Here is a much republished FAIRY story by the popular 19th Century Mexican novelist and short story writer, Vicente Riva Palacio.
THE PROMISE OF A GENIE
by Vicente Riva Palacio
from his 1896 anthology “Cuentros del General”
It was the night of December 31, 1800 and in one of the virgin forests of the American continent the genies and the fairies celebrated the birth of the 19th Century with a grand fiesta.
All the flora had arranged itself to provide splendor to this fiesta. The moon hung majestically over the sky seeding the stars that were eclipsed with its passage.
The jungles sparkled, will-of-whisps moved between the grasses, the trees gave a phosphorescent glow from their powerful trunks, and insects gave light, some as they crawled others flying rapidly, in lines straight or in all contrary directions.
The birds of the night sang in the branches, and the breezes fluttered the leaves of the trees, that shook to provide the low notes to the concert, that was heard above the monotonous noise of the waterfalls and the far off tumble of the seas.
The genies and fairies danced and sang, and each one of them lay a gift upon the new born century. None of the gifts were more talked about than one that promised to strangely use both water and fire to create a powerful force that would move mighty machines, that when hooked to a train of cars would pull them along the countryside, and see large boats through the rustled waves more easily than with the help of the wind. This, the genies and fairies declared, would certainly be the singular astonishment for humanity in the 19th Century.
* * * *
But during the conversing of the genies there was one who didn’t speak, and failed to give an offering to the new born. It was a genie of bright eyes, who had brows the color of the sky, and was the only one wearing a dangling sparkle, one that had such luminous intense brilliance that it seemed to carry the light of the sun.
“And you, what will you give to the new born?” the others asked. “We have given out treasures in this and all the centuries that have died, and you, until today, never have given anything, and you always you act mysterious, as if you possess immense treasures.”
“The hour of my reign hadn’t yet arrived. But it has come, and I will open for this century the doors of my treasures. They are as unknown as they are inexhaustible. I will carry words at the speed of a light ray. I will give to hearing a fineness which you yourselves do not have. I will make the darkness of night disappear, giving humanity the service of the light of lightening. I will make thoughts cross below the waters of the ocean. And there will be not an art, nor a science that will not receive from my new impulse. I myself scarcely know the treasures I guard.
The genies and fairies laughed loudly at these words. But at the moment of the passing of midnight, the genie lowered the sparkle in his front and placed it on the chest of the new born, and the 19th Century left for the infinite, waving its wings over the earth.
* * * *
The years passed rapidly, and made the path of our planet, already deceptive, one that will go down among all others for the consummation of the promises of the genie. The wires of the telegraph cross the civilized nations, carrying the sound of progress as if the immense harps of the winds of Aeolus..
The telephone carries the word of humans in secret in the vibrations of a wire; the depths of the ocean are sirens connected by subterranean cables, bringing surprising news of that which passes on the land. The flick of a button is enough to light a city with the clarity of day; and the hand of a child can send the signal that ignites the warning of the depth in the ocean or the presence of the most frightening reefs. And there is the steamship, the once astonishing development, that has ceded its place to once unknown and mysterious driving forces.
The genie of the luminous sparkle said many times to his companions, “I have fulfilled my promises, and I advise you that the humans still have penetrated scarcely the porch of my palace.”
Translation by Ted Vincent, who translates a story by Riva Palacio each month for SOMOS PRIMOS website
from “Cuentos del General” 1896