Brazilian Rafael Maia was not quite certain of where the Arab countries were located when he was seven, but he was already quite familiar with a character from that region. Maia lived in the city of Canoas, in the Brazilian southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. and owned the book "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp."
The kid, now a 23-year old support analyst, had contact with Aladdin whenever he would flip through the illustrated pages of his little book, and also when he would sit down and play his videogame with friends Leonardo and Thiago.
"What grabbed my attention in the story was Aladdin's willingness to help others, and also the love that he felt for the princess," says Rafael. In the videogame, the challenge was precisely to make Aladdin, who rode a flying carpet, save the princess.
The game would entertain the three friends for hours. Of all tales in Arab literature classic "Book of the Thousand and One Nights," Aladdin is one of the most popular among Brazilian children. Another popular story is "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."
According to the Arabic Language and Literature at the University of São Paulo (USP), Mamede Mustafá Jarouche, Arab literature became present in the Brazilian childhood mostly due to the diffusion, in Brazil, of the French translation of the "Book of the Thousand and One Nights," by Antoine Galland. As a matter of fact, few are the Brazilian adults that never heard, in their childhood, of Aladdin or Ali Baba. According to Jarouche, until this day, the two stories remain popular among Brazilian children.
And how have these two stories entered and continue to enter the national childhood? According to the Professor at USP, who also translated the "Book of the Thousand and One Nights," the stories appeal to the imagination and the playful spirit of children.
"There is the genie thing, of human beings turned into animals," says Jarouche. The story of Aladdin, a fatherless child, revolves around a magic lamp that makes the wishes of he who possesses it come true. Aladdin vies for the lamp with an evil man, who passes himself as his uncle. Using the lamp, Aladdin manages to wed the princess of the kingdom, whom he loves.
In turn, Ali Baba's is the story of a merchant who found out where a band of thieves stashed their stolen treasures, and then retrieved them. Ali Baba told the secret to his brother, who attempted to fetch the treasures and ended up captured by the thieves.
After being chased down and found in his house by the leader of the band, the brother was helped by Ali Baba. The two got rid of the thieves and Ali Baba decided to marry the maid at the house. In return for having helped the two to flee the thieves, she earns part of the fortune to herself.
According to clinical psychologist Tatiana Peres, children's stories have an influence on their behavior. "Some children identify with the characters – girls identify with the princess, and boys with the heroes. This is part of the formation of sexuality," says Tatiana.
According to her, the influence is present across all age brackets, but children between four and five years of age are more interested in the stories, and usually attempt to play the characters.
"The child will ask to see or hear the same story several times. This means that she is seeking to elaborate its contents. Since she does not have the same understanding as we do, the story is recorded in her psyche and becomes part of her formation as a human being," claims Tatiana, who is in charge of making house calls at Hospitalitá Home Care and Hospital Nossa Senhora de Lourdes.
Children also use the stories that they hear, according to Tatiana, to resolve their Oedipus complex. "At this stage of development the law is established, i.e., we find out that we cannot be absolute, and become sexual beings seeking the object of our love. The establishment of law is played out in 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,' and other stories in which Good defeats Evil. Another example is 'Aladdin,' with the additional fact that love is discovered as well," she says.
Presently, several publishing houses in Brazil offer stories from the "Book of the Thousand and One Nights" in their catalogues. Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, for example, in print by publishing companies Record, Leitura, Martins Fontes, Rideel, and Villa Rica, among others.
Anba – www.anba.com.br