Perhaps the most culturally well-known genie today is the one from Disney's Aladdin, who granted Aladdin "three wishes, three. Uno, dos, tres, no substitutions, exchanges, or refunds, and ixnay on the wishing for more wishes."

This is not the way the genie from The Arabian Nights worked. (First off, there were two of them in the story of Aladdin, but that's beside the point.) The Genie of the Lamp had to grant unlimited wishes to Aladdin. I remember when the Disney movie first came out, thinking, "that's not how the story goes, but 'three wishes' is kind of the standard, so OK."

But now, thinking back, I can't help but wonder. When did "three wishes" become the standard? Where does that idea come from?

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    do you mean in a cinematic-history sense, or a literature sense? because I bet it predates film, but I'm unsure.
    – DForck42
    Jul 13, 2017 at 14:31
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    Well, you can start from here: giantglacier.com/the-origin-of-the-genie-in-the-lamp Jul 13, 2017 at 14:34
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    I think you should edit the question to something like: "When the concept of a genie granting three wishes was first introduced in a movie?" Jul 13, 2017 at 14:38
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    The oldest I know really comes from Aladdin's story in One Thousand and One Nights. Although it has some differences as he had 2 genies there. One who granted one wish and another who granted three. IIRC...
    – LeonX
    Jul 13, 2017 at 14:40
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    This isn't really a movies & TV question; I'm pretty sure the concept of a genie granting three wishes goes back for hundreds of years before cinema was invented. I suggest you ask this question on Literature SE instead, if you really want insight into where the idea came from rather than how it transitioned from written material to the screen. Or Science Fiction & Fantasy SE, which covers both written and screen material provided it's sci-fi or fantasy (which genies are). Jul 14, 2017 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


The Ridiculous Wishes or The Three Ridiculous Wishes is a French literary fairy tale by Charles Perrault published in 1697 in the volume titled Histoires ou contes du temps passé.

You will find reference from the first "mainstream" Genie and three wishes originated from the 1697 french book. One of the first examples is the Genie freed by Abu, the eponymous character in the 1940 film Thief of Baghdad.

Abu makes one of his three wishes for sausages. This is derived from the work mentioned above. The woman in the 1697 French work asks for a sausage, everything goes downhill from there for the wife and her husband in that work.

Many religions try to claim the first records of Djins or Genies using their religious books. The French work of 1697 is the first documented use of this plot line with a Genie.


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