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.