The tree giants

There was a giant who used to live above Alki. He was not born there though; in fact, he was born on the other side of the continent in what is now called Nova Scotia. But Oswey was the last of his kind there and grew up to be very lonely. His mother and father happened to die on the same day — a spell they had arranged at the time they were betrothed. Oswey watched them turn into trees for the last time, and the next day, they were dead snags in the forest.

Oswey saw no reason to stay, and he had hopes of finding more of his kind in another land. So he decided to strike out across the country, walking under cover of darkness, and then taking the form of a large tree to rest during the day. With his long legs and large feet he covered a great distance in one day. With his long arms and large hands he caught lots of fish to eat. He loved fish. Sometimes he caught more than he needed and left the extra fish for some hungry people to find. He also uprooted trees and pushed them over so that people would be saved the work of cutting them down first. Oswey loved to help people and did not mind that no one ever saw his acts of kindness. Life was easy for giants — and it was only fair to make life easier for others.

In the forest above the lakes, Oswey found a small clan of giants who were friendly and allowed him to stay and rest a while. There were no human settlements nearby and it was not necessary to take the form as a tree in order to hide. So he had time to get to know Hereswith, a beautiful young giantess with an urge to travel. She had had dreams of a place far to the west where the trees were even bigger and there were so many fish in the water that even all the giants in the world could not eat them all. The mountains were big, with snow on the top — and they sometimes made fire. It had to be magic there.

Oswey was captivated by Hereswith’s stories and charmed by her beauty. He fell in love and asked permission from her father, Ongar. to take her hand in marriage. To his surprise, Ongar was excited at the prospect of Oswey marrying his daughter. The young giant had proved his suitability for the match by walking all the way from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Hereswith needed a husband who could accompany her to the place of her dreams; but that meant crossing the Sea Of Grass, where there were no forests to hide in. And climbing the huge mountains at the other side was an ordeal even for the greatest of giants.

But nothing could squash the youthful optimism of Oswey and Hereswith when they set out across the Sea Of Grass as newlyweds. Along they way, the encountered parties of humans following the buffalo — and had to take form as trees. The humans were always baffled at finding a pair of large trees where they surely did not belong, but they did not interfere. At night, if Oswey and Hereswith came across buffalo, they would persuade them to move in a direction taking them closer to humans — to save those people a long walk.

All the same, Oswey and Hereswith were very happy when they found themselves in the forests of the mountains, where they could hide more easily. Finally, the found themselves in the land Hereswith had dreamed about, on the eastern shores of what is now called Puget Sound. They made a home on the ridge above Prairie Point, where they enjoyed watching the comings and goings and doings of the Duwamish people who lived down below, assisting them in whatever way they could. And Oswey was delighted to learn that Hereswith was with child.

However, there was something Hereswith had not told Oswey. And Ongar had kept quiet about it too. Hereswith’s clan was afflicted with an unfortunate tree-giant mutation which made a woman have to live out the rest of her life as a tree following the birth of her first (and only) child. Oswey had not noticed that there were no older women in Hereswith’s clan — and would not have realized that everyone was an only child. Hereswith broke the news to Oswey shortly before she gave birth to a daughter, Bernicia, after which she took form as a giant cedar tree on a cliff above their favorite beach.

Oswey adjusted to the situation, with the kind assistance of some local giants he encountered one night. Now all giants make shoes, but their cobbler was especially talented and made Bernicia her first pair of boots in time for her to learn to walk. She grew gigantic and beautiful like her mother — and found a local giant to marry. Oswey became a grandfather and Bernicia took her place in the cedar forest of what is now West Seattle. Oswey had kept her little boots and passed them on to his grandaughter, Deira.

Hereswith, Bernicia, Deira, and other tree-giantesses since, have graced the West Seattle forest with their quiet presence. Their cedar bark made for the softest of materials and was highly prized by the Duwamish for making undergarments. Oswey’s snag still stands and is a favorite perch of local eagles. But giants no longer live in the Puget Sound area. They have retreated to the safety of the forests to the north.

One of Bernicia’s baby booties, on display in a local museum, is the only remaining physical artifact of the tree-giants who lived up above Alki. The other boot is being helped to find its way to a museum in Nova Scotia.

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