Stories of the margins

Stories of the margins 1: Parsifal

The story of Parsifal is part of the medieval legend of King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail myth dates back to at least the twelfth century in Europe, and was the basis for Wagner’s “Parsifal” opera.

The myth surrounds the wounded Fisher King, Amfortas, the king of the Grail castle. He is in agonizing pain, and the kingdom suffers as a result. The court jester explains that the Fisher King could only be healed through the actions of an innocent fool, who would spontaneously need to ask a specific question.

Enter Parsifal, a name which means “pure fool,” an innocent young man raised by his overly-protective mother in poverty, knowing nothing of his dead father (who was a knight), without any direction or schooling. He is dazzled one day by the appearance of a group of knights who visit his village and, to his mother’s dismay, decides with all the bluster of youth to seek them out to become a knight himself. She agrees to let him go, but gives him a homespun garment that he elects to wear for much of his life.

Parsifal finds and enters Arthur’s Court but is initially ridiculed and expelled; however, legend held that a damsel in Arthur’s Court who had not smiled for years would burst into laughter at the sight of the greatest knight – which she did at the sight of innocent Parsifal. The Court immediately held Parisfal in high regard and Arthur knighted him on the spot.

Parsifal, naive and unburdened with fear or anxiety, seeks out the most fearsome knight of all, the Red Knight, a warrior so fierce he had never been defeated. Parsifal, in his earnest naivete, confronts him and asks him for his horse and armour. Laughing, he agrees, but only if Parsifal can take it. Predictably, Parsifal is knocked to the ground by the powerful knight but, as he fell, Parsifal throws his dagger into the Red Knight’s eye, killing him. The newly empowered knight goes out seeking battle and adventure, rescuing maidens and defeating opponents, but not killing them; any knight Parsifal overcame he instead instructed to join Arthur’s Court and swear allegiance to him.

One day along his heroic quest, Parsifal sought lodging, but was told there was no place to stay for miles. He then encountered a man fishing in a boat on a lake, and asks if he knows of any place to stay for the night. The fisherman, the Fisher King, tells him to go down the road a little bit and go the left. Parsifal obliges and suddenly finds himself on the grounds of the Grail Castle, windows gleaming, knights and ladies greeting him, the splendour of which he had never dreamed of in his life.

A great ceremony was about to begin, one which occurred every evening. A great feast and celebration was held where maidens brought out to all assembled the Holy Grail, from which all would partake, immediately granting them whatever they desired – everyone, that is, except for the Fisher King. Because of his agonizing wound, he was unable to drink from the Grail, and his affliction continued to wreak havoc across the kingdom.

During his quest, Parsifal had encountered a mentor, Gournamond, who had instructed him in the ways of knighthood. When encountering the Holy Grail, Gournamond instructed Parsifal to ask an important question, “Whom does the Grail serve?” This was the question that would heal the Grail King’s wound. However, his mother had also told him not to ask too many questions and hers was the advice Parsifal heeded this time in the Great Hall. All assembled knew the prophecy that one day an innocent fool would enter the castle and ask the question that would heal the King – all except Parsifal – and very quickly the ceremony ends, with everyone retiring for the night. The next morning, Parsifal rides out and the Grail Castle disappears.

This loss tormented Parsifal, and it would take years of gruelling, rigorous battles and quests before Parsifal realized that the homespun garment that he wore beneath his armour – the psychological symbol of the Mother Complex – had to be removed before he could partake of the Grail and heal the Fisher King.

Parsifal spends twenty years earning his way back to the Grail Castle. They are difficult years and he grows in bitterness and disillusionment; these represent the difficult years of middle age, where one begins to question one’s very existence and the choices made. After twenty years of searching in vain for what was lost in his first encounter at the Grail Castle, Parsifal has had his arrogance and pride beaten and humbled. One day, along his latest quest, he is introduced to a forest hermit.

At first, the hermit scolds him for his failures – especially for not asking the question when he first encountered the Fisher King. However, he soon softens, sympathizing with Parsifal, and then invites him to go down the road a little bit and go to the left . . .

Once again, Parsifal finds himself in the grounds of the Grail Castle, this time, however, with twenty long years of earned experience and humility. Again, he finds himself in the midst of the great feast and celebration where maidens brought out the Holy Grail for all to partake.

This time, however, Parsifal asks the question, “Whom does the Grail serve?” The simple act of asking the question immediately heals the Grail King and the entire Castle erupts in celebration! What is the answer to the question? “You, My Lord, the Grail King.” And what exactly does this answer mean? Very simply, we serve something far greater than ourselves.

The goal of life is not merely to attain personal happiness. Rather, it is to serve the Grail – that is, to live a life not of ego but of our most authentic nature, our souls.

(Adapted from

Margins Museum

Stories of the margins 2: The Little Prince Narrator


Little Prince

NAR It was then that the fox appeared.
FOX Good morning
NAR said the fox.
LP Good morning,
NAR the little prince answered politely, though when he turned around he saw nothing.
FOX I’m here….under the apple tree.
LP Who are you?….You’re very pretty…
FOX I’m a fox
LP Come and play with me…I’m feeling so sad
FOX I can’t play with you….I’m not tamed
LP Ah! Excuse me………….
NAR said the little prince. But upon reflection he added
LP What does tamed mean?
FOX You’re not from around here….What are you looking for?
LP I’m looking for people… What does tamed mean?
FOX People have guns and they hunt. It’s quite troublesome. And they also raise chickens. That’s the only interesting thing about them. Are you looking for chickens?
LP No…..I’m looking for friends. What does tamed mean?
FOX It’s something that’s been too often neglected. It means, to create ties…
LP To create ties?
FOX That’s right. For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…
LP I’m beginning to understand… there’s a flower… I think she’s tamed me…”
FOX Possibly…. My life is monotonous. I hunt chickens; people hunt me. All chickens are just alike, and all men are just alike. So I’m rather bored. But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheal is of no use whatever. Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the colour of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat…
NAR The fox fell silent and stared at the little prince for a long while.
FOX Please… tame me!
NAR Said the Fox
LP I’d like to…..but I haven’t much time. I have friends to find and so many things to learn.
FOX The only things you learn are the things you tame….People haven’t time to learn anything. They buy things ready-made in stores. But since there are no stores where you can buy friends, people no longer have friends. If you want a friend, tame me!
LP What do I have to do?
FOX You have to be very patient… First you’ll sit down a little ways away from me, over there, in the grass. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything. Language is the source of misunderstandings. But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer…
NAR The next day the little prince returned.
FOX It would have been better to return at the same time. For instance, if you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three. The closer it gets to four, the happier I’ll feel. By four I’ll be all excited and worried; I’ll discover what it costs to be happy! But if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart… There must be rites.
LP What’s a rite?” asked the little prince.
FOX That’s another thing that’s been too often neglected. It’s the fact that one day is different from the other days, one hour from the other hours. My hunters, for example, have a rite. They dance with the village girls on Thursdays.
LP So Thursday’s a wonderful day: I can take a stroll all the way to the vineyards. If the hunters danced whenever they chose, the days would all be just alike, and I’d have no holiday at all. ”
NAR That was how the little prince tamed the fox. And when the time to leave was near the Fox said:
LP It’s your own fault. I never wanted to do you any harm, but you insisted that I tame you…
FOX Yes, of course..
LP But you’re going to weep!
FOX Yes, of course
LP Then you get nothing out of it?
FOX I get something because of the colour of the wheat. Go and look at the roses again. You’ll understand that yours is the only rose in all the world. Then come back to say good-bye, and I’ll make you the gift of a secret.
LP You’re not at all like my rose. You’re nothing at all yet. No one has tamed you and you haven’t tamed anyone. You’re the way my fox was. He was just a fox like a hundred thousand others. But I’ve made him my friend, and now he’s the only fox in all the world. ”
NAR And the roses were humbled.
LP You are lovely, but you’re empty. One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passer-by would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.
NAR And he went back to the fox.
LP Good-bye
FOX Good-bye. Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.
LP Anything essential is invisible to the eyes
NAR the little prince repeated, in order to remember
FOX It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important
LP It’s the time I spent on my rose…
NAR the little prince repeated, in order to remember.
FOX People have forgotten this truth. But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose…”
LP I’m responsible for my rose..
NAR the little prince repeated, in order to remember.

From The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Margins Museum

Stories of the margins 2: The Wemmicks




NARRATOR The Wemmicks were small wooden people.  All of the wooden people were carved by a woodworker named Eli.  His workshop sat on a hill overlooking their village.   Each Wemmick was different.  Some had big noses, others had large eyes.  Some were tall and others were short.  Some wore hats, others wore coats.  But all were made by the same carver and all lived in the village.   And all day, every day, the Wemmicks did the same thing: they gave each other stickers.  Each Wemmick had a box of golden star stickers and a box of grey dot stickers.  Up and down the streets all over the city, people spent their days sticking stars or dots on one another.    The pretty ones, those with smooth wood and fine paint, always got stars.  But if the wood was rough or the paint chipped, the Wemmicks gave dots.  The talented ones got stars too.  Some could lift big sticks high above their heads or jump over tall boxes.  Still others knew big words or could sing pretty songs.  Everyone gave them stars.  Some Wemmicks had stars all over them!  Every time they got a star it made them feel so good!  It made them want to do something else and get another star.   Others, though, could do little.  They got dots.   Punchinello was one of these.  He tried to jump high like the others, but he always fell.  And when he fell, the others would gather around and give him dots.  Sometimes when he fell, his wood got scratched, so the people would give him more dots.  Then when he would try to explain why he fell, he would say something silly, and the Wemmicks would give him more dots.   After a while he had so many dots that he didn’t want to go outside.  He was afraid he would do something dumb such as forget his hat or step in the water, and then people would give him another dot.  In fact, he had so many grey dots that some people would come up and give him one for no reason at all.   “He deserves lots of dots,” the wooden people would agree with one another.  “He’s not a good wooden person.”  After a while Punchinello believed them. 
PUNCH I’m not a good Wemmick
NARRATOR Punchinello would say.  The few times he went outside, he hung around other Wemmicks who had a lot of dots.  He felt better around them.   One day he met a Wemmick who was unlike any he’d ever met.  She had no dots or stars.  She was just wooden.  Her name was Lucia.  It wasn’t that people didn’t try to give her stickers; it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick.  Some of the Wemmicks admired Lucia for having no dots, so they would run up and give her a star.  But it would fall off.  Others would look down on her for having no stars, so they would give her a dot.  But it wouldn’t stay either.
PUNCH That is the way I want to be…I don’t want anyone’s marks. 
NARRATOR So he asked Lucia how she did it.
LUCIA It’s easy
NARRATOR Lucia replied
LUCIA Everyday I go to see Eli.
LUCIA Yes, Eli.  The woodcarver.  I sit in the workshop with him.
LUCIA Why don’t you find out for yourself?  Go up the hill.  He’s there
NARRATOR And with that Lucia turned and skipped away. Punchinello went home, wondering whether Eli would want to see him. He sat near a window and watched the wooden people as they scurried around giving each other stars and dots.
PUNCH It’s not right
NARRATOR he muttered to himself.  And he decided to go and see Eli. He walked up the narrow path to the top of the hill and stepped into the big shop.  His wooden eyes widened at the size of everything.  The stool was as tall as he was.  He had to stretch on his tiptoes to see the top of the workbench.  A hammer was as long as his arm.  Punchinello swallowed hard. 
PUNCH I’m not staying here!
NARRATOR and he turned to leave Then he heard his name.
ELI Punchinello?
NARRATOR The voice was deep and strong.  Punchinello stopped.
ELI Punchinello! How good to see you.  Come and let me have a good look at you.
NARRATOR Punchinello turned slowly and looked at the large bearded craftsman. 
PUNCH You know my name?
ELI Of course I do.  I made you
NARRATOR Eli stooped down and picked up and set him on the bench. 
NARRATOR the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the grey dots.
ELI Looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.”
PUNCH I didn’t mean to Eli.  I really tried hard.”
ELI Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child.  I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think
PUNCH You don’t?”
ELI No, and you shouldn’t either.  Who are they to give stars or dots?   They’re Wemmicks just like you.  What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello.  All that matters is what I think.  And I think you are pretty special.
NARRATOR Punchinello laughed
PUNCH Me, special?  Why?  I can’t walk fast.  I can’t jump.  My paint is peeling.  Why do I matter to you?”
NARRATOR Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders and spoke very slowly. 
ELI Because you’re mine.  That’s why you matter to me.”
NARRATOR Punchinello had never had anyone look at him like this – much less his maker.  He didn’t know what to say.
ELI Every day I’ve been hoping you’d come
PUNCH I came because I met someone who had no marks
ELI I know.  She told me about you
PUNCH Why don’t the stickers stay on her?
NARRATOR The maker spoke softly
ELI Because she had decided that what I think is more important than what they think.  The stickers only stick if you let them.
ELI The stickers only stick if they matter to you.  The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers
PUNCH I’m not sure I understand
ELI You will, but it will take time.  You’ve got a lot of marks.  For now, just come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care
NARRATOR Eli lifted Punchinello off the bench and set him on the ground. He then walked with Punchinello to the door
ELI Remember you are special because I made you.  And I don’t make mistakes
NARRATOR Punchinello didn’t stop, but in his heart he thought,
PUNCH I think he really means it
NARRATOR And when he did, a dot fell to the ground.

 (‘You are Special’ from ‘Tell me the secrets’ by Max Lucado; Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois, 1997, ISBN 0-89107-931-9.