In a land not so far away, there is an island in the middle of a massive peat bog that is said to be enchanted, because it is completely shrouded in mist and can only be reached by a small boat; and only sometimes. Most of the time the island isn’t there, and even the slim boats moored on the mainland to take you there can not be seen. The peat bog itself is too treacherous to walk across – many people have missed their footing and been swallowed by the water – so the only way to reach the island is by the slim boats that are steered carefully across the bog by strange creatures, who are partly human and partly frog. They resemble frogs to differing degrees – some of the boatmen simply have a reptilian quality and colour to their skin, while others are almost completely frog like, with wide mouths set into huge, flat faces, never speaking, but just croaking from time to time.
If you’re lucky enough to be taken across the bog to the island, and actually feel the island’s solid ground beneath your feet, then you might be able to meet a few more strange creatures who inhabit the island, along with many children. The children are held by an enchantment. They are entranced by the magician, who is also a giant – but a very friendly one, who’s name is Oscar. Everybody, all the people on the island, are quite willing captives. They come and listen to the magician’s stories, a truly magical experience, you can never forget. As the children on the island grow up, they develop into different animals, though some of these changes are only very slight. Some of the changes overtake the child completely, so that there is little human left.
Although Oscar knew that he had magical powers, he didn’t want to be in control of the island, and so when the other inhabitants, the children and the animals, asked him to be their king, he refused.
“No,” he told them, “you don’t need anyone to be in charge. That would only lead to bad things happening.”
“But Oscar, we want you to be our king!” cried out a child who looked somewhat similar to a hyena. “You don’t need to control us, we just want you to look like a king, all covered in jewels and golden embroidery!”
“Well…. let me think about it,” said Oscar, turning away from the group of friendly creatures. As he did so, he noticed a beautiful woman – she resembled a lovely young doe with great brown eyes and a soft muzzle.
“Hello,” Oscar said to her, gathering up the hem of his magician’s robe so as not to trip over it. “I don’t believe that we’ve met… what’s your name?”
The doe-woman blinked her long eyelashes demurely.
“ My name is Constance, I’m very pleased to meet you,” she said. “Will you really become our king?”
Oscar smiled slowly, taking Constance’s hand in both of his.
“Only if you’ll become my queen,” he said firmly.
A great cheer rose gradually from the inhabitants of the island, who were all assembled nearby waiting for Oscar to begin telling his enchanted stories.
“Long live king Oscar and queen Constance!” they shouted, and burst into spontaneous applause.
Soon after this they were married, and there was a great, colourful wedding with lots of flowers, food, wine and music… the wild celebration continued for several days and nights, with all the children joining in, of course. Following the wedding came the crowning of the new king and queen; both of their crowns were garlands of flowers, Oscar’s was made with white lilies and yellow sunflowers, and Constance’s was made with blue and purple wild flowers.
The inhabitants of the enchanted island built a beautiful palace for the king and queen, filling it with richly coloured silks and exotic jewels and embroidered tapestries… everything about the palace was carefully chosen and designed so that every colour and texture either blended into each other or contrasted sharply, so that the whole was absolutely a delight to look at. Both Oscar the magician and queen Constance were perfectly satisfied to be surrounded by such beauty… which was made even more special by the magician’s powers of enchantment which crept over everything and held it in place.
“I think I am the happiest magician alive!” King Oscar told Constance one evening, as they sat together upon the gold embroidered couch. From a birdcage came the gentle chirruping of wild birds. “I want for nothing.”
Constance smiled at him.
“Not even our own child, Oscar?”
Oscar took Constance in his arms and spun her around in a wild dance. Around them flowers came showering down like confetti, though nobody was quite certain where they came from.
Outside the Palace Beautiful the crowds of children and creatures all cheered and jumped, the great singing and shouting rising above their heads in a joyous melody. The colours of the flowers they threw all mingled together with the colours of their scarves in perfect harmony. Most of the inhabitants of this enchanted island were artists in one way or another, and as they had created the Palace Beautiful, so they felt they had also created the new king and queen.
But not all of the crowd joined in the celebration; one hairy little man, who looked more like an ape than anything else – his long arms dragging along the ground by his sides – turned away from the rest of the celebration. He wore a red kerchief fastened around his neck, for his name was the Scarlet Marquis… a vicious creature whom everybody disliked. His tiny, malicious eyes moved restlessly over the shadows that were thrown by the jumping creatures in the crowd, searching… and then he stopped, catching a glimmer of light amongst the shadows. The glimmer came again and then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, so that it might have just been imagined. But still… the Scarlet Marquis saw it, and king Oscar himself thought that he might have seen something, as his eyes looked over the dancing crowd.
One of the first things the new king did was select courtiers from amongst the inhabitants of the island. As the Palace Beautiful was designed to be a work of art, it was right that his courtiers should be artists themselves… along with musicians, dancers, actors and writers. There was Charles with his tiny, tamarind face and flaming orange beard that was in fact a flame. His head tapered to a point and on top was another orange flame that burned with a warm brightness. Aubrey, whose thin pointed face finally turned into an axe blade, was a very strange looking creature indeed! Also at king Oscar’s court was a fairy, Lily, whose pale face of course became a lily that drooped as though struggling to bear its own weight. There was James, who forever strutted back and forth across the court; his face became a beak, and he had both the gorgeous tail and crown of a peacock. Meanwhile, William appeared to be a strange mixture of flesh and wood, some of his limbs were ornately carved pieces of furniture, while all over both his body and face were beautiful designs of leaves and flowers entwined. Always beside King Oscar’s throne stood the slight figure of a wood elf named Robbie, coloured green and brown. Every one of the courtiers was always busy, for they were driven on by a constant need to create beauty around themselves and to keep on creating.
King Oscar sat back in his golden throne one day and turned to the queen and said, “How happy I am! I have everything I want, I have beauty all around me and you to share it with.”
Constance smiled sadly, shaking her head.
“Everything is too perfect; I feel something must happen to change it all.”
“Ah, but you forget… I’m a magician,” King Oscar said, getting to his feet so that a shadow was cast over the entire court. “and I can control everything. Nothing is beyond me. Now, I’m going to go down to the beach to tell my stories to the children. They’re waiting for me.”As King Oscar moved across the court with great, swinging strides, all his courtiers stood aside so that he could pass through the giant door and down the ornate steps of the Palace Beautiful. As the doors of the court closed behind him, King Oscar paused for a moment, as he thought over Queen Constance’s words. How could all this possibly change? As he looked around the marble covered walls, he saw the tiny figure of a man crouching back in the shadows, or was it monkey, or even an ape? He was scarlet red. As King Oscar watched it slink away back to the court, something flashed… for a moment it seemed to be a figure made entirely of glass or crystal, with many facets. It turned, catching the light, and then was gone. King Oscar stood immobile, his eyes fastened on his own giant shadow, not sure what it was he had seen. He went into the sunlight outside.