I read a folk tale, years ago, where a boy receives a purse that always contains a gold coin. This handy source of income helps him on his quest, which I cannot recall. When he takes out the coin, there is still a coin in the purse. Always. Magic!
Typically, I can get my head around the technical aspects of folktale magic. Seven league boots are easily understood, by taking a step you move seven leagues. A hat that makes a person invisible is equally comprehended; by wearing the hat, invisibility occurs. The never-ending coin in a bag trick is something a bit different, however. How, I wonder, does the coin reproduce itself? Where is the line drawn between where the coin in the purse becomes the coin no-longer-in-the-purse? How can the magic sneak around our heads and put another coin in the bag if we are paying attention?
The only explanation I can think of, is that at some point, no matter how hard we try, attention is not paid and the magic tumbles to its conclusion: another coin in the bag. The point when this occurs scares me because I sense that it might be the heart of myth and fable. I can only really describe it as the space between thoughts. In between reaching into the bag and picking up the coin; or picking up the coin and removing it from the bag, the magic does its thing.
If this is the case, that, even as hard as we try to see the mechanisms of things, we cannot grasp all that is entailed, then there is illimitable elbow room in the infinitely small gap between one thought and the next. The boy withdraws a coin and in the time it takes to direct his attention from the coin he is taking back to the purse he took it from, another coin has appeared.
So, in this space, I think, lives intuition, lives imagination, lives inspiration, lives something deeper than the subconscious. I think this might be the same thing that G.K Chesterton grappled with in many of his writings and that J.R.R. Tolkien addressed in his remarkable essay On Fairy Stories.
I think what struck me about the never ending coin was the replicatory nature of the magic and its trigger were just slightly different enough from an enchanted flute or a flying carpet to make belief just a bit harder than usual to suspend. It also helps that I have never ending curiosity.