The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body
Retold by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen
Once on a time there was a King who had seven sons. Six of them were
stout, brave lads, but the youngest was the cinderlad, you must know;
and he went about by himself neither saying nor doing much. Best of all
he liked to sit by the hearth and watch the glowing cinders, so they
called him Boots, and thought little of him.
Now, when the Princes were grown up, the six were to set off to fetch
brides for themselves. As for Boots, they would not be seen with him, so
he was to stay at home; but the others were to bring back a bride for
him, if any could be found willing to marry such a one. The King gave
the six the finest clothes you ever set eyes upon, so fine that the
light gleamed from them a long way off; and each had his horse, which
cost many, many hundred dollars, and so they set off. Now, when they had
been to many palaces, and seen many princesses, they came to a king who
had six daughters. Such lovely king's daughters they had never seen, and
so they asked them to be their brides, and when they had got them, they
set off home again. But they quite forgot that they were to bring back a
bride for Boots, their brother, who was staying at home.
When they had gone a good bit on their way, they passed close by a steep
hillside, like a wall, where was a giant's house. Out came the giant and
set his eyes upon them, and turned them all into stone, princes,
princesses and all. Now, the king waited and waited for his six sons,
but so long as he waited so long they stayed away; so he fell into great
grief, and said he would never know what it was to be happy again.
One day Boots said to the King,—
"I've been thinking to ask your leave to set out and find my brothers."
"Nay, nay!" said his father, "that would be of no use, for you are not
clever enough. Better stay and dig in the ashes all your life."
But Boots had set his heart upon it. Go he would; and he begged and
pleaded so long that the King was forced to let him go. He gave Boots an
old broken-down nag; but Boots did not care a pin for that, he sprang up
on his sorry old steed.
"Farewell, Father," he said, "I'll come back, never fear, and likely
enough I shall bring my six brothers back with me," and with that he
When he had ridden a while he came to a raven, which lay in the road and
flapped its wings, and was not able to get out of the way, it was so
"Oh, dear friend," said the raven, "give me a little food, and I'll help
you again at your utmost need."
"I haven't much food," said the Prince, "and I don't see how you'll ever
be able to help me; but still I can spare you a little. I see you need
So he gave the raven some of the food he had brought with him.
Now, when he had gone a little farther, he came to a brook, and in the
brook lay a great salmon which had got upon a dry place and dashed
itself about, and could not get into the water again.
"Oh, dear friend," said the salmon to the Prince; "help me out into the
water again, and I'll help you at your utmost need."
"Well!" said the Prince, "the help you'll give me will not be great, I
daresay, but it's a pity you should be there and choke;" and with that
he shot the fish out into the stream again.
After that he went on a long, long way, and there met him a wolf, which
was so famished that it lay and crawled along the road.
"Dear friend, do let me have some food," said the wolf, "I'm so hungry
that the wind whistles through my ribs. I've had nothing to eat these
two years. When I have eaten, you can ride upon my back, and I'll help
you again in your utmost need."
"Well, the help I shall get from you will not be great, I'll be bound,"
said the Prince; "but you may take all I have, since you are in such
[Illustration: Never had the prince had such a ride in his life]
So when the wolf had eaten the food. Boots took the bit and put it
between the wolf's jaws, and laid the saddle on his back; and away they
went like the wind. Never had the Prince had such a ride before.
"When we have gone still farther," said Graylegs, "I'll show you the
And after a while they came to it.
"See, here is the Giant's house," said the Wolf; "and see, here are your
six brothers whom the Giant has turned to stone; and see, here are their
six brides. Yonder is the door, and in at that door you must go. When
you get in you'll find a princess, and she'll tell you what to do to
make an end of the Giant. Only mind you do as she bids you."
Well! Boots went in, but, truth to say, he was very much afraid. The
Giant was away, but in one of the rooms sat the Princess, just as the
wolf had said, and so lovely a princess Boots had never set eyes upon.
"Oh, heaven help you! whence have you come?" said the Princess, as she
saw him; "it will surely be your death. No one can make an end of the
Giant who lives here. He is a most cruel monster, and he has no heart in
"Well! well!" said Boots; "but now that I am here, I may as well try
what I can do with him, and I will see if I can't free my brothers, who
have been turned to stone; and you, too, I will try to save, that I
"Well, if you must, you must," said the Princess; "so let us see if we
can't hit upon a plan. Just creep under the bed yonder, and mind you
listen to what he and I talk about. But, pray, do lie as still as a
So he crept under the bed, and he had scarce got well underneath, before
the Giant came.
"Ha!" roared the Giant, "what a smell of Christian blood there is in the
"Yes, I know there is," said the Princess, "for there came a crow flying
with a man's bone, and let it fall down the chimney. I made all the
haste I could to get it out, but all one can do the smell doesn't go so
So the Giant said no more about it, and when night came they went to
bed. After they had lain a while the Princess said, "There is one thing
I'd be glad to ask you about, if I only dared."
"What thing is that?" asked the Giant.
"Only this, where do you keep your heart, since you don't carry it about
you," said the Princess.
"Ah! that's a thing you've no business to ask about: but if you must
know, it lies under the door sill." said the Giant.
"Ho, ho!" said Boots to himself under the bed. "Then we'll soon see if
we can't find it."
Next morning the Giant got up very early, and strode off to the wood;
but he was hardly out of the house before Boots and the Princess set to
work to look under the door sill for this heart; but the more they dug
and the more they hunted the more they couldn't find it.
"He has balked us this time," said the Princess, "but we'll try him once
So she picked all the prettiest flowers she could find, and strewed them
over the door sill, which they had laid in its right place again; and
when the time came for the Giant to come home, Boots crept under the
bed. Just as he was well under back came the Giant.
Snuff-snuff went the Giant's nose. "My eyes and limbs, what a smell of
Christian blood there is in here," said he.
"I know there is," said the Princess, "for there came a crow flying with
a man's bone in his bill, and let it fall down the chimney. I made as
much haste as I could to get it out, but I dare say it's that you
So the Giant held his peace and said no more about it. A little while
after, he asked who it was that had strewed flowers about the door sill.
"Oh, I, of course," said the Princess.
"And, pray, what is the meaning of all this? said the Giant.
"Ah!" said the Princess, "I strewed them there when I knew your heart
lay under there."
"You don't say so," said the Giant; "but after all it doesn't lie there
So when they went to bed in the evening, the Princess asked the Giant
again where his heart was, for she said she would so much like to know.
"Well," said the Giant, "if you must know, it lies away yonder in the
cupboard against the wall."
"So, so!" thought Boots and the Princess; "then we will soon find it."
Next morning the Giant was away early, and strode off to the wood. As
soon as he was gone, Boots and the Princess were in the cupboard hunting
for the heart, but the more they looked for it the less they found it.
"Well," said the Princess, "we'll just try him once more."
So she decked the cupboard with flowers and garlands, and when the time
came for the Giant to come home, Boots crept under the bed again.
Then back came the Giant.
Snuff-snuff! "My eyes and limbs, what a smell of Christian blood there
is in here!"
"I know there is," said the Princess, "for a little while since there
came a crow flying with a man's bone in his bill, and let it fall down
the chimney. I made all the haste I could to get it out of the house;
but after all my pains I dare say it's that you smell."
When the Giant heard that he said no more about it, but after a while he
saw how the cupboard was all decked about with flowers and garlands; and
he asked who it was that had done that. Who could it be but the
"And, pray what's the meaning of all this foolishness?" asked the Giant.
"Oh, I couldn't help doing it when I knew your heart lay there," said
"How can you be so silly as to believe any such thing?" said the Giant.
"How can I help believing it, when you say it?" said the Princess.
"You're a goose," said the Giant; "where my heart is, you will never
"Yet for all that," said the Princess, "it would be such a pleasure to
know where it really lies."
Then the poor Giant could hold out no longer, but said,—
"Far, far away in a lake lies an island; on that island stands a church;
in that church is a well; in that well swims a duck; in that duck there
is an egg, and in that egg there lies my heart."
In the morning early, while it was still gray dawn, the Giant strode off
to the wood.
"Now I must set off too," said Boots; "if I only knew how to find the
way." He took a long farewell of the Princess, and when he slipped out
of the Giant's door, there stood the Wolf waiting for him. Boots told
him all that had happened, and said now he wished to ride to the well
inside the church, if only he knew the way. The Wolf bade him jump on
his back, and away they went, over hill and dale, over hedge and field,
till the wind whistled after them. After they had travelled many, many
days, they came at last to the lake. Then the Prince did not know how to
get across, but the Wolf bade him not to be afraid, but to hold fast. So
he jumped into the lake with the Prince on his back, and swam over to
the island. When they came to the church, the church keys hung high,
high up on the top of the tower, and the Prince knew not how to get them
"Call upon the raven," said the Wolf.
So the Prince called upon the raven, and immediately the raven came, and
flew up and fetched the keys, and so the Prince got into the church.
When he came to the well, there was the duck, which swam about forward
and backward, just as the Giant had said. So the Prince stood and coaxed
it and coaxed it, till finally it came to him, and he grasped it in his
hand; but just as he lifted it up from the water the duck dropped the
egg in the well, and then Boots was beside himself to know how to get it
"Now call upon the salmon," said the Wolf, and Boots called upon the
salmon, and the salmon came and fetched up the egg from the bottom of
Then the Wolf told him to squeeze the egg, and as soon as he squeezed
the egg, the Giant screamed and begged and prayed to be spared, saying
he would do all that the Prince wished if he would only not squeeze his
heart in two.
"Tell him to restore to life again your six brothers and their brides,
whom he has turned to stone," said the Wolf. Yes, the Giant was ready to
do that, and he turned the six brothers into king's sons again, and
their brides into king's daughters.
Then Boots left the Giant's heart on the altar of the church. That took
all the evil power from the cruel Giant, and I have never heard of him
And now, Boots rode back again on the Wolf to the Giant's house, and
there stood all his six brothers alive and merry with their brides. Then
Boots went into the hillside after his bride, and they all set off home
again to their father's house. And you may fancy how glad the old King
was when he saw his seven sons come back, each with his bride;—"But the
loveliest bride is the bride of Boots, after all," said the King, "and
he shall sit highest at the table, with her by his side."
So they had a great wedding feast, and the mirth was both loud and long,
and if they have not done feasting, why they are at it still.