My son was playing Minecraft and I was watching (I can’t play computer games: a few minutes of that jerky screen motion and I start to feel like I’m going to throw up). Some sort of creature I’d never seen before appeared on the screen. I asked my son what it was and he told me it was an iron golem. It was protecting the village.

An iron golem?

I did some looking around. Golems are cropping up in stories, games and elsewhere more and more often nowadays. And they’re not just made of clay anymore. There are golems of iron, stone, diamond, fire, blood, and snow in games like Minecraft and Diablo. Sometimes they're protectors, sometimes destroyers.  

There are days as a writer when I feel like a golem myself, performing endless toil from which there is no escape unless someone releases me with a magic word. Like “Lunch!”

Much like Ord, the man of clay in The Perilous Realm trilogy, the origins of the golem legend are wrapped in mystery. There are ancient Jewish tales of beings created from earth and given life, and in the Talmud even Adam himself was said to have been a golem until God granted him mind and will. One of my favourite modern interpretations of the Golem legend is the moving retelling by David Wisniewski, with dramatic illustrations made of cut and torn paper.

Come to think of it, why not a golem made of paper? I may just have to write that story myself.

The man made of clay plunges his thick, powerful arms into the muck of the bog.

Without any sign of strain or even a grunt of effort, he uproots an immense stone and lifts it over his head.

The man of clay carries the stone to a tower standing by itself in the middle of this bleak, uninhabited bog. The tower is unfinished. It is roofless and has a gaping hole for a doorway.

The man of clay climbs the winding stair inside the tower. At the top he sets the stone he is carrying in place on top of the unfinished wall.

He pauses for a moment as if to survey his work, although his face remains  expressionless. In the middle of his forehead is a small mark. A shape that could be a letter in some unknown alphabet.

The man of clay descends the tower and strides off into the bog to search for another stone.

No one knows who brought this creature to life and commanded it to toil like this day after day. Those who wished the tower built may be long dead.

Slowly, steadily, without rest, the clay man builds the tower, day after day. And day after day the tower sinks a little further into the bog. The man of clay will never finish the tower. He will keep adding stones but the tower sinks faster than he can build it up.

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