Wednesday December 21, 2011
A tale of Aladdin
By OH TEIK THEAM
HOW would you like to have a shining silver coin in your pocket?” the mysterious old man with dark and deep eyes and a pot belly asked Aladdin. “It’s money for jam. The bananas you’re trying to sell in this market are only attracting six-leggers. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. Tsk, tsk.”
“A silver coin?” said Aladdin, his eyes brightening. “What will I have to do?”
“See that manhole over there?” said the old man, tamping his bushy pepper-and-salt moustache. “I can’t squeeze into it, so I want you to enter it and retrieve an old oil lamp for me.”
A short while later, Aladdin carefully climbed down some steps. He found himself in a chamber that was dimly lit by the flickering light of an oil lamp. “Put out the flame and bring me the lamp!” he heard the old man shout.
Aladdin climbed up the steps, and the old man said with a dirty look, “Give me the lamp, and then I’ll pull you up.”
The assurance didn’t wash with Aladdin, so he replied, “You have to pull me up first.”
His face contorted in fury, the old man, who was actually a wizard, slammed down the manhole cover, crying, “Hell’s bells!”
Aladdin was surrounded by pitch darkness. His heart was in his ears, for he feared that he did not have an earthly chance of extricating himself from the predicament. And then he trod on a signet ring, which he put on his finger and twisted round and round. Suddenly, a genie with hands clasped together appeared out of thin air.
“At your command, master,” trilled the thin voice of the genie.
“I want to go home,” Aladdin said, quaveringly. And the genie said, “That’s a snip! You will now be a lad in your home!”
A minute later, Aladdin’s widowed mother said, “You are home early, son.” And the boy, nursing a cup of weak tea, related his nightmarish adventure, which culminated in his rescue by a genie-us.
“Where’s the money from the sale of the bananas?” his mother asked.
Aladdin clapped a hand to his forehead. “I’m sorry, Mother. This lamp is all I’ve got.”
“Let’s hope it works. It’s so dirty,” she said, and rubbed the lamp, which started to hum.
(Whatever was inside the lamp obviously didn’t know the words!) Suddenly, a new genie appeared, in a cloud of smoke.
“You’ve set me free!” exclaimed the happy spirit, with an extravagant bow. “I’m now your obedient servant. My soular energy will gratify your every wish. Terms and conditions apply – for instance, not more than three wishes per day. You can say goodbye to eye-browsing – window-shopping, I mean. You’ll have to speak up, though – my immurement in the lamp has adversely affected my hearing. Deafness is becoming a problem for me. I never thought that I’d hear myself say that!”
Mother and son gasped in amazement at the ghostly apparition. She was the first to find speech. “Give us some healthful food. We have not eaten a decent meal for seven days.”
“Seven days, eh?” said the genie. “That makes one weak.”
“For meat,” said Aladdin, “we eat lamb and mutton else.”
“I soup-pose you’d also like some liquid food containing carrots, potatoes and olive oil,” said the genie.
When her hunger had been satisfied, Aladdin’s mother said she wanted a fur coat.
“What fur?” the genie asked.
“To keep myself warm,” she answered.
A few nanoseconds later, she was very touched when she received a felt coat from the genie.
From that day onwards, Aladdin and his mother had everything that they could wish for: good food and other creature comforts.
(They even asked the genie to carve a sculpture out of a large rock, thinking that it would be a hard thing for him to do!) Aladdin soon grew into a singularly handsome young man with pompadoured hair.
One day, as he was strolling in the market, he saw the Sultan’s daughter, Jasmine, in her sedan chair. From the moment their eyes met across the crowded street, his heart was instinct with romance. “She is too beautiful for words,” he thought. “Without her, the Sahara won’t be so hot!”
The Sultan was delighted with Aladdin’s gift of a dazzling collection of precious stones. “Are these diamonds real, Aladdin?”
“Certainly, Your Highness,” replied Aladdin, and he thought amusedly, “My genie knows his onions – and his carats!”
News of Aladdin’s fortune and marriage spread quickly. One morning, when Aladdin was not at home, an old man with dark and deep eyes and a pot belly stood under Jasmine’s bedroom window. Dressed in flashy clothes, he had a fake flowing beard. But what was odder was that this stranger reached into his capacious bag, pulled out an oil lamp, and shouted, “I have free new oil lamps for your old ones!”
The genie of the lamp was soon at the service of the wizard. The first thing the wizard did was to magically transport the princess to an unknown land.
Fortunately for Aladdin, he still had the signet ring, and its genie whisked him off to the wizard’s castle.
Jasmine was surprised to see her husband. “Aladdin, it’s you!” she cried.
“Quiet,” said Aladdin, in a tense whisper. Placing a vial of knockout drops in her hand, he went on, “Put this liquid in his tea.”
With the wizard unconscious, Aladdin managed to find the oil lamp. After telling his wife the whole story of the wizard and the magic lamp, he instructed the genie of the lamp: “Incarcerate the wizard in some distant place so that he’ll never bother us again. And then send us back to our palace.”
“For a change,” said the genie, winking, “you can both travel by flying carpet.”
“Flying carpet?” said Aladdin, buoyantly. “We’ll give it a whirl!”
“An ordinary carpet is bought by the yard and worn by the foot,” said the genie, with extreme rapidity. “A flying carpet affords its riders a rugged experience. It has an astonishing speed, so when you are flying over a desert, you will not find it necessary to say, ‘Long time no sea.’
“What’s more,” he added with a throaty chuckle, “you will have to fly through a rainbow. But with a good altitude, you will both pass the test with flying colours!”
Aladdin joked, “We won’t feel hungry when we reach the desert, because of the sand which is there!”
“Oh, Aladdin,” said Jasmine, with a soft sigh, “will we be able to see what may be pointed out in the desert?”
“What’s that, dear?”
“A cactus!” she said, giggling.
(Adapted from an Arabian fairy tale)