Here’s a classic.

I’m currently reading a book at bedtime to the boys. It’s called “The Orchard Book Of Swords, Sorcerers and Superheroes”.


It has kids versions of classic tales, like King Arthur, Jason and the Argonauts, Ali Baba, etc. Tonight we were reading “Aladdin”. All of the usual things are in there, Aladdin, the magic lamp, the genie, etc. The only surprising thing was that the whole story was set in… CHINA.

A few times in the story it says they are in China. I’m scratching my head while I’m reading it, thinking “surely this was set in Persia”. The characters are all wearing turbans, etc.

After I finish and tuck the boys into bed, I turn to the front cover of the book to see when it was printed – 2003. The year we invaded Iraq. The book was printed in London.

AHA!, I think. I’ve uncovered censorship in children’s literature! The publishers didn’t want to mention Baghdad when we’re bombing the crap out of it so they re-set the story!

And so I start to write this post.

Except… when I go to Wikipedia to confirm the original location of the story, I read this:

Aladdin (a corruption of the Arabic name Alāa ed-DÄ«n, Arabic: علاء الدين literally “nobility of faith”) is one of the tales with a Syrian origin in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, and one of the most famous.

The “China” of the original tale much more closely resembles the medieval Muslim world of the other Arabian Nights stories, so much so that in retellings the “Chinese” element is often quietly forgotten.

The story concerns an impoverished young ne’er-do-well named Aladdin, in a Chinese city, who is recruited by a sorcerer from the Maghreb in the far west….

Well I’ll be….