Giants have long been an integral part of Cornish folklore and it’s not hard to imagine them at home amongst the county’s sprawling moors and towering cliffs.
In a rather humorous twist, legends of giants in Cornwall may have originated from simple allegory. As it happened, historically Cornishmen and women were renowned for their modest stature, so much so that tall, lumbering visitors (or unwelcome invaders) could easily have been viewed as fearsome giants. Yet despite this, there is no shortage (excuse the pun) of evidence to suggest that these larger than life beings really were once part of Cornwall’s wild landscapes.
If the stepping stones of Bedruthan don’t impress you, and the giant’s seat at Trecrobben Hill doesn’t convince you, and the rocky remains of Carn Galver Giant aren’t proof enough, then perhaps this fact might be: in 1861 tin-miners found a real-life giant’s coffin in Cornwall. That’s right. Working at Tregony, “the gateway of the Roseland”, miner’s unearthed an enormous coffin that measured over 11ft in length. According to records, the remains of the corpse inside revealed a massive 2.5-inch tooth. Now who could that belong to, if not a giant?
Whether you believe in the tales or not, stories of giants pervade the county, some even inspiring annual festivities. To get you acquainted with some of our favourites, here were have put together a list of Cornwall’s giants.
Remembered each year through St Agnes’ Bolster Festival, Bolster was an unruly being who lived up to the loathsome reputation of giants. Living many years ago, Bolster was alive at the same time as St Agnes, a missionary. Seeing her for the first time, Bolster became infatuated with St Agnes and despite already being married, plagued her for attention. Spurning his advances, St Agnes became more and more wearisome of Bolster’s advances and hatched a plan to get rid of him for good.
Coming up with a proposition, St Agnes told Bolster that she would return his affection if he could really prove his love for her. Bolster readily agreed, and so she instructed him to go to the beach at Chapel Porth and fill a hole in the sand with his blood. When the hole was full, she would know the depth of his feelings. Rushing off to the beach, Bolster made a cut on his wrist and began to pour his blood into the hole. Little did he know, though, that underneath the sand was a cavern that led straight to sea. His blood flowed and flowed but the hole would never fill. Depleted, Bolster became weary and collapsed, dying right there on the beach. Even today, the rocks are still stained red from his blood.
St Michael’s Mount is said to have once been the home of two giants: Cormoran and his wife Cormelian. A wicked husband and a dastardly pilferer who would raid the surrounding countryside for cattle (and stray children) to eat, Cormoran the Giant was one of the county’s most feared giants.
Yet as is the fate of many a wicked being, Cormoran’s reign of terror eventually came to a grisly end. Earning his title of “the Giant Killer”, a local lad called Jack grew sick of Cormoran’s evil doings and dug a deep pit on the Mount one night, covering it with sticks to form a trap. He blew his horn to draw out the slumberous giant, and right on cue, Cormoran came storming out and tumbled into the hole. With Cormoran trapped inside the pit, Jack swiftly raised his axe and beheaded the giant with one swoop.
If you visit St Michael’s Mount today, legend says that a steady beating noise will lead you to a heart-shaped stone that is entombed along the pathway. Whether the heart really belonged to Cormoran or not is up for debate, but it may well be that Cormoran and Cormelian were not the only giants to have resided on the Mount. In her 1963 volume Folklore and Placenames, folklorist Mary Williams reports being told that the skeleton of a man over seven feet tall was once found during an excavation on the Mount!
Also known as Thunderbore or Blunderbus, Blunderbore was a terroriser of the highest order. Along with his brother Rebecks, the giant Blunderbore resided in Ludgvan Lese, a cavernous manor in West Cornwall. From here, he and Rebecks would set out on villainous endeavours, hunting and devouring poor travellers on the road to St Ives.
But what became of this dastardly duo? Well, this is where we meet our famous giant slayer, Jack, again. Well and truly on his giant-killing crusade, Jack made an attempt to follow the giants’ trail of destruction. Keeping close behind, Jack made an almost fatal mistake and was instead captured and thrown into Ludgvan Lese’s dungeon ready for the stew pot. Not one to be outdone by giants though, Jack masterminded a plan in which he slipped nooses over the giant brothers’ necks as they slept. Keeping the rope taught at the other end, Jack slid down and cut their throats in a final bloody hurrah.
And that was the end of Blunderbore and Rebecks.