. Cajusse finding himself thus
entrapped rubs the ring, when instantly the Slave of the Ring appears,
and the youth at once orders the table to be laid for dinner. He then
calls for his mother and father, and they all have an unusually good
meal. Some time afterwards, Cajusse had returned home, the town was
illuminated, one day in honour of the marriage of the Sultan's daughter
to the Vizier's son. He sends his mother to the palace with a basket of
jewels, and, to demand the Sultan's daughter in marriage. The Sultan is
astounded at the purity of the gems, and says he will give his answer in
a month. At the end of the same week the Grand Vizier's son is married
to the Princess. Cajusse rubs his lantern and says "Go to-night and take
the daughter of the Sultan and lay her on a poor pallet in our
outhouse." This is done, and Cajusse begins to talk to her, but she is
far too frightened to answer. The Sultan learns of his daughter's
whereabouts, and does not know what to make of the strange business. The
son of the Vizier complains to his father that his wife disappears every
night, and comes back just before dawn. Cajusse now sends his mother to
the Sultan with three more baskets full of jewels, and the Sultan tells
her he may come and see him at the palace. Having received this message,
Cajusse rubs the lantern, gets a dress of gold and silver, a richly
caparisoned horse, four pages with rich dresses to ride behind them, and
one to go before, distributing money to the people. Cajusse is next
married to the Princess, and they live together in a most magnificent
palace with great happiness. By-and-bye the old wizard hears of this,
and resolves to obtain the lantern by hook or by crook. Disguising
himself as a pedlar he comes to the palace calling out the familiar "New
lamps for old." By this means he obtains the precious lamp, and
immediately transports the palace and the princess to an island in the
high seas. Cajusse, by the aid of the magic ring, quickly follows, to
find his princess a prisoner in the power of the wizard. He then gives
her this advice: "Make a feast to-night; say you'll marry the old wizard
if he'll tell you what thing would be fatal to him, and you will guard
him against it." The princess gets from the magician the fatal secret.
"One must go into a far distant forest," he says "Where there is a beast
called the hydra, and cut off his seven heads. If the middle head is
split open a leveret will jump out and run off. If the leveret is split
open, a bird will fly out. If the bird is caught and opened, in its body
is a precious stone, and should that be placed under my pillow I shall
die." Cajusse accomplishes all these things, and gives the life-stone to
the princess, together with a bottle of opium. The princess drugs the
wizard's wine, and when he had laid his head on his pillow (under which
was the stone) he gave three terrible yells, turned himself round three
times, and was dead. After thus ridding themselves of their enemy,
Cajusse and his bride lived happy ever afterwards.

Aladdin's adventure with the magician in the enchanted cave has also its
counterpart in Germany (see Grimms' German Collection).

Another "Aladdin" version is the tale of Maruf, the last in the Bulak
and Calcutta printed Arabic texts of the "Book of Maruf" in "The
Thousand and One Nights." The story is to the effect that Maruf had
given out that he was a rich man, under which false pretence he marries
the Sultan's daughter. The tale he spread about was that he was
expecting the arrival of a rich caravan, which contained all his
princely wealth. After they were married, Maruf confesses to his wife
the imposture he has practised on them. She urges him to fly, or his
head would be forfeited, and procures him a disguise to flee the
country. He does so, and, whilst journeying through a village, he sees a
man ploughing in a field, whom he asks for food. Whilst the latter is
away, Maruf continues the ploughing, where the man had left off, and
the ploughshare strikes against something hard in the ground, which
turns out to be an iron ring in a marble slab. He pulls at the ring, and
Maruf discovers a small room covered with gold, emeralds, rubies, and
other precious stones. He also discovers a coffer of crystal, having a
little box, containing a diamond in its entirety. Desirous of knowing
what the box further contains, he finds a plain gold ring, with strange
talismanic characters engraved thereon. Placing the ring on his finger,
he is suddenly confronted by the Genii of the Ring, who demands to know
what are his commands. Maruf desires the Genii to transport all the
treasure to the earth, when mules and servants appear, and carry it to
the city which Maruf had left, much to the chagrin of the Vizier, who
did not like Maruf. Maruf, during a great feast prepared for the
occasion, tells the Sultan how he became possessed of the treasure, when
the Sultan begs the loan of the ring, which Maruf hands to the Vizier to
give him, and which no sooner does he get, than he commands the Genii to
convey Maruf to some desert island, and leave him to die. The Vizier
also serves the Sultan the same way, and then he turns his attention to
"Mrs. Maruf," whom he threatens with death if she refuses to marry him.
At a banquet she makes the Vizier drunk, obtains possession of the ring,
secures the return of Maruf and the Sultan, and the decapitation of the


"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," in concluding this chapter, I may say,
with "The Fair One with Golden Locks," forms to the superstitious the
only two unlucky Pantomime subjects.

"Sindbad, the Sailor," taken from the "Arabian Nights," has its origin
in Persian and Arabian tales.

Of all our Pantomime subjects, "Robinson Crusoe," seems to be the only
one we can properly lay claim to as being "of our own make," so to
speak, and written by Daniel De Foe, and, in the main, from the
imagination. De Foe, it has been stated, derived his idea for this
story from the adventures of one, Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who
had been a castaway on the Island of Juan Fernandez. The first portion
of "Robinson Crusoe" appeared in "The Family Instructor," in 1719, of
which De Foe was the founder. It, at once, sprang into popularity, and
has left its author undying fame. De Foe was born about 1660 in the
parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, died 26th April, 1731, and was buried
in Bunhill Fields."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

1001 Nights Season 2 - Big Bad Boo

Here is the intro to the popular Canadian children's animated show 1001 Nights by Big Bad Boo Studios. In its second season the series also has English and Arabic comics and is trying to actually reach 1001 stories!

Watch complete episodes at their website:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Marina Warner on NPR

Here is a downloadable audio link to an interview between National Public Radio's Tom Ashbrook and Marina Warner, who recently published Stranger Magic, a retelling of the Nights with some academic additions.

The interview on the whole is interesting but a bit general, but then again, what is "correct" is certainly debatable vis-a-vis the Nights.


"The Arabian Nights

A new twist on the old magic in the tales of the Arabian Nights.

The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights – the Arabian Nights – start with a terrible premise. The great sultan has decided to marry a new virgin every night, and cut off her head in the morning. Candidates are running out.

Young Scheherazade volunteers for the job. And tells the sultan a story so compelling, every night, that when she leaves him hanging in the morning he can’t bear to kill her. Until finally, he falls in love. After a thousand and one stories of magic and genies, enchantment, pleasure and sin.

This hour, On Point: a new take, twist, on the old magic in the tales of the Arabian Nights.

-Tom Ashbrook"