Ali Baba gives his son to her in marriage and keeps the secret of the treasure. The story has been classified in the Aarne—Thompson classification system as number Supernatural Power or Knowledge. Galland was an 18th-century French Orientalist who may have heard it in oral form from a Middle Eastern story-teller from Aleppo, in modern-day Syria.
In any case, the first known text of the story is Galland's French version. Richard F. Burton included it in the supplemental volumes rather than the main collection of stories of his translation published as The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night and thought its origins were Greek Cypriot.
The American Orientalist Duncan Black MacDonald discovered an Arabic-language manuscript of the legend at the Bodleian Library; however, this was later found to be a counterfeit. Ali Baba and his elder brother Cassim are the sons of a merchant. After their father's death, the greedy Cassim marries a wealthy woman and becomes well-to-do, building on their father's business. Ali Baba marries a poor woman and settles into the trade of a woodcutter. One day, Ali Baba is at work collecting and cutting firewood in the forest, and he happens to overhear a group of 40 thieves visiting their treasure store.
The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "open sesame" and seals itself on the words "close sesame". When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself and discreetly takes a single bag of gold coins home. Ali Baba and his wife borrow his sister-in-law's scales to weigh their new wealth. Unbeknownst to them, Cassim's wife puts a blob of wax in the scales to find out what Ali Baba is using them for, as she is curious to know what kind of grain her impoverished brother-in-law needs to measure.
To her shock, she finds a gold coin sticking to the scales and tells her husband. Under pressure from his brother, Ali Baba is forced to reveal the secret of the cave. Cassim goes to the cave, taking a donkey with him to take as much treasure as possible.
He enters the cave with the magic words.
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But in his greed and excitement over the treasure, he forgets the words to get out again. The thieves find him there and kill him. When his brother does not come back, Ali Baba goes to the cave to look for him, and finds the body quartered and with each piece displayed just inside the cave's entrance, as a warning to anyone else who might try to enter. Ali Baba brings the body home where he entrusts Morgiana, a clever slave-girl from Cassim's household, with the task of making others believe that Cassim has died a natural death.
First, Morgiana purchases medicines from an apothecary, telling him that Cassim is gravely ill. Then, she finds an old tailor known as Baba Mustafa whom she pays, blindfolds, and leads to Cassim's house. There, overnight, the tailor stitches the pieces of Cassim's body back together so that no one will be suspicious.
Ali Baba and his family are able to give Cassim a proper burial without anyone's asking awkward questions. The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that yet another person must know their secret, and they set out to track him down. So before bringing it she covered all the bottom with lard, and giving it to Ali Baba's wife told her to be sure and be quick in returning it. The other, promising to restore it punctually, made haste to get home; and there finding the hole dug for its reception she started to measure the money into it.
First she set the measure upon the heap, then she filled it, then she carried it to the hole; and so she continued till the last measure was counted.
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Then, leaving Ali Baba to finish the burying, she carried back the measure with all haste to her sister-in-law, returning thanks for the loan. No sooner was her back turned than Cassim's wife looked at the bottom of the measure, and there to her astonishment she saw sticking to the lard a gold coin.
Where, then, I would know, has the miserable wretch obtained it? You count your gold by the piece, but Ali Baba does not count, he measures it I In comparison to Ali Baba we are but grubs and groundlings! Cassim, instead of being pleased at Ali Baba's sudden prosperity, grew furiously jealous; not a wink could he sleep all night for thinking of it. The next morning before sunrise he went to his brother's house. U How many more pieces have you like this that my wife found sticking to the bottom of the measure yesterday? Cassim, who had thus secured all he had come for, lost no time in putting his project into execution.
Intent on possessing himself of all the treasures which yet remained, he set off the next morning before daybreak, taking with him ten mules laden with empty crates. If the simple soul of Ali Baba had found delight in the riches of the cavern, greater still was the exultation of a greedy nature like Cassim's. Intoxicated with the wealth that lay before his eyes, he had no thought but to gather together with all speed as much treasure as the ten mules could carry; and so, having exhausted himself with heavy labour and avaricious excitement, he suddenly found on returning to the door that he had forgotten the key which opened it.
Up and down, and in and out through the mazes of his brain he chased the missing word. And so the door stayed fast, holding him prisoner in the cave, where to his fate, undeserving of pity, we leave him. Toward noon the robbers returned, and saw, standing about the rock, the ten mules laden with crates. At this they were greatly surprised, and began to search with suspicion amongst the surrounding crannies and under- growth. Finding no one there, they drew their swords and advanced cautiously toward the cave, where, upon the captain's pronouncement of the magic word, the door immediately fell open.
Cassim, who from within had heard the trampling of horses, had now no doubt that the robbers were arrived and that his hour was come. Resolved however to make one last effort at escape, he stood ready by the door; and no sooner had the opening word been uttered than he sprang forth with such violence that he threw the captain to the ground.
But his attempt was vain; before he could break through he was mercilessly hacked down by the swords of the robber band. With their fears thus verified, the robbers anxiously entered the cave to view the traces of its late visitant. There they saw piled by the door the treasure which Cassim had sought to carry away; but while restoring this to its place they failed altogether to detect the earlier loss which Ali Baba had caused them.
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Reckoning, however, that as one had discovered the secret of entry others also might know of it, they determined to leave an example for any who might venture thither on a similar errand; and having quartered the body of Cassim they disposed it at the entrance in a manner most calculated to strike horror into the heart of the beholder. Then, closing the door of the cave, they rode away in the search of fresh exploits and plunder. Meanwhile Cassim's wife had grown very uneasy at her husband's prolonged absence; and at nightfall, unable to endure further suspense, she ran to Ali Baba, and telling him of his brother's secret expedition, entreated him to go out instantly in search of him.
Ali Baba had too kind a heart to refuse or delay comfort to her affliction. Taking with him his three asses he set out immediately for the forest, and as the road was familiar to him he had soon found his way to the door of the cave. When he saw there the traces of blood he became filled with misgiving, but no sooner had he entered than his worst fears were realized.
Nevertheless brotherly piety gave him courage. Gathering together the severed remains and wrapping them about with all possible decency, he laid them upon one of the asses; then bethinking him that he deserved some payment for his pains, he loaded the two remaining asses with sacks of gold, and covering them with wood as on the first occasion, made his way back to the town while it was yet early. Leaving his wife to dispose of the treasure borne by the two asses, he led the third to his sister-in-law's house, and knocking quietly so that none of the neighbours might hear, was presently admitted by Morgiana, a female slave whose intelligence and discretion had long been known to him.
Can you keep a secret? Go and tell your mistress that I want to speak to her," Morgiana went in to her mistress, and returning presently bade Ali Baba enter. Then leaving him to break to his sister-in-1aw the news and the sad circumstances of his brother's death" she, with her plan already formed, hastened forth and knocked at the door of the nearest apothecary.
As soon as he opened to her she required of him in trembling agitation certain pillules efficacious against grave disorders, declaring in answer to his questions that her master had been taken suddenly ill.
With these she returned home, and her plan of concealment having been explained and agreed upon, much to the satisfaction of Ali Baba, she went forth the next morning to the same apothecary, and with tears in her eyes besought him to supply her in haste with a certain drug that is given to sick people only in the last extremity. Meanwhile the rumour of Cassim's sickness had got abroad; Ali Baba and his wife had been seen coming and going, while Mor- giana by her ceaseless activity had made the two days' pretended illness seem like a fortnight: so when a sound of wailing arose within the house all the neighbours con- cluded without further question that Cassim had died a natural and honourable death.
But Morgiana had now a still more difficult task to perform, it being necessary for the obsequies that the body should be made in some way presentable, So at a very early hour the next morning she went to the shop of a certain merry old cobbler, Baba Mustapha by name, who lived on the other side of the town. Showing him a piece of gold she inquired whether he were ready to earn it by exercising his craft in implicit obedience to her instructions.
And when Baba Mustapha sought to know the terms, "First," said she, " you must come with your eyes bandaged; secondly, you must sew what I put before you without asking questions; and thirdly, when you return you must tell nobody. This way and that she led hhn blindfold, till she had brought him to the house of her deceased master. Then uncovering his eyes in the pres- ence of the dismembered corpse, she bade him get out thread and wax and join the pieces together. Baba Mustapha plied his task according to the compact, asking no question.
And when all was ended, seeing that his widow was desolate and his house in need of a protector, Ali Baba with brotherly piety took both the one and the other into his care, many- ing his sister-in-law according to muslem rule, and remov- ing with all his goods and newly acquired treasure to the house which had been his brother's. So, with his fortune well established, let us now leave Ali Baba, and return to the robbers' cave.
Thither, at the appointed time, came the forty robbers, bearing in hand fresh booty; and great was their con- sternation to discover that not only had the body of Cassim been removed, but a good many sacks of gold as well. It was no wonder that this should trouble them, for so long as anyone could command secret access, the cave was useless as a depository for their wealth.
The question was, What could they do to put an end to their present insecurity? After long debate it was agreed that one of their number should go into the town disguised as a traveller, and there, mixing with the common people, learn from their report whether there had been recently any case in their midst of sudden prosperity or sudden death. If such a thing could be discovered, then they made sure of tracking the evil to its source and imposing a remedy.
Although the penalty for failure was death, one of the robbers at once boldly offered himself for the venture, and having transformed himself by disguise and received the wise counsels and commendations of his fellows, he set out for the town. Arriving at dawn he began to walk up and down the streets and watch the early stirring of the inhabitants. So, before long, he drew up at the door of Baba Mustapha, who, though old, was already seated at work upon his cobbler's bench.
The robber accosted him. Does not so dull a light strain your eyes? I went to it blindfold. And he had in fact come exactly opposite to the house ,vhich had once been Cassim's, where AU Baba now dwelt. The robber, having marked the door with a piece of chalk which he had provided for the purpose, removed the bandage from Mustapha's eyes, and leaving him to his own devices returned with all possible speed to the cave where his comrades were awaiting him.
Soon after the robber and cobbler had parted, Mor- giana happened to go out u:r on an errand, and as she returned she noticed the mark upon the door. In the meantime the robbers had learned from their companion the success of his venture. Greatly elated at the thought of the vengeance so soon to be theirs, they formed a plan for entering the city in a manner that should arouse no suspicion among the inhabitants. Passing in by t,vos and threes, and by different routes, they came together to the market-place at an appointed time, while the captain and the robber who had acted as spy made their way alone to the street in which the marked door was to be found.
Presently, just as they had expected, they perceived a door with the mark on it. So alike were the marks that the spy, though he swore he had made but one, could not tell which it ,vas. Seeing that the design had failed, the captain returned to the market-place, and having passed the word for his troop to go back in the same way as they had come, he himself set the example of retreat. When they were all reassembled in the fOlest, the captain eXplained how the matter had fallen, and the spy, acquiescing in his own condemnation, kneeled down and received the stroke of the executioner.
But as it was still necessary for the safety of all that so great a trespass and theft should not pass unavenged, another of the band, undeterred by the fate of his comrade, volunteered upon the same conditions to prosecute the quest wherein the other had failed. Coming by the same means to the house of Ali Baba, he set upon the door, at a spot not likely to be noticed, a mark in red chalk to dis- tinguish it clearly from those which were already marked in white. But even this precaution failed of its end. Morgiana, whose eye nothing could escape, noticed the red mark at the first time of passing, and dealt with it just as she had done with the previous one.
So when the robbers came, hoping this time to light upon the door without fail, they found not one but six all similarly marked with red. When the second spy had received the due reward of his blunder, the captain considered how by trusting to others he had come to lose two of his bravest followers, so the third attempt he determined to conduct in person. Having found his way to Ali Baba's door, as the two others had done by the aid of Baba Iustapha, he did not set any mark upon it, but examined it so carefully that he could not in future mistake it.
He then returned to the forest and communicated to his band the plan which he had formed. This was to go into the town in the disguise of an oil-merchant, bearing with him upon nineteen mules thirty-eight large leather jars, one of which, as a sample, was to be full of oil, but all the others empty. In these he purposed to conceal the thirty-seven robbers to which his band was now reduced, and so to convey his full force to the scene of action in such a manner as to arouse no suspicion till the signal for vengeance should be given.
Stories from the Arabian nights/Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Within a couple of days he had secured all the mules and jars that were requisite, and having disposed of his troop according to the pre-arranged plan, he drove his train of well-laden mules to the gates of the city, through which he passed just before sunset. Proceeding thence to Ali Baba's house, and arriving as it fell dark, he was about to knock and crave a lodging for the night, when he perceived Ali Baba at the door enjoying the fresh air after supper.
Addressing hin1 in tones of respect, "Sir," said he, "I have brought my oil a great distance to sell tomorrow in the market; and at this late hour, being a stranger, I know not where to seek for a shelter. If it is not troubling you too much, allow me to stable my beasts here for the night. Not only did he grant the stranger's request for bare accommodation, but as soon as the unlading and stabling of the mules had been accomplished, he invited him to stay no longer in the outer court but enter the house as his guest. The captain, whose plans this proposal somewhat disarranged, endeavoured to excuse himself from a pretended reluctance to give trouble; but since Ali Baba would take no refusal he was forced at last to yield, and to submit with apparent complaisance to an entertainment which the hospitality of his host extended to a late hour.
When they were about to retire for the night, Ali Baba went into the kitchen to speak to Morgiana; and the captain of the robbers, on the pretext of going to look after his mules, slipped out into the yard where the oil- jars were standing in line. Passing from jar to jar he whispered into each, " When you hear a handful of pebbles fall from the window of the chamber where I am lodged, then cut your way out of the jar and make ready, for the time "rill have come. Now Ali Baba, before going to bed, had said to Morgiana, "To-morrow at dawn I am going to the baths; let my bathing-linen be put ready, and see that the cook has some good broth prepared for me against my return.