Giants in literature and legend
'Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum!' said Quintin.
'I smell the blood of an English woman… doesn't rhyme,' said Miranda.
'They say that fairy tales can back to the Bronze Age.'
'Well, in that case, some of the stories in Arthurian legends and medieval romances must do as well,' suggested Miranda. 'They abound in giants. King Arthur is a giant killer. He indulges in an orgy of giant-killing in the Middle English story Of Arthour and of Merlin. He kills one at the top of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy in the Alliterative Morte Arthure. Medieval romance has the eponymous hero Sir Eglamour of Artois fight with one, as does the principal hero of the romance Octavian.'
'Merlin was supposed to have brought Stonehenge over from Ireland, where it was called the Giant's Ring.'
In Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain?'
'I know. Geoffrey of Monmouth chronicles the arrival of the Trojan Brutus to these shores. Brutus found Britain filled with giants when he arrived, so he killed them all. But look at all the prehistoric monoliths in Britain. Huge stones, like the ones at Avebury, in Wiltshire, with its enormous ditch. You can see where the idea might have come from. And the tors on the tops of hills in Devon and Cornwall – it looks as though huge stone discs have been placed there in a pile by giants. Perhaps that's where the idea of giants living at the tops of mountains comes from.'
'In Norse mythology, giantland lies across the sea,' said Quintin. 'Thor once spent the night there sheltering in a giant's glove.'
'And in the Icelandic sagas as well,' said Miranda. 'A hero in a legendary Icelandic saga who is fated to live for three hundred years is taken across the sea to giantland hanging in the claws of a vulture, when he comes to the end of the line, so to speak – a stretch of water that he cannot otherwise cross. Then a giant rows out to the vulture's nest and says: "Where is that little child I saw?" But the Ancient Greeks had giants as the enemies of their gods also. The Titans. Atlas was one. Prometheus was another. He was laid out on a rock and his liver was pecked away by a vulture all night, but renewed again every morning. As though such a parody of reincarnation might be a suitable punishment for him.'
'Odysseus, of Ancient Greek legend, found islands full of giants when he was trapped in an enchanted sea after a storm, on his way back from the siege of Troy,' said Quintin. 'The cyclops was one of them.'
'Maeldun found similar islands of giants when he was trapped in an enchanted sea,' replied Miranda, 'in a story from Irish mythology. And the Fair Unknown had to defeat a fair few in a fourteenth century medieval romance. So did Torrent of Portugal, and Guy of Warwick. And Sir Bevis of Hampton. And King Horn.'
'Shows that medieval romance and Arthurian legend might have been tapping into some quite archaic storylines for inspiration,' said Quintin.