Chapter 8 – The Blacksmith

Amsiggel and Tazzwit stayed the night with the two young men named Hamu and early next morning set out once more along the track. It was a hot day and there was no shade; before long they began to get very thirsty. Still they kept going, until they saw a little house in the distance. This cheered them up greatly – they reckoned they would find some refreshment there.

As they drew near, there came from inside the house the sound of heavy hammer blows. Amsiggel called loudly, but no-one heard him; Tazzwit knocked on the door, but no-one came. Pushing it open a little, they peered inside. They saw two men there, beating out iron with a heavy hammer. It was a forge, dark and gloomy with a scorching hot furnace and sparks flying everywhere. They went in and stood watching the blacksmiths. Tazzwit was so thirsty she fainted away. “This is like the Abode of the Dead,” said her brother to himself, “We called out at the door but no-one heard us. We knocked but no-one let us in. And now we’re inside, we’re doomed to darkness and scorching fire with hammerings and poundings as though we’d entered the Torments of the Grave.”

Eventually the blacksmiths put down their tools and pointed to a log bench where he could take Tazzwit to sit. They brought them a drink. When they’d recovered a little, Amsiggel told them about their journey and the hardships they’d encountered along the way. The Blacksmith answered, “Man is like a coin, rolling here and rolling there, constantly shifting from one moneybag to another. All our life we’re on the move, and we find no rest in this world!” His brother spoke up: “Yet the old-timers say, ‘You can’t roll further than the bottom of the hill!’ And every coin has two sides: whichever side it falls on, that’s how it lies. We have two sides, and whichever side we fall on that’s where we stay. When we roll to a stop on the Day of Judgment, we’ll find ourselves either in Heaven or in Hell, and that’s where we’ll stay!”

“Do you know what will happen on the Day of Judgment?” asked Amsiggel. “Well, they say we’ll each stand before God,” replied the Blacksmith, “and every one of us will recite a complete account of what he’s done. Those who’ve done admirable things will recount them. Those who have done shameful things will recount them. Then everyone you’ve dealt with shamefully will stand up and call you to account for how you treated them. They’ll weigh you in the perfect Scales that never lie. Then the Guilty will go to Hell, and those who’ve done all that God desires will go to Heaven.” Amsiggel turned this over in his mind. “But which of us,” he demanded, “has done all that God desires?” The Blacksmith gazed at him. “That’s what people say,” he replied, “but there probably aren’t any of us who’ve done all that God desires.” “Well, if it’s like that,” asked Amsiggel, “what will happen to those of us who fall short?” “Well, we’ll just ask God to have mercy on us,” replied the Blacksmith uneasily. “Do you know if God will have mercy on us all, or just some of us?” insisted Amsiggel. “What can I say?” replied the Blacksmith, “He alone knows!” “That doesn’t comfort me at all!” said Amsiggel, “Can’t we even know for sure whether we’re going to Heaven or to the other place?” “Whoever is afraid of damnation must hope for mercy,” replied the Blacksmith.

At this his brother spoke up: “People say that one good deed will weigh more than a hundred evil deeds. So we must do good deeds and try to balance the Scales.” His brother studied him closely, then said, “Do you think you’ll be able to stand before God and weigh up all the evil you’ve done along with the good? Won’t you just be disgraced by your sins and the shameful things you’ve done?”

“I’ll tell you a story,” he continued, “I heard it from the old-timers. Once there was a king who was a very religious man, and he would not eat pigmeat. He had a cook in his palace who prepared his meals every day. One day this cook made a stew for the king. He put some beef in, and some lamb, and some pigmeat… then added extra ingredients, like salt and vegetables, and stirred it all together until it was well cooked. It gave off a wonderful aroma so the king was ready to eat with a good appetite. When the cook brought it in, the king said, ‘This is an excellent stew. What did you put in it?’ ‘A little beef,’ he replied, ‘a little lamb, and a little pigmeat.’ The king rose in anger. ‘You wretch!’ he shouted, ‘Did you suppose that the beef and lamb would purify the pigmeat? On the contrary, that pigmeat has corrupted the whole stew!’ Turning to his servants he commanded, ‘Tie up this pagan. Cut off his head and throw him in the dark pit along with his stew! He’s brought corruption into my presence. Death is all he deserves!’” The Blacksmith continued, “That’s what will happen to anyone who stands before God bringing into his presence evil mixed with good. And what will God say to him then? He’ll say, ‘Throw this wretch into the Pit! He’s brought corruption into my presence! Hellfire is all he deserves!’ And I can tell you that good deeds will never remove evil deeds, because the evil deeds have corrupted the whole person. What you’ve put into the oven is exactly what you’ll take out of it!”

“This is enough to make my hair stand on end!” exclaimed Amsiggel faintly. “Can’t we find any way,” he asked, “to wipe out what’s made us unacceptable to God and ashamed of ourselves, before we get as far as the presence of God himself? Can’t we purify ourselves from our sins before they get put on the Scales?” “If only a man could know for sure whether God will have mercy on him!” replied the Blacksmith, “If only we could make our peace with him before the Hour of Retribution comes!” Hearing this, Amsiggel sighed deeply. “This is the hardest of all the questions we’ve heard during these past days,” he said. “Keep climbing along this track, “replied the Blacksmith, “until eventually you get to the village called Peace, “If they don’t know the answer, no-one will!”