27th December

Jack and the Giant

Jack was no longer a young man. One day he was walking through a forest when he met Death. It was years since they’d last met. She’d changed. She linked arms with Jack and they ambled together along the path for a while, then embraced and parted.

There was a blue door in a red stone wall. Jack went through it.

A gentle, broad, grassy slope led towards a magnificent palace gleaming in the sunshine. The gate was open so in he went. It was the palace of a giant, who came down the marble steps to greet him.

‘Jack! Good to see you! In you come. I’ll show you to your room. Anything you want, Jack, it’s yours.’

Everything about the palace is beautiful, from its ornate galleries to its cool fountains, from the sweet background music to the tables laden with fine food. Jack is impressed, but it bothers him that the place is almost empty: all this wealth and luxury shared by just a handful of folk, each looking down his nose at the others, and at Jack too.

Jack seeks out his genial host.

‘Where is everybody?’ he asks.

‘Why, everybody’s here, Jack,’ the giant says.

‘Naw, naw,’ says Jack. ‘Where’s aw the ither folk?’

‘Who do you mean?’

‘Folk like masel,’ Jack says. ‘Is onybody allowed in here?’

‘Not just anybody,’ the giant says. ‘You have to sit a kind of exam.’

‘Weel, I never sat an exam in ma life,’ says Jack, ‘so how am I here?’

‘You don’t really know you’re sitting it at the time,’ the giant says. ‘Only I know.’

‘And whit dae ye hae tae dae tae pass this exam?’

‘Would you like one of these lovely peaches?’ the giant asks.

‘Thanks,’ says Jack, ‘but if ye dinna mind, I’ll just step oot for some fresh air.’

‘I don’t mind, Jack, but if you go out you won’t be let back in. It’s very nice here. Where will you go?’

‘I’ll keep walking, and see whit happens.’

‘But nothing might happen, Jack.’

‘That’s true,’ says Jack, ‘but I’d rather find oot for masel.’

And he passes through the gleaming gate, and continues up the hill.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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