Gateway to the Classics: In Story-land by Elizabeth Harrison
In Story-land by  Elizabeth Harrison

Hans and the Four Big Giants

ONCE upon a time there lived a little boy whose name was Hans. His home was in a village where the tall trees shaded the green grass that grew around the houses. Hans loved his home very much. He loved to hear the birds sing and to watch them fly high in the air, and he often threw crumbs upon the ground for them to eat. He loved the bright red and blue and yellow flowers which grew in the garden behind the house. He delighted in the sweet odors which came all unseen from their very hearts. So he gladly watered them when they looked thirsty. His mother soon taught him how to place strong straight sticks beside the weak vines so that they, too, could climb up and get the sunlight. Hans loved the dear old hens and their downy little chickens that were not afraid to peck the grain out of his hand. In fact, Hans loved everything and everybody about him, from the small naked worms which crawled about among the clods of earth, up to the strange and beautiful stars which shone so high above his head.

He was a very happy, little fellow, always busy, always finding something to do for somebody.

By and by, when he grew to be a tall, strong lad, he used to go with his father to the forest to chop wood and thus help earn money which went to buy food and clothes for his mother and his three younger brothers, for Hans' father was poor and money was scarce in his family.

After a time, when Hans had grown so tall that you and I would call him a young man, his father said to him: "Hans, my boy, it is time now that you started out to hunt some work for yourself. Your next younger brother can help me with the wood chopping and the smaller ones can help the mother in the work about the house. You must go out into the world and learn how to take care of yourself, and perhaps some day you may have to take care of your mother and me when we grow too old to work."

So Hans' mother packed his clothes in a little bundle, and, as she kissed him good-bye, she said: "Hans, my precious son, always be brave and true, and the good God will take care of you." Hans then bade farewell to his father and his younger brothers and started on his journey.

He walked a long way until by and by he came to a great city, where the houses looked dingy with smoke and the rattle of the carts and wagons made an incessant roar. After a time he found some work in the shop of a blacksmith, and although the work was grimy and rather hard to do Hans used to like to see the sparks fly from the red hot iron every time he struck a blow with his heavy hammer. He was very proud when at last he could shape the hard iron into a fine horseshoe almost as well as the smith himself. Hans did not know it, but this very work was making his arms grow big and strong and his chest broad and full.

Every day Hans used to see a beautiful princess drive past the blacksmith's shop. She was the most beautiful princess in the world, and although her blue eyes and golden hair were admired by everyone, she was chiefly beloved because of her sweet smile. Hans used often to say to himself: "How I wish I could serve this lovely young princess." At last one day he went to the palace gate and asked the gatekeeper if there was not some work in the palace which he could do.

"What can you do?" asked the gatekeeper.

"I am willing to do any kind of work which the king may need to have done," answered Hans.

Then the gatekeeper passed him on to the keeper of the king's palace.

"What can you do?" again asked the keeper of the king's palace.

"I am willing to do any kind of work which the king may need to have done," replied Hans.

So the keeper of the palace told the king that there was a strong, tall young man without who wanted to serve him. "Bring him to me," said the king. When Hans came into the presence of the mighty king the monarch looked at him very hard for a few moments and then said: "What can you do, young man?" And again Hans replied: "I am willing to do anything that you may need to have done. I would like to serve the beautiful princess."

"You would, would you?" cried the king. "Now I will test you. In the bottom of the North Sea there lies a string of enchanted pearls. If you will get those pearls and bring them to me you shall serve my daughter, the princess, and in time I may make you governor over one of my provinces; who knows?" And the king laughed to himself.

Hans was wild with delight and, turning, hastened out of the palace. The very next day he started on his journey to the North Sea. He walked and walked a long way until he was very tired. At length, just ahead of him, he saw a big giant rushing along in the strangest fashion.

"Good morning," said Hans, as he caught up with the giant. "What a very large giant you are!"

"Yes," replied the giant, looking down at Hans, "I have need to be both large and strong. Where are you going, young man?"

"I am going," answered Hans, "to the North Sea to try to get a string of enchanted pearls which lies at the bottom of the sea."

"Ah!" said the tall giant, "it will take you a long time to get there. Now if you could walk as fast as I can, it would be an easy matter."

"How fast can you walk?" asked Hans.

"I can walk faster than a greyhound can run," said the giant, "and when I run, the swift river cannot keep pace with me."

"Can you, indeed?" exclaimed Hans.

"What a fine fellow you are! I wish you would come along with me. After I find the string of pearls I want to get back to the king's palace as soon as possible, for I am to serve the beautiful princess."

"If that's the case," said the giant, "I think I will go along with you."

The two walked along, chatting together, until they saw what Hans thought must be a huge round stone lying in the road. When, however, they came up to it, he saw that it was another big giant lying asleep by the road side. The hot sun was pouring down upon his face. "Stay here," said Hans, "until I can cut a branch from some tree to shade that poor fellow's face. The sun is so hot it will soon blister him."

At these words the tall giant laughed aloud. "Ho, ho!" he cried, "don't you know who that is? He is a neighbor of mine. He has such strong eyes that he can see a fly on a leaf of a tree a mile away."

The loud laugh of the tall giant awoke the sleeping giant, and he opened his great eyes and stared at Hans. "What are you doing, young man?" growled he.

"Oh, nothing," said Hans. "I was merely sticking these branches into the ground so that they might keep the sun out of your eyes."

"Bah!" cried the great giant, sitting up, "did you not know that my eyes were so strong that I could look the noonday sun straight in the face?"

"Indeed! Indeed!" said Hans. "What a wonderful giant you must be. I wish you would come with me. I may need your strong eyes, for I am on my way to the North Sea to search for an enchanted necklace of pearls which lies at the bottom of the sea."

"Oh ho!" said the giant, "if that's the case I think I will go with you."

So Hans and the two big giants walked on together. They had not gone more than three or four miles when Hans spied another great giant sitting under a tall tree. As they came up to him the wind blew his hat off his head. "I will fetch it for you," cried Hans, as he ran forward after the hat; but before he could get to the spot where the hat lay, the big giant reached out his long arm and himself picked up his hat and put it again on his head. At this all three of the huge giants laughed.

"Didn't you know that he was the giant who could reach 500 yards?" asked the long-legged giant.

"No," exclaimed Hans, clapping his hands with delight. "You are just the giant I need. When I get to the North Sea you can reach down to the bottom of it and pick up the enchanted necklace of pearls. Will you not come and help me?"

The new giant thought for a minute or two and then said: "Oh, yes; I will go along if I can be of any use to you."

So Hans and the three big giants started gayly forward on their journey to the North Sea. They had not gone far before Hans saw in the distance another giant quietly leaning up against a very large rock. He seemed so deep in thought that he did not see Hans and his fellow travelers until they came near to where he stood. Hans noticed that both of this giant's ears were stopped with cotton. "Have you the earache?" asked Hans. "Perhaps I can do something to ease your pain."

"Oh, no," said the giant, "I merely stuffed cotton into my ears to shut off some of the sounds about me. I can hear so well that I can tell what men are saying a hundred miles away from me."

"What a valuable giant you must be!" exclaimed Hans. "Will you not come with me? When I get the enchanted necklace of pearls you can tell me whether it will be safe to take it back to the king's palace."

The giant being very good-natured, said: "You think you will need me, do you? Well, I'll go along."

So Hans and the four big giants walked until they came to the North Sea. Then they got into a boat and rowed out to the deep water. The giant who could see so far soon found the place where the necklace lay on the sand at the bottom of the sea. Then the giant whose arms were so long reached down and picked up the necklace and laid it in the boat. Hans and the giants now rowed back to the shore.

As soon as they had landed, the giant who could hear so well took the cotton out of his right ear and listened to what was being said at the king's palace. He heard the people in the palace talking of a grand festival which was to take place the next night in honor of the birthday of the beautiful princess. He then told Hans of what he had heard, and the giant who could run so fast stooped down and let Hans climb up and seat himself on his great shoulders and away the two sped, faster than a bird could fly. They reached the palace in time for Hans to give the enchanted necklace of pearls to the king, just as he was about to seat his beautiful daughter upon a throne beside his own.

The king was so pleased to get the necklace that he at once gave Hans the office of serving the beautiful princess. Hans served her so faithfully that she learned to love him dearly, and in time they were married. When the old king died Hans was made king and the beautiful princess was a queen. Hans, you may be sure, took good care of his old father and mother and both he and his queen did everything they could to make all the people in their kingdom industrious and happy.

Hans persuaded his four friends, the giants, to come and live in his kingdom, and through them it became the richest and most prosperous country on the face of the earth, so that travelers came from all over the world to visit it.

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