Grumpuss is storytelling that predates movies, television, radio, audio recording, books, and even the written word, performed and passed down by bards utilizing both rhyme and meter as mnenomic devices to aid memorization of the lyrical content to entertain and instruct kings, nobles (and a few enlightened bands of outlaws). As for what is a Grumpuss, you'll learn for yourself as the story unfolds, but there is an excellent hint near the beginning of the first act, when . . .
A messenger rode to the king,
With a quest both awesome and grave,
In need of a knight, not afraid to fight;
A knight both cunning and brave.
He'd been riding full gallop since daybreak.
Badly shaken, just barely in hand,
He'd moaned and he sighed, 'til at last he cried,
"A Grumpuss is scourging the land!""
Now the king, a sagacious ruler,
If a bit overfond of a feast,
Consulted his tusted advisors
To determine a course 'gainst the beast.
"I had thought" said the king, "that the Grumpuuss,
Was a mythical monster of old."
"I'm afraid, Sire, it's not." "It will have to be fought."
"Indeed, if the truth be told
A Grumpuss is not like a dragon.
Rather more, like a large, surly cat."
"With tremendous paws."" "And gigantic claws."
"And jaws that can crush armor flat."
"They've wide yellow eyes that watch every move."
"They live mostly in rocky terrain."
"It seems that meat is all they eat."
"They sneeze when confronted with grain."
"They inhabit the coast for the most part."
"They're most carefully avoided by men."
"According to fable, the beasts are unstable."
"Worse, when defending a den!"
"Tawny gold is their normal coloring."
"But they turn all to stripes when they're crazed,
And then even a knight might resort to flight,
For they'll fight, sire, and you'd be amazed!"
"Just imagine a mad, ten-foot tabby!"
Said the king, "This does call for our best!"
And he judged that our sleeping hero
Was the most qualified for the quest.
Well, Sir Ellery was a fine athlete.
He excelled at every sport.
King's champion was he, three times out of three,
The most formidable knght in the court.
Of course, Sir Ellery eagerly accepted the challenge, and hurried to tbe armory where...
The Armorer then draped and arrayed the knight,
Who stood like a mannequib, bored,
'Til at last, the knight struck a pose with one hand
On the hilt of the broad, light sword, and said,
"Was there ever in all the world
A knight more aufully arrayed?"
"You'll stand out in a crowd," said the Armorer, and bowed,
Proud of the part he had played.
So, Sir Ellery, well-armed and armored,
Clattered off to the Provisioneer,
Through great oaken doors and rows of stores,
To where the man worked in the rear."
"Good day to you, sir. I'm expected, I see,"
Said the knight. Said the man, "Of course.
I've been packing supplies for your journey. See?
A fresh sack of oats for the horse!
I've allowed enough food for a week and a day,
By the end of which time you'll be back.
These four water gourds have been filled to their brims.
There are eight loaves of bread in this sack."
And the Provisioneer gave him all of these things
And a small side of beef, besides.
And in case it grew cold in the evenings,
Threw in a bedroll of hides.
And Sir Ellery quietly lent a hand
At packing these things on his saddle,
A menial task for so brilliant a knight,
So he dreamed, once again, of the battle.
And while, once again, in his daydreams,
He vanquished his foe, several ways,
The man explained that the trout he had packed
Would only keep a few days.
Now the provisioneer was an old, old man,
And he'd read a great deal in the stores.
In fact, he'd become quite learned,
By simply locking the doors,
And refusing to answer until he was through,
With reading the book that he had.
He'd studied quite all that there was to be known,
So he knew why the Grumpuss went mad.
But while the old man bent to the task,
Of explaining just what must be done,
And wherefore, and how, the knight dreamed again
That the battle'd already been won.
"Umm," sighed the knight, still lost in his dreams
But the Provisioneer couldn't know.
Thinking the sigh meant the knight understood,
He happily watched the knight go
Off to his folly, his fortune, his fame,
To battle by royal decree,
The Grumpuss whose lair lay to the north,
Through the hills, in the rocks, by the sea.
Aye! That's heroes for you. Eyes on the prize, eh?
Eyes on the prize? Head in the clouds, more like. Ignoring all the advice that might have spared him a terrible battle.
A battle with that grumpy thingh?
That "grumpy" thing was a Grumpuss. "A large surly cat, with teremendous paws and gigantic claws, and jaws that can crush armor flat!" I suggest you pay closer attention than your hero! It was growing dark when Sir Ellery reached the rocky hill country . . .
He led his horse up the rocky vale.
Determined he was to press on,
But he'd only traveled an hour more,
When the last glow of daylight was gone.
Then dark clouds swept in o'er the mountainside,
Blocking even the moon's pale light,
And although Sir Ellery was cunning and brave,
Each new sound in the eerie night,
Echoing left, right and center,
Became multiplied in his ears,
And soon rocks and trees only dimly seen
Took the forms of his darkest fears.
Still, he pressed on, up the woeful gorge,
Over rocks and assorted debris,
But the path he climbed was so perilous
That twice he'd slipped to one knee,
And twice had felt that his time had come,
And he cursed the lack of a light.
So when suddenly, horribly close at hand,
A raspy voice croaked, Sir Knight?
He almost perished on the spot.
His horse, in terror, reared,
And Sir Ellery, trembling, drew his sword,
For a Grumpuss was much to be feared.
And it seemed that the voice rasped in his ear,
Stand where you are, Sir Knight.
One step to the left and you'll fall to your death.
Please, do take a pace to the right.
The Grumpuss spoke to him?
Not the Grumpuss. The dwarf!
Rashpur, the dwarf who lived in the cave at the top of the Woeful Gorge. Now stop interrupting, and let me think. We were outside the dwarf's cave at the top of the Woeful Gorge, and . . ..
"Where but moments before it had been pitch dark,
Suddenly, there appeared
A cave and a blazing campfire.
This was magic and much to be feared!
And the light from the fire revealed the creature
A dwarf! The knight's heart skipped a beat,
For dwarfs dwelled underground and often were found
To be creatures of guile and deceit.
They were said to possess great quantities of jewels,
And huge amounts of gold,
But unlike the elves, kept it all to themselves,
Or so the story was told.
They were known to live long, were surprisingly strong,
And were careless to hide their treasures.
Neither force nor stealth threatened their wealth,
Safeguarded by magical measures.
And so, it seemed it behooved the knight
To seek to make amends,
To be wary of unintended slight,
To try, at least, to be friends.
Said the knight, with a smile and a chuckle,
"Why look, what have we here?
No wonder you see so well in the dark!"
But the dwarf only said, "Come near!"
"Oh, of course," said the knight, "now I see you're a friend.
What an interesting place you've got!
And those lovely bones, over there, by the stones,
Are they yours?" Cried the dwarf, "No, they're not!
Think you that I a foul sorcerer be?
A desecrater of bones?
A two-penny conhurer?" the little man shrieked,
"A craven caster of stones?
That collection belongs to another
A wonderful creature quite rare,
My friend, you might say, 'though not here, today.
This great cave was once its lair.
But do tell me about your adventure.
What quest so awesome and grave,
Demands you so recklessly imperil your life?
'Tis folly to be too brave."
"I think not," shuddered Sir Ellery,
"For I ride, by royal decree,
To vanquish the terrible Grumpuss that dwells
Through these hills, in the rocks, by the sea."
"Vanquish,? Indeed," said the wee little man,
"Now that would be a shame.
Must it be killed? After all,
The ones that I've known have been tame
Oh, it's true that this is a desolate place,
But I prefer it that way.
Here I'm able to indulge myself
and do just what I may.
Still in all, though I'm a hermit,
And self-proclaimed I might add,
I find some company soothing
For fear of going mad.
Then, lo, but certain the Grumpuss appears
As if in reply to my wish,
And I feed it some rabbit, or pheasant, or squirrel,
Or grouse, or best of all, fish.
Now what I'm wondering mainly is
Why must you strike it dead,
When it's ever so easy to bid it come
As a friend to court, instead?
But soft! Here comes the moon at last.
'Though you're welcome to spend the night,
If you must, in fact, push on,
You must be gone with the light."
"If it's not too rude, I am wide awake,
And eager to be on my way.
I'm so glad we met and much in your debt,"
Said the knight, "but I dare not stay."
"So be it!" said the dwarf and both he and his fire
Disappeared in a puff of smoke,
Which impressed and distressed poor Sir Ellery,
Who found it an unnerving joke.
For now it appeared that the dwarf, indeed,
Was a creature of awesome powers.
As the uneasy knight led his steed away,
His thoughts strayed to enchanted towers,
Where he might yet, in fact, languish and die,
Should the sorcerer be provoked.
Or might he not perish in this waste,
Or even worse, be 'smoked?'
He'd really no thought of where one went.
When smoked,' one just disappeared!
But he'd no desire to discover where,
Or how! 'Twas much to be feared.
Worse, still, for it could easily be,
He might not survive it at all,
For until one was smoked,' how could one know
If the dangers were great or small?
Sir Ellery traveled the rest of the night,
Pondering some horrible doom,
Invoked by a curse of the dwarf, or worse
A spell of perpetual gloom!
When, suddenly, it occurred to him
That the light he perceived was dawn,
And his spirits rose and his burden of woes,
In the bright light of day, was soon gone.
Our hero stopped to water his horse
Then made sure that the steed was fed.
Then, he stacked his supplies in the shade of a tree,
And helped himself to some bread.
And then, while his charger munched on its oats,
Sir Ellery sat down to rest
With his back to the tree, from whence he could see
Far and wide, north, south and west.
So, where's the Grumpuss?
Oh, he's quite near, and creeping ever closer and closer.
and then, what?
Now the Grumpuss had seen a few humans before
And knew that they were an odd lot,
But had never before seen one with a shell,
Or, if it had, it forgot.
But the sweet scent that had brought it hence,
Of the trout, in the shade of the tree,
Overcame its natural caution
So it crept still closer to see.
Sir Ellery never so much as blinked,
'Though his horse bolted off in fright,
For while our hero slept ever on,
The Grumpuss inspected the knight.
The poor beast was vexed, confused and perplexed
By the shell-man, a creature quite queer,
But the still fresh trout smelled delicious
And the bundle lay so near.
It crept still a little bit closer
And tentatively stretched out a paw
And, since the knight dozed contentedly on,
Unsheathed a long, sharp claw.
Ever so gently, it hooked the twine
With which the bundle was tied,
And ever so stealthily pulled it away
From the shell-man who snored and sighed.
Then, snapping the bundle up in its jaws,
The Grumpuss made good its retreat,
And when Sir Ellery finally awoke,
His surprise was profound and complete.
"Am I to believe that my horse wandered off
With a bundle of trout? I say nay!"
Bellowed the knight, as he pondered his plight.
"'Twas the dwarf," he thought, with dismay.
"Aye! Dwarf, you were never a wizard at all,
Just a scoundrel, a rogue and a thief!
A brigand! A loathsome highwayman!
A despicable outlaw chief!
And then what? You can't stop there. WHat about the battle?
It's yet to come. There are Four Acts, and at last count, 328 quatrains. I've given you about 20% of them. That's enough for you to decide if you really want to know how it ends, and if you do, buy or borrow a copy of the two-disc Grumpuss 15th Anniversary Audio Theater Edition, or the Grumpuss 1977 Premiere Performance DVD. Or go back and play the audio and video clips to give yourself an idea of what I skipped and what comes next, but as for me, it's past my bedtime.
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