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GIANT (O.E. geant, through Fr. giant,...

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 927 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GIANT (O.E. geant, through Fr. giant, O.Fr. gaiant, jaiant, jeant, med. pop. Lat. gagante—cf. Ital. gigante—by assimilation from gigantem, ace. of Lat. gigas, Gr. yiyas). The idea conveyed by the word in classic mythology is that of beings more or less manlike, but monstrous in size and strength. Figures like the Titans and the Giants whose birth from Heaven and Earth is sung by Hesiod in the Theogony, such as can heap up mountains to scale the sky and war beside or against the gods, must be treated, with other like monstrous figures of the wonder-tales of the world, as belonging altogether to the realms of mythology. But there also appear in the legends of giants some with historic significance. The ancient and commonly repeated explanation of the Greek word ytyas, as connected with or derived from yrryevils, or " earth-born," is etymologically doubtful, but at any rate the idea conveyed by it was familiar to the ancient Greeks, that the giants were earth-born or indigenous races (see Welcker, Griechische Gotterlehre, i. 787). The Bible (the English reader must be cautioned that the .word giant has been there used ambiguously, from the Septuagint downwards) touches the present matter in so far as it records the traditions of the Israelites of fighting in Palestine with tall races of the land such as the Anakim (Numb. xiii. 33; Deut. ii. 10, iii. 11; I Sam. xvii. 4). When reading in Homer of " the Cyclopes and the wild tribes of the Giants," or of the adventures of Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemus (Homer, .Odyss. vii. 206; ix.), we seem to come into view of dim traditions, exaggerated through the mist of ages, of pre-Hellenic barbarians, godless, cannibal, skin-clothed, hurling huge stones in their rude warfare. Giant-legends of this class are common in Europe and Asia, where the big and stupid giants would seem to have been barbaric tribes exaggerated into monsters in the legends of those who dispossessed and slew them. In early times it was usual for cities to have their legends of giants. Thus London had Gog and Magog, whose effigies (14 ft. high) still stand in the Guildhall (see GoG); Antwerp had her Antigonus, 40 ft. high; Douai had Gayant, 22 ft. high, and so on. Besides the conception of giants, as special races distinct from mankind, it was a common opinion of the ancients that the human race had itself degenerated, the men of primeval ages having been of so far greater stature and strength as to be in fact gigantic. This, for example, is received by Pliny (Hist. Nat. vii. 16), and it becomes a common doctrine of theologians such as Augustine (De civitate Del, xv. 9), lasting on into times so modern that it may be found in Cruden's Concordance. Yet so far as can be judged from actual remains, it does not appear that giants, in the sense of tribes of altogether superhuman stature, ever existed, or that the men of ancient time were on the whole taller than those now living. It is now usual to apply the word giant not to superhuman beings but merely to unusually tall men and women. In every race of mankind the great mass of individuals do not depart far from a certain mean or average height, while the very tall or very short men become less and less numerous as they depart from the mean standard, till the utmost divergence is reached in a very few giants on the one hand, and a very few dwarfs on the other. At both ends of the scale, the body is usually markedly out of the ordinary proportions; thus a giant's head is smaller and a dwarf's head larger than it would be if an average man had been magnified or diminished. The principle of the distribution of individuals of different sizes in a race or nation has been ably set forth by Quetelet (Physique sociale, vol. ii.; Anthropometrie, books iii. and iv.). Had this principle been understood formerly, we might have been spared the pains of criticizing assertions as to giants 20 ft. high, or even more, appearing among mankind. The appearance of an individual man 20 ft. high involves the existence of the race he is an extreme member of, whose meanstature would be at least 12 to 14 ft., which is a height no human being has been proved on sufficient evidence to have approached (Anthropom. p. 302). Modern statisticians cannot accept the loose conclusion in Billion (Hist. nat., ed. Sonnini, iv. 134) that there is no doubt of giants having been 1o, 12, and perhaps 15 ft. high. Confidence is not even to be placed in ancient asserted measurements, as where Pliny gives to one Gabbaras, an Arabian, the stature of 9 ft. 9 in. (about 9 ft. 51 in. English), capping this with the mention of Posio and Secundilla, who were half a foot higher. That two persons should be described as both having this same extraordinary measure suggests to the modern critic the notion of a note jotted down on the philosopher's tablets, and never tested afterwards. Under these circumstances it is worth while to ask how it is that legend and history so abound in mentions of giants outside all probable dimensions of the human frame. One cause is that, when the story-teller is asked the actual stature of the huge men who figure in his tales, he is not sparing of his inches and feet. What exaggeration can do in this way may be judged from the fact that the Patagonians, whose average height (5 ft. 11 in.) is really about that of the Chirnside men in Berwickshire, are described in Pigafetta's Voyage round the World as so monstrous that the Spaniards' heads hardly reached their waists. It is reasonable to suppose, with Professor Nilsson (Primitive In-habitants of Scandinavia, chap. vi.), that in the traditions of early Europe tribes of savages may have thus, if really tall, expanded into giants, or, if short, dwindled into dwarfs. Another cause which is clearly proved to have given rise to giant-myths of yet more monstrous type has been the discovery of great fossil bones, as of mammoth or mastodon, which were formerly supposed to be bones of giants (see Tylor, Early History of Mankind, chap. xi.; Primitive Culture, chap. x.). A tooth weighing 44 lb and a thigh-bone 17 ft. long having been found in New England in 1712 (they were probably mastodon), Dr Increase Mather thereupon communicated to the Royal Society of London his theory of the existence of men of prodigious stature in the antediluvian world (see the Philosophical Transactions, xxiv. 85; D. Wilson, Prehistoric Man, i. 54). The giants in the streets of Basel and supporting the arms of Lucerne appear to have originated from certain fossil bones found in 1577, examined by the physician Felix Plater, and pronounced to have belonged to a giant some 16 or 19 ft. high. These bones have since been referred to a very different geological genus, but Plater's giant skeleton was accepted early in the 19th century as a genuine relic of the giants who once inhabited the earth. Of giants in real life whose stature has been authentic-ally recorded Quetelet gives the palm to Frederick the Great's Scotch giant, who measured about 8 ft. 3 in. But since his time there have been several giants who have equalled or surpassed this figure. Patrick Cotler, an Irishman, who died at Clifton, Bristol, in 1802, was 8 ft. 7 in. high. The famous " Irish giant " O'Brien (Charles Byrne), whose skeleton is preserved in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, was 8 ft. 4 in. Chang (Chang-woo-goo), who appeared in London in 1865–1866 and again in 188o, was 8 ft. 2 in. Josef Winkelmaier, an Austrian, exhibited in London on the loth of January 1887, was 8 ft. 9 in.; while Elizabeth Lyska, a Russian child of twelve, when shown in London in 1889, had already reached 6 ft. 8 in. Machnow, a Russian, born at Charkow, was exhibited in London in his twenty-third year in 1905; he then stood 9 ft. 3 in., and weighed 36o lb (25 st. 10 lb). From his wrist to the top of his second finger he measured 2 ft. (see The Times, loth February 1905). The whole subject of giant myths and the now entirely exploded theory that mankind has, as far as stature is concerned, degenerated since prehistoric times, has been ably dealt with in a volume published by MM. P. E. Launois and P. Roy, entitled Etudes biologiques sur les glans (Paris, 1904). See also E. J. Wood, Giants and Dwarfs (186o). GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, a promontory of columnar basalt, situated on the north coast of county Antrim, Ireland. It is divided by whin-dykes into the Little Causeway, the Middle Causeway or "Honeycomb," as it is locally termed, and the Larger or Grand Causeway. The pillars composing it are close-fitting and for the most part somewhat irregular hexagons, made up of articulated portions varying from a few inches to some feet in depth, and concave or convex at the upper and lower surfaces. In diameter the pillars vary from 15 to 20 in., and in height some are as much as 20 ft. The Great Causeway is chiefly from 20 to 30, and for a few yards in some places nearly 40 ft. in breadth, exclusive of outlying broken pieces of rock. It is highest at its narrowest part. At about half a dozen yards from the cliff, widening and becoming lower, it extends outwards into a platform, which has a slight seaward inclination, but is easy to walk upon, and for nearly too yds. is always above water. At the distance of about 150 yds. from the cliff it turns a little to the eastward for 20 or 30 yds., and then sinks into the sea. The neighbouring cliffs exhibit in many places columns similar to those of the Giant's Causeway, a considerable exposure of them being visible at a distance of 500 to 600 yds. in the bay to the east. A group of these columns, from their arrangement, have been fancifully named the " Giant's Organ." The most remarkable of the cliffs is the Pleaskin, the upper pillars of which have the appearance of a colonnade, and are 6o ft. in height; beneath these is a mass of coarse black amygdaloid, of the same thickness, underlain by a second range of basaltic pillars, from 40 to 50 ft. in height. The view eastward over Bengore and towards Fair Head is magnificent. Near the Giant's Causeway are the ruins of the castles of Dunseverick and Dunluce, situated high above the sea on isolated crags, and the swinging bridge of Carrick-a-Rede, spanning a chasm 8o ft. deep, and connecting a rock, which is used as a salmon-fishing station, with the mainland. In 1883 an electric railway, the first in the United Kingdom, was opened for traffic, connecting the Causeway with Portrush and Bushmills. After a protracted lawsuit (1897–1898) the Causeway, and certain land in the vicinity, were declared to be private property, and a charge is made for admission. GIANT'S KETTLE, GIANT'S CAULDRON Or POT-HOLE, in physical geography, the name applied to cavities or holes which appear to have been drilled in the surrounding rocks by eddying currents of water bearing stones, gravel and other detrital matter. The size varies from a few inches to several feet in depth and diameter. The commonest occurrence is in regions where glaciers exist or have existed; a famous locality is the Gletscher Garten of Lucerne, where there are 32 giant's kettles, the largest being 26 ft. wide and 30 ft. deep; they are also common in Germany, Norway and in the United States. It appears that water, produced by the thawing of the ice and snow, forms streams on the surface of the glacier, which, having gathered into their courses a certain amount of morainic debris, are finally cast down a crevasse as a swirling cascade or moulin. The sides of the crevasse are abraded, and a vertical shaft is formed in the ice. The erosion may be continued into the bed of the glacier; and, the ice having left the district, the giant's kettle so formed is seen as an empty shaft, or as a pipe filled with gravel, sand or boulders. Such cavities and pipes afford valuable evidence as to the former extent of glaciers (see J. Geikie, The Great Ice Age). Similar holes are met with in river beds at the foot of cascades, and under some other circumstances. The term " pot-hole " is also sometimes used synonymously with " swallow-hole" (q.v.).
End of Article: GIANT (O.E. geant, through Fr. giant, O.Fr. gaiant, jaiant, jeant, med. pop. Lat. gagante—cf. Ital. gigante—by assimilation from gigantem, ace. of Lat. gigas, Gr. yiyas)
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