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PC017: Goblin Lullaby

By Jim C. Hines
Read by Christiana Ellis (of Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts)
First appeared in Fantasy Gone Wrong (DAW)

“I’ve never seen a goblin infant,” said the elf, stepping closer.

“You thought goblins sprang fully formed from the rocks for you to slaughter?”  She jammed a knuckle into Jig’s mouth for him to suck.  His baby fangs were just beginning to pierce the gums, but the pain in her finger was better than listening to him cry.

“We slaughtered nobody.”  The voice came from below the outcropping.  The elf relaxed his bow and knelt, hauling his companion up onto the ledge. “You goblins attacked us.  We defended ourselves.”

Grell stepped to the edge and studied the woods below.  Goblin blood turned the earth a gruesome shade of blue.  Elves wove through the trees, making no noise save the twang of bowstrings and the ripping sound of blades tearing through goblin armor and flesh.  ”Defended yourselves?  Next time, why don’t you defend yourselves over in the hobgoblin tunnels rather than sneaking onto our land to do it?”

The archer caught his companion by the arm.  ”She’s an old woman, Jonathan. With a child.”

“She’s a goblin, Rindar.”  But he relaxed slightly.  He was bulkier than his companion, and the mane of red hair meant he was no elf.  Red stubble dotted his chin, though he was too young to grow a proper beard.  He wore a heavy mail shirt, with a green tabard depicting a white dragon coiled around a tree.  ”If we let her live, she’ll lead another attack against us.”

Grell kicked the corpse of the goblin drummer.  ”If you let me live, I’ll go back to the nursery and get some sleep.”

“I won’t risk letting you go free,” said Jonathan.  ”Not until my quest is complete.”

Rated G. Contains not necessarily overlapping groups of heroes and good guys.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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21 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    LittleLotus said,

    July 22, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

    Wow, just incredible! I love the “other side to the story”, as a reader the other side of the picture is hardly ever shown, and usually the “bad guys” are depicted as ugly and disgusting versus the “good guys” and their beauty and brains. This story gave me a whole new perspective of the goblin’s view, the various quests and trials humans, elves, and other creatures and their effect on others. It made me question who are the good guys, the bad guys and the guys stuck in between. And a surprise ending is always welcome!

  2. 2

    Matt’s Bookosphere 7/22/08 « Enter the Octopus said,

    July 22, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    [...] Review: “The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Steve Almond Podcast fiction: “Goblin Lullaby” by Jim C. Hines [...]

  3. 3

    AmberBug said,

    July 22, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

    Great story. The reading worked well too. I really identified with this story. I was raising a colicky baby more or less singlehandadly while my husband was deployed to Korea- My neighbors still tell stories about the Wednesday night at Midnight when I stormed out of the house in not but a robe and a glare and demanded that they “Shut it or have it shut for them” loudly enough that not only they but at least two neighbors within hearing range turned down their music/TVs/ conversations to more tolerable levels. A woman will do much for a few snatched hours of rest!

  4. 4

    RandyNose said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 2:45 am

    Awesome story. The world could use more smart semi-cranky old ladies just trying to get some peace and quite in the world.

    I suppose the moral of the story is, that he (or she) that know how to fling the poopy diaper at the proper time and place can create peace.

    Randy

  5. 5

    RandyNose said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 2:46 am

    Opps, Quiet not quite. oh well…

  6. 6

    Bandersnatch said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 4:14 am

    Wonderful! I loved Grell!
    Finally, a “Fantasy” story set in a proper “Fantasy” setting with goblins, and elves, an enchanted sword,
    a quest, and a witch, and all that medieval magical hoo-ha.
    Sure, it was through the eyes of a “female character” and promoted the usual podcastle agenda of a female-social-political
    view point on the world. However, the story was witty and crude, and
    flavored with proper middle aged cynicism. A wonderful treat.
    More like this please!

  7. 7

    Travis said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    This was a great story. Thank you so much for choosing it. The classic fantasy realm setting was like a breath of fresh air after several stories that seemed more delusions than true fantasy. Not that those were bad stories, in fact some of them were excellent, but I tune into Podcastle to hear stories that take me away for a while into some other world. Goblin Lullaby did exactly that.
    I’m really not crazy about permanently cranky or pessimistic characters, but it worked well for this story. Grell was believable as an ugly, dirty goblin while still being someone we can identify with as a protaganist. -And who knows, she might have been a much more pleasant person if not sleep deprived. (Lord knows how cranky I get when I’m tired!) Grell was refreshingly intelligent and witty, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she was the one who came up with the wonderfully practical idea of using the stone witch’s curse to capture animals for food.
    Last but not least, I must praise the reading. The crankiness of Grell was captured perfectly, as well as the stuffiness of the elf warrior and the somewhat naive arrogance of the young human “king.” I hope Chrisiana Ellis will be coming back for other readings.

  8. 8

    Chortle said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

    You shouldn’t have sang the Mocking Bird song like Buddy Holly.
    I love Jim C. Hines’ goblin stories. The readings on Clonepod and Timetraveler show already convinced me to buy the Goblin books.

  9. 9

    Ryan B said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 12:33 am

    This was an interesting storytelling device that I haven’t seen before. Everything in the story is mired in a horrible swamp of cliché except for the viewpoint character, whose innate crankiness and down-to-earth nature serve as an anchor in the muck. Through Grell, we get a great story about an interesting character folded into a smart satire of the inanity of the generic fantasy setting. I loved it.

  10. 10

    scatterbrain said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

    Brilliant; as perfect as a piece of Prachettesque anti-fantasy could be.

  11. 11

    CaroCogitatus said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    Loved this story. I agree with Bandersnatch that a fantasy story with elves, boy kings, magic swords, and goblins was long overdue, and I particularly like the change of perspective.
    It’s a bit like “Wicked” did for the Wicked Witch of the West. I feel I understand the dirty, smelly little buggers (who are just trying to live their dirty, smelly lives and maybe loot a battlefield once in a while) a little better.
    And as a father who still remembers the colicky period of my first born, the ending was very much welcomed.
    More like this, please.

  12. 12

    Eric said,

    July 27, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

    Elves really don’t like humans.

  13. 13

    L33tminion said,

    July 28, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

    Excellent, possibly PodCastle’s best yet!

  14. 14

    Spork said,

    August 12, 2008 @ 6:46 am

    Not bad. Predictable and the same ridicules that have all been done before, but fun all the same.

  15. 15

    Matthew said,

    August 12, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

    This story had it all the necessary ingredients for a good fantasy short story: the necessary fantasy ingredients (goblins, elves, swords), a grand quest (restoration of the throne), a spunky hero(ine), an insufferably arrogant character, etc. At the same time, this was a radically neo-feminist story, in the same way that Women in Black (womeninblack.org) is a radical neo-feminist organization. What I mean is that this story embodied a feminism–I am not sure what “Wave” we are up to by now–that integrated and advocated for ALL women’s experiences, not just those of aspiring shop-floor supervisors and aspiring bank VPs.

    And Christiana Ellis’ reading was dead-on.

  16. 16

    Ernesto Montalve said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

    interesting point of view, it makes you look twice into some encounters, forcing you to see what evil characters do “accidentally” bey being heroic…

    i really moreal issue between being what means to be good or evil…
    more of this can be seen in Ninety Nine Nights story where we have 2 paladins… one that would do everything possible in his power to save lives, even disregarding orders… and other that would use any pretext and make pleas of help fall in deaf ears if she has a chance to bring down evil…

    really good story

  17. 17

    Bad Monkey said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    This is a wonderful story, read beautifully! Jim Hines captured the essence of the old goblin woman (grell) perfectly. Christina Ellis reads it so believably it is just a hoot to listen to.

    Thanks for your efforts!!!

  18. 18

    Jim C. Hines » Ooh, Awkward… said,

    October 15, 2009 @ 9:30 am

    [...] when they do.  I do hope, if you like the blog, that you might check out a sample chapter or try one of my stories, but I don’t expect [...]

  19. 19

    Escape with three geeky podcasts | Geekend | TechRepublic.com said,

    February 16, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    [...] make Barnes & Noble the most money. Want proof? Well, after listening to Jim C. Hines’s Goblin Lullaby, I find myself under a compulsion to purchase his Goblin Trilogy. It must be a [...]

  20. 20

    My 5 Favorite Escape Artists Episodes | Barely Controlled Chaos said,

    October 30, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    [...] Goblin Lullaby Pod [...]

  21. 21

    Lessons Learned | Nicolette Jinks said,

    November 16, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

    [...] opened my eyes to a variety of voices and tales, including: Goblin Lullaby, a sort of “the other side of the questing adventure” tale; Illuminated Dragon, a tale [...]

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