Go Tell It On The Mountain

Mythical tales of giants are rooted in geological realities.

Giant’s Causeway, Antrim. According to the Fenian Cycle, Fionn mac Cumhaill, an Irish giant, was challenged to a fight by his Scottish rival Benandonner. Accepting the challenge, he built the causeway so that they could meet.A fo ben, bid bont (‘let he who leads bear the load’) is a Welsh proverb rumoured to recall the giant Brân, often Bendigeidfrân (Brân/Frân the Blessed), who was so tall that he once stretched himself between the banks of a river so that his troops might cross. In earlier stories, Brân, who no normal house could contain, is portrayed as a wise king whose severed head continued to counsel his people after his death. The best-known stories of Brân appear in the Mabinogion, written in the 12th century and based on long-standing oral traditions. Brân’s stature allowed him to stride across the Irish Sea to rescue his hapless sister from a failed marriage. In the Mabinogion he is said to have been able to traverse deep parts ‘by wading’; clearly he must have been gigantic.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email digital@historytoday.com.

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week