Ali Baba

Ali Baba (Arabic: علي باباʿAlī Bābā ) is a character from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (علي بابا والأربعون لصا). This story is included in many versions of the One Thousand and One Nights, which it was added to in the 18th century by Antoine Galland, who heard the story from a Syrian storyteller, Hanna Diyab. It is one of the most familiar of the "Arabian Nights" tales, and has been widely retold and performed in many media, especially for children, where the more violent aspects of the story are often suppressed.

In the story, Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter who discovers the secret of a thieves' den, entered with the phrase "Open Sesame". The thieves learn this and try to kill Ali Baba, but Ali Baba's faithful slave-girl foils their plots. Ali Baba gives his son to her in marriage and keeps the secret of the treasure.

Cassim in the cave by Maxfield Parrish (1909)

Textual history

The tale was added to the story collection One Thousand and One Nights by one of its European translators, Antoine Galland, who called his volumes Les Mille et Une Nuits (1704–1717). Galland was an 18th-century French Orientalist who heard it in oral form from a Maronite story-teller, called Hanna Diyab, who came from Aleppo in modern-day Syria and told the story in Paris.[1] In any case, the earliest 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.[2]

The American Orientalist Duncan Black MacDonald discovered an Arabic-language manuscript of the story at the Bodleian Library;[3] however, this was later found to be a counterfeit.[4]


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, when 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. 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. Ali Baba and his family are able to give Cassim a proper burial without anyone suspecting anything.

The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that another person must know their secret, and they set out to track him down. One of the thieves goes down to the town and comes across Baba Mustafa, who mentions that he has just sewn a dead man's body back together. Realizing the dead man must have been the thieves' victim, the thief asks Baba Mustafa to lead the way to the house where the deed was performed. The tailor is blindfolded again, and in this state he is able to retrace his steps and find the house. The thief marks the door with a symbol so the other thieves can come back that night and kill everyone in the house. However, the thief has been seen by Morgiana who, loyal to her master, foils the thief's plan by marking all the houses in the neighborhood similarly. When the 40 thieves return that night, they cannot identify the correct house, and their leader kills the unsuccessful thief in a furious rage. The next day, another thief revisits Baba Mustafa and tries again. Only this time, a chunk is chipped out of the stone step at Ali Baba's front door. Again, Morgiana foils the plan by making similar chips in all the other doorsteps, and the second thief is killed for his failure as well. At last, the leader of the thieves goes and looks himself. This time, he memorizes every detail he can of the exterior of Ali Baba's house.

The leader of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba's hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with 38 oil jars, one filled with oil, the other 37 hiding the other remaining thieves. Once Ali Baba is asleep, the thieves plan to kill him. Again, Morgiana discovers and foils the plan, killing the 37 thieves in their oil jars by pouring boiling oil on them. When their leader comes to rouse his men, he discovers they are all dead and escapes. The next morning, Morgiana tells Ali Baba about the thieves in the jars. They bury them, and Ali Baba shows his gratitude by giving Morgiana her freedom.

To exact revenge after some time, the leader of the thieves establishes himself as a merchant, befriends Ali Baba's son (who is now in charge of the late Cassim's business), and is invited to dinner at Ali Baba's house. However, the thief is recognized by Morgiana, who performs a sword dance with a dagger for the diners and plunges it into the thief's heart, when he is off his guard. Ali Baba is at first angry with Morgiana, but when he finds out the thief wanted to kill him, he is extremely grateful and rewards Morgiana by marrying her to his son. Ali Baba is then left as the only one knowing the secret of the treasure in the cave and how to access it.


The story has been classified in the Aarne–Thompson classification system as AT 676.[5]

In popular culture

Adaptations in art, entertainment, and media

Books and comics

  • Tom Holt's mythopoeic novel Open Sesame is based on characters from the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
  • In an Alvin comic book (Dell Comics #10, Jan.-Mar. 1965), The Chipmunks (Alvin, Theodore, and Simon) join eccentric scientist Dr. Dilby in his time machine. Their first stop is ancient Persia, where they meet Ali Baba and help him fight the 40 Thieves.
  • Although not a direct adaptation, the characters of Ali Baba, Cassim, and Morgiana as well as part of the concept of the Forty Thieves are featured in the Japanese manga series Magi. In 2012, this manga was adapted to anime.


  • A Popeye cartoon, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937), features Popeye meeting and defeating the titular group and their leader Abu Hassan (portrayed by Popeye's nemesis Bluto).
  • A Merrie Melodies Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck cartoon, Ali Baba Bunny (1957), has a similar premise to the concept of the treasure-filled magical cave.
  • The story was adapted in the 1971 anime Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (アリババと40匹の盗賊 Aribaba to Yonjuppiki no Tozoku), storyboarded by Hayao Miyazaki.
  • The Disneytoon Studios film DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp uses the reference of the folk tale but alters the name of Ali Baba to Collie Baba, the story origins reveals that the DuckTales version of the greatest thief that he stolen the magic lamp from the evil sorcerer name Merlock for good.
  • Another Disney film Aladdin (1992) makes references to the story, as Genie names Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in the song "Friend Like Me".
  • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), the 40 thieves play an integral part in the story. However, the story is very different from the original Ali Baba story, particularly Cassim's new role as Aladdin's father and the King of Thieves.
  • In the animated movie Ali Baba and the 40 Thevies-The Lost Scimitar of Arabia (2005), Ali Baba, the son of the Sultan of Arabia, is worried about his father's safety when he discovers that the Sultan's evil brother, Kasim, has taken over the throne and is plotting to kill him. With his friends, Ali returns to Arabia and successfully avoids his uncle's henchmen. Out in the desert, Ali becomes the leader of a group of forty men who are ready to fight against Kasim.
  • In the anime Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (serialized since June 2009), Ali Baba appears as one of the main characters and one of Aladdin's friends. At some point in the show, he is shown as the leader of a gang of thieves called Fog Troupe. Morgiana is his loyal friend, whom Ali Baba freed from slavery, and Cassim is his friend from the slums, who is constantly jealous of Ali Baba and tries to bring him ill fate, when he can.


  • Bing Crosby recorded the story on April 25, 1957,[6] linking the narrative with songs. This was issued as an album Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in 1957.
  • The second track on "super group" Dark Lotus' album Tales from the Lotus Pod (2001) is titled "Ali Baba".
  • John Holt sings of the dream he had of Ali Baba in his song titled "Ali Baba".



40 Thieves - Weir Collection
Poster for 40 Thieves at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 1886
  • The story has been used as a popular pantomime plot for many years. An example of the "pantomime Ali Baba" was the pantomime/musical Chu Chin Chow (1916).
  • 40 Thieves (1886) was a pantomime at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
  • Ali-Baba (1887) is an opéra comique, with music by Charles Lecocq.
  • Badi-Bandar Rupkatha (বাঁদী-বান্দার রূপকথা) is a 2014 Bangladeshi theatrical dance adaption of Ali Baba and Forty Thieves organised by Srishti cultural centre and Nrityanchal. Many leading Bangladeshi dancers performed in the adaption such as Shamim Ara Nipa, Shibli Sadiq, etc.[7]

Video games

  • Ali Baba (1981) is a computer video game by Quality Software[8]


Alibaba Group of China used the name because of its universal appeal.[9]


Zero-knowledge proofs are often introduced to students of computer science with a pedagogical parable involving "Ali Baba's Cave".[10]


At the United States Air Force Academy, Cadet Squadron 40 was originally nicknamed "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" before eventually changing its name to the "P-40 Warhawks".

The name "Ali Baba" was often used as derogatory slang by American and Iraqi soldiers and their allies in the Iraq War, to describe individuals suspected of a variety of offenses related to theft and looting.[11] Additionally, British soldiers routinely used the term to refer to Iraqi civilians.[12] In the subsequent occupation, it is used as a general term for the insurgents.[13]

The Iraqis adopted the term "Ali Baba" to describe foreign troops suspected of looting.[14]


Robida Alibaba page8et9

A depiction of the Forty Thieves.

Robida - Ali-baba page6

The Forty Thieves attack Cassim.

Robida - Ali-baba page12

A member of the Forty Thieves tries to discover the location of the house of Ali Baba.

Robida - Ali-baba page11

A member of the Forty Thieves marks the door of Ali Baba

Robida - Ali-baba page7

Morgiana pays Baba Mustafa the Cobbler.

Robida - Ali-baba page13

Morgiana pours boiling hot oil into the jars containing the infamous Forty Thieves.

Robida - Ali-baba page4

Ali Baba presents treasures from the magical cave of Sesame to Morgiana.


  1. ^ Goodman, John (Dec 17, 2017). Marvellous Thieves adds a new chapter to Arabian Nights - Paulo Lemos Horta gives 'secret authors' their due in his study of the World Literature classic. North Shore News.
  2. ^ Burton, R. F. Supplemental Nights to the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night with Notes Anthropological and Explanatory. III, fasc. 2. p. 369. (n.)
  3. ^ MacDonald, Duncan Black (April 1910). "'Ali Baba and the forty thieves' in Arabic from a Bodleian MS". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland: 327–386. JSTOR 25189681.
  4. ^ Mahdi, Muhsin (1994). "Galland's Successors (chapter 2)". The Thousand and One Nights: From the Earliest Known Sources, Part 3, "Introduction and Indexes".
  5. ^ Ashliman, D.L. (February 3, 2013). "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2017-09-27.
  6. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  7. ^ "Leading Dancers to Present Ali Baba".
  8. ^ Barton, Matt (2007-02-23). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  9. ^ "Alibaba’s IPO Filing: Everything You Need to Know - Digits - WSJ". Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  10. ^ Quisquater, Jean-Jacques; Guillou, Louis C.; Berson, Thomas A. (1990). "How to Explain Zero-Knowledge Protocols to Your Children" (PDF). Advances in Cryptology – CRYPTO '89: Proceedings. 435: 628–631.
  11. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan. "Court martial hears of drowned Iraqi's final moments". Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  12. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (September 21, 2009). "Baha Mousa inquiry: 'rotten' UK military blamed for death in army camp". Guardian.
  13. ^ Fumento, Michael. "Back to Falluja: The Iraqi Army versus the Keystone Kops insurgency". Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  14. ^ Levin, Jerry (3 May 2003). "Will The Real Ali Baba Please Stand Up". CPT. Archived from the original on 11 April 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.

External links

Ali-Baba (Lecocq)

Ali-Baba is an opéra comique in four acts, first produced in 1887, with music by Charles Lecocq. The French libretto based on the familiar tale from the Arabian Nights was by Albert Vanloo and William Busnach. After some initial success the work faded from the repertoire.

Ali Baba (Cherubini)

Ali Baba, ou les quarante voleurs is a tragédie lyrique in four acts plus a prologue, with libretto by Eugène Scribe and Mélesville and music by Luigi Cherubini. The story is based on the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (One Thousand and One Nights). It was premiered by the Paris Opera in the Salle Le Peletier on 22 July 1833. It was Cherubini's last opera, though he lived for nearly a decade longer. It is also his longest opera, lasting for about three and a half hours at the premiere.Some of the music was adapted and rewritten from his Koukourgi (written in 1793, but unproduced; first performed in 2010).

Ali Baba Bunny

Ali Baba Bunny is a Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies short featuring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, directed by Chuck Jones and released in 1957. In 1994, it was voted #35 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. Several lines spoken by Daffy—among them "Down down down! Go go go! It's mine mine mine!", "I can't help it, I'm a greedy slob—it's my hobby." and "I'm rich—I'm a happy miser!"—have become popular catchphrases amongst fans and students of Chuck Jones' style of animation and fans of Daffy Duck as well; the line "Hassan chop!" has also become a favorite quote.The film was edited into two of the Looney Tunes greatest hits features: The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979), and Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982).

Ali Baba Goes to Town

Ali Baba Goes to Town is a 1937 film starring Eddie Cantor, Tony Martin, and Roland Young. Cantor plays a hobo named Aloysius "Al" Babson, who walks into the camp of a movie company that is making the Arabian Nights. He falls asleep and dreams he is in Baghdad as an advisor to the Sultan (Young). He organizes work programs, taxes the rich, and abolishes the army, in a spoof of Roosevelt's New Deal.

The cast also includes Gypsy Rose Lee, using the stage name of Louise Hovick, as the Sultana.

The Raymond Scott Quintette also appears, performing "Twilight In Turkey."

A clip from Ali Baba Goes to Town is shown in the movie The Day of the Locust (1975), in which Karen Black plays an aspiring actress in 1930s Hollywood. A brief shot of Black is edited into the Ali Baba footage to create the impression that her character played a bit role in that film.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944 film)

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is a 1944 adventure film starring Maria Montez and Jon Hall, and directed by Arthur Lubin. The film is derived from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights but its story departs greatly from the tale of the same name and includes an actual historic event. The film is one of series of "exotic" tales released by Universal during the war years; others include Cobra Woman, Arabian Nights and White Savage.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1954 film)

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (French: Ali Baba et les 40 voleurs) is a 1954 French comedy film directed by Jacques Becker and starring Fernandel, Samia Gamal and Dieter Borsche.The film's sets were designed by Georges Wakhévitch. Some scenes were shot on location in Morocco.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1971 film)

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (アリババと40匹の盗賊, Ari Baba to Yonjuppiki no Tōzoku) is a 1971 anime film by Toei Animation, retelling the evergreen story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from the Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights.It was directed by Hiroshi Shidara and written by Morihisa Yamamoto. Hayao Miyazaki played a decisive role in developing structure, characters and designs for this film, whose credits list him as Key Animator and Organizer. Seiichiro Uno wrote original music for the film.It was released on 18 July 1971 in Japan. Other releases followed, including:

West Germany (as Ali Cats und der fliegende Professor, on 16 March 1973)

Italy (as Ali Babà e i 40 ladroni)

USA (a dubbed version called Alibaba's Revenge)

International English version (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves)

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (album)

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is a LP album by Bing Crosby made for children by Golden Records in 1957. The Arthur Norman Choir and Orchestra provide support. The music was by Mary Rodgers and the lyrics by Sammy Cahn.

The album has been reissued by various record companies sometimes in a different edited form. The song "I Love You Whoever You Are" was issued as a single by Kapp Records (KAPP195) in October 1957.The album was included on a CD titled “Once upon a Mattress” issued by Sepia Records in 2010.

Full House

Full House is an American television sitcom created by Jeff Franklin for ABC. The show chronicles the events of widowed father Danny Tanner who enlists his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis and best friend Joey Gladstone to help raise his three daughters, oldest D.J., middle child Stephanie and youngest Michelle in his San Francisco home. It aired from September 22, 1987 to May 23, 1995, broadcasting eight seasons and 192 episodes.

While never a critical favorite, the series was consistently in the Nielsen Top 30 (from 1988 onward) and gained even more popularity in syndicated reruns and also aired internationally. It has also had tie-in merchandise marketed, such as a series of paperback books. A sequel series, Fuller House, premiered on Netflix on February 26, 2016.

Hussain Ali Baba

Hussain Ali Baba Mohamed (Arabic: حسين علي بابا; born 11 February 1982) is a Bahraini footballer currently playing for Al-Muharraq and the Bahrain national football team.

Kayseri Province

The Kayseri Province (Turkish: Kayseri ili) is situated in central Turkey. The population is 1,255,349 of which around 1,000,000 live in the city of Kayseri. It covers an area of 16,917 km² and it borders with Sivas, Adana, Niğde, Kahramanmaraş, Yozgat and Nevşehir provinces.

The province is an area that has been linked with mythological stories as well as important figures in Turkish history. It is located in Anatolia, and surrounded by the Mount Erciyes, the Mount Hasan and the Mount Ali. The Ali mountain is named like that in honor of Ali Baba, who is said to have lived in the area.

Lapar Ali Baba Mohammadi

Lapar Ali Baba Mohammadi (Persian: لپرعلي بابامحمدي‎, also Romanized as Lapar ʿAlī Bābā Moḩammadī) is a village in Sajjadrud Rural District, Bandpey-ye Sharqi District, Babol County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 18, in 4 families.

Mazraeh-ye Hajji Ali Baba

Mazraeh-ye Hajji Ali Baba (Persian: مزرعه حاجي علي بابا‎, also Romanized as Mazra‘eh-ye Ḩājjī ‘Alī Bābā) is a village in Garizat Rural District, Nir District, Taft County, Yazd Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 34, in 10 families.

Qaleh-e Ali Baba

Qaleh-e Ali Baba (Persian: قلعه علي بابا‎, also Romanized as Qal‘eh-ye ‘Alī Bābā) is a village in Howmeh Rural District, in the Central District of Lamerd County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 133, in 31 families.

Richard Sandrak

Richard Sandrak (born 15 April 1992), also known as Little Hercules, is a Ukrainian-born, American bodybuilder, martial artist and actor, known for his muscular physique at an extremely young age, and for his appearance in the documentary The World's Strongest Boy.


Sekonj (Persian: سكنج‎; also known as Sagūch, Segach, Seh Gūsh, Seh Konj, and Sheykh ‘Alī Bābā) is a village in Mahan Rural District, Mahan District, Kerman County, Kerman Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 443, in 116 families.

Son of Ali Baba

Son of Ali Baba is a 1952 film directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Tony Curtis.

The film paired Curtis again with Piper Laurie, who co-starred with him in 1951's The Prince Who Was a Thief.

Tolombeh-ye Ali Baba Nakuiyan

Tolombeh-ye Ali Baba Nakuiyan (Persian: تلمبه علي بابانكوئيان‎, also Romanized as Tolombeh-ye ‘Alī Bābā Nakū’īyān) is a village in Miyan Deh Rural District, Shibkaveh District, Fasa County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported.

Tricky slave

The tricky slave is a stock character. He is a clever, lower-class person who brings about the happy ending of a comedy for the lovers. He is more clever than the upper-class people about him, both the lovers and the characters who block their love, and typically also looking out for his own interests; in the New Comedy, the tricky slave or dolosus servus aimed to get his freedom by assisting his young master in love.Besides the actual slaves of classical theater, he also appears as the scheming valet in Renaissance comedy, called the gracioso in Spanish. The zanni of Commedia dell'arte are often tricky slaves, as are Puss-in-Boots in Perrault's fairy tale, Jeeves in P. G. Wodehouse's work and Figaro.

In fairy tales, the same function is often fulfilled by fairy godmothers, talking animals, and like creatures.

Northrop Frye identified him as a central portion of the Myth of Spring comedy and a type of eiron character.

A female version of the tricky slave would be Morgiana, a clever slave girl from "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" in the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights). She is initially in Cassim's household but on his death she joins his brother Ali Baba and through her quick wittedness she saves Ali's life many times and eventually kills his worst enemy, the leader of the Forty Thieves. As reward, Ali frees her and Morgiana marries Cassim's son.

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