Storytime Friday: The Giant Who Had No Heart, Part 3
NOTE: I mentioned in my last post that this would be the conclusion of our story. Unfortunately I vastly underestemated the amount of story there was left. To clarify: this is my longest post in the series, and I still haven’t gotten to the end. However I can say that next Friday will be the conclusion for certian!
The Giant Who Had No Heart, Part 3
The Wolf took Askeladen into one of the mountain’s craggy valleys, and they did not travel far before they came to the door of the giant’s castle. The castle itself was not built of stone bricks and mortar like most castles made by man, but instead was solid stone carved out of the face of the mountain. It was hard to tell where the castle ended and the mountain began, and it was not surprising that Askeladen’s brothers had failed to see it from the road. The most obvious sign of it was the door, which was a slab of solid rock carved words in Old Giantish, which nobody can read today and few could understand even then. Leading up to the doorway were five massive stone steps, so large that the wolf had to get a running start to leap over each one. It was there that the wolf left Askeladen.
“Here you are, here you are! The princess is inside. I will go hide in the woods now; but if you need me just whistle three times and I’ll be here as quick as the wind!” Before Askeladen could protest the wolf had leaped down the stairs and ran out of sight, moving at incredible speed. Askeladen found himself alone, and unsure.
“Well this is a fine spot I’m in;” he said to himself. “I suppose there’s nothing for it but go inside. Still, I hope the wolf was right about the giant not being at home. But how will I get his great door open anyway?” It was a good question, for the door was far too large and heavy for Askeladen to ever hope to move by himself. All was not lost though, for when Askeladen looked closer he saw that the door was open a little, and though the opening would only have been only a small crack for a giant it was more than wide enough for Askeladen to squeeze through. Still, Askeladen hesitated; though he was determined to save his brothers, I must say that he was very afraid (as any wise man would be before entering a giant’s home). Still he knew that he couldn’t stay on the doorstop forever. “Better to be caught and eaten in the castle while trying to rescue my brothers than caught and eaten on the doorstep shivering like a coward.” He said to himself, and with that in mind he entered the castle.
Beyond the door was a short front hall; short to a giant that is, but to Askeladen it was long indeed and the ceiling was many times higher than his own head. The floor was bare and the light dim, and Askeladen made his way through it as quietly as possible. At the far end was an open doorway, and beyond it glowed flickering orange firelight. Askeladen peeked his head into the doorway, and saw a large chamber beyond. It was a circular room, and sunken into the far wall was a large hearth with several great logs burning away, filling the room with warmth and light. In the center of the room stood a round wooden table, and a bed sat along the wall. There were several great wooden chests, and a wooden dresser that was likely filled with giantish clothes. All of it, of course, was giant sized. Way up high, on top of the wooden table, stood the princess. She was busy setting out the table for dinner, dragging a plate that was almost as big as she was next to a trident sized fork. She was so busy that she didn’t notice Askeladen peeking in, and Askeladen found her so beautiful that he could say nothing for a quite some time. Her hair was long and brown and slightly curly, and though she was wearing a dirty patchwork dress she was still a vision of loveliness to Askeladen’s eyes. He determined then and there that he would do anything to rescue her.
He stepped out into the room then, and when the princess saw him she gasped, and dropped the plate, she was so surprised. “Good heavens!” she said. “Who are you, and what’s brought you out here to this horrible place? Don’t you know that this is a giant’s castle?!” So Askeladen climbed up the table leg and sat and told her all about his long journey, his brothers fate, and how he must slay the giant and save them or his father would die of grief. “Well,” she said, “that’s very touching, and you must be brave. But it’s sure to be the death of you! No one can slay the giant, because he doesn’t have any heart. He used a spell to rip it out long ago, and now he’s as immortal as the mountains.” She looked at him with great concern and a little fear in her eyes, for she found him very handsome, if a bit foolish, and didn’t want him to be eaten or turned to stone.
Askeladen sighed, and was beginning to believe that his quest was hopeless. Still, he couldn’t leave his brothers as statues, and he certainly couldn’t leave the princess behind. He was already beginning to fall helplessly in love with her. So despite his fears he said “Well that may be, but since I came all the way out here I suppose I’d better try my strength anyway.” He looked into her eyes. “I must try to save my brothers, and I will try to save you as well, princess.”
Her heart softened at that. Though she hardly knew it she was beginning to fall in love with him as well. “Well, since you won’t go home, we’ll just have to try the best we can. Now listen! The giant will be home soon; hide under the bed and stay as quiet as can be. Listen well to what he says when I speak with him; I think I may have a plan.” So Askeladen hid himself under the giant’s bed, trying very hard not to sneeze from all the dust. The princess went back to setting the table, and she had just put out the giant’s food when Askeladen heard the great stone door creak open and then slam shut with a thunderous crack. The giant was home, and with footsteps like falling logs he came into the room.
The giant threw himself down in a huge wooden chair at the table, and stretched his arms out with a great yawn. “Aaaaaagh! What a day I have had, going to and fro, eating my fill of all living things and turning the rest to stone.” Suddenly he sniffed the air, and wrinkled his nose. “Ugh!” he shouted in a roar that almost made Askeladen to jump in fear, though he remembered himself and stayed still. “Where’s that terrible smell of man’s blood coming from?!” continued the giant.
“Oh, doesn’t it stink?” said the princess. “A magpie flew over the castle this morning with a man’s bone and dropped it down the chimney. I threw it out as quickly as I could, but the smell does linger, doesn’t it?”
So the giant said nothing more about it and they had a quiet supper together. Finally, when evening came on, the giant went to his bed (causing Askeladen some fear as the bed sunk under his weight). The princess had her own little bed at the foot of the giant’s, and after they had lain under the covers for a while the princess said “There was something I very much wanted to ask you, if I dare.”
The giant stirred, and replied “Really? Well, what is it?”
“I was just wondering…wondering if you could tell me where your heart is, since you don’t carry it with you like everyone else.”
The giant was silent for almost a full minute, and Askeladen was afraid that he was about to get up and turn her to stone for asking such a question. But soon the giant yawned and said “Oh, that’s not something you need worry yourself about. If you must know, I keep it right under the front step. Now stop your silly questions and let me sleep.” Soon the giant was snoring away with a sound like a storm, but Askeladen was pleased. We’ll just see if we can’t find his heart, he thought to himself, and slowly went to sleep.
When morning came the giant awoke, dressed, and then went on his way to wander the woods. When he had been gone for some time Askeladen came out from his hiding spot, and he and the princess went out the front door and started searching for the heart. The slab that made the front step was far too large for them to move, but Askeladen found that by doing a little digging he could work his way underneath it from the sides. He and the princess dug and searched all day long, but they couldn’t find any trace of the giant’s heart. When they saw that the sun was getting low they filled in their holes and Askeladen went inside and hid. The princess however went out and picked the prettiest wildflowers she could find, and then strew them about the entire front step. Then she went in and prepared the giant’s supper.
When the giant returned that day it was the same as before. He yawned, stretched, and then wrinkled his nose. “Fie! It still reeks of man’s blood in here!”
The princess said “Oh yes, just horrible! That magpie came back again today with another man’s bone and dropped it down the chimney. I got it out as quick as I could, but the smell does linger.”
The giant grumbled some, but then said no more until he had finished eating. Then he leaned back and said, with a voice like falling boulders, “Who threw all those flowers over the front step?” The princess replied “I did, of course! You know I am so found of you, and I couldn’t help but do it when I learned your heart was lying under there.”
The giant stroked his chin, and looked pleased. “Of course, or course, that makes sense. But I was just teasing you girl. I wouldn’t keep my heart under the front step. How ridiculous!” The princess said nothing, but waited. When they had gone to bed that evening, and the giant was almost asleep, she asked him “If your heart isn’t under the front step then where is it? I really would like to know.” The giant yawned and said sleepily “Oh, it’s in the wooden chest, under all my odds and ends. Now go to sleep.”
The next day after the giant had left Askeladen and the princess opened up the great wooden chest and began to search it. The chest was full of odd things; giant wooden toys, statues, strange rocks, bits of fur, and a rusty iron clock that appeared to be broken. But when they’d searched it from top to bottom they still hadn’t found the giant’s heart. “I was afraid of that,” said the princess, “especially after he fooled us yesterday.” So while Askeladen put everything back where it was, she went out and picked more flowers, and began to twist many of them into beautiful garlands. Then she strew the flowers and garlands on the chest, and they waited for the giant to return.
When the giant returned, and stretched, he wrinkled his nose again. “Stones and bones! That man blood stench is worse than ever before!”
The princess nodded. “Isn’t it terrible? That magpie came back again and dropped another bone down the chimney! I threw it away as quick as I could, but the smell just stays in the air, doesn’t it?”
The giant grumbled and said “I think I’ll have to find that magpie, and teach it a lesson tomorrow.” After they finished eating supper the giant saw the flowers on his wooden chest and asked “Who did this?” The princess replied “I did, of course!”
The giant grumbled. “What’s the meaning of all this silly mess!” The princess looked very meek, and said “Well you know how much I care for you, and I couldn’t help but do it when I found out that your heart was in there.”
The giant snorted and said “How can you be foolish enough to believe that I’d actually keep my heart in that chest? Silly girl!” Now the princess folded her arms and looked quite exasperated. “Well how can I not believe it when you say it is so? I trust you so much. Besides, I want to go and lay flowers on your heart more than anything!” The giant laughed, saying “Such a foolish girl. You can never go where my heart is, it’s impossible!”
Then the princess looked so sad and meek that the giant stopped laughing. She quietly said to him “Oh. That makes me very sad, that I’ll never get to place flowers there to honor your heart. But I would like to know where it is, if I can, so that I can dream about it at least.”
Now the giant heart did not grow soft (for after all, he had taken it out long ago) but in order to keep the princess from asking any longer he said “Alright, I’ll tell you where it is, but you must never try to go there. Far, far away there is a lake, and in the middle of that lake is an island. On that island stands a church, and in that church there is a well, and in that well there swims a duck, and in that duck there is an egg, and inside that egg—that’s where my heart lies. Now I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
So the next day, after the giant had left, Askeladen and the princess made their plans. “I think he’s telling the truth,” said the princess. “Well then,” said Askeladen, “ I’d better go and find it. I only wish I knew where the lake was! Still, it’s a start.”
Before Askeladen left the princess hugged him tightly, and said “Be careful! If the giant finds you searching for his heart he’s sure to eat you up or turn you to stone!” Askeladen patted her on the back, kissed her forehead, and told her that he would stay safe and sound. Then he stood on the front step and whistled three times. As quick as the wind the wolf leaped up the steps, and Askeladen rode him into the woods, in search of the giant’s heart.
End of Part 3
Will Askeladen find the heart? And even if he does, can he escape the giant’s wrath? Come back next week for the thrilling conclusion!