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Ali Baba by Maxfield Parrish (1909).

Ali Baba (Arabic: علي بابا ʿAli Bāba) is a fictional character from medieval Arabic literature. He is described in the adventure tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Some critics believe that this story was added to One Thousand and One Nights by one of its European translators, Antoine Galland, an 18th-century French orientalist who may have heard it in oral form from an Arab story-teller from Aleppo. However, Richard F. Burton claimed it to be part of the original One Thousand and One Nights. This story has also been used as a popular pantomime plot—perhaps most famously in the pantomime/musical Chu Chin Chow (1916).



The story takes place in Baghdad during the Abbasid era. Ali Baba and his elder brother Cassim were the sons of a wealthy merchant. After the death of their father, the greedy Cassim outcasts Ali Baba from their father's inheritance and business.

The young Ali Baba works collecting and cutting firewood (a valuable commodity) in the forest, and one day he happens to overhear a group of forty thieves visiting their treasure store in the forest. The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "Open, Simsim" (commonly written as "Open Sesame" in English), and seals itself on the words "Close, Simsim" ("Close Sesame"). When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself, and takes some of the treasure home.

Ali Baba borrows his sister-in-law's scales to weigh this new wealth of gold coins. Unbeknownst to Ali, his brother's wife has put a blob of wax in the scales to find out what Ali is using them for, as it is known that Ali was too impoverished to need a scale for use. To her shock, she finds a gold coin sticking to the scales and tells her husband, Ali Baba's rich and greedy brother, Cassim. Ali Baba tells Cassim about the cave. Cassim goes to the cave to take more of the treasure, but in his greed and excitement over the treasures forgets the magic words to get back out of the cave. 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, cut into many pieces and displayed just inside the entrance of the cave to discourage any similar attempts in the future. Ali Baba brings the body home and, with the help of Morgiana, a clever slave-girl in Cassim's household, Ali finds an old tailor known as Baba Mustafa whom he pays, blindfolds, and leads to Cassim's house. There, overnight, the tailor stitches Cassim back together, so that no one will be suspicious. Ali and his family are able to give Cassim a proper burial without anyone asking awkward questions.

The thieves, finding the body gone, realize that yet another person must know their secret, and set out to track him down. One of the thieves goes down to the town and asks around. He discovers that a tailor was seen leaving a house in the early morning, and guesses that the house must belong to the thieves' victim. The thief finds the tailor Mustafa and asks him to lead the way to the house. The tailor is blindfolded again, and in this state he is able to find the house. The thief marks the door with a symbol. The plan is for the other thieves to come back that night and kill everyone in the house. However, the thief has been seen by Morgiana and she, loyal to her master, foils his plan by marking all the houses in the neighborhood with a similar marking. When the 40 thieves return that night, they cannot identify the correct house and the head thief kills the lesser thief. The next day, the thieves try 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. The second thief is killed for his stupidity as well. At last, the head thief goes and looks for himself. This time, he memorizes every detail he can of the exterior of Ali Baba's house.

The chief of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba's hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with thirty-eight oil jars, one filled with oil, the other thirty-seven 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 thirty-seven thieves in their oil jars by pouring boiling oil on them. When their leader comes to rouse his men, he discovers that they are dead, and escapes.

To exact revenge, after some time the thief 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. The thief is recognized by Morgiana, who performs a dance with a dagger for the diners and plunges it into the heart of the thief when he is off his guard. Ali Baba is at first angry with Morgiana, but when he finds out the thief tried to kill him, he gives Morgiana her freedom and marries her to his son. Thus, the story ends happily for everyone except the forty thieves and Cassim.

Alternative ending: And so Ali Baba fell in love with Morgiana, and hence frees her and marries her.


  • The story was made into an Egyptian movie in 1942 as "Ali Baba We El Arbeen Haramy" (Alibaba and the Forty Thieves), with Ali AlKassar playing the lead as Ali Baba, and the famous comedian actor Ismail Yasin as his assistant.
  • A French film Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs starring Fernandel and Samia Gamal (1954).
  • A French telefilm starring Gérard Jugnot and Michèle Bernier (2007).
  • In 1970s Alibaba story was adapted in a Bengali film called 'Morgiana Abdulla'.
  • Bollywood film Ali Baba aur 40 Chor, starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Zeenat Aman, was largely based on this adventure tale.
  • A Malaysian comedy film, Ali Baba Bujang Lapok (1960) which quite faithfully adhered to the tale's plot details, but introduced a number of anachronisms for humour, for example the usage of a truck by Kassim Baba to steal the robbers' loots.
  • The story was made into a Tamil movie in 1955 as "Alibabhavum Narpathu Thirudargalum" (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) with M.G.Ramachandran playing the lead as Ali Baba and Bhanumathi Ramakrishna as Morgiana.
  • 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.
  • A Soviet-Indian joint film of 1979 ru:Приключения Алибабы и 40 разбойников (фильм)
  • The concept of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was used for the last installment of Disney's Aladdin series, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, released in 1996, introducing Kassim the King of Thieves as Aladdin's father.
  • In the television mini-series Arabian Nights, the story is told faithfully with two major changes. The first is that when Morgiana discovers the thieves in the oil jars, she alerts Ali Baba and together with a friend, they release the jars on a street with a steep incline and allow them roll down to break open. Furthermore, the city guard is alerted and arrest the disoriented thieves as they emerge from their containers. Later when Morgiana defeats the thief leader, Ali Baba, who is young and has no children, marries the heroine himself.
  • A film adaption Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was made in 1944. The film was remade in 1965 as The Sword of Ali Baba. Frank Puglia portrayed the character named Kassim in both versions.
  • Some children's books have slightly changed the plot, but still remain true to the original intent of the story. In some, the second thief who attempts to stalk Ali Babi marks Ali Baba's front door with colored chalk, to which Morgiana detects and marks all the doors with colored chalk. Also, Morgiana helps to cover up Kassim's murder and make it appear by having it appear to be a natural death by purchasing medicines of increasing strength from the local apothecary, making the public believe Kassim's health was failing.
  • A popular ride that goes up in the air and is commonly found in amusement parks etc. is also called Ali Baba.
  • 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"
  • A mythopoeic novel by Tom Holt, 'Open Sesame', is based on characters from the story of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"
  • An upcoming Regina Doman novel.
  • Many burlesque and pantomime versions were devised in the Victorian era and later, for example The Forty Thieves.
  • A parody exists in the 2010 Chick-fil-A calendar "Great Works of Cow Literature" in August where the novel is referred to as Ali Barbacue and the 40 Chefs.
  • The concept was adapted for a 1937 Technicolor short cartoon, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves.

In other media

  • A 1981 computer video game by Quality Software.[1]
  • A Tamil movie featuring Krishna Kulasekaran
  • In the MASH episode, "The Novocaine Mutiny," Frank Burns accuses Benjamin Pierce of mutiny. When Pierce displays his typical nonchalance, Burns states: "Ali Baba 'til the very end, aren't you?"
  • A Looney Tunes cartoon with Porky Pig called Ali-Baba Bound, but this one portrays Ali Baba as a villain who attempts to attack the desert fort.
  • In a song "Ali Baba's Camel" by Noel Gay Ali Baba is specifically identified ("Forty thieves had he"). This song is now best known in the cover version by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Joint credit to Hulton (who?) is sometimes given; e.g. with the blessing of Neil Innes at [1].
  • In the Beastie Boys song "Rhymin & Stealin" they make reference to Ali Baba and the forty thieves.
  • In the video game Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly the level Thieves' Den is a parody of the tale.
  • Dark Lotus of Psychopathic records has a song named Ali Baba.
  • In the video game Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, it is said that one of Sly Cooper's ancestors, Salim al Kupar of Arabia, had the stealth of forty-thieves. It is not said if this ancestor was part of the forty-thieves however.
  • A Los Garcias' song, Ali Baba
  • In the video game Diablo II, "The Blade of Ali Baba" is the name of a unique sword that can be found, it increases the amount of gold and magical items dropped by monsters when it is used to slay them.
  • In the Sean Biggs (ft. Akon) song, "Never Gonna Get It" there is a reference to "chains hangin' like Ali Baba".
  • In the Disney film Aladdin there are several references to the story. During the Genie's song "Friend like Me" he lists the benefits other heroes have had in their adventures, including "Ali Baba had them forty thieves". Another possible reference is Aladdin's alias "Prince Ali Ababwa", which is very similar to Ali Baba. Also, in Aladdin and the King of Thieves the forty thieves play an integral part in the story. However the story is very different than the original Ali Baba story, particularly Cassim's new role as the King of Thieves.
  • In the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) Granado Espada and all its counterparts in other countries, a "cash shop" costume is named Ali Baba. This costume belongs to Alejandro, One of the Unique Player Characters in the game.
  • In the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) Tales Runner and indirect reference is made to Ali Baba, a map is named Ali Baba Map.
  • In the 3CE song 'Take You To The Edge' the lyrics say 'Ali Baba had 40 thieves'
  • In Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour, Mission 4 of the GLA campaign is named Jarmen Kell and the Forty Thieves making a reference to Ali Baba and the 40 thieves although Jarmen Kell was only sent together with a few Hijackers and Rebels that number less than 40.

Iraq War

  • The name Ali Baba was often used as derogatory slang by American and Iraqi soldiers and their allies in the War in Iraq to describe individuals suspected of a variety of offenses related to theft and looting.[3] In the subsequent occupation it is used as a general term for the insurgents, similar to Charlie for the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War.[4]
  • Due to interaction of the two peoples, the term Ali Baba was adopted by the Iraqis to describe foreign troops suspected of looting,[5] and the English-speaking mainstream press mistakenly reported the slang to be native to the locals.[6]
  • Iraqi citizens often use the term Ali Baba to describe looting bandits, whether they be coalition troops or insurgents of any nationality. For protection against "Ali Baba," Iraqis are allowed one AK-47, and one 30 round magazine of ammunition per household.


External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Ali Baba

  1. A fictional character featured in The Arabian Nights, famous for his encounter with forty thieves and their treasure trove cave that opens on the command, "Open Sesame".
  2. (slang) An extremely lucky person, especially one who acquires a large fortune by luck or by chance.
  3. (slang) An ethnic slur used by occupational soldiers for a native of Iraq.

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|150px|Ali Baba, by Maxfield Parrish (1909).]]

Ali Baba (Arabic: علي بابا ʿAli Bāba) is a fictional character, who is described in the adventure tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It is believed by some critics that this story was added to One Thousand and One Nights by one of its European translators, Antoine Galland, who is an 18th-century French orientalist who may have heard it in oral form from a Middle Eastern story-teller from Aleppo. However, Richard F. Burton said it was a part of the original One Thousand and One Nights.

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