The Giant and the Mite

A Story by Eleanor Farjeon

from The Little Bookroom

There once was a Giant who was too big to be seen. As he walked about, the space between his legs was so great that nobody could see as far as from one side to the other, and his head was so high in the sky that nobody's eyes were strong enough to see the top of him. Not being able to take him in all at once, nobody therefore knew the giant existed.

Sometimes men felt his footsteps shake the earth, and then they said: "There has been another earthquake." And sometimes they felt his shadow pass over them, and they said: "What a dark day it is!" And sometimes, when he stooped down to scratch his leg, they felt him breathe and said: "Phew! What a wind!" And that was as much as they knew about him.

But little as it was, it was more than he knew about them; for in spite of his size the Giant had no mind. His legs could walk, and his lungs could breathe, but his brain couldn't think. O fthis he had no suspicion, and was quite contented to go on walking about all day, or to stop still and sleep all night; and when he was hungry, he opened his mouth and ate up a star or two, pulling them off the sky with his lips as you might pull cherries off a tree.

At the same time, there was a Mite who was too small to be seen. He was so small that even the ants couldn't see him, and perhaps that was lucky; for if they had done so, they might have gobbled him up. A grain of sand was like a mountain to him, and it would have taken him longer than his whole life to walk across a sixpence. So you can fancy what a tiny bit he moved day by day from the spot where he was born. But he himself never knew this; a tiny way to him was a much as a hundred miles to you, and if his body did not go far, his mind went a great way. For the Mite had a mind, and could think; he was indeed almost all Mind, and his thoughts were as big as the Giant, who couldn't think at all.

Now up in the sky and under the earth sat the two angels who can see all. Nothing is too big or too small for them, or too far away, or too long ago. One day the Angel in the Sky said to the Angel under the Earth: "What have you seen today?"

"I have seen a giant," said the Angel under the Earth, "Who is so strong that his strength could break the world in two."

"I know him well," said the Angel in the Sky, "and one of these days he is quite likely to break the world in two without thinking."

"And what have you seen today?" asked the Angel under the Earth.

"I have seen a Mite," said the Angel in the Sky, "whose mind is so powerful that it could make a new world altogether, if it had the strength to do it with.";

"I have seen him often," said the Angel under the Earth, "thinking and thinking of worlds that he will never make."

It happened that one day the Giant lay down to sleep, with the tip of his finger covering the acre of earth that happened to contain the Mite. The following morning, in helping himself up, he carried away the acre of earth under his fingernail, and the Mite with it. A short while after he happened to scratch his ear, and in doing so he dislodged from under his nail the field in which the Mite was hidden, which to the Giant was just a speck of dirt. In the course of time this speck worked its way through the Giant's ear until it reached his brain. As soon as this happened a marvellous change took place.

For the Giant, who had never had a thought in all his life, suddenly began to think; and he did not know that the Mite was thinking for him. And the Mite, who had never had any strength of his own, suddenly felt he had the power to make worlds and break them; and he did not know that his dtrength was in the body of the Giant. Each seemed to himself, not two creatures, but one. And the thoughts of the Mite made the Giant long to do all sorts of things, and the strength of the Giant made the Mite able to carry out his thoughts.

Now terrible things begain to happen in the world, and all around it. Between them, the Giant and the Mite tore up mountains and let the sea run in, and the scooped up the rivers and flung them into the clouds, and the moved the moons and stars all around the sky, arranging them in different patterns every night, and they took the wind between thumb and finger, held it up to the Sun, and blew the Sun out. Then they poked a hole into the middle of the earth, fetched up a handful of fire, and lit the Sun again. At last it began to look, not so much as though the world would come to and end, as that it would never get on to its end at all, but go backwards or forwards, or up or down, or round and round, or inside out, just as the Mite and the Giant might fancy at any moment.

Then the Angel in the Sky said to the Angel under the Earth: "This will never do. Between them they will mix up earth and heaven till nobody knows which is which."

The Angel under the Earth replied, "There's only one thing for it; we must reduce them to the size of a man."

"Ah, but," said the Angel in the Sky, "size is just an idea, like everything else. We must not only make them equal in size to men, we must also make them look at one another for a moment, so they shall know forever after that they are not one thing but two."

In a twinkling the thing was done. The body of the Giant shrank until it became that of a splendid man in full strength, and the Mite looked out from his eyes and saw the form he dwelt in, of which he had never before been aware. At the same moment the Giant was given the power to look inside himself, and there he beheld the Mite.

"Hullo!" said the Giant.

"Hello!" said the Mite.

"What are you doing in there?" said the Giant.

"I've just looked in," said the Mite.

"Well, stay a bit," said the Giant, "and between us we might manage to do something."

"No harm trying." said the Mite.

So they agreed upon it, and the Angel under the Earth and the Angel in the Sky smiled up and down at each other with just the same sort of smile.

From that day forth, the Giant and the Mite did very little; for each wanted to do such different things that they seldom agreed.

Only once in a great while they forgot they were two and not one, and wanted to do the same thing. When that happened, the Angels held their breath until the Giant and Mite remembered themselves again and the danger was past.

This interesting story muses on the two-fold nature of man - or perhaps, rather on his potential. Could this be a pondering of science coming to grip with the power of the universe; or of the relationship of the spiritual to the physical existence? Both charming and reflective - it has an imagery both simple and engaging. There is some of Ecclesiastes in this story. "He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Eccl. 3:11)

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