Review: A Giant’s Heart by Eliza Langhans from Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #39




I have been a long-time subscriber to Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, from Small Beer Press, and I have even been fortunate enough to appear in these fine pages on a couple occasions. I find the publication intoxicating. I give subscriptions as a gift to my cousins from time to time, because I think it is far larger than the pages it physically contains. In every issue there will be something that stops you dead in your tracks, holds you still, and stays with you. It is very rarely a consistent thing. Astonishing stories will be followed by poetry that doesn’t seem to fit, or vice versa. Sometimes stories take chances that are a little too far, in the moment I read them. Yet, I celebrate that stories take chances, even if those chances fail.

And when they succeed…

So, let’s briefly discuss “A Giant’s Heart” by Eliza Langhans. The story seems, at its face, simple enough. A peaceful giant resides in a cave eating moss and living a very, very long time in a state of grace, one with nature and filled up with its music and seasons. There are humans nearby that are not aware of their huge neighbor. They live in a little village, observed by the hidden giant of the forested mountains. And, a terrible tragedy occurs. This little village is destroyed, and everyone is killed but for a single babe. The giant, a creature of peace, decides to take the child as his own. He raids the ruins of the human village for supplies and goats to milk. He raises the girl as best he can in his cave. He falls in love with her, deeply. He feels the sort of possession that parents feel for a creature that isn’t even the same species as him. Other humans come, escaping whatever horrors destroyed the distant village to begin with. The giant welcomes them, and they assist him in raising his little daughter, in naming her. As time passes, the new village grows around the giant and everything seems blissful, but humans are not giants. They are short-lived, violent, separated from nature. One day, other humans come to destroy the village and kill the giant, and the village turns to defend itself and its gentle patron with arrows and spears.

The giant does not want any violence. He offers to just walk away from a while, and come back later. Why kill?

His own daughter insists that it must be so. She thinks she is saving him, and them, by taking up arms against the violent newcomers.

They do not understand each other. Perhaps, they never did.

Where did mankind fall from a state of grace? These giants live in a garden of eden, eating moss and eternal, peaceful and at peace. The humans are chaos and struggle and change. They fight. They kill. They eat animals and raise animals to eat. The giant moves only with love and peace and gentle grace.

Can mankind return to the peaceful ways of giants?

Also, can parents ever understand their children? The giant raises this girl as his own, and watches her grow up, and loves her more than he has ever loved. It pollutes his giant nature, in a way. His own people see it. He feels it. And, when he realizes that she is not his, that she was never his, and she would never be truly his again, it breaks him. He continues to love, to move with love, and to feel for her that depth of sorrow, but she will never be what he thought she could be. Her moral center is hers, not his. She condescends to her father’s pacifism. She does not understand or embrace his simple truth. And, in this, the story suggests he will never be able to escape into a state of grace, again, where the seasons turn so simply, and the gentle song of the wild places is enough to full a heart.

I have perhaps revealed too much of the story, but it’s the sort of story where it doesn’t matter if you know the ending. It is no great surprise that the violence of man comes. The execution is deceptively simple, and leaves echoes of myth and mystery and questions about the nature of man. It is an excellent story.

I am unsurprised to discover an excellent story in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. A subscription makes an excellent gift for the curious readers in life. There’s simply nothing else like it.

Categories: Book Reviews, Short Story Collections

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