The Different Giantess of Myth and Modernity

Giants have always been a popular mythological creature because of how realistic they can be. In fact, many scientists today believe that the giants of myth might actually have been real-life humans whose heights (and prowess in combat) may have been exaggerated for good storytelling around the campfire.

Of course, while giants themselves can be mesmerizing and fearsome, a giantess is probably more enigmatic, mostly because many primitive cultures saw women as being weaker, smaller, and generally more diminutive to men. However, various mythologies across Europe and around the world view these giantesses as not only monstrous beings, but also as beautiful goddesses, formidable queens, and mothers to heroes. Here are some of the most fascinating giantesses of different mythologies.

The Giantess of Greek Mythology

Perhaps the most famous of giantess in Greek mythology are the Amazons: powerful, warrior women who rivaled men in strength and combat skills. Although not technically ‘giant’ in the mythological sense, the Amazonians were portrayed as being as tall as, or slightly taller than, Greek men of the time. The existence of real-life Amazons, however, is up for debate: while they are spoken about extensively in ancient epics and poems like the Illiad, or the Argonautica, very little archaeological evidence supports their actual existence. However, the women warriors of Scythian culture are, perhaps, the closest we can get to a real-life Amazon.

Which is more than we can say to the Titanides, the female children of the Titans. While the Titans themselves weren’t originally portrayed as gargantuan beings, later Classical texts stopped differentiating between Γίγας Gigas and Τιτάν, Titán, and thus Titans became synonymous with giants. The giantess of Greek mythology were mostly Oracular in nature. In mythology, the Titans were overthrown by the Olympians, cast down into Tartarus to be forgotten. However, before this could happen, many of the Titanides bore children that would later become the ancestors of several demi-gods and other entities.

The Giantess of Norse Mythology

The term jötunn, or jötnar if plural, are a type of entity in Norse mythology that is starkly different from the Gods (the Aesir and the Vanir) and other creatures like humans, dwarves, and elves. The jötnar are also referred to as risi and thurs, or in English, trolls. The etymology of jötunn is believed to be derived from the Proto-Germanic etanen which means to eat. This allows us to understand the nature of the jötnar a little better.

While the jötnar that were attested in the epic poem Völuspá hin skamma are described as being exceptionally large creatures, not all jötnar are huge: in fact, the term jötnar is ascribed to pretty much any being that is either exceedingly beautiful (like the Luminous Wanderer Aurvandir) or horrifyingly ugly (like Grendel of Beowulf).

One of the most popular female jötunn is Angrboða, the purported wife of Loki and the ‘mother of monsters’. Although only mentioned once in the Poetic Edda, Angrboða is described as both the mother of three monsters: the wolf Fenrir, the Midgard serpent Jörmungand, and Hel, the ruler of the dead.

depiction of giantess
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

The Giantess of Celtic Mythology

Known by the Celtic tribes of Ireland, Wales, and the British Isles as Famhair, Fathach, and Cewri, giants are a staple of their mythology. Unlike other places in Europe, where giants are more often portrayed as brutish, man-eating monsters, the Celtic giant is also portrayed as being beautiful and peace-loving, although antagonistic giants are also present in various Celtic mythological cycles.

As such, giantess’ in Celtic mythology are abundant, occupying both monster and Goddess roles. While most giants in Celtic mythology are portrayed to be human-like in appearance, certain giants, like the Irish Fomorians, are portrayed as monstrous beings with the body of a human and the head of a serpent and were the rivals of Ireland’s first settlers the Tuatha Dé Danann, another mythological race that are seen as both gigantic and divine.

Real-life Giantess?

But giantesses also exist in life, though, devoid of the powers that mythology bestows on them. There are various accounts of giantesses from all over the world, with many of these women being born with gigantism, a rare pituitary condition that sets a person’s human growth hormones into overdrive. While there aren’t any clear guidelines on what constitutes a ‘giantess’, it usually describes any woman who is above 6 feet tall.

Of course, modern real-life giantesses are often the focus of affection and attraction for many people, not just because they are strange and exotic, but also because they are seen as a perfect embodiment of masculine strength and feminine beauty.

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