Monday, August 18, 2008

The Flagellants

Frodi walked out of the prairie against the woods to see a group of dissheveled, slovenly peasants in burlap rags dragging themselves along. He had to adjust his eyes, because he wasn't at first sure that he was seeing what his eyes told him he was seeing. These peasants were whipping themselves! The leader had a big flail and was whipping it upon his back with a vengeance, as if to set an example. They were moaning some kind of litany.

"We are so sorry! We are so sorry! We are so bad, we are so bad. We beg for forgiveness. Please see fit to forgive us."

Frodi stepped out into the middle of the road in front of them, his hands on his hips, his head cocked. "What are you doing?"

"We are whipping ourselves," the leader said, as if all were obvious.

"I can see that," Frodi said. "Why?"

"Isn't it clear? We are sinners. We have sinned. We have displeased the Gods. We have displeased the Gods."

Frodi smiled an ironic smile as he said, "I can quite assure you that you have most likely done nothing to displease the Gods. Who puts such thoughts into your heads?"

"The priests," the leader said. "The Gods have sent the giants to punish us. If we will show our remorse, and punish ourselves, they will not punish us."

"But you are doing their work for them," said Frodi, puzzled. "Friend, the Gods did not send the giants to punish you. The Gods did not send the giants at all. Something has gone horribly wrong, and you could be part of the solution, instead of whipping yourself."

"What are you talking about?" said the leader angrily. "You speak madness."

"I understand what I am saying sounds foreign to you. But the Gods don't want to punish you, nor do they want you to punish yourselves. The Gods, believe me, want you to be strong, and full of joy, with a sense of purpose, proud of your accomplishments, ready to celebrate them, and most of all, they want you to be free.

"I know why you are whipping yourselves. This is no life to live. I get that. Your hearts tell you that a life that is not free does not make sense. Well, friends, where I come from, everyone is free, and no one has to live with giants. We drove them out long ago."

The leader was displeased, but there were some gasps in the group. One fellow cried out, "Really?"

Frodi smiled. "Yes, really. Think of the love you feel for your family, how close you feel to them, how much you want to spend time with them and do your best for them. The Gods want you to feel that feeling, and the Gods feel that kind of love for you. They don't want you to punish yourselves. They just want you to be your best, so you can shine, and be fruitful. But you can never truly be fruitful if you aren't free. Don't do the giants' work for them. Come with me. Come into the woods. I will teach you how to free yourselves, how to rediscover your smile and your laughter. I am building an army of joy that will drive out the giants for good."

A few shuffled towards him, hearing the beacon of hope. The others scowled, and went off whipping themselves, including the leader, who looked quite angry at losing some of his men. "The sheriff shall hear about this!" he cried.

"Go ahead," Frodi laughed. "You tell him that a man in green came out of the woods and offered to free your folk. See what he will say."

As Frodi and his new converts moved into the woods, some nervously asked him if they were in danger.

"Well," Frodi said, "in a certain sense you are in danger every day you're alive. That's what makes life exciting. But you're less in danger than you were before, because you weren't really living. Now you've begun a pathway which will make you feel, every day you manage to stay alive, more and more alive. But if you're worried about his threats about the sheriff, don't. We will soon be so far into the forest they will have no idea where we went. And I will show you others."


"Many others. We have begun to form camps in the woods. We're beginning to steal back what the giants and their sheriffs have stolen from us all. We're sharing it amongst ourselves, and anything we have left, we share with those still in the villages. The giants rule mainly through fear, and keeping everyone separated. We are bringing people together, and slowly, we shall build an army that shall drive out the giants from here all the way to the farthest oceans and back. And then everyone will live in peace."

"Is that possible?" one asked.

"Come and see," Frodi said. "Come and see for yourself."

He led them further into the winding woods, deep into the greenlands, where they began to smell the roasting of venison from a nearby camp. Their eyes opened wide.


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