Giants Legend and Lore
Stories involving Giants can be found in all cultures, from the earliest Mesopotamia stone carvings to recent American legends of Paul Bunyan and John Henry. Particularly tall men are born from time to time and their unusual stature can be attributed to some of the tales and folklore spoken through generations. Add to that some vivid imagination, fear, and a healthy dose of alcohol, and you have the ingredients for a tall-tale about a giant man.
Giants were also used to explain natural phenomenon that could not be explained by a people’s knowledge of the world at any particular time. Thunder was giants at play, earth tremors and quakes were walking giants and volcanoes were the burning blood of a long buried giant. Following, are some of the legends and folklore of giants through the ages.
The earliest known organized culture is thought to be the Sumerians in the Mesopotamia Valley. They have left behind stone tablets depicting life at the time. Many of those carved images depict the “Giant Kings,” men with six fingers, perhaps 12 to 18 feet tall, that the citizens are bowing down to and worshipping.
Recently there were a series of photos from excavations labeled The Sumerian Giants, which showed archeologists digging out extremely large skeletal remains from rock and desert areas. These were proven to be fakes and product of a Photoshop Contest taking place on the web.
Greek and Roman culture had many tales of mythological giants. Their giants battled the Gods, lost, and were banished to their own land. However, many negotiated release or had interactions with humans who came upon their islands. Cantharos, Talos, and the Cyclops were among the most famous Greek giants.
The Colossus of Rhodes was a giant statue that straddled the two land masses at the seaport of the Roman city. Ships had to come in sailing under the giant statue in order to reach the seaport. It is believed that the Romans had some kind of weaponry associated with the statue to guard against enemy ships. Perhaps it dropped rocks from above onto enemy vessels. This gave rise to rumors that the Colossus would come alive to defend Rhodes from invasion.
In Norse mythology, the first living entity was a giant, Ymir was born of chaos. Their giants also challenged the Gods and were banished to their own lands.
Welsh folklore and legend produced Ye Olde’ English Tales of Jack the Giant Killer. There were several tales besides the “beanstalk” tale most are familiar with. Jack had battles and skirmishes with giants, Cormoran and Blunderbore.
Legends and tales of Ogres circulated throughout Europe and Trolls were popular in Scandinavian folklore. In the Bible, David slew Goliath the giant, with a rock and his slingshot.
In more recent times, Native Americans had told of a tribe of giants in the area just east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1912 several bodies were dug up from burial mounds near Lake Delevan, Wisconsin. The skeletal remains were 10 feet tall and there were 18 bodies in all.
Famous in American folklore, Paul Bunyan was a master lumberjack and said to be 20 feet tall. He was always seen with his companion, a giant blue Ox named, Babe.
In the 1890’s, The Cardiff Giant was the mummified remains discovered in a farmer’s field, in New York State. The farmer put it on display at his home in Cardiff, NY, and people came from all corners of the US to see the Giant. It was later proved to be a hoax. A year previous, the farmer had carved it out of stone and he and his neighbor had buried it. When he dug it up in front of witnesses, it seemed like a major archeological find.
The Cardiff Giant can still be seen today in Cooperstown, NY at the Farmer‘s Museum.
The Muffler Man Giants
A restaurant on route 66 in Arizona had at one time erected a giant fiberglass statue of Paul Bunyan holding an axe as a landmark for their establishment. Soon these statues were popping up across the US as landmarks for Muffler Man stores and tire companies (Uniroyal). The axes were replaced with mufflers or tires. These companies have changed locations or closed stores, but the Paul Bunyan statues (and variations of them) remain. To this day they are referred to as Muffler Man Giants. To find one near you visit: www.roadsideamerica.com
Naturally, this is just a brief overview of Giants throughout the ages. Hope you enjoyed the pics I’ve gathered. If anyone witnesses a giant in the near future, please let me know so I can add it to my post, thanks! 😉
Check out my reviews covering Giants in movies:
Jack The Giant Killer (1962)
Creature Features – There be Giants!
And giant creatures, in books:
Monstrous – 20 tales of Giant Creature Terror