AT Dalton, near Thirsk, in Yorkshire, there is a mill. It has quite recently been rebuilt; but when I was at Dalton, six years ago, the old building stood.
In front of the house was a long mound which went by the name of “the giant’s grave,” and in the mill you can see a long blade of iron something like a scythe-blade, but not curved, which was called “the giant’s knife,” because of a very curious story which is told of this knife. Would you like to hear it? Well, it isn’t very long.
There once lived a giant at this mill who had only one eye in the middle of his forehead, and he ground men’s bones to make his bread. One day he captured on Pilmoor a lad named Jack, and instead of grinding him in the mill he kept him grinding as his servant, and never let him get away. Jack served the giant seven years, and never was allowed a holiday the whole time. At last he could bear it no longer. Topcliffe fair was coming on, and Jack begged that he might be allowed to go there.
“No, no,” said the giant, “stop at home and mind your grinding.”
“I’ve been grinding and grinding these seven years,” said Jack, “and not a holiday have I had. I’ll have one now, whatever you say.”
“We’ll see about that,” said the giant.
Well, the day was hot, and after dinner the giant lay down in the mill with his head on a sack and dozed. He had been eating in the mill, and had laid down a great loaf of bone bread by his side, and the knife I told you about was in his hand, but his fingers relaxed their hold of it in sleep. Jack seized the knife, and holding it with both his hands drove the blade into the single eye of the giant, who woke with a howl of agony, and starting up, barred the door. Jack was again in difficulties, for he couldn’t get out, but he soon found a way out of them. The giant had a favourite dog, which had also been sleeping when his master was blinded. So Jack killed the dog, skinned it, and threw the hide over his back.
“Bow, wow,” says Jack.
“At him, Truncheon,” said the giant; “at the little wretch that I’ve fed these seven years, and now has blinded me.”
“Bow, wow,” says Jack, and ran between the giant’s legs on all-fours, barking till he got to the door. He unlatched it and was off, and never more was seen at Dalton Mill.
NOTES – THE BLINDED GIANT
Source.—Henderson’s Folk-Lore of Northern Counties. See also Folk-Lore.
Parallels.—Polyphemus in the Odyssey and the Celtic parallels in Celtic Fairy Tales, No. v., “Conall Yellowclaw.” The same incident occurs in one of Sindbad’s voyages.
Remarks.—Here we have another instance of the localisation of a well-known myth. There can be little doubt that the version is ultimately to be traced back to the Odyssey. The one-eyed giant, the barred door, the escape through the blinded giant’s legs in the skin of a slaughtered animal, are a series of incidents that could not have arisen independently and casually. Yet till lately the mill stood to prove if the narrator lied, and every circumstance of local particularity seemed to vouch for the autochthonous character of the myth. The incident is an instructive one, and I have therefore included it in this volume, though it is little more than an anecdote in its present shape.
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