The Writers Voice
The World's Favourite Literary Website

The Tale of the Greedy Goblin


Stephen Collicoat

Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who lived with his wife and two children in a small cottage on the outskirts of a forest. His name was Dieter Stumblewort and his wife was named Mara. They had a son, Ulaf who was twelve years old and a daughter, Murmur who was eight.

The family was poor because the giant who owned the woods only allowed two dead trees to be felled each month, yet charged heavily for rent. Often there was no food on the table and the family went to bed hungry.

One day, Dieter and Mara left their children playing in the garden and went to find mushrooms in the forest. They came across a large hare caught by one of its hind legs in a trap.

'Help me humans,' the hare pleaded. 'I was running through the woods a moment ago without a care, when suddenly the jaws of this cruel trap snapped on my leg.'

'Of course we'll help you,' Mara said, starting forward.

But Dieter pushed her aside and with a single blow from his sharp axe, cut off the hare's head.

'Why did you do that?' his wife wailed. 'The creature needed help.'

'And we needed a meal,' Dieter said, opening the trap and stuffing the hare into his sack. Mara wept, but knew he was right. Still, she worried, no good would come of the death. After all, how many talking hares do you meet?

The couple walked on together, looking for mushrooms to add to hare stew, when they heard a gruff, muffled voice calling for help. Following the sound, they came upon a tall tree and a strange sight. About twelve feet above the ground, a section of a man seemed to be growing from the trunk of the tree. All that could be seen was from his waist down. His plump, small legs were enclosed in green and cream striped stockings and he wore a green coat and trousers that ended at the knee. On his wildly thrashing feet were slippers that narrowed into curling toes. A ladder lay at the base of the tree.

'Help me! Pull me out!' the voice cried from within the tree. 'I'm stuck in a hole.' Then the voice gave such a stream of blistering oaths that Mara blushed and covered her ears. Dieter lay his sack and axe on the ground and lifted the ladder, propping against the tree.

'Steady the ladder,' he told Mara and began to climb. Reaching the man, he tugged at the struggling legs. Feeling help, the man began to complain. 'Ouch, be careful. Pull on my legs gently. How can you be so clumsy? Don't you think I have any feelings? No, don't stop pulling, just do it gently. That's better. Keep it going.'

Dieter tugging at the legs, saw inch by inch more of the man appear until suddenly, 'pop' the man shot out like a cork. Dieter and the man fell off the ladder, hitting the ground heavily. Or rather Dieter did, because the small but heavy man managed to fall on top of his rescuer.

'Did you have to be so clumsy?' the little man grumbled, standing up to dust himself. Dieter who was aching from the fall was about to answer angrily when he caught a warning glance from Mara. Following her look, Dieter examined the little man more closely. He realised from the man's strange clothes, pointed ears, pinched, mean face and sharp, yellow eyes that he had rescued a goblin. Dieter suddenly felt afraid. Had he known it was a goblin in the tree, he would have hurried by. Goblins, as we are all taught as children, are very tricky creatures. Even in a good mood, they can be cruelly mischievous: just as likely to turn you into a toad or a scorpion for fun. Nobody wants to think what a cross goblin might do!

'How did you become stuck in the tree,' Mara asked, praying her question wouldn't offend.

'I saw a swarm of bees around a hollow in the tree and knew there'd be honey inside. I love honey,' the goblin licked his lips greedily. 'I fetched my ladder and climbed up. The hive was just out of reach, so I wriggled deeper into the hole. Still I couldn't touch the comb. I wriggled some more and began eating the delicious liquid honey and crisp, sweet comb. When I tried to pull myself out, I found I was stuck.'

He glared at Dieter. 'You should have come sooner. I was stuck there for hours.'

'We're sorry,' Mara said, casting Dieter another swift warning glance. 'You were lucky the bees didn't sting you when you robbed their hive.'

'Luck? I don't need luck. I'm a goblin,' he boasted. 'I know all the lullabies of bees. I sang them to sleep. That's another reason you should have found me sooner. The bees were waking up.'

'We're pleased to have helped,' Dieter lied. 'Now we best be on our way.' He picked up his axe and sack and began to depart. The sooner he put plenty of distance between the goblin and himself, the happier he'd be.

'Wait,' the goblin said. 'I have something for you. A little present.' He took from his pocket a small bottle filled with a blue, milky liquid.

'What is it?' Dieter asked, reluctantly taking the bottle. The present made him feel uneasy.

'Oh, this is the essence of dreams,' the goblin sniggered. 'When you light your fire tonight, sprinkle several drops from the bottle onto a burning log. You'll see in the smoke wonderful things: turreted castles, sumptuous feasts, knights riding fourth in armor, fearsome battles between club-wielding ogres. It will entertain you for hours.'

When Mara and Dieter returned home, they prepared dinner. Dieter skinned and gutted the hare while Mara filled a cauldron with water from the well. She had no vegetables, but added some herbs.

When the rabbit was in the cauldron and the water had been bubbling over the kitchen stove for some time, Murmur stood up on tiptoes and looked inside. 'Mummy!' she shrieked. 'Come quickly! The hare is growing fur.' And there, sure enough, grey fur was growing thickly all over the hare's skinned body. Not only that, but its severed head and claws had regrown. The hare opened its eyes and spoke,' Heavens, it's hot in here! Thank you for the bath. Well, no time to spare.' With that, it jumped out of the cauldron and ran across the kitchen to the front door that sprang open as the hare approached. At the open door, the hare scolded Dieter, 'You should have released me rather than that goblin. You'll be punished for that.' With that, it turned and sped off into the forest.'

'What punishment could the hare have mean?' Mara asked her husband.

'I don't know. It's punishment enough not to have any food.'

'Perhaps the broth tastes good,' Mara said hopefully, sampling a spoonful. She spat out the liquid. 'No, it's horrible.'

So, the children were sent to bed hungry while their parents sat gloomily in front of the fire. Dieter felt a lump in his pocket and pulled out the small bottle.

'Let's sprinkle some drops from the bottle,' Mara suggested.

'Dieter laughed bitterly. 'Much use it is to us! That's all we ever have; dreams on empty bellies.' He uncorked the bottle. 'Still, I might as well. Perhaps we'll see visions of great banquets and forget for a while our misery.' He carefully shook three drops onto a smouldering log. For a moment, nothing happened then the drops began to hiss and bubble. Thin threads of smoke curled up into the room. The threads joined and thickened.

'I don't see anything in the smoke,' Mara said doubtfully. 'I wonder why the smoke isn't going up the chimney.' As the smoke thickened, she decided, 'I'll open the door and windows. The fumes are choking me.' But even as she stumbled through the haze toward the door, the smoke grew so thick she couldn't see where she was going. 'That wretched goblin!' Dieter groaned. 'I should have thrown the bottle away.' As the couple choked on the smoke, they looked down and saw with horror that their bodies were wreathing into smoke. Then a great wind roared down the chimney and sucked all the smoke from the room, including Dieter and Mara who were now nothing more than smoke.

Hearing the wind, Ulaf and Murmur ran into the kitchen, but all they saw was a last whisp of smoke curling up the chimney.

'Where have Mummy and Daddy gone?' Murmur fretted. The children went out into the garden. 'They're not here,' Murmur cried. 'What will we do?'

Ulaf stared into the sky. 'They're there,' he pointed. High above the house were two clouds of smoke. One had the face of Dieter, while the other wore Mara's face. They were mouthing something.

Ulaf watched the clouds closely. 'I have it,' he said excitedly.' They're saying, ''The goblin is the key.'

'What key?' Murmur asked between tears.

'Why, the key to returning our parents. Tomorrow as soon as it's light, I'll find the goblin. He must have cast a spell on them.'

'I'm coming as well,' Murmur said bravely. 'Oh Ulaf, will anything be the same again?'

The next morning, the children set off into the woods. They soon found the goblin, seated by a fire, roasting a hare. Seeing them, he stopped eating for a moment and demanded, 'What do you want? Can't you see you're interrupting my breakfast?' As well as the hare, the goblin had spread out on a tablecloth a loaf of crisp white bread, a basket of rosy apples and a large bottle of red wine.

'May we have something to eat?' Ulaf pleaded, his mouth watering at the sight of food. 'My sister and I haven't eaten for days. We're so hungry.'

'Me, give you food?' the goblin laughed in astonishment. 'Why should I do that? Can't you see I have scarcely enough for myself? Now, tell me what you want and be on your way.'

Ulaf began to tell the goblin about the hare, the wind and the two strange clouds when the goblin interrupted. 'Yes, yes. I know all that. I put the spell on your parents.'

'But why?' Ulaf asked, feeling both angry and scared.

The goblin tore a large piece of skin and flesh from the hare and between mouthfuls, answered, 'Your father had a hare in his sack that he didn't offer to give me. I put a spell on the hare so that it would come alive when your parents tried to cook it. The hare ran all the way back here and I killed it this morning for breakfast.'

'Why did you turn Mummy and Daddy into clouds?' Murmur asked, tremblingly.

'Goodness, all the questions you brats ask,' the goblin sighed. 'It was partly as punishment and partly from curiosity. It was a spell I hadn't tried before and I wanted to see how it worked.'

'Now you know, please turn them back,' Ulaf pleaded.

'I'm not in the business of granting favors to humans,' the goblin replied loftily. His expression changed to one of greedy cunning. 'Mind you,' he went on, 'I might consider lifting the spell if you were to do something for me.'

'What?' the children chorused.

'I fancy two plump trout for lunch. Being children, you should be nimble enough to catch them. Return with them and I'll see what I can do.'

The children wandered disconsolately through the woods. 'What can we do?' Ulaf wondered. 'We have no net. If it were easy to catch fish, we wouldn't be hungry now.' Finally, he sat down in a clearing with Murmur beside him. She looked up and pointed. 'Look, Mummy and Daddy are still there. They're trying to say something.' Ulaf stared at the cloud lips of his parents. 'It looks like ''Trust Peck'',' he decided, 'but that doesn't make sense.'

Hardly had he spoken however when there was the sound of rushing wings and a large raven flew down from a tree. Perching on a fallen log, he addressed the children. 'I'm Peck,' he began without preamble. 'The forest dwellers tell me you need my help.'

'Oh yes, Mr.Peck,' Ulaf agreed gratefully. 'We certainly need some help.' So the boy told the raven all that had happened.

When Ulaf had finished, the raven shook his head in disgust. 'That wretched goblin! It's so like him to play a dirty trick. None of the forest dwellers like him. Well, I know more about him than he thinks. Why, I even know where he hides his great sack of gold.'

Looking at the famished children, he asked kindly, 'When did you last eat?'

'I'm not sure,' Ulaf admitted. 'Several days ago.'

'Wait here,' Peck told the children and flew off. He soon returned carrying a covered basket in his beak. Inside the basket was bread, ham, cheese, fruit and a moist seed cake. The three feasted happily in the shade.

'That was wonderful,' Ulaf said, when only several crumbs remained. 'Where did you get the food, Mr.Peck?'

'Why, I bought it at the market, of course. Noone extends credit to a raven.'

'What did you use for money?'

'I stole one of the goblin's gold coins.'

'That was very brave of you, Mr.Peck,' Murmur said admiringly.

Peck preened his glossy, black feathers. 'I am rather proud of that,' he agreed. 'Anyway, to business: you need to take some fish to the goblin.'

'How can we do that?' Ulaf asked.

'Don't worry. I've already solved the problem.' The raven led the children to a stream where they found two plump trout tied by their tails to a log. 'I bought these at the market,' Peck explained. 'Take these to the goblin for his lunch.'

Hardly had they begun walking toward the goblin, when a large bear appeared on the path. The bear tore the fish out of the basket and gave Ulaf a swipe that sent him spinning into the bushes.

'Where are my fish?' the goblin demanded when the children arrived empty-handed.

When Ulaf told him about the bear, the goblin's expression turned thunderous. 'So,' he said, 'am I to be hungry because you could keep my meal safe?

'Bring me back a plucked chicken,' he ordered the trembling children, 'and be quick about it!'

Leaving Ulaf and Murmur in a forest glade, Peck took the empty basket and flew off. Before long, he returned with a chicken in the basket.

Again, Ulaf and Murmur set off to deliver the goblin's meal. Again, they were waylaid, this time by a fox that seized the chicken, threw it over his shoulder and ran off into the forest.

The goblin was furious when the children told him what had happened. 'You have one last chance,' he told them. 'If you don't bring me a haunch of beef, I'll gobble you down.'

'What shall we do?' Murmur wailed when they were alone with Peck.

'Please Mr.Peck, buy a haunch of beef from the market,' Ulaf begged.

'No,' Peck shook his glossy head. 'I won't do that.'

'But why not?' Ulaf asked in astonishment. 'You heard what the goblin will do if we come back this time empty-handed. I thought you were our friend.'

Peck looked hurt. 'I am, but don't you see, he wants you to fail. He's just looking for an excuse to gobble you down.

'Didn't you think how strange it was that each time you had food, an animal would steal it?'

'No,' Ulaf said. 'After all, bears eat fish and foxes steal chickens.'

Believe me, the animals in this forest are on your side. No, my forest friends tell me that both times, it was the goblin transforming himself. If you bring him a haunch of beef, he'll probably appear as a wolf and steal it away.

'So, there you are,' Peck concluded, cleaning his feathers complacently. 'You'll be the goblin's supper, no matter what.'

'Then, all is lost,' Ulaf cried in despair.

'No, although it's true you're in great danger. Peck however, has a cunning plan. Enough talk. What we must do is return to your cottage and find an empty sack as well as some cord to tie the neck of the sack. Then I'll leave you for an hour. On my return, you must see the goblin for the last time.'

'The last time,' Ulaf repeated, fearing the ominous words.

'Yes. This time, either the goblin or you two will die. And if the goblin doesn't die, your parents will never return.'

Sometime later, the goblin who was dozing under a tree looked up to see the children approach. He glanced at the sack Ulaf was carrying. 'What's that?' he asked. 'And don't try to tell me it's a haunch of beef because I know it's not. I told you what I'd do if you didn't bring me what I wished. It's lunchtime and you're my food.'

Murmur shrieked in terror, but Ulaf who had paled, held firmly to his sister's hand to prevent her fleeing.

'No, it isn't beef,' he admitted. 'It's something you'll like much more.'

'I doubt that,' the goblin sneered. 'What could be nicer than the aroma of beef cooking, the sizzle of meat and all those delicious juices and blood dribbling down your chin?

'Unless, he added, his eyes narrowing 'it's the taste of roasted human flesh. Well, give me the sack. Let's see what's inside. It might make a nice accompaniment to your sister and yourself.'

Murmur gave another shudder of fear, but Ulaf bravely passed the sack into the goblin's grubby, outstretched hand with its sharp, claw-like nails. The goblin tore open the rope knotted around the neck of the sack and peered inside.

'What's this? Fruit? I demand beef and you bring me fruit!' He broke off, smelling the fruit. He thrust a hand into the sack and drew out the ripe fruit. 'Strange,' he mused, 'I've never seen such fruit before. Then he bit hard into the glowing skin.

'Ooh! This is delicious,' he exclaimed. He quickly finished off the first fruit, then another and another.

'I told you,' Peck who was perched on Ulaf's shoulder, whispered triumphantly. 'Noone can resist the smell and taste of Mughwah fruit. Smell it and you must eat it; eat it and you can't stop while there's a single ripe Mughwah on the tree. That's why the forest dwellers only allow the tree to grow in the most remote section of the woods. Even then, they hide it behind an impenetrable hedge of thorns. I had to hold my breath when I flew down to pick the fruit and put them in the sack.'

Within minutes, the greedy goblin had finished the fruit.

'Is that all you bought?' he immediately complained. 'Wasn't there any more ripe fruit on the tree? If so, you must go back and fetch the rest.'

Peck then spoke to the goblin for the first time. 'No,' he said coldly. 'You've had enough.'

The goblin stared at the raven, then began to laugh. 'Who are you to tell me what's enough? It'll be enough when I turn you into a viper and gobble down these brats!'

But even as he made these threats, it was clear the goblin was unwell. His skin had turned green and he appeared lit from within by a raging fire. 'Ah, what have you done?' he screamed at Ulaf. 'I'm poisoned!'

'Yes, you are,' Peck replied. 'And the forest will be well rid of you.'

The goblin opened his mouth, probably to put a curse on the raven and children, when he choked into silence. The flames dancing beneath his skin suddenly burst our across his face, hands and clothes. Soon he was burning all over in a fierce, green fire.

Murmur hid her face crying, 'Oh, the poor goblin!' while Ulaf and Peck watched with horrified curiosity. So intense was the fire, that the goblin was swiftly reduced to a small heap of ash. Then a gentle breeze lifted the fine ash to scatter it in a thousand directions.

'You can look now,' Peck told Murmur. 'The goblin has gone forever.'

The children then buried the empty sack, in case some lingering scent of the deadly Mughwah fruit remained.

As they walked toward the cottage, Ulaf seemed troubled. 'I know you said that the goblin would never bring my parents back,' he explained, but now he's dead who can lift the spell? I fear we'll never see them again.' Ulaf looked up to the sky, 'I can't even see them now.'

Peck didn't answer, because he also wondered what would happen. When the three neared the cottage however, the front door was flung open and Dieter and Mara ran down the path to hug and kiss their children. Peck embarrassed at all the praise he received, hopped bashfully from one claw to the other.

Finally, when all the tears had dried, Dieter and Ulaf fetched a wheelbarrow and followed Peck who took them to where the goblin had hidden his sack of gold. With difficulty, they loaded the wheelbarrow, man and boy taking turns at pushing the heavy load back to the cottage.

As may be imagined, the family enjoyed a wonderful feast that night with many a beaker of wine drunk by the grateful adults in honor of noble Peck.

What else should I tell you as I bring this simple tale to a close?

The family invested the gold wisely. While there was from that day on, enough food for the table, there was never too much. Dieter commissioned a goldsmith to construct a splendid cage for Peck who came and went as he pleased, sleeping each night on a small velvet-covered couch inside the cage. In time, Ulaf went to boarding school, then attended university, later becoming a surgeon, which, as everyone knows, is as good as money in the bank. Murmur grew into a beauty and fell in love with a handsome but poor young man who, in the tradition of all the best fairy tales, obligingly cast off his tattered rags on their wedding night to reveal himself as a rich prince. And Dieter and Mara? Why, they lived simply and peacefully for the rest of their days in the cottage they bought from the giant

So it may be truly said that, apart from the odious goblin, everyone lived happily ever after.

Critique this work

Click on the book to leave a comment about this work

All Authors (hi-speed)    All Authors (dialup)    Children    Columnists    Contact    Drama    Fiction    Grammar    Guest Book    Home    Humour    Links    Narratives    Novels    Poems    Published Authors    Reviews    September 11    Short Stories    Teen Writings    Submission Guidelines

Be sure to have a look at our Discussion Forum today to see what's
happening on The World's Favourite Literary Website.