Giants, in English folklore, tend to be, to put it politely, pretty stupid.

Their attempts to terrify, or eat, human beings, usually result only in their own demise, swiftly dispatched by some hero or other, or otherwise undone by another giant chucking stuff about.

The Avon Gorge, which marks the boundary between Somerset and Bristol, is said to be the work of the giant Gorm, though after a quarrel he tripped and fell, and his bones formed Brean Down, Steep Holm and Flat Holm.

In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain, 1136), Brutus, legendary founder of the British nation, slays the giants living in that land – all but the greatest of them, Gogmagog, who Brutus’s follower Corineus, who “enjoyed beyond all reason matching himself against such monsters”, challenges to a wresting match. He is eventually victorious, hurling the giant off a cliff, where he is dashed to pieces on the rocks below.

In a twist to the tale, in the romance of Fulk Fitzwarren, from the Thirteenth Century, Fulk’s ancestor, Payn Peverel, wrestles an evil spirit that has somehow inhabited the body of Gogmagog (or Geomagog as it is spelt in this account) – despite it being smashed to bits by Corineus – and drives him out of Whittington in Shropshire, taking the land for his own. The spirit then prophesizes how Payn’s descendant, Fulk, will have to fight for the land, and will come into conflict with King John.

Gogmagog is originally a biblical figure, or figures (Gog from the land of Magog in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 38-9, and Gog and Magog from the Book of Revelation), who over the centuries in England have appeared carved into Plymouth Hoe in Devon, and at Wandlebury Camp in Cambridgeshire (though both likenesses have since disappeared), and as great effigies at royal pageants and shows in London up until at least the Nineteenth Century.


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