In both its film versions, “Aladdin” shows us the consequences of living an inauthentic life, a life of existential bondage. All the characters feel compelled — constantly, frenetically — to dissemble, lie and pretend to be what they are not. Only at the story’s climax do the masks come off and true selves stand revealed. In “The Arabian Nights,” Shahrazad and many other characters tell numerous marvel-filled tales to save their lives. Disney’s “Aladdin,” however, recognizes that, in the end, only the truth will set you free.
Quick! Name a story from “The Arabian Nights.” If you answered “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” as most people probably do, you’d be wrong — at least technically speaking. There is no evidence that this beloved classic, now usually encountered in nursery versions, or on film, was ever part of the collection called “Alf Layla wa-Layla,” that is “A Thousand Nights and a Night.” What’s more, no early Arabic original has ever been found. “Aladdin” only exists today because of the 18th-century Orientalist Antoine Galland.
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