My Authors
Read all threads
-=[On the Origins of the Flying Carpet]=-
Many regard flying carpets as the quintessential symbol of the magical folklore of the Arabian Nights, but the flying carpet is quite rare in the Nights. Where then does this lore derive? A thread on the surprising answer …
Flying carpets do not feature in the earliest stock of narratives of the Arabian Nights at all. The first translator of the Nights, Antoine Galland (1646-1715), added several tales to the original Arabic manuscript to his French translation ...
Called "orphan tales", these include the likes of Ali Baba, Aladdin, and others--none of them seem to have an underlying Arabic text but seem to be inventions of Galland, perhaps w/ help with a young Syrian named Hanna Dyab. Aladdin, surprising, does *not* feature a flying carpet
A flying carpet first appears in Galland's translation in his “orphan” story of *Prince Ahmad and the Fairy Perî Bânû* which features a contest between three sons of a king of India for the hand of their beautiful cousin Nûr al-Nahâr (illustration by Charles Robinson, 1913) ...
The three brother-princes--Husayn, Ali, and Ahmad--set off on journeys to acquire the most marvelous object. The winner gains the hand of Nûr al-Nahâr. Ḥusayn acquires a magic carpet in Bishangarh, ʿAlī an ivory telescope in Shiraz, and Ahmad an apple to cure every illness.
[Note the reference to a telescope as an indication of the story's lateness.] They fly back together on the carpet, the contest judged a tie. A new contest leads Ahmed to meet the jinni-princess Perî Bânû, the titular character of the story (but no more carpets) ...
image credits:
The Magic Carpet by Monro Orr (1913)
The beautiful Perî Bânû by René Bull (1912)
Stories from other versions of the Arabian Nights (esp. the Egyptian and Calcutta edition of the Arabic text) *do* feature stories the mention a magical flying carpet. And these other stories give us our first hint into how this ultimately connects to the Qur'an ...
The City of Brass is the first of these. Although a late addition to the Nights, the story is actually quite old -- It begins at the court of the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, where rumors circulate of the discovery of the vessels,
in which the Israelite king Solomon sealed disobedient jinn, by soldiers on frontier. The caliph charges the famed conqueror of Spain, Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr, on a quest to discover these vessels which leads to the City of Brass. (illustration by Maxfield Parrish, 1909). But on the way
they discover many wonders in story (too long to recount here), one of which is a jinni trapped in stone who tells him how he came to find himself in such a terrible fate. He had been trapped there by King Solomon having dared to defy him. As he describes…
the battle with Solomon, he mentions a magical carpet that Solomon used to mobilize his forces. [NB: Legends of the copper city in the Maghreb are quite old. The historian Ibn Khaldūn (d. 1406) criticizes an earlier historian al-Masʿūdī (d. 956) for giving it credence!] ...
With the mention of Solomon, now at we've entered firmly into the realm of the Nights and Arabic popular literature more generally. The Solomon of legend goes far beyond the biblical wise king; he becomes an estoeric king, a master magician, and expert exorcist ...
This image of Solomon already appears in Late Antiquity in Jewish Talmud and books like the Testament of Solomon and this version of Solomon becomes a mainstay of Islamic lore. When one encounters genies in the Nights, they are imprisoned in copper vessels sealed with lead ...
But who put them there? The answer is inevitably King Solomon - who imprisoned all of the rebellious jinn (genies) who rebelled against him. [In the tale of the Fisherman and the Genie, the genie fears that he was released to be punished by Solomon again!]
This where we can pivot to Solomonic lore and its connection to the Qur'an. The Qur'an speaks of God granting King Solomon command of the wind, in addition to command of armies jinn and beasts. To my knowledge, there is no parallel in pre-Islamic Jewish or Christian literature...
to Solomon's command of the wind, but eventually it does appear in medieval Jewish midrashim and in the Kəbrä Nägäśt of the Ethiopian Christianity centuries later, which also mention that he used this wind to operate a flying carpet.
A similar idea appears even earlier in the classical exegetical literature of Islam (as in this passage al-Ṭabarī’s tafsīr). Early Muslim scholars interpreted the verse as referring to a wooden vehicle that Solomon used to travel around the world via his command of the winds.
Our most explicit mention of “Solomon’s flying carpet”, however, appears in the Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ of al-Kisāʾī.…
One can say that this is -- in a VERY roundabout way -- how the Qur'an inspired the idea of a "flying carpet". For more on this topic of Solomon's flying carpet,
Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh.

Enjoying this thread?

Keep Current with Sean W. Anthony

Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!