There is a chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”
– that giants should be killed because they are gigantic.
It is a manly mutiny against pride as such.
— G.K. Chesterton,
Chapter IV, “The Ethics of Elfland”
Jack was quite unimpressed by the question
of whether the giant was a particularly gigantic giant.
All he wished to know
was whether he was a good giant
– that is, a giant who was any good to us.
What were his views on politics
and the duties of the citizen?
Was he fond of children
– or fond of them only in a dark and sinister sense?
— G.K. Chesterton,
Chapter V, “Mr. H.G. Wells and the Giants”
This is the story of a battle.
It starts with an ordinary open field, near some elementary schools. During the summer, these grassy fields are marked with lines for soccer games, but in the winter, snow is everywhere. The white fields look endless to a small child walking through them.
Fortunately, the children who walk across these fields make paths.
The adults don’t know about these paths, because they drive cars on roads, but the children who walk know the value of tradition; it is much faster to walk on an existing path of packed snow than to make your own way each time. Fresh snow is for making snowmen, not for trudging through.
So it was in this open field, behind those elementary schools, in an overlooked city somewhere in Mountain Standard Time where there are no mountains, that there was a battle.
It went like this.
All of a sudden, in that open field, there appeared a giant. People weren’t entirely sure how it got there, but certainly, it was there. The head was so high up that you strained to see the face, but the feet were very easy to see. Some said the giant was brought by a child, but some said it was brought by the parents of a child, but others said it just showed up by itself out of nowhere. It wasn’t entirely clear.
For the most part, people ignored the giant. They were rather used to him showing up here and there, like a large unpleasant plastic inflatable, and they weren’t concerned if he was now in the field behind the elementary schools. Some said that the giant wasn’t actually a giant. Some said the giant was friendly. But mostly, people rolled over and went back to sleep upon hearing about it. They asked to be notified when there was some ‘real news’ to talk about.
However, some people, being both intelligent and vigilant, considered the giant’s feet and they said, “We’ve heard about this grim fellow; we know his plan.” They looked at each other and decided something needed to be done.
They considered the weapons at their disposal, and though they did not have many, it wasn’t long before they rushed onto the battlefield. They worked tirelessly and bravely, writing letters and attending meetings and throwing all the stones available to them. They fought valiantly, and they prayed.
One mother held the bag of stones and another mother used her slingshot. They encouraged each other. One would sometimes say, “Good one!” when she particularly liked how a stone seemed to have made contact with the big toe of the giant.
Meanwhile, the giant looked down.
He looked way down.
He saw tiny people near his feet, making some kind of noise. He couldn’t quite hear them, because he was so lofty and so mighty, but he knew that at any moment, he could just crush them. Little, forgettable people with little slingshots with little stones. Their voices, their words – he scorned them. Words, what do they matter? he said to himself. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” he jeered.
He was Goliath.
He knew that this was a battle that would be easily won. As a matter of fact, all the signs were in place showing that he had already subdued it, as he had all other battlefields.
Was it not true that he had taken, industry by industry, control over the whole earth? Had he not already brought under his rule all the areas of human endeavor and all the organizations of the world? Politics, law, banking, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, theatre, music, art, media, advertising, clothing?
He even boasted that the Catholic Church was now his. And this land too, was his.
The Oranges ruled this province and the Reds ruled this country.
He had only one more little group to control, and it was the children. A crowning glory. That was the reason for this battle.
He thought that this would be a simple matter, as simple as it was in the story of the Pied Piper (a nightmare disguised as a fairy tale).
After all, nobody thinks to guard the children. How numerous were his ways to reach them! An iPhone in every child’s pocket, internet access all the time, non-stop media and the destruction of the family. He knew that. Things were going according to plan. Barely anybody had even noticed that he was here, and what he was planning to conquer. As for those few ‘warriors’ near his feet, well, the numbers were now increasing, but it was too little and too late for them, he knew.
His eyes scanned the fields, the snow-covered fields criss-crossed with paths. He happened to notice that one path went one way and another path crossed over it, making the shape of the cross, stretching entirely over his battlefield, but he didn’t want to think of that. Besides, it was made by children, with their tiny feet and tiny steps.
In his boredom, he scanned the horizon. He saw many homes, many houses. He yawned as he peeled some small warriors from his ankles. He scorned the homes that he saw. More mortals, mere mortals, only this many feet tall. “Ha – what is that, to a giant such as myself?”
As a matter of fact, he mused, some were shorter than that. The smallest of small were barely there at all. The shortest of all had feet but were measured in inches! (Or centimeters.)
He peered into the homes of these people.
Speaking of feet, those horrid little toes, pathetic little ‘arches’ (As if! How typical it was for the mortal to say he had ‘arches’ in his feet! As if the curve of a foot just after the toes was like an arch in a church – as if it rose to the sky, as high as his nose. Human “humour,” he supposed.)
He hated their toes; he hated their feet; he hated their hands, and he hated their arms.
He noted the feet running this way and that, crossing his field, crossing those homes. The shape of the cross over and over again. He couldn’t stop looking, but he hated the sight. Barefoot, gleeful, running this way and that. These children, smiling, laughing, noisy little brats. He winced as he saw all those steps. Criss-cross. Criss-cross. Criss-cross. Three times was too much, he looked away. Three children was three children too many, if he had a say. Then he looked back.
One home he hated especially a lot.
One home he hated especially a lot.
But he wasn’t sure why. He just did. (Giant’s prerogative.)
He turned his gaze back to the battlefield, his battlefield. His victorious battlefield.
He looked forward to the day when every last child was under his total influence and control, to mold and educate the way he desired. To claim as his own. To keep for himself.
Just splendid, he thought.
Most certainly, he would not discriminate. No, for him, a child was a child. Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, he’d take them all. Public school, Private school, Christian school, Homeschool – all were the same, to him.
It’s all one stomach, is it not? He chuckled at his own joke. He loved having the last laugh.
Just a few more skirmishes, he said to himself.
Soon this battle, this ‘elementary’ battle, would be over as well.
He was Goliath, after all.
He adjusted his glinting helmet and his blood-stained sword.
All soon would be his.
All soon would be his.
It was January twenty-third. Somewhere in the distance, moans were heard. Tears were shed. The giant heard them too, but he didn’t turn his head.
And God checked his calendar.
2016 in the Year of Our Lord.
Within the part declared the Year of Mercy.
He bent down his head. He had heard. (He always did.)
And he said,
Indeed, you’ve taken almost all these other industries and almost all these lands under your apparent control. (As for the Catholic Church, she is the bride of my Son, and she remains always under my special protection.)
But in this most recent attack on humanity, you will go no further.
You cannot have the children.
They are mine.
And God arose from his throne.
He was going to visit some snow-crossed fields, where there was already a sign.
Tiny feet, tiny steps, straight and narrow paths.
He was going to visit some homes, filled with crosses.
He knew this place – this place in Mountain Standard Time.
He knew perfectly well where it was.
It was in the palm of his hand.
He reached for his slingshot.
It was made of stars.
The victory would be his.