red pony

A little red pony from the magician’s shadow box inspired by an ancient carving of a reclining horse found at a burial site at Tuva, Siberia, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Pony Notecard

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888) in her story called, “The Magician’s Shadow Box,” explores human wanderlust with a protagonist named Gaspar. Exposed to progressive international objects and ideas in the small ordinary village where he lives, Gaspar becomes frustrated and runs away into the forest where he is confronted with the natural world. At a first milestone, he throws a stone at a bullfrog that croaks and dives for safety into a nearby pond. At a second milestone, Gaspar unthinkingly throws a pebble at a bird that takes flight, releasing an apple from a tree. Child suggests that Gaspar does not intent to harm these creatures; he has just been thoughtless. At a third milestone, Gaspar meets a mysterious little man cracking chestnuts that for some reason he just cannot pass. Try as he may, the little man will not let Gaspar pass until he has shown him the objects in his little carved shadow box. The little man asserts: “Come now, it is foolish for you to go trudging about all over the world. You will never see anything more than pollywogs and sandflies, and those you can find in your native village…”

Gaspar takes the little man’s chestnuts and returns home. He exchanges them for a horse that he believes will carry him out into a bigger world. However, the horse he receives is mechanical and does not have a soul. Once on the horse, Gaspar finds himself on a journey from which he cannot stop or disembark to explore what his heart truly seeks. Gaspar again returns to his village with a collection of epic imaginings and opens his own curio museum curated with his own creative imaginings. Everyone is very impressed, except for a girl named Hope who has her own take on things. Gaspar takes Hope to meet the little man with the chestnuts, and Hope offers him sprits (wine) for a glimpse at his treasure trove, but she is not impressed. Hope observes: ‘All very pretty, but rather stiff and monotonous… not so good as you can paint, Gaspar. Come, let us go home.”

Source: Lydia Maria Child. (1856). “The Magician’s Shadow Box” The Magician’s Shadow Box and other stories. Boston.