A while back I got into a conversation with my eldest about forced perspective (he's 5, but seems a lot older). We got to talking about making a movie ourselves and the sorts of tricks we could use visually and locations we could use for a medieval-esque landscape.
Before any of that, I told him, we needed a story, a protagonist, a journey. We played with ideas and themes from tales he knew and things he was watching and worked on a Part 1.
First treatment draft, here it is:
Alexander and the Giant
Alexander is a young boy who lives with his mother and baby brother in quiet cottage at the edge of the small town of Ibelin. Ibelin is a typical, medieval town with simple people leading simple lives in small homes.
But Ibelin has a problem, one the grownups won’t talk about. There are whispers, anxious looks across the field to the woods that lie beyond town. “Don’t go into the woods,” mothers will tell their children; “it’s not safe.” “Don’t leave home after dark,” fathers will say to their sons and daughters; “there are things that pass through the night you wouldn’t want to run into.”
But Alexander’s father doesn’t warn him of such things. In fact, his father has been missing for as long as he can remember. The people in town will tell Alexander his father is long gone and dead, but his mother insists he is out there, somewhere. Mamma, as he calls her, will point to Alexander’s dadda’s short, wooden sword that sits on a stand in his room.
“Your father had two swords that he always took with him on quests,” she will say; “a long sword that’s with him now, and this short sword. The swords are meant to be together, and that’s now I know your father will come home one day.” Often when she says this, Alexander’s mamma’s eyes will well up with tears and she’ll touch his face. “You look so much like your father,” she’ll tell him.
Alexander spends lots of time looking at the short sword in the stand, thinking about his dadda, wondering what he was like. He can’t remember his face at all, or how he looked, or the things he would say. All he has of his father’s is the sword and a small crest that is the symbol of his family, passed on to his father by his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before that.
One day, Alexander is woken from his sleep by loud crashing noises out in the dark. Suddenly, Alexander’s mamma rushes into the room with his baby brother; “out of your bed Alex!” she whispers urgently; “get away from the window!” Scared, Alexander rushes out of his bed to his mamma. As a sound like heavy breathing and powerful footsteps shake the walls of their house, Alexander and his mamma rush into the common room, away from the windows, curling up into a corner of the room. Beyond their walls, loud footsteps fall on their yard.
Suddenly, Alexander shouts “sword!” and rushes back to his room. Terrified, his mamma shouts “Alexander!” after him, but is too afraid to move. Alexander dives into his room and grabs for the short wooden sword, but suddenly freezes; against the curtain covering his window he can see the shadow of a giant body.
For a second, Alexander is frozen in fear. He can hear the deep, slow breathes of whatever is standing outside his window. Then his discipline returns; he sets his jaw and focuses his gaze on the short sword. He needs to get it so he can protect his mother and baby brother. Silent as he can, Alexander tip-toes towards the sword on its stand beside his bed.
Suddenly, the curtain blows inward, as if by an unfelt wind. With a shock Alexander realizes there is no wind – the curtain is being pushed open by a giant hand. Inches away from the sword but too afraid to move, lest he make a sound, Alexander is rooted to the spot in horror as the hand reaches in to touch his bed, feeling for the person who should be sleeping there. A deep, terrible voice echoes through the window:
“I know you’re there. I know your smell.”
The hand moves around the bed, still searching. Breathless, Alexander watches, horrified by the situation but now shocked by the voice’s words. What could it mean?
There’s a sudden shout from outside, followed by others; the noise of people moving is heard. The giant hand suddenly pulls back from the window; with a deep grunt, the massive creature outside the window starts to move away, the shadow falling away from the curtain.
Alexander comes back to life, grabs his sword and rushes back to his mamma. Terrified, he jumps into her arms as she squeezes both him and his brother close to him.
“Mamma, what was that?” he asks. Too afraid, she can’t answer, but instead rocks her boys and says, “oh, Alex, why do you have to be so much like your father? So brave!” and then she cries.
The morning after, the town sheriff is looking at the ground outside Alexander’s cottage. Big prints can be seen, as if of a giant.
“There’s no denying it,” the sheriff tells Alexander’s mamma. “He’s back.”
“Who’s back? What happened last night?” asks Alexander, now wearing his dadda’s short sword; it makes him feel safer.
“You musn’t ask,” Alexander’s mamma says, pulling Alexander to her. “It’s too terrible.”
“No,” says the sheriff; “the boy has a right to know.” The sheriff leans down and puts his hand on Alexander’s shoulder.
“You deserve to know. The hand you saw last night belongs to a giant, evil and cruel, that lives across the field, down the path, through the woods, over the bridge and in wild heart of the forest. Every so often, this giant comes to our town, looking for food. He likes little boys and girls, which is why we adults always tell you to stay out of the woods and to not wander after dark. We never know when he will come next.”
Alexander’s eyes are opened wide, stunned at the revelation. A giant? The hand in his window last night was trying to take him away for food! Then, another thought comes in to Alexander’s mind.
“Sheriff – last night, when he was… trying to find me, the giant said “I know your smell. What does that mean?”
The sheriff’s face goes pale and for a moment, he’s lost in a horrible memory. Then, he looks at Alexander grimly. “They’ve got powerful noses, those giants do. He probably did recognize your smell. I imagine it’s because of your father.” With this last, the sheriff casts a look at Alexander’s mother, who stands, hand out, as though she wishes she could grab the very words out of the air and clutch them to her heart.
“I don’t understand,” a perplexed Alex replies. “What do you mean?”
The Sheriff pauses, choosing his words carefully. “I mean to say, the giant probably knows your smell because you smell like your father. You certainly look like him.”
“The last time the giant struck our village was three years ago, before your mother even knew you were expecting a brother. The giant took too children, a boy and a girl, from their windows and carried them off to his house for supper.”
“The last sheriff decided it was time to do something about this menace and rushed out of his home and into the woods. So fast did he fly that he stopped only to grab one of his swords, the long one, leaving this one behind.”
The sheriff was pointing to the sword Alexander carried. It takes Alexander a moment to process what he’s hearing, but then, suddenly, his eyes open wide with realization.”
“That’s right,” the sheriff continues. “Your father was the last sheriff. He went into the woods with just the one sword, seeking to slay the giant and return the children to their parents. It was the last time anyone saw him.”
By now, Alexander’s mamma is in tears. Alexander turns to look at her as she drops to her knees and takes both his hands in hers.
“I’m so sorry, Alexander,” she cries. “I never told you – it hurts too much. You’re so like your father, so brave and stubborn, I was afraid you would rush off after him. I don’t want to… to…”
“She’s afraid to lose you too,” the sheriff finishes her thought as he stands up.
“No!” Alexander’s mamma cries out. “He’s not lost, he’s still out there, I know it! He will come home, I know it!”
The sheriff looks at her with pity, and shakes his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am; after all this time, that can’t be. Your husband was as responsible a man as any I know. If he were alive, he would be here now. No, there’s nothing for it; he’s gone.”
Then the sheriff sighs a deep, weary sigh. “And now it’s my turn. I’ve got to go in there and finish what he started. I’m not as quick as he is, nor as clever, but I am the sheriff. There’s nothing for it.”
With obvious reluctance, the sheriff prepares to return to his home. He nods good-bye to Alexander and his mamma, then turns to leave.
“Wait!” cries Alexander. “I’ll come with you!”
“No!” Shouts the boy’s mamma.
“But I have to!” says Alexander back.
“No, Alexander, your mother is right,” says the sheriff. “It’s too dangerous. This is something I must do alone.”
“But my father went alone, and he didn’t come back!” cries Alexander. “You’ll need my help!”
The sheriff bends down to Alexander; his words are gruff, but the boy sees fear in the man’s eye.
“You have to stay here,” says the sheriff. “Look after your mother and brother while I’m gone. They need you here.”
He gets up and turns, quickly covering the ground back to his own house. Alexander’s mother, still in tears, kneels down and wraps her arms around her son; Alexander hugs her back, but keeps his eyes on the sheriff, receding into the distance.
The next day, the sheriff has his bag packed; some food, a jacket, his sleeping roll and an old sword. He nods to Alexander and his mamma, who have come to watch him leave. The sheriff tousles the boys hair, smiles, then turns and walks off towards the path and beyond, the tall, dark woods.
Alexander’s mamma chokes back tears, touches her son on the shoulder and then turns to walk back to the cottage. For a second, Alexander looks after the sheriff; something seems wrong, but he can’t think what it could be. Alexander touches his small, wooden sword – his dadda’s sword, as though somehow that action can provide his answer.
“Alexander! Come, we must get home!” His mother shouts after him. Reluctantly, he turns and follows, the missing something gnawing at him all the while.
That evening, after the sun has set, Alexander is at the family table, finishing his dinner. Resting on the table beside his plate is the wooden sword, which he keeps one hand on. He can’t stop thinking about the sheriff and how something is terribly wrong.
Alexander’s mamma comes into the room. “Finally, he’s asleep,” she says. “No doubt hard to rest after what happened two nights ago.” She walks over to the table and sits down, looks at her son with eyes full of love.
“You are so much like your father,” she says. “You know, he used to do the same thing – sit at the table with his long sword up beside him. I used to chide him, say that swords had no place at the table, but…”
“That’s it!” shouts Alexander, startling his mother in the process! “Oh no, mamma. Don’t you see? The sheriff left with only his old sword – his one old sword! He can’t beat the giant, he’s not prepared! I… I have to go after him!”
“What? Alexander, no! You can’t!” cries his mother, grabbing his hand. “It’s too dangerous! What if… if the giant gets you too?”
“But mamma, we can’t leave the sheriff to face the giant with only one sword! He won’t make it!”
“Please, Alexander, don’t do this! You can’t! I lost your dadda already, I can’t lose you, too!”
Suddenly the mamma collapses in tears; it’s the first time she has said out loud what she has feared and been told by so many – that her husband is gone.” “I can’t lose you too,” she says again.
With empathetic eyes, Alexander gets down from the table, walks over to his mamma and gives her a hug. She nestles her head against his chest and sobs further. When she has calmed down, Alexander speaks to her softly:
“Mamma – two nights ago, the giant nearly got me. I could have been gone – I could still be. Or my brother could be. So long as the giant is out there, none of us are safe. This needs to be done; I need to do it.”
His mamma shakes her head, trying to clear the horrific visions that are drowning her thoughts in terror. Alexander takes her head in both hands and kisses her on the forehead.
“I won’t be alone. I’m going to catch up to the sheriff and we can face the giant together. And I will come home, mamma. I promise.”
The next day, it’s Alexander’s turn; his bag his packed and his sword is slung over his shoulder. His mamma watches fearfully, holding his baby brother like he’s all she has left. Alexander turns, looks at his mother, and smiles.
“I’ll be home soon, mamma,” he says. “Then we can all sleep safely again.”