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16 May 2013 @ 02:54 pm
LJ Idol Exhibit B: "How The Mighty Are Fallen"  
How The Mighty Are Fallen
Lj Idol Exhibit B | week 1 | 1257 words
You Gave Everything You Possibly Could (an intersection with that talented duo, thegrimms, whose excellent entry can be found here).

x-x-x-x-x

Once, I walked among the clouds. My footsteps shook the heavens, but for all my size, some merciful magic held me aloft. My castle and I were suspended far above the ground, blanketed in the soft quiet of mist and unseen and unknown to those below.

Once, I was a proud and wealthy man.

~*~

In years past, we giants lived on the earth below, in a land befitting our immensity. We roamed high mountains and strode through streams that ran ribbon-like through vast green valleys. The larger animals feared us, for we often ate them. Our appetites were large, as were we.

We lived in harmony then with the smaller men in nearby lands, but they grew envious of our strength and prosperity. One dark night, a powerful wizard came and performed an enchantment that changed our lives forever. He broke the giants' realm free from the very ground itself and sent us floating off into the open sky.

Our lands were something like an island in the air then, and gathered their own weather above and below. We drifted, losing all connection to the world beneath us. With time, we forgot much of where we came from. Over the passing years, the world we left behind might have forgotten us as well.

We still had our skills and trades. I was a builder like my father before me. My services were in high demand, and my earnings amounted to a small fortune. I built much of the nearby village, but none of the shops or houses was as grand as the castle I created for myself.

That castle never gleamed so brightly as the day I brought home the merchant's daughter as my wife. Elspeth was a good, kind woman with a tender heart, and I was brimful of happiness over the years we would have together.

Our storerooms were filled with the gold I'd earned and the goods bartered for my services. Elspeth had a fine hand at gardening and weaving, and added in her share of food and linen. Had her belly been as abundant as our larder, we might have been so fortunate as to have a child.

Still, from time to time, things would disappear: a cherished sword given in payment by a blacksmith; a jeweled carafe carefully handed down via legacy from my mother's family line. Even the tiny, chestnut-colored horse I loved to watch run through our meadows simply vanished overnight.

I barred the doors against thieves and took to inspecting my treasures and counting all my gold every day. Elspeth wearied of my tedious rituals, but they were not in vain: our riches remained our own.

One hot summer morning, I visited the butcher to discuss plans for building him a new fence. When I came home, I noticed a strange sense about the place, an odor of something I almost remembered:

It smelled like Human.

"Wife, someone is hiding in our house," I said.

"Nonsense. Your hunger is preying upon your imagination."

Elspeth brought me a good meal, but my heart was not at ease. I counted my gold again and again, certain that some of it was missing. Yet it was there, every piece of it. I pondered until my head grew heavy with sleep.

When I awoke, the gold was gone. I thought Elspeth might have tidied it away, but my search of the storeroom yielded nothing. "Wife, where is my gold?"

"I have no notion."

I searched the castle from cellar to rafters but found nothing. The gold was gone.

I grumbled and grumbled, swearing vigilance once more. Indeed, I had scarcely returned from the goldsmith's shop one morning when I sensed the same disruption as before.

"Wife, something smells of man."

"Don't be silly," Elspeth said. "Have something to eat."

Perhaps she was right, but I could not rid myself of worry over my treasures. Among them was a sweet little hen I had freed from the jaws of a fox. Fearing she would not survive, I brought her home to Elspeth, who made her a bed by the fire that the heat might heal her. The little hen was more blessed than we knew, for she laid two golden eggs the next afternoon. I longed to see what might hatch from them, but they were gold through and through. I collected the eggs instead, often taking them to the goldsmith to be fashioned into something new.

"Wife, fetch me my hen."

The little hen strutted around the table, laying eggs when I so demanded. The eggs were as golden as ever, assuring that she was indeed my own magic hen. I leaned my head on my arms to watch her proud perambulations, and went to sleep soon thereafter.

I woke to the cackling of the hen, but she was gone. No amount of inquiry or entreaties would help.

Surely, a thief was at work! I added bolts to the doors and windows, and vowed to keep all my riches close at hand.

The leaves were turning flame-colored and brown when I came home from the market one morning and again noticed that misplaced odor. My temper bested me, and I bellowed of Englishmen and how violently I would eat them. I was not honest in using those words, but a threat in half-measures is no threat at all.

Elspeth had cooked a good breakfast, yet I ate inattentively. I stopped again and again to check the small places a Human might hide, but found them empty. Nonetheless, I grew more fretful with each passing minute.

"Wife, fetch me my harp," I said. The goldsmith had created the harp from the hen's golden eggs, and it carried a magic of its own: it could sing, with no musician at all to play it. Such large fingers as mine could not pluck the strings of so delicate an instrument. For a giant, a harp that made its own music was a wondrous gift indeed.

"Play, harp, play," I said. The harp began a lovely tune, one that soon helped me find my rest.

I woke to the cries of the harp: "Master! Master!" I saw only Elspeth at first, her hand curved around her belly and a look of immeasurable sorrow on her face as she gazed toward the door. Beyond it, I glimpsed a small figure running out into the sun. It was a human boy, my harp held fast in his arms as he fled my castle with all measure of haste.

I gave chase, following the boy out across the hind meadow to the brink of a hole in the adjoining clouds. The greenest, thickest plant-stalk imaginable was peeking up from that hole through the clouds. The boy leaped onto it and quickly scrambled out of sight.

The stalk shook and swayed as I climbed after him. I gave no thought to my own safety, only to the importance of not letting the boy get away with my beloved harp.

Then, with a great crack, the stalk shifted and suddenly began to fall.

I had thought that young thief had already stolen everything that was dear to me—my hen, my harp, and even the loyal affections of my wife. But with the ground fast approaching, I realized there was still something left that I could not bear to lose.

All of my riches and treasures were as nothing against life itself. The boy was taking the very blood and breath from me now, and all of my days yet to come.




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medleymistymedleymisty on May 16th, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, nice.

I have to admit to wondering how a female giant and a male human mated. ;)

I liked this quite a bit, and it was awesome seeing the giant's point of view. I think you did a good job of keeping up the fairy tale vibe.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 17th, 2013 04:39 am (UTC)
Wait. The male is also a giant. The only human is the boy, Jack!

Otherwise, there would definitely be that chihuahua/Great Dane conflict in any romancing.

I'm sorry the other half of the intersection isn't up yet, but the difference in these versions of that fairy tale are matched: the 'guilty party' is definitely flipped. We thought that would be kind of fun. :)
(no subject) - medleymisty on May 17th, 2013 05:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 17th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cheshire23 on May 22nd, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 23rd, 2013 03:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
Myrnamyrna_bird on May 17th, 2013 01:55 am (UTC)
I feel badly for the giant in your version of the classic fairy tale. Nice going!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 17th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
We decided to retell this story with the roles of villain and victim reversed.

The earliest version of Jack and the Beanstalk does not have Jack "stealing back" his family's treasures. That was added later as justification for Jack's thieving and murdering. So, this isn't as much of a stretch as it might seem!
tatdatcmtatdatcm on May 17th, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
Nice to see the Giant's point of view. I liked the feel of this. I caught on very quickly that it was Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 17th, 2013 04:42 am (UTC)
I'm glad the retold story was evident so early on. I'd hoped to make that clear to readers without clubbing them over the head with it, so that was good to hear!

It was fun to write a slightly skewed version of this classic tale. :)
cindytsuki_no_bara on May 18th, 2013 03:33 am (UTC)
i like that this is from the giant's pov, and the backstory about the giants becoming untethered from earth is really neat. (you never get worldbuilding and backstory like that in fairy tales.) you actually feel some sympathy for the giant.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 18th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the backstory! As soon as I considered where the giant lived, the first question that came to mind was, "Why? And how?"

Our goal here in telling this was to take the approach that Jack actually was a thief, and that his side of the story wasn't true at all (which actually matches the earliest version of the story). With that shift, the giant's just minding his own business, and his precious things are being taken, no matter what he does to try to stop it. That was actually a fun story to work through!
Desireex_disturbed_x on May 18th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
I love fairy tales even if they aren't quite happy. ;)

I do feel quite sorry for the giant. I hope the other part is up soon. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 18th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
Really, even in the original tale, the loss of his possessions and final glimpse of the beanstalk and the thief must have been perplexing. What brought all of that on?
Witchdollie: happywitchdollie on May 19th, 2013 07:58 am (UTC)
I really really love this. Such a different take on it. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
Thank you! I haven't done an actual fairytale for Idol before (I did a pseudo-fable in S8), and working the character in a slightly different way was a fun challenge.

Plus, covering some of the 'holes' in the story. ;)
☾witches on May 20th, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
Jack and the Beanstalk is one of my favourite fairytales 8D This is awesome and I really enjoyed your take on it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I've read several versions of it over the years, and the variances are interesting. But writing the giant's POV, with this twist, was a new and fun challenge!
rhondapalooza_rabidwombat_ on May 21st, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I loved this! And very well written. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 21st, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I hadn't done a fairy tale before, and doing a new take on one was a neat challenge.
when all you know seems so far awaypoppetawoppet on May 22nd, 2013 12:28 am (UTC)
well that no good cow selling beanstalk climbing thief!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
Exactly!

Reading up on the details of this fairytale, it turns out that the earliest version of it HAS Jack as just a thief. Someone followed that up with a later version of, "But wait! The giant stole those things from your father!" to justify Jack's thieving and, um, murderous ways.

Apparently, simply hating on giants for being giants was not sufficient. It's almost forward-thinking. Or something. :O
Vice Captain of the Universesweeny_todd on May 22nd, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
I have so much sympathy with the giant! so well done... *sniffle*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
Yay! Thank you so much!
whipchickwhipchick on May 22nd, 2013 08:45 am (UTC)
Love that we both did fairy tales reversed this week! You made such a lovely pathos with the giant - I really liked him. What I most enjoyed was how all the objects, which we usually think, "oh, greedy giant lots of gold" each became significant and sentimentally meaningful.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
That's true-- though yours was updated, and with a really neat twist!

The first published version of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale just has Jack randomly stealing things from the giant-- they possibly WERE the giant's actual possessions.

But the "where did they come from" is never described in the original (or why the giant lives in the clouds), and I thought it would be interesting to have each of the giant's possessions be special to him for reasons other than just that they are gold. The little horse that I added-- how could he not be fascinated by it?
n3m3sis43n3m3sis43 on May 22nd, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed your take on this story. Poor giant! Although your reasoning for his wife's treachery was understandable, too. Poor everyone except Jack, who really felt like the villain in this piece.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
Yay! Jack is the villain, simply for being a thief. The killing of the giant was really in self-defense (though if he hadn't stolen the giant's treasures...)
fourzoasfourzoas on May 22nd, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
This was really fantastic--great intersection overall!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked both halves of it. :)
Jenjennickels on May 22nd, 2013 04:21 pm (UTC)
I love this retelling of a classic fairy tale. So vivid. And I liked to see the giant's POV and how Jack was the bad guy. Great story. Very well told.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, your choice of "vivid" makes me very happy. I like to get into the characters' settings, and there were a lot of things alluded to in the giant's side of the tail that were never fully explored. This was a terrific opportunity to do that.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Castle in the Cloudsroina_arwen on May 22nd, 2013 04:46 pm (UTC)
An interesting take on the Jack & The Beanstalk tale. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 22nd, 2013 07:56 pm (UTC)
AGAIN with the perfect icon! Now, what the castle is doing up there nobody ever explained. But I've always loved the imagery. :D
(no subject) - roina_arwen on May 22nd, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)