Author Topic: Who Are You, Little Man?  (Read 1087 times)

Jubal

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Who Are You, Little Man?
« on: July 27, 2016, 11:52:39 PM »
Who Are You, Little Man?


There was – as there so often is at the start of these stories – a road. Where it went from and where it headed to, I cannot say. There is always a road, and it always goes somewhere; and takes with it travellers, going where they will.

The first traveller to come along this road was a nobleman, dressed in the finest silk, and mounted upon a white mare.

Before him, on the road, appeared a demon. It was nine feet tall, and its eyes were like burning coals; it had talons and horns, and a smile like a knife-wound across its face. It was one of the old demons, the cruel and the ancient ones, and it had come for hunting and for sport, to play games with the lives of men. And this is what the demon said to the nobleman.

“I will kill you unless you can answer my questions – what is your place in the world? And when you die, what will be left of you?”

“I am a lord of men and land. You see the rings upon my fingers, made of gold. There are the fine halls I own, and the clothes that I wear. I have are rubies and emeralds in chests, and many are under my rule and command.”

The demon laughed a terrible, mocking laugh.

“Mere words and mere things. When your clothes have rotted to threads and mud, when your jewels line a magpie’s nest, when your coin is spent and your rule is ended, what will then be left? You are nothing. What will be left of you after my sword falls?”

And the demon grinned, and raised its hand.

“Who are you, little man?”

And the lord had no answer, and so – with a whoosh of air, the sword fell.


The second traveller to come down that road rode on a powerful stallion, a dappled brown charger that snorted and pawed at the earth. He was a knight of the realm and he wore fine armour, gilded and bright, and carried his sword and lance at his side.

And before him appeared the demon, and he said to the knight the same words:

“I will kill you unless you can answer my questions – what is your place in the world? And when you die, what will be left of you? ”

“I am a knight, whose deeds are well known, whose arm is strong and whose lance is sharp. My deeds are noble and my arm is strong. My armour shines bright, and my horse is swift. That is who I am.”

The demon laughed a second time.

“Mere words and mere things. When you are dead, what will be left on this earth? When your sword is laid to rust, when all your deeds are forgotten one by one, what will be left? You are nothing. What will be left of you after my sword falls?”

And the demon grinned, and raised its hand.

“Who are you, little man?”

And the knight thought hard, but had no answer, and so – with a whoosh of air, the sword fell.


Then there came the third traveller, riding on a donkey, and looking like he had slept in a hedge (though I am reliably informed that it had in fact been under a perfectly respectable mulberry tree). And he saw the demon ahead upon the road, and he heard it say these words:

“I will kill you unless you can answer my questions – what is your place in the world? And when you die, what will be left of you?”

“I am a minstrel, and a musician, and a teller of tales. I have nothing in the world but what you see before you.”

The demon laughed. “A mere word for mere words. When you are dead, what will be left on this earth? When your body has rotted on a roadside, what will be left? You are nothing. What will be left of you after my sword falls?”

And the demon grinned and raised its hand.

“Who are you, little man?”

And the minstrel thought, just for a brief second, and replied. “Your sword can kill part of me, but only part. For you see, we humans and our memories are made of stories, and I am a teller of stories. And so every time I have stopped in a town, or a village, and told a tale, I have left a little part of myself there, lodged in people’s heads. I grow bigger and bigger with every tale I tell, stronger and stronger with every word I speak. Without me, even you will be forgotten like dust on the wind in time. And my stories will spread, and grow, and grow, and though my body is mouldering and my lute laid to rest I shall be everywhere.”

And the minstrel looked at the demon, and smiled.

“So… who are you, little man?”


Whether any more words passed between them I do not know. But the minstrel rode on down the road – and he told the story. And it was passed to another person, and another, and another. From teller to teller, tavern to tavern, person to person… to me, and at last, to you.



Tellers' Notes
This is a good one for physicality in telling, especially expressing the four characters with different mannerisms and using hand actions to emphasise the sword that hangs (in rather damoclean fashion) over each of the three travellers and the cutting motion of it falling. I've told it once, at Sidmouth folk festival, and it seemed to go down pretty well (indeed I had one member of the audience appear behind me in the street later in the week and say "Who are you, little man?" in a way that definitely made me jump more than a little bit!).

Also, on a wholly irrelevant note, this is my twenty thousandth Exilian post, so that's nice :)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...