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Julie Hartmans




‘Garnet and the Goblin’

(no summary supplied)

Garnet and the Goblin

Once upon a time in a cave in a deep forest there lived a goblin named Gesundheit. Now this goblin had lived all alone ever since his parents had died  many years before. He wandered about the forest, thinking about all the things his parents had told him and about what he had read in the three books he owned. One day in autumn he came upon a clear pool of water and bent over to get a  drink.

"Aargghh!!" he gasped. "What is that horrid creature?" Then he realized with dismay that it was his reflection that had frightened him so. Ever since that fateful autumn day, Gesundheit the goblin hid himself inside a sickly  green pall, or cloud, so that he would frighten no one else.

One bright morning in late spring several years later, Gesundheit was enjoying the budding  trees and birdsong so much that he wandered closer to the edge of the forest than usual. Suddenly he heard a noise unlike any he had heard before. He crept  closer to investigate, right up to the edge of the trees. Cautiously peering out  from behind a silver birch, he spied a newly built cottage. Outside it a man was digging up the earth to plant a garden while a woman and young girl milked two feisty goats. Though Gesundheit had never seen humans before, he knew from his reading and his mother's stories that these must be people, real people! He  was so excited it was hard for him to keep quiet. He watched the little group  for a half hour or more, until the mother and father went inside, telling the child to gather some eggs for breakfast.

As the little girl went about  looking for eggs, she began to quietly weep. 'Whatever could be wrong with her?'  wondered Gesundheit. Maybe she was lonely just like he was. The cottage was awfully far from any other people.

After the child wiped her eyes with the  edge of her skirt and went inside with her eggs, Gesundheit walked back into the  woods. He couldn't stop thinking about the new people. He walked and walked, so thrilled about his new discovery that he almost forgot to keep his pall around him.

That evening in his cave, before the light faded, he read all he could about humans in his three books. As he lay trying to fall asleep, he wracked his  brain to remember everything his mother and father had ever told him about  people. In the morning he read in his books again.

Then he set out to spy on  the family in the new cottage again. He came to his silver birch just in time to hear the woman say, "Later I'll need your help, Garnet, but right now you can  run and play. Why don't you explore the woods? Your father says they're very pretty and perfectly safe. Just don't go too far in, okay?"

Gesundheit watched with mixed feelings as the girl picked up a book and solemnly paced into  the forest not ten feet away from him. Cautiously he followed her, but not for long. Soon she came to the bubbling brook, found a big flat rock, sat down and began to read. She had only been reading for moments, though, when a big, fat  teardrop plopped down on the open page of her book. Her chin jutting, Garnet kept trying to read but soon had to give up as more teardrops fell. Setting her  book aside, she gave in to her grief and sobbed as if her heart were breaking. Gesundheit had never seen such sorrow, though he remembered feeling just this way when his mother and father died. Now he felt so sorry for the child that he  sat right down on the rock and began stroking her hair.

Garnet looked up,  thinking her mother had come to comfort her. At first she could see nothing  through her teary eyes. Could it be her brother's ghost come back to make her feel better? Then she made out the ghastly green pall. Is this what ghosts  looked like? "J-Jamie?" she said in a quavering voice.

"Who's that?" came a gruff voice. Garnet drew back, frightened, for if this weren't Jamie, then who  - or what - was it?

"My name's Gesundheit," continued the gravelly voice.  "Why are you crying?"

With a sniffle, Garnet replied, "I miss my brother Jamie." Her fear battled with her grief, but she forced herself to continue. "I  thought you were him. If you're not a ghost, then why can't I see you?"

"Oh, never mind that! So, your brother Jamie is a ghost?"

"Well, no, but - but he's gone and died from the flux!" wailed Garnet, dissolving once again into  tears. She cried for a bit, the goblin stroking her hair the whole time. Then,  hiccoughing, she said, "I miss him so. He used to read to me. My parents are so busy they never have time to."

"Why, child, can't you read?"

"Of course I can!" Garnet replied with a toss of her curly red hair. "I've been reading since  I was four! It's just that ... well, I loved it when Jamie read to me. He'd hold  me close and ... it was - well, it was our special time together." Once again  she began to cry, though more gently now.

After letting Garnet cry for a time, Gesundheit said, "Could I maybe read to you? I love to read and I don't get the chance to see new books out here in the forest. I'm afraid I've read the three books I own so many times that they're falling apart."

Garnet looked  up, her eyes shining. "Oh, would you? Could you? Yes, oh, yes!" she cried, clapping her hands. And so Gesundheit and Garnet spent the next hour happily  reading. He read aloud quite well and she proved a good listener.

Too soon for both of them, they heard Garnet's mother calling her name. "Will you come back tomorrow?" Gesundheit said just as Garnet cried, "Will you read to me  again?" They both laughed. "I'll try to come tomorrow. It depends on whether  Mother has chores for me."

"I'll wait for you at this rock."

"I'll come as soon as I can." As Garnet skipped away, she called back, "My name's Garnet, Gesundheit. What are you, anyway?" She didn't wait for an answer, to the goblin's relief. He was so thrilled to have a friend, especially one who loved  books, that he didn't want to ruin things.

That night in his cave, Gesundheit felt less lonely than he had since his parents had died. Garnet, laying on her  pallet in the new cottage, missed her brother still but felt pleased to have found a new friend. She wondered about him though - what did he look like? Why  did he go around hiding in that pall?

For three days Gesundheit waited at the  rock for the girl. Somehow he didn't feel right about spying on her and her  parents anymore. On the morning of the fourth day he nearly decided not to go to their rock; maybe she didn't want to see him again. He finally made up his mind midmorning to go one more time and set off through the forest. Yet again, no one  was there. Glumly the goblin sat down to wait a bit.

Garnet hurried through her chores and finally her mother said she could play in the woods. She worried that Gesundheit might not be there - it had been so long! As she neared the rock, she heard someone clear his throat and looked up to see the familiar greenish cloud. "You're here!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I wish I could hug you."

A  smile in his voice, Gesundheit replied, "Well, you can, of course. Come here."  When Garnet reached around and into the cloud, she could feel the goblin's rather leathery, knobby body. She hugged him as tightly as she could, and he  hugged her right back.

As they settled down upon their rock, Garnet asked,  "What do you look like, Gesundheit?"

"Oh, you wouldn't want to know that, child. Why, if you saw me, you'd run away screaming."

"No, I would not!  You're my friend."

"Oh, well, friend or no friend, you don't want to have to  look at me, little one." An invisible hand ruffled her hair. "Now give me the  book. I've had to wait three and a half days to find out what happens next."

The goblin began reading again, but Garnet was restless. After a few moments, Gesundheit stopped and asked, "What is it?" "Well, I'm just  wondering, is all. Is that why you hide in the cloud, because you're so ugly?"

With a chuckle, Gesundheit said, "That's it, girl. Now, can we get back to our reading?"

"But I want to see you! You seem lovely to me. I just can't  believe you look as horrid as you say."

"Well, forget it. Goblins are just plain ugly, and I'm uglier than most. I'm going to read now, so pay  attention." He began to read and after a little while he could tell that Garnet had become absorbed in the story. She got very still as she leaned against him.

Later they heard Garnet's mother calling. The child scampered off with the promise to come back as soon as she could.

The next day was cloudy as if  it might rain. Gesundheit hated to be very far from his cave in such weather,  but he really wanted to see his friend. After some indecision, he went to the rock to find her already there. She was crying again. Quietly he walked up to  her and put his hand gently on her hair.

Looking up, startled, Garnet said, "Oh, you're here. I was so afraid you didn't like me anymore after my nosy questions yesterday."

"Don't be silly, Garnet. You're my only friend - I wouldn't let you down. Now, shall we?" And he took the book, sat down and  proceeded to read. Garnet leaned against him, lost in imagining the world he created with his words.

Soon it started to rain, the drops pattering gently  down through the leaves of the ancient oak tree above them. Neither of the  friends noticed at first, they were so wrapped up in the story. As she got  wetter, Garnet sat up and turned to tell Gesundheit they should find a more sheltered spot.

She gasped in surprise, which got the goblin's attention. He looked up from the book. Then, recognizing something in the child's look of astonishment, he looked down at himself. 'Oh no,' he thought, 'I should have stayed at the cave!' For as always, the rain had washed away his pall and he was visible.

Hastily, he dropped the book and began to get up, but Garnet grabbed his arm, crying, "No, don't go!"

"But I'm hideous."

"No, you're beautiful. Look at you! All leathery and greenish - you look perfect for a goblin. Just the way I always imagined."

Sitting hesitantly back down, Gesundheit asked, "Do  you truly mean that?"

"Oh, yes!" Garnet flung her arms around his skinny neck. "I love you just the way you are. You're my best friend and you don't ever  have to hide in that awful old cloud again."

And so the two friends continued to meet as often as they could, for reading as well as for long talks. Gradually  Garnet missed her brother less as she grew to love her friend more. As for Gesundheit, he never felt the need to cloak himself in the pall again.

The End


REVIEW: This is a cleverly conceived tale of a goblin and a girl who share a sense of  loss and also a love of literature. The goblin has lost his parents and the girl  her brother. Now both of them need someone to share their grief with and this  they do when the goblin Gesundheit (German: good health) and the little girl  Garnet (a gemstone) come together and he reads stories to her. There is an oblique allusion to "Beauty and the Beast" when Garnet tells Gesundheit "I love  you just the way you are".

The story is written simply and effectively and should appeal to the 4 to  8-year-old audience to which I should imagine it's addressed. Just a couple of questions: Why are the goats in the tale referred to as "feisty", and what is  the "flux" that Garnet's brother died off? Dysentery? But these are only small points in a story which I find very charming and appropriately focused on a problem many children have to face.

Bill Mulholland
Oslo, Norway