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This is arguably a fairy tale about someone becoming more self-confident about being a criminal.

In a medieval land oppressed by foreign invaders there is a boy called Hungry For More. His mother is poor, and when she dies he becomes a pickpocket to survive. One day the wallet he steals contains a map to an oracle, The Old Woman of the Silver Caves, and he takes the long paths to travel there.

When he arrives she asks him, “And what work do you do now?”

“To my great and eternal shame, I am a pickpocket.”

She made a noise. “Pickpocket! No, no, that is not a profession for someone as smart and talented as you.”

[…] “Then tell me. Tell me my destiny. What should I become?”

“A thief.”

So he becomes a thief, and he is good at it. He is no longer starving, and makes a small income. But after a while he grows frustrated about whether he’s doing the right thing with his life, so he visits the Old Woman of the Caves. She promptly tells him that a thief isn’t a worthy of his skills, and he should become a burglar.

And so it progresses. Hungry For More comes back again and again to the Old Woman, and each time she challenges him to better himself with an even more difficult criminal profession. The repetition enhances never becomes wearying, only serving to enhance the atmosphere of a fairy tale. The denouement is something that is satisfying and obvious in hindsight, as well as being unthinkable to the starving pickpocket at the beginning.

The Pickpocket’s Destiny by Rachel Pollack

Availability: audio-book is free online, print

Word count: 4,300

First published: The Tarot of Perfection, collection, 2008, Magic Realist Press

Where else to find it: A complete audio of the story is available on Youtube here.

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