November 24th, 2003



Some of you may be familiar with the Disney movie Fantasia, where a magus apprentice Mickey Mouse secretly animates house-servant brooms while his master's away, who then get way out of hand. But did you know that it's based on an ancient story about an Egyptian scribe? Here's the original version, as recorded by Lucian in his Philopseudes:

"In my youth, when I was living in Egypt- my father sent me there to finish my education- I thought it would be nice to sail up the Nile as far as Coptus, travel on from there to the statue of Memnon, and hear the strange sound that it makes at sunrise. Well, I heard it all right, but it wasn't just the meaningless noise that most people hear. On the contrary, Memnon actually opened his mouth and gave me a seven-line oracle in verse, which I could repeat to you word for word, if there were any point in doing so. On the voyage back, one of my fellow-passengers was a holy scribe from Memphis, an incredibly wise man who'd mastered all the mystic lore of Egypt. He was said to have lived for twenty-three years in an underground shrine, receiving instruction in magic from Isis."

"Why that sounds like the man that taught me!" exclaimed Arignotus. "Pancrates, his name was- a very holy man, clean-shaven, always wore linen, highly intelligent, spoke rather bad Greek, tallish, snub nose, thick lips, and rather thin legs."

"Yes, Pancrates! That's exactly who it was," said Eucrates. "I'd never heard of him before, but when I saw the amazing things he did every time we landed, like riding about on crocodiles and going for swims with them- when I saw the great brutes crouching at his feet and wagging their tails, I realized that he must be a Holy Man. Very gradually, by various small acts of courtesy, I managed to make friends with him and he told me all his secrets. Finally he persuaded me to leave my own employees at Memphis, and go off with him. He said there wouldn't be any problem about servants. So off we went.

"Whenever we stopped at an inn, he used to take a broom, or a rolling-pin, or the bolt off the door, dress it up, and then, by saying a spell, make it walk about just like a human being. It went and fetched us hot water, did all the shopping and the cooking, and generally acted as a most efficient domestic servant. When there was nothing more for it to do, he'd say another spell, which turned it back into a broom, or a rolling-pin, as the case might be. Much as I wanted to, I could never get him to show me how he did it, for he was very jealous of this particular accomplishment, though he was quite prepared to tell me everything else.

"However, one day I hid in a dark corner while he was doing it, and overheard the spell- it was only three syllables long. Having told the rolling-pin what he wanted done, he went off into the town. So next day, when he again had business in town, I seized the rolling-pin, dressed it up, pronounced the three syllables, and told it to fetch some water. When it came back with a bucketful, I said: "That'll do. Don't fetch any more water, but turn back into a rolling-pin." This time it refused to obey me, but went on fetching bucket after bucket of water, until the whole house was flooded. I couldn't think what to do, for I was afraid Pancrates would be rather annoyed when he got back- as indeed he was. In despair, I seized an axe and chopped the rolling-pin in two- whereupon each half grabbed a bucket and went on fetching water, so now I had twice as much water coming in! At this point Pancrates turned up, and realizing what had happened, turned both halves back into wood again. He then abandoned me in disgust, and mysteriously disappeared."

I've been thinking about this story a lot lately, as I'm currently reading an online novel of the furry persuasion- there aren't nearly enough- where the plot is set in motion by Anpw Himself (the scene that inspired this picture, which I have posted elsewhere on this journal- but I just really, really like it!!!^_~). It's called Furritasia, and I'm wondering if the author chose this name because she knew of the AE relevance of the "Fantasia" story, or if it was just a coincidence. I need to log onto the Furritasia forum and ask!
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