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Giants: Imposing Figures in Literature

Giants Through History
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Giants in Literature


Giants loom large in world mythology, frequently representing the most ominous of foes. Their huge size immediately evokes ideas of superhuman strength and formidable abilities, and yet in many legends the giant is in fact a tragic character, often suffering an incongruous death. 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. (Continue reading from Mental Floss)

More Giants in Literature

The BFG- A Friendly Giant (Roald Dahl)

The Beanstalk's Roots (The Irish Times)

Is Bigfoot Erotica the Next Big Book Trend? (Los Angeles Times)

Gargantua and Pantagruel (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Who Are the Giant Men of 'Giant-Man' (Marvel)

Giants in Mythology (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Goliath (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Gulliver's Travels Wasn't Meant to be a Children's Book (Smithsonian Magazine)

Odysseus and Polyphemus (Encyclopedia Mythica)

Ogres: Giants who Feed on Humans (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Was Paul Bunyan a Real Person? (History)