menu

Facing a Demon

Facing a Demon May 16, 2011

A large demon appeared in the village one day. Out of fear, the blacksmith poked its cheek with his hot iron and the demon ate him. With the wound on his face, the demon seemed scarier. All the men started to carry weapons. This made the demon more cunning and more ferocious. Two brothers decided to hunt the demon. One was a dancer. The other, a butcher. When they found the demon, the dancer distracted it with his dance, while the butcher went to slice its throat. The demon ate them both.

In desperation, the mayor of the village went to the old shaman for advice. He was so old that he was losing his sight. While people pitied him, he considered his slow loss of sight a protection of sorts. He said it kept him from misusing his gifts. When the mayor explained what had happened, the shaman said, “The dancer misused his dance. The butcher misused his knife. And the blacksmith misused his iron. Now the demon is stronger and it embodies the grace of a dancer, the skill of a butcher, and the strength of a blacksmith.” The mayor and the people felt defeated. It was then that the shaman offered his secret, “You must feed it light and wait.”

Fear sapped the kindness of the village. In their growing agitation, they beseeched a gentle young monk, the one who as a boy would cry if he stepped on an ant. They gave him a dagger of light and pleaded with him to face the demon. The young monk, who was privately unsure whether to keep his vows or launch headlong into the world, said yes.

He sat at the edge of the forest, with the dagger of light on his lap, and waited. On the third day, the demon, hungry and frightened, appeared. The demon had been cut so many times by swords that the sight of even a lighted dagger made it growl and rear. To the demon’s surprise, the young man quickly swallowed the dagger of light, as the shaman had instructed. It cut him on the way down. He stilled himself and waited. The demon waited. And then, the demon spread prone on the earth and opened its mouth like the gates to another world.

The gentle young man could feel the dagger of light move inside him. Though weakened, he carefully rose and entered the demon, walking through the gates of its mouth down the tunnel of its throat. Once in its belly, he heard desperate voices pleading to be released. Once his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see the butcher in the corner, and the blacksmith, and the dancer. They were trembling. Then, in the center of the demon’s belly, a raw and tearful being approached him. But instead of hurting him, the being began to plead, “At last, can you save me?! Please! You must get me out of here!”

The young monk sat before his darker self and said, “I have entered your belly. You must enter mine.” At once, the frightened being trapped in the belly of the demon understood and reached down the young monk’s throat to pull the dagger of light from his belly. It cut the young monk’s innocence and he passed out.

The frightened being trapped in the belly of the demon lifted the dagger of light. And with the strength of a blacksmith and the skill of a butcher and the grace of a dancer, the frightened, trapped being stabbed the demon from inside. The opening let in the light, the unending light, and the demon’s body shriveled and vanished; leaving them all as they were the day they were consumed; the same but changed.

"Mark, your remark about the chord from Tokyo puts me in mind of a similar ..."

For Keith Jarrett
"Thank you, Mark, for posting this incredibly beautiful and heartwarming poem. Blessings, Laraine"

The Work of Care
"That you suggest:"We need to return to our basic, caring nature now more than ever" ..."

Our Better Angels
"I just love this perspective on learning, reading and writing! Mark Nepo, you have such ..."

The Energy of Hope

Browse Our Archives