Long ago, in a town not far from Bagdad, in the land of Persia, there lived a poor woodcutter called Ali Baba. One day, Ali Baba was working deep in the forest. Suddenly he heard the noise of many horses. He tied up his two mules behind some high rocks. Then he climbed into a tall tree to hide.
From up high in the tree, Ali Baba saw forty men on forty horses. Each man wore a saber and a dagger in his belt. They looked very fierce. Ali Baba could see at once that they were thieves.
The forty thieves stopped under Ali Baba’s big tree. Their captain stepped up to a huge rock. He said:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And a door flew open in the rock.
Each thief lifted two heavy saddle bags off his horse, and they all went inside. Then the door closed behind them.
Ali Baba could hardly believe what he had seen! He did not dare to climb down from his tree-the thieves might come out at any moment and find him. He waited a long time.
At last the door opened, and the forty thieves came out. Their captain said:
“SHUT, SESAME!” The door closed, and the forty thieves rode away.
When Ali Baba was sure that the thieves were gone, he came down from the tree. He walked up to the huge rock. He took a deep breath. Then he said:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And the door flew open. Ali Baba stepped inside, and the door closed. He found himself in a great hall. Light was coming in through some holes high up in the rock.
Ali Baba looked around. He saw heaps of silver and heaps of gold shining in the dim light. Bales of silk and velvet cloth were piled high, and fine rugs lay on the rocky floor.
Ali Baba filled four bags with gold. When he was done, he said:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And the door flew open.
Ali Baba carried the heavy bags out of the cave. Then he turned to face the rock.
“SHUT, SESAME!” he said. And the door closed.
Ali Baba loaded the bags of gold on his mules. He put some wood on top, so no one could see his treasure. Then he went home to his wife and his children.
Ali Baba brought the bags to his wife and poured out the gold. He told her about the forty thieves, and about the treasure cave behind the door in the rock.
“The thieves must not know who took the gold,” he told his wife. “We will bury it in the yard.”
“Let me weigh it first,” she said, “so we will know how much gold we have.” She ran next door, to the house of Ali Baba’s brother, the merchant Cassim. And she asked Cassin’s wife to lend her a scale.
Cassin’s wife was very curious. What were they weighting next door? She had to find out! She rubbed some fat inside the scale-perhaps something would stick to it. Sure enough, when Ali Baba’s wife brought back the scale, two pieces of gold were stuck to the bottom.
In the evening, Cassim came home from his shop. “Look, Cassim,” his wife said. “Your brother Ali Baba and his wife are not such poor people after all. They have so much gold, they don’t count it-they weigh it!”
Now Cassim liked gold more than anything in the world. He thought, “I must have some of that gold!”
That night, Cassim could not sleep. He could not stop thinking of all that gold! As soon as the sun came up, he ran next door.
“Tell me, brother Ali Baba,” said Cassim, “where did you get so much gold you had to weigh it on our scale?” And he showed his brother the two pieces of gold that had struck to the bottom of the scale.
So Ali Baba told his brother Cassim about the treasure cave, and he told him the worlds that opened and shut the door. He warned him about the forty thieves too.
Within the hour, Cassim took twenty saddle bags and ten fine mules, and he set out for the forest. When he came to the huge rock, he said:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And the door flew open.
Cassim carried his twenty saddle bags into the cave-and the door closed behind him.
Cassim rushed to the gold. He dug his hands deep into a heap of gold and scooped some up. “Gold! Gold!” he cried. “I’ll be rich!”
He filled saddle bag after saddle bag. He stuffed his bags so quickly and so full that pieces of gold spilled out on the rocky floor. Then Cassim dragged his bags to the door. But what were the words that opened it?
“Open, door of gold!” cried Cassim. But no, that was not right. The words had something to do with a grain-but which grain?
“Open, barley!” he cried. But the door in the rock stayed shut. Cassim was trapped inside the treasure cave, with all that gold.
Later that morning, the thieves came back to the rock. When the door flew open, the captain saw Cassim, sitting on the bags of gold.
“Thief!” shouted the captain. “How did you learn our secret? You must die!” The captain drew his saber, and with one blow he killed Cassim.
The thieves left Cassim’s body where it had fallen and rode away.
All that day, Cassim’s wife waited. Evening came, and then night. And still, Cassim had not come back. Now Cassim’s wife ran next door.
“Oh Ali Baba, dear brother-in-law,” she cried.
“You alone know where Cassim has gone. Please go and bring him home!”
Ali Baba took his two mules and went into the forest. In the dark, the huge rock looked forbidding. But Ali Baba called bravely:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And the door flew open.
There, at Ali Baba’s feet, on top of the bags of gold, lay his brother Cassim.
“Poor Cassim,” Ali Baba said sadly. He wrapped his dead brother in one of the lovely rugs. And he laid him on one of the mules. Then Ali Baba put small pieces of wood on top, so one could see what he was carrying home.
Cassim’s wife wept bitterly when she saw her dead husband. She cried and tore her hair. Her young servant girl Morgiana tried to comfort her.
Ali Baba said, “Be brave, dear sister-in-law. In spite of this great sadness, we must be very careful. The thieves who killed Cassim may come after us. Leave everything to me and Morgiana!”
Ali Baba knew that Morgiana was brave and clever. “The thieves must not find out that the man they killed was your master Cassim,” he said to her. “They must think that he died at home, in his bed. You are a clever girl, Morgiana. You will know what to do!”
And Morgiana knew just what to do.
In the morning she ran to the druggist. “My master Cassim is very sick,” she said. “Please, give me some strong medicine for him!”
The next day Morgiana came back to the druggist. Now she was weeping. She said, “My master Cassim is very, very sick. I am afraid he may die! Please give me the strongest medicine you have!”
The druggist told everyone how sick Cassim was. And so, on the third day, no one in town was surprised to hear that Cassim had died. All the townspeople came to the funeral.
Cassim’s wife and her servant Morgiana went to live next door with Ali Baba’s family. And Ali Baba’s oldest son took care of Cassim’s shop.
“Now,” thought Ali Baba, “my worries are over. We are all safe.”
The thieves were gone for a week. Then they came back to the door in the rock-with full saddle bags. As soon as they entered the treasure cave, they saw that Cassim’s body was gone.
“Dead men don’t walk away! Someone else knows our secret!” shouted the captain. “We must find this man and kill him too!”
The captain disguised one of his men as a traveler. “Go into town,” the captain said to this thief. “Find out the name of the man I killed, and find out where he lived. Then back and tell me. Hurry!”
At the gates of the town, the thief met a friendly old man. “Tell me, old man, what’s new in town?” asked the thief.
“Well,” the old man said, “this very week, we’ve had a funeral. The merchant Cassim suddenly got very sick and died.”
“Ha! That must be our man!” thought the thief. “The people who know our secret are clever. They pretended this Cassim was sick before he died.”
Then the thief said to the old man: “Can you show me the house of the merchant Cassim?”
The old man, who liked to talk, took him there the long way. They went through many little streets. Then the old man said, “This is Cassim’s house, behind this wall. Now his wife lives with the family of Cassim’s brother Ali Baba. Ali Baba’s house is next door, behind that wall.”
When the old man went away, the thief took a piece of white chalk out of his bag. He made a white chalk mark on Ali Baba’s gate. Then he hurried back to the forest.
Morgiana saw everything. She saw the old man and the stranger before the house. When they were gone, she saw the white chalk mark too.
Morgiana knew just what to do. She brought a piece of white chalk. And she ran all through the town… .
The next day, the thief brought his captain, to show him the gate with the white chalk mark. “Here is the house,” he said. But soon they saw another gate with a white chalk mark and another and another. Every gate in town was marked with white chalk.
“Fool!” shouted the captain of the thieves. And when they came back to the forest, the captain drew his saber and killed the man.
That very day, the captain sent another thief into town. This thief met the same old man. And the old man took him too, the long way around, to the houses of Cassim and Ali Baba.
The second thief took a piece of red chalk and made a mark on Ali Baba’s gate. Then he hurried back to the forest.
Again, Morgiana saw everything. She bought a piece of red chalk. And she ran all through the town… .
The next day, the second thief brought the captain to town. “This is the house,” he said, “the one with the red chalk mark on the gate!” but soon they saw that every gate in town was marked with red chalk.
“Oh you fool!” shouted the captain. “You will die for this!” And as soon as they were back in the forest, the captain killed the second thief too.
Now the captain himself came to town. The old man showed him the houses of Cassim and Ali Baba. The captain did not need to make a chalk mark on the gate. He looked at the two houses. He looked at the street. He could remember just where this place was.
The captain made his plan to kill Ali Baba and all who knew the secret of the treasure cave. That very day, he sent some of his thieves to another town to get nineteen mules. And he told them to bring back thirty-eight big oil jars made of leather. “Fill up only one of the jars with oil,” he said to his men. “But rub some oil on the thirty-seven empty jars-so they too will look full. And hurry back!”
Soon the thieves came back. They brought nineteen mules. Each mule was carrying two big oil jars made of leather.
“Well done, men!” said the captain. He now told his thirty-seven thieves to hide themselves in the thirty-seven empty oil jars.
The captain disguised himself as an oil merchant. He drove his nineteen mules into town and went to Ali Baba’s house. Ali Baba and his oldest son were sitting outside, enjoying the cool evening air.
“Good evening,” said the captain of the thieves. “I have come to take my oil to market in the morning. But it is late and I have not found a place to stay. Would you be kind enough to take me in for the night?”
“I will be glad put you up, stranger,” said Ali Baba. And Ali Baba and his son opened the gate wide for this oil merchant and his nineteen mules. The merchant unloaded the oil jars and set them down in the courtyard.
After a good supper, the captain of the thieves said to Ali Baba, “I must go into the courtyard and look after my oil jars.”
The captain went to each jar. He tapped on each lid. And he whispered to his thirty-seven men, “My room faces the courtyard. When everyone in the house is asleep, I will come to my window. I will clap my hands three times. When you hear me, come out of your oil jars. I’ll come down to lead you. Be sure to have your daggers with you. We shall kill everyone in this place!”
Then the captain went to his room.
Morgiana was working late that night. She saw that there was very little oil left in the oil lamp.
“I am sure the merchant won’t mind if I take a tiny bit of his oil from one of those big jars,” she thought. Morgiana went into the courtyard. She went to the first jar to fill her lamp. When she came near, a men’s voice inside the jar said, “Is it time?”
Anyone else would have screamed. But not Morgiana! Right away, she guessed who was in those jars-and that the oil merchant was really the captain of the thieves.
Morgiana disguised her voice. She wanted to sound like the captain. She whispered, “Not yet!” Morgiana went from jar to jar. Thirty-seven times she heard a man’s voice saying, “Is it time?” And thirty-seven times she whispered, “Not yet!”
When she came to the thirty-eighth jar, she found that it was full of oil. She filled her lamp and went back into the kitchen.
“I must act quickly,” she thought. “Or we’ll all be killed!”
Now Morgiana took a big pot. She went into the courtyard and filled it with oil. She boiled the oil in that big pot on the stove. Then she took the boiling oil into the courtyard. She went from jar to jar. She lifted the lid of each jar just a bit. Into each jar she poured some boiling oil. Then she closed the lid again. In this way she killed all the thieves on the spot.
Then Morgiana went back into the kitchen and waited.
Everything was quite. The captain of the thieves thought everyone had gone to sleep. He came to the window, and he clapped his hands three times. Nothing stirred in the courtyard.
“Why can’t they hear me?” he wondered. He came down into the courtyard. And he saw that all his men were dead.
“Oh all my brave men!” thought the captain of the thieves. “But I must get away, or I too will die!” the climbed over the wall and ran all the way to the forest.
In the morning Morgiana told Ali Baba all that happened.
“Were it not for you, dear Morgiana,” he said, “the thieves would be alive, and we would all be dead!”
Once more the captain made a plan to kill Ali Baba and all his family. Again he disguised himself – this time, as a rug merchant. He took some of the finest rugs from the treasure cave, and he rode into town, straight to the shop of Ali Baba’s son. Ali Baba’s son had never seen such fine rugs.
“I am so glad to meet a young man as wise as you are,” said the rug merchant to him. “It is a joy to sell these rugs to a man who knows how fine they are!”
The two talked and talked. When evening came, Ali Baba’s son brought the traveling rug merchant home for supper.
While Morgiana served the food, she looked closely at the stranger. She saw at once that he was the captain of the thieves – and she saw that he was carrying a dagger under his coat!
“Oh he has come to kill my master Ali Baba and his son! He has come to kill us all!” she said to herself.
And Morgiana knew just what to do.
“I will dance for your guest,” Morgiana said to Ali Baba. When supper was over, she put on her dancing skirt. She stuck a dagger into her belt. Then she took her tambourine. She held up the tambourine with one hand – and with the other she held up the dagger. She danced so well, everyone threw money on her tambourine. The rug merchant leaned close to Ali Baba. Morgiana jumped toward him, took her dagger – and killed him on the spot.
“Morgiana!” cried Ali Baba. “What have you done!”
The merchant had fallen over. His false moustache had come off. And he was holding a dagger in his hand.
“Why, it’s the captain of the thieves!” cried Ali Baba.
“And he was about to kill you with his dagger,” said Morgiana.
Now they all thanked Morgiana for saving their lives. Ali Baba’s son too her by the hand.
“Father,” he said to Ali Baba. “You know how brave and clever Morgiana is. Nowhere in the world could I find a better wife! Please, let us be married!” And Ali Baba’s son asked Morgiana to be his wife.
The very next day they were married. And all the townspeople danced at their wedding.
After the wedding, Ali Baba took his son to the huge rock in the forest. He taught him the words that opened and closed the magic door. They many lovely things from the treasure cave. They gave presents to everyone in the family. And they gave presents to all the townspeople.
From that time on, whenever anyone in the town was in need, Ali Baba and his son went back to the door in the rock. They called out:
“OPEN, SESAME!” And the door flew open…