The wish motif in a few Twilight Zone episodes

The wish motif  – or a supernatural force appearing to grant a lucky man wishes, usually three – is one that can be found in many folklores across the  world, though it is the variant (s) found in the Arabian Nights that has become the most famous. I do allude to the Genies (or also jinn, jinni, djinni, from Arabic جني), trapped in a bottle or the slaves of a ring or more often, a lamp. This is not because the current generation, like us, has picked up the virtues of reading these tales as we did in our childhood but because they are available in other media, such as animated films and the like. However, let me not digress.

I was talking about wishes. It is a common human tendency that people dreams of getting their heart’s desires or for that matter, measures that may ensure a comfortable and sparkling life such as great wealth or great looks or the like, fulfilled in a jiffy. However, this may lead to more problems than even anticipated while dreaming of a blissful future.

I recall reading a story when in school from a book I do not even recall the name of or most details of the tale. It is basically that of a prince, who offered three wishes by his fairy grandmother, but plays smart….. a little too smart. He uses each of the wishes to wish for three more wishes and each of these for three more…. and so on and on till he has amassed thousands. However, the fairy godmother is not amused and arranges a pitfall. Basically, she hangs on by his side, waiting for a single slip to fix him.

Her chance comes when the prince, playing a game of cards with his friends and having a good hand, remarks “I wish it come again” and presto, his wish is granted, but the fairy puts him in a loop where every repetition of that good hand ends at the point he utters those words and has to undergo it again…. thus ensuring its a long time before all his wishes run out. Imagine if you were in his place and conscious of what is happening…… but powerless to break the spell.

However, the examples I had intended to cite from “The Twilight Zone”, so without further ado, lets go to it.

It was episode 38 in the second series of the original run of  the series in 1960-61, titled “The Man in the Bottle”.

As the opening narration says: “Mr.and Mrs. Arthur Castle, gentle and infinitely patient people, whose lives have been a hope chest with a rusty lock and a lost set of keys. But in just a moment that hope chest will be opened, and an improbable phantom will try to bedeck the drabness of these two people’s failure-laden lives with the gold and precious stones of fulfillment. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, standing on the outskirts and about to enter the Twilight Zone.”

The Castles, a downtrodden pawnbroker and his wife, are offered four wishes by a genie. Distrustful, they use their first wish to repair a broken glass cabinet to prove the genie’s power. They then wish for one million dollars, but after they give tens of thousands away to their friends, the tax man comes to claim the rest, leaving them with $5.

The genie warns them that every wish has consequences, and that they should consider carefully before making a wish.

Castle makes his third wish, to be the leader of a modern, powerful country in which he cannot be “voted out of office” — and finds himself as Adolf Hitler in the last days of World War II, hiding in a Berlin bunker and contemplating suicide. (The look on the overweight pawnbroker’s face when he realises his predicament was simply unforgettable).

To be continued…….


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