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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Philopseudes (Greek for "Lovers of lies") is a short frame story by Lucian, written c. AD 150. The narrator, Tychiades, is visiting the house of a sick and elderly friend, Eucrates, where he has an argument about the reality of the supernatural. Several internal narrators then tell him various tales, intended to convince him that supernatural phenomena are real. Each story in turn is either rebutted or ridiculed by Tychiades.

Eventually Eucrates recounts a tale extremely similar to Goethe's Zauberlehrling, which had supposedly happened to him in his youth. The similarities are so great as to make it obvious that Lucian was Goethe's inspiration, there are several differences:

  • The sorcerer is, instead, an Egyptian mystic, a priest of Isis called Pancrates.
  • Eucrates is not an apprentice, but a companion who eavesdrops on Pancrates casting his spell.
  • Although a broom is listed as one of the items that can be animated by the spell, Eucrates actually uses a pestle. (Pancrates also sometimes used the bar of a door.)

However perhaps the most important difference is the moral of the story. In Der Zauberlehrling and in the story's iteration in the 1940 animated film Fantasia, it is generally presumed that the story embodies some maxim or moral, and that it is something along the lines of "don't meddle with things you don't understand" offers a metaphor for modern society where youth and inexperience is enthroned, resulting in an increasingly out of control mess being made, and in need of 'our betters' to return and take charge once more. In Philopseudes, however, the intention is simply to ridicule tall tales.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Philopseudes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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