PodCastle Miniature 002: Giant

By Stephanie Burgis
Read by Jonathan Sullivan.
Outro by Ann Leckie.
First appeared in Lone Star Stories, 2004 (full text at link).

A few words on “Giant,” from Associate Editor Ann Leckie:

Today’s story is a riff on the classic trope of The Giant Who Had No Heart which you can take a gander at on wikipedia, if you happen to be unfamiliar.

Nearly every culture has fairy tales, and many of them are strikingly similar to tales told by other, very distant peoples.  That may be the long process of transmission between different groups, stories passed along in a game of telephone thousands of years long, or it may be that fairy tales spring from, and engage, something basic in human psychology. It’s hard to say, really.

The tales themselves are stripped down, very concise and economical. Close-in examination of a character’s psyche, or even more than rudimentary character development, doesn’t exist in fairy tales. Even in stories with little or no magic, strange things happen with no obvious reasons, let alone explanation. We may hear of beautiful maidens, perhaps even with hair of ebony or flax, shining dresses of gold or silver, mountains of glass–but without much in the way of detail.

And good and evil are clearly marked. We know which is which–one sister speaks, and jewels fall out of her mouth. The other utters toads. There are no qualifications, no mitigating circumstances, no shades of gray. It’s all very straightforward.

Today’s story is “Giant” by Stephanie Burgis. It plays on a tale that’s very popular, one that, like most fairy tales, has plenty of variants. It’s the story of the ogre who’s hidden his heart–or sometimes his soul–in an unlikely and hard to reach place. His vulnerability is in an iron box at the bottom of the sea. Or in an egg in the mouth of a fish inside a crow that came from a deer. Or else he can only be killed in very specific, very unlikely circumstances. But once the secret is known, he’s vulnerable.

What does it mean to have to hide one’s heart? To never be able to trust anyone — even one’s own beloved — with the secrets of one’s own existence? To always have to protect your heart from those closest to you within the egg, inside the crow that came from the deer?

But, of course, since we’re talking fairy tales, the ogre must be evil. Surely. Surely, he must deserve his fate.

I’ve hidden my heart in an egg, in a box, in a well at the end of the world. My father taught me that trick a long time ago.

If I’d kept my heart, I would be in trouble now. This princess is too beautiful.

Rated G. Contains a heart, once carefully hidden.

Why PodCastle miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brevity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.

 Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

  del.icio.us this!

16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    kwandongbrian said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 7:15 am

    I’m sure this is a great story but what happened to:
    Bonus Flash – April 18: “Pahwahke” by Gord Sellar ?

  2. 2

    Rachel said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 9:51 am

    It’ll air in a couple weeks.

  3. 3

    David said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

    Really beautiful story. Hoping to hear more soon…

  4. 4

    life lemons said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

    This was an amazing story. The giant was a typical teenager. I don’t agree with my father, so I’m going to do the opposite of him even if it gets me killed.

    Over all it was very entertaining. I kept thinking fee-fi-fo-fum! Throughout the whole story.

  5. 5

    scatterbrain said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

    I enjoyed it but where’s Pahwahke?

  6. 6

    Ann said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

    see comment number 2. 🙂

  7. 7

    Joe Arndt said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

    Personally, I feel cheated by the ending. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a more conclusive result to a flash fiction piece. Rather than spark my imagination as to what might have happened, I’m left with a rather sour taste in my mouth. Yes, the story up to the point where time ran out was good, but even another sentence or two could have gotten a little more wrapping up done. Mmmm.. overall, I give this story a B-.

  8. 8

    Living the Fictional Dream » Link Me Up said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 9:22 am

    […] “Giant” by Stephanie Burgis — A flash piece that looks at a subset of fairy tales (princess-stealing giants) from the giant’s point of view. […]

  9. 9

    Giant « Writing Every Day said,

    July 21, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

    […] and fill in the gaps. For example, when I heard “Giant,” by Stephanie Burgis on PodCastle, I recognized the narrator as a cousin of the giant from Jack and Beanstalk or one of many wizards […]

  10. 10

    Hyperion said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 3:10 am

    This is the best story narration in 15 stories I have yet heard on your site. I thought nothing would top the postal service girl, but you got to me. Narration totally made a solid but conventional story.

  11. 11

    Gregory said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

    Very good post! Thank you for the work done!

  12. 12

    romonoeroetoko said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    Hm that sounds good but I would like to know more details.

  13. 13

    romonoeroetoko said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Your news is a cool stuff man, keep it going.

  14. 14

    amenodimeno said,

    July 31, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    That’s good man, keep it going.

  15. 15

    amenodimeno said,

    August 5, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

    Good story for me but please more details.

  16. 16

    queroeropoo said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

    Good information to me.

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