Giants: Fact or Fiction?
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The autobiography of the Tibetan lama Chagdud Tulku (Lord of the Dance, California: Padma Press, 1992, pp. 110111) contains a fascinating reference to a Tibetan mountain giant and how a seeker of mystical relics was able to come across its remains.
While on their way to the monastery of Chudo Gompa in the mountains to witness dancing and ceremonial pageantry, the lama and his retinue came across a stupa marking the site where the legendary hero Gesar had entombed a slain giantess in ages past. A few months prior to Chagdud Tulku’s arrival, he writes, a seeker of treasure and holy relics known as a terton had stopped by the monastery to challenge the assertion that any unknown entity had been buried at that spot long ago. He had it on good authority, as the terton professed to be the incarnation of Shanpa, the hero Gesar’s companion.
“I was here when we put her under a big rock by the river,” he challenged the monks, urging them to prove him false by digging at the indicated spot.
His challenge was taken up and hasty excavations soon began at a location marked by the terton with a 25-foot circle. The digging took days, but a massive stone disk was found at the bottom; excitedly, the monks summoned the treasure finder to show him the results of their efforts.
“He supervised as they wedged poles under the rock to pry it up and support it,” writes Chagdud Tulku, and the monks and their gang of laborers were able to remove the massive remains, “the bones of a giantess whose upper arm had been more than five feet long.” The author adds that these mountain ogres had at once been endemic to the region and feasted on hapless humans until eliminated by the legendary hero. Because this was not an archaeological dig but an effort to ascertain the powers of the treasure hunter, the massive bones were returned to the site of their entombment and the stone disk placed over them once more.
At this point we can only wonder if those remains, so carefully buried in a distant age and concealed under a seemingly man-made stone disk, belonged to some extinct animal of the Pleistocene megafauna. Perhaps they were indeed the remains of one of the giants that has haunted human imagination since the dawn of time in every continent and every culture.
WHO CAN WITHSTAND THE SONS OF ANAK?
Giants and larger-than-human beings have played a major role in the development of many cultures, harkening back to the Biblical Anakim who occupied certain locations of the land of Canaan, according to the Pentateuch, where the Israelites complain to Moses of their inability to take on the colossal dwellers of the new land, namely Ahiman, Seshai, and Talmai, descendants of the mighty Anak.
“The country we explored, they said, will swallow up any who go to live in it. All the people we saw there are men of gigantic size. When we set sight on [the Anakim] we felt no bigger than grasshoppers…” (Numbers 13:3233). The sense of hopelessness that Moses’s scouting party must have felt at the prospect of fighting these giants is repeated once more: “Our kinsmen have discouraged us by their report of a people bigger and taller than we are, and of great cities with fortifications towering to the sky. And they told us they saw there the descendants of the Anakim” (Deuteronomy 1:28). “Who can withstand the sons of Anak?” they ask despairingly at one point.
As if the Anakim weren’t enough, the Israelites had to face Og of Bashan, “the sole survivor of the Rephaim.” The Scriptures tell us that this gargantuan monarch was buried in a basalt sarcophagus measuring 14 feet long by 6 feet wide. But a “devouring fire” (generated perhaps by the Ark of the Covenant?) destroyed the giant Anakim throughout Judah and Israel, leaving isolated survivors in the coastal cities of Gaza, Askalon, and Gath, this latter site perhaps best known as the birthplace of the nine-foot-tall armored giant Goliath who faced the young David. Yet the legendary defeat of this towering presence did not appear to bring an end to the giants in the holy land. The Book of Samuel gives us the names of other colossi, such as Benob and Saph “who died in the battle of Gob,” and an unnamed giant suffering from polydactylism (II Samuel 21:20).
Further giant-slaying appears in I Chronicles 20:48 when discussing the prowess of King David and his victories against all adversaries: “…Sibecai slew Sipai, of the descendants of the giants…and Elhanan son of Jair slew Lahmi, brother of Goliath, whose spear was as big as a weaver’s beam…these were the descendants of the giants in Gath.”
THE MONSTROUS QUINAMETZIN
As the bloodthirsty Nuño de Guzmán pushed his way into northern Mexico to establish the province known as Nueva Galicia, he arrived at the site of modern Guadalajara and was startled to see a number of deserted cities of large size. His interpreters told him that these ruins were the foundations of the population centers occupied by the giant Quinametzin. Who were these unknown entities?
Obras Históricas, a treatise written by an early chronicler of Mexican history, Fernando Ixtilxochitl, discusses the belief among the Chichimec people of north central Mexico that the earliest arrivals in Mesoamerica had to displace a race of giants who occupied the land, echoing the exploits of Joshua on the other side of the world. Strife between the Quinametzin and ordinary humans appears to have been widespread, and memories of this war with another species were not confined to a given region. The Tlaxcalans who allied themselves with Mexico’s European conquerors told as much to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who mentions it in his Crónica de la Nueva España: “…their ancestors had shared the land with men and women of very tall bodies and large bones, and since they were very wicked and ill mannered, [the ancestors] slew them in combat, and what remained of them died out. In order that we might see how large these men were, they brought us one of their leg bones, which was rough and as long as the height of a normal-sized man. We were stunned upon seeing those bones and believed that there must have been giants in that country. Our captain Cortés said that it would be proper to send this bone back to Castille, so that His Majesty might see it. We therefore sent it, entrusting it to the first of our agents to go there…”
This belief was apparently borne out by the unearthing of giant remains while the Spaniards built their new civilization over the ruins of the Aztec Empire. The Franciscan Diego Durán reportedly saw with his own eyes the remains of giants, while another monk, Gerónimo de Mendieta, confirmed the claim that the ancestors of the conquered Mexicans had found it necessary to fight against giants.
Coexistence with this other species, therefore, was seemingly impossible. The Quinametzin, or more properly said, quinametzin hueytlacame (“great deformed men”) were eventually forced out of Mexico proper on a southward migration along the Pacific Coast, although others headed north. Fray J. Mariano Rothea summed up this belief: “…in very ancient times there came men and women of extraordinary height, seemingly in flight from the North. Some of them went along the coast of the Southern Sea, while others took to the rough mountainsides…”
Fray Andrés de Olmos, writing in the 16th century, mentions a curious detail: the Mexican giants nourished themselves on oak acorns and a variety of weeds. This detail contained in the codices enables us to contemplate a strange possibility: could the Quinametzin have survived into our present age under the guise of the tall, hirsute simian beings known as Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch, and myriad other denominations? Those interviewed by the Colonial-era chroniclers explained that tradition held that those giants who were not exterminated by normal-sized humans were chased into the wilderness, where remnants of their race still endure.
A SOUTHWARD MIGRATION?
Pedro Cieza de Leon, a chaplain who accompanied the handful of Spaniards who managed to overthrow the powerful Inca Empire in the 1500s, collected a curious and highly significant piece of information concerning giants: the natives had been astonished and terrified to see a reed raft arrive on their shores bearing a shipload of beings “so tall that from the knee down they were as big as the full length of an ordinary fair-sized man…” There was nothing gentle about these giants: Cieza’s informants described them as having a hideous appearance, clad in animal skins or naked, and bent on raping and murdering.
Could this band of pillagers have formed part of the southward migration of giants described in the Mexican chronicles compiled by the Jesuit Rothea? Zech°©aria Sitchin’s The Lost Realms (Avon, 1990) echoes this account in the chronicles collected by Fernando Montesinos, a Spanish visitor to Peru who mentioned an old Inca tradition describing the colonization of the Peruvian coastal plain by “men of great stature” equipped with metal tools. The depredations of these giants ended when a “heavenly fire” consumed them all.
Could descendants of these Quinametzin have wound up in distant Argentina, at the very end of the Americas? Antonio Pigafetta, who chronicled Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world, described an encounter with giant natives in Bahía San Julián in the year 1520. Standing two meters tall, according to the chronicler, these imposing presences covered their feet in animal skins, making them look even larger (hence the description patagones or bigfeet being applied to them, and later extended to the landmass as Patagonia).
“One day,” writes Pigafetta, “when the first traces of southern spring became visible, we witnessed the arrival of a native, the first our eyes had beheld. He was a giant, and his feet seemed so large that one of our men dubbed him Patagón. We were able to soothe him little by little and his distrust vanished to the point that he presented the rest of his tribe to us, who were as large as he and just as voracious.”
The chronicler also notes the booming voices of these giants. Two of them were apparently brought aboard Magellan’s flagship but died during their crossing; whether their remains were thrown overboard is not known.
Apparently Francis Drake caught them on a bad day when he pulled into Bahía San Julián in 1578: his forces skirmished with the “large men” who lived there, and the British sea-dog lost two of his sailors to them. Fifteen years later, Anthony Knyvet passed through the Straits of Magellan and confirmed sightings of the Patagones, reporting that some of them stood a towering 12 feet tall.
In the fall of 1962, some strange human remains were found in the vicinity of the Torres del Paine mountain peaks: they were those of a man who had stood between two and a half and three meters tall, and dated to an antiquity of 500 years. Proof that the Patagonian giants were not merely traveler’s tales?
A MUSEUM CONSPIRACY
In a 1995 interview with Alfonso Serra, Catalonian mystery writer Miguel Aracil mentioned that an article of his had caused an uproar among Spain’s intellectual community when he leveled the accusation that some of that country’s museums held in their collections bones that proved the existence of giant humans. The maverick writer had been aided in this effort by a physician, Ana Capella, and a cartographer, Fernando Ledesma.
Aracil’s work suggests that the entire region of the Pyrenéesthe mountain range separating Spain from Francewas the home of true giants who may still endure to this day, becoming the source of numerous Bigfoot accounts. A considerable number of giant skeletons, he argues, have been unearthed beside the megalithic dolmen of Oren in the Cerdanya region. They were in the custody of a man in the village of Prullans until they were turned over to the Barcelona Museum of Archaeology, where they vanished altogether or were perhaps even destroyed.
The remains of a three-meter-tall giant were found at Garós (Pirineo de Lleida) according to another Catalonian researcher, Joan Obiols. The town priest was among those who studied the impressive bones, which have since vanished, causing some to believe that these remains were absconded with in order to preserve the anthropological and paleonthological status quo.
“Both archaeology and history are °©giants with feet of clay,” writes Miguel Aracil in one of his magazine articles. “Whenever it rains, so to speak, and new archaeological finds take place, their feet weaken further.”
What would the lore of all human cultures be like without the presence of giants? They are a fixture of folk tales and myth from Europe and the Americas to the farthest reaches of Asia. They are mentioned with equal ease in holy books and in fairy tales. Giants fill us with wonder and not inconsiderable envy as we marvel at their strength and feats. Those dwelling in the Middle Ages, caught in the turbulence of their troubled times, ascribed the engineering achievements of the Roman Empire to the work of giants. Giants may have been relegated to the realms of fable and sword-and-sorcery novels, but there is considerable evidence that beings of great size shared our world in primeval times.
Scott Corrales is a frequent contributor to FATE. He is the editor of Inexplicata: The Journal of Hispanic Ufology.