loreology: giants

If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.

This Week: Big shoes to fill

Yesterday as I read The Hobbit to my kids, I discovered a new creature in Middle-earth. Okay, not exactly new, but it’s been 20-something years since I last read J.R.R. Tolkien’s first masterpiece, and I had forgotten that giants frequented The Hobbit. So when Gandalf, the dwarves and Bilbo rush into a cave to escape hill giants playing bowling boulders, only to end up later that night captured by sneaky goblins, you can blame it on Middle-earth’s tallest residents, not a fearsome downpour as I originally remembered.

Side note: I’ve been playing the Lord of the Rings Online MMO now for over a year. Giants have been kicking my Hunter tail in the wilds outside of Rivendell as long as I’ve learned to string a bow. You don’t mess with those big guys without fellowship backup, so I can vouch for Gandalf and crew that they made a good call that stormy evening, even if it ended in a long series of ill-timed events that saw Bilbo bounced down cave rocks and land in Gollum’s lap.

Stories about giants have been around for as long as David met Goliath, and longer. Whether it’s tales about Jack and the Beanstalk or Paul Bunyan, we have a fascination with creatures of grander stature than ourselves. The word derives from the Greek Gigantes, a group of super-powerful beings that rose up against the Olympian gods and tried to overthrow them. According to legend, the Greek gods buried the defeated Gigantes beneath the earth and their struggles to escape are what cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In Bulfinch’s Mythology, the ancient giant war against the Roman gods proved formidable and even scared the Olympians into flight, where Apollo became a crow and Bacchus became a goat as they hid in Egypt. In the end, the giants were beaten when Minerva invented thunderbolts for Jupiter to toss down from the heavens.

Ironic, huh, that a little hobbit started me thinking about big giants.


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