I could probably read this in a week, but I wanted to take my time with it. (When this posts, I’ve already finished it, but the discrepancy between reading it and writing this is not time-equivalent) So.
“‘would you be able to control a complicated thing like a flying kitchen-garden?’” (Langley, 15).
Okay. First off, I wasn’t expecting a chapter book. For some reason I thought it was a picture book. But chapter books are also awesome. So seeing that when I opened the package was a fun surprise.
I’m going to dispense with reiterating the plot and instead focus on my thoughts and reactions to the story so far.
By the second paragraph, I found a line that tickled my fancy.
“And now, if we are all ready to begin, I bring you a tale of the wonderful wandering of an enchanted land which was never in the same place twice” (3) emphasis mine.
Compare that to what Cassim says about the Vanishing Isle in Aladdin and the King of Thieves:
So, yeah, I was immediately hooked.
And later in the first chapter, when I found out the Magician who created the Land of Green Ginger accidently turned himself into a Button-Nosed Tortoise, I immediately wondered if it was actually on his back. ‘Cause the Vanishing Isle’s on the back of a giant turtle.
But as I continued reading, I learned that the Land of Green Ginger “floats wherever its fancy takes it” (16). Which I thought ruled out it being on an animal that can’t fly.
But then I learned that “[Aladdin’s] son…is the one chosen to break the spell of the Land of Green Ginger, and restore the Magician to his normal shape!’” (16). Which made me think it could be on the Magician. Although, I’m betting it’s not, or how else could he have lost track of it? But I’ll wait and see.
It’s clearly not a direct derivative from Galland’s version since,
- Aladdin never frees the jinn of the lamp and this story says he “gave him his freedom” (9).
- Aladdin’s mother is named Widow Twankey, instead of being nameless. This is the name used in pantomime performances (you’ll have to scroll down to Aladdin). I think it explains why she’s written as an exasperating character, since she was more comic relief in the pantomimes, rather than being sensible and helpful to her son.
- the jinn of the lamp has a name, too – Abdul, and there only seems to be one, while most translations I’ve read imply there’s more than one servant. e.g. “‘Ask whatever you want, for I am your slave and beholden to whoever holds the lamp, I and the other slaves of the lamp’” (Zipes, 172) and “‘What is your wish? Here I am, ready to obey you, your slave and the slave of all who hold the lamp, I and the other slaves of the lamp’” (“The story of Aladdin”, 773). emphasis mine
I was surprised at the incompetence of the vizier and other state officials. In the first few pages they all have to try to think of names for Aladdin and Bedr-el-Budur’s son and can’t come up with anything better than Tea Pot and Bird’s Nest Soup. I don’t know if that’s because it’s trying to be silly, but I’ll be honest and say it puzzled me.
The other aspect that threw me off when they were introduced was their excessive, detailed tiles. It seemed like the story was trying to evoke a formula of long, cumbersome titles in a Chinese court, which made it feel insincere, goaded on by the petulant bickering between the Grand Vizer and the Lord Chamberlain.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but there were a few instances when Aladdin would do certain things and I couldn’t help noticing. There’s more in the second chapter, but here, I noticed,
“‘So rub the Lamp, Papa, unless you’re too scared!’
Aladdin stiffened” (11).
Is he offended his courage is being questioned when he earlier would never bat an eye at summoning the jinn of the lamp?
Up to this point, there isn’t really anything wrong with the story. Admittedly, I was puzzled by the characterization, but it wasn’t bad. The humorous take on advisors who really can’t do anything except bicker and really aren’t very clever didn’t bother me too much.
I did like the Unidentified Friend of the Master of the Horse. It was such an usual detail. And I want to know about the Mistress of the Robes; who’s she and what does she do? Design robes, sew robes, hand out robes?
So, yeah, overall, I’m looking forward to see where the story goes.
I’ve edited some for better definitions | source
- ingratiatingly: adj. 1. charming; agreeable; pleasing. 2. deliberately meant to gain favor
- judiciously: adj. 1. using or showing judgment as to action or practical expediency; discreet, prudent, or politic. 2. having, exercising, or characterized by good or discriminating judgment; wise, sensible, or well-advise
Aladdin: “‘I am naturally anxious not to miss the fireworks which, after all, I paid for’” (5).
Langley, Noel. The Land of Green Ginger. Jeffrey, NH: David R. Godine Publisher, 1975. Print.
“The story of Aladdin, or The magic lamp.” The Arabian Night: Tales of 1001 Nights. Trans. Ursula Lyons. Vol.3. New York: Penguin Classics, 2008. 737-831. Print.
Zipes, Jack. “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.” Arabian Nights: The Marvels and Wonders of the Thousand and One Nights. Adapted from Richard F. Burton. New York: Signet Classic, 1991. 136-222. Print.