Throughout the process of initiation, Tamino and Papageno have been helped by a curious little trio: Three Boys whose task it is to guide them through their trials. In the middle of the second act, they come to give back to the two men the bells and the flute which had been confiscated, but also to bring them food and drink. They subsequently reveal to Pamina, who is on the point of killing herself, that Tamino loves her, and remind a similarly suicidal Papageno of the magic powers of his bells. In their own way they reinvent the concept of the deus ex machina.
Listen to the excerpt:
THE THREE BOYS
Welcome for the second time,
You men, in Sarastro’s realm!
He sends you back what was taken from you,
The flute and the little bells.
If you do not scorn this fare,
Eat and drink heartily of it!
When we meet for the third time,
Joy will reward your courage!
Tamino, courage! The goal is at hand.
You, Papageno, hold your tongue.
Since something like polytheism cannot be represented on the stage, the ‘illusion’ must be depicted in some other way. This is the purpose served here by the fairytale of the abducted princess, which not only Tamino, but also we spectators are taken in by; for we are programmed to be ‘illusioned’ by an opera as by any other fictional work. But here we are faced with illusions raised to the second degree, of which we must be divested in the subsequent course of the piece. This process of enlightenment thus becomes a ritual experience for Tamino and an aesthetic experience for us.