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A hungry dragon, a near-sighted giant, foppish knights, a greedy king and stolen treasure. All confront Farmer Giles to give much thought to the Wide World outside his fields, the village, and the nearest market. The forest was not far off, and away west and north were the Wild Hills, and the dubious marches of the mountain-country.
And among other things still at large there were giants: rude and uncultured folk, and troublesome at times. There was one giant in particular, larger and more stupid than his fellows. He was very large, his walking-stick was like a tree, and his tread was heavy. He brushed elms aside like tall grasses; and he was the ruin of roads and the desolation of gardens, for his great feet made holes in them as deep as wells; if he stumbled into a house, that was the end of it.
And all this damage he did wherever he went, for his head was far above the roofs of houses and left his feet to look after themselves. He was near-sighted and also rather deaf. He used to go out walking in the Wild Hills and in the empty regions at the feet of the mountains, all by himself.
His faithful dog Farmer Giles had a dog. Dogs had to be content with short names in the vernacular: the Book-Latin was reserved for their betters.
Garm could not talk even dog-Latin; but he could use the vulgar tongue as could most dogs of his day either to bully or to brag or to wheedle in. Bullying was for beggars and trespassers, bragging for other dogs, and wheedling for his master. Garm was both proud and afraid of Giles, who could bully and brag better than he could. He is trampling on your sheep. You must be bold and quick, master, or you will soon have nothing left.
His feet were still far below, making holes in the fields. The moon dazzled the giant and he did not see the farmer; but Farmer Giles saw him and was scared out of his wits. He pulled the trigger without thinking, and the blunderbuss went off with a staggering bang. Out flew the rubbish, and the stones and the bones, and the bits of crock and wire, and half a dozen nails.
It was a long time since he had met any insect fierce enough to pierce his thick skin; but he had heard tell that away East, in the Fens, there were dragonflies that could bite like hot pincers. He thought that he must have run into something of the kind. He found his way home again in the end. The growing fame of Farmer Giles Next day he found that the news had grown in the telling, and he had become an important local figure. By the middle of the next week the news had spread to all the villages within twenty miles.
He had become the Hero of the Countryside. Very pleasant he found it. Next market day he got enough free drink to float a boat: that is to say, he nearly had his fill, and came home singing old heroic songs. But better than the testimonial was the accompanying gift. The King sent a belt and a long sword. To tell the truth the King had never used the sword himself.
It belonged to the family and had been hanging in his armoury time out of mind. The armourer could not say how it came there, or what might be the use of it. Plain heavy swords of that kind were, out of fashion at court, just then, so the King thought it the very thing for a present to a rustic. But Farmer Giles was delighted, and his local reputation became enormous. Giles much enjoyed the turn of events. So did his dog. He never got his promised whipping.
Giles was a just man according to his lights; in his heart he gave a fair share of the credit to Garm, though he never went so far as to mention it. He continued to throw hard words and hard things at the dog when he felt inclined, but he winked at many little outings.
Garm took to walking far afield. The farmer went about with a high step, and luck smiled on him. The autumn and early winter work went well. All seemed set fair — until the dragon came. Hungry dragons in the Wild Hills hear of the good eating at Farmer Giles village The warm summer was followed by a hard winter.
It was bitter cold in the mountains and food was scarce. The talk got louder. Lowland sheep and lone from the deep pastures were much discussed. The dragons pricked up their ears. They were hungry, and these rumours were attractive. Armed with a magic sword, his faithful dog and gentle mare he goes out into the Wide World and changes history.
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