My Travels With the Giant Yorgu
Copyright 2018 Brian Davis - CC-BY-NC-SA
It began like all adventures do on a completely ordinary day. I had wintered in the foothills east of the Crimson Mountains. This spring morning found me walking slowly through the mist on the edge of a green meadow, beside a recently thawed stream. I had fish traps to check, and snares to bait, but I paused on the edge of that little clearing to enjoy the song of the robin. That was when I saw Yorgu for the first time. He stepped from the woods across the clearing, striding as only a giant can in slow, deliberate, impossibly long steps, his eyes gazing into the distance. It has been many years since I was considered short of stature but Yorgu was easily twice my height. He wore short pants that ended in a ragged edge at the knee and a leather vest sown of patchwork pieces. His skin was blue gray and his face was like a rough sketch or unfinished sculpture. In his long and wild hair were traces of snow. He did not slow or look at me as he crossed the meadow.
"Hullo!", I called out. "You sir! What brings you to my wood?" I was speaking quickly without thinking. I had never seen a giant before and was not about to let my first one pass without learning something of him. I'd heard some stories and rumors, but this creature was so obviously uninterested in me, and had such a peaceful, thoughtful look on his face I couldn't reconcile him with the great monsters of old wives tales.
"Uh?", said a voice like a landslide as a last slow stride drifted to a standstill. "What?"
"Yes, my wood, good sir. May I inquire your business?", first impressions and rumors aside, being polite never hurt ones chance of being eaten.
"Your wood?", incredulously. "Ha. Ha. HA HA HA!", his laughter started slow and sounded like waves crashing against a rock. "Simple/woodland thing you. Suppose wood belong you as anyone. Hmmmm.... forgotten sight, deer two legs. What?... want be giant?"
His words were slow as though considered carefully and weighed. The look in his eyes was bright and intelligent although his grammar confused me. It was more as though he was rationing his words, than that he did not know them.
I had to untangle what he said before I could reply. "I am not a deer who wants to be a giant. I am a person and at your service.", I replied with a bow.
"Person? Know. See more?"
I turned slowly in a circle and then walked up to the giant and looked up into his craggy face.
"What do you think?", I asked.
"Small. Much breath.", he replied. He began to walk towards the woods.
I followed, curious to see what would happen. Looked at me briefly as I jogged along beside him and then continue and the same unhurried pace. If he ever hurried, I wasn't sure I could keep up by sprinting.
After a few minutes of jogging next to a giant I said, "My name is Willam, what is yours?"
The giant made a deep growly sound that sounded a bit, "Yorgu."
When it was clear nothing more was coming I asked, "Where are you going, Yorgu?"
"Myvillage", he replied. It sounded strange, run together like that, especially since he normally kept his words spartan and separate. Perhaps it was one word in his mind.
"How far is it?", I asked.
"Two days." He replied.
"Where are you come from?" Now, I am not a naturally talkative person. I've spent much of my life alone, traveling the wilderness, exploring, and trapping. When among people I enjoy good company. I love to listen to good stories and have been known to tell a few but mostly I like to listen. I was working my mind to keep this conversation going as hard as I was working my legs to keep up.
When I asked that question Yorgu stopped suddenly and looked thoughtful, as though running his mind back over his journey. I skidded, tripped and landed in a very undignified manner, on my face, in the dirt.
"All day mind forward. Question cast mind back. Your words", he shook his shaggy head, snow falling from his hair, "not big. Plainswestofmountains seaofgrass. Longsilverriver. Firesky touches greatwater. These words too small." And with that speech, and a distant look west, we turned back to his path and began his trek again.
I lay in the dirt for a moment, stunned by the length of the speech from the giant and something else. When he spoke the words rushed together there was a kind of music in his voice. Like a deep melody of the earth that stirred my imagination. I could almost see the places he'd been but, they were shadowed. A fog was between me and his memories.
Two days walk he'd said. Early this morning I had left my camp dressed quite warmly because the nights were still quite cold. I had a canteen and it was easy to find water around here. I had enough jerky in my pack for two days if I rationed it. Funny, I've tracked many animals but never noticed a giant trail before. Now that I had one in front of me, it seemed perfectly obvious. Perhaps my mind had simply skipped over the signs, not believing that anything so large inhabited the world. Yes my mind was made up. I would see Yorgu's myvillage.
Unfortunately I had miscalculated. Even at the giant's pace I ought to have made his village in three or four days at the worst. I thought I was in pretty good shape, well enough to spend the entire first day at an easy trot and most of the second day. I had no trouble with the trail, except that I had to detour a bit to ford streams the giant had simply stepped across. Each time, I had no trouble finding his trail again. What I never found, were camps. A great brute, 12-14 feet tall, weighing as much as an ox ought to have left an impression in the earth if he sat or laid down. It seemed he did no such thing. He simply walked on, at his easy, giant, mile eating pace. At noon on the sixth day I was hungry, beat, and ready to give up, when I crested a knoll and was struck dumb.
The world is a pretty big place. You can walk a long time and not see the tiniest fraction of it. I know. I've tried. So I had forgiven myself almost instantly for having never noticed there was a giant in it. Perhaps I'd just missed him in the woods. But my mind was currently refusing to accept that I had lived for forty some years of wandering and never encountered a giant given that right in front of me were at least twenty of them all larger than Yorgu and moving about a giant village. While most of the world considered this place in the foothills of the Crimson Mountains as remote and wild, it was my neighborhood. This wilderness had been my home for most of the last couple decades. How could I have missed a valley practically overflowing with giants? How?!
Before me was a green valley with a stream running through the bottom. Set into the hills were caves with huge stone doorways set into them. Stone door posts with slabs set over the top. Giants moved about between dwellings, or sat on the ground. There was no fire and no talking. Not that I noticed at first anyway.
There were many of them larger than Yorgu. The biggest perhaps twenty feet tall, like great blue trees that had forsaken their roots, with long stringy foliage on top. On closer inspection I observed smaller versions too. The smallest appeared no taller than I was. These smaller ones seemed younger. Their limbs thinner and manners more youthful. A pair of them were rolling boulders down the opposite hill into the stream. They would jump and smile when they splashed and then run down to retrieve them for another round. But there was no laughter.
This was what I came to see. But there was a solemnity to the great gray stones and stern older giants that gave me pause. I wasn't sure I dared disturb the silent valley. I was almost ready to turn away when Yorgu looked up from a place near one of the caves. His eyes met mine and he beckoned me. Unbidden my feet began to descend into the valley toward him. As I walked I became aware of sounds. Rumbling voices of the old ones in conversation. The young ones laughter rang out like the falling stones they played with. The awareness of the sounds came upon me slowly so that I couldn't have said for sure that I'd not heard them at the crest. There was some magic here that I was only dimly aware of.
When I reached Yorgu I did not know what to say. It seemed like I had intruded. The older giants had watched me approach with fierce gazes but not moved to stop me. The younger ones had picked up stones and held them like missiles but watched with curiosity. Yorgu regarded me with a stony face. Sitting next to his doorposts, I could have mistaken him for one.
"You follow. You see myvillage", he said after an awkward silence.
"I am a curious man. You are unlike anything I've ever seen. I could not pass up the opportunity." I said. It didn't seem like quite enough to excuse the violation of their privacy. "I'm sorry for intruding. I see now the magic that keeps you safe from the outside world. I feel like I have disrespected something sacred."
Yorgu leaned forward, putting his face rather close to mine. He looked at me closely and inhaled slowly through his rectangular nose. "You no see giantmagic. Small taste. I allow you entry. No apology. I Yorgucurious." At that his mouth, which seemed naturally severe and stern, opened in a kind of grin. His teeth were black and irregular shapes like rough quarry stones and seeing them mere inches away was quite alarming. But his eyes danced in an unmistakable way. I hoped and prayed it was a smile.
"Thank you?" My voice seemed small and not at all my own.
"Stars.", he said, leaning back and coming to his feet. I looked up despite myself. It was the middle of the days and I had no idea what Yorgu was talking about. I began an extremely intelligent question, "huh?" when out of the cave came two more giants.
One was nearly as tall as Yorgu and although she did not appear to be a different shape or wear different clothing she moved with an altogether different grace than he did. A grace that immediately spook to my mind, she. "Star", Yorgu said, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Littlestar", he said, resting his other hand on the head of the second giant. She was my height and of lighter build than the adults. She wore a patchwork dress that reached her knees and a ready grin every bit as terrible as her father's. Both of them looked at me avid curiosity and not a trace of malice. There seemed to come a harmonic thrumming sound from the three of them and the sound spoke into my mind the word family. Yorgu looked at his wife and daughter and then pointed at me and said, "Willam."
So there you have it. Blood thirsty and savage giants have happy little families. They live in peaceful little green valleys magically hidden from the world and nobody knew anything about it. Well, I suppose I'd heard some tales and rumors but they certainly didn't match up to what my eyes were showing my disbelieving mind. Among the rest of the tribe there were certainly a few who looked like they could really go for some people stew about now but Yorgu's family... they looked savage in there animal skins and wild hair, with black teeth and stony faces but they radiated a certainty of peace like nothing I'd ever felt. Magic to stun their prey maybe?
"What Willam?" The voice of Littlestar was musical like cataracts on a cliff.
"Person", replied Yorgu.
"Why?", she queried back. At that Yorgu smiled and looked thoughtful, but also almost coy. It was a really weird expression on a giant. "Here myvillage. No people. Today PEOPLE?!" She said myvillage in a different way to Yorgu, like it meant the same but in a completely different way. She spoke faster than Yorgu and finished her question in a very loud and excited voice that drew a great of attention from the tribe. I was not reassured by the looks I received.
Yorgu only smiled wider.
Littlestar seemed to screw up her face in thought. "Willam traveled? People travel? People... giants?" She puzzled out the words slowly. I was completely lost.
Yorgu looked thoughtful again but said nothing. Star finally replied, slowly, but with certainty. Her voice deep and strong as a river cutting through a canyon. "Small giants. Big people. Both travel. See together Wisdom."
Littlestar laughed like a thunder storm. It drew the ire of the older giants around. "Little giants. Big people. Ha ha ha." She clapped me on the back nearly knocking me over.
"Willam, Yorgu, travel. Together see Wisdom." Star repeated. Yorgu incline his head to her. In a very tender gesture he touched her face. Somehow his posture hummed acceptance, longing, and gratitude all mixed up together.
Giant magic was weird.
"Littlestar travel?", she asked. She was tense as though poised for a blow.
"No yet", Star said fondly. "Time coming", said Yorgu.
Littlestar was visibly disappointed, but she bid her father a tender farewell and then moved beside her mother. The family looked at each other a moment longer and Yorgu turned to me.
"We travel." He said. It was a statement and without waiting for agreement or acknowledgment he started off up the hill. I was left with a clear choice. Go with Yorgu despite my hunger and fatigue, or stay and be turned into people stew as soon as the stars went back in their house.
When we had crested the knoll and gone a little way back down into the woods we came to a stream where Yorgu stopped and sat down. I was so surprised I ran into he great big bony back.
"Willam rest", was all he said. I was thoroughly confused and tried to sputter out a question, but Yorgu began to hum something deep and before I even knew it the ground rushed up and grabbed my face again.
I woke with a start. The sun was now going down and there was a smell of cooked meat. The smell alone might have woken me, except I was certain my stomach had jumped out of my body and was dragging me toward it.
That's pretty hard to sleep through.
I don't know how Yorgu cooked the venison. There was no sign of fire. He had no knife to clean it and there was no obvious signs of butchering. Giant magic again? Maybe they could hum dinner out of the sky.
Yorgu still sat by the stream. His eyes resting on the water. When I had eaten, I drank and washed in the stream, then turned to him expectantly.
"See Willam village", he said. My mind took a while to turn those words into an idea. It then recoiled from the idea and crawled into a hole to hide from all further ideas. It took a while longer to coax it out and say something to elicit further explanation from my companion.
"Wha huh?", ever the orator.
Yorgu replied very slowly, like he was talking to a child. "Willam see myvillage. Yorgu see Willam village. See together Wisdom."
"I don't know what that means." This concept of "See together Wisdom" seemed to hold some reverence for Yorgu. But I was in the dark.
He thought for a while. "Giant travel see Wisdom. People travel see Wisdom?" His question jarred something loose in my mind. It fell down a steep ravine and I didn't hear it hit bottom.
"Sorry. I still don't understand."
Yorgu thought again. "Yorgu see much. World big. Big ideas. Think ideas. Open ideas. Find wisdomtreasures. Someday give wisdomtreasures Littlestar." He did not appear finished and I was still confused so I waited.
"People see much." This he said with confidence and seemed to weigh his next words in his hands. "People find small wisdomtreasures." He weighed that thought in his hands some more before nodding. "Yes. Give Yorgu give Littlestar."
The gestures were surprising helpful. He had weighed the idea of me traveling in his mind and decided I must have traveled and learned things and I must now share with him so that he could share with Littlestar, which seemed to be his life's work. That still didn't convince me it was "wisdom" to bring a giant to my village.
"If you go to my village people will be afraid. They may try to hurt you.", I said.
Yorgu took on a very serious look. "People no see."
Now I was taken aback by that. I'd never seen a giant before about a week ago but I was pretty sure folks would notice one walking up to them on main street.
"Giantmagic", Yorgu replied with a grin that could easily justify all the terrible rumors about giants.
We didn't talk a lot on the journey. Yorgu was deep in thought, I was deep in panic. My "village" wasn't as sacred as Yorgu's. It didn't have magic or a beautiful family waiting for me. It was the place I'd been born and raised. My boyhood spent there meant it had a special place in my mind. A quaint village surrounded by farms and woodland. But it also had men with guns who would defend their homes from a scary giant. Not that Yorgu was very threatening, unless he grinned at them.
Shockingly we reached the outskirts without incident. I kept to the woodlands as much as I could. Following paths my feet had worn many times over the growing up years. We came by the back ways to a little cabin on the edge of the wood that had fallen into disrepair.
"That was my home." I said.
"No now." Yorgu replied.
I nodded and smiled sadly. "It was a happy place to be a boy. But I am old now and my family has passed away. I am all that is left."
Yorgu said nothing, only looked.
We stood there until nearly sundown when without warning Yorgu moved from the trees and began walking into town. I stood aghast for a solid minute before chasing after.
Before I caught up with him he had passed a farmhouse and was coming up to a wagon returning to a farm for the evening.
But he only kept going. I couldn't catch up to him in time and even if I did, what was I going to do? Tackle him and hide him under my hat?
Yorgu simply walked past the wagon. The farmer never even looked at him. I stopped stunned. Giantmagic indeed. Hmmph. Give a man a heart attack.
I showed Yorgu my town. It was a bizarre evening. He looked and asked a few questions but mostly listened to me ramble. No one looked at him or me. If ever we got close to someone they just walked around us, even going out of there way to NOT run into us for no obvious reason. Giantmagic I guess.
When the sun was well down and the street deserted I turned to Yorgu and asked him a question.
"I am tired and cannot keep up with you. You walk all day and night."
"But not enough for people."
Yorgu looked worried. "Giant travel." Oddly I thought that was enough. I understood that his walking was part of what he was. He could no more slow down for me than I could go without sleep. Yet I wanted very much to "See together wisdom". I had an idea.
"I will get horses. Then I can sleep at night and catch up to you during the day."
"Not quite like you can but they can go faster. I will be able to follow and travel with you some of the day."
Yorgu seemed satisfied and nodded. Then he turned to head out of town.
I returned to my old cabin and slept.
The next day found me riding a giant trail out of town with a pack horse behind me hoping it wasn't too hard to catch Yorgu. I did not know what to make of my new friend but felt that something important was going to come of all this.
I caught up to Yorgu that evening. When he saw me he smiled and frightened the horses.
"Why horse scared?", he asked.
When I had calmed them down and came up next to Yorgu at a comfortable walk I replied, "They think you might eat them."
Yorgu thought about that and nodded. "Yorgu might."
We continued for a while in silence. I figured to walk the horses for part of the night and then rest a few hours before catching up again. Hopefully I could find a rhythm that worked.
"Yorgu, would your tribe have eaten me?", I asked.
"Maybe" was all he said. The word was infused with sadness and we were quiet again. The sun had gone down and the stars came out in the twilight sky.
"Are you very different from other giants?"
Yorgu stopped and looked at me. There were great tears in his eyes. "Yes", he said in a low whisper, like dust blowing across stone.
Huge drops fell from his face. After a moment, "Yorgu no eat people. People think. Horse small think. No eat horse. Deer no think. Deer hear magic. Deer ready give eat. Deer no ready, Yorgu no eat. Some giants eat all. Greatsorrow."
I couldn't follow that completely. But the last part struck a cord. "Some people eat all. Greatsorrow." I said the last word without thinking, but I felt it vibrate out of my bones and into the earth. It struck a note in the ground and reverberated around us. Yorgu looked at me in awe. "Willam giantspeak!"
I didn't know what to say. It just happened. Maybe giantmagic was contagious?
"Some people eat giants?" Yorgu asked somewhat hesitantly.
"No, not eat. But kill. Kill in self-defense first maybe. Later kill in malice.", I explained. "People killed wolves and bears to protect themselves. Now they kill them for no reason at all. They often kill each other for no reason at all."
"Understand. Giants, people, same."
"So we are."
"Horse and giants are the same too.", I said.
"Horse eat horse?"
"No. No. Horse travel. I mean horses like to travel. They can cover as many miles a day as you."
"Yes they have to rest. Wait, how come you don't rest?"
"Giant walk rest. Trance."
"Ok, that doesn't explain anything. Horses sometimes leave a perfectly good pasture just because they've been in one place too long. Then they'll travel miles to find a new one. The lone stallions might fight you just because you scared them, but the herd will just run away and travel somewhere new. Hey that's it isn't it? You travel to see new things. And then you learn from them. You think hard about them and tease out the wisdom to gained. I think I understand now."
"The horse is like you Yorgu. He loves to travel."
"I just thought of another thing that's like you Yorgu. It's a snail."
"Hang on." I jumped off the horse and rooted around in the grass in the moon light. Sure enough I was rewarded with a very slimy hand. "Here it's a snail."
Yorgu held out his hand. I placed the snail on it. It was smaller than the smallest fingernail on Yorgu's hand. He held it up to the moonlight and tried to examine it.
"Small. No giant."
"A little giant.", I replied. Yorgu looked at me like I was crazy.
"Crazy?", he asked. "Head hurt?"
"No. No. You like to travel. You can go all day and all night. All this little guy does is travel. When he needs to rest he curls up in his shell, his house on his back and when he's done, back to traveling. He might take all day to go the same distance as one of your steps but in small ways he is the same as you."
"He. He. HE HE HA HA. HO HO HO.", small chuckles like falling rocks gave way to a belly laugh I thought might break the ground.
"Tiny snail travel. HO HO HO." Yorgu was doubled over laughing now, the snail still held carefully in one hand. The other hand was pounding the ground.
When the earthquake subsided Yorgu was still wheezing a little. He gave me back the snail.
"Willam give wisdomtreasures. Small giants in all things. Great gift. Compassion."
And that was how Yorgu taught me a great lesson. If I can see something of myself in someone or something else, however small the similarity, I've taken a step towards compassion.
"Give Littlestar. Yorgu give giants. Willam give people."
"Yes Yorgu I will."
We travel for several weeks this way. I would go as far as I could before resting the horses and myself, then catch up the next day. Often Yorgu had food ready for me although I never saw the magic that conjured it or understood why deer would be "ready" to be eaten. Yorgu impressed me with his deep thoughts spoken in few words and his insight into the world.
There came a day when I felt it was time to part. Yorgu felt it as well.
"Question. Why Yorgu different?", he asked me.
I smiled a little. "I think I know the answer Yorgu. But I'm not sure you are ready for it."
"There are answers that can be told and answers that must be found. Oh confound it all Yorgu, you get to be a magical mysterious giant. Can't I keep one mystery to myself?"
Yorgu looked at me flatly. I'd gotten pretty good at reading him. Most of the time his face said, "Silent blue rock."
"Yes. Thank you Willam.", he said, and walked away. Giants weren't much on goodbyes I guess.
"Thank you Yorgu.", I said to his back.
The air seemed to vibrate for a moment, there was a swelling pressure like sound just beyond hearing and then a feeling of gratitude and friendship overcame me. Yorgu did not look back but I will never forget my last taste of giantmagic.
It took a while but I found a large stone slab leaning against an outcropping. I could get under it to work and it was where Yorgu would surely see it. Don't ask me how I knew that.
Under it I carved in giantish, the language of scrapes and cuts on stone, of fallen tree trunks arranged in a clearing. They were big, bold strokes I carved that took all my strength. I didn't know then, and don't know now how I knew what to do. I suppose something of giantmagic stuck with me. I carved the sign for family, like a "V", two points leading to one. Inside it I carved a star, and a smaller star and the "Y" for Yorgu. Off of the "Y" I carved the downward stroke in giantish for kindness or weakness or humility and then an outward stroke leaving the family for "toward others" and finally a rough wide circle for "all". Below this I made the sign for love. Except in giantish love isn't word like in english. It means belonging and rightness and wholeness rolled up with friendship and bunch of other good stuff. Finally a two way connection between love and kindness. The message looked like a bunch of random gouges to my people mind but my implanted giant knew what Yorgu would see.
Yorgu was different because his family loved him. They loved him because he was kind. He was kind because they loved him. It wasn't about cause and affect. It was just all wrapped up together as it should be.
This is a story about who I wish I could be. I wish I could be as clever and wise as Willam. I wish I could be as kind and thoughtful as Yorgu. I wanted to write something beautiful. Something that would inspire me and others to create a better world. I don't know if the ideal I imagine is possible or not. Sometimes the hope that it could be real is very hard to hold. Magic is all about the wishing. Maybe if I wish enough it will be a kind of magic.