Giants Legend and Lore

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.

Historical Giants

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.
sumerian giant excavation Sumerian-giant-skeletons

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 battle-of-the-cyclopsCyclops 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 the-colossus-of-rhodes 1961Colossus 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.


Modern Giants18-giant-skeletons-found-giants found in burial mounds near Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, in May 1912

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.
Cardiff_Giant Cardiff Giant pic 2

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:

mufflerman-aug8-01 MufflerMan Muffler_Man_with_Hot_Dog 

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

jack poster The Colossus of Rhodes 1961 Jack the Giant Killer cover
jack_the_giant_slayer pic 01

Creature Features revisited – There be Giants !

War-of-the-Colossal-Beast-pic 4

Creature Features revisited – There be Giants !

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…

Giants – (as in giant people) –

My Top 3 picks

50 foot woman coverAttack of the 50 ft. Woman (1958)
Allison Hayes plays Nancy, a young woman in a strained marriage. Her husband, Harry, (William Hudson) is a two-timer and seems to have only stayed married to her for money. When Harry leaves on one of his many “business meetings,” an upset Nancy drives out into the desert where she has a close encounter with a alien spacecraft. Escaping the clutches of some alien being, she gets back to town, ranting about her encounter. Her husband knows her crazy rant will help escort her to an asylum, and then he would be in control of the $50 million in her nest-egg. Harry tries to overdose her with medication but discovers she has grown to enormous proportions. The doctors sedate her and Harry heads to town for a meeting with his fling, Honey Parker, (Yvette Vickers). Nancy awakes and discovers her husband gone. She heads to town, knocks down power-lines and attacks the local ‘bar & grill’ in pursuit of Harry. In the end, Harry can not escape the clutches of marriage or a woman scorned, not even in death. This is one of the better American, 1950’s giant movies. The masking techniques look better than most, aside from a few spots where the image gets ghostly. The obviously papier-mâché looking giant-hand is not-so-great but I like the scenes anyway. The sound effects are well done including, Nancy’s constant calls, “Harry,”  which are played several octaves lower when she becomes a giant. (Remakes: Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman -1980 w/Darryl Hanna, Attack of the 60 ft. Centerfold, Attack of the 50 ft. Cheerleader)

war_of_the_colossal_beast_1958 coverWar of the Colossal Beast (1958)
Sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man, this is my favorite of the three radioactive giant man movies (The Amazing…, War of…, and The Cyclops). Joyce, the sister of the Colossal Man hears about food truck deliveries being robbed across the Mexican border and is convinced her brother is still alive. Along with an Army officer and a scientist, they go to investigate the incidents. They find Glenn Manning, but he is now a beast with aggressive nature and a torn up, zombie-like face. They capture him and bring him to a Los Angeles Hanger, hoping to find a remedy to his affliction. He escapes and rampages through LA. When cornered he picks up a bus and threatens to kill everyone inside. It is here that Joyce gets though to him saying he has hurt a lot of people and that is not the man she knew. Seeming to understand what she has said, he goes to the nearby power lines, purposely grabs the wires and electrocutes himself, so that his ordeal will finally be over. I like this film the best, mostly because of the make-up effects on the giant’s face and the night scenes which make it creepier to have this giant zombie-like creature walking around. The scene of him holding the bus over his head with the search lights trained on him is the highlight of the film.

7th voyage cover artThe 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
I was debating about putting this in here because it would probably fit better in my Top Mythology Movies post (at a future date). The film is not just about the giant Cyclops, but is a fantasy adventure film, and also, it is in color and not what you would envision for a Creature Feature film. But, you can not deny that the horned Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is perhaps the best rendition of a giant anywhere in film. Harryhausen’s work on this film began a new series of mythology movies in his partnership with Schneer, garnering larger budgets than previous films and enabling them to go color in 1958. The Cyclops is a masterpiece of effects work and modeling. It is the standard that all other mythological Cyclops in film are now compared to and none have been able to touch this iconic figure. Ask anyone to think of what a Cyclops looks like and they will most likely picture the one from this movie first and foremost. Cyclops even made an appearance in the Xena: Warrior Princess, video game (my daughters game, I swear!).

Honorable mention:

the-amazing-colossal-man coverThe Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Masking techniques make for some interesting scenes in this sci-fi movie but the film is mostly about the tragedy of the man who is afflicted with this radioactive gigantism. Growing to such a size his heart can‘t pump blood to his brain fast enough and he goes insane. Scientists try to give him a drug to stop his growth but he takes the giant needle and impales the scientist – a shocking scene in the 1950‘s! Then, he grabs his girlfriend and tramples through Las Vegas, knocking over a few signs and throwing cars. He is cornered at Boulder Dam. They shoot him down and you think he is dead, until one year later…. War of the Colossal Beast.

The_Cyclops coverThe Cyclops (1957)
Susan Winter (Gloria Talbot) looks for her fiancé, Bruce, a pilot of a small plane that went down in the countryside of Mexico. She forms a search party and they land in the uncharted area finding rich deposits of Uranium. Marty (Lon Chaney Jr.) wants to cash in on the find, but scientist, Russ, (James Craig) warns that the radioactivity is too high and could possibly have irreversible effects. As they search for Bruce, they run into several giant animals. Then, they are chased and locked in a cave by a mutant 25 ft man, with a twisted, “melted cheese” face and only one eye. The man grunts aggressively at them until he sees Susan. Could this mutant man be Bruce? This film has many similarities to ‘War of the Colossal Beast‘. In the end The Cyclops attempts to stop the search party from taking off and is stabbed in the eye by one of the men with a tree branch. The only reason I would pick this over, The Amazing Colossal Man or War of the Colossal Beast is because the acting is a notch better and the characters are more defined.


The 1960’s had a few giant films worth mentioning, too:

the beast of yucca flats pic 1The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Ex-wrestler, Tor Johnson, plays a Russian scientist defecting from his country. He accidentally runs into the nuclear test area at Yucca Flats. Barely a giant movie, because Tor was so big, I guess the filmmakers didn’t think they needed any effects to make him look like a giant – he just looks like the big guy that he is. The film is famous for the wacky narration by an unseen narrator speaking through much of the film. Lines like – “nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers” and “touch a button, things happen, a scientist becomes a beast.” and my favorite, “flag on the moon, how did it get there?”  – make the film worth seeing for its (unintentional) comedic aspects. Perhaps, a worse film than, Plan 9…?

village giants coverVillage of the Giants (1965)

A bunch of party-hungry teenagers become giants and take over a small town. No more adult rules in this town, daddy-o! It’s a fun spirited, drive-in flick. Ron Howard stars as a young boy, a prodigy scientist who accidently creates the goop that makes living things Giant. The film is famous for its psychadelic, slo-mo dance party- a flight of teenage abandonment -watched with horror by the adult town folk. (talk about some bad dancing!)

frankenstein conquers coverFrankenstein Conquers the World (1965)

A giant Frankenstein monster battles dino’s and rips up Japan in this Ishiro Honda classic. This is one of my fave Toho films, so I will do a more in-depth review at a later date.