Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Knight Of The Shining Shield.

The Parable of the Knight
of the Shining Shield
When teaching a class of five and six year old children I use this story among others to inspire them that to obey is better than fun. I remember reading it somewhere many years ago and to the best of my memory this is how it went.


In old days there was a great castle in the dark forest. It was wondrous in size, strength, and beauty of design. It had many high towers, great stone walls, huge iron gates, and a mighty drawbridge that crossed a river like moat. This castle was filled with the most brave and noble knights who would ride into the dark forest to fight the giants and dragons that tried to master the people. The brave knights would go out every day and help travelers and accompany pilgrims on their way.

Each knight had a beautiful suit of armor that shined like silver, they carried a spear and a mighty sword. Their helmets were inlaid with gold. The shields they carried were the greatest wonder. These shields were blessed by a holy monk who lived alone on top of a mountain. The shields were the shiniest shields when held by the most noble knight who fought bravely. If a knight was untrue or lacked courage his shield would become dull and dark.  A knight with a dull shield became ashamed and did not want to carry it or else all the other knights would know he was fearful or untrue.

The shield with a Star
Some times a  shield would shine brighter than all the others it would show who was the most brave of all the knights; he was the one who proved himself most noble, more courageous, more sacrificing, and daring than all the others. The shield of this knight would shine with a bright golden star from deep within.  It was the highest honor and this knight would sit next to the Captain of the castle at the feast. All the other knights would stand when he entered the room and salute him as if he were the leader of them all. For the longest time only the Captain had a star on his shield, and all the knights were eager to prove themselves and earn their star.

After a while the worst of the giants in alliance with the dragons and the witches in the land conspired to attack the castle. They met together in the rocky mountains near the castle to mount the attack. The brave knights prepared to fight against them. They sharpened their swords and their spears.

Sir Phillip was the youngest knight of the castle. He more than the others was eager to see battle and earn his star since he was youngest and felt the others looked down on his youth. He was a great warrior and his shield did have the shine of one who did many great deeds, yet he felt this was his chance to distinguish himself above the rest and earn his star.

At dawn the Captain called the knights to assemble in the courtyard where they would receive their battle orders. This one would lead and that one would guard the flank and another would scout. "What will be my place?" the young knight wondered. "You, Sir Phillip," The Commander pointed to him. "You are to stay behind to guard the castle gate. Keep the gate closed and locked. Open for no one but me. For if the castle is taken we will have no refuge should the battle turn against us and we will louse spirit which means sure defeat."
You are to stay and guard the gate
Sir Phillip was shattered in his heart for he hoped to win his star. With a salute he donned his helmet and took his place at the gate.  It was a strong gate with a bridge and iron doors. No attackers ever conquered it.

The knights marched out pass Sir Phillip, the Captain stopped. "Do not forget, open the gate for no one but me, either alive or those carrying my dead body. Let no one else in." Then he rode out to lead the knights who were marching to glorious battle.

Sir Phillip stood watching with a disappointed and heavy heart. Turning he began to turn the crank that slowly bought the bridge up, and put his shoulder to the iron gates to close and bar them. Climbing the high steps to the tower above the gate the knight watched the distant dust of the marchers.

Long hours the young knight stood at his post waiting for word of the battle. At last Sir Phillip saw a knight stagger out of the forest and stumble down the road to the castle.

"I have been hurt and cannot fight any longer." he said. "Why don't I take your place and you take mine in the battle?"

At first Sir Phillip thought, "Yes! Here is my opportunity!" But remembering his commander's words to stay at his post, called down. "I must stay where the commander has told me, and I must not open the gate for anyone except for him or his dead body. You should return to the battle."

The wounded knight was ashamed and turned to rejoin the battle.

Sir Phillip stood guard throughout the heat of the day wondering about the battle. In the afternoon an old woman came to out of the forest and walked up the road. "May I come in for shelter and food?" she called up to him.

"I can open the gate for no one this day except my commander." He replied. "But I will gladly lower a basket with some bread and cider over the wall for you."

"Why are you not with your brothers the knights? They are fighting a desperate battle against mighty odds." She called up.

"How goes the battle?" He yelled down.

"Badly, many knights are wounded. The giants and the dragons are getting the better of them. You should go maybe one more knight will turn the tide and save the day."

"I cannot leave my post, the commander has given me an order not to open the gate."

"You are lucky to have an excuse to stay behind in the castle where it is safe while the others fight and die." She jeered.

Sir Eric was enraged by her taunt and if she were a man he would have challenged a duel for vengeance, but she was only an old lady.  "Here is a basket of food, woman." he tossed it over the moat to her. "Take it and go your way."

The day wore on toward dusk. An old man slowly came out of the forest and walked up the road toward the castle.

"Are you Sir, Phillip?" The old man called.

"Yes," said The Knight.

"You should not be here. The battle goes very badly. Look I have brought you a magic sword. It is more powerful than any other.  No enemy can stand against it. Take it and rescue the commander and the knights."  The old man drew a sword out of his cloak and held it up for Sir Phillip to see. Even from the top of the castle wall he could see it shine like no other. Sparks seemed to light from its edge.

Sir Phillip turned to descend the stars that he might open the gate and take the sword to battle. He could hear the old man call, "Take it. Become the greatest knight!" Half way down the stairs he stopped and remembered the orders not to open the gate. He could not leave. Slowly he remounted the stairs to the top of the castle wall.

"Old man." Sir Phillip called. "Take your sword and go. I will not leave my post."

To the young knight's amazement a smoke began to wrap around the old man. The old man began to grow taller and taller until he became a giant as tall as the trees of the forest. Sir Phillip realized he had almost let a giant trick him into leaving the castle unguarded. The Giant shook his fist and turning around stomped into the dark forest.
The Giant shook his fist

Sir Philip decided that no matter what else happened he would not let the anyone try to trick him he would not listen to any other.

The sun was setting as the knights returned from the bloody battle. They were dirty, tired, and many had grievous wounds. The commander could barely sit on the horse because of the wounds he received.

Sir Phillip let down the drawbridge and opened the gates. He stood at attention as they passed the portals to the castle.

It was the custom for the knights to gather at the great hall to recount their exploits and celebrate their victory with a feast. The Captain of the castle took his place at the head of the great table, and the other knights sat in rank around him.  Sir Phillip entered and was about to take the lowest seat farthest from the Captain, when the knights called out, "The shield! The shield of Sir Phillip is glowing!" Sir Phillip could not see the shield he carried but when he turned it upward he saw indeed a golden star was glowing from deep inside.

Sir Phillip knelt before the Captain of the castle. "Tell us Sir knight, did you battle giants today? Did you defend the castle?"

"No, my Captain only one giant came and he left when I refused to open the gate."  And Sir Phillip told all that happened that day.

The knights did not believe that for what he did he won the golden star.

The Captain spoke up. Our shields reflect truth. Today the greatest battle was fought by Sir Philip. He fought the battle of obedience and he won.  All the knights stood up to honor Sir Philip the youngest knight to carry a shield with a Golden star.

The original version of this story is told by Raymond MacDonald Alden and was published in Why the Chimes rang and other stories. 1934

(C)Adron Dozat

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