The Story-teller Under The Choir

A Story For Christmas

The cold, dark night is singing. Some fifty miles south-west of Tehran an almost forgotten old man sits on his steps in an almost forgotten town; he is sitting under the choir. Every year he sits there. Each year he tells the story.

“Many, may years ago,” he begins with a deep, gravelly voice, “a star appeared in the sky. Three Magi set out to honour the king who had been born under that star. The three Magi – Jaspar, Melchior and Balthasar – became the worshippers of Fire.

“They took three gifts on their journey to find the king. If he takes Gold, they said, he is an earthly king; if he takes Incense he is of God; if he takes of the Myrrh he is a healer.

“The three Magi journeyed for days, each night stopping to see the new born king’s star rise, ensuring they were still following it. It came to pass that they arrived where the Child was born. The spriteliest and youngest of the Magi went in first to see the Child. He found the Child of his own age. He marvelled. The Middle Magi followed and did the same. The eldest Magi went in last, pensively. He marvelled, also. The three gathered outside and agreed to go in together. Doing so, they found the Child of his own age – thirteen days old.

“The Magi adored the child and presented to him their gifts, watching to see which he would take.

“The child accepted all of their gifts.”

The story-teller sits back and looks to the music.

“The child’s mother gave the Magi a small box and they headed towards their own land. As they journeyed home, the star that had guided them sank and faded.

“When the Magi were close to their own land, they opened the box and found in it a small, grey pebble. They were disappointed.

“The youngest Magi picked up the pebble between the tips of his fingers and threw it behind him without looking. The other Magi didn’t stop him – they too believed it was useless.

“But the pebble landed in a puddle left by almost forgotten rain. The Three Magi, still walking towards home, felt a flash behind them. They turned to see the puddle had been consumed by light – the pebble had turned to fire.

“The Magi took the fire with them and it burns, still, to this day, not far from here.”

The story tellers feels exhausted. The story his father and told him and his father’s father had told his father had been spoken. Once every year, as it always had.

“That’s impossible!” one of the bright, young ones in the audience says, rolling his eyes and looking to his friends for support.

“It isn’t,” the story-teller says.

He stands up slowly on his step, pulls a matchbox from his coat pocket, extracts a small, grey pebble and throws it with his wrist across, over the heads of his audience into the town’s crumbling, stone well.

Enveloped in music, there is fire.


A return the story of the Three Kings with a different, broader focus, based on a tale Marco Polo brought back from his travels. It was written for, and spoken at, a Christmas Festival in Canberra on 11 December 2014.

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