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Magnus is one of the names taken on by Paul Dempster. Like several of the main characters in Davies' novel, Paul undergoes a symbolic rebirth which is accompanied by a name change. It is eventually revealed that this name is derived from that of Isengrin, a wolf in the stories of Reynard the Fox.
On December 28, 1908 Paul was born prematurely soon after his mother is hit in the head by a snowball from Percy Boyd Staunton. This has unusually adverse consequences for the mother, as she is driven insane by the mishap. Paul is then raised by his strict and religious father but runs away from home and is taken by the World of Wonders troupe, where he is abused, but learns the skills of a conjuror. This moment in his life is also significant in that it recognizes his first change in alias, that of Faustus (a name later translated into Faustina, both female assistants to Eisengrim).
After several years, Paul becomes the understudy of a famous, aged English actor. Working as his stunt double, Paul slowly adopts his personality and appearance and almost assumes his persona.
Paul (now known as Magnus Eisengrim) tells this story to his co-workers while they are working on a movie of Robert-Houdin.
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