The Stone Giant, contributed by Marilyn McPhie
Long, long ago there was a giant who lived in a cave in the hills of northern Scotland. When I say that he lived in a cave, that is the absolute truth. The giant had always known that he could not leave the cave – at least during the daytime – for it had been prophesied when he was young that if the sun’s rays ever were to shine on him, it would mean grave danger, perhaps even death.
The giant had a servant, a man who had wandered into the cave to seek shelter during a storm and had been captured by the giant and prevented from leaving – except on short errands. The giant would send him to the market every week and on other errands to fetch things the giant needed or thought he needed, but dire threats prevented the servant from daring to make an escape.
In fact, this servant was only the latest in a succession of prisoner servants. Over the centuries, there had been many. The giant was always on the lookout for such folks – hapless people who were hunting on the mountain and became lost, even the occasional curious person who had heard tales of the giant and wanted to see for himself. Each servant would do the giant’s bidding for a time, but they never lasted long. Sometimes they would anger the giant and he would kill them. Very occasionally one would escape. And it must also be said that the giant was always very hungry, and sometimes he would simply eat his servant. Usually, however, they simply died a natural death. Since giants live for hundreds of years, the humans would always die eventually, and the giant would have to find another servant.
One night, the servant heard the giant talking in his sleep – and what he was saying was that he was planning to eat his servant the next morning. The servant had always hoped for an opportunity to escape, and now he knew that he’d have to act quickly if he were to save his own life.
That very night, while the giant was still snoring away and before the giant would wake and demand breakfast, the servant sneaked out of the cave. He took with him three things – the golden comb which the giant used to comb his long beard, the whetstone which the giant used to sharpen his axe, and a bottle of water.
He had a good head start, but finally the giant awoke, discovered that his servant was gone, and gave chase.
Soon the servant realized that the giant was chasing him. The heavy footsteps shook the ground, and the giant’s roar could be heard even miles away. The servant looked over his shoulder and saw the giant, coming closer and closer. He threw the golden comb behind him, and instantly it grew into a thick forest – with trees so large and close together that the giant had to stop. However, the giant was not completely thwarted, for his teeth were made of iron. He began to gnaw on the trunks of the trees, felling one tree after another, until he had cleared a path through the forest, and he was again gaining on the servant.
When the giant came close a second time, the servant threw the whetstone behind him, and it instantly turned into a mountain, so tall and wide that the giant had to stop again.. But the giant hammered at the mountain with his iron fists, and soon it was nothing but a pile of rubble. The pursuit continued.
When the giant came in sight again, the servant threw down the bottle of water, and an vast lake appeared. The giant stopped and began to drink the water of the lake. The servant knew full well that the giant’s stomach could hold a great amount of water, all of the water of the lake and more, and he feared for his life.
However, just as the giant was drinking the last of the water, the sun rose over the mountain. When the morning rays of the sun fell upon the giant, he simply turned to stone.
It is said that all that remains of the terrible giant is a tall standing stone. But which standing stone is it exactly? This story is said to come from Scotland, but similar stories are told in England, Ireland, Wales – and even Norway. And standing stones are found in all of those areas. So we cannot be absolutely sure, but whenever and wherever you see a standing stone, look closely. Does it resemble an ancient giant? And for safety’s sake, beware of entering unknown caves, for who knows what lurks inside?!