A little late, but I have to. There was an old fairy tale called “The Story of the Magic Carpet.” It was written by an early nineteenth century English writer, but I was the first to find a translation of the story into English.
It goes something like this: A king, who has a lot of power in this country, comes and takes the magic carpet down into his garden. Some of his servants and friends, however, are unhappy because they think it is so hard to get the carpet back into the king’s house. He thinks the servants are to blame, and tells them to get the carpet to work to his liking by playing magic tricks. But he doesn’t want to be bothered about it when he is having fun, so he gets an old fairy.
The fairy tells the king that when the king goes to sleep he will have visions of the future, so his servants should all go out to the house and try to open the magic carpet.
I didn’t understand what this meant at the time, but the next few years (1932) I spent a considerable time trying to understand magic, to help to make a lot more sense of it in my own life. The first time I found a translation of the fairy tale that didn’t make me laugh was, of course, when this story was published in the journal Science in 1933. I read it through with a smile, but when I came back and read the next day—well, this was very funny to me. It was a fantastic story: all the characters are named “Ara” or “Thera,” all are fairies, and the king is the king of the fairies. Even the word magic is used.
I found myself going through life more and more fascinated with the concept of fairy tales. What else do I know that my friends wouldn’t say out loud? In many ways, the story of a king’s magic carpet and his servants coming to his aid by playing magic tricks in the king’s garden is one of my favorite fairy tales ever; I read it to my little girl every night before going to bed.
Then, about five years ago, I stumbled upon the “The Story of the Magic Carpet,” and had to get to a point where the story got out in print. To me, that seemed to me (and I should not be putting words in this reader’s mouth) to be too late. This was about a decade after I finished the first book from my
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