How Corineus Fought the Chief of the Giants


Long, long ago, when Cornwall was almost a desert land, cold, bleak, and poor, and inhabited only by giants, who had destroyed and eaten all the smaller people, Brutus and Corineus came with a large Trojan army intending to conquer England, or Albion as it was then called, and landed at Plymouth for that purpose. These two valiant chiefs had heard strange tales of the enormous size of the people in that part of the island, so, like wise generals, before venturing inland themselves, they sent parties of their men to explore, and find out what they could of the inhabitants. The soldiers, who had never heard anything about the giants, went off very full of glee, and courage, thinking, from the miserable look of the country, that they had only some poor half-starved, ignorant savages to hunt out, and subdue.

That was how they started out. They returned nearly scared to death, rushing into camp like madmen, pursued by a troop of hideous monsters all brandishing clubs as big as oak trees, and making the most awful noises you can possibly imagine. When, though, Brutus and Corineus saw these great creatures they were not in the least frightened, for, you see, they had already heard about them. So they quietly and quickly collected their army, reassured the terrified men, and, before the giants knew what was happening, they marched upon them, and assailed them vigorously with spears and darts.

The giants, who were really not at all brave men, were so frightened at this attack, and at the pain caused by the arrows and spears,—weapons they had never seen before,—that they very soon turned tail and ran for their lives. They made direct for the Dartmoor hills, where they hoped to find shelter and safe hiding-places, and indeed, all did manage to escape except one, and that was the great Gogmagog, the captain, who was so badly injured that he could not run.

When Gogmagog saw his cowardly companions all running away, and leaving him to do the best he could for himself, he bellowed and bellowed with rage and fear until the birds nearly dropped down from the sky with fright. After a while, though, he began to think he had better stop drawing attention to himself, and look about for a means of escape, and this was no slight task, for he could scarcely move a step, and his great big body was not at all easy to conceal. Indeed, the only means he could see open to him was to lie down in one of the great ditches which lay here and there all over the land, and trust to the darkness concealing him until the soldiers had returned to camp.

Alas, though, for poor Gogmagog's plans, the moon was at the full, and every place was almost as light as by day. The Trojan soldiers too were so excited and pleased with their giant-hunting, that they could not bear to give it up and return to camp until they had at least one giant to take back as a trophy. So they prowled here, and prowled there, until at last they caught sight of the great bulky body stretched out in the ditch. Gogmagog, of course, had no chance of escape, he was surrounded and captured, and bound, and the Trojans, rejoicing greatly, dragged him back a prisoner to their camp on Plymouth Hoe. Here, although he was carefully guarded, he was treated with great kindness, fed bountifully, and nursed until his wounds were healed.

When at last he was quite recovered, Brutus, who was very anxious to come to terms with the giants, discussed with him various ways of settling the question they had come with their army to decide, namely, who should be the possessor of the country. He proposed this plan, and that plan, and the other, but none seemed to please Gogmagog, and while the general talked and talked, and tried to come to terms, Gogmagog just sat stolidly listening, and only opening his great mouth to disagree with the general's proposal. The truth was, the giant had a great idea of his own cunning, and he was trying to think of some way by which he could get the better of the invaders, and yet avoid further battles and discharges of arrows. "For," as he said, "you never knew where you were with they things. They had done for you before you'd got time to turn round. Clubs or fists he was equal to, but he didn't see no fun in they sharp little things that stuck right into you, and wouldn't come out until they was cut out." Thinking of clubs and fists reminded him of wrestling, which was practised a great deal in Cornwall, even in those days, and very little anywhere else. "The very thing!" thought the wily giant, for it wasn't likely the Trojans knew anything about it, and even if they did, they were only little bits of chaps compared with himself and the other giants.

So, after a time, he proposed to Brutus that they should settle matters by "a scat to wrastling," the best man, of course, to have the country. Rather to Gogmagog's surprise Brutus agreed at once, and it was quickly settled that the giant himself and the best man in the Trojan army should be the two to try their skill. This man was Corineus, who accepted the challenge instantly. After this the day was soon fixed, and Gogmagog was allowed to send and tell his friends, and bid them all come to Plymouth to witness the great event. The giants, being assured that no arrows or spears would be used against them, came with alacrity, and both they and the Trojans were in a wild state of excitement which increased and increased as the great day drew near.

At last the longed-for time arrived. A ring was formed on the Hoe, the giants all sitting on one side, and the Trojans on the other, and the struggle began. Oh, it was a fine sight to see two such men pitted against each other, the giant, the finest of his race, and the splendid, stalwart soldier, the enormous strength of the one faced by the skill and coolness of the other, to see them grapple each other and struggle for the mastery as never men had struggled before in hand-to-hand warfare. Such a sight had never been seen in Cornwall until that day, nor ever will be again. It lasted long, and for long the result was doubtful. "Th' little un can't hold out much longer, mun," cried one of the giants. "Cap'en's only playing with un yet." But just at that very moment Corineus, who was playing a very clever game, dashed in unexpectedly, caught the giant by the girdle, and grasping it like a vice, shook the astonished and breathless monster with all his might and main. The giant, bewildered and gasping, swayed backwards and forwards at his mercy, at first slightly, then more and more, as he failed to regain his balance, until, gathering all his strength for one last effort, Corineus gave him one tremendous push backwards, and sent him clean over, so that he measured his great length upon the ground, and the country for miles round shook with the force of his fall. Gogmagog gave one awful groan, which sounded like thunder all over the land, making the giantesses, who were left at home, exclaim nervously, "Oh dear, oh dear, there must be an earthquake somewhere! How very unsettled the country is!" Gogmagog was so stunned and breathless with his fall, that for some time he could not collect his wits, or get up again, so he lay there moaning and puffing until his hard breathing had lashed the sea into fury. The other giants were too frightened to speak or move, for they were quite certain there was magic being used against them, for strength alone could never have overthrown their 'Cap'en' like that, certainly not the strength of 'a little whipper-snapper like that there Corinoos.' While, though, they were staring open-mouthed, and the giant, never expecting another attack, lay there still puffing and blowing, and trying to think how he could get off facing his opponent again, Corineus had been gathering up all his power to finish his task, and now, dashing in suddenly on his foe, he seized him by the legs, and dragging him to the edge of the cliff, he sent him, with one mighty push, rolling over and over down the sides of the steep cliff into the sea below.

The fearful roar which broke from the giant's throat as he disappeared, the crashing and thudding of his body as it dashed from point to point of the jagged rocks, made even those hardened savages sicken and turn pale, but worst of all was the crash with which he came to the bottom, where his body struck a rock with such violence that it was dashed into a thousand pieces, and his spouting blood dyed the sea crimson for miles and miles around. After that all turned away pale and sobered, the soldiers to their camp, the giants to their homes, their cowardly hearts full of terror of these new-comers, and the feasting they had promised themselves by way of keeping up their victory was postponed indefinitely. So ended the fight between the giant and the Trojan. It was not playing the game, but the giants were too cowardly to demand revenge, or to attempt to punish Corineus, and so the land and all in it fell to the Trojans.

Later, when Brutus had conquered all Albion, and was dividing some of it amongst his chiefs, Corineus begged that he might have the giant country, for he loved hunting the great lumbering fellows, and turning them out of their caves and hiding-places. So it was given to him, and he called it Cornwall, because that was something like his own name, and in time he cleared out all the giants, and in their stead there settled there an honest, manly people, who worked and tilled the land, and dug up tin, and did everything that was good, and honourable and industrious, and this is the kind of people who live there still.

email If you have any more information about this then please contact us.