There was once a giant that took over the countryside. You know, one of those stomp-around and smash-everything, grab the cows and eat them whole, and while he’s at it, eat the people whole too, tyrants. And tired of living in terror not just of the destruction and death meted out by this voracious bully, but by the uncertainly of when it would be their turn, the people of that place, knowing that he is fundamentally lazy, decide to strike a deal with him. They will voluntarily send someone once a year to his cook pot if he will leave them alone the rest of the year.
Now, in these stories, he agrees. But one of those annual sacrifices turns out to be the person, often a “magical child” or, in other versions, the ordinary mother of an ordinary child, who knows how to defeat the giant. There are other versions, other plot lines, of this story. But it is usually a child or young person who knows how to get rid of this oversized bully by guile, generally using the tyrant’s own flaws against him. The giant is once again defeated and life continues.
This story has been told around the world, wherever and whenever selfishly destructive tyrants arise. The imperative to face them down confronts us with the our need to wake up to the peril that lurks in the dark corners of the human psyche and which erupts just when we become complacent and let go of vigilance. The community, then, is shocked into the necessity of resisting and given the opportunity to strike a blow for freedom, indeed, for life itself.
We need to hear this story, these stories, in their many forms. David and Goliath comes to mind. Most recently I have been telling a story from ancient Mexico that I learned years ago about a boy who is the son of a Nahuatl woman and Tlaloc, a Pre-Columbian rain-god. And while the boy is raised as an ordinary human, when the time comes to out-wit the hungry giant and save the community, he know just what to do. He frees the people and is made king of the land. The story says that he never died. And some say that he is still with us, disguised as an ordinary human being, continuing to help us. Some say that each of us has a bit of this “magical child” within.
There was once a giant who ravaged the land. We seem to be living through this narrative yet again. What are we going to do about it?