A fable by Madhuri.
The giant was tall as to knee and huge as to elbow; and he was warty, as if someone had thrown a hundred potatoes at him, and all of them had stuck. He had no clothes – for how do you clothe someone fifteen feet tall? – but wore a poor loincloth, made of sacking, about his middle. The rest of him was bare. In the winter, how he did shiver in the blast of the north wind! He would huddle in the lee of a craggy hill and heap himself with dry grasses, and reflect upon his sorry life.
For he was a kindly giant really; but people had mocked and tormented him, simply because he looked so strange; and so he kept himself to himself, and lived upon great Bannocks he made upon a massive stone, with a fire playing upon it; and acorns that he pounded and rinsed and made into meal; and fish caught twitching from the stream.
All he wanted was a Mrs Giant that he could curl up with on a winter’s night in some dwelling they would make together; and feel the joyful melancholy of the storm. He had no tools of his own, and was too sad to dig a cave or stack a house of tree-trunks. But he fancied that with a Mrs nearby him, many things would be possible, somehow.
And, if truth be told, he also wanted to frolic with the folk of the village – to give their children rides upon his shoulders; and help the people, with his strength, in any way he could. But they drove him out with their jeers, before he had a chance to offer them anything.
All things have their equal, upon land or sea – and so there must – must have been a Mrs Giant somewhere; waiting for her man, just as he was waiting, in the hills outside the village of Ogbort Hawes; for her.
One day a dragon came flying, from far away – far over the sea – bearing a message for the giant. When the people saw the dragon streaking above them they stopped and scratched their chins and let their mouths hang open in awe: where was it going? When they saw that it was circling and then dropping down to the very hill where the giant lived – well – that was an astonishment! Their giant? Meeting with the famous dragon-messenger of a foreign king?
The King had told the dragon the right words to say unto the giant; and so, full of trepidation, and shyness, and fear, the giant left the very next day for the far King’s kingdom… for he had been invited as an honoured guest, and he did not know, even in his agony of insecurity, how to refuse.
And so he tramped over the wide land, and he swam a medium sea, from island to island; and always the dragon flew beside him, and often ranged far to find food for him, and brought it back; and the two became friends of a sort, and the giant began, just a little bit, to relax into his own skin. At night the dragon told him stories, of wondrous sights that it had seen, and it said, too, that the giant was wonderful himself – beautiful, and good, and kind; and that the King would love him.
There were not so many people then – so there were days when they saw no-one; but the people they did see respected the dragon, and so they pitied the giant, and treated him kindly – though they were tempted to think that they should be afraid.
The two stayed three weeks near the house of a woman who wove great sheets of thick cloth, and made a robe for the giant – soft and warm, with a great rope for a belt, to keep it from getting trod on by his rowboat-sized feet.
The foreign King greeted the giant with affection, and told him he could stay as long as he liked. He lent him a palace to rest in, and had made for him a great bed, with a mattress stuffed with furze and ferns and sheepswool. And the giant was warm and cozy for the first time in his life.
The King said that nothing was expected of his guest; he just liked to have the giant around. And so the giant learnt to play chess, on an enormous board, with the King; though the King had to stand upon it to move the pieces around, he said that he liked the exercise. And they had chats beside the fire, and little by little the giant began to feel that someone might love him – a little bit – somewhere; and his great chest began to creak as something opened, and a great tear rolled down the warty cheek beneath his eye. And on a sunny day he would lie out on the hillside near his castle, and all the dogs and children, the cats and birds and rabbits, would come and smell his wonderful, meaty giant-smell, a bit like dandelions that a fox had rolled amongst; and play upon him as if he were a feature of the landscape. And he would laugh a great rumbling laugh; and something in his stomach would creak open, and then another tear would fall.
But where had the giant come from?
– Long ago, before this age of man, a race of giants lived in a tropic paradise upon what is now the North Pole. We cannot believe this now – but it is so; that once that icy realm was just a shallow sea, with islands, and fishes, and many a small creature just beginning to walk or swim or fly – as well as big hulking specimens – growly, scaly, and loud. They lived there, the giants did; and they spent their days wading, sleeping, dreaming – lounging on the islands, with others of their kind; and they made a kind of music, where they blew into reeds, or clapped their huge hands while birds flew in and out of them, calling, in a kind of game. And sometimes they danced upon those islands, till the earth shook; and they were so happy that they kissed the birds when they alighted on their hands; and said loving words to the crocodiles, and petted the dinosaurs who had come down to the flats to graze. And everyone knew that the giants were kindly. So that when one died, after his life of three hundred and twenty years, a thousand thousand birds bore him up into the sky, and showed him to the sun; and then placed him lovingly upon a hilltop, for the wind and weather to do its work, and return him back from whence he’d come.
And so was there a Mrs Giant somewhere – descended from the same unlikely tribe? Oh, we hope so – but meanwhile the hurt of his early years was softly floating out of the giant, and leaving him bare and wind-brushed in other ways; though he was clothed.
And so the King, perceiving the matter – for he had his own love-affairs, oh yes he had – sent the dragon on a quest: go to the other side of the world, as far from the village of Ogbort Hawes as it was possible to get; and far from this kingdom, too – and enquire, discreetly, of everyone he met – had they, had they, heard of a lady giant anywhere?
And so the giant paused in the King’s neighbourhood, to wait; and he enjoyed much their friendship, and begged to be helpful with anything he could – and was allowed to heft the stone, and guard the gate – while more and more his crusty hide did smooth and relax and warm, and start to subside away from its calluses and potatoey lumps and dooms. And the children petted his face, and the dogs licked him – while he lay upon a hillside in humble state. Sometimes too he kissed the sky, and felt it like a romantic date -! Oh happy giant, on that hillside…
The dragon flew fast as fast over the world – looking for She; for the world is huge, and a speeding dragon can cover it better than a human messenger, or even a ship or a giant, to be sure.
And back in Ogbort Hawes, the villagers missed their giant most awfully – for he was now a celebrity, since he was not there – and since the far king loved him. And they felt that they had loved him too, and had now been wronged; he was their giant, and had always been there! And so they sent a message to the King – it took months to arrive – asking for the return of their Giant.
The dragon flew and flew… and, after many adventures, both difficult and fine, he found a place in a high mountain range where a giantess was purported to live. But when he landed on the grassy slope above the village, he was told by the people that the giantess had recently died. Her name had been Selina, and she had been beloved by the people, for the way she made the mountain shake, and thunder roar; they respected her power, and found her beautiful – with her streaming grey hair like cloud-shreds around her face, and her great limbs like the trunks of the hugest trees.
But she had just died – and, when they laid her on the mountain, helped by all birds and creatures; she melted into the stone, and became a grey shade on the side of the massif, near to where the top comes to a ragged peak.
And the dragon sat and looked upon this place; and he could see her face, and her spirit, too, upon the mountain. And then, with sorry heart, he flew the long way back to the kingdom, to bring the bitter news.
The giant… oh, the giant. When he felt strong and whole, finally he travelled across this other sea, to the land of that mountain range. And he found the face of the giantess and sat beside the long rock where she lay. And he knew that this was his electric fate or destiny – to meet this giantess, and see what they might do together… and yet that fate had been denied.
And so he closed his eyes, and felt her presence – as if she was his own inside; and yet different from him in every way. Alike – yet never the same. And he felt the way this tickled at him – and made him squirm – and yet a peace filled up his body – as if the sun and storm were meeting, and making rainbows.
He remained there for twenty years of his long life – contemplating on, assimilating – the news of this giantess whom he had never met. Until one day she chased him round, and he chased her – all inside himself – and things began to spiral and spin, and lift off, then, of this vital, Mother earth –
And the giant kissed his giantess, she who gave him birth – for he did not know if she was mother, lover, sister – just that she was She; and not like he; and yet she was. …And round and round they spun, and she alive, and he more alive than ever he had been –
And in his bliss he spun out into an orbit, turning like a star, not far away –
But melted, oh, melted – oh. The giant. See? Up there – . There he goes.