eBay Myth Conceptions About Alibaba and the Forty Thieves
29 August 2010
When eCommerce company Alibaba.com purchased Vendio Services (June 2010) and eBay third party provider Auctiva (August 2010), there was the usual buzz. But it was less about Alibaba's CEO David Wei stating "The U.S. is the top priority in our investment list" and more about the "Alibaba and the Forty Thieves" meme.
This is a very pervasive meme. For example:
- AuctionBytes - "Let's give them all to Alibaba and the forty million thieves and let them sell on Alibaba's new site."
- TameBay - "Alibaba and the Forty Thieves ?"
- eBay Forum - "Would that be the story of AliBaba and the Forty THIEVES ?.."
Users of the "Alibaba and the Forty Thieves" meme have the popular conception that it's Alibaba AND HIS Forty Thieves. As it turns out it's a misconception*.
The meme of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" might be from the 1944 movie of the same name. Which is described as "A boy prince, raised by forty thieves." It might be the cartoon Arabian Knights (1968-1969).
Or simply it's a straight name association used by people who know the name of the story, but have never read the original work.
We know in this tale:
- "'Ali Baba married a woman as poor as himself, and lived by cutting wood"
- "‘Ali Baba expected a dark, dismal cavern, but was surprised to see a well-lighted and spacious chamber, lighted from an opening at the top of the rock, and filled with all sorts of provisions, rich bales of silk, embroideries, and valuable tissues, piled upon one another, gold and silver ingots in great heaps, and money in bags. The sight of all these riches made him suppose that this cave must have been occupied for ages by robbers, who had succeeded one another."
- "‘Ali Baba went boldly into the cave, and collected as much of the gold coin"
We meet Marjaneh:
- "Marjaneh, a clever slave-girl, who was fruitful in inventions to meet the most difficult circumstances"
- said 'Ali Baba to Marjaneh, "I leave the matter to your wit and skilful devices."
Who gives The Bride a run for the body count.
The tale ends with:
- "Some years later he carried his son to the cave and taught him the secret, which he handed down to his posterity, who, using their good fortune with moderation, lived in great honour and splendour till they were visited by the terminator of delights and the separator of companions."
The story is not 'Ali Baba and his forty thieves, but 'Ali Baba and the encounter with forty thieves.
However from a 21st century legal perspective, 'Ali Baba taking property from thieves is theft. Paradoxically such an act is considered justice. More so considering the "Forty Thieves" were dealt with by 'Ali Baba's proxy (Marjaneh) in a way appropriate to the legal code of the time.
"Sometimes bad guys are the only good guys you get."