The Wish by Roald Dahl, 1953
The magic trick:
Capturing a child’s ability to entertain himself with his imagination
It’s probably something like this story that old people are thinking of when they lament the amount of time kids these days spend staring at screens. This story perfectly captures the way a child can entertain himself on sheer imagination. No handheld device necessary. We meet a boy who creates his own conflict, his own stakes, his own suspense, even his own rewards, all through his imagination. If it’s enough for him to believe, it’s enough for the reader. And that’s quite a trick on Dahl’s part.
You see, he told himself, I know how it is. The red parts of
the carpet are red-hot lumps of coal. What I must do is this: I must walk all the way along it to the front door without touching them. If I touch the red I will be burnt. As a matter of fact, I will be burnt up completely. And the black parts of the carpet… yes, the black parts are snakes, poisonous snakes, adders mostly, and cobras, thick like tree-trunks round the middle, and if I touch one of them, I’ll be bitten and I’ll die before tea time. And if I get across safely, without being burnt and without being bitten, I will be given a puppy for my birthday tomorrow.
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