A legend of giants re-told by our storyteller Martin Maudsley. Enjoy this story from The South Dorset Ridgeway, the Land of Bone and Stone.

This story is part of Dorset AONB’s Myths and Legends project.

A Game of Stones

Long ago, in the beginning of the world, this land of ours belonged to the Giants – tall and strong and filled with earth-moving energy. The landscape back then was flat and featureless, but the great Giants soon beat it into shape – they rolled rocks and pounded the ground, they tunnelled through the earth and made mountains out of molehills, they dug ditches and carved out lakes…

Once in West Dorset there was a pair of brother Giants – called Frost and Thaw. Some folk say they created the Ridgeway itself 
by piling up the ground into one long crest of earth and stone 
to mark the boundary of their territory. Frost was the elder of 
the two brothers – cold and hard with the raw strength of winter in his bones and Thaw was the youngest – not as big as his brother but with the vigour of spring in his blood. And as you can imagine, those two big brothers were always fighting…

One autumn night there was a terrible tempest, caused by the fierce fighting of Storm Giants. Thunder echoed along the valley, the wind rocked the foundations of the earth and huge, hard hailstones fell from the sky. In the midst of the maelstrom one of the hailstones hit the sleeping Frost – right in the middle of his huge forehead. Instantly he woke up in a rage, thinking that his brother, Thaw, must have thrown a rock at him during the night. He roared at Thaw and soon the two Giants were fighting together, rolling and wrestling across the soft earth, digging out 
a deep, steep valley littered with hailstones that quickly hardened into rocks. But the fight went on, day after day, until after several weeks of brawling amongst the boulders, with neither brother winning, they called a truce whilst they figured another way 
to resolve their bitter dispute.

“I know! Let’s have a game” suggested Thaw brightly.

“What kind of game?” replied Frost icily.

“A game of stones! Let’s see who can throw one of these stones the furthest”

“I’ve got a better idea,” said Frost with a grey glint in his eye. “Let’s throw stones at each other! The first to fall down is the loser and must leave the valley forever…”

Thaw wasn’t so sure, but reluctantly he agreed. So the two great Giants stood on either side of the newly-created Valley of Stones and picking up the fallen hailstone rocks, they began to take turns in hurling them at each other. Boulder after boulder. Blow after blow. Each stone strike made the other Giant shudder with pain but each one stood their ground without falling down, and so the Game of Stones went on… Until, with cold cunning, Frost had an idea. He took a stone and hurled it as high and hard as he could straight up into the sky. It flew so far that by the time it came back down it was covered with a thick layer of ice and was as big as a boulder. It landed heavily right on top of poor Thaw’s head, pushing him down into the ground like a nail hit by a giant hammer.

Frost roared with triumph! Whilst Thaw, defeated and with only his head sticking out of the ground, began to cry. Great hot giant’s tears, as big as buckets, began freely flowing from Thaw’s eyes. Soon the torrent of tears began to turn into a tidal wave of water, rushing and gushing through the Valley of Stones. The water was so powerful and relentless that it soon pushed Frost over and carried him, splashing and screaming, all the way down the flooded valley.

By the time Thaw’s tears stopped and the flood waters had drained away Frost was already dead – drowned in his own brother’s tears. And that’s where his body stayed, limp and lifeless on the soft, soaking earth at the bottom of the valley.

Valley of Stones by Tony Gill

A little bit about our storyteller

Martin Maudsley is a professional storyteller based in Bridport in Dorset, telling traditional tales and local legends for schools, community groups and national organisations. He has been collaborated with Dorset AONB on many projects using folk-tales and folk-songs to connect participants with nature, the seasons and a sense of place. He is also very active practically celebrating the seasons in and around his neighbourhood, including putting on Mummers Plays, Apple Days and Winter Wassails.