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Giants

Discussion in 'World Building' started by skip.knox, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Anyone here have giants in their stories? It's a bit odd that we don't see more of these, given how largely (hah!) they figure in traditional folk tales. I'm considering having them play a role in my next novel and thought I'd start a thread where we could kick ideas around.

    I have a few thoughts to share, but I'll give the floor to others to start the boulder rolling.
     
  2. valiant12

    valiant12 Mystagogue

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    Giant monkeys count as giants, right? I like giant simians.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm using giants. Well, one giant, I suppose, is all we'll see in the story.

    The sprites and other fairies in my setting used to occupy a portal to the fairy realm, and giants are one of the races that came through the portal. But it's since been destroyed, and the giants were all killed off, save one.

    Giants from Tierna Alvone have a few special features. They can shapechange to match the landscape. They're incredibly intelligent. They're masters of fire. And they suffer from an extreme delirium produced by a chemical created in their bone marrow. In Tierna Alvone they don't have weather as we know it, but a mist that changes to reflect light and night and seasons and change. That mist sometimes carries a cure for the giant's delirium, revealing them to be their incredibly bright and clever selves. But the mist passes, and their delirium returns, and the less exposure a giant gets to this mist, the thicker the delirium gets.

    In the mortal realm, with the portal broken, the mist is scarce, and at the start of the story the main character has just two vials left. His giant friend doesn't recognize him. He's kept locked in chains, underground, where he can barely move and is forced to sleep as much as possible as part of the terrain. The humans will kill him otherwise. The rest of their mist was used keeping him together long enough to concoct their plan - you see, the giant in this story plays the role of mentor, in the rare case they can get that delirium lifted. But two vials. At the start of the story that's all they have left, and then the giant's brilliant mind might be lost forever. And the MC is frequently tortured about whether and when to use them.
     
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  4. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    Giants play heavily in Norse mythology, which I look to often as a guide, and in many others as well. I have giant creatures, but so far no actual giants. I think they would make up some of the creation myths in my current WIP, but so far the characters have not really been interested in learning any of it. I am not sure if I will attempt to fit them in or not, but frost giants are pretty cool. I'd love to get them in there.

    I suppose if I had a Giant Slaying Sword, it would be effective against giant monkeys, but if one came over the hill, I think I would scream "Giant Monkey!" and not just giant.
     
  5. Kalessin

    Kalessin Apprentice

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    Devor I love that setup, especially with the two vials. Would the mist be less effective when the delirium is thicker? I guess that might put too much of a time limit on using them. It's cooler to me that the protag has these two chances to see his friend again. I also wonder what the giant might say about when to use the second vial.

    As for the thread itself, I haven't used giants but they happen to be extra meaningful to me in a way - two stories I read as a kid stuck them in my mind for some reason, and I think it'd be cool to work with them at some point. Ender's Game had the "giant's drink" game and The Thief and the Beanstalk by P. W. Catanese had a few main characters who were giants. I wonder if it's completely arbitrary that these impressions of them have stuck with me. It's either that those stories themselves impressed me a lot or that there's something about giants that I gotta reflect on.

    Edit: For some reason the most "pure" giant to me, in a probably arbitrary way, is somehow both quaint and clever. They're more rustic than even the possibly rustic humans, yet are cunning. A couple of the ones in The Thief are extremely smart, but then you have one that might be more like the stereotype - a bumbling brute. That's probably what solidified them for me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Oh. Yes, in fact, the longer they wait to use the vials the thicker the delirium will get. For the logistics of the story, that means the longer they wait to use them the shorter the stretch of time they'll have. The vial could last most of a day or just a couple hours, depending on how much they let the delirium build back up.

    I'm really glad you like it. :)

    You know, I got part of my idea from seeing something about a piece of Finnish folklore in which there was a giant who lived underground and taught spells. We've kind of merged giants and ogres and this image of the big lumbering brute, but that's just not what you usually see in folklore. I guess you could say I was trying to reconcile the two images with my take on them.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
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  7. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Scribal Lord

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    Eld has giants. Eld's giants are unfortunately slowly dying off because they can't quite gear up for the new world. They have a few enclaves and can mostly be found working beside humans. They tend to annoy everyone by constantly preaching about how they will one day be the top dogs again and their Elder will get together with their gods and kick everybody else's ass and they shall make great cities and all. Everyone else believes they are quite delusional in that matter.

    Now that is a very short overview of them I'll grant. Most any giant who shows up tends to be preaching at people, though as always there is the exception. And they may be called giant, but the tallest any of them get are around thirty feet tall. Many live in the ruins of their once great cities and it helps increase their fervor and that their deities wills will be done one day. And as such the world will pay for it's crimes against them (especially the elves, wood elves in particular. That whole temple of giants skulls thing they did) and then they will put their heavy foot down and crush the smaller folk around them. Just as soon as the alliances with the humans or dwarves works itself out and they actually listen to what the giants are saying.

    Those who have gotten out and around in the world either hold fast to their faith or it quickly sours in the wake of the post apocalypse and the fact they see very few of their kind out and about. And those they do see have been almost brought down to the living of feral beasts who swing a club as a mercenary for some food and shelter. There is however, much with the dwarves, some vague prophecy of some new and very much on fire dwarves and giants who will appear to help take back what was lost. So, there is that.

    In the meantime they will ask if you've heard the good news of the Great Giant Elders and maybe give you a pamphlet or you might find the odd cleric going about healing the land to the best of their ability and also preaching at some poor soul who got caught in their path.
     
  8. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Mystagogue

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    So far, I've only mentioned them in passing so they do exist somewhere in my world(s). They just haven't come onstage yet. However...the little girl (only one year old) I introduced in the just finished novel (to be released later this year maybe?) has what are essentially Titans several generations back in her family tree, and is beginning to show her heritage. So maybe in a sequel I will have a giantess as a character. Or a rather large demi-goddess more accurately, perhaps.
     
  9. Futhark

    Futhark Mystagogue

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    I wonder if it has anything to do with the ‘realism’ trend (if that’s a thing I’m not imagining). Speaking from a bio-mechanical point of view, humanoids approaching the 10ft/3 metre-ish mark require some major physiological remodeling. Most stories I’ve read recently with giants have them top out about here. Of course, you can always explain it away with ‘hey, it’s a kind of magic’.
     
  10. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Scribal Lord

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    Or not explain it at all and point and go 'Ooh, giants!'. I like that one. It leads to one of the best and most noble space exploration schemes put into existence.
     
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  11. FatCat

    FatCat Scribal Lord

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    I'm not a hundred percent sure but from what I recall there were giant figures in old Christendom, I forget their name but they were supposed to be the offspring between mortals and angels. I think that's a cool take, considering the expectation that giants are large, dumb humanoids .
     
  12. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    I had Giants as a race in one story. They were an off-shoot of evolution more akin to a cross between Neanderthals and mega fauna. They were closely related to humans but too divergent to produce young. They were usually 4-5m tall but stockily built, some were occaisionally much large 10 m+ but I never expanded on Why. They had been a fairly ubiquitous species but Humanity had pushed them into areas that humans found hard[er] to live in, Desert Tundra, and Mountains mostly. They were intelligent and could learn human languages [and humans could speak the local Giant languages if they bothered to learn] so there was some trade and interaction. The Giants had worked out that their size and strength meant they were great at close combat. They became the mercenary force of choice to break a siege or as a spectacular bodyguard. In the story firearms were beginning to made an impact. Now the Giants' size was a distinct disadvantage.
     
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  13. Futhark

    Futhark Mystagogue

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    Nephilim
     
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    And Goliath.
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I like this. I'm always on the lookout for change over time. I've already dealt with the advent and decline of dragons. You've given me an angle on how to deal with the decline (at least) of giants. When Altearth comes into modern times, I've got this notion that there will be preservationists, trying to save the Last of the Giants and so on. Not really a story idea, just more world building background.
     
  16. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    Giants are mostly flukes in my worlds. The history of Aquas, the secondary world does include a 'short-lived' Giant Empire that conquered a huge stretch of the Strand, but these giants began as ordinary humans and after a few generations the flukes that supersized them played out.
     
  17. Kalessin

    Kalessin Apprentice

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    You know what's a fun thought expander for giants? Applying different levels of realism to their interactions with whatever world you're plopping them in. These different levels of realism also have subcategories - the physical, the biological, the cultural, to name a round three. On one end you can easily ignore any implications you want and make something great, because fantasy, and on the other end you can deal with some interesting questions.

    I wanna focus on two variants for these thoughts, if anyone wants to reply to this. The typical subversion of the folklore kind (if I'm imagining those properly) is the not-so-absurd ones that have been mentioned here as being in Malazan. You've got bigger ones of those in things like A Song of Ice and Fire, but the main idea is that they aren't straight up mystical to look at. Because then you have the kind that I for some reason associate with folklore even though I don't have any in-depth knowledge of it. These are the colossi, and I think the main reason they stick in my mind personally is that just looking at them in my mind's eye is the surreal kind of fantastical. The main memory of those for me is from that Catanese story, which is actually a kid's book, but a very good one. In fact I recommend it to serious readers of fantasy to be honest. When I think about how they factor into the world there's a satisfying clash that I think gives them their crunch for me. Before I can even get used to the Toy Story effect in this sometimes horror-driven story I'm then dealing with the pretty much existential dread of imagining them actually using the beanstalk themselves, wearing armor and holding weapons and not really caring about people (in this particular story).

    These ones certainly ignore the square cubed law, but what about the more realistic ones? For some reason it seems like the square cubed law factors in somehow when most of those seem to be the lumbering kind. We have an instinct, it seems, to make them not just slow and ponderous in movement but also in thought. With a really big one, do we more easily lift that instinctive speed limit and let them be just fantastically scaled up humans? Could a 12ft tall, comparatively proportioned giant with a scary intellect and a human face be interesting? Would their intellect have to be scary?
     
  18. Kalessin

    Kalessin Apprentice

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    Futhark and the orc actually started this. That's what I get for making my post before reading through the new stuff. Can't edit my comment for some reason. Guess there's a limit?

    So yeah like they were saying.
     
  19. Futhark

    Futhark Mystagogue

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    KalessinKalessin. My WIP is heavy on the realism so I don’t really have any truly gigantic creatures. I have a giant race based on the Gigantopithecus (Gigantopithecus - Wikipedia) but they’re really just window dressing. I also have creatures like Minotaurs, ogres/oni, etc., due to blood magic, which is basically taking an animals DNA and mixing it with a humans, or vice versa, and applying sorcerous energy/rituals. Most were made ages ago, so the survivors are generally useful, viable species that only inhabit small parts of the globe.

    There are wyverns from a distant corner of the world where reptile/avian species became dominant, much like marsupials in Australia. Ancient explorers introduced them to the old world and wizards often spirit bonded with them. There have been instances when the wyvern escapes control and kills the wizard, and due to my magic system, the spirit of the wizard lives on, making the wyvern crazy smart, or sometimes just crazy.

    I really want to include a giant creature like Chief Toad from Naruto or Shenron from Dragon Ball, but I don’t think I can justify it. As for giant humanoids, well, I can’t do it. I have too strong an urge to explain how and why.

    Larry Niven has Frost Giants in his book The Magic Goes Away. The premise is that mana is a non-renewable resource. When his giants are in a high mana area then they are giants (like, really big), because mana warps reality. When there is no mana they are just big humans.

    But yeah, I think we do have a tendency to view giants as ponderous and slow-witted. I think this may have to do with real life animals. Elephants and whales, while not exactly stupid or slow, don’t often rush around. Their food sources don’t scurry off and they have little concern for predators. To create a giant that is quick and clever without stretching incredulity may be challenging, but if you could manage it I think it would be one of those characters that everyone would remember.

     
  20. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Mystagogue

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    I considered using Gigantopithecus in a story way back when, before it was shown they were apes, not early humans. That took some of their allure away and I eventually scrapped the idea.

    I think my favorite fantasy giant of all time would be the dwarf giant in one of Moorcock's books, who ends up standing about the height of a normal human.
     
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