‘The Magic Shop’ by H.G. Wells


The Magic Shop by H.G. Wells, 1903

The magic trick:

Roping you in with a fun, imaginative magic shop and then keeping you thinking about a father-son relationship

It’s all fun and games in the magic shop. But the story has a darker, more serious edge to it beyond simple imagination and fantasy. Note the father’s pride in leading his son around by the finger. Note the father’s jealousy when he sees his son cling to the magic shop proprietor’s finger instead. Note the father’s dramatic, emotional response when he is able to whisk his son away from the magic shop in the taxi.

This isn’t merely a fun genre story about a kooky magic shop. It’s a study of a father’s anxiety about his son growing up and finding joy – and wisdom – in something that isn’t him. And that’s quite a trick on Wells’s part.

The selection:

“Anything amusing?” said I.

“Um!” said the shopman, and scratched his head for a moment as if thinking. Then, quite distinctly, he drew from his head a glass ball. “Something in this way?” he said, and held it out.

The action was unexpected. I had seen the trick done at entertainments endless times before–it’s part of the common stock of conjurers– but I had not expected it here.

“That’s good,” I said, with a laugh.

“Isn’t it?” said the shopman.

Gip stretched out his disengaged hand to take this object and found merely a blank palm.

“It’s in your pocket,” said the shopman, and there it was!

“How much will that be?” I asked.

“We make no charge for glass balls,” said the shopman politely. “We get them,”–he picked one out of his elbow as he spoke–“free.” He produced another from the back of his neck, and laid it beside its predecessor on the counter. Gip regarded his glass ball sagely, then directed a look of inquiry at the two on the counter, and finally brought his round-eyed scrutiny to the shopman, who smiled.

“You may have those too,” said the shopman, “and, if you don’t mind, one from my mouth. So!”


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