The Prince and the Magician
Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, islands or God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist and the prince believed his father.
One day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to another land where, to his astonishment, he saw islands and on these islands were strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he searched for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.
‘Are those real islands?’ asked the young prince.
‘Of course.’ said the man.
‘Who are those strange and troubling creatures?’
‘They are princesses.’
‘Then God also must exist.’ cried the prince.
‘I am God.’ replied the man.
The prince rushed back home and confronted his father.
‘I have seen islands, princesses and God’ said he.
The king was unmoved.
‘Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God exist’ he said.
‘I saw them.’
‘Tell me how God was dressed?’
‘God was in full evening dress.’
‘Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?’
‘Yes. They were.’
The king smiled.
‘That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived.’
At this, the prince returned to the other land, to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.
‘My father, the king, has told me who you are,’ said the young prince indignantly. ‘You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician.’
The man on the shore smiled.
‘It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father’s kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father’s spell so you cannot see them.’
The prince returned home pensively.
He looked his father in the eye.
The king smiled and rolled back his sleeves.
‘Yes my son. I am only a magician.’
‘Then the man on the shore was God.’
‘The man on the shore was another magician.’
‘I must know the real truth. The truth beyond magic.’
‘There is no truth beyond magic,’ said the king.
The prince was full of sadness.
He said, ’I will kill myself.’
The king by magic caused Death to appear.
Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince.
The prince shuddered.
He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.
‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I can bear it.’
‘You see, my son,’ said the king, ‘you too now begin to be a magician.’
From The Magus by John Fowles