The Djinn (Djinni/Jinn/Genie) according to Arabic tradition, are a race of beings that existed thousands of years before the arrival of humans. These beings were created out of the hot desert wind. Some of the djinn were obedient to the will of God. Others were evil. The Afrits were the most powerful class of evil spirits.
The djinn lived long lives, but they were not immortal. They could be slain by other djinn orby humans, or even by a shooting star. When a djinn was mortally wounded, the ﬁre of its blood would ignite, leaving nothing but ash.
Like humans, the djinn needed to eat, drink, and take mates. Sometimes they mated with humans. The resulting offspring usually had aspects of both parents.
Djinn were also shape-shifters. They were able to take on the form of animals and humans at will. The evil djinn gave themselves away by their monstrous forms when they attempted to appear human. The djinn also could become invisible or change their size at will.
Origins of the Djinn
Traditionally, the djinn resided in the mountains of Khaf, in what is now Iran. But many are said to have lived wherever they wished— in deserts, underground, or even in abandoned human houses.
The djinn also wandered through rivers, towns, or even in the lower levels of the heavens, where they could eavesdrop on what the angels were saying. This gave them foreknowledge that could be passed on to any humans who were clever and bold enough to deal with the djinn.
Certain human monarchs are said to have ruled over the djinn, including King Solomon of ancient Israel. Tradition claims that King Solomon was a magician as well as a wise man. The djinn are said to have obeyed him without argument. The six-pointed Jewish star, also called the Star of David, is also known as the Seal of Solomon, the symbol of his power over the djinn.
Tales of the Djinn
Dust devils are small desert whirlwinds that carry sand or dust. They can grow into tall, spinning pillars that folk belief says are caused by the swift movement of the djinn.
The djinn could be chased away by crying out “Iron! Iron!” The djinn, like other supernatural beings, could not endure proximity to that metal; even the mention of it scared them away.
Anecdotes about the djinn abound. One of the most familiar tales, from The Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian Nights, is that of “The Fisherman and the Genie.” In this trickster tale, a ﬁsherman released a vengeful and dangerous djinn from a bottle. He then tricked the being back into the bottle by insisting that it was impossible for so large a djinn to ever ﬁt into so small a space. Another famous and lessthreatening djinn appeared in the story “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.”
Other tales of the djinn include the story of a shepherd who was on good terms with the local djinn. One of his sheep was stolen by a wolf. When the shepherd called on the djinn for help, a voice cried out, “Wolf, restore him his sheep!” The wolf meekly returned the sheep.
The thirteenth-century Arab historian Ibn al-Athir recounted a story that took place near the city of Mosul in which a djinn woman lost her son to a local disease. Only by mourning with her could humans escape being stricken by the same disease.
In medieval Iraq, near the Turkish border, a group of hunters saw a group of djinn mourning and heard them crying, “The great king of the djinn is dead!”
Stories of the djinn have been told for centuries, and retellings of such classic tales as The Thousand and One Nights seem likely to keep them alive in storytelling.