Disney’s live-action Aladdin dives much deeper into Jasmine’s backstory revealing the dark history of the young princess’s mother and some hidden clues as to who was responsible for her untimely death. I’m revealing the secret truth about Jasmine’s mum and Jafar’s nefarious connection to her past. There will be discussing a few spoilers for Jasmine and Jafar’s backstory, so just be aware if you haven’t seen the film yet.
Who Is Jasmine’s Mother?
The live-action version of Aladdin modifies a number of things about the story in Disney’s original animation. The crucial change for what we’re discussing here is the conversation between Jasmine and Aladdin when they first meet.
Aladdin says the princess “should get out [of the palace] more as the people haven’t seen her in years”. Jasmine, who’s in disguise at this moment, tells Aladdin that the princess isn’t allowed to go outside because “ever since the queen was killed […] the Sultan’s been afraid and [Jasmine’s] been kept locked away.”
Aladdin replies that since then it feels like everyone in Agrabah has been afraid and that the people of the city didn’t have anything to do with the queen’s death. In fact, he mentions that she was particularly loved by everyone. Now, it sounds like the death of Jasmine’s mother caused quite a stir and something about it made the city’s population fearful, meaning it very likely wasn’t an accident, but rather people suspected it of being an assassination.
Jasmine’s mother was originally from the kingdom of Shehrabad, which in the world of Aladdin is located in South Asia, and her wedding to the Sultan of Agrabah was an arranged marriage that united the two countries to form an alliance. Princess Jasmine’s dual heritage means she’s half South Asian and half Arab and it’s why her outfits in the new movie are inspired by South Asian clothing designs from her mother’s side of the family.
Related: Disney’s Aladdin (2019) Explained
Against this backdrop, in the new movie, we also get a scene where Jafar is arguing with the Sultan that Agrabah should be forming a military alliance with Prince Anders of Skanland. Jafar claims that Agrabah’s enemies are amassing against them and he’s annoyed when Jasmine turns down the potential marriage alliance with Prince Anders who by the way brought cannons with him to show off to Jasmine in a scene that was cut from the movie.
The villainous Royal Vizier is keen to start a war and he specifically mentions Shehrabad, Jasmine’s mother’s homeland, as a target. When the Sultan tells Jafar that Shehrabad is Agrabah’s oldest ally and that they shouldn’t be dragged into a war with them, Jafar replies that they used to be their ally.
It sounds like something happened that broke the close bond between Agrabah and Shehrabad, and that event is very likely the suspicious nature of Jasmine’s mother’s death. Before she became the queen of Agrabah, she was probably a princess or other royalty in her homeland and so her murder would have sent shockwaves in that part of the world.
Jafar & Shehrabad
In the live-action film, Jafar’s backstory is also built up a lot more than in the original animation. And in a scene set in the dungeons, he gives a classic villain monologue explaining what he’s done to get to where he is today.
Just before he dispatches one of his minions down a well, Jafar reveals that he spent five years in a Shehrabad jail and he also talks about “all the bodies he’s buried.” So, let’s connect all of these details together. First of all, Jasmine’s mother died in mysterious, suspicious circumstances.
Then we’ve got the fact that Jafar was previously imprisoned in Shehrabad, the South Asian kingdom where Jasmine’s mother is from. And he’s now scheming to convince the Sultan that Agrabah should be preparing for a war with Shehrabad.
I’d say that it’s very likely that Jafar plotted and carried out the murder of Jasmine’s mother, and that he did that for two big reasons. By getting rid of the Sultan’s wife, it made Jafar’s rise to power much easier as it would be simpler for him to get closer to the king and influence him, either just with his cunning plans or with his hypnotic snake staff.
On top of that, Jafar seems hell-bent on trying to start a war with Shehrabad and an effective way to provoke their people into that would be by killing their princess in suspicious circumstances. Jafar’s personal reasons for wanting war are twofold. First, he’s probably itching to get revenge on the kingdom for incarcerating him for five years.
We don’t know exactly what he was doing in Shehrabad that got him locked up, but he did reveal to Aladdin that he’d been a thief so perhaps it had something to do with how the evil sorcerer got his magical snake staff. In addition, starting such a war might create the necessary chaos that would enable Jafar to overthrow the Sultan completely and take charge himself, for example, if the Sultan died in the war or if the war was too unpopular with the people of Agrabah.
Maybe he’s like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones, and thinks he can end up on top by climbing ‘the ladder of chaos’. And there’s actually an intriguing hint as to what Jafar might have done to Jasmine’s mother in the original animation in the single scene where she was mentioned. Notice how just after the Sultan talks about Jasmine’s mother, Jafar arrives and his menacing shadow falls over the Sultan.
Knowing what we now know from the new movie, I think we can read a lot more into the original a scene from the animation. Now, there is also another interesting maternal connection that the new movie introduces in a little moment where Jasmine picks up an oud and starts playing a tune. Aladdin recognizes it immediately and tells Jasmine that his mother taught him that song and Jasmine says her mother did too.
Some fans have speculated this means that Aladdin and Jasmine’s mothers are one and the same, making Jasmine and Aladdin siblings. Curiously, there is that funny scene in the animated movie where Jasmine has to pretend to be Aladdin’s sister after she’s accosted for taking an apple from a merchant’s cart to give to/for a hungry child.
One possible explanation for the shared mother theory is that Jasmine’s mum had an affair or gave birth to Aladdin before she married the Sultan which would make Jasmine and Aladdin half-sister and brother. However, I think it’s very unlikely Disney would imply this, as it would make Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship incestuous going beyond Luke and Leia’s kiss in Star Wars and more full-on Game of Thrones.
The most likely explanation is that the song Jasmine plays for Aladdin is quite simply a popular one and so was known by both their mothers. Another possibility is that the song is from Shehrabad and that both their mothers have some connection to that country.
In fact, the real meaning behind this moment is to show an additional emotional connection between Jasmine and Aladdin, on top of the way in both movies each of them says they feel trapped. For Jasmine, her character arc in the new movie is much more about taking forward her mother’s legacy and helping the people of Agrabah.
At one point, Jasmine mentions that her mother would be unhappy at the state of Agrabah today which is why Jasmine knows she would be the best ruler for the kingdom. Originally in the animated movie, Aladdin also shared a strong emotional connection to his mother.
That was deleted from the 1992 film but was developed further in Disney’s Broadway version of the story, in particular with the song “Proud of Your Boy” which was initially written for but ended up being scrapped from the animated movie.
Dead Disney Mothers
Over the years, Disney has been criticized for its habit of killing off the mothers of many of its characters, and in Aladdin, it’s not just Jasmine whose mother is dead, but Aladdin is also an orphan. One theory is that after Walt Disney felt responsible for the death of his own mother, the studio informally adopted a kind of “no mothers” policy in many of the stories they developed.
More recently Ron Clements, co-director of the 1992 Aladdin, said that the main reason for dead parents in many of Disney’s stories is that the original fairy tales on which the films are based also have missing parents. And it seems that Disney may be starting to address this issue. The live-action remakes seem to have gone out of their way to introduce new backstories for the protagonists’ missing mothers.
Beauty and the Beast added a new song for the Beast called “Days In The Sun” in which we learn that the prince’s mother had died from an illness. Likewise, Belle’s mum is revealed to have died from the plague soon after her daughter’s birth, and there’s a new song about her called “How Does A Moment Last Forever”. And in Cinderella, we learned that Ella’s mother also died from an illness and it was on her deathbed that she asked her daughter to promise to have the courage and be kind.
In addition to that, Although Elsa and Anna’s parents are [mainly] absent in Frozen and Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph admits she doesn’t have a mum either, some of Disney’s recent animations such as Moana and Tangled do have mothers for their protagonists.
So, do you like the changes Disney made to Jasmine and Jafar in the new Aladdin movie?