September 29, 1996
Giantesses are very rare in most cultures apart from
obscure references. I have tried to mention a few I am
familiar with and encourage correspondence from people with
The majority of references to giantesses that I have come
across come from the Nordic countries, but many of these
tend to be non-descriptive one-line references.
Alta - giantess mother of Heimdall
Asynjr - the generic term for Scandinavian
Angrbooa - giantess wife of Loki
Eistla - a Norse giantess
Freya - goddess giantess. One story describes her
as being seven times seven times as tall as the tallest man.
Various giantess daughters of Geirroo. Among other things
two of them pressed Thor against a ceiling.
Gefjon - a virgin Norse giantess
Gerd - a Scandinavian giantess/diety of light. She
is the most beautiful of all creatures.
Heith - a Norse witch giantess.
Hyrrokin was an enormous Norse giantess
Imdr - a Norse giantess
Gjolp and Greip - giantess daughters of
Gunlad was the Scandinavian giantess who was also
the mother of poetry.
Ran was a Norse giantess of the sea capable of
holding seafaring ships in one hand. She was fond of
Skade - the giantess bride of Njord (god of the
sea) and different from the race of the early Norse giants.
She was the only daughter of Tjasse and was exceedingly
beautiful and tall (she could hold a boatload of men in her
hand). Unfortunately girls couldn't inherit their father's
wealth and Tjasse was in search of eternal youth to keep
Skade out of poverty. Tjasse eventually gets killed and
Skade ends up as a bride to Njord.
England and Ireland
Long Meg was a giantess at the time of
Henry VIII. There probably really was a very tall woman who
went by that name, but folklore turned her into a real
giantess. Years ago I came across and then lost a series of
stories of her adventures. Somewhere out there...
Brobdingagian giantesses. Swift created a
world where living creatures were twelves times the size of
Badb was one of the giantess forms of Morrigan -
the Irish war goddess. She was sufficiently tall to place a
foot on either side of a river.
Bebhionn was a giantess from the Maiden's Land far
off the West coast of Ireland. She was known for beauty and
Eriu was a giantess/goddess who gave Ireland its
name (Ireland means land of Eriu). She could pick up huge
clods of earth in her hand and turn them into armies.
Guinevere (also Gwenhyfar) was the Welsh triple
goddess who became part of the Arthurian legends. In some of
the tales Arthur marries all three. One of them was an
extremely blonde giantess
Greek mythology is filled with references to titanesses
who, in some accounts, are giantesses. The stories vary, but
here are some of the players (I would appreciate specific
details if anyone has them).
Phoebe (not the one on Friends, although that is
an interesting idea:-)
The Zulus have legends about a race of tiny
perfectly formed people who happen to be about a half inch
tall. They only appear to young virgin women, who would be
huge giantesses to them.
The Watusi tribe regularly produces women greater than
185cm tall (the normal definition of a giantess) with 200cm
not being rare. Basketball anyone?
I point out a comment from an Indian
correspondent (I'm afraid I'm completely unfamiliar with
Indian mythology). Apparently giantesses are not uncommon
and many references occur in both the Ramayana and
Mahabharata. I guess it is time to start learning about
The Phra Abhai Mani tales feature giantesses
and sea giantesses
The goddess Pele is considered to be a
Several people have written noting the
existance of giantesses in native american cultures. None of
the notes have been specific, so if you have information...
Giantesses have appeared in movies and ads, which may be
considered to be folklore by some. The Attack of the 50 Foot
Woman (original and 1993 remake), BFG ads from the 1960s,
rock videos, and a few current commercials. For some reason
(perhaps the advent of digital editing tools) giantesses
seem to be more popular in recent years.
It appears there are two major groups with a more than
casual interest in the subject judging from the feedback I
The first (and probably largest if my mail is any
indication) is male and is interested in domination of one
form or another. One can imagine breaking down that group
into several segments, but I won't attempt that here.
The second group is female and is more interested in this
mythological manifestation of extremely powerful women.
Other than the symbol of the giantess there appears to be
little coupling between the two groups as giantesses seem to
serve very different purposes for each.
Images of very powerful women are taboo in many cultures,
which probably accounts for the vanishingly small
giantess/giant ratio in folklore. More recently a few
techno-pagan feminists (check out zines and even Wired for
references on who these women are) have begun using the
symbol of the giantess in prose, poetry, art and even
t-shirts (A Fifty Foot Woman is Just About the
Right Size). It can be the stuff of myth and legend and
perhaps new myth is being created even now.
As women take a more important place in society (or
should I say if women take a more important place),
it will be interesting to see if images like these take on
more importance. It may be that they only make sense as
parody in a world where women are second class citizens.