Giant Steps

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived an enormous giant. He was at least ten feet tall, with a mane of red hair and a beard, and is his hand he carried a mighty axe.

Every year, on the same day, at the same time, the giant would walk down from the mountains which were his home, to stand outside the castle walls and terrorise the inhabitants. “Come, send me your bravest man, and I will fight him,” the giant would shout, towering over the wall and waving his axe menacingly. “Send me someone to fight, or I will knock down your castle walls and kill everyone.” And every year the gate in the castle wall would open slowly, and, fearfully, one poor, valiant soul would walk out to face certain death. “Is this the best you can do?” the giant would laugh mockingly. The poor wretch would stand, mesmerised by the enormity of the giant and the task in hand. Not one person even managed to draw his sword, before the giant would crush them with his mighty fist, and chop them into tiny pieces with his axe.

But (and there is always a ‘but’ in stories like this) one day a young prince arrived in the town. “Why does everyone look so frightened and sad?” he asked a fellow traveller. “You haven’t seen the giant yet,” replied the traveller. “What giant?” asked the young prince, intrigued. The traveller told him the tale. “Every year, on this very day, the giant arrives and challenges the very bravest to a duel. And every year, he slays them exactly where they stand. They don’t even attempt to fight. It’s as though the giant hypnotises them.” “We’ll see about that,” said the young prince. When the giant arrived later that day, he was waiting for him. “Send me your bravest man, and I will fight him,” the giant shouted. “I am here,” said the young prince, throwing open the gate, and striding towards him.

For a moment they stood and faced each other. Although he was still a long way away from him, the young prince was instantly struck by the incredible size and shocking appearance of his opponent. But summoning up all his courage, he started to walk towards the giant, brandishing his sword, and never taking his eyes off that dreadful face with the red hair and red beard. Suddenly, he realised that as he was walking, the giant – rather than appearing larger – actually began to shrink before his very eyes. He stopped and stared. The giant was only five feet tall. He walked closer to him still, then stopped and stared. Now the giant was only two feet tall. He continued walking until he was face to face with the giant, and with each step he took, he saw the giant shrink. By now the giant was so small, that he looked up at the young prince. He was only twelve inches tall. The young prince took his sword, and plunged it into the giant’s heart. As the giant lay dying on the ground, the young prince bent down and whispered to him, “Who are you? What’s your name?”

With his dying breath, the giant replied, “My name is Fear.”

Taken from The Power of Metaphor by Michael Berman and David Brown (2004), Crown House. Note: Story adapted from Tales for Trainers by Margaret Parkin.

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