I promised way back that I would give a primer on Djinn vs. Genie, and here it is. I know in the western world we think of Genies living in lamps or bottles and granting us wishes. The two most enduring symbols in Western Culture are Disney’sAladdin and the 1960’s TV show, I Dream of Jeannie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these shows. They are hilarious and mostly family friendly. Though, you may want to have a talk about feminism and female empowerment with your children after watching I Dream of Jeannie. Or informing your children that Arabic women aren’t half naked, slightly tanned white girls. But, I digress.
The Genie actually comes from the French, not the Arabic. The French were originally highly active in the Middle East during the Enlightenment, and the Book1001 Arabian Nights captured their attention. And rightfully so. The collection of stories is truly amazing.
But the Frenchman who originally translated the work in the 18th century mistook the Arabic Jinn, or singular Jinni, to be the Roman Genii, or singular Genius. The Roman Genius was similar to Djinn in that it was a spirit that could have many forms and was often bound to a human. And mainly, it had a similar sounding name. That’s about the end of the similarities. The Genii were more like guardian angels and the Djinn were more like strange fire cousins to us humans that enjoyed a good prank.
Sometimes a Djinn would be bound to a particular person, but it was never considered a good idea. Djinn, much like humans, don’t enjoy being enslaved and have quite a nasty trickster side to them. Djinn would be more kin to Puck and his ilk in the British Isles than to guardian angels.
Alas, the comparison and name stuck in our western minds. And forever these “hidden brothers” to the human race became some sort of silly guardian wish granter for good little humans who were lucky enough to find one. Previously, finding a Djinn, was not considered lucky. Mostly, if you left a djinn alone, they left you alone.
There are some exceptions to this of course. Djinn have many races that range from purely evil to quite nice on a grand scale. And in each race of Djinn, there are the exceptions. But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned for the next installment later this week, where I’ll go over how I use Djinn in my books.