Giants of Old

The content below is from Episode 135 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you watch the series Welcome to Wrexham.
    • here’s the plot:
      • In “Welcome to Wrexham,” Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds learn to run the third oldest professional football club in the world. In 2020, Rob and Ryan teamed up to purchase the fifth tier Red Dragons in the hope of turning Wrexham AFC into an underdog story the whole world can root for, but the concern is that neither have any experience in football or working with each other. From Hollywood to Wales, from the pitch to the locker room, and the front office to the pub, the docuseries will track Rob and Ryan’s crash course in football club ownership and the inextricably connected fates of a team and a town counting on two actors to bring some serious hope and change to a community that could use it.
    • Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds made something special here. A sports documentary that also dives into what makes a community tick and what makes sports so special.
    • My favorite episode is S1 E#17 Wromance
      • An inside look at the unusual beginnings and dynamics of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s football friendship. I shed a tear at the end of this episode. The mental health specialist lady said she asked a patient of hers what he missed most about sports when the pandemic hit. She said a tear rolled down his face as he said “I miss talking with my dad about them.”
      • Then the episode ends with Cat Stevens’s tear jerker of a song Father and Son. It got to me.


  • I was perusing the usual social media platforms the other day when I stumbled upon an image of a really tall mummy propped up in between two living dudes wearing suits. The image is grainy, old, and in a black and white scale of color. The caption read:
  • This history meme thing had caught my attention and my curiosity, and I immediately saved the image to my big folder of notes on my phone called “Who’d a Thunk It? Ideas.”
    • But as I started to look into the photo and the Si-Te-Cah people, I found very little. Which typically means it is not completely based in truth, or at least not based in verifiable truth.
  • According to the legend goes like this:
    • Si-Te-Cah or Saiduka literally translates as “tule-eaters” in the Northern Paiute language. The tule is a fibrous water plant, which according to legend, was woven by giants into rafts in order to escape attacks by the Paiute. They used the rafts to navigate across what remained then of Lake Lahontan, an ancient lake that once covered most of northern Nevada during the last ice age.
    • As the Paiute tale goes, after years of warfare, all the tribes in the area joined together to rid themselves of the Si-Te-Cah. One day, as the tribes chased down the last remaining red-haired giants, they took refuge in a cave. The Paiutes demanded their enemy come out of the cave and fight, but the giants refused.
    • The coalition of tribes proceeded to shoot arrows at them while starting a large fire at the mouth of the cave. The smoke drove out a few who died in a hail of arrows while the rest were all either burned alive or asphyxiated. Over time, the entrance to the cave would collapse leaving it accessible only to bats and cut off from human contact.
  • There is a Lovelock Cave in Nevada that has been home to ancient humans for about 15,000 BC according to radiocarbon dating methods.
    • And When archeologist went a digging in the late 1920’s they found some 10,000 archeological specimens. One of which was a 15 inch long sandal.
    • Today, many of the original artifacts found at Lovelock (but no giants) can be viewed at a small natural history museum located in Winnemucca, Nevada. 
      • But the cave has been raided for artifacts by individuals who kept the specimen they found most interesting for their personal collections. … so there is room for doubt for those willing to believe in the mythical giants.
  • But what about the image? Surely the pictured evidence of a freakishly tall mummy grants the story some validity right?
    • Nope. This is the world of doctored images and just because there’s a photo doesn’t make it real.
  • Take this photo for example:
  • The image you see on the blog is a still shot from some archive footage from Japan. It shows a dude who looks like 11 feet tall walking around all these average-height citizens.
    • The claims behind the grainy black and white footage are that it is top secret footage that came out of Japan in the 1800s before the film was even invented and that it captures the existence of the Biblical Nephilim giant.
      • I will admit, it does look sort of convincing, and my curious brain that wants so badly to believe in fairytales, giants, and other mythical creatures got excited the first time I saw it.
    • But the Giants in Japan footage is not from mysterious archival footage. It is from a 2007 Japanese movie titled Big Man in Japan.
  • I found the Giants in Japan video and was all excited. But I did a quick google search and found that the reliable had debunked the footage quite definitively.
    • I saw this movie trailer and realized the Giants in Japan footage was a hoax.
    • Sadly, my excited brain that wished for a more mysterious world went back to not believing in giants, just as quickly as it had started to believe in them… a mere few seconds.
  • But that isn’t to say Giants don’t exist entirely…
    • Hear me out. There may not be evidence to support the existence of a race of giants, but we do have giants among us.
    • Go to an NBA game and stand next to the players. They are so damn tall it will blow your mind.
      • The tallest person alive today: Sultan Kösen (born 10 December 1982) is a Turkish farmer who holds the Guinness World Record for tallest living male at 251 cm (8 ft 2.82 in). Of Kurdish ethnicity, he is the seventh tallest man in history.
      • The shortest person alive today: The current world’s shortest man is Edward Niño Hernandez, of Colombia, who measures 28.38 inches (72.1 centimeters) in height. His mother said he has not grown since the age of 2.
      • The world average height:
  • From a National Geographic report back in 2004:
    • “Scientists have found skeletons of a hobbit-like species of human that grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child. The tiny humans, who had skulls about the size of grapefruits, lived with pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons on a remote island in Indonesia 18,000 years ago.
      • Australian and Indonesian researchers discovered bones of the miniature humans in a cave on Flores, an island east of Bali and midway between Asia and Australia.
      • Scientists have determined that the first skeleton they found belongs to a species of human completely new to science. Named Homo floresiensis, after the island on which it was found, the tiny human has also been dubbed by dig workers as the “hobbit,” after the tiny creatures from the Lord of the Ringsbooks.
      • The original skeleton, a female, stood at just 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall, weighed about 25 kilograms (55 pounds), and was around 30 years old at the time of her death 18,000 years ago.
      • The skeleton was found in the same sediment deposits on Flores that have also been found to contain stone tools and the bones of dwarf elephants, giant rodents, and Komodo dragons, lizards that can grow to 10 feet (3 meters) and that still live today.
      • Homo floresienses has been described as one of the most spectacular discoveries in paleoanthropology in half a century—and the most extreme human ever discovered.
      • The species inhabited Flores as recently as 13,000 years ago, which means it would have lived at the same time as modern humans, scientists say.”
    • Archeological evidence of a Hobbit species… How fascinating!
      • Imagine if a modern human stumbled upon a member of the HomoFloresienses subspecies. The Homosapien would be the giant. Evolution plus time makes for some pretty magical life forms.
      • It isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility that there is an undiscovered subspecies that existed that grew in the opposite way.
    • Consider the story of a real-life giant, the tallest man ever recorded: Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940), also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was a man who was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a small city near St. LouisMissouri.[1]
      • Wadlow’s height was 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m)[2][3][4] while his weight reached 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to hypertrophy of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone (HGH). Even by the time of his death, there was no indication that his growth had ended.
      • If Robert Wadlow some how stumbled upon a village of the HomoFloresienses people… it would blow the minds of everyone involved!
    • Just as the HomoFloresienses evolved over time mating with smaller and smaller versions of humans until their average height was just over 3 feet tall and 55 pounds… why couldn’t it be possible that people with Robert Wadlow’s rare condition might have met up, mated, and slowly over time evolved to live with their hypertrophic pituitary gland.
      • Their children and children’s children would likely be VERY tall until you had an entire community of what we would essentially refer to as giants.
  • So there are really tall and really short people that exist… What’s my point?
  • Here is my thought (and I know I’m not the first one to think it), but what if interactions of ancient homo sapiens with these subspecies were told through verbal stories and passed down from generation to generation until someone wrote them down?
    • By the time these verbal stories of hobbits and/or giant subspecies were finally written down there were likely lots of exaggerations and made-up parts that led people to discount those stories as complete myths.
    • This is typically how my mind works when I hear an ancient myth or tale. I start speculating on what possibly could have caused this story to come about? Is it based on some far-distant and diluted truth?
      • It is a fun headspace to be in as long as you don’t start mistaking your speculations as fact.
    • So for today’s episode Giants of Old, I wanted to go over various ancient legends of giants with you. See if I (or even you) could draw some speculative connection between these tales and a possible basis of truth.


  • Giants from many ancient cultures:
    • The giants below are a weird and wonderful sample from folklore around the world.
    • In Greek mythology, Atlas was one of the Titans who went to war against Zeus’s gods of Olympus. When the Titans lost, Zeus condemned Atlas to hold up the sky for all eternity. During the 12 labors of Heracles, one of his famous quests was to find the golden apples of Hesperides. Atlas offered to go and fetch the apples for Heracles if he would take his place holding up the sky. Atlas duly retrieved the apples and was about to take them to Eurystheus when Heracles asked if Atlas would mind just holding the sky again for a minute while he got comfortable. Of course, as soon as Atlas had re-shouldered his heavy burden, Heracles made off with the apples and continued with his tasks, leaving Atlas with his interminable duty.
    • Another legend involving Atlas featured the hero Perseus, who encountered Atlas in the northwest region of Africa. Atlas tried to scare Perseus away, and so Perseus took Medusa’s severed head from his bag. When Atlas saw the terrible Gorgon he turned to stone—becoming the Atlas mountain range.
    • In Irish mythology, Balor was the king of the Fomorians, a race of giants who were said to be early settlers of Ireland. Balor, much like the cyclops, was a one-eyed giant and the god of death—whoever was caught in his gaze would die instantly. Due to this unfortunate tendency, Balor kept his single eye closed until his terrible power was needed. According to a prophecy, it was said that Balor would be killed by his own grandson, and so he imprisoned his daughter, Ethlinn, in a crystal tower in a vain attempt to prevent her having any offspring. However, before long Cian, a minor god, snuck in and impregnated Ethlinn, who gave birth to three sons. On discovering the birth of his grandsons, Balor had them thrown into the sea, but one boy, Lugh, escaped his fate and was fostered by Manannan Mac Lir, the god of the sea. The prophecy finally played out when Lugh led the Tuatha De Danann (a race of Irish gods) into battle and killed Balor by ripping out his eye.
    • Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
    • There are countless giants in Norse legends, and Hrungnir was one of the biggest and baddest. One day Odin, the leader of the Norse gods of Asgard, challenged Hrungnir to a horse race. Odin rode his super-fast eight-legged steed Sleipnir, and Hrungnir rode his standard-legged horse, Gullfaxi. Unsurprisingly, Sleipnir outran Gullfaxi and led him into the realm of Asgard, where, feeling sorry for the loser, Odin invited Hrungnir for a drink. Unfortunately, Hrungnir was not a good drunk and had soon become belligerent and argumentative, claiming that he could kill all the gods of Asgard, except for the goddesses Freya and Sif, whom he would carry off with him to Jotunheim, the realm of the giants. Becoming tired of Hrungnir’s arrogance, the other gods called upon Thor, who challenged Hrungnir to a duel. Hrungnir agreed, and on the day of the fight he turned up clad in stone armor and carrying a giant whetstone as a weapon. Thor threw his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, and it smashed through both the whetstone and Hrungnir’s head and the latter fell to his death. It is said that the fragments of the whetstone fell to the earth, and became the flint we see around us today.
    • Jentil are giants from the mythology of the Basque region of France/Spain, and are said represent the pagans who inhabited the land before Christianity. Jentil were enormous, strong, and hairy, and loved to throw rocks; because of this they were thought to have built the many megalithic stone circles and dolmens in the Basque region. According to legend, the Jentil died out after a huge, bright cloud appeared heralding the birth of Jesus—the frightened Jentil did not want change and ran down the mountains and hid in a dolmen, never to return.
    • However, one Jentil survived: Olentzero, an especially large and grumpy giant who enjoyed a tipple. Having survived the death of his people, he is said to have walked to the nearest village and cut the throat of all the greedy people who had eaten too much. This legend was soon adopted and adapted during the rise of Christianity, and Olentzero was re-packaged as a Basque version of Santa Claus. In this sanitized reimagining, he visits children on Christmas Eve bringing toys he has crafted himself.
    • Goliath was the biblical giant defeated against the odds by the shepherd David. Described in the Book of Samuel, Goliath was a Philistine Champion from the city of Gath, which was where an ancient race of giants were said to originate. The exact size of Goliath is debated, but it seems he was either 6 foot 8 or 9 foot 7; either way, he was a lot bigger than his seemingly puny opponent, David. He is also described in the Bible as being clad in an imposing amount of bronze armor.
    • In a classic story of the plucky underdog, David strides out to face Goliath with nothing but a humble slingshot, the fate of his people in his hands. David launches a stone from his slingshot, which hits Goliath right between the eyes and he falls down dead. In a rather gruesome turn of events, David then cuts off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword. As most of us know, the story of David versus Goliath has since come to represent the ultimate victory of the underdog.
    • steveilott via Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0
    • Polyphemus is perhaps the most famous of the Cyclopes—the one-eyed giants from Greek mythology. According to Homer’s legend of the Odyssey, Polyphemus was the son of the sea god Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa. He lived on the island of Sicily with his fellow cyclops, where he tended a flock of sheep. When the great adventurer Odysseus landed on the island, he introduced himself to Polyphemus as “No one.” The cyclops seized Odysseus and his men and trapped them in a cave, covered by a giant boulder. He also began eating them.
    • Odysseus hatched a plan to escape and drove a stake into the giant’s only eye, blinding him. Polyphemus cried out in pain, and his brother cyclops came to his aid, but when they asked who was attacking him, he replied “No one,” so they thought him mad and went away. Odysseus and his crew then tied themselves to the underside of Polyphemus’s flock of sheep so that in the morning, when he pushed aside the boulder to let out his sheep, the now-blind giant patted the back of each sheep as he counted them out, not noticing the brave adventurers clinging the animals’ undersides.
    • Mikkabie, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
    • In Japanese folklore, oni are often hideous giants in demon form. They are depicted looking fearsome, with red or blue skin, three fingers and toes, and grotesque horns. They are also often naked, save for a loin cloth made from the pelts of wild beasts. Described as super-strong, they’re also very keen on human flesh.
    • Oni usually live in hell, having been sent there and transformed into oni for living an evil life while on earth. However, the very worst kind of oni are those who are so unspeakably wicked that they are turned into oni while still living, and roam the earth causing misery to others.
    • Japanese people traditionally celebrate the Setsubun festival in the spring to drive out the oni. During the festival celebrations, soy beans are thrown in the air to ward off any lurking three-fingered beasts.
    • Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
    • Gogmagog is said to have been the last giant in the British Isles. The source for most of our information on him comes from the Welshman Geoffrey of Monmouth, who in circa 1136 wrote Historia Regnum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain), in which he describes how early Britain (then called Albion) was inhabited by a race of giants. One such giant was the 12-foot tall Gogmagog, a rough and strong being who could uproot an oak tree as if it were a twig. One day, a group of giants including Gogmagog attacked Brutus, a descendent of the Trojans of Greece who had claimed Albion as his own. The giants killed many Britons before they too were killed, and only Gogmagog survived.
    • Brutus took Gogmagog to his second-in-command, Corineus, the founder of Cornwall, who was a keen giant-wrestler. The two began to wrestle, and Gogmagog used his brute strength to crush three of Corineus’s ribs. Corineus was so enraged by the injury that he quickly picked up the giant and ran with him up a hill, finally throwing him to his death off a cliff—and thus, it’s said, ridding Britain of the last giant.
    • Kumbhakarna is a giant demon featured in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Kumbhakarna was giant in size and giant in appetite, but due to a trick played by the goddess Saraswati his tongue was tied so that when he tried to asking for a blessing, instead he asked for a bed, and as a result he was doomed to sleep for six months of every year.
    • Despite being of a generally kindly character, after six months of deep sleep, Kumbhakarna would wake up so hungry he would consume anything in his path, including hapless humans. At one point Kumbhakarna’s brother, Ravana, needed the giant’s help to win a battle, but Kumbhakarna was sleeping and it took a thousand elephants trampling over him to rouse him from his slumber. Kumbhakarna then gamely joined the war against Prince Rama, but instead of achieving glory, he got rather drunk and blundered around the battlefield doing more harm than good before being killed.
    • Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
    • Many different legends surround the Greek giant Orion. In one version he is an egotistical hunter who brags that he can kill any beast alive. On hearing of his boast, a tiny scorpion stings Orion and he falls down dead. Another story has it that Orion was left blind after he tried to take Merope as his wife against the will of her father. To regain his sight, Vulcan bid his friend Kedalion to sit on Orion’s shoulders and lead him towards the east where the sun-god dwelled. As the sun rose, Orion’s sight was restored by the beams. Orion then went to live and hunt with Diana, but her brother Apollo grew jealous of their close relationship, and when Orion was walking through the water with just his head above the waves, Apollo bet Diana she couldn’t hit the far-distant form on the horizon. Taking the bait, Diana released a slew of arrows and fatally hit Orion, but when the waves washed his body ashore she realized her grave mistake. Weeping over the loss of Orion, she had him placed in the sky among the stars as the constellation Orion.
  • So, do you think there is any basis of truth behind any of these myths?
    • Let me know on where I have been leaving a Q&A for you to write in.
  • \\




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