The biblical giant who fell to the slingshot of David, Goliath is universally viewed as something of a monster. The story is set during the war between the Philistines and the Israelites. A stalemate has been reached, with each side camped on the edge of a large valley. Neither side wants to risk their army to a charge. So Goliath, champion of the Philistines, is sent down to challenge any Israelite to single combat. No champion emerges from the other side, and Goliath returns and issues his challenge daily for the next 40 days. Eventually David turns up, knocks Goliath out with a single shot, slays him and wins the war.
David, then, is seen as the hero, for his giant-killing abilities. A young, inexperienced man can win a decisive victory over a militaristic regime with a bit of intelligence and some well thought-out tactics.
Tom Gauld takes a different view on the story though. In Goliath he looks at the story from the giant’s point of view.
In Gauld’s version, Goliath isn’t really a giant, just a very tall man. He isn’t champion of the Philistines either, just someone who’s been chosen to look imposing in fancy armour. Goliath is barely even a soldier: he’d rather do admin and book-keeping than go out on patrol.
However, when a Philistine Captain goes to his king with a plan to end the stalemate once and for all, Goliath is chosen to play the part. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Gauld’s art and dialogue are infused with gentle humour. His Goliath is a gentle giant, bewildered by his orders but following them anyway. The scenery is sparse and the characters simply drawn, but everything is infused with an intense depth of character.
It’s a neat, simple, beautiful book. It’s not a long read, not least of all because dialogue is sparse and to the point. However, it’s a masterpiece of understated complexity. Below its simple appearance is a tidal wave of thought-provoking magic. This is one of those books that will touch you as you read it, then stay with you for a long time afterwards.