Great Magic – Otakar Batlicka – free graded reader

Great Magic


Engineer Owens has finished all his preparations. He had to leave this little town called Talka Chuano the next morning. He was angry. He had hoped that after several months of staying in the middle of the American rainforests he would be able to go to Rio de Janeiro and enjoy the town life for a few days.

That was why he was really surprised when the owner of the pub “Funda y Pasada” gave him a letter, in which the company he worked for, asked him to go back to the rainforest to the place called “El Corazon” and bring some samples.

At first the engineer  was really angry. “Go back again! It is easy for you to say so up there in Rio de Janeiro! Go and bring the samples! Yes sir! Go, Owens, let the crocodiles eat you – but don’t forget to send the samples to us!”

He was talking like this for several hours. Then he accepted this new situation and signed a new contract with his experienced carriers. “So, boys, we have to go to the rainforest again tomorrow,” he told them sadly.

Then he  was walking around Talka Chuano. He came to a well. On the edge of the well there were sitting several native Brazilian Indians. One of them was an old man. He was at least 90 years old. His black eyes studied the engineer for a few seconds. “Hombre! Buy a great magic, good magic. You have this magic around your neck and no snake will bite you – good magic. No snake come if you have the magic on your neck!” In this bad English he was offering Owens a small object which he took out of a small basket.

Otakar Batlicka - Free graded reader

He was offering Owens a small object which he took out of a small basket.

Owens wasn’t new in this area. He smiled and he put his hand on his gun: “I’ve got the something better for snakes, my friend. this is a really good magic.”

The old man walked back to the edge of the well. Owens felt a bit sorry for the old man. “Come here! What kind of magic are you selling?”

The old man put the object into Owens hands. It was a round piece of leather from of some kind of a snake. It was about 4 cm long and it looked nice. On the other side of the object he could see the pattern of snake’s skin and there were some strange  signs. On the other side there was a kind of circle and inside this circle there was smaller circle of different colour. It looked like an animal’s eye. The whole object had a small hole with the cord and it was possible to put this “great, good magic” around your neck. It was quite an interesting Indian product.

“How much do you want for this magic?” Owens asked.


“One dollar, friend,” the old man said.

Owens gave the man one dollar and he was putting the great magic into the pocket of his trousers. “No, no, sir! Not in your pocket! The magic doesn’t do anything there, the magic good here!” And before Owens could do anything, the old man took the magic and put it round his neck.

“It is very good here! No snake bite you! The magic sees, good eye! Each snake see the eye  immediately? That’s why you have it on your neck not in your pocket! In your pocket the eye not see anything!”

Owens smiled. “Well, well. Now I’m okay! Now your magic will look after me,” he laughed.

But the old man was serious: “Yes when the you don’t see the snake, the eye will see the snake!” On the way back the engineer studied the object one more time. He didn’t know why but he left the magic around his neck, as the old  Indian put it there.

The next day the small group left the little town of  Talka Chuano.  The three carriers and four donkeys carried all the things. Most of the time they went along a dry river. In the afternoon Owens told the men to put up the tent. The camp was built and the boys prepared dinner. After the meal Owens decided to look around the camp. He took all his tools and went. He studied the ground around him.

He didn’t want  to go too far from the camp. On the left there were some bushes and behind them he could see a red rock. He decided to go through the bushes to the rock. It was very difficult to get through and he had to cut some of the bushes with his knife.

After a while he stopped and relaxed. Above him he could see several small monkeys. He noticed one of the monkeys was carrying a young carefully and at the same time she was watching Owens. Suddenly a big branch caught Owens.

“Stupid magic! The cord nearly cut off my head!” He broke the branch which caught the cord. “Why don’t I throw the magic away …” But the engineer didn’t finish his sentence … He didn’t move. Only his hand was slowly moving to his right side. About five meters in front of Owens there stood a big snake and it was ready to attack! It was a big and beautiful animal. It was very colourful and the eyes were watching Owens’ chest!

Otakar Batlicka - Great Magic - free graded reader 2

The snake was looking at Owens’ chest

Owens didn’t move. Finally his right hand reached the gun. He was sweating heavily. He knew very well how aggressive and poisonous this kind of snake is. His hand with the gun was going up very slowly. Each second seemed like a year. Then there were three quick shots. All of them hit the target. The snake went down and died.

“If I had made several more steps I would have died,” Owens thought. “I was really lucky to be stopped by the cord of the magic. Was it just a coincidence?”


Owens returned to the camp. “Moso Pedritto! Can you come here, please? Can you have a look at this? Can you read what is written on this skin?” Owens asked and handed the great magic to one of the carriers. Moso took it and he studied it for a while.

“There is written: Watch your steps!”

Owens took the magic back and put it round his neck again. “Great magic, really, great magic! Everyone should wear it around his neck and watch their steps in their life…”

You can read other simplified stories here:

Certain Bet – pre-intermediate level

Sherlock Holmes – Love Thy Neighbour (comic film)

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