The Giants of Ancient Albion & the Legendary Founding of Prehistoric Britain
After scaring off the giants and launching attacks on the titans, the land was then divided up and Corineus was given the southwest area of Cornwall to rule, named after the great warrior.
“Corineus experienced great pleasure from wrestling with the giants, of whom there were far more there than in any of the districts which had been distributed among his comrades. Among the others there was a particularly repulsive one, called Gogmagog, who was twelve feet tall.”
Attack of the Giants!
Other chroniclers state that he was in fact twelve cubits tall, so this would have made him 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall. Gogmagog was described as being so strong that he could uproot an oak tree and shake it like a hazel wand. Anyway, the ferocious giant attacked Corineus’ camp with twenty of his kin. This turned into an all-out battle and Corineus and his men called on their local allies and eventually defeated them in a bloody conflict. Brutus chose to keep one of the giants alive, as he wanted to witness a wrestling match between Gogmagog and Corineus. During the tightly fought match, Gogmagog broke three of Corineus’ ribs, and he was so enraged, he hoisted Gogmagog up on his shoulders with superhuman strength and ran to the cliff where he threw him off to his death. His body smashed into many pieces after hitting sharp rocks and stained the water red, that “ was so discolored with his blood as to continue tinged with it for a long time .”
The cliff from which he was thrown became known as Langnagog or ‘The Giants Leap’. It was on Plymouth Hoe that became the legendary place that the wrestling occurred because it was recorded in 1486 that a giant turf-cut figure was carved depicting two figures, one of them being Gogmagog.
Gog and Magog
Artist’s impression of what the chalk-hill figures on Plymouth Hoe may have looked like. (Image via Author)
Wherever it was, the names of Gog and Magog first appear in the Hebrew Bible with reference to Magog, son of Japheth in the Book of Genesis, then Gog, the king of Magog, appears in the Old Testament in Ezekiel (38:2) as the instigator of a terrible battle. Gog was referred to as being a person and Magog was the land he was from. Similar stories are echoed in the Book of Revelation and the Qur’an. The tradition is sparse and confused as Gog and Magog are presented as men, supernatural beings (giants and demons), national groups or lands, and appear widely in other folklore and mythology. For example, Gogmagog and Gogmaegot are identified with giants in Spencer’s Faerie Queen (1590) and in the medieval legends of Alexander. The names even reached Cambridge in Eastern England where the hilly area became known as the ‘Gog Magog Hills’, where interestingly, some taller than average skeletons were unearthed in the 1800s.
After defeating the giants, Brutus travelled all over the country to find a suitable spot to rule from. He decided on the River Thames and founded the city of Troia Nova , or New Troy , which became Trinovantum, we now know as London, with his captured giant in tow.
Another, later version of the story describes how the giants Gog and Magog were two people and were taken prisoners and forced to become porters at the Royal Palace, now the London Guildhall. The effigies of Gog and Magog have remained at the Guildhall since the reign of Henry V. In The Gigantick History of the Two Famous Giants of Guildhall (1741) it proclaims that Gogmagog and Corineus were in fact two giants:
“Corineus and Gogmagog were two brave giants who richly valued their honour and exerted their whole strength and force in the defence of their liberty and country; so the City of London, by placing these, their representatives in their Guildhall, emblematically declare, that they will, like mighty giants defend the honour of their country and liberties of this their City; which excels all others, as much as those huge giants exceed in stature the common bulk of mankind.”
Gog and Magog being paraded through London in the Lord Mayor’s Show every November. (Image via author)
The defeat of Gogmagog by Corineus was the beginning of the end for the remaining giants, and the few that remained turned up again the tales of Jack-the-Giant-Killer and Cormoran (mainly based in Cornwall), while others were said to have fled to Dartmoor and the mountains of Wales.