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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Magical Realism and the Suspension of Disbelief

Wish-fulfilling Talismans 

and Supernatural Power

Stories about the supernatural withstand the test of time. They invoke the imagination of story-tellers of milennium to tell and retell them. Stories of magic amulets and talisman capable of invoking the supernatural have drawn the attention of readers and writers for centuries, not merely for the morals they draw but also for what they tell us about the life of the soul and mind. The Monkey’s Paw is a popular story about the dangers of wish-fulfillment, but while it hints at the supernatural it leaves the deeper themes undeveloped.
Supernatural stories involving wish-fulfilling talisman are as old as the Arabian Nights and Aladdin’s lamp. Like a winning lottery ticket, the idea of a magic talisman capable of granting wishes tempts us even while straining our credulity.
The story of the Monkey’s Paw terrifies us, not for its appeal to magic, but for the realistic elements in the story. It is at once a transcendent promise and a cautionary tale: don’t try to change your karma, lest you create an unexpected reaction. Told to children on a rainy night it still serves to terrify and instruct. It has components of magic, but the story seems “real.”
A more terrifying and effective tale of magic and wish-fulfillment is found in The Wild Ass’s Skin or Le Peau de Chagrin, by Honore de Balzac.

My connection with the story is personal. My curiosity about Balzac was not aroused by late night sessions with a seductive French lit teacher, but had to do with my wanderings through the city of Raymond Chandler.
When I was a boy growing up in Los Angeles, one of my favorite things to do on Saturday’s was to go for long hikes on my bicycle and see the city for myself. I would get on my bike at six o’clock in the morning and set out to discover the city. I lived in the Pacific Palisades, near the beach. I would ride up Sunset Blvd. over to Santa Monica Blvd., or Wilshire or Western Avenue Some Saturdays I would go downtown, others I would head for East or Central L.A. I would simply pack a sandwich and a couple of oranges and head for parts unknown.
My old neighborhood: Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles
Back in the sixties I saw a strange variety of urban life on my bike hikes. I would wander along in the streets of L.A. and observe as I rode. I saw the surfers and wannabe actors and writers in Santa Monica preening and drinking green juice at sidewalk organic cafes; I rode past guitar stores and bookshops and gas stations. Sometimes I would ride over to the black section of town in Central L.A. with used car lots and pawnshops and soul food restaurants. Sometimes I’d go out to China town and try the Chinese food: Won Ton Soup, Spring Rolls. Or I’d ride up Western Avenue to Fairfax near Wilshire where Jewish delicatessens sold Knishes and Bagels and Lox on Fairfax Avenue or out to Echo Park or East L.A. with its tacos and burritos and Latino music blaring out of low-rider cars. In my adventures around Los Angeles one of my favorite spots was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd near Fairfax.
La Brea Tar Pits
It was near the La Brea tar pits where dinosaurs and wooly mammoths fell into massive pools of black goo and surfaced millions of years later for school-kids to see and wonder at.
In those days it didn’t cost much to get in. I can’t remember if they charged admission or if it was free for kids. But I whiled away a few Saturdays looking at the golden sarcophagus of Tutankhamen or the impressionist paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.
Inside the museum was fascinating. But outside the museum was pretty cool too. There were always musicians out front busking. One Saturday I saw a brilliant flautist serenade the crowd outside with an amazing performance of a Bach Suite. Later there was an brilliant banjo player who did a lightning speed version of Lester Scrugg’s Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
And presiding over this strange melange of creativity was a huge statue installed on the steps of the museum. It was a weird figure of a half-melted giant sculpted in bronze by Rodin. At that time I really didn’t understand the sculpture. It didn’t seem “beautiful” in any traditional sense. In fact it was hideous. I looked at the identifying plaque: “Balzac” by Rodin.
"Balzac" by Rodin
Rodin was one of the best sculptors the world has seen, after Michelangelo. I later learned that the statue in front of the museum was one of several that he had done as studies for a final work. I was left wondering, “Who was this Balzac character?” And why was he so important that someone like Rodin would create a giant sculpture like this? The statue was incredibly hideous. I didn’t get it. I respected Rodin, but how could this be art. And why did he make so many studies of this particular author in bronze? Balzac has been called, “The Limburger Cheese of literature,” for his uneven quality and appeal to sensationalism. And yet, the great sculptor Rodin, when commissioned to create a statue of Balzac, spent years of his life trying to get it right. What special insight did Balzac have that made him such an important figure in French letters?
Balzac at work with coffee-maker
The Wild Ass’s Skin by Honore de Balzac is perhaps Balzac’s most famous work, and certainly the most influential. Oscar Wilde is said to have drawn on it for his Picture of Dorian Gray, and Sigmund Freud identified with the hero and the themes of this novel, especially at the end of his own life. Unlike many works of fantasy, this is not overwhelmed by its fantasy, but retains a truthful and grounded reality and in that sense may be said to be the forerunner of Magic Realism. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest proponent of Latin-American “magical realism” once explained that his technique involved creating such a palpable reality that his “magical” elements seemed entirely natural. Garcia Marquez certainly knew of Balzac and had read his works before writing his own masterpiece, 100 Años de Soledad
“Magic Realism” (el realismo magical) was an expression first forwarded by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier in 1949. He coined the phrase to describe the offhand mix of both fantastic and quotidian elements in his fiction. While Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and even Jorge Luis Borges contributed elements to “magical realism,” I think it may be argued that the real pioneer of this technique was Honoré de Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin, translated as “The Wild Ass’s Skin.”
The Wild Ass's Skin
When I was older I found a dog-eared copy of The Ass’s Skin and couldn’t resist the temptation to try to discover Balzac’s value for myself.
Looking back, I’ve been through many of Balzac’s works and have a better idea of how he earned his reputation and why he is considered great. The Wild Ass’s Skin is considered a masterpiece of French literature and focuses on the nature of a talisman or wish-fulfilling device. Stories about three wishes are inevitably fraught. Somehow those who try to extract from nature more than the share karma alotted to them by their karma will pay with interest to the farthing, as we have seen in the story of the Monkey’s Paw, which is representative of the genre.
Balzac is known for his realism. His account of post-Napoleonic Parisian life is intimate. He describes such mundane details as taxi fares, the price of a pair of yellow gloves, or cup of coffee or the rent of a hotel room on the Left Bank of the Seine between the Rue St. Jacques and the Rue Pierre. Balzac has a gift for revealing his character’s psychology through detailed descriptions of their very real environment. His prose reveals an obsession for the material details of how money is made and spent.
But where many of Balzac’s story’s deal with the worldly foibles of his characters and their dilemmas as they descend into moral turpitude, “The Wild Ass’s Skin” is a complete departure. It is a window into the mystic world and the source of Balzac’s genius.
The apparently materialistic elements of his technique, his capacity for dwelling on the details of bourgeois Paris, instead of vitiating the mystical elements of his story, anchor the magic of “The Wild Ass’s Skin” in a frank realism.
But in this mystical tale the focus shifts. Instead of merely detailing his patient’s symptoms and probing the vicissitudes of lust, anger, greed, pride, illusion and envy--the hidden sins of high society-- that color works such as Father Goriot or Cousin Pons, Balzac creates in The Wild Ass’s Skin an alternative world of magic realism. He is concerned with the mind as touchstone and the consequences of using the creative fire. The author himself will burn from inside out. His own creative fire will result in his brain exploding from too much creativity. In this novel he searches for the link between mind’s gift of creativity and the demon power of a magic talisman that will consume its owner..
While originally created as a standalone novel, The Wild Ass’s Skin was enfolded into Balzac’s Comedie Humaine as on of the Études Philosophiques, or Philosophical Studies.
In the Wild Ass’s Skin, Balzac weaves a mystic story: A magic donkey skin fulfills its owner’s every wish, but shrinks as each desire is fulfilled. In the end, the owner’s own life shrinks as well until he is confronted with the prospect of inevitable death.
The plot is simple, yet brilliant. Inspired by Balzac’s contrasting ideas about the nature of the will and the expenditure of necessarily finite vital force, The Wild Ass’s Skin is the first and probably the greatest of Balzac’s “Philosophical Studies,” a subdivision of The Human Comedy. One cold Parisian evening Raphaël de Valentin, inspired by poverty enters a casino where he bets and loses his last coin at roulette. Desolate, he walks through the bitter streets of Paris, to the River Seine, in which he intends to drown himself in the freezing waters. 

He feels that it is still early. There may be a witness. He decides to kill a few hours. Near the banks of the river is an old antique shop. There the strange proprietor, a curious old man offers him a magic skin. It is the skin of a wild ass, charmed to provide its owner with all his desires.

All wishes will be fulfilled but the skin will shrink according to the quality and quantity of the desire. And finally, when it has shrunk into nothing, its owner will die. Echoes of this theme are found in many stories about wish-fulfilling devices, including “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde.
The old man is anxious to rid himself of the charm. He has achieved longevity by freeing himself from desire. Disregarding the old man’s warnings, the young Raphaël declares that he wants to achieve all his desires.
Ecstatic at first with his new wish-fulfilling charm, he wants money, sex, and power. He holds drunken orgies with oriental dancing girls, artists, and poets. He does his best to erase his misery with drunkeness. The morning after the orgy subsides, Raphaël learns that he has inherited the vast wealth he had wished for but sees that the skin has shrunk. It is only half the size as before. He can understand that he can attain all that he desires, but at the cost of his life. He will get whatever he wants, but every want will reduce his life’s power. He wants now to do nothing, but cannot cease desiring. He finds himself in the classic dilemma faced by a student of Buddhism who wishes to dissolve the ego by ending desire.
The ass’s skin is a ‘talisman’ that comes from the world of the supernatural, bursting the bounds of earthly existence. It has the power to fulfill any wish, but shrinks whenever its power is used, shrinking also the life and power of its owner. And while it can grant any desire, the insidious effect of the skin is to shorten the life of its owner.
Raphael, an angry young genius, soon finds himself in a struggle to conserve his life force against the power of desire and the wish-fulfilling impulse of the talisman.
The hero reaches the Buddhistic conclusion that desire must be shunned. To live free of desire is the only way to preserve his life against the mechanism of the talisman that fulfills wishes even as it shrinks his life force. The key to his survival is the adoption of a wholly habitual, routine way of life, free from desire and ego. Raphael’s only escape from the power of the wish-fulfilling talisman, is to follow a life from which all desire, almost all action, has been banished.
Even mental desire is a form of wishing. Even mental desires are also confirmed and fulfilled by the talisman which is bound to shrink with every fulfilled wish. The reaction is fatal.
The cruel twist of fate is that the wish-fulfilling device brings death; the only way to escape the fatal pact is to give up desire--to stop wishing. Balzac was fascinated with oriental philosophy and here, he explores a theme that Buddha explored long ago: how to give up desire.
Unlike the Buddha, Raphael fails miserably. Unable to conquer his desires he succumbs to the power of the talisman.
As Marceau, Felicien puts it: “The novel extrapolates Balzac’s analysis of desire from the individual to society in general; he feared that the world, like Valentin, was losing its way due to material excess and misguided priorities. In the gambling house, the orgiastic feast, the antique shop, and the discussions with men of science, Balzac examines this dilemma in various contexts. The lust for social status to which Valentin is led by Rastignac is emblematic of this excess; the gorgeous but unattainable Foedora symbolizes the pleasures offered by high society.
“To be reading Balzac is to be allowed to wallow, to be consumed by his world view, to give yourself fully . Here is a writer paid by the word and who made sure his books were filled to the brim with them. He allowed digressions, meandering thought and plot, and sometimes seemed to have little regard for plot. “
(Marceau, Felicien. Balzac and His World. Trans. Derek Coltman. New York: The Orion Press, 1966.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

La Piedra de Toque

La historia de Fray Gómez y su milagroso escorpión nos cuenta cómo un hombre santo beneficia a un suplicante con un talismán mágico. Sridhar Mahārāja cuenta una historia similar aquí, pero con un final muy diferente.

La Piedra de Toque

Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar dev Goswāmī

"Tú has venido a rendirte ante la belleza del ideal…
Es una aventura… para explorar el mundo espiritual, el mundo de la humildad. Hay muchas joyas ahí. Y qué joya puede encontrarse en la superficie? Queremos ser salvados te todo el encanto de la grandeza externa.
Hay una historia de la vida de Sanātana Goswāmī, la cual se halla en el Bhakta-mala, y también Rabindranath Ṭhākura escribió un poema conectado a ella. Había una villa, Mankore, y ahí vivía una rica familia brāhmaṇa, que hacía mucha adoración y festivales religiosos de varios tipos. Pero de pronto se empobrecieron, y el brāhmaṇa dijo, “Soy lo mejor de este linaje, soy pobre y no puedo realizar tantos festivales que solían realizarse aquí cada año.”
Entonces, él era un devoto de Mahādeva, Śiva, empezó a orar muy fervientemente al señor de su corazón, Śiva, “Por favor ayúdame para que pueda conservar la gloria, el nombre y la fama de mis ancestros.”
Entonces en un sueño le llegó una sugerencia, “Ve a Vṛndāvana, ahí está Sanātana Goswāmī, encuéntralo y tu deseo será satisfecho.”
En aquellos días, no había tren, ni autobús, sólo caminando miles de millas llegó el brāhmaṇa a encontrarse con Sanātana en Vṛndāvana.
Entonces de algún modo, en las orillas del Yamunā, halló a Sanātana en una choza pronunciando el Nombre de Kṛṣṇa. Se reunió con él y le contó su asunto.
Luego de escucharlo, Sanātana dijo “Brāhmaṇa, es cierto que anteriormente cuando fui Primer Ministro de Bengala, di muchas cosas a los brāhmaṇas, satisfaciéndolos. Pero ahora me hallas como un mendigo.”
“Sí, ya veo tu condición. Pero cómo puedo pensar que mi señor, Siva, me haya frustrado, engañado. No puedo pensar así.”
“¿Pero qué puedo hacer? Mírame”.
“Si, veo tu posición.” Entonces, desilusionado, el brāhmaṇa se aleja. Entonces, a Sanātana Goswāmī, recuerda algo de pronto, . “Oh brāhmaṇa, ven. Śiva no te ha desilusionado. Verás, ahí entre la pila de basura. Creo haber puesto ahí una piedra muy brillante que hallé un día. Tal vez sea esa la piedra de toque y si es, entonces Siva te ha dicho bien en el sueño”.
El brāhmaṇa removió la basura y halló la piedra brillante.
“Puede ser la piedra de toque. Tómala y todas tus dificultades desaparecerán”.
El brāhmaṇa la tomó. “Qué afortunado soy. Śiva, mi señor me ha guiado al sitio apropiado y ahora la tengo”.
Y al irse pensaba. “Tal vez sea un vidrio ordinario también, pero he de hallar algo de hierro para probarlo”. Y encontró una pequeña astilla de hierro y la tocó y quedó convertida en oro. “Oh, qué afortunado soy. Tengo una piedra de toque, Soy tan afortunado en el mundo, tengo la piedra de toque”.
Se iba, pero afortunadamente la reacción vino a su mente. “Esta es un verdadera piedra de toque, pero porqué ese hombre Sanātana Goswāmī, ha sido tan negligente de ponerla entre la basura? ¿Cómo es posible? No puedo creer que este objeto pueda ser tratada con tal negligencia, ¿por qué?”
Entonces, un segundo pensamiento llegó hasta él, en el corazón de ese afortunado brāhmaṇa, “Ha de tner algo mucho más grande, elevado, para poder desechar este objeto”. El segundo pensamiento en su mente “Ha de poseer alguna substancia más elevada”
Y entonces una tercera etapa, llegó a pensar, “He encontrado un santo tal y si sólo por esto retrocedo, me estoy engañando a mí mismo. Es una prueba de que él es un santo de la orden más elevada el hecho de que haya sido negligente de tal modo con esta piedra de toque, odiándola. He hallado esta clase de sādhu, un santo así y si le dejo cometo un grave error en mi vida. Será difícil hallar un santo así en el mundo”.
Entonces regresó, volvió sobre sí mismo y cuando llegó frente a la cabaña de Sanātana, llegó a su zenit. Tiró la piedra de toque al río y cayó a los pies de Sanātana. Y se menciona:
“Tú tienes, estás en posesión de una riqueza tal que no te preocupaste por la piedra de toque como por algo valioso. Quiero esa cosa valiosa de ti. No quiero ser engañado por el valor de esta piedra de toque”. La había tirado al río cayendo a sus pies.
Así las cosas externas, el encanto de las cosas preciosas externas puede conquistarse así. ¡Gaura Hari bol! Esa grandeza externa puede atraer a los auto-engañados.
Kṛṣṇa es tal, no tolera otra competencia, así que no hay alternativa. Kṛṣṇa es la única fortuna, todas las otras cosas de nuestra parafernalia han de ser muy, muy insignificantes. Debemos satisfacernos con eso. Sólo la adoración completa ha de gobernar nuestro corazón. Y no debe haber nada a nuestro alrededor que pueda atraernos, perturbar nuestra concentración hacia Él. Con la excepción de Sus devotos, aquellos que nos ayudaran a ir en la dirección correcta, en dirección a Kṛṣṇa."
Śrīla B.R. Sridhar Dev Goswāmī  Mahārāj
Traducido de la transcripción datada en Mayo del 83.

The Touchstone

The story of Fray Gomez and his miraculous scorpion tells of how a holy man benefits a supplicant with a magic talisman. Shridhar Mahārāja tells a similar story here, but one with a very different ending.

The Touchstone Jewel

You have come to surrender to the beauty of the ideal…
It is an explore the spiritual world, the world of humility and humbleness. There is much jewel there. And what jewel we can find in the external surface? We want to be saved from that sort of charm of the external grandeur.
There is a story in Sanatana Goswami's life, which is found in Bhakta-mala, and also Rabindranatha Thakura has written a poem in that connection. There was a village, Mankore, and there was a rich brahmana family, who had many lineage of worship and festival of many religious types. But suddenly they became poor, and the brahmana says: "I am the best of this lineage, I'm so poor that I cannot perform so many festivals that used to be performed here every year."
So, he was a devotee of Mahadeva, Siva, he began to pray very fervently to his lord of heart, Siva, "Please help me that I can keep the glory, the name and fame of my ancestors."
Then in dream he got some suggestion, "Go to Vrndavana, there is Sanatana Goswami, meet him and your aim will be satisfied."
In those days, no train, no bus, only by walking the thousand miles the brahmana went to meet Sanatana in Vrndavana.
Then anyhow, on the banks of Yamuna, he found Sanatana in a hut and taking the Name of Krsna. He met him and told his own things.
Then after giving hearing to him, Sanatana told: "Brahmana, it was true that previously when I was Prime Minister to Bengal, I gave many things to many brahmanas, satisfied them. But now you find me I am a beggar."
"Yes, I see your condition. But how can I think that my lord, Siva, he has frustrated me, cheated me, I can't think like that."
"But what can I do? You see me."
"Yes, I see your position." Then, disappointed, the brahmana is coming away.
Then Sanatana Goswami suddenly, something came in his mind. "O brahmana, come, come. Siva has not disappointed you. You see there is some rubbish gathered together. I think that one very bright stone was found one day and I put it there. That may be the touchstone and if it is so then Siva has given you dream rightly."
The brahmana removing the rubbishes found a bright stone.
"It may be the touchstone. You take it and all your difficulty will be removed."
The brahmana took it. "How fortunate I am. Siva, my lord has guided me to a proper place and I have got it."
And now going he was always thinking, "It maybe ordinary glass also, but I must find some iron." And when searching he found a small iron nail and took it and touched and it converted into gold. "Oh, how fortunate I am, I have got a touchstone, I'm so fortunate in the world, I've got the touchstone."
He's going, but fortunately the reaction came in his mind. "This is really touchstone but why that man Sanatana Goswami, he so neglectfully put it in the rubbish? How is it possible? It can't be thought out that this thing should be so much neglectfully dealt, why?"
Then the next, second thought came to him, in the heart of that fortunate brahmana, "He must have something more greater, higher, then he could neglect this thing." The second thought came in his mind, "He's in possession of something higher, substance."
And then the third stage he came to think that, "I have found such a saint and if I go back only with this then I am deceiving myself. It is a proof that he's a saint of the highest order that he could neglect this touchstone in such a way, hatefully. I have found such a sadhu, such a saint, and if I leave him then I commit a great mistake in my life. It will be difficult to find such a saint in the world."
So he came back, retraced, and when came in the front of the cottage of Sanatana, then it came to its zenith. He threw away that touchstone into the river and fell on the feet of Sanatana. And it is mentioned:
"You have got, you are in possession of such a wealth that you did not care a touchstone to be a valuable thing. I want that valuable thing from you. I don't like to be deceived by this touchstone, valuable thing." He threw it to the water and fell at his feet.
So external things, the charm of the external precious things can be conquered in this way. Gaura Hari bol! The grandeur can attract the self-deceivers.
Krsna is such, He does not tolerate any second competition, so no alternative. Krsna is the only wealth, all other things in our paraphernalia should be very, very insignificant. We should be satisfied with that. Only the whole adoration He should command from our heart. And there should not be anything around us which may attract us, disturb our concentration towards Him. Only with the exception of His devotees, those that will help me towards right direction, towards the direction of Krsna.
Srila B.R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
Transcript dated as May 83

Monday, October 16, 2017

Milagros: El Alacran de Fray Gomez

Tradiciones Peruanas - Ricardo Palma

Cuando yo era muchacho escuchaba a las viejas exclamar, cuando una alhaja era de mucho precio:
—¡Esto vale tanto como el alacrán de fray Gómez!
Explicar este dicho de viejas es lo que me propongo con esta tradición.
Fray Gómez era un lego contemporáneo de San Francisco Solano que desempeñaba en el convento de los padres seráficos en Lima,la función de refitolero del hospital de los devotos frailes y a quien nunca se le conoció de otra manera que fray Gómez.
Fray Gómez hizo en Lima milagros en cantidades, como quien no quiere la cosa. Un día un caballo desbocado arrojó a su jinete. El desgraciado quedó patitieso, arrojando sangre por la nariz y la boca.
—Se descalabró —gritaba la gente, creyéndolo listo para la tumba.
Fray Gómez se acercó pausadamente al infeliz, le puso el cordón de su hábito en los labios, le echó tres bendiciones y el descalabrado se levantó tan fresco como si no hubiera recibido golpe alguno. Los fieles intentaron llevar en triunfo al lego pero el huyó a su celda. Aunque la versión franciscana cuenta que fray Gómez escapó volando de la multitud. Yo no lo afirmo ni lo niego, puede que sí y puede que no.
Ese mismo día estaba milagreo fray Gómez pues se encaminó a la enfermería y halló muy débil a San Francisco Solano, víctima de una jaqueca.
—Haría bien en tomar algún alimento —le dijo fray Gómez
El santo se negó, pero ante las insistencias de fray Gómez le pidió algo que sabía imposible de conseguir, por no ser la estación propicia:
—Pues mire, hermanito, solo comería con gusto un par de pejerreyes.
Fray Gómez metió la mano en el bolsillo y sacó dos pejerreyes, tan frescos como recién salidos del mar. Los guisó y quedó San Francisco curado como por ensalmo.
Dejo en el tintero otros milagritos de nuestro lego, porque no me he propuesto relatar su vida y milagros.
Estaba una mañana fray Gómez en su celda cuyo mobiliario eran cuatro sillones de vaqueta, una mesa mugrienta y una tarima sin colchón, con una piedra en lugar de almohada, cuando llamaron a su puerta con unos ligeros golpecitos y una voz quejumbrosa.

El recién llegado era un castellano agobiado por la pobreza pero con semblante de persona honrada.
—Soy buhonero —le dijo el castellano—, tengo familia y mi negocio no prospera; parece que Dios se ha olvidado de mí.
—No desespere hermano.
—El caso es que he tocado muchas puerta para pedir en préstamo un capital de quinientos duros y nada he conseguido. Y en mis cavilaciones pensé pedírselo a usted, que así pobre como es, encontrará una manera de sacarme del apuro.
—¿Cómo imagina, hijo mío, que en esta triste celda pueda tener esa cantidad?
—Tengo fe de que no me dejará ir desconsolado —respondió el castellano.
—La fe lo salvará, hermano. Espere un momento.
Y paseando los ojos por las desnudas paredes, vio un alacrán que caminaba por el marco de la ventana. Fray Gómez arrancó una página de un libro viejo y cogió a la sabandija, la envolvió y se la entregó al visitante.
—Tome, y procure devolverme esta alhajita en en seis meses.
El buhonero agradeció mucho y se encaminó de prisa a la tienda de un usurero. La joya era de una delicadeza incomparable, un prendedor con figura de alacrán; el cuerpo, una esmeralda engarzada sobre oro y la cabeza un grueso brillante con dos rubíes por ojos.

La empeñó por quinientos duros, aunque el usurero intentó convencerlo de que le venda la joya.
Con ese capital le fue tan bien en su negocio que al cabo de seis meses pudo desempeñar la alhaja y devolvérsela a fray Gómez. Este tomó el alacrán, lo puso en la ventana y dándole la bendición le dijo:
—Animalito de Dios, sigue tu camino.
Y el alacrán echó a andar libremente por las paredes de la celda. Por Alvaro felipe.

The Magic Scorpion

[Sometime ago I found this charming story in a collection of works by Peru's Ricardo Palma. The translation below is by Kenny Beechmount.] 

 The Scorpion of Father Gomez

FOREWORD by the translator 
Ricardo Palma was born in Lima, Peru in 1833, and died there on October 6, 1919, at the age of 86. He was contemporary to the Mexican writer, Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896) with whom he had quite a few things in common. They were both university educated, had served in the armed forces and dabbled in politics. Palma began his writing career as a poet and published his first verses at the age of only 15. During his life, he published several additional volumes of verse, including Harmonies and Lyre in Paris during a visit there in 1864-65. From 1865 onward until he retired in 1912, he published a series of volumes called Tradiciones, with the first showing up in 1872. These essays, short stories and historical fiction pieces became the core of a six-volume set of the Complete PeruvianTraditions. Like Vicente Riva Palacio, many of his stories and amusing anecdotes are based on folklore and for Ricardo Palma, on Peruvian traditions. The following story about brother (friar) Gómez and the scorpion is an amusing little tale of fantasy that rivals that of Palacio’s El Buen Ejemplo.

When I was a boy I frequently heard the older people exclaiming, while pondering the value and price of a piece of jewelry “This is as valuable as Brother Gomez’s scorpion!” I propose to explain this adage of the old people with the following story.
Brother Gómez was a lay brother, contemporaneous with Don Juan de la Pipirindica, the valiant lancer and of San Francisco Solano, redeemer in Lima at the convent of the Seraphic Fathers, whose monks were in charge of the infirmary or hospital for old and frail devotees. Brother Gómez created miracles galore in my country, like someone who is not even trying. He was a natural-born miracle-maker, like the person who spoke in prose, not knowing that he did.
It happened one day; the lay brother arrived at a bridge, when a runaway horse threw its rider on the paving stones. The unfortunate soul remained, lifeless, with his battered head spurting blood from nose and mouth.
“He fractured his skull,-he fractured his skull!” shouted the people, “Will someone go to San Lorenzo and fetch some anointing oil?”
Everything was in an uproar and clamor.
Brother Gómez slowly approached the person lying on the ground and put the cord from his garment across the mouth of him, then said three blessings, and without neither doctor, nor medicine, he stood up, fresh, as if he if he never got hurt.
“Miracle, Miracle! Long live brother Gómez!” shouted all the spectators.
Enthusiastically they tried to carry the lay brother in victory. In order to get away from his applauders, he ran down the road to the convent and cloistered himself in his cell.
The Franciscan history explains the latter in a different way. They say that brother Gómez, in order to escape his applauders, lifted himself into the air and flew from the bridge to the tower of the convent. I neither confirm, nor deny this. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. When dealing with miracles, I don’t waste my time nether defending or refuting them.
That day, brother Gómez was in the mood for making miracles, for when he left his cell, he walked to the infirmary, where he encountered San Francisco Solano, resting on a bed, suffering from a severe headache. The lay brother took his pulse and said: “Father, your health is fragile; you would do well to eat some food.”
“Brother, replied the saint, I have no appetite.
“Make an effort, reverent Father, have at least a mouthful.”
So insistent was the monk in charge of the dining hall, that the sick, in order to get rid of the demands that already bordered on nonsense, I got the idea to ask him what even for the viceroy would have been impossibly to obtain, because the season wasn’t right to satisfy his whim
“Look, little brother, if only he would eat a pair of tasty mackerels”
Fray Gómez put his right hand into his left sleeve and pulled out two mackerels as fresh as if they had just come out of the sea.
Here they are Father, and may they bring your good health back. I Am going to cook them.
And with the blessed mackerels San Francisco was cured as if by magic.
There was another morning, brother Gomez was lost in meditation in his cell, when there was some small, discrete knocks on the door and a tetchy voice said:
“Thanks be to God, Praised be the Lord”
“Forever and ever, Amen. Come in dear brother, answered brother Gómez.”
And into the very humble cell came a ragged individual, but in whose face one could perceive the proverbial honesty of an old Castilian.
The furniture in the cell consisted of four leather chairs, a greasy table, and a bunk without mattress, not even sheets, and with a stone for a pillow to rest his head.
Sit down, brother and tell me without detours what brings you here, said brother Gómez.
The fact is, Father that I am an honest man through and through.
That’s apparent and I want to persevere, so that I will deserve peace of conscience in this earthlyl life, and in other one, the blessed place.
The fact is that I’m a peddler with a family and my business does not grow for lack of means, or for idleness and shortage of industry in me.
I’m glad, brother, for God takes care of those who work honestly
But it is the problem, Father that till now God has turned a deaf ear on me, and is late in helping me.
“Don’t despair, brother, don’t despair!”
Well, the situation is that have knocked on many doors in solicitation of a loan for five hundred duros, and I found all of them locked up tight. And it happened that last night in my ponderings, I said to myself: “Hey, Jeromo, cheer up and go and ask for the money from brother Gómez, for if he wants to, beggar and poor as he is, he will find a way to extract me from my troubles.” And this is the reason that I am here, because I have come to ask and request that you, reverend Father, lend me this trifle amount for six months.
“How could you have imagined, son, that you, in this sad cell, would find such wealth?”
Frankly, father I couldn’t answer that; but I have faith that you will not let me leave distressed.
Your faith will save you, brother. Wait a minute!
Looking around the naked, whitewashed walls in the cell, he saw a scorpion tranquilly walking over the window frame. Brother Gómez tore a page from an old book and went over to the window took it cautiously to the bug, wrapped it in the paper and turning towards the old Castilian he said:
“Take this, my good man and pawn this little precious ornament; and don’t forget to bring it back within six month.”
The peddler was overcome with gratitude, and left brother Gómez with great haste and walked to the pawnshop.
The jewel was a splendid, real jewel worthy of a Moorish queen, to say the least. It was a brooch in the shape of a scorpion.
A magnificent emerald mounted in gold, formed the body and a wide brilliant with two rubies for eyes, formed the head.
The pawnshop owner, who was a connoisseur, looked at the jewel with greed and offered to begin with two thousand duros for it; but our Spaniard insisted on not accepting a loan for more than 500 duros for six month and with too much interest, he understood.  The lender gave him the money and signed the papers or promissory notes, expecting that, in the end, the owner of the article would come back for more money, which, with the added interest charges, would turn him into the owner of such a priceless jewel, with its intrinsic and artistic value.
But with this little capital, he became quite prosperous in his business and at the end of the time could discharge the loan, and, wrapped in the same paper he had received it in, he returned it to brother Gómez.
He took the scorpion and put it in the window sill, gave a blessing and said:
“Little animal of God, go find your way.”
And the scorpion walked freely on the walls of the cell.
Thanks to "Translated April 7, 2011 by Kenny Beechmount . Alecran  by Ricardo Palma, translated to English."