The Green Magic Bean

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Green Magic BeanHe was a peasant, the son of a farmer but not a fair farmer himself.  After his father’s death, the farm had produced little worth selling at market.  Still, his mother sent him on that day with some vegetables she had grown in her garden.  Sickly looking turnips and dried out carrots no bigger than his little finger.  He never made it to market.  For on the road, he was waylaid by a stranger who offered him a better price for his wares than he thought he could ever get at market.  The boy accepted the offer.  He thought himself clever, and he dreamed of how delighted his mother would be when he returned home with five magic beans.

***

His mother was not delighted.  She screamed at him and she looked up at the sky and beseeched the ghost of her husband to return and haunt some sense into their son.  At last, she merely wept.  She told her son that she loved him dearly.  But they were so poor and so near to hunger always that she could not help but be upset that he had not brought home a nice bag of rice.  All the while, the boy tried to show her the beans.

“They’re magic,” he said, looking down at the beans in his hand.  He offered them up to his mother.  “They’re priceless.”

She never even glanced at them.  At last, she told her son to eat his supper of salt soup (which was merely salty water heated under the hearth) and go to his rest.  She told him she would go to market the next day with the lesser turnips and carrots that were left and try to fetch a greater price for them to make up for what he had lost.

While his mother was gone to market, the boy planted one of the beans in an empty spot in their garden.  He carefully poured some water on the spot.  He hoped to surprise his mother.  He even dared hope that whatever would grow from the bean, being magic, might grow and flourish before she returned from market.  But the earth under which the bean lay was still flat when his mother returned.  And it remained flat the next day, and the next.  After several days, he planted the next bean, and he waited, and he waited.  But nothing grew.  And he planted the third bean.  When he was planting the fourth, his mother saw him in the garden and asked him what he was doing.  And when he told her, she took pity on him.  For he was no farmer like his father and had little luck in growing things.

His mother had managed to buy a small bag of rice at market by selling an old but clean blanket she had made for his father long ago.  And so they had rice for supper that evening.  The boy was dejected because none of his beans had grown.  Despite being hungry, he only looked at his plate of steaming white rice.  His mother then asked him if any of his magic beans remained.  And he showed her the last one.  It was a healthy-looking large green bean.  His mother put the bean on an iron plate and stuck the plate in the fires for a moment to cook it.  Then she placed the bean on top of her son’s rice and urged him to eat it.

“You earned this bean, son,” she said.  “Take your reward.  Eat it.  It would please me if you did.”

And so the boy’s spirits were lifted and he ate his dinner.  And he ate the magic bean.

***

A few days after that night, the boy was crossing the threshold to enter his little cottage while his mother watched.

“You’re getting taller, son,” she said, and she peered at him curiously.

She was right.  He had grown taller.  It was not so strange a thing.  For he was still at an age where boys grew taller.  And his mother said his voice had grown somewhat deeper as well.  His father had been a short and stocky man, but his mother wondered aloud if hunger was making her son thin and lean.

Then, he began to grow sideways as well.  It seemed there was some magic in that last bean after all.  For the boy grew until he could not fit through the door, even if he stooped and tried to go in sideways.  So his mother had to make new and bigger clothes for him from all the cloth they owned, blankets and curtains and such.  He had to wrap his feet in many layers of sackcloth, for there were no shoes to be had in his size.  And he had to sleep in the fields, which was not so bad in the spring, but the boy and his mother worried for when fall and winter would come.  And that was not their only worry, for as the boy grew, so grew his hunger.  He could no longer live on salt soup and bowls of rice that could fit in the palms of his giant hands.  For he was a giant now.

As ashamed as it made him to do so, he began to go out into the countryside and steal any wayward sheep that wandered from his neighbors’ farms.

One day, as he was plowing the fields, his mother approached.

“Look mother,” the boy-giant said.  “I can plow the fields faster than any farmer.  If we only had some seed, we can plant them and have real crops and maybe we can be well-off again.”

His mother looked at the plowed fields with tears in her eyes.  And he thought they were tears of pride until she spoke.

“Son, you must go now.  I cannot keep you here any longer.”

“But why?” the boy-giant said.  A strange feeling pierced his heart.

“There are rumors in the market of some beast in the forest stealing sheep.  They haven’t seen you yet, son.  But they will.  And when they do, they will hunt you.”

“Then I’ll stay hidden.”  The boy-giant smiled and nodded once as if to saying that was the end of it.

But tears kept pouring down his mother’s cheeks.  “I cannot have a giant for son.  You must go.  Can you not see that you’re a burden to me?”

She said no more, but only turned and trudged back to the cottage into which he could no longer pass.

***

The giant left that very day.  He had lost his father to death.  And now he had lost his mother to change.  He only hoped that when she found him gone, she would be pleased.  And he tried to cheer himself by supposing that it was the way of life.  For all children must leave their homes and strike out in the world.

Yet, he was no adventurer.  And he had no trade, for he was no good at farming.  And he could not live in any city or village where people might see him, for they would likely fear him.  He had not thought of it until his mother spoke of the rumors, but the tales about giants always spoke of how brutish and bloodthirsty they were.  And he was a giant.  He wondered what he could do.

Still wondering, he grew thirsty and followed the sound of a stream to its source.  He went to the banks and took a long drink, his cupped hands holding what would be a barrel full of water to a normal man.  And as he drank, he heard the sound of shouting.  At once, he hid himself in the forest, for he was tall, but the trees of the land’s forests were taller still, old as they were.  He listened and recognized the sound as the voice of a child.  Curious, he went closer to the sound and came upon a child playing by the banks of the stream.

The child was wearing a dress and had a braid of long dark hair.  She held a tree branch in one hand and stabbed the air with it as she shouted.

It was such a curious sight that the giant forgot himself and moved closer and closer.  He moved so close that the girl saw him.  She pointed her tree branch at him.

“Stay back!” she yelled.  “The forest is full of my friends.  If I call to them, they’ll come and take you down.  Back, you brute!”  Keeping her eyes on him, she bent down and picked up a stone.

“Don’t throw that!” the giant said.  He held one hand out toward her and one hand before his face.

The girl’s eyes widened.  “You can talk?”

“I mean you no harm,” he said.  And he heard the rumbling of his own voice.  He tried to speak more softly.  “I was just curious, that’s all.”

The girl gaped at him, but she kept her branch pointed at him and she kept the stone in her hand.

“Curious?”  There was disbelief in her frown.  “About what?”

“I wondered what you were doing with that twig?”

The girl straightened her shoulders.  “It’s not a twig.  It’s my practice sword.”

“What are doing with your practice sword?”

“Practicing.”

“Practicing what?  Sword-fighting?”

The little girl bowed her head.  “I want to be a warrior when I come of age.”

The giant frowned, puzzled.  “But you’re a peasant and a girl at that.  Peasant girls can’t fight.”

The girl frowned back at him.  “You’re a giant.  Giants can’t be curious, or intelligent.”

The giant lowered his head then.  A part of him felt insulted.  He wanted to tell her that he was not a real giant.  That he was like her, or he had been like her.  And that he was as smart as she was.  But he doubted that was true, for how then could he have been tricked by the man with the magic beans?  How then could he have been so foolish as to eat one of those beans without knowing what it was?

“Good day to you,” he said, and still fearing that she might throw that stone, he backed away toward the forest.

“Wait!” the girl cried out.  She stepped toward him.  “No need to brood about a good spar.”

The giant frowned, for he did not know what the word “spar” meant.  He looked at the girl again.  And some of her wariness had gone.  She kept her distance, but lowered her practice sword and dropped the stone.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I came for a drink of water.”

“I meant what are doing in our land?  And so far from you own?”

He did not know how to answer that, for he was in his own land.  But he did not wish to tell this stranger his story.

“I’m Turtle,” the girl said.  “What’s your name?”

“Turtle?”  The giant crossed his arms.  “I don’t believe your mother named you ‘Turtle.’”

The girl sighed.  “Nesoena,” she said.  With her free hand, she lifted her skirt from the ground as she bowed.

The giant chuckled.  He knew what the name meant, for the princess of their land bore the same name.  “Turtledove,” he said.

“What’s your name, then?”

The giant stopped smiling.  “Humbert.”

“That’s no good,” the girl said, and she lifted up her sword and returned to her practicing.  “That’s almost as bad as mine.  No frets.  We can do better.  How about…Gore!”

The giant shook his head.

“All right, true enough.  You don’t seem a vicious killer.”  She looked at his hands.  “Maybe Stonefist.”

The giant winced.

“What do your friends call you?” she asked as she thrust her sword at a passing dragonfly.  “Surely they don’t call you Humbert.”

“I don’t have any friends.”

“Well, that’s all right.  Friends are good-for-nothings anyway.  You’re twice as tall as a cornstalk.  Maybe Stalk.”

“Maybe you can just call me ‘Giant,’” he said, for he had never fancied “Humbert” either.

Suddenly, the girl stopped.  “I know one you’ll like.  How about ‘Cob?’  You know, like ‘corncob.’”

The giant thought about that one for a moment.  He liked the sound of it.  And he did like corn.  He looked down at the girl, smiled, and nodded.

“Cob it is!” the girl said.  She returned to stabbing the air.  “So, where are you going to, Cob?”

“I don’t know.  I suppose I’m trying to find a new home.”

“What happened to your old one?”

“I can’t go back there.”

“Why not?  Did some warlock put a wandering spell on you?”

The giant raised his brows.  “No.”

“If you’d like, you can come live near my village.”

“I’m not sure if—”  Cob’s belly gave a sudden rumble, and as he was a giant, the rumble was as loud as the roar of thunder.

“I can bring you food,” the girl said.  “My family is not rich, but we do well enough.  I could bring you goats and sheep, so you don’t have to kill unwary travelers on the road for food.”

“Why would you do that for me?” the giant asked, ignoring her comment about eating people.

The girl smiled.  “Because you will do a favor for me one day.  You will take me to see the land of the giants.  Are we agreed?”  She shifted her sword to her left hand and held up her right to him.

The giant, Cob, wanted to tell her that he was no giant but just a boy who ate a bean.  But he was so hungry.  And he thought that perhaps if he was a giant now that he could find the land of the giants that she spoke of and take her there.  Perhaps he truly could keep his part of that bargain.

“Agreed,” he said.  He reached down with his hand and Turtle grasped his little finger and shook it.

The girl skipped ahead as he followed.  “Cob and Turtle.  Turtle and Cob,” she chanted.

The giant liked the sound of his new nickname, especially from the voice of his new little friend.

***

Cob hid in the forest near Turtle’s village.  It was a large and rich village to Cob’s eyes, for it had more vast fields and Turtle said there was more than one inn and a court of justice.  The village proper was surrounded by a stout wooden wall behind which the villagers could take refuge from outlaws and raiders, and perhaps the odd giant.

For many weeks, Turtle did as she said she would.  She brought him goats and sheep.  And Cob tried to think how he might find a way to the land of giants.  One day, the village’s watchers sounded the alarms, four great bells that hung at the four corners of the wall.   Cob watched from the forest and saw riders go out to warn the farmers in their fields.  He watched as the villagers who were out in their fields or out hunting returned to take shelter within the wall.  In the late afternoon, he saw Turtle approach.

“The alarm is for raiders,” she said.  “The elders have sent word to the royal army, but they might not reach us in time.  We can hold off behind the wall.”

“Then you’d best go,” Cob said.

“You must come with me.  It’s not safe for you if they find you out here.”  She shook her head.  “You move quietly for a giant and leave few marks.  I don’t know why that is, but it surely won’t be enough.  These raiders are very good hunters, and they have very sharp eyes.  The gates will stay open till nightfall.  I’ll find some way to get you inside without someone seeing.”

With that, she returned to the village while Cob waited.  More and more farmers, hunters, and riders trickled into the village.  And some of the people from surrounding lands who lived outside the village came for refuge as well.  All the while, Cob waited where he was.

Finally, when it had grown dark, Turtle returned, hauling a wagon heaped with a great many cloaks.  She was typically a clever child, but she must have been frightened and desperate to believe that some cloaks would fool the tower watch.  Still, Cob humored her by donning them.  She told him to crouch down and walk on his hands and knees.  And he realized that she hoped the tower watch would only think he was a great beast of the field that was being led back in.

They made it as far as the gates themselves before someone cried out.  Someone from the tower watch or one of the people inside the gates, Cob could not say.  But all there could now see that it was no unusually large ox that Turtle was guiding into the village.

“Giant!” someone finally yelled.  Cob rose to his feet.  And Turtle, tiny as she was, stood before him as the villagers, who were arming themselves with pitchforks and stones and torches to fight the raiders, advanced upon Cob to drive him out.

That was when the alarm was raised again.

“Close the gates!” the watch commander called.

And over his voice, many cried to leave the gates open for there was a giant within.  A stone came flying toward Cob, then another, as alarm bells rang, and people shouted.  Cob looked down and saw that Turtle was gesturing toward herself.  He feared she would be hurt by the stones and reached down.  He lifted her up with one hand and shielded her with the other, and as he did, the stones stopped raining.  And the alarm bells kept ringing.  The gates were swinging close.

And they heard at last the sound of hoof beats on the ground.

“The raiders are here,” Turtle said.

Cob turned and was stunned to see giant hooks leaping over the walls.  The men of the watchtowers were already throwing down hot oil and large rocks, and shooting arrows down at whoever was on the other side of the wall.  Cob was ignored for the moment as some villagers surged toward the wall and others rushed to shuffle the last of the children and the elders to safety.  Cob put Turtle down and told her to reach shelter.  She was a bold and reckless child, but she was no fool.  She was as frightened and stunned as he was, and she ran to the safety of a shelter.

Cob saw figures climbing over the wall and onto the watchtowers and fighting the village watchers with swords and axes.  Some began to climb down the towers.  Cob looked down and saw the winches that controlled the gates.  The raiders meant to open the gates.  Cob stepped toward the first of the raiders, startling the villagers who were also running toward the man.  Cob reached him first and with one swipe, knocked the man against the wall.  Then he swiped at another.  And another.

The raiders noticed him then.  There were dozens within the village walls now and they began to attack Cob.  One of them sliced at his legs as another stabbed at his feet.  And still others shot arrows at him.  Cob tried to shield himself.  He threw his arms up before his face, fearing an arrow in the eye, but the raiders would not stop.  Then he saw that the villagers were attacking the raiders who were attacking him.  They were trying only to save themselves perhaps, but it gave the giant heart that he was not alone in the fight.  And he swiped at the raiders again.

And then one of the raiders, an archer, turned his bow away from Cob and shot toward a village watcher, who was trying to defend Cob.  The watcher was struck and he fell from his post.

A swell of rage filled Cob.  He had never felt such anger before and he grasped the raider bowman, reached back with his arm, and flung the man so high and hard that he flew over the wall.  And surely died on the other side of it.

This did not quench the giant’s wrath.  He grasped another raider and flung him as well.  Then another.  Some of them had managed to start opening the gates.  But the giant would not have it.  The wall and the gates were twice his height, but he stopped the gate as it opened and pushed with all his strength.  And when he found he could not push the gate closed, he slipped through the opening that was made and stood before the gate.  There were perhaps a hundred raiders outside.  He kicked out at the ones who rushed toward him.  The air buzzed with arrows, but he swiped at them as he would at a swarm of gnats.  When the raiders sent riders toward him, he plucked two from their horses and let them dangle in the air.  And the horses were wiser than their riders, for they began to gallop away, even though the giant meant them no harm.  Those raiders who were left on foot began to flee as well.  And those who were brave or foolish enough to still come forth, changed their minds when those raiders who had breached the village began to pour from the open gate, chased by the village watch, who flanked the giant.

***

After the villagers were certain that all the raiders were captured, killed, or fled, they raised a great cry of triumph and relief.

The giant stood outside of the village walls.  He looked around and saw the bodies of the fallen raiders outside.  There were many.  He had not killed all of them.  Three.  He had flung three of them over the wall, not because he had to, but because he had grown so angry.  Before the villagers could notice him, he slipped away into the forest.

He washed some of his wounds in the river, and felt a vague throb of pain from all the wounds he had.  But none of it was equal to the anguish he felt at having killed those men.  They were raiders.  They would have killed him.  And they did kill some of the villagers.  There was nothing unjust in what he had done.  He had defended people he did not know, people who might have attacked him.  He had done so because he loved his friend.

He thought of Turtle and his anguish only deepened.

“There you are,” a familiar voice spoke.

It was Turtle.  She approached warily.  “I was afraid you might have died when I heard all the fighting.  But then we heard cheering.  So we came out.  You were nowhere.  They’re all talking about you.  I told my mum I was going to check on my friends.  Everyone is worried the raiders might return.”

Cob said nothing, for his hearty was heavy.

“Most of these arrows barely scratched you,” Turtle said.  She began to pull out some of the arrows that still hung from his skin and his clothing.  “But you’ll still need tending to.  You should come back inside.  The healers are in the villager square.”

Cob began to weep, great tears that splashed onto the rocks of the river.

“What’s wrong?  Are you wounded deep somewhere?”

He could not look at his friend.  “I killed those men.”

Turtle seemed to understand.  “There’s never been a raid in all my twelve summers,” she said.  “I didn’t know battle would be like that, and I wasn’t even in it.  And I didn’t want to be.”

Cob took heart at that.

“At least, not until I grow stronger and braver and harder.”

Cob was dismayed at that.  “You’re already strong and brave, Turtle.  You faced a giant, after all, and did not run.”

“That was different.  You’re not as scary as a raider.”

Cob looked at her.  “Truly?”

She climbed onto his knee and pat his arm.  “I’m afraid not.”

He managed a small smile.  “I must leave now.”

“Why?  Do you know how great of a warrior you could be?  We wouldn’t even need the royal guard if we have you.  The people of my village might be afraid at first, but they’re good people.  They’ll see you as a friend, in time, as I do.”

“I don’t want to kill anyone else.”

“But I need you here.  I’m afraid the raiders will come back.”

He began to weep again and remember the past.  “No raiders ever came to our farm,” he said.  “We were too poor.”

“What do you mean?”

Cob dragged the back of his hand across his eyes to wipe away his tears.  When he looked at his friend, she was peering back at him.

And so the giant told her the truth, about himself, about the beans.  And about the land of giants that he did not know the way to.  And to his surprise, Turtle was not angry.

“Where can I get ahold of such beans?” she wondered aloud.

Cob jogged his knee to get her attention.  “That bean was a curse.”

“How can you say so?  If it wasn’t for that bean, we would not have met.  And my village might be burning to the ground and I might be dead or captured.”

She was right, and perhaps Turtle could have been a proud giant.  But Cob was not.

“I don’t want to be a giant,” he said.

Turtle snapped her fingers.  “Maybe there’s a way,” she said.  Her eyes were gleaming, as they did when she was thinking of some new adventure.  She hopped down from his knee.  “I’ll bring you a healer to heal your wounds and then we should go back to your mother’s home.”

“Why?”

“To see if those beans still exist.  If they haven’t grown into anything, maybe we can dig them up, and maybe the rest might be magic too.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Did you think to ask the man what the beans did before trading with him?”

Cob shrugged.  “I forgot.  I was too excited to have magic beans.”

Turtle sighed and shook her head.  “What if one of them can undo what this one did?  What if one of those other beans can turn you back into what you were?”

Cob stood up.  He felt a surge of hope in his chest.  “Do you think it could be?”

“It’s worth trying.  And maybe if I eat one, I can turn into a giant.  Then I can defend our village and you can be whatever you want to be.”

Cob did not like the sound of Turtle’s plan to become a giant, but hope had already become longing in his heart.  He thought he would be able to stop Turtle from making the same mistake that he did.

“My mother won’t be happy to see me,” he said, remembering their sad parting.

“Let’s not go empty-handed, then.”  Turtle mentioned something about a goose her mother had given to her care who was due to lay some eggs.

Cob did not think Turtle’s mother would let her wander the roads alone after the raiders’ attack, but to his surprise, the healer his little friend brought out was none other than Turtle’s mother.  Cob looked with envy upon the affection that Turtle and her mother had for each other and the pride that Turtle’s mother had in her daughter.  The healer made Cob promise to look after Turtle and himself.  The royal army was close and would reach the village in a day or so to assure the raiders were truly defeated.  But the healer took comfort that her daughter would be traveling away from the traces of battle that would linger in their village for some time.  She wept a bit at their farewell and admonished the giant once more to take care of her only daughter.  Then she bid them go before the royal army learned of the giant and tried to hunt him down as a gift for the king.

***

With Turtle riding on Cob’s shoulder, and the giant’s soundless and trackless way of moving, which Turtle thought might be part of the bean’s magic, they reached the farm of the giant’s mother in only a few days’ time.  In that time, Cob did not forget his deeds at the village, but he tried to make peace with them.  And Turtle helped him.  A sadness came over him at seeing the farm.  And he was glad they had decided that only Turtle would go and seek the beans.  Cob would watch from outside.

Turtle knocked on the door with the goose under one arm.  When Cob’s mother answered, the girl was to lie and tell her that she brought the goose as a courting gift on behalf of her widower father.  Cob watched as his mother welcomed the girl and the goose inside.  And soon, Turtle would ask to see the garden.  Cob moved among the trees, so he could see.  As his mother and Turtle came out to the garden, he saw dismay on Turtle’s face and felt the same, for his mother had planted more vegetables in the garden.  They looked like beanstalks.  At first, he wondered if some were growing from the four beans he had planted, but these stalks all looked to be the same size.  He watched as Turtle spoke and his mother went inside the house.  And Turtle, to his horror, began to dig up the beanstalks.

He moved closer to the cottage and hugged against one wall, hoping he could stop her before his mother returned to the garden.

He whispered his friend’s name as quietly as he could.  Turtle turned and grinned at him.  She held up three fingers and shook a little pouch that hung from her neck.  She had found three of the beans.

“What in the name of the gods are you doing!”

Cob recognized that voice and felt both love and horror.

Turtle did not turn.  She merely dove back into the dirt.  And mayhem ensued as Turtle dug, Cob’s mother came toward her tripping over her skirts, and the goose flapped around the yard.  Cob wondered if he should show himself and explain and apologize.  But then he saw something glinting in the ground just out of Turtle’s reach.  The last bean.

As he watched, Turtle saw the glint and reached for it just as his mother grabbed the scruff of Turtle’s collar.  The goose waddled toward the bean, reached down, and swallowed it up.  Turtle pulled free of his mother’s grasp, swept the startled goose up in her arms, jumped over the little fence of the garden and ran toward the forest, followed by his mother’s familiar screams.

Cob could not help but to smile.  It would have been so, had he and Turtle been brother and sister, and his mother had been their mother.   It would have been so that their poor mother would have screamed herself hoarse calling after two misfit children.

He waited until his mother went inside, feeling a small measure of pity.  He had already resolved to return that night and set her garden right.  He could not grow things, but he would try at least to save her beanstalks.   He told Turtle so when he met with her in the forest.  But she was distracted by the treasure she had just dug up.

***

“They’re different colors,” she said, holding them up in the dying light.

“Yes.”

“You didn’t say they were different colors.”

“Is that important?”

“It could be.  Look.”  She pointed to the goose, whose white feathers were turning golden here and there.    “She ate a golden one.  And here’s a blue one, and a red one, and…silver!”

Cob sighed and glanced over at his mother’s cottage.

“What color was the one you ate?”

Cob tried to remember.  “Green.”

Turtle looked dejected.  “Well, there are no more green ones.”

“Which one do you think will turn me back?”

“Now that we have the beans, we’ll have to find the man who gave them to you.  He might know.”

The goose began to wander to and fro.   Turtle made a little nest for her.  And in the meantime, the goose turned completely golden.  She sat on the nest that Turtle made and she laid her egg.  When the goose rose from the nest, Cob saw that the egg she laid was golden.  Turtle lifted it up and declared that it might be solid gold.

“Do you suppose her scat will come out gold too?” Turtle said.  “Imagine if I’d eaten that one.”

Cob frowned.  “You’re not still thinking of eating one?”

Turtle didn’t answer.

When it was full dark, Cob asked her to wait while he went and fixed his mother’s garden.  And he took the golden egg for good measure.  He had never seen gold and did not know if the egg was true, but he knew his mother was clever enough to know what to do with it.  If it was true gold, she would use it to prosper.  Turtle gave no care to the egg.  Her eyes were only for the beans and Cob made her promise not to eat any of them while he was gone.

When he returned, all three beans were still uneaten.  Girl, goose, and giant rested for the night, and set out for the market the next morning to find the man who had given him the beans.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Turtle said.

“That’s good.  I like it when you think.”

“I wonder if these…beans as you call them work together with the person or animal who eats them.  It seems to me that you were afraid of being an insignificant little man, and so the bean you ate made you grow into a giant.  Who can ignore a giant?  And the goose was most likely afraid of being slaughtered and so the bean she ate made her far too valuable to be eaten.”

“But now she’ll never have any goslings.”

The goose gave a toot and waddled forth past him.

“I don’t think she’s at all sad that she won’t be laying any more eggs that us people will just end up eating one way or another,” Turtle said.

“Poor golden goose.”

Turtle ignored him and continued.  “Well, I’m afraid of being weak and being told what to do.  So maybe if I eat one, I’ll be strong and fierce.”

“Don’t you dare!” the giant said.  When Turtle kept walking, he stamped his foot.  The earth shook.  The goose honked and flapped her wings.  Turtle lost her balance and fell down.

Cob knelt as far down as he could.  He could not bring his face level to hers, but he rolled his eyes down so he could see her.  Turtle was startled and began to look scared.

“You don’t know what those beans will do to you.  One of them might be poison!  And even if they aren’t poison, what if the one you eat ends up turning you into a real turtle?  Did you think of it?”

“I…hadn’t.”

“It would serve you right if it did.”

He pointed a finger at her.  She grasped it and he lifted her up onto her feet.

They continued on their way, and Cob knew he had to find a way to part his little friend from those magic beans.  For he doubted they would find the man who had given them to him.  And even if they did, the man himself might not know what to make of the beans.  And even if he did, it was doubtful that one of the remaining beans could undo what another bean had done.

He lifted Turtle up onto his shoulder then, and gripped the golden goose loosely in his hand.  They were moving closer to settled lands, and they would have to travel through the forest to keep from being seen.  For a few steps he kept to the road, where he could see the faraway mountains, wreathed always in cloud.  If he lived up there, no one would see him, or harm him, or be harmed by him.

Girl, Goose, and Giant

For now, he would enjoy his adventure with his only friend.  But soon, he would leave little Turtle and the golden goose in a safe village full of good people who would return her to her family.  And he would trudge toward those mountains.  He had not wanted to be a poor farmer and a poor son, but that was what he was.  And he did not want to be a giant.  But that was what he became.  And he did not want to disappoint the one person who had faith in him and affection for him.  But he must.  For giants were brutish.

And he was a giant now.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Nila L. Patel.

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