The archetype of the Giant may involve a testimony of the human struggle against nature and his other competitors, a battle which was ‘won’ with man’s use of ‘brains over brawn’. As such, a number of cultures, including and especially, the ancient Greeks, incorporated giants into the core of their mythology. Greek mythology relates the tale of a world ruled by giants for a ‘thousand years’ until the Gods (and ‘man’) defeated their numbers and assumed ‘rightful’ control. In the Biblical tradition, fragile, young and yet brave David, slays Goliath the giant and becomes leader and king of his people.
In today’s world, where man has significantly dominated his environment, symbolic giants are no longer feared and are readily embraced in myth. Hence, figures like Paul Bunyon, Babe the Ox and the Jolly Green Giant, are but a few of our gargantuan allies. Accordingly, in dreams, we either encounter angry giants which may indicate physical fear and personal insecurity and a need to ‘think’ our way beyond their apparent ferocity, or friendly giants, which remind us of our human potential and far-reaching capacity of kindness and warmth.
The Giants were the commonplace on a vast scale. Images of all that is unrestrained, existing solely to gratify their own physical and animal instincts, echoes of the dinosaurs which once ruled the Earth, they took up the battle of the Titans. ‘They were huge creatures. Their strength was invincible and their appearance terrifying. They had shaggy hair, bristling beards and their legs were serpents’ bodies’.
The Giants could only be overcome by the joint efforts of a god and a man. All the gods who fought the Giants, Athene, Dionysos, Aphrodite, Poseidon and so on, entrusted a human with the task of finally exterminating the monsters. The scope of this myth cannot be overemphasized.
In the struggle against Earth-born animal instincts, the divine has as much need of human assistance as the human has of divine. The development of life in the direction of increasing spiritualization is the real battle of giants. The myth, however, involves human effort to overcome innate involutionary and regressive tendencies, without relying solely upon the assistance of the higher powers. The myth of the Giants is a summons to human heroism. Giants stand for all those things which the individual must overcome to allow full freedom and the development of personality.
Celtic mythology contains a fair number of giants, but their gigantic size is not a characteristic of the Otherworld but of the fomorians, or lower powers. One of the most notable Fomorian chieftains was Balor, who could paralyse whole armies with a glance of his eye. His Welsh equivalent in the Tale of Culhwch and Olwen was Ysbaddaden Penkawr.