When the giant went away for seven years, the children played in his garden every afternoon on their way back from school.
It was a large and lovely garden. Beautiful flowers grew in the grass, and there were twelve fruit trees. In the spring, the fruit trees were covered with red and white flowers, and later in the year wonderful fruit grew on them. The birds sang sweetly in the trees. Sometimes the children stopped their games and listened to them. “We are so happy here!” they said.
Then, one day, the giant came back. He saw the children playing in his garden. “What are you doing here?” he shouted in a very loud voice. The children ran away.
“My garden is my garden,” said the giant. “No one can play in it. Only me.” So he built a high wall round it and put up a notice: KEEP OUT. He was a very selfish giant.
So the children had nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was dirty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. After their lessons, they walked round the giant’s high wall and talked about the beautiful garden inside. “We were so happy there!” they said.
The spring came, and there were flowers and little birds all over the country. But in the garden of the selfish giant, it was still winter. The birds did not sing in it because there were no children. The trees forgot to grow flowers. Snow covered the grass, and ice covered the trees with silver. The north wind came, and the rain.
“I cannot understand why the spring is so late,” said the selfish giant. He was sitting at the window of his house and looking out at his cold, white garden. “I hope there will be a change in the weather.”
But the spring never came, and the summer did not come. When there was golden fruit in every other garden, there was no fruit in the giant’s garden. It was always winter there, with the north wind, and snow, and ice and rain.
The giant was lying in bed one morning when he heard some beautiful music. A little bird was singing outside his window. It was the first birdsong in the garden for a very long time, and it seemed to him the most beautiful music in the world. Then the north wind and the rain stopped.
“I believe that spring has come at last!” said the giant. He jumped out of bed and looked out.
His garden was full of children! They were coming in through a hole in the wall and were climbing up into the trees. The giant saw a little child in every tree. The trees were glad to have the children back. They were covered with flowers again. The birds were flying around and singing with happiness, and flowers were looking up through the green grass.
A very small boy was standing in the far corner of the garden. He could not reach up to climb his tree. He was walking round it and crying. That tree was still covered with ice and snow.
“I have been very selfish!” said the giant. “Now I know why the spring did not come here. I will put the little boy into the tree. Then I will pull down the wall and my garden will be a children’s playground for ever.”
He was really sorry about his unkindness. So he went down, opened the door very quietly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him, they were afraid.
All the children ran away except the little boy. His eyes were full of tears and he did not see the giant. The giant came quietly behind him. He took the little boy carefully in his hand and put him up into the tree. Then the tree was suddenly covered with flowers, and the birds came and sang in it. The little boy put his arms round the giant’s neck and kissed him.
The other children saw that the giant was not bad and selfish now. They came running back.
“It is your garden now, little children,” said the giant, and he pulled down the wall.
When people walked along the road to the town, they could see into the garden. They saw the giant playing with the children. “That is a beautiful garden!” they said.
The children played all day. In the evening they came to the giant to say goodbye to him.
“But where is your little friend?” he said. “Where is the little boy that I put into the tree?” The giant loved him best because the little boy kissed him.
“We do not know,” answered the children. “He has gone away.”
“You must tell him to come tomorrow — he must come tomorrow.” But the children said, “We do not know where he lives. We only met him today.” The giant felt very sad.
Every afternoon after school, the children came and played with the giant. But the giant’s favourite little boy did not come back again. The giant was very kind to the other children. But he wanted to see his first little friend. “I would really like to see him!” he thought.
Years passed, and the giant became very old and weak. He could not play in the garden now. So he sat in a big chair and watched the children’s games and looked at his garden. “I have many beautiful flowers,” he said, “but the most beautiful flowers are the children.”
One morning, when he was dressing himself, he looked out of the window. It was winter, but he did not hate the winter now. The spring was only sleeping, and the flowers were only resting. He waited happily for them to come again.
Suddenly he opened his eyes wide. He looked and looked again. Something wonderful was happening! In the far corner of the garden, a tree was covered with beautiful white flowers. The tree was golden, and silver fruit hung down from it. And the little boy was standing under the tree.
The giant ran out into the garden and he hurried across the grass to the child. Then his face became red and angry “Who has hurt you?” he said.
There was blood on the child’s hands, and on his little feet. “Who has hurt you?” cried the giant. “Tell me and I will kill him!”
“No,” said the child. “This pain is the pain of love.”
“Who are you?” asked the giant. He was afraid, and went down on his knees in front of the little child.
“You helped me to play in your garden,” said the child. “Today you will come with me to my garden in the sky.”
That afternoon the children came into the garden. They found the giant lying dead under the tree. He was covered with white flowers.