There once lived a scary giant, far away up in the sky-lands. On a bedrock of clouds he built his castle, and he lived there with his wife in solitude.
By day, when she went off to work, he would walk the halls of echoing stone, and mutter to himself about all the people, little and big, who’d done him wrong. He’d mutter about the black clouds around him, and found it quite impossible to enjoy much about his easy-going life in the sky.
At night, his wife would come home and cry, and he wouldn’t know what to say. Sometimes, he wouldn’t be able to stop talking. He was sure that if he said the right thing, the world would click together. Other times, the giant would slip into a silence that felt like a magic spell had settled over his castle, and nobody would speak a word aloud there ever again.
There once lived an angry princess, exiled from her country by a conniving duke who stole her true essence from her. For seven upon seven years, she wandered the lands. To survive, the princess sold her jewelry and her books, until the only precious thing she had left was a tiny black vial which she tied with a loop of wire to her neck.
It was whispered that during her travels, she had asked the giant and his wife for lodging, having partly forgotten herself. For she had actually known them before the treasonous act that stole her self away, but could not remember.
No-one across the land knew who the princess was any more, and gradually, as they forgot, so did she. She traveled unknown and unnamed, slipping between the silences and seeking only that which she couldn’t name. All the princess had left was herself and her anger, in a tiny glass vessel that glowed fiercely black around her neck.
Hang on, though. The giant wasn’t really that scary to people who knew him. He didn’t really spend his days in solitude, stalking the echoing halls of his sky-castle. He would go around helping the people in his sky-neighborhood, or at least the giants like him.
But the princess thought that was just a disguise of his true nature, which she saw as filled with an awful angry blackness.
Was that the same spell of black fury that she kept in her vial from childhood, lashed tightly around her neck with a magic wire? We all thought it might be, but we were afraid to say so, for fear she might uncork the darkness and be unable to put it back.
Hmm, hold up a second.
Didn’t the scary giant actually turn out to be the angry princess’s father? I think that’s what we eventually found out, when we told and re-told this story. And perhaps they knew it all along: that what made the giant so scary turned out to be the same thing that made the princess so angry.
In amongst the murk and mire of life, the princess was mad at the world and wanted to hate the giant. The giant wanted to talk to his daughter, but didn’t know how, and surely couldn’t see why the princess thought he was so scary.
But if you ever spoke to them of it, they would refuse to believe such a crazy thing about the other. And the rancor between them only grew, even though they might have known, deep down, in their heart of hearts, that they weren’t that different.
The giant still held grudges close, which was the main thing that made him so frightening. He could not imagine why the princess held a grudge against him in kind, and this soured his mind and filled him with a dull rage. He could do nothing, and so he paced his halls, letting his anger seep out of him slowly.
The princess had, unfortunately, inherited all of the giant’s smoldering anger, even though it ground her down to admit such a thing. She would clamp her hand around the vial at her neck, gritting her teeth without noticing. She couldn’t talk to him, because their angers were as magnets, like repelling like.
And so it was that the curse kept them both in chains for many years.
So, slow down. I realize that fairy-book stories are supposed to end with something like “They all lived happily ever after,” but this one isn’t completed yet.
And this is more of a thinly-veiled metaphor than a fairy-book story, besides.
We all know what I mean when I talk about the curse of chains.
And I have to apologize to the angry princess and the scary giant, because I don’t know how to help you break out of your chains. I’ve tried. But they’re not my chains to break.
We get so wrapped up in ourselves, sometimes, that we assume our versions of people are the real thing. We forget that there’s an interpretive distance, a gap in understanding, between what we think about people and how they really are. It’s obvious when you say it, but it’s less obvious when you’re riding a river of emotions, imagining another person and how they will respond to something you say. Something you don’t say. Something you do. Something you failed to do.
So we see others as caricatures. I see a scary giant, a golden fool, a cursed spinster, a sparkling prince, a manipulative step-mother, a deservedly homeless beggar, a cardboard cutout wearing our surface-level sketches.
I get so wrapped up sometimes, it’s hard to move the person and my version of that person apart. There needs to be some space there, so I can squeeze in the admission that I might be wrong about them.
I guess it’s part of being a human. Or part of being a scary giant, or an angry princess, or anything else we manage to make out of each other.