The Full Wiki

Giant (mythology): Wikis

Advertisements
  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...


More interesting facts on Giant (mythology)

Include this on your site/blog:

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The giants Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham's illustration of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes (Greek γίγαντες) of Greek mythology.

In various Indo-European mythologies, gigantic peoples are featured as primeval creatures associated with chaos and the wild nature, and they are frequently in conflict with the gods, be they Olympian, Hindu or Norse.

There are also other stories featuring giants in the Old Testament, perhaps most famously Goliath. Attributed to them are superhuman strength and physical proportions, a long lifespan, and thus a great deal of knowledge as well.

Fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk have formed our modern perception of giants as stupid and violent monsters, frequently said to eat humans, and especially children. However, in some more recent portrayals, like those of Roald Dahl, some giants are both intelligent and friendly.

Contents

Religious literature and beliefs

David faces Goliath in this 1888 lithograph by Osmar Schindler.
Advertisements

Abrahamic religions

"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:4-5 (KJV).

The Bible tells of men of extraordinary size in the pre-flood world, calling them Nephilim. The Nephilim are said to be the hybrid offspring of angels materialized into human form that had sexual relations with women on Earth (Genesis 6:1,2,4); however, the 'sons of God' mentioned in those verses may simply be righteous men. The global flood of Genesis was said to have destroyed all life on earth which would include the Nephilim (Genesis 6:17; 7:17-21), still, in Numbers, some of the non-faithful spies of Israel suggest that the Anakites were descendants of the Nephilim, still living in Canaan (Numbers 13:28-33).

The Anakites (Numbers 13:28-33), the Emites (Deuteronomy 2:10), and the Rephaites (Joshua 12:4) were giants living in the Promised Land. The Bible also tells of strife between David and the giant Goliath, ending with the defeat of the latter. According to the King James Bible, Goliath was "six cubits and a span" in height—over nine feet tall, (over 2.75 m) (1 Samuel 17:4 KJV). The much older, original Septuagint Hebrew Bible (Greek), followed by the historian Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls gives Goliath's height as "four cubits and a span," (approximately 2.00 m or about six feet seven inches)[1].

Goliath's height (King James Bible version) is comparable to Robert Wadlow, who reached 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 m) and Leonid Stadnyk who has reached 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m).

Also, Gog and Magog are usually considered to be giants, and are also found in the folklore of Britain.

Hinduism

In Hinduism, the giants are called Daityas. The Daityas (दैत्‍य) were the children of Aditi and the sage Kashyapa who fought against the gods or Devas because they were jealous of their Deva half-brothers. Since Daityas were a power-seeking race, they sometimes allied with other races having similar ideology namely Danavas and Asuras. Daityas along with Danavas and Asuras are sometimes called Rakshasas, the generic term for a demon in Hindu mythology. Some known Daityas include Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. The main antagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravana was a Brahmin from his father side and a Daitya from his mother side. His younger brother Kumbhakarna was said to be as tall as a mountain and was quite good natured.

Hercules faces the giant Antaios in this illustration on a calix krater, c. 515–510 BC.

Greek mythology

In Greek mythology the gigantes (γίγαντες) were (according to the poet Hesiod) the children of Uranos (Ουρανός) and Gaea (Γαία) (The Heaven and the Earth). They were involved in a conflict with the Olympian gods called the Gigantomachy (Γιγαντομαχία), which was eventually settled when the hero Heracles decided to help the Olympians. The Greeks believed some of them, like Enceladus, to lay buried from that time under the earth, and that their tormented quivers resulted in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Herodotus in Book 1, Chapter 68, describes how the Spartans uncovered in Tegea the body of Orestes which was seven cubits long—around 10 feet. In his book The Comparison of Romulus with Theseus Plutarch describes how the Athenians uncovered the body of Theseus, which was of more than ordinary size. The kneecaps of Ajax were exactly the size of a discus for the boy's pentathlon, wrote Pausanias. A boy's discus was about twelve centimeters in diameter, while a normal adult patella is around five centimeters, suggesting Ajax may have been around 14 feet (~4.3 meters) tall.

Norse mythology

In Norse mythology, the Jotun (jötnar in Old Norse, a cognate with ettin) are often opposed to the gods. While often translated into "giants", most are described as being roughly human sized. Some are portrayed as huge, such as frost giants (hrímþursar), fire giants (eldjötnar), and mountain giants (bergrisar).

The giants are the origin of most of various monsters in Norse mythology (e.g. the Fenrisulfr), and in the eventual battle of Ragnarök the giants will storm Asgard and defeat them in war. Even so, the gods themselves were related to the giants by many marriages, and there are giants such as Ægir, Loki, Mímir and Skaði, who bear little difference in status to them.

Norse mythology also holds that the entire world of men was once created from the flesh of Ymir, a giant of cosmic proportions, which name is considered by some to share a root with the name Yama of Indo-Iranian mythology.

An old Icelandic legend says that two night-prowling giants, a man and a woman, were traversing the fjord near Drangey Island with their cow when they were surprised by the bright rays of daybreak. As a result of exposure to daylight, all three were turned into stone. Drangey represents the cow and Kerling (supposedly the female giant, the name means "Old Hag") is to the south of it. Karl (the male giant) was to the north of the island, but he disappeared long ago.

A bergrisi appears as a supporter on the coat of arms of Iceland.

Balt mythology

According to Balt legends, the playing of a girl giantess named Neringa on the seashore formed the Curonian Spit ("neria, nerge, neringia" means land which is diving up and down like a swimmer). This giant child also appears in other myths (in some of which she is shown as a young strong woman, similar to a female version of the Greek Heracles). "Neringa" is the name of a modern town on the spot.

Other

King Arthur faces a giant in this engraving by Walter Crane.

In folklore from all over Europe, giants were believed to have built the remains of previous civilizations. Saxo Grammaticus, for example, argues that giants had to exist, because nothing else would explain the large walls, stone monuments, and statues that we now know were the remains of Roman construction. Similarly, the Old English poem Seafarer speaks of the high stone walls that were the work of giants. Even natural geologic features such as the massive basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway on the coast of Northern Ireland were attributed to construction by giants. Giants provided the least complicated explanation for such artifacts.

In Basque mythology, giants appear as jentilak and mairuak (Moors), and were said to have raised the dolmens and menhirs. After Christianization, they were driven away, and the only remaining one is Olentzero, a coalmaker that brings gifts on Christmas Eve.

Medieval romances such as Amadis de Gaul feature giants as antagonists, or, rarely, as allies. This is parodied famously in Cervantes' Don Quixote, when the title character attacks a windmill, believing it to be a giant. This is the source of the phrase tilting at windmills.

Tales of combat with giants were a common feature in the folklore of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Celtic giants also figure in Breton and Arthurian romances, and from this source they spread into the heroic tales of Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and their follower Edmund Spenser. In the small Scottish village of Kinloch Rannoch, a local myth to this effect concerns a local hill that apparently resembles the head, shoulders, and torso of a man, and has therefore been termed 'the sleeping giant'. Apparently the giant will awaken only if a specific musical instrument is played near the hill.

Many giants in English folklore were noted for their stupidity.[2] A giant who had quarreled with the Mayor of Shrewsbury went to bury the city with dirt; however, he met a shoemaker, carrying shoes to repair, and the shoemaker convinced the giant that he had worn out all the shoes coming from Shrewsbury, and so it was too far to travel.[3]

Other English stories told of how giants threw stones at each other. This was used to explain many great stones on the landscape.[4]

Giants figure in a great many fairy tales and folklore stories, such as Jack and the Beanstalk, The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body, Nix Nought Nothing, Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon, Young Ronald, and Paul Bunyan. Ogres and trolls are humanoid creatures, sometimes of gigantic stature, that occur in various sorts of European folklore. An example of another folklore giant is Rübezahl, a kind giant in German folklore who lived in the Giant Mountains (nowadays on the Czech-Polish border).

Giant Human Remains

Aside from mythology and folklore (see Tall tales), remains of extremely tall people have been reported, and documented in the Americas and other parts of the world. These are usually classified as remains that indicate persons of between 7 (2.15 m) and 12 feet (3.65 m) in stature. The book Forbidden Land by Robert Lyman (1971) recounts the following alleged finds:

  • A decayed human skeleton claimed by eyewitnesses to measure around 3.28 meters (10 feet 9 inches tall), was unearthed by laborers while plowing a vineyard in November 1856 in East Wheeling, now in West Virginia.
  • A human skeleton measuring 3.6 meters (12 feet) tall was unearthed at Lompock Rancho, California, in 1833 by soldiers digging in a pit for a powder magazine. The specimen had a double row of teeth and was surrounded by numerous stone axes, carved shells and porphyry blocks with abstruse symbols associated with it.
  • Several mummified remains of humans with reddish hair claimed to range from 2-2.5 meters (6.5 feet to over 8 feet) tall were dug up at Lovelock Cave, (70 miles) north-east of Reno, Nevada, by a guano mining operation. These bones supposedly substantiated claims for legends by the local Paiute Indians regarding giants which they called Si-Te-Cah. However, there appear to be no verified Paiute legends about giants or that call the Si-Te-Cah giants [5]. Some of these artifacts can also be found in the Nevada State Historical Society's museum at Reno. Adrienne Mayor states that these skeletons are normal sized.[5] Mayor does not mention that some of the fiber woven sandals found at Lovelock Cave are extremely large, as great as 7 inches across the toes and over 15 inches in length (size 20 US mens) suggesting persons very much more than average size.[6]
  • A 9' 11" (3.02 meters) skeleton was unearthed in 1928 by a farmer digging a pit to bury trash in Tensas Parish, Louisiana near Waterproof. In 1931 a 10' 2" (3.1 meters) skeleton was unearthed by a boy burying his dog in Nearby Madison Parish.

Aside from in Forbidden Land, we can find verified and unverified examples about the remains of giants:

  • The skull of a youth 7 feet tall, and the partial limb bones of a man estimated at over 11 feet tall were unearthed in 1890 at the Bronze age cemetery of Castelnau-le-Lez, France and published in the science journal "La Nature"[7] and subsequently reported in the New York Times in 1892.[8]
  • A 9' 8" (2.95 meters) skeleton was excavated from a mound near Brewersville, Indiana in 1879 (Indianapolis News, November 10, 1975).
  • In Clearwater, Minnesota, the skeletons of seven giants were found in mounds. These had receding foreheads and complete double dentition[citation needed]
  • A mound near Toledo, Ohio, held 20 skeletons, seated and facing east with jaws and teeth "twice as large as those of present day people", and beside each was a large bowl with "curiously wrought hieroglyphic figures." (Chicago Record, October 24, 1895; cited by Ron G. Dobbins, NEARA Journal, v13, fall 1978).
  • Near the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario there is a span of mountains five miles long that is in the shape of a man wearing a headdress lying down on his back. The span is called "The Sleeping Giant" from local Ojibway legend that identifies the giant as Nanabijou, the spirit of the Deep Sea Water, who was turned to stone when the secret location of a rich silver mine, now known as Silver Islet, was disclosed to white men. [9]
  • Patagons of Patagonia in South America, are giants claimed to have been seen by Ferdinand Magellan and his crew.[10] Drake reported only finding people of 'mean stature'[11] although his Chaplain reported giants. However, even before Magellan, a Spanish romance called Primaleón of Greece was published in 1512 in which a dashing explorer discovers savages, one named Patagon, whose descriptions are very similar to those of Magellan.[12]

There is even a story in William Cody's autobiography about an encounter with the Pawnee Indians that reads. "While we were in the sandhills, scouting the Niobrara country, the Pawnee Indians brought into camp some very large bones, one of which the surgeon of the expedition pronounced to be the thigh bone of a human being. The Indians said the bones were those of a race of people who long ago had lived in that country. They said these people were three times the size of a man of the present day, that they were so swift and strong that they could run by the side of a buffalo, and, taking the animal in one arm, could tear off a leg and eat it as they ran." They too had six fingers on their hands, which was why the Indians raised their hands when they greeted someone, so that they could count the fingers, for they feared the six fingered men.

Giants in popular culture

Giants are a staple in fantasy, and also appear in other genres.

Names/Races of Giants

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Variants of Bible Manuscripts.
  2. ^ K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, p 63 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  3. ^ K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, p 64 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  4. ^ K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, p 65 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  5. ^ a b Fossil Legends of the First Americans (Princeton University Press 2005) — ISBN 0-691-11345-9
  6. ^ Nevada State Journal, Reno Nevada. Sunday, August 3, 1952 Page 6.
  7. ^ La Nature: revue des sciences et de leurs applications aux arts ... Volume 18, By Gaston Tissandier - 1890 [1]
  8. ^ A Race of Giants in Old Gaul - The New York Times, Oct. 3, 1892 [2]
  9. ^ CBC.CA - Seven Wonders of Canada - Your Nominations - Sleeping Giant, Ontario
  10. ^ Antonio Pigafetta, Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo, 1524: "Il capitano generale nominò questi popoli Patagoni." The original word would probably be in Magellan's native Portuguese (patagão) or the Spanish of his men (patagón). It has been interpreted later as "big foot" but the etymology is unclear.
  11. ^ Hakluyt, Richard, Voyages of the English Nation, 3 vols. (London: George Bishop, 1600). 3.751
  12. ^ Lawrence University Publications: Lawrence Today

References

  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
  • Lyman, Robert R., Sr. (1971). Forbidden Land: Strange Events in the Black Forest. Vol. 1. Coudersport, PA: Potter Enterprise.
  • Childress, David Hatcher (1992). Lost Cities of North & Central America. Stelle, IL: Adventures Unlimited.

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message