The First Temptation of the Last Magus: a Comparison of Michel Tournier's Taor, prince de Mangalore, Edzard Schaper's Die Legende vom vierten König and Henry van Dyke's The Story of the Other Wise Man1


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    I'd like to thank Anthony Purdy and Larissa Tumanov for their helpful suggestions.

Vladimir Tumanov. Born 1961. Ph.D. University of Alberta. Associate Professor of Russian, French and Comparative Literature, University of Western Ontario. Has Published Listening to Okudzhava: Twenty-Three Aural Comprehension Exercises in Russian, Newburyport MA, 1996, and articles on modern Russian, American and Canadain literature. Forthcoming book (March 1997): Mind Reading: Interior Monologue in European Fiction (Rodopi).


Given Tournier's own indication that the story of Taor in the last part of Gaspard, Melchior & Balthazar came to him from Schaper's Die Legende vom vierten König and van Dyke's The Story of the Other Wise Man, this article compares the three texts in order to determine their respective theological perspectives. It is argued that Schaper's and van Dyke's respective tales constitute meditations on the Sheep and the Goats pericope from Matthew 24. Tournier's tale, on the other hand, involves a different theological focus: the First Temptation of Christ from Matthew 4:1–4 as this pericope relates to Deuteronomy 8:2–3. This shift in focus makes food central to the spiritual journey of Tournier's protagonist: the gluttonous Taor makes a symbolic transition from “living on bread alone” to living by “every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (the bread of the Eucharist). It is argued that because Taor begins his journey from the spiritually immature position of the Israelites in Exodus 16, his starting point is pre-Christological and, therefore, his journey is far greater than those of Schaper's and van Dyke's respective protagonists. The latter possess rudimentary Christological knowledge right from the start and therefore undergo less extensive spiritual metamorphosis than does Taor.