Arabian Nights is a collection of stories that has captured the imaginations of readers across the globe for centuries. With its diverse cast of characters, fantastical plots, and timeless themes, the collection remains a staple in literary history in many parts of the world, including Arabian countries, Europe, and throughout the West.
This is the story of the fisherman and the genie, a tale from Arabian Nights that’s one of the best examples of someone finding a genie trapped in a bottle, freeing it, and being tricked by the genie.
The best-known version of Aladdin in the modern West only bears a passing resemblance to the real story of Aladdin from Arabian Nights. For example, the original had two genies, only one of whom was trapped in a lamp, Aladdin wasn’t an orphan beggar, and the genie wasn’t, well, blue.
One key difference is what Aladdin asks the genie of the lamp for in the original story. It isn’t as simple as getting three wishes or asking to become a prince. In fact, Aladdin asks the genie of the lamp for a number of things, including to be transported into the princess’ bed.
Where did the story of a genie in a bottle granting three wishes come from? Did it originate as a single tale and split from there, or does the genie in a lamp have grander origins?
The Ludicrous Wishes, a.k.a. The Ridiculous Wishes, The Three Ridiculous Wishes, or Les Souhaits ridicules, is a French fairy tale written by Charles Perrault in 1697. It predates the arrival of Arabian Nights in Europe and could be the inspiration for the modern trope of genies granting wishes that don’t turn out the way people expect.