Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A story within a story within a story...

This blog is about writing - mostly, but not exclusively, mine. This post falls squarely into the "not mine" category.

I watched The Fisher King for the umpteenth time recently. It's a terrific film, in my view, beautifully shot and with a wonderful story at its heart. In the course of the film we discover that Perry (Robin Williams) was once a college professor with a particular interest or specialism in the fisher king fable of Arthurian legend (the story within a story). Later, in a rare moment of calm lucidity, Perry tells Jack (Jeff Bridges) another version of that fable (the story within a story within a story)... and it's lovely. At the risk of being sentimental, let me reproduce it for you here:

It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the holy grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, "What ails you friend?" The king replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty."

So what am I saying here, really? Firstly, The Fisher King is brilliant, go and watch it. Secondly, I'm going soft in my old age. And thirdly (mostly), I am envious of the ability to write such an entirely satisfying short story in a single paragraph.

Don't worry, normal service (the macabre, twist endings and tales of the unexpected) will be resumed shortly.

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