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In Middle Eastern folklore and Islam, genies (jinn, Arabic for "hidden") were created out of the Four Elements by God before he created the First Man from all the elements. They are (usually) invisible beings that are actually more like humans than we realize -- they're born, grow up, marry, have children and eventually die. They are said to be made of "smokeless fire", perhaps something along the lines of energy beings. They're also extremely long-lived and highly skilled in magic. However, they can be killed by rather mundane means, if the Arabian Nights is any indication. (At least a couple of genies have been done in by a rock to the head.) They were sometimes trapped in a bottle. They might grant you a wish if you let them go. Or they might have been bound to something like a ring or a lamp and forced to obey the orders of anyone who summoned them. Genies are creatures of free will; they can be good or evil and may even be religious. Belief in genies is still common in the Middle East today.
God told the Djinn that they should bow to man's superiority, but their leader, Iblis, refused to do so; thus they ended up imprisoned in lamps and such and forced to grant wishes. Genies in Islam can also possess humans for a variety of reasons -- they might have a crush on the human, or they might just be a jerkwad. During exorcisms, the genie is given the option to convert to Islam, leave the body of the human or die. Iblis, by the way, never repented, and in fact swore that he would corrupt mankind... in other words, he's their version of Satan (and in fact is sometimes called Shayṭān).
In popular Western media, genies are immortal beings almost invariably trapped inside a lamp or a bottle, often materializing through a puff of smoke. (Originally, at least part of those items only acted as a means to summon the genie and didn't actually contain it.) They must grant you three wishes, which they may or may not screw up horribly. (In the Arabian Nights, this number ranged from one to infinity.)
The correct Arabic grammar is "one djinni", "two djinn" (also spelled jinn(i)). Don't expect the average viewer or writer to get this right. (More trivia: The English word "genie", used to translate "djinni", is completely unrelated but has a similar meaning. The Dutch word "genie", genius, is spelled the same, but has nothing to do with it and is pronounced completely differently.)
Anime & Manga
- Majin Buu of Dragonball Z is quite genie based. Both in appearance and the fact that he first manifests as smoke after being unsealed. He was even called "Djinn Buu" in at least one translation.
- In fact, Majin (demon person) is often used as a translation for Jinn in anime.
- In Magi Labyrinth of Magic djinn are more like Olympus Mons, Bond Creatures, and Guardian Entities.
- Magic: The Gathering features both djinn and efreet as creature types. They tend to be fairly powerful for their cost, but often have some drawback or ability reflecting their general fickleness, like dealing damage to their controller, making enemy creatures stronger or harder to block, or only attacking or blocking when they feel like it according to a coin flip. They're also two of the few creature types that have cards specifically intended to neutralize them -- King Suleiman and his legacy, respectively.
- One of the main characters of G. Willow Wilson's Cairo is a three-piece suit-wearing genie inhabiting a water-pipe who grants wishes by manipulating probability.
- The DC Comics character Johnny Thunder was a clueless young man who inherited a genie-like being called The Thunderbolt (who seemed to be a living bolt of lightning) that obeyed his commands- if he said the magic words "Cei-U" first (pronounced "say you!"- as you can imagine from that, hilarity often ensued.) It was later revealed that there's a whole dimension of creatures like The Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt later passed to a young African-American boy named Jakeem, and merged with another "genie" to create a new being summoned by the mahic words "So Cul" (pronounced "so cool").
- Fables plays with the idea that a djinn's lamp is actually a very elaborate prison for a very powerful, very destructive being of chaos. As such, it is very important that your third wish be for the djinn return voluntarily to the lamp.
Films -- Live-Action
- The Shaquille O'Neil movie, Kazaam. A genie's bottle falls into a stereo and produces a rapping genie. Also, the main character says that all genies are naturally slaves, and "djinn" -- or free spirits -- are nothing more than fairy tales.
- The djinn in the Wishmaster series are apparently some kind of byproduct of God's creation of the universe and are all inherently evil and as such were banished to some Hell dimension. The main one is trapped in a red jewel on Earth and if he successfully grants his summoner's three wishes he can free his brethren and get rid of whatever it is that's restricting his powers so that they only activate for wishes. He also collects souls and has a very loose definition of what exactly constitutes as a wish.
- The remake of Clash of the Titans has Djinn, even though they are from the Arabian lore rather than from the Greek mythology. Here, they appear as black-colored humanoid creatures with bright blue eyes that use blue fire magic that seems organic based (they tame scorpions, heal the hero and are claimed to rebuild themselves of wood). And they also can suicide bomb themselves. Have I mentioned they are Arabian?
- There were several genies in the Arabian Nights. Here's a sampling...
- One was trapped in a jar. Apparently, being stuck in a jar made him so cantankerous that his idea of showing gratitude was to let his rescuer choose how he would die. Which wasn't his original plan -- when first sealed into the jar, he pledged that the one who freed him would be granted three wishes. After a thousand years, he pledged to reveal to his rescuer all the treasures of the Earth. After a thousand more, he pledges to grant his rescuer the choice of how he'll die.
- Another took a fancy to a handsome young man. After whisking him away to show him to another genie, she dropped him in Damascus, far away from his own home.
- A woman rescued a female genie from an amorous male genie -- by throwing a rock at his head and killing him. The grateful female genie offered to help the woman in the future if she needed it.
- The genies in the Aladdin story are bound to a lamp and to a ring. The genie attached to each item must obey whoever holds it at the time. The story also shows that all genies are not equal in power: the lamp genie is at least an order of magnitude or two more powerful than the ring genie, who is relatively limited by comparison.
- A particularly Literal Genie granted a man's wish for a bigger manhood... by making it gigantic. Like fallen tree gigantic.
- That same idea as in the first Arabian Nights example is used in Dealing with Dragons. When a genie is accidentally let out of the bottle, he explains to Cimorene and Therandril the terms of reward with years of imprisonment, and then insists that their only choice now was their manner of death, which Cimorene responds to by choosing "old age". Also in keeping with the theme of the story, the genie actually had only been in the bottle long enough that he'd be forced to grant them three wishes for his release instead of killing them. Because no genie was ever released before the "kill-the-releaser" period, he felt that granting the wishes and not killing anyone would make him a laughingstock. He decides to follow Cimorene's advice and return to the bottle for another thousand years or so, when the two of them would certainly be dead and he could go home without granting wishes or breaking his oath.
- American Gods has a very odd side-story about a gay genie who was stuck as a cab driver after immigrating to America, passing his status as a mystic creature on to a man he engaged in a one-night-stand with. The only indications that he wasn't human were flaming eyes and, er... flaming something else showcased in a sex scene. He does not grant wishes, however. Though he did kind of grant the wish of the guy he had a one-night-stand with by liberating him from his dead-end life, and giving him a chance to start over as a New York cabbie.
- In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the genie is sealed in a bottle (with Solomon's Seal no less) but does not have to grant wishes. Virginia must use psychological tricks on it.
- The Discworld novel Sourcery has a yuppie genie who apparently isn't bound to his lamp; he has several lamps, including "a small but well-appointed lamp where he lived during the week, another rather unique lamp in the country, a carefully restored peasant rushlight in an unspoilt wine-growing district near Quirm, and just recently a set of derelict lamps in the docks area of Ankh-Morpork that had great potential, once the smart crowd got there, to become the occult equivalent of a suite of offices and a wine bar." He's rather overcommitted on lamps, in fact, and is thinking of diversifying into rings. He grants wishes, if he approves of them, but insists that nobody says "Your wish is my command!" any more.
- Harlan Ellison's story "Djinn, No Chaser" features a very angry genie trapped in a lamp. He proceeds to make life hell for a couple on their honeymoon and gets the husband temporarily institutionalized until the wife decides to just bust open the lamp with a can opener, releasing the genie and earning his gratitude.
- Djins in the Myth Adventures series come from the dimension of Djinger, a place so strapped for funds that they've resorted to hiring out their citizens to work in magic lamps, rings, bottles and so on. Don't believe the hype about what they're capable of; after all, they're only a few inches tall. Usually. They underplay their power very heavily.
- Declare by Tim Powers has British and Soviet intelligence agencies vying for control of the djinn who live on Mount Ararat. The djinn here are beings of pure thought, often taking the form of storms, flocks of birds, or the movement of a mob, and view things from a completely, utterly inhuman perspective. Bargains or deals struck with a djinni can grant immortality (which works just as well for nations as individual humans) and other supernatural powers, but the price is often a Deal with the Devil.
- Robert Louis Stevenson's story The Bottle Imp does something like The Lord of the Rings with its One Ring -- taking a traditional fairy-tale MacGuffin and turning it into an Artifact of Doom. The imp is a demon and buying the bottle is like making a Deal with the Devil; the only way to escape hell is to sell the bottle for less than you purchased it. Unfortunately, if you are ever dissatisfied after selling the bottle, the imp will make something nasty happen to you to pressure you into buying it back.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy has a whole pantheon of spirits (afrits, jinn, etc.) who magicians use spells to bind to their will. Typically, their actual appearance is that of an Eldritch Abomination, and they use shapeshifting and glamour to take other forms.
- Piers Anthony took a sci-fi twist in the book, Prostho Plus. An Earth dentist repairs the "tooth" of a powerful robotic being with ill-defined powers. The being declares that he had waited too long, and would grant no wishes, and asks him how he wishes to die. The dentist says, "Of old age, of course." For the rest of the book, he has a faithful Deus Ex Machine who protects him from all harm, declaring "None but I shall do him die!", and even goes to the point of helping him get together with his lady-love because humans tend to have a better chance of reaching old age when partnered, or something like that.
- Malik ibn Ibrahim, the main character of the anthology Wandering Djinn pretty much Walking the Earth, has the ability to disguise himself in a myriad of human forms, knows a lot of different folklore creatures because he's met a lot of them, and has the creepy appearance of skin that's so dark blue it borders on black, golden cat eyes, and instead of hair a scalp covered with flame. If he wasn't such a goofball, he might be frightening.
- Sandy Frances Duncan's The Toothpaste Genie is about an unskilled young genie bound to a tube of toothpaste. He explains to the protagonist that the more successful and esteemed a genie is, the better the container they're assigned to by their superiors. Toothpaste tubes and boxes of laundry detergent are apparently the bottom of the totem pole, with fancy bottles being near the top.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, djinni are among the beings Prospero Inc. must keep from causing natural disasters.
- The Portuguese translation of His Dark Materials literally translates "daemon" as "genie" ("génio"). In this case, "daemon" is derived from a Greek term defining any lesser supernatural entity, and it was under that definition that jinns originally fell; in other words, those are essentially the Greek and Islamic analogues of The Fair Folk. In the context of the books, daemons/genies are your soul walking around as a sentient, talking animal, whose species reflects your personality.
- The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia is half Jinn and half Giant.
- In her 500 Kingdoms novel Fortune's Fool, Mercedes Lackey used an ifrit as the villain. At the end, he is sealed into his bottle "until you repent of your evil ways, and are ready to join your lawful kin in the City of Brass." Djinn do have free will, so it's a valid condition.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is and What Should Never Be", the Winchester brothers track down a djinni that appears to grant whatever its victim wishes for, altering the world around them. But Dean learns first hand that the djinni just puts his victims in an acid-trip-like state, hooks them up to an IV, and drinks their blood for a few days until they die (but it feels like years in the djinni-induced-acid-trip). The victims do occasionally get flashes of reality, though, which is what helps Dean figure it out and get out of Wishland.
- The Genie from Down Under deals with the adventures of the very Australian genie Bruce and his son Baz who live in an opal pendant and are forced to obey the commands of whoever holds the opal.
- Four words, I Dream of Jeannie. Jeannie is an atypical Happiness in Slavery version. One episode featured the "Blue Genie" (the one who initially planned on rewarding whoever freed him, but eventually decided to kill that unlucky individual).
- Charmed's Phoebe got turned into one. French Stewart also played one in Season Two, as the archetypal trickster character.
- Imagin, the Monster of the Week race from Kamen Rider Den-O, are an odd variation of genie: they claim to grant wishes, typically twisting them horribly, and once the contract is complete they use their contractor's memories to create a portal to the past so they can alter history for their benefit. Of course, while there is an overall leader, every Imagin has its own personality and can choose whether or not it wants to obey him. The protagonists include several Imagin that decided there were other things they wanted to do (like chase skirt or become the strongest karateka) and partnered up with the kind-hearted protagonist to protect people from their malevolent brethren.
- In the Enchanted Ralm in Once Upon a Time there is the Genie of Agrabah who becomes Regina's Unwitting Pawn in her plot to kill her husband the king and is transformed into her Mirror
- An episode of Wizards of Waverly Place featured a Jackass Genie
- In Dungeons and Dragons, genies are elemental spirits from the elemental planes. They have several different types, each tied to a particular element. Efreet are Lawful Evil genies from the Plane of Fire. Djinn are Chaotic Good genies from the Plane of Air. Jann are made of all of the elements, can be of any alignment, and spend most of their time on the Material Plane. Later supplements added Dao (Earth) and Marids (Water). They all have various magical abilities, but whether they can grant wishes varies between them. Efreet can grant wishes, but since they hate servitude, they tend to be Literal Genies, if not outright Jackass Genies. Only "noble" djinn (about 1% of them) can grant wishes.
- The Al-Qadim setting clarifies this. Genies are more or less widespread there, but treated as powerful, whimsical and extremely dangerous, albeit honorable, beings. Most people avoid any contact closer than hearing tales about them. All genies can grant wishes in proper circumstances, but usually bend any request toward their own desires; when pressed into service they are just as inventive with vengeance later, and while individual genies can be trapped or killed, this tends to upset their pals and rulers. There's also Jann ("composite" genies living in mortal worlds) and Great Ghuls (undead genies). Gen are minor genie-kin implied to be kids of the main elemental types and contracted out as servants to sha'ir wizards. Again, gen may serve faithfully, but people unwise enough to mistreat one are in for a big surprise.
- In 4th edition, Efreeti (Fire Element Genies) are all slave-trading bastards who consider plans a fun way to spend their spare time. While they can grant wishes, they don't do it by supernatural means; they instead use their connections within their Mafia-like societies to get things done, and always for a high price.
- On the other hand, Djinni (Air Element Genies) are magical craftsmen and engineers, most of whom have been sealed away. Their primary goal is reclaiming the lost creations of their "golden age" and freeing their allies and family while ensuring their enemies remain imprisoned forever.
- In the Legend of the Five Rings spin-off Legend of the Burning Sands, Jinn are the original creations of the Sun and Moon, or of the Ashalan, depending on who you believe. They are usually malevolent, but can be bargained with for service.
- In Rifts, Jinn are elemental demons that, if captured, can be compelled to grant a wish. However, they aren't nearly all-powerful, so if you were to wish for a million dollars from one, for example, it can't just make it appear out of mid-air, but will have to go and get it... and won't be particularly picky about where it comes from, or what he does in the process. Ever seen a Jinni rob a bank? You're about to.
- One of the Infinite Worlds in the GURPS setting is Caliph, a scientifically advanced Arab-dominant timeline, where references to djinn in the Qu'ran are believed to be prophecies of A.I., and actual A.I. are called "djinn". So far, A.I. Has Not Proven to Be a Crapshoot, perhaps because djinn are protected by strict "human-rights" laws.
- In Warhammer and Warhammer 40000, some Keepers of Secrets grant wishes in the fashion of Genies in exchange for your soul. Then you die. Keepers of secrets aren't known for being truthful.
- Old World of Darkness:
- In the fan forum Shadow n Essence, a member once proposed a fanwork called Djinn: Of Smokeless Fire that imagined them as Middle Eastern fae. An interesting idea, but nothing really came of it.
- "Lost Paths", the Mage: The Ascension supplement which spotlights the Ahl-i-Batin and Taftani factions, features a great deal of detail on the Djinn, supernatural beings created by Allah from "smokeless fire given spirit and form and life" that normally reside within an Umbral Realm called the City of Brass. In general, they envy and hate humans with considerable intensity, most especially since Solomon compelled one of their number to reveal the elaborate facets of djinn behavior and culture, which he codified into the Solomonic Code and used to force the djinn into doing the bidding of anyone following its strictures (and imprisoning them within bottles, rings, gems, etc. inscribed with the Seals of Solomon).
The djinn have subraces as varied as those of humanity, and range in personality from Jackass Genie to Literal Genie to almost every variation in between except Benevolent Genie. Again, about the only thing the djinn have in common other than their basic composition and access to unimaginable power is their desire for vengeance upon the arrogant human insects that dare command them--so any mage dealing with them must have varying amounts of foolishness, intelligence, boldness and charisma.
- In Mage: The Awakening, one option for the fabled Sixth Watchtower is the realm of the Djinn, where Spirit and Forces hold sway.
- Golden Sun has Djinn aligned with one of the four elements, used to power-up your characters. Surprisingly consistent with Arabic mythology, except that they're not trapped in rings, bottles, or lamps. (And even so, they WERE trapped... somewhere... until the Elemental Stars were removed from Sol Sanctum.)
- Sonic and the Secret Rings is based on the Arabian Nights. There's Erazor, the Genie of the Lamp who is a colossal asshole who was imprisoned for his crimes and went right back to being a criminal as soon as he was freed. Sharah, the Genie of the Ring who seems to be more of the American "Good willing but bound to grant wishes". And numerous Genie Mooks that Sonic has to fight along the way -- most of which don't look very humanoid and more like animated flying statues, including a cyborg Ifrit and a giant jellyfish Marid. Also, one mission states that Genies reproduce via laying eggs....
- The Djinn in Tibia are divided in two races of Green and Blue Djinn, that don't get along well. They are powerful magicians and work as buyers for more expensive loot.
- The strategy game Rise of Legends featured genies prominently among the Alin race, which takes virtually all of its cues from Arabian Nights and Arabic folklore, with genies coming in fire, sand, and glass varieties. Some are simple units, but the three Alin hero units are particularly powerful genies, each representing one of the Alin elements.
- Djinn appear in Age of Wonders as tier 3 units for the distinctly Arab-themed Azrac race, serving as flying scouts and ranged support units.
- They reappear in Age of Wonders: Shadow magic, filling a similar role for the nomads.
- King's Quest
- In King's Quest VI a genie by the name of Shamir Shamazzle causes trouble for the protagonist. Working for the Big Bad, Shamir shapeshifts into various people and animals, but is always identifiable by his glinting gold eyes, and seems unable to do the hero direct physical harm (instead coercing him into dangerous situations if he is foolish enough to listen to him). Whoever had possession of the lamp had control over -- not just the Shamir's servitude -- but his very nature. When Alexander takes possession of the lamp, Shamir celebrates the switch in master, glad that he no longer has to be evil.
- In King's Quest II, Graham acquires a lamp, out of which a genie appears to grant him a flying carpet, a sword and a bridle before disappearing.
- In King's Quest V, Graham gets a brass bottle that also contains a genie. However, if he opens it the genie simply traps him in his place and disappears, thereby ending the game.
- Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire has two varieties. The Sealed Evil in a Can Iblis and a wishgranting variety in a ring akin to Aladdin.
- Arcana for the Super NES had the hero Rooks coming into ownership of four genie-like spirits: Sylph, Efrite, Marid and Dao, representing wind, fire, water and earth, respectively. Their levels are tied to Rooks' and are mostly there to supplement the party's attacks with magical support.
- The Bajarls from Monster Rancher 2 resembled genies.
- Genies in the original Might and Magic setting were fairly standard, apart from being the complete opposite and sworn enemy to the Efreet, a Inferno creature. Their magic in both the old world and Ashan tends to produce random effects and they seem to have a touch of Literal Genie as well.
- The second case is the most evident in Heroes of Might and Magic 5: Tribes of the East. Zehir asks them to create a flying city, which they do, but unfortunately they didn't tell him the price of moving it beforehand: a large amount of experience, justifying the Bag of Spilling effect of the expansions in this particular case.
- The Sandsea saga of Adventure Quest Worlds has our hero having to battle a powerful Djinn that has become chaorrupted. Djinn are immensely powerful beings that much like the djinn of folklore can grant wishes. They cannot be destroyed, only defeated, contained or bound to the physical world through means of lamps, rings or other objects. Three kinds of djinn generally exist: the Marid, who are Benevolent Genies like Saahir; the Ghul, who are evil genies like Tibicenas (the Big Bad of the arc) once was; and the Efreet, the ruler of all djinn. When a djinn is defeated such as Saahir at the hands of Tibicenas, it usually takes him several millennia to regain enough power to return.
- Uncharted 3 has some of these guys in the Iram. However, it's possible that they're a hallucination brought on by the spiked water and Nathan fixating on the legend of djinn being in the city. Therefore, it could be that one person had that hallucination, and everyone since him was just suggestible while drugged out.
- In Guild Wars Nightfall, djinn appear in a number of locations, some as allies, some as creatures to fight.
- This strip of The Non Adventures of Wonderella parodies the disconnect between the original djinni myths and the American pop-culture genie.
- Last Res0rt's Djinn and Djinni-Si are so far off the myth they're practically In Name Only. Magical? sure. Long-lived? Well, they're undead, so we'll count it. Freaky colored skin? Yup. Wish-granting? No. Live in bottles/lamps? Well, Efreet CAN, but not the rest. Evil? Mebbe. Oh, and this is without including the detail that the term "Djinni-Si" encompasses ALL undead creatures, including Vampires (dubbed "Life Djinn") and Zombies. Efreet (one of the most powerful variants of Djinn) have recently been revealed to be capable of living in small glass balls.
- In I Dream of a Jeanie Bottle, a guy gets transformed into a (female) Genie. A spoof of I Dream of Jeannie and parodying the tropes used there.
- The Djinn in New York Magician, who works for Cthulhu and is forced to wander around New York, body to body until such a time as undisclosed.
- The Fairly Odd Parents had Norm (voiced by Norm Macdonald) who wants to be a fairy, since his powers are limited at three wishes, but fairies have unlimited power (though he claims it's because he wants to help children.) He doesn't get it, however.
- Danny Phantom had Desiree, an evil "ghost genie" who grew in power when she granted wishes. Unfortunately for her, she couldn't stop herself from granting wishes, and that led to her defeat in both of her solo appearances.
- Aladdin: The Series has the infamous blue Genie, but also introduces Eden, a green-skinned female. She gets romantically attached to the Genie, and is going to be set free with her master's third wish, until her master (who is a lonely little girl) accidentally says: "I just wish you could be with me forever." The couple is parted... but they realize that because they're immortal they can just meet up in a hundred years or so.
- They also have subtle references to traditional beliefs about Genies. Genie is blue, which is a reference to the Marid, which were believed to be blue djinn who were mostly goodish. Jafar on the other hand is red, which is a reference to the Ifrits who were associated with the color red and were Always Chaotic Evil.