Goblin Slayer and Silenced Hope

There a moment in episode two of Goblin Slayer when the title character describes the horrors of goblins ransacking a village, apparently remembering his own experience:

An example would be if your older sister was attacked, tormented, made a plaything, then killed. Let’s say you witnessed all this, from start to finish in hiding as you held your breath. There’s no way you’d forgive them.

The scene that plays out while Goblin Slayer narrates isn’t shocking, not in this world. Even though the silver-ranked warrior has killed many goblins, there’s no feeling of justice or peace. Instead, Goblin Slayer feels anxious, worried as he notes that his foe is becoming more plentiful, doing more harm. The stark violence of episode one enforces the feeling of dread in this world, the feeling that there is no hope. Episode two emphasizes this theme through flashbacks, relenting a bit on the horrible violence shown in the previous episode. That seems to be an intentional choice—I was made aware that a certain scene was not animated that would have fit well into the harshness of this world (the quote below is of a graphic nature):

First, Ranger was used for target practice before her eyes. The leader begged the goblins for her companion’s life. Because Monk had attempted to bite off her own tongue when the goblins tortuously killed her, they shoved her comrade’s entrails into her mouth. When Wizard was burned alive, Knight’s heart broke into a thousand pieces, and her soul failed her.

The sense of hopelessness isn’t just in the violence—its that people we know are tortured and watch others as they intensely suffer, without hope of rescue. While we don’t know “Knight” in that quote above, or in any real detail the party in episode one, we know them by their archetypes, by the tropes of anime. In another show this season, like Fairy Tail or Sword Art Online, these characters would survive with dignity in tact, no worse for the wear. Or if they or a comrade died, it wouldn’t be as a victim of torture. But in Goblin Slayer, the unthinkable occurs. It doesn’t just occur—it’s expected. There are no quick deaths.

We know it’s too late because episode one set the standards of this brutish world.

I’m reminded of a piece slightly closer to real life, a book of historical fiction that we’ve discussed many times on the blog. Silence, the classic work by Shusaku Endo, which was adapted into film by Martin Scorsese, follows missionaries in Japan as they question their faith when Japanese converts are being tortured to death. What ultimately breaks some of the missionaries in the novel is not their own torture, which they pursue as a honor worth receiving, but the death of the innocent. A line previous to the quote above in the Goblin Slayer light novel could have well fit into Silence:

The warrior was strong but not prepared to sacrifice her friends.

Death can be noble. But deaths of these sorts are nothing but tragic and unbearable. Being placed in such a situation would of course cause us to question everything we know—the strong spirit of Knight, the faith of Silence’s missionaries. It causes a loss of hope. There is no silver lining. That which we depend on most seems to have failed:

Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.

Lately, I’m reminded of my own shortcomings when trying to care for people who feel abandoned, who sense a silence from those they trust most—whether it’s family, friends, or God himself. As one who has endured so little pain, I can’t offer much in advice to those who are depressed, who are victims of terrible crimes, who are deep in a place of darkness from which they may not return. But the truth is, I fail even at offering a shoulder, a word, a bit of my time, all those things that I am able to give. At best, sometimes, I only provide a pat on the back, and at worst, impatience and critical words.

If Goblin Slayer is a journey in a world without hope, there’s reason for us who are not living in such a world to rejoice. There’s reason in knowing that light does exist in the darkness, no matter how dim it may be. And if I’m able to see that, then I am blessed, for there are those among us living in a tortuous world. May I be able to show them even just a bit of the light when there is none left for them to see.

Goblin Slayer can be streamed on Crunchyroll. Note that the series contains scenes of graphic and sexual violence.

9 thoughts on “Goblin Slayer and Silenced Hope

  1. What are you guys doing for Halloween? Me and Rachel really want to go trick or treating together in my neighborhood

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    1. Different things! Some of us don’t celebrate Halloween or do some sort of other event instead. I’ll be taking my kids out trick or treating, though!

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  2. Luminas here! So….this is going to be a weird and echolalia-esque way of getting to my point, but Phil Collins wrote this one song for Brother Bear. One of the lines for this song went: “There are times when, on this journey, *all you’ll see is darkness.* But out there somewhere, daylight finds you, if you keep believing. So don’t run, don’t hide, it will be alright, you’ll see, trust me, I’ll be there, watching over you….”

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQw3AoFpG7Y)

    I don’t know what it is about this song, but this is the embodiment of what I want to represent, what I want to be to people. And it goes a long way toward explaining my thought process on this subject.

    “There’s reason in knowing that light does exist in the darkness, no matter how dim it may be. And if I’m able to see that, then I am blessed, for there are those among us living in a tortuous world. May I be able to show them even just a bit of the light when there is none left for them to see.”

    Elie Wiesel’s Night is a book about how saying light exists in the darkness is largely untrue. It’s a lie people have to comfort themselves that God is always there in the pitchest of black, when sometimes He just is not. He is silent. Sometimes you wish your own father was dead and normal people rip each other apart for one loaf of bread. And I think that’s the complication you’re trying to get at here. How can God exist if it seems that some of the things that happen to people are pure chaos, circumstance, and luck? What is it that one person can live a life of hope and another can end up brutalized by extremists, criminals, or their own government?

    And sometimes I wonder if that’s because we who have better luck aren’t supposed to “show” that the Light is there. We are supposed to embody it, to bring it to others, to share with the poverty-stricken what we have in abundance. It’s….an active thing, not a passive one. We aren’t leading the way— We should be generating and giving, even when it seems we lack the means or energy to do so. I…don’t think that God is a thing you can simply find, like a lost coin. You must join with Him in what He does, become one with His purpose by enacting it yourself. And when you don’t have the strength on your own, having faith that He will give it.

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    1. Thanks for giving your thoughts, as always. I was hoping this article would bring up some interesting discussion about the nature of God and what it means for him to be silent, and what that means for us, and you delivered! Hehe.

      I wonder if you’re right about it being our role to partner with God and bring the light with us. That could very well be true. At the very least, I know this—telling people there is light at the end of the tunnel is usually one of two things: an escape from really involving ourselves in the hard work of loving those who are suffering or a sincere answer when we don’t know what to say. But like you said, it may not be about saying, but rather about doing.

      Btw, I love me some Phil Collins and Elie Wiesel…it may be the first time, though, that those two have been brought together in one passage. 🙂

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  3. And yeah that’s an awfully loaded statement coming from a “devil-worshipper,” and it is an ideal I fail to meet every single day. I make mistakes. I presume too much. I’m selfish and simply don’t act as I should. But I guess the way I see it, if I have the dream, and I can see the version of myself that maybe He has in mind, and really try instead of sitting on my butt, maybe sometimes that shine of purity will make its way through me. We probably all hope that, for ourselves. <__<

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    1. Oh gosh, and this is flip side. I want to say the same as you (without the “devil worshipper” portion, of course haha). But even in that hypocrisy, maybe we get a glimpse both of darkness and of hope when we aren’t in situations where the darkness is overwhelming.

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  4. I think Goblin Slayer asks some interesting questions. Whether it will end up doing something interesting with those questions or answering any of them remains to be seen.

    The first question asked is about He Who Fights Monsters.

    The Goblin Slayer repeatedly and deliberately compares himself to the goblins. Saying that to them, he is the goblin. He’s the goblin child that survived the destruction of his nest and is now back for revenge. He discusses how he’s grown to enjoy the killing of goblins. And it’s clear that he’s not entirely sane. He’s obsessed with killing goblins.

    But instead of doing the more common thing in modern media, humanizing the monsters he is killing, this does the opposite. The goblins ARE monsters, and they do need to be killed. Every last one of them.

    So this then begs the question: Do we maybe NEED our own monsters to hunt the monsters who would kill and rape us? If there is a wall between our families and the goblins, don’t we want the Goblin Slayer on that wall? Don’t we need him on that wall?

    And if we do need monsters like the Goblin Slayer to kill the goblins for us, how then should we treat him? Should we exclude him from polite society the way the Goblin Slayer is excluded? Do we tell our niece “Don’t get involved with him, he’s not sane anymore” the way it’s depicted in the second episode?

    Can he even be reconciled to society? Can a monster return to not being a monster?

    The two most important side characters in this question are the Priestess (who represents innocence) and the childhood friend (who states her narrative purpose best when she answers her uncle, “and yet I’ll wait for him to come home.”)

    The second question asked is one about class and the difference in priorities between the rich and the poor.

    This is raised first by the bard singing of the Goblin Slayer to the ordinary people. You wouldn’t hear a song about some Goblin Slayer in the palaces or among the wealthy. But to the peasants and villagers, the Goblin Slayer is a legendary hero. One who protects THEM, not the king or the wealthy. Notice that in the bard song, the Goblin Slayer wins the heart of the maiden princess, and yet he rejects her, because he needs to protect the villages instead.

    It’s even more explicitly stated by the Goblin Slayer in episode 3. “Goblins will kill the villagers before the demons can destroy the world. Just because there are demons doesn’t mean goblins don’t need to be killed.”

    This has a lot of real world applications. Often elites are accused of not caring about the fate of the poor because they don’t understand them. Crime is probably the most obvious parallel. How often do elites get accused of being “soft on crime” because they don’t understand how devastating crime is to the poor who are the most common victims.

    “It’s just goblins,” sums up a dismissive attitude towards the pain of those considered social lessors. The person speaking it probably has no reason to ever fear a goblin attack. Demon attacks sure, so that’s what they prioritize. But what of the poor farmer whose wife or daughter has been kidnapped by the goblins? Is it “just goblins” to him?

    These are some interesting questions. It remains to be seen if they will actually be answered in any meaningful manner.

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    1. So, Goblin Slayer is Col. Nathan Jessop? 😆

      But seriously, I love these thoughts—I hadn’t though much about either the idea of Goblin Slayer as goblin or about his role in society…I’d say that I feel the need to write about those ideas, but I just recently dropped the show because it seems to have—at least for this initiative season—moved away from these deeper concepts and toward a more usual fantasy setup.

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