A man walks into a bar and is surprised to find a tiny little guy no more than a foot tall, playing the piano.
“Where did he come from?” he asks the bartender.
“I wished for him,” says the barkeep. ”There’s a genie in this beer bottle and it grants wishes. Give it a rub.”
The man rubs the beer bottle and a genie appears in a cloud of smoke. “I can grant you one wish, master,” it booms. “What is your request?”
“I wish for a million bucks!”
With a crash the genie disappears and the bar room is suddenly filled with ducks quacking their heads off.
“This isn’t what I asked for!” the man wails.
The barman looks at him. “And you think I wanted a twelve-inch pianist?”
In my Arabian Nights novel, Heart of Flame, I made the main antagonist a djinni. That’s a headache. First of all the, spelling … one djinni, two djinn – which is about as counter-intuitive as it gets in English. I still wake in the night in a sweat, convinced that somewhere in 93,000 words I got it the wrong way round.
(A female djinni is a djinniyah, by the way. File that under “obscure and useless facts.”)
Secondly, they’re incredibly powerful. We’ve all heard the Aladdin story; the Genie of the Lamp can build an entire palace overnight, then transport it all the way across the world. How the heck do my hero and heroine stand a chance against someone that magical?
In Arabic mythology, the djinn are a free-willed race that pre-existed the creation of humankind. Unlike the first human, who was formed by God from clay, djinn were made from smokeless flame. Despite their immense power, however, God ordered them (along with the angels) to bow down before Adam. Some refused, out of pride, and are malevolently disposed to us; their leader, Iblis, is the Muslim version of Satan.
So the obvious question is, why are these beings, which pop up so often in Arabian Nights stories, so helpless? We find them trapped in bottles and rings and lamps, and when released they don’t stomp round mushing us all like ants, the way you’d expect, but grant wishes. Grudgingly, yes. And they stick to the letter of the command rather than the spirit. But wishes. Wow!
Well, it seems we’ve got King Solomon to thank for curtailing the djinn. The world’s most powerful magician, thanks to divine sanction, he commanded whole troops of them in the building of the Temple of Jerusalem, and must have spent a lot of his downtime binding them into objets d’art.
My antagonist Yazid isn’t bound – but defining just what his limitations are, how to balance and counter his frankly ridiculous power, and what the heck it is he could possibly want from human beings, is what drove the whole plot of Heart of Flame.
Because, you know … what could they want from us?
Heh heh heh…xxx Janine Ashbless
And on the One-Thousand-and-Second night, Scheherazade told this story…
By day, Taqla uses her forbidden sorcery to move freely about the city of Damascus in the guise of an old sage. Her true identity known only by her faithful servant woman, Taqla is content with the comfortable, if restrictive, life that keeps her safe from the control of any man. Until she lays eyes on a handsome merchant-traveler. Suddenly her magical disguise doesn’t rest so easily on her shoulders.
When long-time widower, Rafiq, hears that the Amir’s beautiful daughter has been kidnapped by a scheming djinni—and that she will be given in marriage to her rescuer—he seeks the help of “Umar the Wise” to ensure he will be that man. Yet as he and the disguised Taqla set off, he senses that his prickly male companion is hiding something.
In a moment of dire peril, all of Taqla’s secrets are stripped bare—her fears, her sorcery and, worst of all, her love for Rafiq. Yet the princess’s life hangs in the balance, and there is no running away or turning back. Even though passion may yet betray them all…
Product Warning: Scary monsters and creepy ruins in the desert—check. Pagan gods that demand blood-sacrifices—double check. A handsome hero who looks good in a robe and even better out of it—oh yeah. Check, check and check. That’s worth a heroine dropping a veil or two.