24 October 2019

When Greek goblins
gather together to hide
the key to happiness

Where did the goblins hide the key to happiness? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I read this story in Crete last year. I read it in the mid-day sun of summer on a street in Rethymnon. But I have no reason to doubt its veracity.

The legend says that long before we humans were created, various goblins gathered together to cobble a farce. One of them said,

‘Very soon, people will be created. It is not fair for them to have so many qualities and so many possibilities. We have to do something to make it more difficult for them to get ahead. To fill defects and perversions … that will destroy them.’

The largest and the oldest goblin said,

‘It is planned to have flaws and duplicity, but this will do them, simply, more comprehensively. I think we should deny them something that will make them live with a new challenge every day.’

‘It will be funny!’ they said together.

But a young and mischievous goblin said,

‘We need to give them something important … but what?’

After much thought, the oldest among them exclaims,

‘I found it. We’ll bequeath them the key to happiness.’

The old goblin continued,

‘The problem is where to hide it so it cannot be found.’

The first goblin spoke again,

‘We can hide on top of the tallest mountain in the world.’

Immediately another goblin replied,

‘No. Do not forget that they will have power and be stubborn. Easily, some time, someone will go up and find it, and if one finds it, everyone will follow, and then there will be no challenge.’

A third goblin suggested,

‘We can hide it at the bottom of the sea.’

A fourth answered,

‘No. Remember that they are curious. They will eventually build a machine and be able to descend to the bottom, and then they will find it very easily.’

The third goblin suggested,

‘Lo, Let’s hide it on a planet far from Earth.’

But the others answered,

‘No. Do not forget their intelligence. One day someone will build a ship so that they can travel to other planets, and they will find it.’

An old goblin who had remained silent until then, listening to the suggestions of the others, got up, went to the centre, and said,

‘I think I know where to put it so they will not be able to find it. We have to put it there so that they never look there.’

The other goblins looked at him amazed, and with one voice asked him,


The old goblin replied,

‘We will hide it inside them … very close to the heart …’

The applause spread and they began to laugh together,

‘Ha, ha, ha. They will search for it desperately outside, and they will not know that they have it within them all the time.’

The young sceptic observed,

‘People will have a desire to make themselves happy, and sooner or later someone wise enough will discover where the key is. And then he’ll tell everyone.’

‘That may so,’ said the older goblin. ‘But people will also have an inherent distrust of the simplest things. If ever there is such a man who uncovers the secret that lies within everyone … no one will believe him.’

I read it in Crete … and I have no reason to doubt it (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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