'Fancy Believing in the Goblin King'

Two winters ago I was told a story by a friend of mine. A true story, about an episode from his childhood he’d never mentioned before.
            ‘I met David Bowie once. It was in London, it was Christmas, and I’d won a competition. We sang a song together…’
            It was a magical encounter, and I didn’t stop quizzing my friend until he gave me all the details, and then said he didn’t mind if wrote an account of it for my blog.
            It was story I knew that people would love: the tale of the shy, clever, autistic boy and how he met David Bowie, who was kind to him, and as magical as anyone could hope for. And who told him about the wearing of invisible masks…
            I wrote a short piece about it and, within twenty minutes of posting it on my blog, it had gone viral. Somehow it had been noticed by people. David Bowie’s widow retweeted it with hearts, and so did his son. And then, suddenly, thousands and tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of fans were retweeting it. It made them remember how wonderful Bowie was: and they were pleased to hear that he was magical in real life, when you got as close to him as the character in my true-life story.
By the end of that day a huge number of people had read and shared that blog piece. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman tweeted it at each other, almost simultaneously, and all their followers went on to read it.
It was like having David back – just for a moment. That’s what some people said to me. And that was true for me, too. I’d had a second-hand glimpse of that scene from back in 1987… but somehow the words that were spoken back then came to me very clearly. I felt like I was eavesdropping on the past. The expanded version of the tale that I started writing as soon as I posted the original piece felt very much as if it was writing itself.
I had to write an expanded version because my friend – delighted and mystified by all the attention his memory was getting – had carried on talking to me, and he gave me further details. He told me more about the Christmassiness of the whole scene, the snow and the crowded streets of London, and how the film showing took place in some old Victorian school, closed for the holidays. He told me that the Jim Henson puppeteers were there, with the actual characters from ‘Labyrinth’, and they came to life in that school hall, entertaining the competition winners until the star guest strolled in.
Many more details: what David was wearing, even how he smelled (like ice cream, said my friend.) I learned about the small side room where they played piano together, and where David knew that the boy and his chaperone relative would feel happier, rather than among the hurly burly of all the other children.
I spent a week hammering this material into what I felt straight away was the best short story I’d ever written. I tinkered and shaped it like Bowie worked on the magic dust in the air, when he fashioned it into his mask.
When I had my story finished ‘Stardust and Snow’ slotted perfectly into place as my title.
I’d always wanted to write a Christmas story. I have dreamed of writing something that could be taken down from the shelf once a year and read with great, nostalgic pleasure. For me, it’s Truman Caopte’s ‘A Christmas Memory’ and Dylan Thomas’ ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ and the most wonderful moments from John Masefield’s ‘The Box of Delights.’ Or Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Fir Tree’, or the festive chapter from ‘Wind in the Willows.’ Something like that would do for me! Something that readers could take out each year with as much joy as they brought out old boxes of treasured tinsel and decorations…
I tried out my new story on friends and other writers I knew. As the days went on their reactions came back, and people really loved it. They felt touched by the magic it described. People sat still in the middle of their busy days to give it their attention, and that, in turn, touched me. What was more, I got lovely quotes from people that could accompany the book as it went to editors and others involved in the world of publishing.
Well, the story went out into the world – and some people got it, and some didn’t. Some thought it too short, some thought it too long. Was it fiction or non-fiction? Was it for adults or children..?
And yet to me all the answers to those questions were easy: it’s exactly the length of story it ought to be. It’s true in the way that fairy tales are always deeply, magically true. And it’s for everyone, no matter who or what or how old they are.
Most readers felt as if they were meeting a wonderful Wizard at Christmas and watching him do magic, just for you. That’s how the child in the story feels, and that’s the feeling people take away. David Bowie is more than just a rock star – he’s a mythic figure. He’s a pagan spirit of midwinter in this story. He’s Jack Frost. He’s a beguiling Christmas Elf. He’s here and gone in a twinkling of a green wizard’s eye.
Last Christmas I made a tiny edition of the story, just to give out to a select few friends. I sent it like I would normally send out Christmas cards.
This year however, Obverse is making my story public. It’s coming out as a perfect little hardback in time for Christmas.
Just in time for every Christmas in the future.
I hope that each time it’s opened up by the people who buy it, or the people who receive it as a gift, it’ll send out a little shower of stardust that will remind you of the first time you read it, or the first time you heard it, or the time you bought your first David Bowie record, or the time you met someone you always wanted to be wonderful… and that’s exactly how they turned out to be.
That’s the feeling I want this little book to hold for people.
And now that it’s ready to go out into the world – courtesy of the wonderful Obverse Books – I look forward to hearing just how Christmassy and stardusty it makes you feel.

Paul Magrs, October 2019.

What People have said about Stardust & Snow
‘I think that’s beautiful.  That’s absolutely lovely.  What an amazing story. Ah, it’s gorgeous, well done.’   – Russell T Davies
‘I defy anyone to read the first page of this and not finish it. ANYONE.’ – Horatio Clare
‘A perfect Christmas story, filled with magic, wonder and Stardust…’ – Cathy Cassidy.
‘If you’ve ever loved a person, either someone you knew in real life or someone world famous, you’ll know nothing brings more joy than hearing a wonderful story about them after they have died. And this is one of the most wonderful stories you could wish for. It will lighten and brighten the hearts of everyone who reads it.’  – Jill Mansell.
‘The perfect Christmas story: snow is in the air, (Grandma) doesn’t understand, and one of our greatest heroes is about to step off the screen and tell a little boy the secret of everything. Absolutely gorgeous, achingly beautiful and astonishingly enough, completely true. Once you’ve read this, you really will know the secret of everything.’ – Steven Moffat.
‘This story might make you cry. It’s so inspiring and beautiful and also very sad at the same time’ – Amanda Palmer.
‘It’s from my friend Paul Magrs and I love it so much’ – Neil Gaiman
‘A lovely story, just heart rending and beautifully told; and 30 minutes with Bowie!’ – Tom Baker
‘Enlarging an anecdote told to him by a friend many years after the event, Paul Magrs has turned a brush with greatness – an autistic boy meets David Bowie – into a poignant and touching story of a life transformed. Through the authentic voice of the young boy, misunderstood and brusquely treated by his self-centred mother, the encounter shows that Bowie was generously gifted with emotional intelligence long before the term was invented.’  –  Linda Newbery
‘Of all the many tales of David Bowie’s kindness, compassion and humanity, this true story, beautifully told by Paul Magrs, might just be the most magical.’ – Nicholas Pegg, author of ‘The Complete David Bowie.’
‘Beautiful and bitter sweet – Paul Magrs tells a story of nostalgia and magic that turns the world on its head and makes your heart feel that little bit warmer’ – Robert Shearman.
‘Waiting for a train
It’s delayed and delayed and delayed
I remembered to read your Bowie story
Now I don’t care about the train
Gave me goose pimples
Never dreamed I’d read a story where mime skills seemed like magic!!!’ – Frank Cottrell Boyce
‘Paul Magrs weaves gentle magic into this heart-warming tale of an autistic boy’s enchanting meeting with the Goblin King himself – David Bowie.’  – Miranda James.
‘A treat. A touching, offbeat tale full of music and magic. A true pleasure to read.’ – Edward Kelsey Moore.
‘Absolutely lovely. As a huge Bowie fan and a child who had her own issues, Bowie was my saviour more than once. This story really touched my heart. I just loved it.’ – Nina Sankovitch.
‘This is my kind of story. It shows kindness in the face of bullying, is rich with a sense of wonder, and it filled my heart with a deep, deep joy.’ – Charles de Lint

Stardust and Snow

When he was a kid, Daniel won a competition and he went off to London to meet David Bowie at Christmas…
He was a quiet kid, a shy kid and the crowds were alarming. He took his grandma with him and she was grumpy all day.
But when they met David there was magic and glitter and stardust in the air as well as snow, and he taught the boy all about magic and the wearing of invisible masks…
  • Pages50
  • ISBN9781909031661

Available from www.obversebooks.co.uk


  1. This is so fabulous and lovely

  2. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

  3. That's very moving and incredibly relatable. Your lucky friend!

  4. Paul, can I ask: is this a true story, is it a beautiful fiction? Either way it's rather wonderful, but I'm curious. Thanks. Jim

    1. i trust the word of the friend who told me, Jim!

    2. Thanks a lot.

    3. This is the best thing I've heard for ages. I am wondering if I could make one too.

  5. Beautiful. Made me me cry. X

  6. Welling up! Love this. Thanks for sharing

  7. One of the best stories I've ever read. What a gracious man David Bowie could be. Patrick Hand

  8. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. He understood completely, before his time and so very very special. Beautiful, thank you for sharing this

  10. Pure Magic. Then and always.

  11. I will always believe in the Goblin King. Thank you for sharing the magic with us.

  12. Not a silly story. This is a performer's technique and it bloody works. Got me through stage fight, driving test, teacher's nerves and now parenthood. I'm not a magician though. I can't seem to make them for other people.

  13. This is the best story I've heard all year too :').

  14. What a deeply touching story. But David was like that.

  15. That was beautiful.

  16. I still believe in The Goblin King, too. :) Great story!

  17. Wonderful experience, thank you for telling us!

  18. Funny, you can never have met the man, but yet feel so close to him. I loved his caring ways and the way he loved the 'odd' people. He will always be my one & only hero. Missing the man.

  19. He shared that mask with us all, but that's so beautiful.

    Thank you x

  20. Lovely and rings so true. One to share with shy children everywhere

  21. This is stunning. This shows that David understood people and children far more deeply than we ever realized. David was a shy kid himself, remember.couldnt talk to people when he was very young. Listen to Conversation Piece. This Confession of fear he told the boy was his honest truth, not some fable. What you see is his genius at portraying and miming exactly what he understands and what he knows the boy feels. Brilliant empathic, expressive, theraputic understanding. I keep telling you guys: being in rocknroll was just a MASK---ONE OF THOUSANDS he made and used to make us understand
    . DAVID was/is far, far more than that.

  22. I love this story! Your friend is very lucky!!

  23. That knocked me sideways, in the best possible way. THANK YOU.

  24. I love this. Thanks for passing it along.

  25. You gave me goosebumps, thank you Paul.

  26. david Bowie granted this invisible mask to everyone of us, shy people from the 70s and wwe'll be grateful forever , Paola

  27. Made me tear up...what an extraordinary man. Thank you <3

  28. Did your friend ever mention this story to Terry Pratchett? Because that sounds a lot like part of the end of his book "Maskerade".

  29. Just beautiful. We could do with a few more stories like that in this day and age. Thanks for to you and your friend for sharing.

  30. wow ....just wow......half an hour alone with him and this beautiful story......he truly was a gifted man with many talents and insights.....how wonderful

  31. Brilliant thank you so much for sharing and I'm a big Labyrinth / Jareth fan myself even roleplaying him on facebook sometimes along with another fellow cosplayer... Ok (being female and not exactly slim! XD) I don't think I'd be doing a Jareth cosplay again any time soon!! haha lol Did that at Scarborough Sci fi in 2016 it was herrendous!! XD But your story or rather his and your story made my week thank you so much, may I share it on my blog? Or maybe a share for a share? My name is Rae, I live in North Yorkshire, England, UK and do Random Acts of kindness and blogging at www.theteaandbooklady.blogspot.com or my email is: raevienne.hewitt@gmail.com

  32. Wow! Thanks for sharing. πŸ˜ƒ

  33. What a truely wonderful story, and what an amazing gift to give.

  34. Paul, this is so beautiful. Thank You for sharing it x

  35. Real people, making real magic, for real people. This is beautiful.

  36. Thank you so much for sharing this. He was so special to so many.
    An amazing man in every way.

  37. Boise was even better than we thought, he kept his light hidden and shared it with those special few, TYSM fir sharing this

  38. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this reminder of why David Bowie was,is and will always be so special to so many of us.

  39. Thank you very much!

  40. We all wear masks of one kind or another.
    Happy for you that your mask works for you.

  41. I adore Labyrinth and now must read your book. Fancy doing an audio version?


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