This week's monster is the giant.
In fairy tales, giants are greedy, mean, and sometimes man-eating. But giants are also lonely creatures. It's hard to be that big.
Oscar Wilde wrote a beautiful fairy tale called The Selfish Giant. You can read it online here. At the end it devolves into Christian propaganda, but that doesn't bother me too much, probably because I grew up on Hans Christian Andersen, who always found a way to sneak Jesus in there.
The battle between the Greek gods and the giants was called Gigantomachy, which would make a great band name.
In Norse myth, there are many stories about the struggles of the gods against the giants, who were called jotuns. One story describes how the god Thor visits the jotun Utgardsloki in his hall. Thor brings with him the trickster god Loki and a mortal boy named Tjalfi who could run faster than the wind.
The great giant's stronghold is so large they must bend their heads way back to see the top of it. Jotun Utgardsloki welcomes them and challenges them to prove their merit through some friendly competition.
Loki steps forward and proclaims that he can eat more than any man in the hall.
"A noble sport," says the giant, and he tells a small giant named Logi to step forward. Loki and Logi are set at opposite ends of a trough of food. They each eat so fast that no one can see their mouths move. When they are done, they have met each other in the middle. Logi, however, has not only eaten the meat but also the bones and the trough itself. He is declared the winner. Loki hangs his head in shame.
Tjalfi steps forward and challenges any giant in the hall to a race.
"A noble sport," says jotun Utgardsloki, and he calls a giant named Hugi to run. The boy is so swift that his feet are a blur of speed, but Hugi bests him easily. Tjalfi hangs his head in shame.
"And what can you do?" the giant asks Thor.
"I can outdrink you," claims Thor.
The giant shakes his head, and says, "My drinking horn is very big." He brings it out and, indeed, though Thor drinks until his breath is gone, he barely makes a dent in the mead.
The giant laughs and suggests that Thor try something else. Perhaps he would like to try to lift the tiny black cat off the floor? Thor lifts and lifts until his muscles nearly snap, but he is only able to lift one of the cat's paws up.
Enraged, Thor challenges any of the giants in the hall to wrestle him. Utgardsloki laughs and says that the giants would be too much for Thor, but that perhaps Elle would be a suitable opponent. Elle hobbles out to the center of the room, a stooped old crone. Thor tries again and again to throw her, but she tackles him, pins him, and gets him in hold after hold. Disgusted, Thor quits. The giants roar with laughter to see their rival so shamed.
The next morning as the guests leave, Utgardsloki says he has a confession to make.
Logi, the one who out-ate Loki, was Fire.
The swift giant who won the footrace was Thought.
The drinking horn contained the Ocean, and in fact Thor had seriously reduced the contents of the oceans with his mighty swallow.
The cat was in fact the Midgard Serpent who holds up the world. By lifting one of her paws, he had caused earthquakes everywhere so that the world trembled in fear of his might.
And Granny Elle was Old Age herself, who throws everyone sooner or later.