An Analysis of The Circular Ruins
"The Circular Ruins" is a short story written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1964. Borges was born in 1899 and died in 1986. At the age of six, he knew he wanted to be a writer. By age eight, he had already written his first story. Most of Borges' stories are listed under the fantastic literature category. Fantastic literature has several things in common with magical realism, but it is less believable.
Magical realism and fantastic literature both contain magical and realistic elements. The realistic elements in this story give a description of the surroundings. They tell of a river and a mountain. A "circular enclosure crowned by a stone tiger or horse, which once was the color of fire and now that of ashes" is the temple that the main character visits (25). There are birds in the jungle that sometimes wake up the main character with their cries and native people who live nearby that bring him food. Fire and two boatmen who show up later in the story are also realistic elements.
The magical, or fantastic, elements make the story take a completely different route than what it would have without them. Rabkin says that "the truly fantastic occurs when the ground rules of a narrative are forced to make a 180 degrees reversal" (18-19). The main character "came up the bank without pushing aside (probably without feeling) the brambles which dilacerated his flesh...to the circular enclosure" and "stretched out beneath the pedestal" (25). This description sounds normal, but when he wakes up he finds that his "wounds had closed" (25). The main character is at the temple to dream into life, a man. He also dreams of a fire god that is made of a combination of different animals, and it talks to him. It tells the man to bring his "son", the man he has dreamt, to life so the son can go "to the other broken temple whose pyramids survived downstream" (28). The main character obeys and does what the fire god asks. It turns out that the man, himself, is a magical element. At the end of the story, he walks into the fire and is not burnt.
The fantastic, or magical, elements send the story on a different course from what would have originally happened. Without these elements the main character may have died, or he may have not even come to the temple to begin with. The elements give the main character situations that show how life can be. They show good times, and hardships, and some of the different emotions that a person goes through. The story starts over again with the main character's son and will continue on like a "circle".
Fantastic literature and magical realism both contain magical elements, however, hesitation is what determines whether it is magical realism or fantastic literature. Most of the people involved in this story seem to treat the magical elements the same way, as if they are normal occurrences. The main character treats the elements as a normal occurrence. He acts...