Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Variant

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani, American
Age: 53
Occupation: Computer Programmer
Residence: 11048 Washington Blvd Apt 306
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Urdu, Punjabi

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my father, that was told to him as a story during his childhood in a Pakistani village.

Background: The informant was recounting a story told to him by his great-aunt when he went to visit her. She regularly told him and his siblings many different stories whenever she saw them. This story is a version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, specifically the portion where Morgana manages to outwit the thieves’ plots.

Main piece: As the forty thieves tried to track down who had taken their gold, they traced the trail to Ali Baba’s door. Initially, they attempted to leave a mark on his door so they could recognize it the next day, but the slave-girl Morgana sees this and marks the other household’s doors similarly, foiling their plot. 

For the second attempt, Morgana cooks a pot of halwa, a sumptuous dessert, but she mixes glue into it. When the thieves once again find their way to Ali Baba’s place, they are distracted by the wonderful smell coming from the halwa that is left outside. Unable to resist, the thieves stick their hands into the pot, only for their hands to become stuck, forcing them to cancel their plans to attack.

Lastly, the head of the thieves comes to Ali Baba’s house with his men in barrels, claiming to be an oil merchant who needs a place to stay for the night. In actuality, he is planning to attack Ali Baba with his men in the night. However, Morgana nears one of the barrels of oil and discovers that the contents are thieves, not oil. Quickly, she pours scalding oil into each of the barrels, killing all the thieves.

Analysis: This version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, specifically the section included above where Morgana proves herself clever enough to foil the assasination attempts, is interesting in that for the most part, it is identical to the standard version included in every children’s story book. However, the second part about the pot of halwa is something that I have never heard before, and seems very specific due to halwa mainly being a dish eaten in South Asia.

For a French text of this story heard from an oral story-teller, see Les Mille et Une Nuits by Antoine Galland.