February 7, 2011

creature feature: jinn

I’ve always been fascinated by Arabian lore. When I was a kid, Disney’s Aladdin was one of my favorite films, and it still is. Since, I’ve devoured every Arabian tale I could find, anything that shares the folklore and mythology of the Middle East and South Asia. One Thousand and One Nights, or Arabian Nights, will probably always be my favorite collection of ancient myths and legends, easily favored over The Illiad, The Odyssey, and even the Prose Edda.

What fascinate me most are the creatures in Arabian mythology.

The jinn are the most famous of these creatures. There is one belief that every person is assigned their own jinn at birth, what we might consider a conscience but with both good and bad parts.

In Islamic theology, jinns have free well, as well as humans. They live in a world parallel to humankind so that humans can neither see them or be seen by them. The jinn live almost identically to humans, but while humans were formed from the clay of the earth, the jinn were made from smokeless fire. Jinn can appear in many different forms, and they are thought to be the source of magic in the world. Jinns are commonly trapped by magicians to do their bidding, bound into rings and jewelry, or in the most famous case, lamps.

In popular culture, a captured jinni must serve the owner of his prison, offering the person three wishes upon release. Jinn have appeared in many books, films, and even games in the modern era. In The Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, the main character stumbles upon a grumpy jinni trapped in a bottle. There’s of course the famous television show I Dream of Jeannie, and Disney’s Aladdin. Shaquille O’Neal played a rapping genie who lived in a boombox in the film Kazaam. The White Witch is said to be half jinn in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. In Dungeons & Dragons, the jinn appear in the Monster Manual as a race of air elementals imprisoned because they allied with the primordial in the struggle against the gods.

Personally, I find the jinn fascinating, and the fact that they have changed so much to fit various roles in recent literature and media just increases my wonder of them.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I didn't know much about jinn, so this was a great intro to it.