Flying carpets are mentioned in numerous legends. I am an imaginary means of transport. Flying carpets are the flights of fairy tales, they are every child’s secret dreams, they are dreams that will never come true. Think that flying carpets are present in literature from almost biblical times to the present day, and it is thanks to the popularity of the Thousand and One Nights if the magic carpets have come to the attention of the western public.

The History of Flying Carpets

According to the sacred book of the Ethiopians, the Kebra Nagast, also known as the book of the Glory of the Kings, an ancient Ethiopian text of great historical, religious and archaeological importance, written between the fifth century BC. and the second century AD, says that King Solomon, third king of Israel from 970 to 930 BC, possessed a flying carpet. The description of Solomon’s flying carpet is puzzling. It is said to be sixty miles long and wide, green and gold in color and that when Solomon sat down on the carpet, he was caught in the wind and sailed so quickly into the air that he had breakfast in Damascus and dined in Media.

Also according to the sacred book Kebra Nagast, the Queen of Sheba, wife of King Solomon, also owned one. But these ancient legends do not speak of flying carpets only as a means of transport. In numerous stories, flying carpets are depicted as powerful weapons. In fact, in the stories of the second century BC, we discover Phraates II, a king of the Parthians engaged in battle with Antiochus VII, king of the Seleucid Empire.

The story goes that King Phraates flew “on board” a flying carpet from the heights of Zagros mountain. Once he reached his enemy, he fired fire and lightning from the carpet. According to Hai ben Sherira of the Talmudic Academy, the lost library of Alexandria was home to countless “magic carpets”. The flying carpet is also a very popular motif in fairy tale literature that is often associated with the fairy tales of “The Thousand and One Nights”.

But contrary to all those who think, almost all the fairy tales of the flying carpet are Russian or of Slavic origin. In this fairytale object is contained the eternal desire of the child but also of the man to fly.

The character of these stories is Baba Yaga, a legendary creature of Slavic mythology, who over time has become a very important fairy tale character. She is a horrible witch from Slavic folklore. In addition to flying around on an old mortar to kidnap children, he supplies Prince Ivan, the hero of Russian folklore, with a flying carpet.

In the fairy tale “The Princess Frogs”, Baba Yaga gives Prince Ivan a flying carpet to go home with his wife Vassilissa the Wise; in “The Enchanted Princess” the flying carpet is the means that a soldier uses to find his way back to his beloved wife; the flying carpet in the fairy tale “THE prophetic dream” is still Ivan’s extraordinary means of transport to reach the kingdom of Elena the beautiful.

 

The Flying carpets and the Thousand and One Nights

But as mentioned at the beginning, the popularity of the flying carpets is due to “The Thousand and One Nights”, the famous collection of oriental novels, of Egyptian, Mesopotanical, Indian and Persian origin, established starting from the tenth century, of various historical-geographical setting, composed by different authors. The number 1001 should not be taken literally. On the contrary, “thousand” in Arabic means “countless” and therefore 1001 means an infinite number. Successive compilers and translators took this number literally and, dividing and adding fairy tales, they came to a collection that contained precisely one thousand and one.

It focuses on Sultan Shahriyar who, having been betrayed by one of his wives, systematically kills his brides at the end of the wedding night. One day Shahrazade, eldest daughter of the grand vizier (prime minister), decides to volunteer as a bride to the sovereign, having devised a plan to appease man’s anger against the female gender. So, to stop the massacre and not be killed herself, the beautiful and intelligent girl carries out her plan with the help of her sister: every evening she tells the king a story, postponing the finale to the next day. This goes on for “a thousand and one nights” and in the end the king, falling in love, saves her life. In the novels Le Mille e una Notte, the presence of flying carpets is very rare. We know the short story entitled “History of Prince Ahmed and the Fair Pari-Banù”, with the Tangu carpet, also called the carpet of Prince Hussain. This story begins the night CCCXCIII and so for 23 moons and only the night CDXV, Sharazade tells the happy ending.

Flying Carpets and Movies

The appearance of Aladdin with his wonderful lamp cannot be traced back to the first edition, but is from a relatively recent period. The story, by someone classified as a legend, appears for the first time in the compilation of Le Mille e una Notte with the translation of Antoine Galland, from Arabic to French, made in 1710. But the fantastic flying carpet that accompanies the wonderful flights of Aladdin and his marvelous lamp, only entered the 20th century.

In 1939 Paramount produced the animated film “The wonderful Aladdin’s lamp” with characters from the Popeye series. In this production, however, Aladdin is still without the extraordinary, fantastic flying carpet. It is in 1982 with the production company Toei Company, that the magic carpet enters the cinemas with the animated film “Aladdin and the wonderful lamp”. In 1992 Walt Disney produced the film titled Aladdin. Here the magical carpet takes Aladino and his beloved Jasmine to flight.

Do you think that the voice of the genius in the original version is by the great actor Robin Williams, while in the Italian dubbed version it is entrusted to Gigi Proietti. This very successful animated film, gives the composers Alan Menken and Tim Rice two Oscar awards: the first as best song A whole new world by Rice and Menken; the second for best soundtrack by Alan Menken. In 2019, Disney, after 27 years from the first edition of Aladdin, comes out with the remake of the film, entirely starred by actors.

 

Viktor Vasnetsov – The Flying Carpet Painter

He was born in 1848 in the distant village of Lop’jal, in the governorate of Vyatka (today it is the city of Kirov) in Russia. He died in Moscow in 1926

Flying carpets, knights, princesses and magical creatures are the protagonists of the paintings of Vasnetsov, a famous painter of the twentieth century, considered a key figure in the neo-Russian movement. The famous paintings of the famous painter having as a subject the flying carpet, are the first two:

the first painting, oil on canvas of 1880, depicts Prince Ivàn on the enchanted carpet that holds the cage containing the Firebird captured by him. Here the Flying Carpet is similar to the gigantic bird, spreading its wings over the boundless expanses of Russia.

The canvas was made at the request of the friend art collector, Savva Mamontov, who wanted a picture to hang on the walls of his railway office (Mamontov, in addition to being an entrepreneur and patron, was also the largest shareholder of the Trans-Siberian Railway); but the board of directors decided that the subject was not suitable for decorating such a serious department. The painting is exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Nìzhnij Nòvgorod
the second painting, oil on canvas by Viktor Vasnetsòv, is a work from the years 1919-1926 and depicts Prince Ivan and the princess on the Flying Carpet. Below them the Russian plain and the river surrounded by the forest.

The painting is located in the Viktor Vasnetsov House-Museum in Moscow; the third painting, oil on canvas, also by Vasnetsov from the years 1917-1926, depicts the famous, horrible witch of Russian legends, Baba Yaga, who flies on his mortar carrying a kidnapped girl to devour her. The painting is located in the Viktor Vasnetsov House-Museum in Moscow; The fourth painting is the painter’s self-portrait painted in 1873, at the age of 25.

Viktor Vasnetsov, immersed himself so deeply in this magical world of Russian tales that he even created a real “hut on chicken legs”, which, according to the story, would be the home of the old witch Baba Yaga.

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