By Janet C. Ro
In Blackwood Forest many
magical creatures roamed among the gigantic trees and caves. Witches,
sprites, and wizards were the most respected by the humans
who cherished the woods.
The sprites lived along the
river, tinkles of laughter betraying their presence as they fluttered
high in the trees, sprinkling magic down onto the ground. They were also
detected, as they happily flitted from one part of the forest to the next, by
glowing spots in the night. Indeed, activity in
Blackwood Forest could be seen and heard for miles around. As if to compliment the
sprightly glow, lighting bolts of wizard magic would shoot up into the air as
they attempted to send their light to the moon. The magic of witches was more
discreet, set within large bonfires where they circle-danced. Each of these
families of the forest received proud respect from the villagers around it.
There was one
family of creatures, however, that was shunned by humans: goblins. Goblins not
only had a lumbering walk, but were also crude and dull-witted. They picked on
each other constantly in their desperation to be beautiful. Knowing they
were horrid made them act that way. Without magic to decorate the forest with
any light or wellbeing, they were simply dark despoilers. And Wallie was the
unhappiest of them.
physical strength was used by his fellow goblins to carry the largest logs to
their camps. Because of his strength, they saw him as the most beautiful and,
therefore, one day, cut off his tail. He continued to work in his crippled
state and simply accepted what they had done to him as his lot. He kept the
fires lit, dragged the trees, and hunted the grimy grub goblins were forced to
One dreary day
Wallie was trudging along with a large stack of branches in his arms, until one
of his ‘friends’ tripped him. When they all laughed at him Wallie felt
more sad than angry. He knew there was something wrong with him but wasn’t sure
what. Worse yet, his comrades could see that he was off balance, yet set the
hardest tasks for him. They had hurt him, but he had been indoctrinated by the
goblin code to take abuse… Then, that very night, Wallie woke up, and realized
he didn’t know who he was. Somewhere in his journey to get along and belong, he
had lost not just his tail, but his heart and mind. He looked up at the
tail (hung up for him above his straw-covered rock bed) reminding him, they
said, of how important to them he was,
then sighed and tried to sleep.
The next day dawned
dull and grey. Clouds were gathering for a storm and, exhausted from trying to
keep his balance yet hold his load, Wallie took a good long look at the camp from
a distance, and decided. Returning home only to get his precious tail, he
walked away from his family and ‘friends’ forever. He had no more mental and
emotional reserve left. Although he yearned to be more, if he was destined to
be a goblin, he could do so alone!
He wanted to matter.
After all, even mighty wizards aspired to greater heights. That gave him the
courage to walk away from a role that now felt wrong. He wanted to believe that
he could be magnificent, powerful, and maybe a leader on the other side of
Black Mountain where magic lived.
Living alone for
years, Wallie felt happier being unhappy by himself than with goblins who did
not understand him. He wandered the mountain fastness, seeing glimpses of the
world around him. Eventually, one day, he saw a small light at the creek and
walked toward it.
the sparkling sprite at his approach.
Wallie cried, putting his hands over his face. But he soon peeked out, for he
had never seen a sprite before, and she acted as if she had never seen a goblin.
They stared at each other curiously. She seemed all opalescent fire, and
he nothing but a dull cinder by comparison.
“Yes,” he replied
and turned to walk away.
He stopped and
“My name is Emma,”
she said. “Won’t you come with me?”
Because he had
nothing better to do, he followed her glowing footprints. They didn’t speak,
but Emma often gave him sidelong glances. Undoubtedly, she was scared, and
Wallie blamed himself. She noticed his struggle to stay balanced and the
stub of his tail. The next thing he knew they were standing in a witches’ circle.
Emma whistled, and the seven naked witches there stopped dancing.
and elegant, the women ducked their heads, put out their bonfire, and filed away,
one by one, into the woods. When the youngest and loveliest witch (a mere slip
of a girl with long dark hair) giggled, her elder shushed her. Wallie watched,
enthralled, as slowly, she dissolved like sand into the forest depths.
Wallie didn’t understand
this behavior, but Emma did. “You were lost and alone in the forest shadows,”
she said with a smile, “but there is a bright new world all around you.”
They walked up the
mountain and met a group of brown-robed wizards using crystals to throw lightning
Wallie eyed them
suspiciously, envying even the wind singing through the crystal towers where
The master wizard glared
at him and said in a voice like distant thunder, “Take him to the Mirror for
Emma began to cry,
then said in a shaky voice, “But, Master Stefan, it’s so tragic when it
doesn’t work out.”
“Take him!” Master
Stefan gave Wallie a withering glance, as if he expected the goblin to fail
acutely aware of all of the ways he had already been humiliated. Could this be worse?
The wizard, who must
have heard his thoughts, rumbled, “The goblin realm is the lowest Black Mountain
holds, for it feeds on degradation. But in all
worlds, where effort is being made, humiliation is inevitable.”
The master then
walked over to a junior wizard’s crystal glistening with rainbows of light. The
young wizard watched helplessly as Stefan overpowered his magic by turning the light
into a deep, disturbing red. The younger wizard bowed to his better.
“This is how you
learn,” cried Stefan, “even in the world of wizards!”
The chastened young
wizard looked at Wallie and shrugged, admitting, “Humiliation happens when you
sojourn with others.” He motioned them toward a large crystal cave in the
mountain behind him.
Emma shook her
head, took Wallie’s trembling hand, and led him through the cave into the
Wallie was scared,
since he didn’t even know what a mirror was. But he trusted Emma, for she was
The pair climbed
down a spiraling set of crystal stairs so long that it would have taken a human
years to reach the great room where a huge, gilded Mirror hung in mid-air.
“Goblins need to
see their reflection,” said Emma, her comforting glow surrounding them.
When Wallie shrank
back in horror, Emma dragged him back, kicking, screaming and holding his hands
over his face. “This is your destiny,”
she said and stepped away, her light dimmed.
Wallie fell into a
fetal position and wept loudly. “I can’t!”
After years of
living apart from a world moving without him, he felt that his mocking brothers
and sisters had finally caught up to him. In the healing coolness of Emma’s aura,
Wallie chafed under the layer guarding his inner heart. He clawed at his chest
to get rid of the sweetness that had never allowed his true nature to be
expressed. He worried that, should this sweetness be removed, he might unleash
the resentment that he had learned to sublimate, yet must embrace for
He felt his strength
awaken. His hands clenched into fists as outrage overwhelmed him. He got
up on his hands and knees, remembering how his fellow goblins had berated his
mind, heart, and ability to embrace his place in the forest. Before the Mirror
Wallie’s chest started to heave, and he stood up, fueled by the resentment of
being part of a family of unhappy creatures who lived only to survive. The rage
coupled with helplessness made him shake as he stood, head lowered, hands
balled, and legs stiff. Then he looked into the mirror.
Emma watched from
between her fingers and whimpered. She had seen this many times, times that had
too often led to her devastation and disappointment.
Wallie’s heart swelled.
He felt overwhelmed by thoughts of too many years of being fed words by those
who used and abused him. Overwhelming emotions erupted to make him strike at a
pillar near the mirror and shatter it. After he did this, he faced that mirror.
Martyr of sweetness, tyrant of rage,
he thought as he beheld his unbelievable beauty and slowly smiled a smile of
resounded in his ears. The rage in him had managed to destroy the plaque of
sweetness around his heart and he was finally free. So he looked at her,
surprised that she was crying. She could not tell him that, seeing the love for himself
in his eyes, she thought he
his limbs and opened his fists. He saw the shattered pillar and tried to
reclaim his mind, which was wrapped in a web of voices telling him terrible
things. He took a deep breath, fell back onto his knees, and thought of the day
he had realized the swamp had made him out of nothing more than dirt and water.
His brothers and sisters never looked into a mirror. The only reflection they
saw of themselves was the reaction of the beautiful creatures and humans as
they shrank back or, worse yet, ran away. When they looked at their limbs, they
saw green, and knew they had a lumbering walk.
considered his brothers and sisters and the way he loved them, his rage ebbed.
He would never stop loving them. He wept in the helplessness of loving a family
who never really knew who he was, so could only love him as best as they knew
Wallie looked at
the ruined pillar and began to weep again. The truth made him drop to his knees
weeping. That glorious moment of self-love had departed, leaving him downcast,
afraid to look into the Mirror again.
Emma watched all
of this and shouted with glee. She ran to him and kissed him on the head. He
shook his head harder and wailed aloud, confused that he hated and loved what
had hurt him. Emma tried to force his hands open for him to look into the Mirror
again. His hands finally gave way and he looked.
Wallie saw something
ugly, terrible, and sad. He wept and, although he had realized that he had
great strength both in his sweetness and his rage, he was a monster
again. He thought of his journey thus far, and chose to hope.
Emma looked at him
and laughed. There was sudden applause, and he turned around to see a party of
people with friendly looks waiting to greet him.
He touched his
face and looked into the Mirror a third time. Wallie saw a man, a man who had
lived on both ends of the power of passivity and of dominance. The crowd was gleeful
as they welcomed into their world another man who had seen his human
monstrosity reflected and chosen to fight, to love, to hope for a world despite
what being in it had done to him. He didn’t see a man who loved himself in that
wickedly violent way, nor did he see the sweet submission that had made him
ashamed. When he looked at Emma and the crowd he saw that they applauded his
struggle; in their eyes he was simply another human being. Now he could
understand the beauty and ugliness in himself as he fought in this life, accepting
his human nature.
He stared at
himself and took in a deep breath. He was handsome, he realized, although he
had never noticed, because he was at such odds as to how he wanted to be beautiful.
Two looks into the mirror had shown
him that he had chosen to love the world and was no longer a monster in it.
The crowd walked
up to him. Men shook his hand. Women kissed him on the cheek. People began to
tell him of their own journeys as goblins, what had led them to that terrible
place of enlightenment when they chose to hope, to fight, to love the world,
and how, after a courageous look into what and who they were, they could accept
what it would mean to be human together.
Wallie looked at
his hands and thought about the living spectrum of emotions, from passivity to
dominance. He was somewhere in the middle now, knowing that the reasons for
rage coupled with helplessness would never go away. Now he had enlightenment about
this continuing journey for himself and everyone else who had chosen to serve
the larger world, and not themselves alone.
Wallie walked away
amidst laughter and joy as his new family and friends expressed respect for his
journey and so many of them related their own. The life of a goblin is the
beginning, they eagerly told him.
He looked out on Blackwood Forest and saw the wizards shoot light high into the
sky, trying to reach the stars. He saw the smoke of the dancing witches who
celebrated their womanhood, and saw the sprites’ glow and heard their faint
Emma said, “We’re all trying to move higher and be more.”
As Wallie walked
away from the forest and gazed back, everything about the world he had come
from made perfect sense. He thought of the small creatures at the creek
where he used to wander, delighted to hear the chirps, crickets, ribbits and
tinkling water. He took a deep breath in and looked around. Although he had
reached the next step, he knew this fight would be different. He knew the
higher creatures of the forest would watch his journey and his struggle as a
human being. That there is no easy way was a lesson he had already learned,
unsure how much knowing this counted. He closed his fists again, flustered by
the mystery of living, and this made him smile. He would struggle, and would
feel helpless doing so at times, but, with his newfound wisdom this was more
He looked up,
admiring the clear night sky with moon and stars shining down as if put there
simply to inspire. He smiled at the thought. Taken to his new home, he found a
small mirror on his table. Reflected therein, he found his tear-stained face,
and winced, then laughed at himself. The groan of the swamp from a distance made
him shake his head. He didn’t miss his tail at all. There’s always going
to be conflict, he thought, and, with newfound
resolve, went out to the welcoming party on the village green. Happy Ending
Janet C. Ro, firstname.lastname@example.org, of Evanston,
IL, wrote BP
#82’s “Wallie’s Reflection” (+ the BP #81 poem, “The Statue”; BP #76 poems,
“Ghost Lover” & “My Walk to Emberly Park”; BP #73’s editor’s favorite, “The Witch and
the Rock; the poem, “Farewell, My Isobel” for BP #68; “Monstrous” and “The
Scientist,” for BP #67; “Rose and Gold” for BP #65, as well as the “Angelic and
Animated Rhyme Sets”; Alien Rhymes
for BP #64, and was featured poet
in BP #63 with her Thorough Rhymes).
She writes: “Thrashing through
armies of roses and thorn, I’m rushing to save my dear pet unicorn. My
bones are now breaking and my poor skin does bleed. But rescued by every new
word that you read: janetcro.blogspot.com.”