Activity 4: Fairy Tales - Then and Now


This infograph will be comparing the Middle Eastern-style folk tale, "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp", and Disney's 1992 animated musical rendition of the tale.
The movie is available for viewing at:



  • The Journey/Quest/Task: The Aladdin in both versions undergo a journey to find a magic lamp that will change his life.

(Plot overview)
- Original:
Aladdin, a carefree, unemployed boy meets an African magician claiming to be his uncle. Falling for the trick, he travels with his "uncle" to learn about the trades. One day, his uncle leads him to a cave, gives him a ring and tells him there are many riches in there, but first he must not touch anything unless he first grabs the lamp. Aladdin obeys, grabbing the lamp and fruits in the shape of jewels. As he climbs out the cave, the magician grows impatient asking him to hand him the lamp. Aladdin refuses unless he helps him up. The magician decides to close the cave entrance, trapping Aladdin in with the lamp. Aladdin discovers he has two genies in his disposal - one in the lamp and one in the ring. He uses this to his advantage, using the first wish to get out of the cave. Afterwards, Aladdin uses the wishes to get everything he always wanted - including the princess. When his new life settles down, the magician returns to take back the lamp. He successfully does this while Aladdin is away on a hunting trip and wishes that Aladdin's palace, along with his wife, is teleported to a deserted area in Africa. When Aladdin returns, the Sultan threatens his life if he does not return his daughter (the princess). Aladdin finds the princess by using the genie of the ring and together with his wife, devises a plan to kill the magician by poisoning his drink. The plan was a success and life returned to normalcy.

- Modern:
Aladdin is a young thief - dubbed "street-rat" by others - who steals what little he can in order to survive. One day, he comes across the princess while she is disguised as a commoner and they get chased by guards. As a result, Aladdin is caught and imprisoned for his previous crimes. Grand Vizier and sorcerer, Jafar, knows that he needs Aladdin in order to get the magic lamp because he is part of a prophecy. He disguises himself as another prisoner and helps Aladdin escape prison. Aladdin helps him get the lamp in exchange. The same thing happens as in the original: Jafar gets impatient, traps the boy in the cave and at the end the lamp ends up in Aladdin's hands. Aladdin gets out of the cave with the help of the genie named "Genie". He uses the first wish to become a prince in order to be with princess Jasmin and promises to use the last wish to free Genie. Jafar eventually finds out that the new prince is in fact Aladdin and attempts to steal the lamp again. Jafar is successful and becomes a powerful sorcerer with his first wish. He becomes almost unstoppable until Aladdin tricks him into wishing he was an all-powerful genie. Jafar, who is blinded by greed and power does this. He ends up being bind to a lamp (since he is now a genie) and is defeated. Aladdin sets Genie free and has his happy ending with Jasmin.

  • The Fall:

-Original: The Aladdin in the original tale experiences his "fall" when the African magician returns for revenge. The magician tricks his wife while Aladdin is out on an 8 day hunting trip. Not knowing the value of the magic lamp, she trades it for a new lamp.This leads to Aladdin losing everything he built up to that point. Additionally, he will lose his life if the princess is not returned safely.

In the movie, Aladdin's fall happens when Jafar already gets his hands on the magic lamp. Like the original Aladdin, he too, loses everything he had built up until this climax. At this point, his true identity as a street-rat is revealed in front of the princess and Sultan, his companions are rendered useless and the genie's magical abilities are used against him.


  • The Hero: In both versions, Aladdin is still considered to be the hero. His character is still slightly similar.                                             

- Original: Aladdin is depicted as a young man who has no intention of working to make money much to his mother's dismay - a freeloader. As the story progresses, the more his character changes. Once he has the lamp he carelessly wishes for whatever comes up in his mind. Although, he abuses the wishes for his own personal desire, Aladdin is generous and throws some gold on the street. Due to his generosity he gains respect from the citizens. At the end of the story, he proves himself to be clever as he devises a plan to save both his and his wife's life.

- Modern: In Disney's version, Aladdin has no parents and is left to survive on the streets only by himself and his companion monkey, Abu. His cleverness helps him get away with theft in order to avoid starvation, but he is ultimately good at heart, has a good sense of his morals, and is willing to share what little food he has with those who need it more. When he first uses the lamp, he is inexperienced and does not know what to do with such a power so he thinks about his wishes carefully. Once he uses his first wish and his life seems perfect, Aladdin goes through a character change and becomes more selfish. This negative trait dissipates as he loses everything and realizes it was wrong to only think for himself. In the end he is back to his kind-hearted self.

  • Hunting Group of Companions:

- Original: Aladdin doesn't have any companions that would fall under this archetype. The genies in this version have a strict master-slave relationship. Throughout this version, Aladdin is left to think for himself in order to make it through with the exception of his mother helping him execute his plans.

- Modern: In the beginning of the movie, Aladdin is seen with a monkey named Abu. They work together to successfully perform their heists - their collaboration demonstrates their strong friendship and partnership bond. As the movie progresses, Aladdin and Abu meet a magic carpet and Genie who join the Hunting Group of Companions as they stick together to the very end even when things seem impossible. His love interest, Jasmine, can also be considered as part of the group of companions since she was willing to stand up and fight alongside Aladdin because of her love for him.

  • The Shadow:

- Original: The African magician is the main antagonist in this tale. He prevents Aladdin from having his "happy ending" and so must be defeated in the end. Having previously read about the lamp, he travels all over in hopes of find it. Like most antagonists, he will use this power for his own evil purposes. He tricks Aladdin into helping him get the lamp, but fails and the lamp ends up in Aladdin's hands instead. He returns for revenge to ruin Aladdin's life - almost succeeding, but at the end loses to Aladdin's cleverness and is poisoned to death.

- Modern: In the film version, the African's magicians role is taken by the Grand Vizier (Sultan's right-hand man), Jafar. He appears to be trustworthy since he has been obedient to the Sultan's commands for years, earning his position as the Grand Vizier. He has evil intentions that he will draw out once the magic lamp is in his hands. Like the magician, he tricks Aladdin into helping him find the lamp, but it ends up in Aladdin's hand as well. After finding out that the visiting prince is actually Aladdin in disguise, he plots to steal back the lamp. He successfully does this and uses it to become the most powerful sorcerer and takes everyone hostage. Aladdin must defeat him to restore peace. Eventually, Jafar's own greed of wanting more power becomes his downfall and he is defeated.

  • Damsel in Distress:

- Original: Aladdin's wife is reduced to a damsel in distress in the later half of the story. When the African magician eventually gets his hands on the lamp, he uses it to teleport Aladdin's palace (containing his wife) somewhere in Africa. Aladdin eventually finds her using the genie of the ring. She shows a lot of invulnerability and is too weak-willed to fight or protest against the magician. Eventually she shows her courage by carrying out Aladdin's plan of getting rid of the magician by seducing him followed by poisoning his drink.

- Modern: Aladdin's love interest in the movie, Jasmine, hardly counts as the generic damsel in distress. Throughout the movie she has shown her independence and that she will not let decisions involving herself be decided by anyone else other than herself. She wants control over her own life. At the climax of the movie when Jafar has hold of the lamp, Jasmine does become a hostage, but then again, so has everyone else - which Aladdin must save. Even as a hostage, Jasmine shows some gall to defend herself against Jafar's advances and throws wine at him.


  • Supernatural Intervention:

- Original: Aladdin's first encounter with the supernatural begins with an African magician pretending to be his uncle. This magician is the one who initiated Aladdin's life-changing event of discovering the lamp. He pretends to be a good man, but shows his true colors when Aladdin refuses to give him the lamp before helping him out of the cave. He then proceeds to trap Aladdin in the cave even without having the lamp himself all because of his anger. The second and third encounters are genies. One genie who is a "slave of the ring" that the magicians gives Aladdin as a good-luck charm and the second is the genie of the lamp. These genies help Aladdin get everything he needs in the story, but in the wrong hands they are used against his will.

- Modern: Grand Vizier,Jafar, becomes Aladdin's first supernatural encounter by disguising himself as a prisoner (as opposed to his uncle) and helping Aladdin escape prison in exchange for aiding him find the lamp. Again, similar to the original the disguised Jafar pretends to be on Aladdin's side just to sabotage him at the end. The second supernatural encounter is the magic carpet which saves Aladdin while in the Cave of Wonders. There is only one genie in the movie - the genie of the lamp, who helps Aladdin escape the Cave. Both the carpet and the genie are on Aladdin's side, but like the original the genie eventually ends up in the wrong hands and is forced to go against Aladdin.

  • The Crossroads: The first crossroad emerges when Aladdin has the lamp. He realizes the capability and power in his hands, and he uses the new-found ability to change things.

- Original: Aladdin's wishes don't have any limitations, therefore, he does not really put much thought into his wishing. If there was the "three wish rule" then he would have spent them on: 1) Getting out of the cave. 2) Food. 3) More food.

- Modern: It would seem that every time Aladdin makes a wish, he puts a lot of thought into it. Besides facing a minor "crossroad" when wishing, perhaps the most prominent one is his decision on whether or not to free Genie - a promise he made to the genie when they first meet. At the point of the movie where success seems to be at it's highest for Aladdin, Genie tells him this is the right moment to wish him free since everything seems perfect. Aladdin thinks that he only got this far due to the help of Genie saying, "I can't keep this up on my own, I can't wish you free." However, at the end of the movie when Aladdin is essential "back where he started" - being a street-rat, Genie insists he use his last wish to be a prince again. Aladdin decides with what he knows is the right thing: wishing Genie to be free.

  • Light vs. Darkness + Fire and Ice: this is only exclusive to the movie.

- Modern: In the beginning of the Fall archetype, when Jafar obtains the lamp, the sky over city turns dark and ominous Prior to this, everyone was about to celebrate a joyous occasion and the sky growing darker represents the despair that follows. After that, Jafar sends Aladdin into a frozen wasteland where he is expected to perish. This goes hand-in-hand with the Light vs. Darkness archetype giving this part of the story a dark tone, symbolizing the loss of hope and potential death.


            The overall theme of the original fairy tale has remained similar in the film. Both versions of the story share the theme of greed and illusion. The main antagonists both have a desire for power that can be achieved by having the magic lamp. Greed ultimately leads to the downfall of the characters. In the original tale, Aladdin's grandiose wishing spree has made himself known by the magician who tricked him in the first place, who had thought Aladdin has long perished in the cave he trapped him in. In the movie, greed thankfully leads to the downfall of the antagonist as explained in the infograph. The theme of illusion ties in with the magic. The things being wished are very much real to the characters in the story, but they are just illusions of luxury - in both versions, they can disappear in a blink of an eye. There is also the "illusion" of character. Both antagonists have disguised themselves as someone else to manipulate Aladdin. They both give the perception that they are kind people, but in reality they have an ulterior motive. In the movie, Jafar has also pretended to be on the Sultan's side for many years just to build up trust in order to fulfill his real intentions of being the one in power. Additionally, both Aladdin and Jasmine in the movie have both pretended to be people who they really were not. Hiding who you truly are creates conflicts for everybody.

Moral Lesson

"The original story was sort of a winning the lottery kind of thing. When we got into it, particularly coming in at the end of 1980s, it seemed like an Eighties 'greed is good' movie ... Like having anything you could wish for would be the greatest thing in the world and having it taken away from you is bad, but having it back is great. We didn't really want that to be the message of the movie"

—Ron Clements

           According to Ron Clements, the original story was centered around romanticizing greed-  being able to get whatever you want and more, is the best thing and as long as you still have those things in your reach, you are happy. This is what exactly happens in the story. Without having the wishing limit, Aladdin is able to wish up as many things as he wants to and decides to live a life of indulgence. Everything falls apart for him when his palace, luxuries and wife disappears suddenly, however, the story is resolved when Aladdin has everything back in his possession. Disney wanted to teach something in a way that

          In the Disney version of the fairytale, there's another message in the movie that has been repeated many times in different ways: "Just be yourself". In the movie, both Aladdin and Jasmine have tried to become something they're not. Aladdin uses his first wish to become a prince in order to wed Jasmine and Jasmine disguises herself as a commoner to escape her palace life. Both instances lead to complications and consequences. Even at the end of the movie, Jafar wished to become an all-powerful genie which led to his downfall as he is now bind by the lamp. In the final scene, Aladdin is unable to marry Jasmine due to the law prohibiting a royal marrying a commoner, even though both love each other. Genie suggests he use the final wish to become a prince again. The resolution is made when Aladdin says,"Jasmine, I do love you, but I've got to stop pretending to be something I'm not." and uses his final wish to release Genie and thus fulfilling his promise with him. Luckily for the two lovebirds, the Sultan decides to abolish the law after everything that has transpired and thus have their happy ending.

Appeal to the Modern Audience

           The story of Aladdin and his magic lamp can be considered a timeless tale - especially towards the new generation of children. One could say that it has evolved. In modern times, the tale has been modified to cater to the audience as exemplified by the information in this infograph. The Disney version is a simplified, light-heated adaptation of the tale with musical numbers to entrance the younger audiences as well as some older ones. Today, it seems that most of the media paying homage to its "Aladdin" roots that involve magic genies and wishing, lean towards the moral of "Be careful what you wish for".  At a young age children tend to become more selfish as they become aware that their parents can basically get anything they want. Content producers tend to do this because the use of genies and their affiliation to granting wishes is simple yet interest-grabbing enough to children in order to teach this lesson. It efficiently teaches young ones that they must think before they wish for something to happen because at most times, desires are driven solely by the emotion at the time and often lead to regret. The tale of Aladdin can still live through that way.


Culhane, John (1993-08-15). Disney's Aladdin The Making Of An Animated Film. Disney

Picture Credits

First illustration © Eurydyka Kata and Rafal Szczawinski
Second and third illustration © Albert Robida
Third illustration © Max Liebert
Fouth illustration © it's rightful owner.
Fifth illustration © Walter Crane
Sixth illustration © R. Zufarov
Screenshots © Disney