Every day after school, a group of children who lived near a huge, empty castle played in its enchanted garden.

In the enchanted garden it stayed summer all year long. The trees in the enchanted garden never lost their leaves, flowers bloomed all year, and it never got cold there. Sometimes it rained in the garden, but only at nighttime when the children were sleeping soundly in their beds.

The children skipped rope, swung from the tree branches, and played games in the enchanted garden. When they got hungry, they plucked fruit from the trees and ate it as they enjoyed the sunshine that never ended.

The children were happiest when they were in the garden. They loved to play there every day.

The empty castle did not stay empty for long. It belonged to a giant who had been away for many years. One day he returned home hoping to find some peace and quiet after his long journey.

Instead he returned to the sound of laughter in his garden. He did not like what he saw when he looked over the garden wall. There were children playing all sorts games and eating the fruit from his trees. 

“What are you children doing here?” the giant shouted. “This is my garden!” The giant’s booming voice startled the children. They were so shaken that they could not answer his question. But then, the giant was in no mood to listen to reasons why he should share his garden.

He was a selfish giant.

The giant stormed into the garden and ordered all the children to leave at once. “Get down from those trees!” he roared. “Get out of my garden and never come back!” The children didn’t understand why the giant wanted them to leave. No one had ever sent them away. The children were frightened of the grumpy giant, and they ran from the garden as fast as they could.

Once the children were gone, the giant looked around the empty garden and smiled. Finally he would have some peace and quiet. “No noise, no pesky children running around,” he muttered to himself. “Just me and my garden.”

He was a very selfish giant.

The children no longer had a place to play. They tried playing in other yards and gardens, but no place compared to their enchanted garden.

One day they stopped outside the garden wall. They thought that if they could at least be close to the garden, they would once again be happy. One curious boy wanted to see the garden with his own eyes, so he climbed onto a friend’s shoulders and peeked over the garden wall. The boy gasped at what he saw. The leaves of trees were turning orange and were falling to the ground. The grass that was once thick and green was now thin and brown.

The flowers had wilted, and the birds had flown away.

“What has happened to our wonderful garden? It looks like it is dying,” said one child. All the children became sad. Their beautiful garden was no longer enchanted.

Soon the garden became a cold and lonely place. All the trees were bare, the grass was the color of straw, and the sun never shone there anymore.One day, as the giant passed in front of a castle window overlooking the garden, a flower poked its head through the ground. The giant watched the flower. He began to hope it would bloom.

But then a strong gust of wind came and scared the flower back under the ground. The giant sighed.

He didn’t understand the changes that had taken place in his garden. When he returned from his journey, the garden was warm and full of life, but now it was dull and cold.

“At least now I have peace and quiet,” the giant said, “and I don’t have to share the garden with anyone.”

The giant was simply being selfish.

The passing months brought even more changes to the garden. Snow blanketed the ground, icicles dangled from the walls of the castle, and cold winds ripped through the branches of the trees.

The giant now spent many hours of his day watching the garden from the castle window. The giant could not figure out why it was so cold inside the walls of his garden. He knew that it was no longer wintertime, and the rest of the countryside was warm, not covered with snow.

“Something is not right,” the giant said. He began to wish for his beautiful garden and for the children who had made it such a happy place. For the first time, the giant felt lonely.

By now the children had surely found another place to play, the giant thought. They no longer needed his garden to make them happy.

The giant was wrong. The children stopped outside the garden every day, wishing they could play there again.

One day, as a child leaned against the garden wall, a stone wiggled loose and fell out. The hole it left was big enough to crawl through. The children looked at each other excitedly and crawled through the secret passage one by one. When their feet touched the ground, the snow in the garden began to melt. The grass turned green, and the sun began to shine again. When the children touched the trees, green leaves appeared. The birds came back and sang pretty songs. The children were filled with joy to be back in the enchanted garden.

But in a small corner of the garden, icicles still hung from a single tree. A little boy looked up at the tree sadly. He wanted to climb it, but he was too small to reach the lowest branch.The little boy anxiously circled the tree. Then he stopped and looked up at the high branches. He had waited such a long time to play in the trees in the enchanted garden. Now that he had the chance, he could not reach even the lowest branch. The boy sat down under the tree and began to cry.

Suddenly the boy felt a huge pair of hands gently lift him up and set him on one of the branches. Instantly the icicles that clung to the tree began to melt. Then tiny buds opened, and leaves sprouted all over the tree.

The surprised little boy turned to see the giant who had once roared with anger at the children. This time the giant smiled and patted the little boy on the head.

The boy flung his arms around the giant’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. The giant’s heart melted as quickly as the ice and snow in his garden. He was sorry he had been so selfish.

When the other children saw that they no longer had to fear the giant, they rushed over to him. The giant scooped them up one by one and hugged them gently.

“Does this mean that we may sometimes play in your enchanted garden?” asked one shy child. The other children quietly waited to hear what the giant would say.

The giant now realized that it was the children who brought the magic to his garden. “From now on this is your garden,” the giant said to the children. “You may come here to play whenever you wish.”The enchanted garden was more fun than ever. The giant was no longer selfish. In fact he became the children’s favorite playmate.

The children loved every minute they spent in the garden. And so did the giant — he had the most enchanted time of all.

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