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Mythical Creatures: Giants

Before Jack could climb the beanstalk and reach his prize, he had to get past the giant. In Greek mythology, the concept of the giant is heavily used. This article will highlight two popular giants of legends and other tales.

What is a Giant?

These huge human-shaped creatures (also called ogres) were often a thing to be feared. The monsters were often viewed as not being too bright and easy to trick. However, they were known to eat human flesh and take fair maidens as sacrifices. Famous giants include Goliath from the Bible, the Titans of Greek mythology, and Atlas.

Goliath

Goliath came from one of the five city states of the Philistines. He is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible , described as a giant Philistine warrior. His story is one marked by the infamous battle between him and the younger David, who was the future king of Israel. Their battle is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), as well as in the Qur’an.

The tale of Goliath and David is told to highlight the identity of David as the true king of Israel. In the past, Goliath was used to represent paganism, and elevated David’s role as the champion of the God of Israel. When David wins over Goliath, it is seen as a triumph of good over evil (such as God over Satan).
Goliath’s size increases as the story passed to the hands of other narrators and scribes. In the oldest accounts of the giant, the Dead Sea Scrolls of Samuel, as well as an historian named Josephus from the 1st century stated that Goliath was “four cubits and a span”, which measures out to about six feet, nine inches tall (or two meters). However, later manuscripts say that he was “six cubits and a span” , meaning that Goliath would have stood nearly ten feet tall or three meters.

In the Bible, Goliath is struck by a stone that sinks into his forehead, which causes him to fall on his face. With Goliath on the ground, David takes his sword and decapitates the giant.

Atlas

In Greek mythology, Atlas is a figure who was made to bear the weight of the heavens on his back , a punishment doled out by the king of the Greek gods, Zeus. Interestingly, many people believe that it was the Earth that Atlas was made to carry, which is not part of the original Greek myth. Atlas was the son of a Titan named Iapetus and Clymene. He was also brother to Prometheus. What did Atlas do that led to such a punishment? Atlas was part of the Titans war against the Olympians.

Atlas appears in a myth regarding strongman Heracles, who asked Atlas to help him complete one of his labors. As Atlas agrees to collect the apples for Heracles, the strongman is left to carry the weight of the heavens in his absence. Atlas sees this as an opportunity to be freed from his punishment and tries to leave Heracles in his place. However, Atlas is tricked and once again is left to hold up the heavens.