Goliath by Tom Gauld – a review

Since I was a child I have had a fascination for the Bible story of David and Goliath. It is a simple story of bravery and victory against the odds – a story in which, originally, God inspires and protects David, the future king of Israel. A shepherd, a boy with a sling, defeats the giant champion of the Philistines without armour or training or… just about qanything you might think would be required for victory.

David wins and goes on to be king and everyone lives happily ever after. Well… except for the Philistines and Goliath, of course, who doesn’t even get to live.

My fascination was always for the untold story of Golaith – the Bible tells us just about everything we ever manted to know about Davi, history, as always, being written by the victors – but the details about the vanquished were sketchy in the extreme.

It seems that Tom Gauld asked himself some of the questions I always wanted answered. What sort of guy was Goliath? What if he wasn’t the cliche from the Bible? What if he was just an ardinary Joe who happened to be ***king huge and looked really impressive togged out in brass armour and carrying a spear big enough to stick half a dozen opponents at once – and boasting the muscles to make the thrust?

In Goliath (Drawn and Quarterly Books, $19.95 US/CDN) Tom Gauld presents a version of the story told from the perspective of the Philistine champion. I’m not giving anything away when I say that this version of Goliath is not your usual champion. For one he doesn’t like to fight and for two he’s probably not much good at it. But when the king tells you to challenge the enemy he doesn’t leave room for argument. And Goliath, being a bit timid really, does what he’s told with the tragic results that were always inevitable, even if David hadn’t been divinely inspired.

This is a beautifully realised short, graphic novel. It has wonderful production values and looks teriffic. The story itself is deceptively simple but leaves a resonance that wasn’t in the original. Rather than the unreserved triumph of the Bible version this David and Goliath story is a tragedy, and all the better for it.

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About Bob Neilson

Bob Neilson lives in Dublin with his wife, two daughters, son, two dogs, one cat and a growing feeling of claustrophobia. In partnership with his wife he runs a successful retail business in Dublin city. His short fiction has appeared extensively in professional and small press markets and he has had two plays performed on RTE and one on Anna Livia FM. He also presented a radio show on Anna Livia for a year. He has had two short story collections published, Without Honour (1997, Aeon Press) and That’s Entertainment (2007, Elastic Press) as well as several comics and a graphic novel. His non-fiction book on the properties of crystals is a best-seller in the UK and Ireland.
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