| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
THE STORY OF HOW THE GIANT'S DANCE WAS BROUGHT TO BRITAIN
 VORTIGERN was dead, but the Saxons whom he had brought to
Britain were still rulers of the land. So after burning the
castle of Vortigern, Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon
marched against the Saxons. They defeated them in a great
battle, and Hengist was taken prisoner.
Then Aurelius Ambrosius called all the British nobles
together in council to decide what should be done with
Hengist. Aurelius was a very brave man, but he was not
cruel. He was noble, and above all things he hated a lie.
Hengist was brave too, but he was cruel, revengeful, and
Aurelius would have spared Hengist's life, because he was
such a brave man. But Edol, Earl of Gloucester, that noble
who fought so well when the Britons were destroyed on
Salisbury Plain, stood up. "It is not right," he said, "that
Hengist should live. He has brought much sorrow on our land.
Through his fault nearly all our nobles were killed on
Salisbury Plain. Let him die."
Then all the people shouted, "Let him die."
So Aurelius bowed his head and said, "It is just. Let him
Edol then led Hengist away and cut off his head.
But although their leader was gone, many Saxons still
 remained in Britain, and afterwards you will hear how
powerful they became.
Aurelius was now chosen to be King of Britain and, like
Vortimer, he began to restore order and rebuild the churches
and towns which the heathen Saxons had a second time
destroyed. The land which the Saxons had stolen he gave back
to those of the Britons to whom it really belonged. He
revised the laws, and once more peace and justice reigned in
When Aurelius had put everything in good order, he went to
Salisbury Plain to see the place where so many of his people
had been put to death by Hengist and his wicked Saxons.
As he stood upon the great plain, he felt very sad. Turning
to his nobles who surrounded him, he said, "My people died
trying to make peace for their country. Yet there is no
stone to mark the spot. I will have a noble monument raised,
so that the wickedness of Hengist and the bravery of my
people may be remembered for ever."
Then Aurelius sent for all the best builders and masons in
the country, and told them to make a splendid monument. But,
one after another, they refused. "We are not clever enough
to do such a great thing," they said.
This made Aurelius sorry, for he wished very much that
people should not forget these British heroes.
Then a wise man came to him and said, "Send for Merlin. If
any one can build a great monument he can."
"Who is Merlin?" asked Aurelius.
"Merlin is a great magician," replied the wise man. "He used
to live with Vortigern and do wonderful things for him.
Since Vortigern's death he has been hiding somewhere in
Wales. If you can find him he will build the monument for
 A magician is a person who can do difficult things quite
easily. His real home is in fairyland, and he understands
fairy language. The fairies come and whisper their wonderful
secrets to him, although no one else can see or hear them.
Aurelius was very glad to hear about Merlin. He sent
messengers into all the land to look for him. They searched
about for a long time, until at last they found Merlin and
brought him to the king.
As soon as Merlin knew what Aurelius wanted, he said, "If
you really wish to honour the burying-place of these men with
a monument which will last for ever, send to Ireland for the
"What is the Giant's Dance?" asked Aurelius.
"The Giant's Dance is a great ring of stones," replied
Merlin. "They are so wonderful and so old that no one is
sure how they came there. But it is said that long, long ago
giants brought these stones from a far-off country called
When Aurelius heard that, he burst out laughing. "How is it
possible," he asked, "to remove such big stones from a
far-off country? Have we not enough stones in Britain with
which to build a monument?" and he laughed again.
"Do not laugh," said Merlin gravely. "They are wonderful
stones. Every one of them will cure some kind of illness.
They are fairy stones."
When the Britons heard that, they made up their minds to
have these stones, and Uther Pendragon was chosen to go with
Merlin to bring them. So, taking a great army of men and
many ships, they set sail for Ireland.
When they arrived in Ireland they sent a message to the
king, asking him to let them take the Giant's Dance away.
 It was now the King of Ireland's turn to laugh. "What mad
people these Britons are!" he said. "Was ever such folly
heard of? Have they not enough stones in their own country,
that they must come to take mine? I shall certainly not give
them one single stone of the Giant's Dance. Tell them to go
home again and not to be so foolish."
But the Britons had quite made up their minds to have the
Giant's Dance. As the King of Ireland would not give it to
them, they resolved to fight for it. This they did, and soon
put the Irish to flight.
Then Merlin led the Britons to the place where the Giant's
Dance stood. When they saw it, they were filled with joy and
wonder, and set to work at once to move the stones. But try
how they might, they could not move even the smallest of
them one single inch. They pulled and pushed, struggled and
strained, till they were hot and tired, but the stones stood
as firm as rocks.
Merlin sat by, watching them and smiling. Then when they
were all worn out, and cross and tired, he rose. "Now let me
try," he said, "it is really quite easy." And in a very
short time, with the help of his wonderful magic, he had
moved all the stones and put them on board the ships. The
people looked on in amazement and, as soon as he had
finished, they set sail for Britain with great rejoicing.
When they landed, messengers were sent to tell King Aurelius
Ambrosius. He gathered all the nobles and clergy, and
wearing his crown and royal robes, rode to Salisbury Plain.
There, with great feasting and ceremony, the stones were set
up as a memorial to the dead British heroes. They were
placed in exactly the same order as they were found in
Ireland. Aurelius changed the name from Giant's Dance to
 and the great monument may be seen on Salisbury
Plain to this day.
Most people say this is a fairy tale, and ought not to be
put in a history book. They say that the stones on
Stonehenge were there long before Merlin lived, long before
Hengist and his Saxons, or Cæsar and his Romans, even long
before Brutus of Troy, came. They say that probably no one
will ever find out how these stones came to be there, or why
they were placed as they are. I dare say they are right, but
fairy tales are very interesting, and this fairy tale (if it
is one) is to be found in some of the first histories of
Britain that were ever written. So certainly at one time
people must have believed it to be true.
Unfortunately, soon after this, a wicked Saxon poisoned the
good king, Aurelius Ambrosius. The Britons were very sad at
his loss, and they buried him within the Giant's Dance,
where so many other noble Britons lay. Then, because
Aurelius had no children, the people chose his brother Uther
Pendragon to be king.
He, too, was good and wise, but he had to spend most of his
time fighting against the Saxons. After the death of Hengist
very many Saxons had remained in Britain, and now many more
came again in ships from Germany. Fierce and terrible
battles were fought, and although the Saxons were often
defeated, the Britons could not succeed in driving them away
But the name of Uther Pendragon became a terror to these
heathen. It is said that when he was so old and feeble that
he could not stand, he was carried to battle in a litter.
And so great was the power and fame of his courage, that the
Saxons were utterly defeated. "Ah," he said, laughing,
"these heathen call me the half-dead king. And so indeed I
am. Yet victory to me half dead
 is better than to be safe
and sound and vanquished. For to die with honour is better
than to live with disgrace."
But alas! Uther Pendragon, like so many of the good kings
before him, was also poisoned by the wicked Saxons. So he
died, and the people buried him close to his brother,
Aurelius Ambrosius, within the Giant's Dance on Salisbury
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