Gigantes: Giants Beyond Mythology

Aparna Chatterjee

If you are born and brought up in India, you must have a childhood adorned with mythical stories. From stories of Lord Krishna’s mischief and bravery to stories of Lord Ram’s virtue, we all grew up with cartoons and comics teaching us cardinal morals. If you are one of us, the concept of giants should not be unknown to you. We have few characters of this clan in our mythology. Kumbhkaran, Ravana, Bakasur, and even Lord Hanuman could shift shape and become so enormous that they could carry a whole mountain.

But the Greeks had it a bit differently. It was a clan of great strength and might, born from the union of sky and earth. Hesiod, a Greek poet, wrote interesting poems on the children of Gaia and Uranus. The land of the Titans, the Olympian Gods, and the Giants flourished in Greek and Nordic mythology. The representation changed over time, showing the giants as big, snake-bearing creatures even though they were initially depicted as human-sized figures. The previous generation of the clan, the Titans, was always portrayed as evil and humongous beings. The stories of the Clash of the Titans and the Gods were always confused with those of the Giants. Unlike many other mythological stories, Greek mythology didn’t always have an easy right vs. the wrong duel. We see the Gods planting their seeds on earth, giving rise to demi-gods. We see the Titans birthing fertile soil for the forest. For our understanding, let’s take these words as titles, not as something divine or evil.

Jotnar, the Nordic giants, come from a different realm altogether. The Vikings feared mammoth mountain ranges as that was the home to the Jotnar since the beginning of time. Big, tall mountains that pierced through the sky, having snowy tops, often made it easy for the giants to dwell there. Vikings also talk about the giants in dark forests, the sea, etc. The first Jotun, Ymir, was born when fire from Muspelheim (the realm of fire) met ice from Niflheim (the kingdom of ice) in the Gulf of Ginnungagap. It is said that he could give birth without a partner using his hair and limbs. The ancient poems tell that after the God of all Gods, Odin, and his brothers Vili and Ve, killed Ymir, they built the world from the remains of Ymir. His flesh was used to create the earth, and his blood began the ocean. His bones were used for the tall hills, and his hair was made up for the trees. His skull made heaven. His brows made up for the powers of the formed Midgard (ancient earth) for the sons of the men. His brain was turned into heavy clouds. Odin and his brothers had lived between fire and mist, a place with no land for life to dwell upon, and only killing Ymir could give them the resources for creating the world.

Over time, we have other poets presenting their take on the giants. Masses started knowing this clan through the words of these poets. Alcman, Homer, Ovid, and others described them as violent, scary, gigantic creatures, comparing them with the mountains. Hence, it was also believed the Giants caused earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Nordic Giants was another compelling character of the old world. Like the Gods, a Clan with supernatural powers was not always depicted as evil. The frost giants and the fire giants showed their strengths and purposes at different stages of the Ragnarok. While we are more familiar with Odin, Thor, and Loki, thanks to Marvel, the Jutul clan (Nordic Giants) were no less. We might become more familiar with the Jutuls thanks to Marvel, but the main question remains unanswered. Mythological events such as the Nordic Ragnarok, Gigantomachy, and Titanomachy leave us wondering if all of it was just folklore or if they seemed impossible for humans to comprehend. Is there any truth to the existence of the Giants?

Let’s take a look at history. In 2013, a giant skull was found in Ecuador. The anatomy revealed that the being stood 7 feet 4 inches high and was deceased approximately 600 years back. Five more specimens were found in the same area. That might not raise an eyebrow when we have Robert Wadlow, the tallest person recorded till now, standing at 8 feet 3 inches high. But we have more. In 1871, 200 giant skeletons were unearthed at a Native American burial site. Some of these skeletons measured up to 9 feet tall. We are familiar with big footprints discovered all around the globe. One such impression was found in South Africa. It was 1.2 meters long, giving an estimated height of 24-27 feet, and is said to be around 200 million years old. Scientists confirmed no chisel marks around it, but its origin remains a mystery. Similarly, we discovered giant 2-foot-long footprints in China, giving a staggering height of 13 feet.

Is the existence of the Giants that surprising? We all know it as the fact that the ancestors of many modern-day animals were gigantic. We know about the Megalodon, an ancient extinct species that grew to 60 feet. The prehistoric turtles grew as big as an average size car. Even prehistoric spiders were 13 inches long with a leg span of 20 inches. Since oxygen was comparatively higher, anything from mushrooms and trees to bugs and beats grew gigantic. Then why wouldn’t an early ancestor of Homo Sapiens become a giant? Recently, it was found that three species of humans simultaneously walked on this planet 200 million years ago. However, their interactions remain a mystery. But such discovery gives light to a possibility.

Whether giants existed or not? Are these mythological stories started to entertain and control the masses? Or were there, in fact, tribes exhibiting strength and stature like that of no ordinary men?

The question is going to linger a little while more. Nonetheless, conspiracy theorists and mythology enthusiasts can surely enjoy these old relics.

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