The Giant’s Needle

Fiction by Allison Wyss

My brother had seven sons. The first was him again, except not as tall or as clever, and the spark in his eyes was not as bright. The second was a washed-out version of the first. The third a washed-out version of the second. And so on.

I, being a woman and a glorious one, determined to have a daughter, and so that her spark would be bright I decided to have only one.

She was born bright and strong, even more than I and much wiser. I don’t know where she acquired the extra spark. Perhaps she stole it from her father, long forgotten except in her light. Or perhaps from the midwife, who was big in my view, between my legs, but disappeared. Or maybe my daughter snatched it from the night itself. For who would notice if a single star snuffed out?

When she was grown, and all my brother’s seven sons were grown before her, my brother hoped there would be a union among them. I was skeptical of the marriage of cousins but trusted my daughter to make a wise decision.

The oldest and tallest and brightest of my brother’s sons approached her. My daughter promised to marry him if he would bring her the sewing needle of the giant that lived beneath the mountain. The needle was sharp and long like a sword and highly prized by the giant.

I did not know if she most wanted the brother dead or wanted to possess the needle, but it was the former that occurred. When his light was extinguished, some of it passed to the second son of my brother and the rest distributed among the other five.

The second son approached my daughter, and, as with the first, she agreed to marry him if he could bring her the giant’s needle.

This second son tried to reason with my daughter. The giant’s hand was large, he said, and strong. While the giant lived, the hand would not release the needle. While the giant lived, it would take but a flick from its weakest finger to kill a man. It would take but a quick stitch from the needle to pierce his heart.

My daughter said nothing, but her eyes shone brightly. The second son sought the giant under the mountain, and in trying to take the needle he was killed. His brightness was distributed among his younger brothers, and perhaps a bit went elsewhere.

My daughter sought the third son and demanded that he steal the needle for her. She demanded that he kill the giant if he had to, or that he slice off the hand that held the sword-length needle.

But the third son had no interest in marriage or giants or sword-like needles. He took to the sea and became a sailor, then a pirate. It is said he buried a treasure on every shore, and that on each shore the treasure increased sevenfold by the time of his return. But that is a different story.

The fourth son, at my brother’s bidding, approached my daughter and was given the same task as the first. He failed, and his spark passed to his younger brothers. They glowed. But never as bright as the first, for each time the spark was passed some of it was lost.

Who took it? Was it my daughter, growing wiser, but somehow not dulling with the years?

The fifth son followed the third and was lost at sea. My daughter’s roars to bring the giant’s sewing needle were lost in his ears as the waves crashed over his head and the fish consumed him.

The sixth son took to the church. It was in the confessional that my daughter begged for not only the giant’s needle but also both of the giant’s hands and both of the giant’s feet. I saw that her wisdom was warping. The sixth son did not comply but forgave her for asking.

It is only when we reach the seventh son that the tale gets interesting. He passed my daughter his own hands and feet, cut from his arms and legs in jagged lines. He roped the shoreline of the ocean into a leash and used his own sword as a needle to string it with beads of rocks and shells and starfish. Then he prayed the ocean like a rosary, bead by dripping bead. He wrapped the rope of ocean around my daughter’s waist and hung his hands from her ears and his feet from her neck.

When she received the gifts, my daughter laughed. “Why would I marry a man with stumps for arms and legs?”

“Why would I expect it?”

“Fool! Then why would you give me such gifts?”

“Only because I had nothing better to do with them,” he said. And he limped away, shining brightly but not as bright as my daughter, not as brightly as the feet and the hands that hung from her.

The brightness was blinding. I feared it was too much.

Then my daughter did a strange thing. She removed her girdle of ocean and the hands from her ears and the feet from her neck. She strung them into the sky to replace the star that she’d stolen.

Then she returned to my house to live unmarried and to shine brightly forever.

Allison Wyss is obsessed with body modification, dismemberment, and fairy tales. Her work has appeared in Juked, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, The Southeast Review, PANK, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. And she tweets—mostly about toddlers, writing, and resistance—as @AllisonWyss.