Notes from my time writing “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn” and fun tidbits.
Most people remember the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves by the key elements: Ali Baba, the 4o thieves, a cave of treasure, and sometimes a greedy brother, and the fact the thieves were killed by being boiled in jars of oil. When reading the older variants, you realize that Ali Baba isn’t really the hero, or not the only hero.
Ali Baba’s brother Kassim’s slave girl is the one who recognizes the danger of the thieves and protects the household through her cleverness. She even discovers and dispatches the majority of the thieves by pouring boiling oil into the jars where they hid. In fact, I had once heard the story referred to as “Clever Morgiana.” With that in mind, it was easy to build upon the role of Morgiana and give her the place she deserves in our “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.”
Initially, my co-author wanted Ali to name our character Morgiana as a reference to a Western deity. Absolutely not. Morgiana is a character, a woman, and a hero within this Middle Eastern tale. She had already been erased from the tale as far as most Westerners were concerned, to take away her name as well seemed a travesty. I just hope that in our variant readers will truly see her as the powerful woman we are trying to make her.
On a positive note, after a little poking about on the internet, I discovered that perhaps not everyone has forgotten her. Fans of the Magi – Labyrinth of Magic series by Shinobu Ohtaka (a 1001 Nights-themed manga, and now anime) will recognize the name Morgiana.
Guess what is next on my anime-watching list?! 🙂