Tuesday, 3 October 2017

'Fancy Believing in the Goblin King'




‘Fancy Believing in the Goblin King’

My friend told me a story he hadn’t told anyone for years. When he used to tell it years ago people would laugh and say, ‘Who’d believe that? How can that be true? That’s daft.’ So he didn’t tell it again for ages. But for some reason, last night, he knew it would be just the kind of story I would love.

When he was a kid, he said, they didn’t use the word autism, they just said ‘shy’, or ‘isn’t very good at being around strangers or lots of people.’ But that’s what he was, and is, and he doesn’t mind telling anyone. It’s just a matter of fact with him, and sometimes it makes him sound a little and act different, but that’s okay.

Anyway, when he was a kid it was the middle of the 1980s and they were still saying ‘shy’ or ‘withdrawn’ rather than ‘autistic’. He went to London with his mother to see a special screening of a new film he really loved. He must have won a competition or something, I think. Some of the details he can’t quite remember, but he thinks it must have been London they went to, and the film…! Well, the film is one of my all-time favourites, too. It’s a dark, mysterious fantasy movie. Every single frame is crammed with puppets and goblins. There are silly songs and a goblin king who wears clingy silver tights and who kidnaps a baby and this is what kickstarts the whole adventure.

It was ‘Labyrinth’, of course, and the star was David Bowie, and he was there to meet the children who had come to see this special screening.

‘I met David Bowie once,’ was the thing that my friend said, that caught my attention.

‘You did? When was this?’ I was amazed, and surprised, too, at the casual way he brought this revelation out. Almost anyone else I know would have told the tale a million times already.

He seemed surprised I would want to know, and he told me the whole thing, all out of order, and I eked the details out of him.

He told the story as if it was he’d been on an adventure back then, and he wasn’t quite allowed to tell the story. Like there was a pact, or a magic spell surrounding it. As if something profound and peculiar would occur if he broke the confidence.

It was thirty years ago and all us kids who’d loved Labyrinth then, and who still love it now, are all middle-aged. Saddest of all, the Goblin King is dead. Does the magic still exist?

I asked him what happened on his adventure.

‘I was withdrawn, more withdrawn than the other kids. We all got a signed poster. Because I was so shy, they put me in a separate room, to one side, and so I got to meet him alone. He’d heard I was shy and it was his idea. He spent thirty minutes with me.

‘He gave me this mask. This one. Look.

‘He said: ‘This is an invisible mask, you see?

‘He took it off his own face and looked around like he was scared and uncomfortable all of a sudden. He passed me his invisible mask. ‘Put it on,’ he told me. ‘It’s magic.’

‘And so I did.

‘Then he told me, ‘I always feel afraid, just the same as you. But I wear this mask every single day. And it doesn’t take the fear away, but it makes it feel a bit better. I feel brave enough then to face the whole world and all the people. And now you will, too.

‘I sat there in his magic mask, looking through the eyes at David Bowie and it was true, I did feel better.

‘Then I watched as he made another magic mask. He spun it out of thin air, out of nothing at all. He finished it and smiled and then he put it on. And he looked so relieved and pleased. He smiled at me.

‘'Now we’ve both got invisible masks. We can both see through them perfectly well and no one would know we’re even wearing them,' he said.

‘So, I felt incredibly comfortable. It was the first time I felt safe in my whole life.

‘It was magic. He was a wizard. He was a goblin king, grinning at me.

‘I still keep the mask, of course. This is it, now. Look.’

I kept asking my friend questions, amazed by his story. I loved it and wanted all the details. How many other kids? Did they have puppets from the film there, as well? What was David Bowie wearing? I imagined him in his lilac suit from Live Aid. Or maybe he was dressed as the Goblin King in lacy ruffles and cobwebs and glitter.

What was the last thing he said to you, when you had to say goodbye?

‘David Bowie said, ‘I’m always afraid as well. But this is how you can feel brave in the world.’ And then it was over. I’ve never forgotten it. And years later I cried when I heard he had passed.’

My friend was surprised I was delighted by this tale.

‘The normal reaction is: that’s just a stupid story. Fancy believing in an invisible mask.’

But I do. I really believe in it.

And it’s the best story I’ve heard all year.




*

Note. I'm amazed that over 160 thousand readers have read this piece!  If you'd like to read further, exclusive stories and essays by me, I update my Patreon page with new material every week. Please do subscribe - https://www.patreon.com/Paulmagrs


53 comments:

  1. This is so fabulous and lovely

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

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

    ReplyDelete
  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

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

      Delete
    2. Thanks a lot.

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

      Delete
  5. Beautiful. Made me me cry. X

    ReplyDelete
  6. Welling up! Love this. Thanks for sharing

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

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

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

    ReplyDelete
  10. Pure Magic. Then and always.

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

    ReplyDelete
  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.

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

    ReplyDelete
  14. That just brought a tear to my eye x

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a deeply touching story. But David was like that.

    ReplyDelete
  16. That was beautiful.

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

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wonderful experience, thank you for telling us!

    ReplyDelete
  19. 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.

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

    Thank you x

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

    ReplyDelete
  22. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love this story! Your friend is very lucky!!

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

    ReplyDelete
  25. I love this. Thanks for passing it along.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You gave me goosebumps, thank you Paul.

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

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

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

    ReplyDelete
  30. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  31. 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

    ReplyDelete
  32. 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

    ReplyDelete
  33. Wow! Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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

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

    ReplyDelete
  36. Real people, making real magic, for real people. This is beautiful.

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

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

    ReplyDelete
  39. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thank you very much!

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

    ReplyDelete