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When I was a boy, few things pleased me better than to hear a tale about a giant. Silly and untrue as were the stories that I heard, they vastly delighted me; but were you now to ask what information they gave me, or what good I gathered from them, sadly should I be at fault for a reply.

But if a tale about giants, that was not true, and that added nothing to my knowledge, amused me, why should not a story about giants, which is true, and which gives good information, be equally entertaining to you? I see no reason why it should not be so, and therefore it is my determination to tell you the tale of the Five Giants.

Three of the five giants are old, so very old that you would hardly believe me were I to tell you their ages; and the other two are much older than many people imagine; but, notwithstanding the great age of these giants, their strength is not in the least impaired. They can travel as fast and do quite as much work as they ever did in their youthful days.

By and by you shall know the real names of these five giants; but it will answer my purpose better, and give you, perhaps, quite as much entertainment, if, at first, I name them according to my fancy. The three old giants, Flare, Roar, and Blow, are known in every part of the world; but the two younger, Bounce and Rush, have not, as yet, traveled quite as far as their brothers. For the most part, all five of them are useful characters; but if once they are in a passion, and this is too often the case, the sooner you are out of their way the better.

Giant Flare is somewhat yellow in complexion, with red hair, and has many good and companionable qualities; indeed, in the winter, when people like to gather round the friendly hearth, he is one of the most agreeable creatures in the world. No wonder, then, that he should be so much sought after. He is invited by the prince and the peasant, and accepts the invitation of both freely, so that on the same day he is to be seen in the poorest cot and the proudest palace.

But besides his companionable qualities, Giant Flare is a capital cook, so much so, that he has been employed by all the crowned heads in all the quarters of the world. He is very useful in mining operations, and in smelting ore; and then, as a manufacturer, he is quite at home, being equally skilled in making a copper saucepan, a brass warming-pan, a silver snuff-box, and a golden sovereign.

You will begin to think well of Giant Flare; but truth is truth, and, as I told you, all the five giants are sad fellows when in a passion. Giant Flare has many a time burst out into a perfect frenzy, and done mischief that could never be repaired. If he is not used well, he thinks nothing of burning a person’s house down. He has been the means of destroying many fine forests, and, on one occasion, when in London, to his disgrace be it spoken, with the assistance of one of his brothers, Giant Blow, he set almost a hundred churches and as many as thirteen thousand houses all in a blaze.

When Bonaparte set out to conquer Russia, Giant Flare resisted him, and would not let him go further than Moscow; and when the Spanish Armada invaded England, he boldly attacked the Spanish ships, and was one of the principal means of scattering and putting them to flight. But now let me tell you of Giant Roar.

This giant is about the same age as his brother of whom I have said so much, and, like him, has done both kind and ill-natured deeds in his time. He is fond of constructing baths, and fishing ponds, and canals, and of rendering assistance in cultivating gardens. He is largely connected with ships and sailors. Many think he has more power by sea than by land; but some of his mad pranks will surprise you.

A long time after the Thames Tunnel was begun, under the river at London, and when thousands and tens of thousands of pounds had been spent, in an angry mood he set his foot against the bottom of the river, and crushed the in tunnel. Since then he has behaved better, and allowed them to finish the work; but, for a time, this prank of his occasioned great confusion.

I have seen him myself, in his tantrums, play terrible tricks; I once met him at the Falls of Niagara, where he roared like a Bedlamite, foamed at the mouth worse than a mad dog, and at last flung himself headlong from so high a precipice that he was dashed into a thousand pieces. Whether the Americans and Canadians had used him ill, or not, I will not say, but certain it was, that his rage appeared unbounded.

You will think that what I have already said of Giant Roar is bad enough; but on one occasion he was even yet more ungovernable, for rushing abroad in his fury, he destroyed more lives than ever had been destroyed at one time since the world had been made. Many of his victims struggled hard with him to the utmost; but he came upon them by surprise, and they were neither swift enough to escape, nor strong enough to resist him.

Giant Blow is kind, whimsical, mischievous, and dangerous, by fits. One day, as I went by the common, he was good-naturedly helping a group of school boys to fly their kites. I hardly think they could have managed without his assistance; but, in ten minutes after, he tore two of their kites all to shivers. The same day he snatched widow Woodward’s shawl from her back, and went off with it, broke half a dozen clothes lines, tossed about the clothes, and then, all at once, violently pushed down a large stack of chimneys. You see by these actions how little he is to be relied on.

Giant Blow is a great traveler, for he sailed round the world with Captain Cook, and helped Columbus to discover America. Indeed Columbus could not have gone without him. Were he and Giant Roar to withdraw the assistance they give to seamen, it would at once put an end to all merchandise, and not a single ship would be able to sail upon the seas.

But though Giant Blow is one of the best friends in the world to sailors, he often treats them very harshly, knocking their vessels to pieces, and flinging them into the raging deep. Hundreds of gallant ships, and thousands of hardy tars, has he destroyed in his time.

Giant Blow grinds a great deal of corn, and has a method of his own for cooling the earth in hot weather. Common report says that, on some occasions, he has removed the plague; and no physician on the earth has effected such extraordinary cures as he has done. If every one that he has kept in health were to give him a fee, of all doctors in the world he would be the richest.

Giant Blow is well known in the West Indies, where he has, at different times, made great confusion. When once his loud voice is heard, a general terror and consternation are spread around; for it is well known that, in his passions, he spares neither friend nor foe. With his great strength he lays about him in all directions, stripping the trees of their foliage, and furiously tearing them up by the roots, flinging the roofs of the houses in the air, and battering down the walls on the heads of those who dwell in them. On he goes, till loud cries of distress are heard, and heaps of rubbish and rafters, and the dead bodies of men, women, and children, lie mingled together in confusion on the ground.

You have not, from what I have told you, I dare say, formed the highest opinion of Flare, Roar, and Blow; and I fear that the characters of Giants Bounce and Rush will be very far from perfect in your estimation. You shall have, however, the best account of them that I can give you, and then you will be able to judge more correctly.

Giant Bounce, of all the family of the giants, is certainly the most peppery in his temper. His brothers usually give some notice of their outbreaks, and rise in their position by degrees; not so Giant Bounce: at one moment he is quiet as a lamb, and at the next much fiercer than a lion.

In complexion, he is much darker than the others; indeed he has an ugly, grim, and very forbidding appearance, which well suits his disposition. He is the friend of duelists and highwaymen, and this of itself would be bad enough, if I had nothing else to bring against him. He has done some good, certainly, in his day; but take him for all in all, it might have been well if his friend the monk, who first introduced him into society, had been otherwise employed.

You would hardly think, from the kind way in which he amuses children, by making them squibs and crackers, and other fireworks, that he was half so mischievous as he is; but as I have told you the truth about his brothers, so will I tell you the truth about him. I cannot say that he does not make himself useful at times, for, in deep mines, he often does more work, in one hour, than the miners could do without him in a whole day; yet still he is a dark, designing, cruel character.

It is true that, some years ago, he went against a terrible pirate and robber, who lived on the coast of Barbary, destroying his ships, knocking his fortifications about his ears, compelling him to give up all the Christian slaves he had in his dungeons, and making him promise to behave better in future. It is true also that he helped Nelson, Napoleon, Wellington, and Washington, to win their victories; but it was not because he had any special love for either of them that he did these things. No! whatever other people say of him, I say that he is a hasty, cruel, treacherous, blood-thirsty monster. It was he who first persuaded people to make guns, pistols, and cannon mortars, bombshells, and congreve rockets, so that widows and orphans have been multiplied by him, and millions of men, by his means, have been destroyed.

I have now come to the last of the giants, and his character shall be summed up in few words. If you remember, I told you that, in winter nights, Giant Flare was a very agreeable companion, and the same thing may be said of Giant Rush. When the tea-urn simmers, and friends gather round the winter tea-table, Giants Flare and Rush ought always to be there. They are good company even when you have them one at a time; but still better when they are together.

Giant Rush is thought to be younger than his brother Bounce; but of this I have some doubt. Of the two, however, he is by far the most industrious. He draws up water out of mines; he blows the bellows of the blast-furnaces; saws timber; grinds and polishes metals, makes carriages run without horses, and forces ships through the waters of the great deep against both wind and tide. Besides these things, he has latterly begun to print newspapers and books, and in this department he will make himself more known than ever. These are his good deeds; but his bad ones are a sad reproach to him.

Would you believe it that, some time back, he undertook to do more destruction, and to destroy more lives in one hour, than Giant Bounce could in a day? Few people thought better than I did of Giant Rush before this; and, to speak the truth, I hardly thought the report was true. But when I saw him, with my own eyes, fire sixty or eighty bullets out of an iron tube, in less time than Giant Bounce could fire with the same instrument, I thought to myself, “O! if he can do this, he can do anything.”

The giant then went into a large field, and, pointing a cannon into a high sand-bank, fired off a complete stream of cannon balls, enough, I should think, to bring down a house, if not a church, to the very ground. In short, I was quite frightened at his invention; and all that I hope now is, that no one will give him the least encouragement in his horrid undertaking.

Having now related what may appear to you rather a wonderful story, I must proceed to tell you the real names of the five giants, though it is by no means unlikely that you have already guessed them. The five giants, Flare, Roar, Blow, Bounce, and Rush, are, then, neither more nor less than the five gigantic powers, Fire, Water, Wind, Gunpowder, and Steam; and, though I may have related their adventures and achievements somewhat fancifully, if you will examine them you will find that they are strictly true. The influence of these giant powers in the world has been very great; and as your attention is now drawn to the subject, you will, perhaps, be disposed to think upon it more than you have hitherto done, connected so closely as it is with the comfort, the luxury, the knowledge, and indeed, also, with the happiness and misery of mankind. Had I been disposed, I might have made my relation much more wonderful; but I trust you have received from it, as it is, some amusement, and that it has not been altogether without instruction. It may be long before you again hear a true story of five giants; you will therefore do well to try to turn this one to advantage, and to inquire what it is, in each case, that gives force to the power. For you ought to understand that, in and with all the powers of nature, although man is allowed to make much use of them, and often to set them in operation; yet there is a greater Hand than his, though all unseen, which alone can control them. Whenever, then, we see either the water or the fire, or hear the wind, let us remember that these are so many elements which God has intrusted to the use of man, and that for an abuse of their capacities we shall be held accountable.