Join Tim Padmore of Gearshift Theatre on a journey around the world as he tells giant stories and decides which is the giant story for our time.
Listen to him telling the story of Mkun’ga M’Bura who lives in the water and kills and eats a whole tribe and how the one surviving boy takes his revenge. Find out about friendly giants and two headed giants on Rotuma in the Pacific. Guess how a young Chuckchi man steals a wife who had been shared by the giants Tynagirgin and Gitgilin.
But which of these or other stories will he choose?
Tim will be doing a two week tour by bicycle of the ‘Giants’ performance which will take in Kendal, Lancaster, Preston, Liverpool, Manchester, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Doncaster and Hull. Tim Padmore says, ‘There are giant stories in almost every culture but, facing climate change, do they give us hope? Who are the giants? How can we overcome them?’
You can follow the tour on the Gearshift Theatre Facebook page
“In the ‘Giants’ show, Tim Padmore tells four traditional stories. He also gives audiences glimpses of five giant fables that he has written. At the end of the performance the audience has to choose which fable will be told. Here are all five giant fables and here is the information sheet that audiences had to help them to choose. This information sheet along with our publicity was designed by a talented graphic designer named Amin Ali. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to contact him”
The giants over the seas
There was once an island kingdom ruled by a wise king. He was fair to his subjects, the people worked hard and everyone prospered. The kingdom had great resources of wool and tin and its people traded in foreign lands bringing back spices and silks and exotic perfumes.
One day, a merchant arrived at the court asked to speak to the king. The king was too busy but his deputy chief under courtier agreed to meet him.
The merchant had alarming news. He’d been to the East to trade wool for silk. He’d spoken to traders who said that the country was being ravaged by giants. They had attacked whole villages and killed all the people.
The deputy chief under courtier listened to what the merchant said, wrote it down on a piece of paper and then threw the paper in the bin.
‘Nonsense,’ said the courtier.
A few months later, soldiers returned from serving as mercenaries in the court of the king’s cousin on the mainland. They were all talking about giants. They said they had seen the destruction of giants first hand- the houses smashed, the bones gnawed. They’d even seen their footprints.
‘But did you see them yourself?’ asked the king.
‘No, they generally attack at night.’
‘This seems very unlikely,’ said the king. ‘Giants only exist in fairy tales and fables.’
‘The people asked for our help,’ said a knight.
A courtier spoke up. ‘Even if there are giants- which is very unlikely- this is a problem for a country far away of which we no little. There’s a wide channel between us and the main land. We’re safe.’
One month later the king’s own son returned to the court. He had been on pilgrimage. He told his father of the giants. He had seen evidence of their attacks and then last week, he had seen one of them with his own eyes. It was an ugly creature, with a screaming child in its hands.
‘Steady on,’ said the Chief Steward of the household. ‘You’re looking unwell.’
The Prince was taken to his room to recover from his fever. In the meantime the king’s advisors told the king that giants were natural in some parts of the world. They come and go. They are nothing to worry about any more than we should worry about wolves or bears or elephants.
The king worried for a moment and went to sleep.
Under the cover of night two dozen ships docked in the city’s harbour. The terrified sailors tied the ropes and fled into the city. Then, on the decks the tarpaulins lifted up, the giants stood and walked into the city.
The giant and the farmer.
There was a giant who slept under the ground until one day, a farmer found him when removing a large stone from his field. Out popped a hand. It wriggled. Out popped an arm. The farmer was surprised. The earth burst up at the giant stood up straight, smiling. ‘Well, Oi never,’ said the farmer. ‘Hello,’ said the giant. ‘I feel better for that sleep. Can I help out at all?’ The farmer was speechless at first, but when he regained his senses, asked if the giant could pull out that difficult stone. Out it came, as easy as pulling a stone from a cherry. ‘Anything else I can do?’ asked the cheerful giant.
The farmer thought, ‘Hmm…. Well, I was about to build a wall on the other side of the field. Can you help with that?’
‘Certainly,’ said the giant. The wall that would normally have taken three days was completed in an hour.
The farmer welcomed the giant into his farm. He was too big for the house, really, so he slept in an empty barn. His wife was frightened at first, but when she saw how harmless the giant was, and how useful, she grew to like him.
The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. The farmer had the giant chopping firewood, ploughing the fields, building new outhouses, pulling the cart to market (he went three times as fast as the horses),
The farmer could take it easy. He sold off his horses. They weren’t needed any more. He stopped hiring the labourers and saved money that would have gone on their wages. He was able to sell more things- not just food, but more timber and stones from his own private quarry. He grew rich and fat and lazy.
One day, his wife said she was sure the giant seemed bigger than he had before. The farmer thought she was talking nonsense. But a few days later he thought, she’s right, he is getting bigger. His personality seemed to be changing too. When the farmer asked him to do something, he wasn’t as sharp about it as he once was. Sometimes he didn’t even do it at all.
One day, the giant said to the farmer, ‘I’m getting bigger, as you can see. This means I’ll need more food. Can I have more please?’ The farmer agreed. A few days later, the giant seemed even bigger and he asked the giant for still more food. The farmer agreed, but this time he was worried. He wouldn’t save so much money if that giant kept eating. The famer kept feeding the giant, more and the giant grew larger and larger. The larger he grew, the more food he demanded.
One day, he said to the farmer. ‘I’m clearly too big for the barn. Can I have new house please?’
The farmer agreed. Work began on a new house for the giant. It was like a palace. The giant supervised all the arrangements. It was agreed that the giant shouldn’t have to build his own palace so dozens of workmen were hired while the giant watched.
The giant moved in. He was comfortable. Everyday, the farmer and his wife ran backwards and forwards carrying food and drinks. It was a full time job.
One day, the giant became ill. Or at least, that was what he said. He lay in bed and wouldn’t come out of the door. But he still wanted his food. The work piled up. The wheat stood in the fields, waiting to be harvested. The farmer thought to hire some men, but he realised he now had little money left. The giant was expensive. He certainly couldn’t afford to buy horses.
Days passed. The wheat rotted. The landlord came. He evicted the farmer and his wife. They packed all their things, put them on a cart and walked down the track. The farmer knocked on the giants’ door but there was no answer.
A week later, the landlord was inspecting the grounds. The farmer had told him about the giant and out he came. The giant was cheerful and polite. There was no sign of the illness. ‘Anything I can do to help?’ asked the giant. The giant explained that he’d tried to help the famer but he was lazy and drank too much and often couldn’t be seen for days.
The landlord said thought for a minute and asked if he’d like to come and help on his farm. It was just on the other side of the hill. He’d be very welcome to have this farm to himself if he’d like to walk over the hill each morning to do some jobs. The giant agreed.
The landlord walked on thinking that all his troubles were over. He would soon be the richest man in the county.
The giant watched him go. He smiled.
The two giants
There was a giant who lived in the valley of the willows. He had arrived there a long time ago and, although he was a nuisance, people were used to him. He would steal the farmer’s sheep and cow and occasionally eat the odd schoolboy who was truanting from the village school, but otherwise he was alright. He kept himself to himself. The people had grown used to cleaning up after him. The fields, the lanes and the woods were filled with rotting bones that attracted clouds of flies. He also did the most enormous poos. They were about the size of a house. Many years ago the mayor of the village went to speak to him once. The giant just ate him and the villagers had to clean up his bones too.
The people of the village had decided that they would do something about the giant. A man in the village used to sell his geese at market and he knew a merchant who was friends with the king’s chief steward. This merchant has said, if he wanted, he could have a word with the king and maybe they could send some knights to deal with the giant.
Before that happened another giant appeared. He settled on the other side of the valley. The villagers groaned. Having one giant was bad enough, but having too was terrible. This new giant was even worse than the first. He was bigger for a start and he ate more. This meant that he stole more animals, left more rotten bones around and did even more enormous poos on the hillsides. He also tore down even more trees and cooked the animals and people he had caught on them. The air was filled with smoke, falling ash and the smell of burning meat.
The people had a gathering and discussed what they should do. Everything was on the table, from packing up their belongings and leaving the valley to waging direct war on the giants right through to spreading mutual rumours about the giants and hoping they would kill each other in a fight.
The people went to speak to the new giant. He said that he would love to eat less but, until he came to the valley he had been very poor and hadn’t eaten for many weeks. They should understand that he would need to eat more for some time. He told them to speak to the old giant on the other side of the hill. He’d been raiding their farms for much longer.
They went to see the other giant. He said, he wasn’t the problem. He was reducing the amount he ate and hadn’t eaten a school boy for several years. The other giant was the one they should speak to. In fact, until that other giant was sorted out, he might as well carry on with the same rate of killing.
The people went back and forth and forth and back, listening to the messages of the two giants. All the time they kept destroying things, eating and making a mess of the valley.
The villagers talked again. Some sided with the old giant, others sided with the new giant. They debated long and hard, night after night.
One day, a shepherd boy came down from the hills. He was out of breath. He had news. He’d been up lambing and was so tired that he’d fallen asleep after his lunch, leaning against a crag. He woke up to hear voices.
‘I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. You being here is the best thing that ever happened. They don’t know what to do!’
‘It’s been the same for me. People were getting tired of me in my old valley. Here, we can blame each other. The humans are spending so long arguing over who is worse that they’re doing nothing’
I crept to the other side of the rock and peeped around. It was the two giants, facing each other and smiling. They both laughed.
One giant spoke up, ‘Let’s clear out the animals from the valley. Then when they’re gone, let’s start on the humans.’
The giant and the teacher
There were a group of giants who lived on the island of Bones. It was a large island- perhaps twenty miles across at its widest part. They giants were ferocious and they terrified everyone. At first they raided the farms, taking the cattle, the sheep and the pigs, even the chickens. Eventually all the livestock had been killed.
Then the giants began to attack the people who lived on the island. At first, it wasn’t even clear what they were doing. The odd tramp was never seen again, a child coming from school vanished without a trace. Then it became clearer what was happening. Farms and houses were attacked in the night. People moved into the island’s only town.
One night, the giants arrived in the town. They went from house to house killing or taking the people prisoner to be farmed. A few weeks later they had been eaten too.
The giants went from house to house, field to field, they looked in woods and on the beaches. Finally, they realised that all the people had gone, just like the animals.
The hours passed. The giants grew hungrier and hungrier. They argued and fought. And then some of the giants started to disappear. The smallest, weakest ones went first, then the stronger ones. The giants formed gangs to defend themselves and attack each other.
One day, two gangs of giants attacked each other. One gang got the upper hand and started to kill the others. There was one giant left alive and he fled. The other giants chased him. He ran and ran, hearing the other giants behind him. He ran until he reached a cliff overlooking the sea. And as the other giants galloped towards him, he leaped into the sea.
Giants cannot swim. They hate water. This giant was terrified. But he managed to float in the water and he was very lucky. The currents carried him away from the island and two hours later he drifted onto the mainland.
He scrambled onto the shingle beach, exhausted but alive. After resting for some time he stood up and walked inland. He dodged from bush to bush and rock to rock, waiting for night to fall.
Some time later he came up a small grove of trees. As he passed, he saw, in the corner of his eye a man. He was sitting, crossed legged, with his eyes closed. The giant looked around him. There was no-one else nearby. He could kill and eat him. He was ravenous. The giant crept closer and closer. The man remained still and silent, his eyes closed.
Just six steps away.The giant watched him. He was confused. What was he doing? Was he asleep? Did they sleep sitting up in this place? Was he unwell? He didn’t look unwell.
Just then, the man opened his eyes, He looked at the giant, he smiled, nodded and then closed his eyes again.
The giant was confused. He had seen terror in the eyes of countless people. Why wasn’t this man terrified? He stopped. Why wouldn’t he just kill the man and get it over with? He walked closer to the man.
‘Can I help you?’ said the man, with his eyes still closed.
The giant found himself opening his mouth. He didn’t know many words but slowly he growled, ‘Hungry.’
‘Ah, hungry! I will be going home to my house for soup. You can join me if you like. I just haven’t quite finished here.’
The giant was confused. Here was a delicious meal, waiting to be eaten. Why was he waiting so that he could have some soup? He didn’t know, and yet, he waited.
Giants are not used to eating soup made out of various root vegetables, but the giant ate it, sitting on a chair that was way too small for him in the man’s house.
‘Now.’ Said the man, ‘I have some work to do in the garden. Would you like to help me?’
The giant had never worked in the garden but he did what he could. He dug, weeded, picked more root vegetables and even built a new compost box.
‘You’re very good at this, ‘ said the man. ‘Would you like to stay here, for a while?’
The giant found himself grunting and nodding, though he didn’t know why. The days passed and the giant ate many bowls of soup and did a lot of work around the house. No-one saw the giant because the man lived on his own away from others. One day, the giant decided that he would try to do what the man did when he closed his eyes. And so the man, taught him. They spent hours each day with their eyes closed, the only sound their breathing. There were times when the teacher did not closed his eyes. Instead, he sat looking at a sheet of paper on which was typed just one thing- a slightly oversized full stop. ‘What’s that?’ asked the giant.
‘That,” replied the teacher, “is an inspiration to us all.”
One day, the giant noticed something. The chair that he sat on didn’t feel so small as it used to and he was sure he wasn’t stooping quite so much when he entered through the door. Perhaps he was just getting used to them. But his teacher noticed it too.
‘I’m sure you’re shrinking… and you’re looking…. A bit more human.’,
There was no mistaking it. Days later he felt even smaller and he noticed that he was less hungry. Sometimes he and his teacher would fast all day. The strange this was, the more he fasted the less hungry he felt.
He started to see things that he had never noticed before. The sound of the river bubbling next to the house. He and the teacher would spend hours looking at the moon or watching clouds pass across the sky.
One day the giant and his teacher were by the river and the giant saw their reflection in the water.
‘Which one is me and which one is you?’ asked the giant.
‘You cannot tell, can you,’ laughed the teacher. ‘You cannot tell us apart. Which is the giant and which is the human?’
And then the teacher told him. There was no great divide between the giants and humans. Any giant could become a human and any human could become a giant. In fact, the teacher himself had spent the early part of his life as a giant. That was why he knew what was inside the giant when they first met.
The no-longer giant and the teacher laughed and hugged. It was dusk. They turned back to the house and walked inside, their footsteps so light that even a person standing next to them would not have heard a thing.
The Good Giant and the Bad Giant who slept under the hill.
There was a land where – it was rumoured- a good giant and a bad giant slept under the hill. They had been there for centuries. It was always rumoured that the day would come when the bad giant would arise and bring destruction. It would be for the people to come and wake the good giant and he would deal with the bad giant.
Near one village there was a cave that locals called ‘The Good Giants’ Cave’. It was said that deep inside it was a place where the limestone twisted and folded in such a way that it eerily resembled a large ear. Tradition had it that, when the time came, people had to knock on the ear and whisper, ‘the bad giant has risen’ and the good giant would rise to help.
One night, there was a crash and the earth shook. A girl named Hope woke up in her bed. The picture on her wall fell and the glass smashed. ‘What was that?’ she asked. She got up and tip-toed around the house. Everyone was still asleep. The sun was just rising. When she looked out of the kitchen window she couldn’t believe her eyes. Half of one of the hills was missing. A huge chunk had been lifted out of it. It made her think of a half-eaten boiled egg.
Hope put on her dressing gown and wellington boots and walked out of the house. She wanted her dog to come out with her but he stood by the door whimpering. It wasn’t long before she was at the foot of the hill, its surface collapsed a landslide of earth and rocks at the bottom of it. In the earth she saw something. Was she imagining things or were they giant footprints? Was this the giant who had risen from under the hill. She scanned the horizon. There was no sign of anything.
When Hope’s family and rest of the villagers woke up, they were greatly interested in the hill. ‘Must have been an earthquake,’ said one villager. ‘I’ve heard there was an old mine shaft there. That’ll be it,’ said another. ‘The giant….. he’s risen at last,” said an old woman. The others said nothing but laughed at her behind her back. “Old wives tales.”
It wasn’t long before the villagers saw changes around them. The sheep in one valley disappeared in one night, the huge elms in Ivy Wood were uprooted and set on fire on another and the church tower at Lessny was squashed on a third. ‘The bad giant. I warned you,” mumbled the old woman.
People talked about soldiers, vandals and thieves. When they saw the bad giant, walking along the summit of the ridge of hills, the whole village gathered in the square, dumbfounded.
That evening Hope sneaked out of the house after tea. She walked to the entrance of the good giants’ cave. It had been some time since she had been inside and then she hadn’t gone very far in. She had a candle in her hand to find the way.
It was dark and damp inside the cave. Hope could hear water dripping somewhere inside the cave. She crept further and further inside. Finally, she reached the end of the cave. It was like a wall blocking it off. And there was the whorl and swirl and fold. The Good Giants’ ear.
Hope cleared her throat. She knocked three times. ‘Good Giant,’ said Hope. ‘The Bad Giant has risen.’ She listened. Silence. She knocked again. She lifted her hand and then thought, ‘No. It’s just a silly old tale.’ Hope turned around to walk back towards the light.
There was a sound of rocks falling somewhere deep within the rock. Some pebbles fell. Hope froze. “I will stop the Bad Giant….if you’ll stop it.’ The rocks creaked again. Silence. Hope waited then made her way out of the cave.
All day Hope thought about the words of the Good Giant. ‘I will stop the Bad Giant if you’ll stop it.” What did the Good Giant mean? How would they stop the Bad Giant? She wondered if she could talk to her family. They wouldn’t believe her. She wondered if she could talk to her friends. They’d laugh her. She decided to speak to the Old Woman.
The Old Woman believed Hope. “At last! Someone went to ask him!”
“But what does it mean? How will we stop it?”
“Why don’t you ask?”
The next day Hope returned to the cave. She reached the giant’s ear, knocked and waiting for the sound of rocks falling. “How do we stop the Bad Giant? What do we do?”
“Dig deep,” came the answer.
“Dig deep?” asked Hope. That was it. There was no further comment. Hope decided. Behind the village was a river. In front of the village, they should dig a deep pit. She began the next day.
The work was tiring. Hope had made only a small hole. Some people laughed as they passed by, others asked why she was doing it.
“It’s to get the giant,” she replied. The old woman came to help and a couple of children, one of whom used an old spoon.
That night there was a rumbling sound that woke Hope. She rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning there was a crowd standing looking into the pit. It was deep- as deep as three houses. Most sides were steep but at one point there was a gentle slope leading to the bottom.
“Who did that?” asked the village grocer.
Hope ran back to the cave, knocked on the ear shaped wall. “Did you finish the pit? What now?” asked.
“Sharp posts,” came the reply and then silence.
So this was a pit to catch a giant. Hope had seen pictures of cavemen capturing mammoths like this. Sharp posts. Sharp posts. Hope wracked her brains. The only sharp posts she could think of were fence posts. She was sure there was a store in the farm shed. When she found them she carried them, two at a time and started to put them in the bottom of the pit. This time more people came to help. The next door neighbour’s son and the vicar and even her mum. At the end of the day there were twenty posts in the bottom of the pit.
There was a sound in the night and in the morning everyone looked into the pit. It was filled with all manner of sharp objects- parts of engines, glass, broken windows, splintered timbers and scary looking weapons. Hope didn’t need to run to the cave. Her Dad’s father said, “My last request to you all is that we go to the woods and get thing branches with leaves on. Make sure they can span the pit and then others, we need turf to cover it, or at least the edges.
The work was done in no time and just in time. There was a rumbling sound and the Bad Giant came into view. Some people screamed and ran inside, others got weapons. Pitchforks, shovels and rakes were held in shaking hands.
“Hope! Come back!” called mum. Hope ran as fast as she could towards the giant. “You hoo! Over here! I’m ready to be eaten!” The giant turned, noticed Hope and started to walk towards her. Then, slowly it started to pick up speed. Finally, it charged. Hope had no idea that giants could run so fast. Perhaps this had been a mistake. She ran faster than she had ever ran before trying to get to the village in time. She ran over fences, through hedgerows. She slipped in the mud and sprang to her feet straight away. She looked. The giant was closer. She could eaten hear its growling and see its snarling. The pit was in site. The villagers stood behind it, their weapons in their hands. Hope ran and ran. She felt the breeze of the giant’s breath behind her. Just a few more steps to go. The giant touched her shoulder to grab her but she leaped forward and twisted out of its grip. There was no time to turn, no way to avoid the pit. It was right in front of her. She leaped.
It was fifteen feet across the pit. As she crossed it she thought that it should be impossible to leap this far. She heard the villagers gasp. And then she felt solid ground as she landed, heard the branches snap and the giant fall, scream and die far, far below. There was relief and cheering. The giant was dead. And then another sound. Like rocks rumbling.
Once the celebrations were over a boy came back from investigating. The Good Giants’s cave had collapsed. There was no way in.
That day passed into legend. Some versions of the legend said how, at the moment that the girl leaped across the pit, a huge shimmering hand reached out, caught her and carried her to safety. Other versions dispute this. In it, there is no Good Giant, just a girl and her neighbours.