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More Than a Match

By Aaron Shepard

Printed in an earlier form as “The Giant Who Was More Than a Match,” under the pen name Aaron Piper, in Friends Journal, May 15, 1984; and in Lighting Candles in the Dark, FGC Religious Education Committee, Friends General Conference, Philadelphia, 1992


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Copyright © 1984, 1997, 2002, 2003 by Aaron Shepard. May not be published or posted without permission.

PREVIEW: When the king’s most powerful warriors are defeated by a giant who’s blocking the road, the Wise One must find a way past.

GENRE: Fables (original)
CULTURE: ——
THEME: Means and ends, peacemaking
AGES: 5–12
LENGTH: 1300 words

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There was once a man so wise that no one could say just how wise he was. He was also so old that no one remembered his name—and he’d forgotten it himself. So they called him simply the Wise One.

Now, the Wise One lived close to the kingdom’s capital, which was called the city of Here. Just a day’s ride away lay another city, which was called the city of There. And the single road between them carried many travelers by horse, cart, and carriage.

One day, when a merchant from Here had ridden his horse halfway to There, he came upon a huge man standing in the middle of the road. The man was half again taller than the merchant, and dressed like a merchant himself.

The giant shouted,

“None shall pass without a fight.
Choose your weapon, dark or light.
I’ll more than match you, wrong or right!”

“Never mind!” squeaked the merchant. And he fled back to the city, warning everyone he met on the way.

It was not long before he told the King too. “Dear me, dear me,” said the King. “What must I do? What must I do?

The Queen leaned over to him. “Darling, why don’t—”

“Not now, my love,” said the King. “I must listen to my Council of Three!”

The First Councillor lifted his finger. “Your Majesty, a king must protect his subjects and uphold their right to travel where they wish. One of your warriors must battle the giant. Send the Master of Clubs!”

“Oh my, oh my,” said the King. But he called for the Master of Clubs and gave the order.

The next morning, the Master of Clubs rode out till he came to the giant, who was now dressed up like a Master of Clubs.

The giant bellowed,

“None shall pass without a fight.
Choose your weapon, dark or light.
I’ll more than match you, wrong or right!”

The brawny warrior dropped from his horse and growled, “I choose clubs.”

But as he raised his own club, the giant raised one bigger and heavier. Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!—and the Master of Clubs was shorter and wider than before.

The flattened warrior raced back to the King. “Dear me, dear me,” said the King, and again asked, “What must I do? What must I do?

“Darling,” said the Queen, “why don’t you—”

“Not now, my love,” said the King. “My Councillors will surely know what’s best!”

The Second Councillor pulled his ear. “Your Majesty, this is a great insult to your kingdom and must not go unanswered. Send the Master of Swords!”

“Oh my, oh my,” said the King, but he called for the Master of Swords.

The next morning, the Master of Swords rode till he came to the giant, who was now dressed up like a Master of Swords.

The giant roared,

“None shall pass without a fight.
Choose your weapon, dark or light.
I’ll more than match you, wrong or right!”

The lanky warrior sprang from his horse and cried, “I choose swords!”

But just as he drew his own sword, the giant drew one longer and sharper. Swish! Swish! Swish!—and the shirt of the Master of Swords hung in shreds.

The tattered warrior raced back to the King. “Dear me, dear me,” said the King. “What must I do? What must I do?

“Darling,” said the Queen, “why don’t you ask—”

“Not now, my love,” said the King. “At times like this, we must trust in the Councillors!”

The Third Councillor tapped his nose. “Your Majesty, your kingdom now faces the gravest of challenges to its very existence. You have no choice but to use your most powerful warrior. Send the Master of Fire!”

“Oh my, oh my,” said the King. But he called for the Master of Fire.

The next morning, the Master of Fire rode till he came to the giant, who was now dressed up like a Master of Fire.

The giant thundered,

“None shall pass without a fight.
Choose your weapon, dark or light.
I’ll more than match you, wrong or right!”

The ruddy warrior leaped from his horse and barked, “I choose fire!”

He swiftly lit his torches and tossed them at the giant, one after the other. But the giant caught them and threw them back faster, burning brighter and hotter than before. Whizz! Whizz! Whizz!—and the Master of Fire was singed from head to foot.

The smoldering warrior raced back to the King. “Dear me, dear me,” said the King. “What must I do? What must I do?

But not one of the Councillors could say.

Then the Queen leaned over once more. “Darling, why don’t you ask the Wise One?”

“My love!” said the King. “A wonderful idea! I’m so glad we thought of it.” And he called for the Wise One.

The Wise One arrived next morning and listened carefully to the King’s story. Then he said, “I will go at once.”

With a cart and horse loaned by the King, the Wise One drove out till he came to the giant, who was now dressed up like a Wise One.

The giant shouted,

“None shall pass without a fight.
Choose your weapon, dark or light.
I’ll more than match you, wrong or right!”

“Well!” said the Wise One. “I shall have to think on this!” And so saying, he settled himself to ponder.

The giant stood stone still.

After a while, the Wise One’s stomach grumbled. He reached into his bag for a loaf of brown bread and broke off a piece. He was about to bite into it when he heard a growl from the stomach of the giant.

“Perhaps you too are hungry,” said the Wise One pleasantly. He held out the piece of bread. “Would you care to share my humble repast?”

“So!” cried the giant. “You try to conquer me with kindness! But now I’ll more than match you.”

Almost faster than the Wise One could see, the giant took from his own bag a table and chair and all manner of tasty, wholesome dishes fit for a Wise One—grains, cheeses, vegetables, fruits. Then before the Wise One could look twice, the giant stood there again, solid as rock and blocking the road.

“So that’s the way of it,” murmured the Wise One.

He got down from the cart and sat at the table to enjoy the giant’s offering. When he’d eaten enough to satisfy his hunger, and a little more, he leaned back contentedly and gazed thoughtfully at the giant.

“I should like you to know a little about me. I live in a cottage in a forest outside the city of Here. And though I make no such claim for myself, others call me the Wise One.”

The giant bellowed, “Another contest! But you won’t win, because now I’ll tell you even more about me. I have no name, for my father is the wind, and my mother is a curved mirror. Like any mirror, I show only what I see, and I have no power or skill but what you choose.”

“I thought as much,” said the Wise One, rising from the table. “But the day is more than half done, and I must reach the city of There before dark.”

He stepped up to the giant and smiled kindly. “May I offer you a ride?”

The giant screamed, “You dare to challenge me again? This time I’ll best you once and for all!”

He picked up the Wise One, then the cart, then the horse, all together. Then he raced down the road, as fast as any wind—all the way to the city of There.

The giant set them down gently at the city gate. “I hope you’ve at last learned your lesson,” he said.

“Oh, I have!” said the Wise One breathlessly. “I thank you for it—and so will the King and all his subjects, I’m sure.”

Then the giant raced back up the road and was out of sight within seconds.

And ever since then—thanks to the Wise One—travelers between Here and There have only to bring themselves half of the way.

And then they get a ride from the giant.