Listen to Graham Stinnett, archivist at the Dodd Center, read a version of Aladdin from 1908.
Danielle: Welcome to Live and Learn, a production of the Honors Program at the University of Connecticut. I’m Danielle Chaloux, and this is a special finals episode.
Danielle Chaloux (DC): Can you please introduce yourself for me?
Graham Stinnett (GS): Sure. My name is Graham Stinnett and I’m an archivist at the Archives and Special Collections which is located at the Dodd Research Center.
DC: And briefly, what is the Dodd Center in general?
GS: So the Dodd Center is largely programming organization that oversees human rights related programs, offers awards to NGOs and folks doing work around human rights, continuing the work of Thomas J. Dodd who was in executive trial counsel during the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, as well as being a senator and a congressman of Connecticut. But more so his sort of stamp on the human rights record is kind of what the Dodd Center tries to continuously advocate for. And so there are all kinds of things. We teach classes in the Center; the Human Rights Institute is there, Judaic Studies is there, but largely, 3/4s of the building is made up of the archives and special collections.
DC: And what are archives?
GS: Just generally archives are kind of the collected memory of individuals, businesses, organizations. We, being the University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, we are kind of the one stop shop for all of the recorded past of the university. That’s everything from the corporate functioning of the university itself to student organizations that have recorded and documented their work over the existence of the university. And then further to that it’s kind of the one of a kind, focused collecting of objects that have enduring value—important historical objects, documents, papers, media, digital materials, etc. We kind of work in all frames of the recorded past.
DC: Can students use these materials and resources?
GS: Absolutely. So, kind of a big distinction between a library and an archive is that the only thing you can’t do is browse the stacks and you can’t check out material like you can in the library. The library has this fantastic kind of freedom to it where you can walk through the stacks, browse book by book. When you come to the archives, we kind of oversee how you handle the materials because a lot of the stuff we’ve got is very rare, fragile, old. It has preservation and handling requirements, so a lot of the stuff needs to be kind of minimally impacted by the research that we’re trying to facilitate. So, you can come in, you can browse the materials that we have online, and then you can request one of those objects, or a book, or a newspaper, or a photograph, whatever it might be. And then we’ll bring the box to you in the Reading Room which is located in the Dodd Center, and you can spend all day just kind of, you know, perusing through the research collections we have.
DC: Excellent. And so today we have a piece of one of the collections to share, and for the listeners at home, what have you brought out for us?
GS: So, this is from the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, which is one of our larger collecting areas we have in the tens of thousands of literature books. And that ranges from very basic kids books to pop-up books to young adult literature to critiques of how children are written about or how they’re portrayed or illustrated. So today I’ve brought a copy of Aladdin from 1908 and it’s called Aladdin Or The Wonderful Lamp and Other Stories from the Arabian Nights.
DC: And so what we’ll do today is we’re gonna read the story cause we know you all have finals and are a little bit stressed so hopefully this brings you back to a nicer time of maybe lighthearted childhood.
GS: Okay, Aladdin Or The Wonderful Lamp.
GS: Once in a large city of China, there lived a boy named Aladdin, who was so lazy and careless that he would do nothing but play to the grief of his mother, who was a poor widow. One day when Aladdin was playing in the streets as usual with his idle friends, a stranger came up, and began to talk to him. He said that he was Aladdin’s uncle, and meant to do great things for him, and, kissing Aladdin many times, he asked to be taken to the house where he lived. Very much surprised Aladdin led the way to his home and told his mother the strange uncle had come to see him.
Now, the stranger was really no relation at all to the boy, but a wicked sorcerer known as the African Magician, who wished to make use of Aladdin to carry out a secret he had made. He had learnt by his arts that a wonderful magic lamp was hidden beneath the ground in a certain part of China, and knowing that if he had this treasure he would be the most powerful person in the world, he soon found out the exact spot where it lay, and made up his mind to get it. But, though he had learnt where the magic lamp was hidden, he was not allowed to take it himself. And having noticed, as he walked about the streets of the nearest city, that Aladdin was a sharp boy, he had decided to make use of him for his purpose. He soon made the poor widow believe that he was indeed the boy’s uncle, and saying that, he now meant to provide for all of his wants. He persuaded her to let him take Aladdin out for the day.
Aladdin was delighted to go, and, his pretended uncle, having bought him some gay new clothes, took him to visit the best parts of the town, and gave him many nice treats. After a while, he led him away from the city, right out into the country, saying he wished to show him a very beautiful garden. And Aladdin, though now very tired, was still ready to follow his new friend. When they came to a certain lonely place they stopped, and the magician made a fire. Throwing some incense into the blaze he uttered a few words of magic. Instantly the ground opened, showing a little cave, with steps leading down below.
“Go down those steps,” said the magician to Aladdin. “And you will find yourself in a most beautiful garden, at one end of which a lamp is burning. Bring me the lamp; we shall both be rich for life. But first of all put this ring on your finger and it will keep you safe from harm.” The magician placed a ring on Aladdin’s finger, and then the boy ran down the steps at once and soon found himself in the loveliest garden he had ever seen. On every side were trees laden with fine fruits which Aladdin fancied were made of brightly colored glass. And, thinking them very pretty, he filled his pockets and loose tunic with them, little dreaming that they were really dazzling jewels of priceless value. He soon found the lamp, burning at the top of some steps, and putting out the light he placed in carefully in his vest, and ran up the steps to the mouth of the little cave.
“Give me the lamp boy!” cried the magician impatiently. “No!” said Aladdin. “Not until you help me out of this hole.” The magician was so eager to snatch the magic lamp, that these words sent him into a violent rage, and throwing some more incense into the fire, he uttered certain words that caused the ground to close over the cave so that Aladdin was buried alive. Having thus failed to get the treasure he wanted, and not having power to open the ground a second time, the magician went back to Africa in a great rage, and poor Aladdin was left to his fate, knowing now that his pretended uncle was really a wicked sorcerer. For a long time he wept and cried out for help, but no help came. At last he clasped his hands together in despair and prepared to die.
As he clasped his hands together, however, he happened to rub the ring given him by the magician, and instantly there appeared an enormous genie, who said, “Who dost thou want? I’m ready to obey thee.” “Then get me out of this!” cried Aladdin. In a moment he found himself on the ground above, and, full of joy, he ran off home and told his mother of all his adventures. Next day, finding there was nothing to eat in the house, Aladdin said he would sell the old lamp he had bought from home an evening before. But just as his mother began to rub it up, to make it a little cleaner, there suddenly appeared another hideous genie, who said, “What dost thou have? I am ready to obey thee.” “Bring us something to eat” said Aladdin. Instantly the genie brought a fine feast set out on rich dishes of silver and then he vanished. Aladdin and his mother sat down to this feast with great delight, and afterwards, by selling the silver dishes one by one, they were able to live in comfort for a long time.
Aladdin now began to improve very much, leaving off his idle ways and growing into a sensible young man, and as he made it his business to talk with merchants and wise men, he learnt much from them and soon found out the real value of the jewel fruits he had brought from the underground garden. It was about this time that Aladdin first saw the sultan of China’s only daughter, the beautiful Princess Badroulbadour, and falling in love with her at once he made up his mind to marry her. So one day he sent his mother to the royal palace with a dish full of the precious fruit jewels. Telling her to present these to the sultan as a gift from him, and to ask the Princess’s hand in marriage at the same time.
After going to the court for several days, Aladdin’s mother at last was brought before the sultan, and laying her gift at his feet, she asked him to allow his daughter to be married to her son, Aladdin. The sultan was delighted with the dazzling gems, and he said if Aladdin would send him forty golden basins full of the same kind of fruit jewels, carried by forty black slaves led by forty white slaves, and would also provide a splendid palace for her to live in, he should certainly be married to the princess. When Aladdin had heard what the sultan had said he took the wonderful lamp and rubbed it hard. Instantly the genie appeared and asked his commands. Aladdin told him what he required, and the genie vanished, but soon returned with forty golden basins of jewels, forty black slaves, and forty white slaves. Aladdin at once sent the slaves with the golden basins to the sultan, and then he desired the genie to bring him a handsome suit of jeweled trimmed clothes, fit for a king, a splendid horse to ride upon, and forty richly dressed slaves to attend on himself. He also ordered gorgeous robes and slaves to be brought for his mother. And then the genie instantly carried out his commands. Aladdin then dressed himself in his glittering garments and rode in great state to the palace, where he was received very kindly by the sultan, who promised that the marriage should take place directly, he had provided a suitable palace for the princess to live in. So, when he returned to his home at night, Aladdin once more called up the genie, and ordered him to build a gorgeous palace, with walls of solid gold, and windows, doors, and pillars, all covered with precious gems, and to set it up in the open space opposite the royal palace.
Next morning, the golden palace was ready, it’s dazzling jewel windows glittering to the sunlight and when Aladdin entered he found it completely furnished in splendid style, with lords, ladies, and slaves in attendance, with great treasure of gold and silver laid only in a secret place known only to himself. The sultan was now perfectly satisfied, and that very day, Aladdin was married to the beautiful Princess Badroulbadour. He was very happy indeed, and lived the life of a splendid prince. But trouble was yet in store for him.
The wicked African magician was still alive, and having learnt by means of his arts of all that had happened to Aladdin, he made up his mind to try once more to obtain the magic lamp. So, he came back to the capital of China, and soon thought out a cunning plan. Learning that Aladdin was away hunting, he dressed himself up as a poor merchant, and buying a basket full of small lamps, he went from street to street crying out, “New lamps for old lamps! Old lamps for new lamps!” He soon made his way to Aladdin’s palace where he was seen by one of the princess’s ladies, who said to her mistress, “A foolish fellow outside is giving away new lamps in exchange for old ones. Shall I give him that rusty old lamp in Prince Aladdin’s room, and get a nice new one for it?” The princess, having no idea of the real value of the magic lamp, answered, “Yes. It down at once by all means.” The attendant did so, but no sooner had the cunning magician snatched the old lamp from her, then he rubbed it hard, and the genie appeared. “Carry me and Aladdin’s palace with all inside it to the middle of Africa!” cried the magician. And instantly his command was obeyed.
When Aladdin returned from hunting next day, he was full of dismay to find that his palace and beautiful princess had disappeared, and, guessed it once that this was the work of the wicked magician. The sultan was in such a rage that he declared that Aladdin should be killed unless his daughter was soon restored. Aladdin set off at once to look for his princess and palace, but, finding his search in vain, he had at last flung himself down in despair on the bank of the river, thinking that he might as well drown himself. In his grief he had forgotten the wonderful powers of his magic ring, but as he laid by the river he had happened to rub the ring, and instantly there appeared the same genie he had seen in the cave. Aladdin was delighted to see the genie, and he said at once, “Set me down beneath the window of the princess’s room in my palace, wherever it may be.” Directly as he had spoken, he found himself in the midst of a lonely plain in Africa, outside his own splendid palace. He soon made his way to the room of the princess, and, full of joy, they rushed into each other’s arms. The magician was, happily, in another part of the palace, so Aladdin and the princess were able to arrange a plan in getting rid of him. Having settled everything, Aladdin hid himself behind the curtains, and, then the princess sent out one of her ladies to invite the magician to come to a little feast with her. The magician came in good time, looking quite delighted for, until now, the princess had refused to have anything to do with him, and he wished above all things to win her favor. And directly he arrived, a grand feast was served.
The princess chatted and laughed, pretending to be very friendly with the magician, and presently she offered him a cup of wine, in which a deadly poison had been mixed by Aladdin. The wicked magician dazzled by the smiles of the beautiful princess, drank off the wine at once, and instantly he fell over on the couch, quite dead. Aladdin now rushed forward, and, searching amongst the dead magician’s clothes, he found to his great joy the magic lamp. He rubbed it at once, and when the genie appeared he commanded him to set the palace down again in its proper place in the capital of China. This was instantly done. And when the sultan looked out of his window next morning, he was full of surprise and joy to see Aladdin’s dazzling palace, standing in its place once more. He quickly went to embrace his beloved daughter, and rejoicing for her safe return were kept up all over the country for a long time. And now that the wicked magician was dead, Aladdin was safe from harm and the sole master of the wonderful lamp, and he and his beautiful Princess Badroulbadour lived happily together to the end of their lives.
DC: The end!
GS: And what the listeners couldn’t see were some of the illustrations that came along with it. So there’s one, subtitled “The genie carries Aladdin’s palace into Africa.” and it’s kind of a gaunty man with leather straps on his feet and his shins and he’s got a big, winding robe up around him that ultimately comes up onto his head and he’s carrying off this gigantic pagoda looking palace over what is probably the Nile. There are camels, there are elephants, there are little lions, lionesses, around the banks of this river. The coloration is kind of a cross fade of psychedelic greens and blues and purples. It’s kind of basic but that’s one of the only colored images in the book.
DC: So if you’re interested in learning more about archives, what are some resources you can check out?
GS: Well one of them is the podcast I’m working on that is hosted at whus.org, and it’s called D’Archive. Every week I interview somebody who does research in archives or works in an archive or a library, someone who is a specialist around materials that we have. And I play audio samples from our collections which are kind of hard to listen to often. Things have come from real to real tape or come from cassette or vinyl, so having to do that electronic migration of a lot of the media is the work of an archivist, basically. Having to make sure that things are still accessible to this day, even though that media is slowly disintegrating. So that’s something you can check out, and it’s a weekly feature. We also do exhibitions, come on by the Dodd Center if you can! Archives and special collections are open Monday to Friday, there’s always somebody there to answer reference question or to chat about the great stuff that we have.
DC: Excellent. Thank you so much.
GS: Thank you.
DC: That’s all for this semester. We’ll be back in the spring with the next season of Live and Learn!