Grimm’s Fairy Tale – Interpretation of the "Young giant"

The “Young Giant” is one of the many strange and significant fairy tales that never became popular. It begins as many fairy tales do, with a statement that it certainly hadn’t happened recently. The farmer in the story has a boy who is a thumb. It is interesting to note how many people from the past commonly had thumbnails within stories, such characters could indicate and be aware of the events that happened to them and what they meant.

From about AD 900 to AD 1200, people in Europe were as tall as they are today, then over time their average height began to decline. It is interesting to note how important nutrition is to height and how the presence of a thumb seems to indicate poverty in folk tales. At the same time, of course, making the main character a thumb is in part to make his exploits even more meaningful, and in the case of this story, that feat is turning the thumb into a giant. Because while the thumb is in the field with his father, the giant comes and tells him to go away. This giant female then acts as a mother to the thumb who takes care of it for years and makes it grow and grow. After the now young giant has grown up for a while, his new mother takes him into the forest and has him uproot a young tree, however this does not satisfy the giantess who decides that the young giant needs to be suckled some more in order to strengthen. Three times the giant uproots trees in the forest before his new mother is satisfied, when he uproots the largest oak in the forest and breaks it in half.

After pleasing his adoptive mother with his strength, he returns to his parents, who at first are afraid of him, denying that he is their son. However, he convinces them of their relationship, after which he plows everything for them without the help of horses, and then takes the horse home. The son asks his father for a cane, and his father tries his best to provide him with one, however the young giant breaks every cane his father gives him. Realizing that his father can no longer support him, the young giant leaves home.

It is interesting to note that when he was a thumb all he wanted to do was help his father, when he grew up he did a great job for a brief period but left his parents because they could no longer help him. Certainly, for the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Age to occur, children had to start leaving their parents en masse rather than staying home to help them. As one might anticipate from such an event, the young giant goes to find a blacksmith, offering to work for the blacksmith in exchange for the right to beat him. The greedy blacksmith agrees to these terms. However, the giant cannot do much good in the forge because he is too strong, so after taking a hit he grabs a metal bar for a staff and leaves.

The giant then offers to work for a bailiff in exchange for the right to beat the bailiff after a year. Bali agrees with this too. After this, the giant does his duties well; however, he secretly hinders other workers from looking better. He sleeps and, in truth, the job itself is not that difficult for him due to his large size, this is not the work ethic that people might associate with the peasants and others of the pre-Victorian era. This seems to indicate a certain amount of desire to be lazy, and to look better than was actually possible. Furthermore, as the Young Giant ends the story by beating both the bailiff and his wife, sending them flying through the air for almost an eternity, there seems to be at all times some desire to strike at those in charge, especially if those people they are greedy. In many ways, the aspects of this story, the funny way the giant works and the bosses are greedy and punished for it, makes it the equivalent of a modern office comedy. While these comedies cannot be taken completely seriously, they do clash with a certain amount of truth regarding feelings towards the social structure of the time.

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