Aladdin is one of the tales from The Arabian Nights. It concerns a young man named Aladdin living in China, who is recruited by a sorceror to retrieve a oil lamp from a booby-trapped magic cave. After the sorceror attempts to double-cross him, Aladdin keeps the lamp for himself, and discovers that it contains a genie that is bound to obey the orders of the person holding the lamp. With the aid of the genie, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful and marries a princess. The sorceror returns, and is able to get his hands on the lamp (by tricking Aladdin's wife, who is unaware of the lamp's importance), but Aladdin wins out in the end.
No medieval Arabic source has been traced for the tale, which was incorporated into The Book of One Thousand and One Nights by its French translator, Antoine Galland, who heard it from a Syrian Christian storyteller from Aleppo. Galland's diary (March 25, 1709) records that he met the Maronite scholar, by name Youhenna Diab, ('Hanna') who had been brought from Aleppo to Paris by Paul Lucas, a celebrated French traveller. Galland's diary also tells that his translation of 'Aladdin' was made in the winter of 1709-10. It was included in his volumes ix and x of the Nights, published in 1710.
John Payne, Alaeddin and the Enchanted Lamp and Other Stories, (London 1901) gives details of Galland's encounter with the man he referred to as 'Hanna' and the discovery in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris of two Arabic manuscripts containing Aladdin (with two more of the 'interpolated' tales). One is a jumbled late 18th century Syrian version. The more interesting one, in a manuscript that belonged to the scholar M. Caussin de Perceval, is a copy of a ms. made in Baghdad in 1703. It was purchased by the Bibliothèque Nationale at the end of the 19th century.
In the United Kingdom, the story of Aladdin is a popular subject for pantomimes. The traditional Aladdin pantomime (which is set in China, unlike many adaptations of the story) is the source of the well-known pantomime character Widow Twankey.