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The Sleepless Giant

Giants and mountains and stars oh my

By Susanna KiernanPublished 10 months ago 6 min read
Runner-Up in Mythmaker Challenge
The Sleepless Giant
Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash

Come here, my child. Don’t tread the snow in. Sit with your grandmother beside the fire on this cold night, lest we freeze. The frost has reached my bones and nothing warms the soul like a story retold. Did you know the waterfall beyond the trees was the first one to ever be? Have I not yet told you how it was formed? Well, it’s as good a story as any.

My grandmother would tell me this story on moonlit nights such as this, as did her grandmother before, and her grandmother before her. What’s that you said? You think I’m as old as time itself? Do not let my face, lined as the bark of an oak though it is, deceive you. Generations and civilisations rose and fell before I was even a pea in my mother’s belly and there are still some around here who think me quite young. Not many, but some.

Now where was I? Oh yes.

The sky was filled with stars the night Aeronwen couldn’t sleep. There weren’t yet as many stars as there are today. Many have joined the sky throughout time and each and every one has a story, but those are stories for other days and other nights.

Aeronwen was the giant of the North and she formed much of the world as we see it today. Most nights she would lie in the valleys and cradle the mountains as sleep came upon her. Not unlike how you hug your pillow as your eyes drift shut. The moss and grass was her down feather bed and the earth would sink beneath her weight. They say valleys that she lay in became all the deeper for it.

But on this night, and for no reason Aeronwen could conceive, sleep would not befall her. Over and over again she counted the stars until it brought her frustration. She wanted to pick them from the sky – if she couldn’t find solace in them no one else should – but they were too far away for even a giant to reach.

After an hour of lying in discontent she rose and stomped through the land. Each time her foot hit the ground the world trembled and animals scurried into their burrows to avoid being crushed. She scanned the horizon of shadowed peaks for something to entertain herself with and her gaze rested on the highest summit. It was a sharp and pointed thing. Aeronwen had tripped and cut her chin on it several times. She plucked it off the same way a child picks a daisy. She cupped the rock in her hands and moulded it like a baker kneading dough, like a potter molding clay.

The wound in the mountain gaped open and water, the blood of stone, spilled from it. It formed rivulets that threaded the mountain like external veins. Water holds the memory of the stone that bore it and it mourned the loss the mountain top and watched Aeronwen play with the ball she had made.

Aeronwen rolled the ball through the valley, tossed it up in the sky so she could catch it. But one time the wind caught it and it flung too far away and Aeronwen lost sight of it in the dark. It had rolled back to the mountain from whence it came. The water saw an opportunity to reclaim the stone.

The water rushed to the cliff edge and flung itself off. The fall turned the water a foamy white as it cascaded past the rough ridges of the rock face. It plummeted down and splashed as it struck the ground. The sound caught Aeronwen’s attention and she followed it until she saw the waterfall itself. She stared at it for a long moment. Before she had only ever seen water in the form of still mirror lakes or the ragged, roaring ocean. This was stardust falling from the night sky. This was liquid silver in a blacksmith’s forge. This is the waterfall we built our home beside.

Aeronwen was enraptured by the beauty of it and the water hoped she would remain distracted until it could drown the ball and hide it from her. But Aeronwen’s eyes travelled with the flow of the water as it pooled in the valley and caught sight of her toy. Even the racing of the pooling water wasn’t enough to stop Aeronwen from swooping in from above to capture it.

Some of the water clung to the rock and made it slippery. Aeronwen came close to dropping it but was quick to clutch it to her chest. The water wasn’t ready to give up. More rivers formed on the mountain’s freshly levelled top and flung itself off the edge with such momentum that it hit Aeronwen in the eye. The sudden sting of ice cold water made Aeronwen drop the ball to wipe her eyes.

Again, the water rushed to retrieve the ball, but Aeronwen kicked it away. It flew high above the mountains like a comet, before crashing down in some yonder valley. Aeronwen and the water raced to find it. The water carved paths in the valleys and Aeronwen jumped and scrambled over the mountains. Each of the rivulets joined to forge a stronger path and created rapids in the hope of tripping Aeronwen. But Aeronwen was swift of foot and thwarted all of the water’s attempts.

She at last found the ball on a grey pebble beach. Yet again, Aeronwen picked it up, thinking at last she had escaped the vengeful freshwater. But the river had descended to the sea and spoken whispers to the saltwater of its mission. Didn’t you know all water is one?

With each stomp of the giant’s heavy foot the ocean had quivered and pulled together, using the momentum of the quaking earth to gain in force. It rose and rose and rose and rose until it was as tall as Aeronwen’s chest and charged at her. It knocked Aeronwen off her feet and the sting of salt filled her nose and mouth and the pebbles of the beach tore into her back. Still she held fast to her ball. But Aeronwen was growing tired of this endless chase and just as the ocean was preparing a second wave she flung the rock straight up into the night sky with all the force she could muster. It went up and up and up and up until it became a silver coin in the sky and rolled to a stop. The giant and the ocean held their breath waiting for the eventual drop, but drop it never did.

At last, Aeronwen fell asleep there on the beach, weary from the unexpected activity of the night. But the ocean is eternal and knows no rest, so it remained watching the ball in the sky, plotting how to get it back.

Day came and Aeronwen woke and – with a yawn that rivalled the ocean breeze – trotted off to find some breakfast. The ocean had made no progress and the ball was no longer visible in the blue sky. So it tugged and turned, trying to sense the location of the lost mountaintop.

Night fell again and the navy sky set the backdrop to the glowing orb standing stark against the stars. The ocean swelled, willing to rise to meet the sky, but it only got as far as absorbing the beach. And again, day returned taking the ball with it. The ocean rested and tried again the next night and the next and the next.

Each day more water fell from the mountain, to join the river and descend to the sea. More mountains sprouted springs to aid in the reclamation of the stone. I’m afraid to say it has never come close.

And that, my dear child, is why water falls from the mountains to travel to the sea and dance with the moon.


About the Creator

Susanna Kiernan

20-something English nomad trying to write some things.

Often whimsical. Sometimes dark. Always fantastical.

| Curtis Brown Creative alumni | Arts Council England funded |

You can find more of me across the internet here.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (20)

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  • Mackenzie Davis8 months ago

    This is absolutely outstanding!! WOW. Im struggling to find the words, but your writing is next level. I completely trusted you to tell this tale, and I was enraptured from the start. Your narrative voice holds power and wisdom in this piece, such that I feel you are correct in every aspect of the story. I cannot accept an alternative explanation for waterfalls or the moon now. Aeronwen is so full of character, chaos of nature married to a childlike sense of play and boredom, interests that change with the wind. I adored the way she crafted the ball out of the mountain top, and later threw it into the sky. I feel like your approach to the water is similar to my inclination toward personifying elements of nature, and I resonated with the character it turned into; though you did it with such mastery, I cannot hope to compare. Seeing how the whole water cycle became part of the reclamation of the mountain top is just so incredibly well executed. “Don’t you know all water is one?” And the shift to the ocean’s tides—just wow. I have so many more compliments to give but I won’t make this longer than it already is…. Fantastic fantastic work, Susanna. I am subscribing to you.

  • Paul Stewart9 months ago

    Meant to come back and say congrats on placing in the challenge! Fine work!

  • Lucero King9 months ago

    Beautiful and playful and so very creative 🌊

  • Natalie Wilkinson9 months ago

    Congratulations! This was one of the entries I had seen and liked!

  • Addison Alder9 months ago

    Imaginative and clever. I wasn't sure where this was going, but then you connected it all beautifully

  • MANOJ K 10 months ago

    Great thank u for give me wonderful reading experience keep it up give suggestions my posts and subscribe me !! HAVE A WONDER FUL DAY

  • Gerald Holmes10 months ago

    This is very creative story-telling. The ease in the way this flows is just magical. Great work. You have a new subscriber.

  • Sarah Danaher10 months ago

    Very well done beautifully written congrats on top story

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉💯✨

  • Rob Angeli10 months ago

    Wonderful entry, narrative weave spun excellently, perfect tone.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Wonderful storytelling!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Alexander McEvoy10 months ago

    Wow that was beautiful!! I love reading about how storytellers ply their craft. And stories about grandparents telling tales to their grandchildren are my favourite. This was a delightful story about the moon and the tides! Fantastic!

  • Dana Crandell10 months ago

    Imaginative and beautifully told. A well-deserving Top Story!

  • Real Poetic10 months ago

    Great story! Congrats!! 🎉

  • Ashley Lima10 months ago

    This is incredible. Congratulations on Top Story. Just subscribed and I'm looking forward to reading more from you.

  • David C. Connor10 months ago


  • Paul Stewart10 months ago

    Swung back around to say Congrats on Top Story!

  • Paul Stewart10 months ago

    I didn't realise I wasn't subscribed to you, but I am now. This was pure magic with words. Like a really awesome fairy tale. You did a marvellous job with this Susanna and I love the fact it has giants. I have a thing for trolls lol and have done a few mini troll stories on Vocal. Anyway, well done on this!

  • J. S. Wade10 months ago

    Love the creativity in your wonderful story. A beautiful paintings in Words.

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