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Genie, Genii, Jinn: Are They the Same?

I know it has been a while since I've posted anything to the Vade Mecum, where I post my most interesting bits of research. And perhaps this will come off as more of a rant than an educational post, but I need to set the record straight for my own sanity.

Within my stories, I try to make conscious decisions when veering off from folklore and mythology (if folklore and mythology are playing a big role in the story). That isn't to say that I don't break from tradition and make it my own because I do. But I try to do it consciously, as in I do it on purpose and not by mistake. I've written posts for the Vade Mecum in the past where I detail what I found while researching and how I veered off.

To the topic at hand: I am currently researching jinn for a potential story. I'm not yet sure whether I'm going to go that route, but I'm finding some interesting stuff. I'm still trying to sift through information on pre-Islam jinn and jinn within Islam. It's difficult to find good sources, which is truly what this post is about.

I was extending my search outward to winged beings in folklore and came across genii. After days of reading about jinn, that made me very curious. Were the genii the precursors to the jinn? The words are similar, right?

So I did what every modern person does, and I went to the Internet. And, oh, did the Internet deliver. I found so many sources that said, yes, for sure, absolutely, genii and jinn are the same. The problem is that statement is completely untrue! These were popular sources, sources like Live Science, which shows a picture of genii in an article about jinn and uses the names interchangeably.

But something about this connection nagged at me. Why was the symbology and attributes of the genii so different from the jinn if they were the precursors?

So I kept digging. Since I was only finding sources that confirmed that they were the same (given how search engines work), I searched using the other names for the the genii: Apkallu (Akkadian) and Abgal (Sumerian).

That got me a bit closer. I discovered that the Apkallu/Abgal were the Seven Sages. And in most English sources, they are far more likely to be referred to as the Seven Sages rather than genii. I kept digging all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Then I sniffed around Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology, looking for the Seven Sages, scouring through dissertations from scholars far smarter than I.

I found no correlation between the Seven Sages and the jinn when searching those terms together.

But as I kept looking, I found a question on the Brooklyn Museum website about whether the Apkallu would later inspire the jinn. Their answer (though sort of misleading) sparked something within me. I wondered if this was all an issue of language and translation.

And eureka! That was the answer all along.

According to Online Etymology Dictionary genii is the Latinate English plural of genius (a guardian diety or spirit). To confuse this, genie was used as the French translation of jinni (singular form of jinn) when translating Arabian Nights. Jinn is Arabic, and that entry even says the two are accidentally related.

So lo and behold! I found my answer. And while I'm proud of myself for diving into the rabbit hole of misinformation that is the Internet to sift out the truth of the matter, I am very annoyed that other writers (bloggers and the like) have not done their due diligence on the matter. So, though this post may not reach many readers, I hope that I can contribute in some small way to helping others who have the same question I had.

Be careful out there, and good luck in finding reliable sources.

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    D. Lieber has a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn’t planning her next physical adventure, she’s recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

    Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places—from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia—believing that a better world comes from putting a face on “other.” She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

    Lieber lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).

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