For Frank Quilter – Ireland

Once there was a man who lived in the kingdom of the Sun God whose radiance filled every niche of his realm. Even the mouse holes shone with brightness. All who lived there loved his light and living wide open to it. Shadows were to all men, unconceivable. That is, until the day this man discovered a small secret shadow behind a barrel in the furthest reaches of the lowest levels in his basement. He was fascinated by it, caught it and stuffed it into a sack which he put in his pocket.

In all the kingdom, he alone carried a shadow. In some strange way it made him feel important, even superior to others who played so openly in the brightness of the King’s land. What he didn’t know is that shadows have their own mind about things and as he carried the shadow it carried him and guided him to heretofore unknown cracks and crevices, niches and knots where other shadows hid away. And the man gathered the shadows, and with each shadow gathered he felt a substance gather in him that was solid and powerful and somehow seemed superior. And as his shadow collection grew the sack grew too big for one pocket, then two, so he got a larger sack and carried it on his back and gathered shadows until it weighted him down. But carry it on he did for he was now driven to catch more shadows because the shadows had full well caught him.

And the more his weighty sack grew the more he was repulsed by those who frolicked free in the light whom he considered naive and witless. And more than this, the very thought of visiting the Sun King sent shivers through his bones for he could not for the sake of him remember what joy he had once found in the presence of the King and he sought to forget the King and committed himself to acquiring more shadow weight and power and to strengthen his own way of seeing.

And though he had forgotten the King, the King had not forgotten him and sent out a messenger and a warrior to find him. They looked high and low and finally discovered the man one day with his now huge sack under a bridge probing where the mud met the stone for a shadow he knew was lurking there. “The King has commanded you to appear before him,” the emissary said. Come now, and bring your sack with you.” The man shook with fear, but went along, for the soldier had that look on his face that said, ‘you’ll be minding not to give us any trouble now.’

As they drew closer to the Sun King’s castle the King’s light shone from everywhere and made all people and things glow with softness and beauty. And the brighter and more beautiful all things became the more clouded and dark the man felt his own mind and heart to be and his dread grew at coming face to face with the shining strength he know shone from the King. And to add to his consternation he felt the shadows in his sack writhing like snakes, solid and dark, defiant and fearful. The soldier saw the coiling motions in the sack and sensed the man’s dark mood and being battle hardened knew what had befallen him, and with his hand on his sword quickened the man’s faltering steps until at last they entered the shining gates into the court and presence of the King.

The man suddenly remembered the kindness and beauty of the King but his heart recoiled at the King’s presence for he was now one with the shadows in his sack. And now the full weight of his fear came upon him and he fell before the presence of the King who looked down upon him with Love and kindness.

“My child,” the King said, without a hint of reproach in his voice, “How good it is to see you again. I have missed you.” And the man started weeping when he heard the Love in the King’s voice, and his heart reproached him. “Where have you been, my child?” the King asked tenderly, and the man convulsed as the shadows in his sack twisted and shrieked. “You are of us,” they hissed into his shadowed heart. “You don’t belong here, but with us in the realms of darkness where we rule forever, free of this cursed King and his damnable, dangerous Light.” And the man wept uncontrollably for he felt it was true.

The King waited patiently for his child to gather strength to speak. And at last the poor man looked up into the kind, bright face and said, “I am not your child any longer for I have done that which is not permitted. I have gathered shadows and hoarded them and now the weight of them drags my heart far away from yours.”

“Shadows?” the King asked. “So it is only shadows that separate my heart from yours? And if there were no shadows, would you return to me my child that I may love you and we might enjoy each other’s company once again?”

“Y… yes,” the man stuttered. But you see, the shadows have a powerful hold on me, and I am so ashamed of what you and your people would see if the terrible contents of my sack were revealed.”

“Do not be afraid, my child,” the Sun King said, but trust my Love for you. Open your sack, and let me see what it is that you carry.” The words sent shivers through the man’s whole being, but he was in the presence of the Sun King himself and where could he hide and how could he escape this terrible edict? And so with trembling hands and eyes blurred with tears he untied the knot and slowly let the mouth of the sack fall open. The Sun King came down from his throne to kneel by his side and turning his radiant face looked into the sack, then laughed, and said, “My son, I see no shadows but only a sack shining with my own radiant light.” And the man knew that it was true and weeping for joy fell into the arms of his King, his father and his Life.


Blake Steele

Molkom, Sweden

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Artist's Description

A parable short story about a man’s fascination with shadows in a world of Light.

Artwork Comments

  • Tuliptree
  • Blake Steele
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