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Human Giants in Lore, Myth, and Life

Mythology is a wonderful world that Phyllis can escape to when her mind needs a break from daily life.

Giants Fafner and Fasolt take Freyja, by Arthur Rackham

Giants Fafner and Fasolt take Freyja, by Arthur Rackham

Lore, Myth, and Life

Legends of old abound with human giants in lore, myth, and life. Throughout history, there have been stories of their existence on earth. It is also known there have been actual medical cases of giants in real life. Gigantism in humans is caused by a mutated gene passed on through generations or by a tumor on the pituitary gland. These are rare cases that happened to individuals, but has there ever been a race of giants?

In the folklore and mythology of every culture, there have been stories and legends of giants. One may wonder if the myths were based on facts, or if the facts actually became distorted into mythological legends over time. In the society in which it is told, a myth is usually regarded as a true account of the remote past. So, does that mean the legend of giants, like Fafner and Fasolt who seized Freyja in the Norse saga 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung), is a true account from ancient Norway? Did giants like Fafner and Fasolt actually exist at one time in the far distant past?

Fountain of Enceladus in Garden of Versailles

Fountain of Enceladus in Garden of Versailles

Mythological Giants

Enceladus of the Gigantes was a son of Gaia the Mother goddess in Greek mythology. The Gigantes were enormous in size—like other Gigantes, Enceladus had the lower limbs of a serpent and dragon scales for feet. When a battle ensued between the Olympian gods and the Gigantes, Athena, goddess of just-warfare among other titles, injured Enceladus with her spear, which disabled him. Enceladus was then buried under Mount Etna on the island of Sicily. Fire from the volcano is said to be Enceladus' breath and tremors from the volcano are when he rolls over to comfort his side where he was wounded. To this day, people say that an earthquake is caused by Enceladus.

In Norse mythology, Ymir was the first giant and ancestor of all Jotnar (giants). Ymir was formed during the primeval chaos known as Ginnungagap. In the Gylfaginning written by Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda, Ymir's creation was explained as follows:

"Just as from Niflheim there arose coldness and all things grim, so what was facing close to Muspell was hot and bright, but Ginnungagap was as mild as a windless sky. And when the rime and the blowing of the warmth met so that it thawed and dripped, there was a quickening from these flowing drops due to the power of the source of the heat, and it became the form of a man, and he was given the name Ymir."

— Snorri Sturleson, from the Prose Edda

Fafner and Fasolt also are of Norse mythology. Odin, the father god of all gods, had the two brothers build Valhalla. For doing such a good job in building the beautiful castle, Odin promises Fafner and Fasolt they can take Freyja, the goddess of love, as payment. The giants take her, then are offered a hoard of treasure that was stolen from Alberich the dwarf. When the brothers divide the treasure between them, they argue over Andvaranaut, a magic ring. In greed and anger, Fafner kills Fasolt and takes the entire treasure for himself to a cave. Once in the cave, he transforms into a venomous dragon and for many years guards his treasure.

Site of Grave of King Arthur and Guinevere

Site of Grave of King Arthur and Guinevere

Part of the ruins stand like sentinels.

Part of the ruins stand like sentinels.

Archaeological Evidence

In 1890, Anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge made a discovery of fossilized human bones found in a Bronze Age grave under a mound of earth and stone in the Castelnau-le-Lez cemetery in France. The bones, humerus, tibia, and femoral, indicated the person would have been over 27 feet (3 meters) tall. The bones of the Giant of Castelnau were analyzed and studied by several professors at the University of Montpelier who all confirmed they are bones from a human.

In 1894 a discover of a prehistoric cemetery at Montpelier, France yielded three human skulls (28, 31, and 32 inches in circumference), along with other bones of gigantic proportions. It was determined that these bones belonged to a race of giants of 10 to 15 feet tall.

On the grounds of the old Glastonbury Abbey Somerset, England, there is a grave with a plaque that reads it is the tomb of King Arthur. According to one account, written by the historian Gerald of Wales, Queen Guinevere also is in the same grave. When monks in the year 1191 dug up the grave, they found the remains of a man who would have been about seven feet tall in life. A petite woman was lying next to him. She had long golden hair that disintegrated when it was touched.

It was an unusual grave the monks found, 16 feet underground. There they found a stone slab on top of a hollowed-out log. Under the slab was a lead cross that had an inscription on it, identifying the remains as Arthur and Guinevere. In the year 1278, the remains in the grave were transferred to a shrine in the new monastic church, where it can be seen today. Was King Arthur a giant, or just an unusually big man? Were there more men of his stature in the Arthurian legends?

David meets Goliath

David meets Goliath

Giants in Religious Text

In the Old Testament, Genesis 6-4, it says that giants were on the earth when the "sons of God in unto the daughters of men ..."

Deuteronomy 3-11 in referring to after the great flood tells how "only Og king of Ba'shan remained of the remnant of giants".

In the Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible, a race of giants called the Anakim lived south of the land of Canaanite, near Hebron (Gen. 23:2; Josh. 15:13). In Numbers 13:33, ancestors of the Anakim were the Nephilim from the sons of God and daughters of man, mentioned in Genesis 6:1-2.

In Hinduism, there is a race of giants called the Daityas. They are a clan of the Asura, a race of deities who are always battling the devas for power. The devas are benevolent supernatural beings while the Daityas are aggressive and power-seeking. The word, asura, in ancient hymns means powerful or mighty.

In the biblical story of David and Goliath, we read that Goliath was a giant of a man that no one could defeat, yet young David killed him. Now, there is some discrepancy between texts in this story. Josephus, a Romano-Jewish scholar and historian of the 1st century, wrote in the text of Samuel in the Dead Sea Scrolls that Goliath was four cubits and a span in height (6 feet, 9 inches). The 4th century Septuagint gives Goliath the same height. However, in later manuscripts, it is written that Goliath was six cubits and a span (9 feet, 9 inches). Did some study for the later manuscripts show that there was an error in earlier calculation? Or, did Goliath take on new height as the story grew and was added to?

In the unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, there is a large section devoted to giants and presented as biblical data. Giants are mentioned as inhabitants of the earth before the Great Flood. They are believed to have belonged to prehistoric Palestinian tribes.

So, What Do We Believe?

Between archaeologists, scholars, historians and mathematicians there's still no definitive proof as to how gigantic structures on Earth from ancient times were constructed and transported, such as the Moai on Easter Island, the pyramids, or why the Nazca Lines, ancient geoglyphs, in Peru are so gigantic. Who made them? Erich von Daniken, author of 'Chariots of the Gods', 1968, maintains that these gigantic structures and images were created by extraterrestrial visitors of a higher technological order of intelligence or taught humans the knowledge of how to make them. Still there is the issue of transporting enormous blocks of rock. Did the aliens create devices that could move tons of rock, were the aliens giants, or were the humans who made these structures giants?

There is one story which was regarded as ancient myth until archaeological evidence validated the legend. From an archaeological point of view, there is evidence of a race of red-haired giants that the Paiute Indian tribe in northern Nevada had passed down stories of from generation to generation. According to the Paiute legend, their ancestors battled this race of giants who were a hostile and warlike tribe. "Si-Te-Cah" was the name that the Paiutes called the red-haired giants. Si-Te-Cah in Paiute language means "tule eaters", for they ate the fibrous water plant, tule. Supposedly, the giants were also cannibals.

Other tribes, like the Mayan and Aztecs, recorded encounters with giants on journeys further north. On many continents burial sites and remains of giants have been discovered, some as tall as 12 to 15 feet.

Giants Causeway in County Antrim, Ireland

Giants Causeway in County Antrim, Ireland

Finn, Bednandonner, and the Giants Causeway

And we still have the beloved tales and legends that are told to each new generation. One of these legends is Finn MacCool of Ireland and Benandonner of Scotland, both giants. This is the legend of the Giants Causeway, an actual historical site between Ireland and Scotland and how it was built. The legend says that Finn, while roaming around the north coast, would look across the narrow stretch of sea to Scotland to see if Benandonner was around. He wanted to ask Benandonner to come to Ireland to have a battle between them to find out who was the strongest.

Since there were no boats large enough to hold either giant, Finn built a causeway with stones so Benandonner could walk across. However, when Benandonner saw the causeway and started across, Finn realized his rival was much larger and more fearsome than himself. Finn ran home and told his wife how big Benandonner was. Oonagh, his wife, made Finn put on some baby clothes and had him crawl into a cradle and pretend he was asleep.

When Benandonner arrived at the cottage and demanded where Finn was, Oonagh said Finn was out for the day and invited Benandonner in for tea. She then asked him to be quiet so as not to wake Finn's child. When Benandonner saw the size of the “baby” he had no desire to confront the father. Benandonner hurried back to Scotland quickly.

The Giants Causeway, in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, contains huge stones that are hexagonal in shape. The tallest ones are 39 feet high and quite thick. The structure looks like it was constructed intentionally with a "ball and socket" joints method. Experts on this kind of phenomenon say that the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, were created when there was an ancient volcanic eruption. It is a very complex explanation on how lava can form these types of precisely placed structures. Or, maybe Finn was a very intelligent carpenter.

Kentucky Giants

Update to this article on May 5, 2020.

I am in the process of reading a book by Barton M. Nunnelly, author, artist, adventurer, Cryptid Researcher, and Fortean, and am fascinated with the evidence he presents about giant skeletons unearthed.

Nunnelly wrote about several incidents when human skeletons from the far distant past have measured over seven feet long, some over eight feet.

Nunnelly lives in Kentucky, the U.S., and spends a lot of time exploring caves and remote places to investigate and explore the ancient past plus modern-day phenomena.

The name of the book is Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2, by Barton M. Nunnelly. Check it out - this book is very interesting.

© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 05, 2020:

I just added a new capsule to update information from my research. The capsule is titled Kentucky Giants and presents evidence of human skeletons over 7 feet long, some over eight feet long. You will find it at the end of the article.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 16, 2017:

Hi Brian. Thank you for an interesting comment.

Brian on January 15, 2017:

Of course giants could have existed. We know many animals before the ice age grew very big. It is said there was a huge water canopy before a major cataclysm wiped it out. and there were more forest and plants giving more oxygen to the world. So a stronger atmosphere and more oxygen could support an ancient race of giant humans. there were probably not many of them and depending on how the treated their dead might account for lack of fossils. also by the time modern man came around they might have actually been hunted down out of fear giving to many legends of man vs. giants. there are mention of giants in every source of ancient literature. I do believe they existed. only thing missing is a real skeleton verified by modern least publicly.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 10, 2015:

Well thank you very much, newbizmau. That is very kind of you.

Maurice Glaude from Mobile on August 10, 2015:

Came back to find this hub for the Hubby! Hope you win!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 25, 2015:

Hi Kitty. It is really difficult for people today to grasp the thought that things were different in earlier times. All the legends of men who were of great stature is often hard to believe, but not impossible. In my own family I have three nephews who are far above the average stature for men, yet not into the giant category. They remind me of many of the men in legends I love to read.

Thank you for reading and commenting, Kitty. Have a great day.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on July 25, 2015:

I always found stories of giants fascinating. I believe there could have been humans of great stature at one time in the past. It's not completely out of the realm of I don't understand why people have a hard time believing it could be possible! I've always wanted to go to the giants' causeway, too. :)

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 03, 2015:

That is really interesting and makes sense. Wadlow would not have been able to take any more growth. Such a sad story.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 03, 2015:

Wadlow would have continued to grow, but the reason he died was because he got too tall. He needed braces and crutches to walk because his bones could not support his weight. He died of an infection to his foot that went unnoticed because he could not feel pain in his feet because of poor circulation. I did some research on George Waldrow long ago and wrote some poems about him. In the movie "Avatar" the blue people on the planet were very tall and the point was made about their extremely strong bones.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 03, 2015:

Hi Catherine. Thanks for reading and commenting. Giants have always fascinated me. Robert Wadlow, tallest man in the world was 8' 11 inches. He died at age 22. At the time of his death, there was no indication that his growth would stop had he lived. I never read Taltos. I like Anne Rice's books - she is a good writer. I will have to read that book. Thanks again, Catherine.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 03, 2015:

This is truly fascinating. I admire your research and how well you wrote on this topic. I have read that about 8 feet might be the limit for humans--after that the bones can't support the weight and the heart can't pump the blood to the extremities. If there ever were real giants, they would have to be separate species of primate. Did you ever read Anne Rice's book "Taltos." It is about a race of giants.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 10, 2014:

Hi Maurice. I had great fun researching and writing this hub about giants. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Maurice Glaude from Mobile on October 10, 2014:

Giants and more giants! Wow

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 07, 2014:

Your really welcome, Phyllis. I'll watch it sometime today. Footprints and pics don't lie lol!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 06, 2014:

Dane, I found a video of the footprint in South Africa you told me about. This is amazing. I added the video above the capsule of Giants in Religious Text. Thank you for telling me about this.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 06, 2014:

HO HO HO --Now see, I should have called you first, I knew there was one I forgot. Paul is rather put off with me right now, too,and Babe the Blue Ox is rather miffed. LOL Randy, it is so good to hear from you. I hope you are much better. Thank you so much for your visit and comment. Take care now.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on March 06, 2014:

What, nothing about my favorite giant? You know, the Jolly Green One! lol! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, Phyllis. Up, of course!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 06, 2014:

OMGosh, Dane! I never heard of the giant footstep in Africa. I must check that out. Thank you so much for your wonderful praise. I just love that image of Fafner and Fasolt -- I have been wondering for several months how to use it in an article. Too bad they both came to such a sad ending. Mythology is a strong interest and passion of mine. In fact, I am working on another one now in the Celtic genre. Thanks again, Dane. I always so appreciate your visits and comments.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 06, 2014:

Phyllis, let me start off by saying this story should do very well in the serps. There are other human giant articles on G's first page not near as good as this one is. You've really done a fantastic piece of research and writing here. That was very interesting the mythological section, and the archeological part was fascinating. Great pics, too. You've really put those other human giant articles to shame.. outta know cause I looked them over before. Btw, are you aware of the giant human footprint in an upturned boulder down in South Africa? No doubting it's a human foot from lord knows how far back in time.. Might be a good addition here but you've superbly covered the subject anyway. Very well done, Phyllis - thank you!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 06, 2014:

Ah ! Jodah, I forgot to add the story of the monks finding the grave of King Arthur and the history behind it. It seems the Abbey went through quite a struggle to maintain good financial backing and tourist dollars. There has been some debate if the "discovering of King Arthur's grave" was a set up to entice more visitors and donations to the Abbey.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 04, 2014:

Thank you, Jodah. What a wonderfully awesome comment you send me. I read Jackie's hub also and really enjoyed it. She did a great job on it. It is funny because I was working on this hub and when I took a break from it I went through the news feed and saw Jackie's hub, so had to read it. The video I found is awesome. I really enjoyed it. I now have to go back in the hub to edit a few things I forgot to put in. There is a long story about the grave of King Arthur's that the monks dug up. I will go into that a little bit in the hub when I edit. I do not recall Geoffry of Monmouth or Sir Thomas Mallory writing that King Arthur was seven feet tall., so I agree with you on that. Thanks again for reading and commenting, Jodah. Have a good day.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 04, 2014:

What a wonderfully interesting hub Phyllis. I read Jackie's hub about the Nephilim and UFOs earlier. It was a coincidence that you both decided to write hubs on this subject at the same time. They are both very educational and delightful reads though present the information uniquely. I have read quite a bit of Eric Von Daniken's writing and find his theories very thought provoking. The fact that so many separate excavations of giant human bones have been found is proof to me that giants existed. I didn't know that King Arthur was thought to be exceptionally tall though. Voted up as always.