In a quiet town in a faraway land, there was a huge stone statue of a griffin above the church door. It differed from most representations of the griffin. Its large mouth had savage teeth. Its wings had sharp hooks and prongs. It had stout front legs, but the posterior region of its body was a serpentine tail.
A real live griffin somehow heard about this sculpture. Since the griffin did not know how he looked, his curiosity was aroused. He flew from his home in the wilds and landed in the outskirts of the town.
All the citizens of the town were afraid and ran away. The griffin became angry, and the physical effect of his rage was a drastic elevation in the temperature of his tail. It became red hot.
When the griffin saw two laborers, he angrily said: “Doesn’t anyone in this town have enough courage to speak to me?” The laborers suggested the minor canon, who was accustomed to do difficult chores for the townspeople.
When summoned by the griffin, the minor canon was indeed afraid. However, for the sake of his fellow citizens, he bravely responded to the summons of the griffin.
The griffin explained that he wanted to see the stone image above the church. He asked the minor canon to lead him to the church where it was located. The minor canon wanted to explain the griffin’s pacific intentions to the people before bringing the griffin into town. Therefore, he pointed out that it was late and it would be difficult to see the sculpture clearly. He suggested that the griffin rest until morning.
While the griffin rested, the minor canon assured the people that the griffin was not going to harm anyone. It only wanted to view the sculpture.
The people criticized the minor canon for agreeing to bring the griffin into town. They decided to destroy the sculpture so that the griffin would leave.
The minor canon pointed out that this would enrage the griffin, but the people did not listen. So the minor canon stood before the church door all night and chased away anyone who tried to destroy the sculpture.
The next morning, when the minor canon showed the sculpture to the griffin, it was pleased. It looked at the sculpture all day, and the minor canon remained at its side.
At the end of the day, the minor canon was hungry and suggested that they eat. The griffin said that it only ate at the time of the vernal and autumnal equinox. He told the minor canon to go and eat if he was hungry. Meanwhile, the griffin went outside the town to sleep.
Many people had left town because they feared the griffin, including all the clergy except the minor canon. Those who remained were glad to hear about the griffin’s eating habits, since many days would pass before the time of the autumnal equinox.
On successive days, the griffin returned to look at the sculpture. The minor canon did not stay with him all the time because he had a lot of duties to do, such as teaching the more unruly boys of the town, ministering to the sick, and helping the poor.
The griffin became attached to the minor canon. It still came to the church to look at the sculpture, but it spent more and more time following the minor canon around as he did his daily duties. This proved to be a blessing when the minor canon was teaching the bad boys. Since the griffin was watching through the window, the children were well-behaved.
For the minor canon, his association with the griffin proved to be edifying. The griffin had lived for many centuries and had seen many things, so the minor canon learned a lot about the world in which he lived.
As the equinox approached, the people became restless. They noticed that the griffin had become fond of the minor canon. They told him to leave town and go to the wilds so that the griffin would follow him.
For the sake of the people, the minor canon packed up and left town. The griffin did not follow him, but it decided to do the work of the minor canon until he returned. When it taught the bad boys, their learning ability improved dramatically. When it ministered to the sick, all the malingerers suddenly got better. For those who were really sick, the griffin proved to be a competent doctor. It gave them herbal medicine, and most of them recovered. When it endeavored to help the poor, it found that no one was poor any more. Since they were afraid of the griffin, they all started working.
Shortly before the equinox, the townspeople offered to prepare an excellent meal for the griffin. In reply, the griffin said that he would not eat any meal prepared by cowardly hands. It also said that it would not eat any of the people, since they were all cowards. Of all the people in town, the minor canon was the only one that it considered fit to eat.
An old man then said that he wished that they had not sent the minor canon away. The griffin became angry and demanded an explanation, so the old man had to tell exactly what they had done.
The griffin became so angry that it had to fly to a stream and cool its tail. Then it returned to town and summoned the citizens. It scolded them for their treatment of the minor canon, who had always labored for their good. It told them that it was going to bring the minor canon back to town. It commanded the people to give him the chief position in the church. If they failed to follow these instructions, dire consequences would result.
The griffin removed the sculpture from above the door of the church and took it home. Then it found the minor canon. Since he was half starved, it strengthened him with herbs. Then it brought him to the outskirts of town and flew back home.
The people faithfully followed the instructions of the griffin. They did everything possible to make life pleasant for the minor canon, who now became the leading clergyman of their church. He eventually became bishop.
In the meantime, the griffin starved to death. Out of indignation over the treatment that the minor canon had suffered, it decided not to eat him. As a true gourmet, it refused to eat any inferior fare.
To write this summary, I consulted an online version presented by Project Gutenberg.
Project Gutenberg: Short Stories