Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Tamara. Tamara Wonders, “Do wishes really come true?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tamara!
What’s the one thing you want most in the world? You might immediately think of that new gadget or stylish pair of shoes you’ve been begging for. But try to think deeper than that. Go on—if you could have anything, what would it be?
Would you want world peace? How about an endless winter break? Maybe you’d want eternal health for your family or constant happiness for your friends. Many people would find it tempting to ask for vast wealth, power, or knowledge.
Whatever it is your heart desires, you’ve probably heard at one point or another that’s important to be careful what you wish for. After all, you just might get it! For centuries, people have told stories meant to teach that lesson. From genies to fairies to leprechauns, creatures that grant people their wishes are known to be tricky and dishonest. One such story is the legend of Faust.
Faust—or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus—had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and power. He was intelligent and studied hard. But he was never quite satisfied with what he learned.
As the legend goes, one night, Faust conjured a devil. Faust asked the devil to give him unlimited power and knowledge during his lifetime. That’s when the two made a deal. The devil would grant Faust his wish. The tradeoff? Faust’s soul. After living the life he wanted for 24 years, Faust would have to surrender his soul.
Did Faust get what he wished for? Well, sort of. He lived the rest of his life with just about every want and need met. He received answers for all of his questions about the world. But Faust was denied some aspects of life, such as marriage, and was looked down upon by most of those who knew him. He found the life he’d traded his soul for largely unsatisfying.
This is where versions of the legend differ. In some stories, Faust tries to break his deal. However, the devil holds him to it. Sometimes, Faust faces a violent end when the devil claims his soul. In other versions, he’s saved at the last minute by the Christian God. Though it’s told many ways, one part of the Faust story always stays the same: Faust never feels that the life he wished for was worth the price he paid.
Of course, “be careful what you wish for” isn’t the only lesson people can learn from Faust. Like all good legends, his story is full of themes and symbols. In today’s world, the story is sometimes read to warn against instant gratification. That’s the desire to have what you want when you want it. After all, Faust’s inability to be happy with what he had was his undoing. Some today say the story encourages people to embrace a more simple life and be willing to wait for the fruits of their labor.
Would you believe the legend of Faust is based on a real person? It’s true! The real Faust was a German alchemist and astronomer who lived from around 1480 until around 1540. Did he really make a deal with the devil? He supposedly told some people that he had. No one will ever know for sure, but the real Faust was known for both wisdom and wickedness.
What other lessons do you think can be learned from Faust? The character has become an archetype in legend and literature. That means you’ll find many characters and stories modeled after him. Does his story remind you of any others?
Standards: CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2