The Grillkens: A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time in a faraway land there was a grand kingdom. Its walls reached up and out to the vast countryside. The inhabitants of its villages soaked in the warmth of the sun that lit every stone around them. Their king was good, and his loyal subjects couldn’t stroll the streets without greeting another with, “Long live the king.”
Yes, long live the king. Live he did, and his rule increased. But reader, there was something sinister creeping nearby this kingdom, as it usually does. You see, the light that fell upon the stones of the king’s land did not continue far past the city walls. Instead it was swallowed up into a thick fog of black. For in the background of the majestic kingdom stood a solemn old forest. If it was only empty, that might have been bearable. But instead, it was very much filled. Haunting its grounds were the dreaded grillkens.
Have you ever heard of a grillken? No, of course not, but perhaps I can help you picture it. A grillken is a very fierce creature. It crawls the length of the forest aided by the grip of long yellowed claws. The mangled gray hairs on its body feel like sand as they draw across your skin. (Though the number is quite few of those who have felt this sensation and lived to tell about it.) I wish I could tell you about its face, but no one has ever seen it. Those unfortunate enough to get close only ever saw a pair of black eyes piercing out beneath the tangle of dark fur.
And that reader, is what lurked outside the beautiful kingdom of light.
Now as all good kings do, the good ruler protected his kingdom. In order to separate his citizens from this evil, the king ordered all villagers to reject any garments dyed the color black, and even a whisper that resembled the sound of the grillken was banished from their lips. The king also appointed a group of knights to imprison the grillkens and extend his territory into the darkness. In a valiant effort, each day these knights travelled into the old forest in search. One of which was the noble Sir Edwin.
Edwin was born for knighthood. At the age of eighteen his strength finally caught up to the sparkle in his bright blue eyes. From then on he watched the sun peek out its head each morning upon his horse, and he felt its final caress upon his back as he labored to push the King’s rule through the dark old forest.
Sir Edwin rejoiced to see the light stretch a little farther each day. But it was a patient task. You see, grillkens are cunning. They walk in secrecy and barely ever meet in a group. No one knew how to catch them together, which forced the knights to battle them one deathly creature at a time.
On one particular day, noble Sir Edwin watched from his scouting position in a tree, and witnessed an event which changed everything. Down below on the forest floor appeared a grillken. Edwin silently studied the beast as it paced across the rotting leaves of the forest. Then a ghastly shriek erupted and pierced the knight’s ears. Edwin’s hand rushed to cover his mouth at the wretched noise.
Before Edwin could form a plan of attack, the bushes below began to rustle, and not one, but three smaller grillkens pushed their way towards their shrieking sibling. The body of a rabbit swung from the tallest one’s teeth, and this was tossed to the earth in front of the pack. The vicious creatures commenced to eat of their spoil, nipping and pushing violently against each other, before finally fleeing in all different directions.
Sir Edwin remained in the tree motionless for several minutes. He scanned the forest for any sign of movement, then carefully descended and travelled home to the kingdom of light.
Back in his bed that night, Sir Edwin could not stop thinking about what he witnessed in the woods. No one had ever seen grillkens meet or even believed they gathered. But there they were. That awful shriek coming from the mouth of the first beast had called them. If the knights used this new knowledge, they could make real progress in their captures.
If only I could.. Sir Edwin turned his thoughts around in his head. What he was considering was outlawed. It was written into the royal decree.
But the kingdom could extend, Edwin fired back. Real change could happen, for the good of the king and the kingdom.
And I… I hold the key to it all.
Lying in bed Sir Edwin wrestled back and forth, as sleep ran elusively from his tired eyes. Finally late into the night he sat up, scribbled out a most important note to his tailor, and closed his eyes with a smile on his face.
The next week, Sir Edwin followed the knightly procession into the old forest, but he lingered near the back and quietly veered off onto the eastward path. He maneuvered his steed over fallen limbs and slid off the saddle by a large forsythia.
His hand reached towards the bag behind him and stopped, frozen in the air. The stillness of the woods enclosed around him. After some moments his hand once again pressed towards the canvas opening. He piled its contents in his arms and disappeared into the bush beside him.
Several minutes later, the horse erupted in frightened squeals, yanking against its tether. For out of the foliage came a mangy creature with dark fur, and long, sharp claws. It approached the bucking horse, but its front legs lifted up, and began walking toward the leather rope on not four, but two legs. The horse immediately calmed as it met the creature’s bright blue eyes.
For we know, reader, it was none other than Sir Edwin in disguise.
Our faux grillken led his steed to a safe place and then crawled away along the forest floor. Quiet groans came out of his mouth, mimicking the noises he had heard the week before. Edwin reviled at his own mouth, but pressed on. Then he began to thrash, yelp, and growl. Amidst his awful noises he heard the snap of a twig nearby. Then another. More were coming. His plan was working. Slowly three dark figures encircled the disguised knight.
Once he could feel the breath of the grillkens against his neck, he leapt off the floor of the forest, brandished his gleaming sword, and bludgeoned the grillkens with mighty force. After binding the three creatures together, Edwin quickly removed his disguise and admired his spoil. His grin remained the entire time he hitched them to his steed and carried them back home.
Back in the kingdom that night, Sir Edwin replayed the events of the day in his mind. It all had worked perfectly. He hid his disguise and planned his next attack.
And reader, he did it again. And again. After hiding his faithful steed in the trees for safe-keeping, Sir Edwin would crouch in the forsythia and don his disguise. Then he would lure the grillkens and surprise the unwitting devils before they even knew it. Regularly he returned to the kingdom with four, five, or once a record seven grillkens strapped to the back of his steed.
The kingdom welcomed his success. Villagers sang songs of his brave feats, and his brothers in the knighthood admired his courage.
Sir Edwin rejoiced at each grillken he added to his record.
Months went by, and Sir Edwin’s trick grew to fixation. He became intent on perfecting his game. It was said at night his servants could hear the strangest noises coming from his room.
And so one bright morning, Sir Edwin set out once again into the old forest. As he jostled along the path, his left hand held the rein, and his right gently cradled the pack behind him. Today would be a great catch. The buds of spring were coming, and with it new life in the forest. Edwin was sure this time would bring a host of hungry grillkens into his grasp.
Once near his bush, he grabbed his pack and soon emerged, sliding naturally into his role. His guttural noises rang out, as he leapt forward to play the part. The sounds of his groans reverberated louder than ever before.
Lost in his performance he almost didn’t hear the creatures approaching. As they closed in around him, Edwin braced himself for his attack. His great claws moved to unsheathe his sword on the creatures of darkness, but as he lifted his head his eyes instead met a shining blade.
Three knights surrounded him, swords outstretched. Behind them, a group of riders sat atop steeds. Once his surprise abated, he began to chuckle. He spun to face the knights nearest to him, but their swords only came closer as they yelled.
“No, no, my brothers, don’t worry, it is just I, Sir Edwin!” he shouted. But the men with swords said nothing, and twisted their feet firmly in the earth.
Sir Edwin grabbed for his mask, but the clunky claws slipped around his flowing mane. His heart quickened as he pulled at his gloves, keeping one eye on the tip of the blades before him.
One knight yelled to the brothers, “I saw Sir Edwin’s horse just over in that brush on the east side of the forest. This grillken must have taken him.”
The leader of the riders adjusted himself in his saddle, and as his cloak slipped back from his chest, the royal crest appeared.
At the site of the crest, Edwin scrambled towards the horses, only to be brought to a halt by the swords before him.
“My King, I am but your servant!”
The pleading words fell empty.
The king only spoke, “You three take care of this one and we’ll ride on with the search.”
The king resituated his cloak, pulled hard against the reins, and turned to guide the line of riders deeper into the forest. Edwin’s breaths grew faster and faster as the tail of the final horse slipped into the cover of trees.
The three knights on the ground moved closer.
Edwin once again pulled at the claws on his hands, but they wouldn’t budge. He thrashed around, wildly pulling at the disguise around his body.
“Th-this…this is all a mistake.” He yanked at the fur on his head, and winced in pain as a clump ripped from its source.
“It is, I, Sir Edwin—a knight—a grillken catcher. No one has done as much for the kingdom as I!”
The steel blades pushed nearer.
“I tell you, I’m one of you!”
Edwin stumbled over roots on the forest floor. His back crashed against a tree, and he furiously scraped his claws against its trunk in an effort to cut them from his hands.
“Please, brothers! I serve the kingdom. I’ll prove it!”
The knights said nothing, and continued to circle him, their metal shining and a rope swinging from one of their hands.
Sir Edwin tore at his body, blood spraying as his claw ripped across his skin.
He now felt their breath against him.
A rough braid of twine cinched against Edwin’s arm and leg, propelling his body to the forest floor. More ropes compressed his body, squeezing his limbs against his abdomen. Sir Edwin lay motionless.
The nearby knight bent cautiously over the giant beast as he secured the bindings. He glanced at the creature’s face just long enough to catch a glimpse of his black, piercing eyes.
As so often happens, however, those fighting a monster turned into a monster in the process.
- McDurmon, Joel. The Problem of Slavery in Christian America: An Ethical-judicial History of American Slavery and Racism. Dallas, GA: Devoted Books, 2019.
Join My Newsletter!
Each month I send out a newsletter that highlights some of the small graces I’ve been drinking from that month. They might be music we've been listening to in our home, a story of God's kindness, or a new-favorite recipe.
When you sign up, you'll also receive a free download of a collection of writings about the way God uses memorials in our lives. I hope you'll join!