Storytime Friday: The Giant Who Had No Heart, Part 2
Here is Part 2 of The Giant Who Had No Heart. If you haven’t read Part 1 then you should do so now, or you’ll likely be a little confused. If you’re wondering what the heck Storytime Friday even is, then this is the post you’re looking for.
The Giant Who Had No Heart, Part 2
Askeladen traveled for many days in search of his brothers. Whenever he saw a farmhouse or a town he stopped and asked if they’d seen the six princes; but nobody had seen them since they had left on their quest months ago. Still Askeladen did not despair, but continued on his way. One day, as he was trying to encourage his old and tired horse to pick up the pace, he ran across a raven lying in the road and flapping its wings. The raven was so thin and weak from hunger that it could not even lift itself an inch. As Askeladen approached the raven tilted its tired head and said “Please stop, dear friend. Give me something to eat, and I will surely help you when you need it most.” Askeladen was not afraid (for the woods were full of mysterious things in those days, and it was not too strange to hear a wild animal talk like you or me) but said “I don’t have much food left, I’m afraid, and it doesn’t look like you could be much help to me.” He stopped and thought for a few moments. He only had some hard bread and cheese left in his pack, and it could be days or weeks before he could get more. Still, the bird was in a sad state and Askeladen’s heart grew soft. “Alright raven, here. I’ll give you some food.” He split his loaf of bread in half and gave it to the raven, who thanked him over and over between bites of bread. Askeladen just smiled and continued down the road, hoping he wouldn’t go hungry because of it.
A few days later Askeladen was beginning to regret his choice. The bread was all gone except for a crust, and he had only a small lump of cheese to last him after that. He came to a stream and something shining silver on the bank caught his eye. He couldn’t believe his luck; a fine long salmon had accidently leaped out of the river and was stuck on dry land! His mouth began to water as he thought about how good grilled salmon would taste to his empty belly. But as he picked the salmon up it opened its mouth and began to plead with him. “Oh, friend! I was so hungry that I leaped to catch a fly, but I missed and fell here on the dry ground. Please help me get back into the water! If you do I will help you in turn when you need it most.”
Askeladen would have laughed if he wasn’t so hungry. “What kind of help could a salmon give me? And I’m terribly hungry.” Askeladen thought for a moment, before groaning in frustration. “I may be hungry, but how can I refuse to help now that you’ve asked me? Alright fish, here you go.” And he threw the salmon back into the rushing stream. The salmon thanked him over and over before swimming downstream, but all Askeladen could do was worry about where he’d find his next meal.
Several days passed and the bread and cheese were long gone. Askeladen was in the deep woods now and he feared that he would surely starve to death if he didn’t find food soon. Even his old horse was weak and slow because there was hardly any grass for it in the shady woods. Suddenly Askeladen saw something move in the undergrowth. It came closer, and he saw that it was a thin wolf, so weak and hungry that it could only drag itself along the forest floor. When his horse saw the wolf it panicked, and was so scared that it’s old weak heart gave out, and it collapsed right under Askeladen’s legs. The wolf moved closer, its tongue drooling eagerly, but Askeladen moved quickly and pulled out his bright steel sword. “Don’t come any closer wolf, or I’ll cut you into pieces and eat you for supper.”
The wolf stopped and whimpered, bowing its head between its paws. “Please, please, friend, friend,” it said to him, “let me eat your horse. I am so hungry I can hear the wind whistling in my empty stomach. I’ve had nothing to eat for two years!” Askeladen could believe it; the wolf’s eyes were mad with hunger, and its body looked like a skeleton with fur. But Askeladen wasn’t afraid; he was just angry. “No!” said Askeladen. “I can’t do it! First I came to a raven, and gave him practically all my food. Then I found a nice fat salmon which instead of eating for supper I had to throw back into the water. And now if that wasn’t enough a wolf scares my horse to death and leaves me with nothing to ride in the middle of this empty forest, and now you want to eat it as well? If anyone is going to eat it it’s going to be me, thank you very much!”
Still the wolf looked at him and whined and pleaded. “True, true, very true my friend but still you must help me. Give me the horse and you can ride on me instead, and I will help you whenever you need me most.”
Askeladen sighed. He sat and thought for a moment. Slowly his heart grew soft for the wolf; sure he was hungry, but the wolf was even hungrier and in a sad state indeed. Finally Askeladen stood and said “I don’t know what help you can give me, and I don’t think I’ll be able to ride a wolf so tired and weak; but I suppose you can have my horse, since you’re in such need.”
The wolf howled with glee and ate the horse up in five minutes flat, he was so hungry. And as he ate Askeladen’s mouth opened in surprise. Before his very eyes the wolf’s boney frame grew thick and strong with muscle and he grew in size and stature until he was almost as large as a horse himself! When the wolf had finished Askeladen took the horse’s old bit and placed it in the wolf’s mouth, and put the saddle on his back. The wolf smiled at him as he climbed onto his back. “Thank you, thank you, friend, my friend. Now you’ll see how good a mount I can be!” The wolf set off through the woods at an incredible speed, and Askeladen whistled in amazement as the trees whipped by. The wolf turned his head and asked him where he wanted to go, so Askeladen told him all about his quest to find his six brothers. The wolf howled triumphantly and said “Just a little farther is a giant’s castle, and I think you might find your brothers there.” The wolf doubled his speed, and Askeladen had to hold on tightly to the wolf’s fur to keep from falling off. Soon they left the forest and came to a wide stone road. In the middle of the road were twelve stone statues of six men and six women riding horses. Askeladen got off the wolf and looked closer. Sure enough they were his six brothers, each with a smiling princess, and all turned to stone. “You were right, wolf,” said Askeladen, “these are my brothers alright and it looks like they found their brides sure enough. But now that I’ve found them I’m not sure what to do. I don’t know how to break a spell, and I can’t very well carry them back home as statues.” The wolf grinned and replied “Don’t worry, worry, master, master. Just over there is the door to the giant’s castle. You must go there and slay the giant to break the spell.”
Askeladen shuddered. “I dare not. As soon as the giant sees me he’ll turn me to stone, or squash me, or eat me for supper, and then my father will surely die of grief.” The wolf just shook its head and said “Not at all, not at all! The giant isn’t home right now; he’s wandering through the woods. He spends all day walking the woods for miles, eating all the food he finds. That’s why we animals are so terribly hungry, all the time.” The wolf whimpered just remembering it. “The only one at the castle right now is the princess he keeps there to cook and clean for him. If you go to her, I’m sure she’ll tell you how to put an end to that terrible giant, yes she will, yes she will! Only,” and here the wolf looked Askeladen in the eyes “you must do just as she tells you.”
So Askeladen mounted the wolf again, and headed to the castle of the giant.
End of Part 2
Be sure to come back next friday to see what happens to Askeladen when he enters the giant’s castle.