You’ve probably heard the saying “the genie is out of the bottle” or “let the genie out of the bottle” a few times. While the meaning is pretty clear, you might be shocked to learn the origins of the phrase don’t have a lot to do with real genies (or djinn), but with something more…destructive.
Tag: history of genies
Genie lamps are often depicted as small, oval-shaped golden or bronze vessels with a lid, a handle, and a narrow spout. In other words, genie lamps look like really expensive teapots. Why, then, do we call them lamps, and why are genies supposed to be trapped inside?
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.
Most people in the West today associate genies with lamps and wishes and certain quirky magical powers. This is largely thanks to a few pieces of popular media, including I Dream of Jeannie and Disney’s version of Aladdin with that unforgettable blue genie who steals the show.
Genies are actually supernatural creatures with an incredible past that stretches back 5,000 years. They’re malevolent tricksters, benevolent spirits, and everything in-between. Many people today even believe genies are real, though they don’t expect them to grant any wishes. At least, not willingly, and not without some ironic consequences.
How Genies are Made
Genies are more than wish-granting lamp dwellers or mystical floating spirits. How genies are made is a story steeped in ancient legend with many variations emerging over time. The first tales about djinn are as much as 6,000 years old, so you can imagine that discovering just how genies are made is a difficult task.
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?
Genies are usually paired with lamps in the western world. The genie/lamp significance is tied directly to these tales, creating unique symbolism surrounding these spirits from the ancient Middle East.
What’s the deeper significance of the genie in the lamp story, though? Were these tales told just for entertainment, or was there a deeper meaning with genies and lamps? Below we’ll explore a few ideas about what the genie trapped in a lamp story could really mean.
Spend enough time reading about genies and you’ll see handfuls of different spellings: djinn, djinni, jinni, djinny, jinnie, jinnee, even the occasional jinx or ginnaya or gin. It can be pretty confusing. The good news is things are simpler than you think: there really isn’t much of a difference between genies, jinn, and jinn.