The Giants form one of the most important races of the Chronicles. Upon meeting the main characters, they do not throw them into a soup cauldron, and neither do they turn to stone when the sun rises. Many complex, intriguing personas emerge from their stock, aiding Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery to discover the meaning of life and happiness anew.
Physique, Character, and Looks
The Giants are a merry, gentle, benevolent race of crafty seafarers also prone to falling into unhinderable berserkergang, bouts of suicidal desperation, and, in the case of their famed warriors, hacking through everything that breathes with granite longswords until, well, nothing breathes. They stand roughly twice the height of regular humans, and as a norm, develop bulging muscles without munching bucketfuls of steroids. The females tower somewhat below the males, and seem to tend more towards plump and curvy, if anything can be judged from a depiction of using the breastplates of two female warriors as buckets to haul water for a campful of thirsty humans.
Giants are immune to the effects of drastic temperature swings, ie. they can overcome Finns in an ice-swimming contest, and challenge the same folk over who will last longest in a 120°C and beyond sauna. Pushing hands or other selected body parts into the heart of a living fire in their ritual of grief, caamora, causes them pain, but will not damage the flesh. Saltheart Foamfollower wades his way through a dark lord's obligatory lava pool (fireproof
crocodiles or sharks not included) and does not even lose his beard, even though his clothes evaporate. It is to wonder what other hair remained.
Whereas the women often radiate beauty, just as their inspirational predecessors in the Norse myths, the handsomeness of the males remains debatable. Key features include jutting Neanderthalic browridges, small, deep-set eyes, bristly beards, and jaws one might crush bricks with. If the reader possesses half an ounce of caveman blood, they however may fangirl/boy these delightful epitomes of masculinity until certain pages have become stiff with dried drool.
Their lifespans utilize centuries as stepping stones over the stream of existence rather than decades, and they may well reach the age of three millennia. The Giants inhabitate the far-flung realm of Home (a not-so-subtle allusion to the Jötunheimr, "Gianthome", of Norse mythology). While their years might draaag and draaag on, their fertility poses a problem: few children are begotten, and as many as three descendants sprouting from the same family represents a rare case. Children reach full maturity only after decades, perhaps demanding a full century. Relationships between Giants are strong and enduring. Couples tend to tangle themselves so tight together that even a day's separation causes woe. Sob.
The Giants do not inherit but earn their names, which may describe personal features or reflect significant life experiences. Sometimes the name is a single pithy word, sometimes a pair. Their natural, effervescent joyfulness radiates from such examples as Grimmand, Galewrath, and Bluntfist.
Overall the naming, while not such blatant copypasta as Tolkien’s handiwork with his Eddaic dwarves, pursues the same themes as their Norse counterparts do. The jötnar are most often called after a) sea, wind, and winter phenomena, b) fire and heat (eldjötnar), and c) physical and mental attributes or aggression. No matter how titillating to the senses the thurse-maidens might be, no parent has ever extended the courtesy of associating their offsprings with, for instance, delicate flowers. Some parallels are listed in the following.
Norse: Ægir ("the sea", also aegir in English means "a high wave caused by tidal flow"); Aegir’s nine daughters personify several types of waves, for instance Uðr (“frothing wave”), Hefring (“surging wave”) and Kólga (“cold wave”); Kári (“wind”), Dumbr (“mist”), Hrímgrimnír (“rime/frost-masked”), Hrímgerðr (“frost-garth”), Frosti (doh), Snærr hinn gamli (Snow the Old), etc.
Donaldson: Foamfollower, Scend Wavegift, Spray Frothsurge, Kindwind, Squallish Blustergale, Mistweave, Rime Coldspray, Frostheart, etc.
Norse: Angrboda (“the one who brings grief”, female), Móðguðr (“furious battler”, female), Vafþrúðnir (“mighty weaver”), Þrymr (“uproar”), Skaði (“scathe”, female), etc.
Donaldson: Grimmand Honninscrave (“grim-hand honors-crave”), Grueburn (“burn for the fear-shudders [of enemies]”) Twofist, Longwrath, Scatterwit, etc.
The notable amount of female jötnar bearing names relating to fighting [including the abovementioned and for instance such specimens as Járnsaxa (“iron-seax”) and Gunnlöð (“battle-invitation”)], ties well together with the rarity of males present within the Giantish military organization in Donaldson’s fantasy realm.
Old Giantish, a tongue reveling in verbosity and floridness, is possibly a dialect of Estonian. At least, one of the prevailing theories about the origins of the Giants concerns a haphazard transdimensional wormhole exploding open in the middle of Saaremaa and some of the local, heroic, sea-faring, stone-castle-building giants stumbling in out of sheer curiosity. Or perhaps Vanatühi stole and hid the boots of Suur Tõll within.
Their favorite interjection "Stone and Sea!" knits together two of their most beloved subjects in life.
In the 2nd Chronicles, the Giants have acquired a talent to comprehend all speech from a bargain made with the Elohim, one which reveals itself calamitous afterwards. Never trust the fey folk and their sparkleguises!
The existence of a system of writing remains disputable. Honninscrave consults maps and sea charts several times, so something has been scrawled down, perhaps using a quill made from the feathers of a Gianthomish argentavis.
Poor little wee Seadreamer had to rely on sign language in his muteness--an indication that some are analphabetic. Perhaps written language is practiced only within certain professions or by a theoretical upper crust; the rich oral tradition, long lifespans, and natural comprehension of all tongues in a way voids such necessities.
Already before the events of the First Chronicles, the Giants seem to have developed a set of pictorial descriptions unfamiliar to Landish beings, however. The tragic tale of the Unhomed was carved into the very walls of Revelstone, and only the Giants accompanying Covenant in White Gold Wielder could decode it, reducing the stern, sword-swinging First into lachrymose slop. In the context of their love of extravagance and monumentality, huge 3D ideograms would make perfect sense.
Most of their crafts relate to ship-building or seafaring aboard (first made of wood, then granite) Giantships, such as anchormaster, storesmaster, and pitchwife (not always a female and, incidentally, does not begin with b). Their humdrum tasks may include attracting humongous sea serpents to pull ships and fixing a future in-law--albeit that in this case the hereafter promised a long, ripe life in the Underworld to said person--to the hull of a ship: a delicious, if inadvertent, reverse frutti di mare to the beasts of the deep.
Women seeking for new excitements to their loooong, drab lives sometimes enter warrior training to become professional bladeswingers called Swordmainnir ("Sword-leaders/Sword-might"). A regular Search commonly employs one such 3,5-meter Amazon as the ultimate authority, creatively called the First. As a military unit, they are commanded by an older Giant(ess) titled the Ironhand. Men rarely choose such a bread-giver: a single example is given in the 3rd Chronicles, and it raises the question: Was he, by Giantish standards, a girly boy to begin with?
Second to their love of children come stories and perchance adventures worth future stories. These function both as a social binder and a means to acquire worth for one's name even after death. The longer and more magniloquent, the better: The famed tale of Bahgoon the Unbearable and Thelma Twofist requires eight successive days sans potty breaks, thus roughly comparable to a modern high fantasy audiobook, the dead-tree variants of which one might recycle as chimney bricks.
In the 1st Chronicles
Saltheart Foamfollower befriends Covenant in Lord Foul's Bane and stomps on the arena again in The Power that Preserves, acting as the "main hero's" sidekick and unhired muscle. He emerges from a remnant colony of Giants that once lost their way back Home, and who at that time inhabit the tunnel-city of Coercri in Seareach upon the Land. Apart from the butchery of this colony and three Ravers possessing the prophesized triplets, these beings remain looming as backstage props.
In the 2nd Chronicles
Lo and behold, an entire shipful of Giants land into well...the Land, dragged thither by a woeful augury about the end of all existence. This Search to discover and oppose such perils is led by a perpetually scowling, stark Giantess incongruously named Gossamer Glowlimn, and who might have sustained a successful career as a Valkyrie in a different universe. Her underlings consist of the crew: Honninscrave the Captain, Pitchwife her hubby, Seadreamer the mute seer, and a motley of other brinelubbers dripping with Diamondraught and off-color jests.
Covenant, Linden, and their Haruchai retinue board Honninscrave's dromond Starfare's Gem to unearth the location of the One Tree, so that a new Staff of Law might be fashioned. During this mighty odyssey into realms unsung the company bumps into lecherous wizards, even more lecherous mermaids, and have to tolerate the constant vanishing of the leaderess down into the cabins to play yet another game of sausage hiding. It is to wonder whether the author hides some double meanings into all these staves and vigorous world trees as well, but grand feelings indeed abound aboard the giant Love Boat.
In the 3rd Chronicles
More or Less Notable Individuals
- Bahgoon the Unbearable
- Baf Scatterwit
- Bluff Stoutgirth
- Brow Gnarlfist
- Cable Seadreamer
- Cirrus Kindwind
- Frostheart Grueburn
- Gossamer Glowlimn
- Grimmand Honninscrave
- Halewhole Bluntfist
- Heft Galewrath
- Lostson Longwrath
- Moire Squareset
- Onyx Stonemage
- Rime Coldspray
- Saltheart Foamfollower
- Scend Wavegift
- Sparlimb Keelsetter
- Stormpast Galesend
- Thelma Twofist
- Wavenhair Haleall