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Balfrog 06-09-2019 06:01 PM

Stone-giants – Finally a Credible Source
Tucked away in footnote 4 of one Ms. Seth's essays on Goldberry is what I believe is a highly significant find which deserves to be brought out into the open.


Finally after 80+ years there appears to be a credible link to 'our world's mythology' of stone-giants and those in The Hobbit. The source itself is: River Legends by E. Huggessen and the tale of*The Giant Bramble-Buffer
Ms. Seth's footnote discusses the similarities of the Stone-giants of the Alps with those in The Hobbit in more detail. But extracted below are where she found most commonality:

From The Hobbit:

“… the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them … They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides. … ‘… we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football.’ ”.

From River Legends:

The giants of interest were described as ‘mountain giants’ and vocal ‘Daddyroarers’:
“Sometimes they would … fling enormous stones at each other in sport, which was pastime anything but delightful to their neighbours whose lives and property were thereby grievously imperilled.”
One particular mountain giant, Bramble-Buffer:
“… if he met a man he generally gave him a kick, which sent him off fifty yards up in the air, and in most instances proved fatal.”

There isn't an awful lot said about the Stone-giants in The Hobbit. But what there is seems to match that in River Legends pretty well. I don't think we are likely to get any closer.

Others of course may disagree!

Huinesoron 06-10-2019 03:24 AM

I absolutely agree that the stone-giants are a callback to primary-world rural myths. Examples of these themes can be found in loads of stories: from the Brothers Grimm, we have The Brave Little Tailor/The Tailor and the Giant, which includes this playful contest:


"That may be," said the tailor; "but we shall see by and by who is the best man of the two."

The giant... took up a stone, and threw it up so high that it went almost out of sight. "Now then, little pigmy, do that if you can."
Earlier in the same book, Thumbling the Dwarf and Thumbling the Giant/The Young Giant features a stone-moving giant who punches the final human characters high into the air.

There's also loads of instances of giants being claimed as having built various large things (Stonehenge, for example), which also appears in Middle-earth. It's pretty clear Tolkien was playing about with primary sources, just as he did with trolls which turn to stone at dawn (Drangey Island is a Norse giant/troll's cow which did the same thing). Is 'throwing stones to each other in sport' specific enough to track back to this one story, or is it a moderately common attribute of giants? I actually have no idea. :) (Didn't Lewis use it, too? Or is that only in BBC Narnia?)


Balfrog 07-04-2019 06:29 PM


Once again I am at fault and I apologize for my lengthy delay in replying.

Thank you for your thoughts – they are actually much appreciated, and a challenge of views is always welcome. I spent considerable time considering what you had to say. Nevertheless I find Ms. Seth's assertion particularly strong when comparing The Hobbit giants (1) to those in River Legends/THe Giant Bramble-Buffer (2) or to other fairy-story giants you specified in The Brave Little Tailor (3a) or Thumbling the Dwarf and Thumbling the Giant (3b). In particular:

(a) The stone-giants of (1) are specifically mountain giants as they are in (2) but not (3a/3b).
Note: Tolkien appeared to want some differentiation between types of giant per his 'Chain of Being' document (PE 'Early Qenya Fragments’ ) outlining a category for the mountaineous type.

(b) Parts of the Misty mountains adventure (1) stem from Tolkien's experiences in the Alps. Providing a good match - the giants of (2) are mythical inhabitants of a sector of the Alps, while those of (3a/3b) are not.

(c) The giants of (1) play rock hurling/tossing games among themselves as do (2) but not (3a/3b). Those of (3a/3b) are contests of man against giant (3a/3b).

(d) From one of the pictures in (2) and their accompanying description we get a sense of what was probably behind the naming of 'stone-giants' in (1). I cannot honestly assign a title to the giants of (3a/3b) 'stone-giants'.

(e) When potential encounters with the 'lesser races' of M-e occur in (1) the fear is of being kicked sky-high, which is in line with (2) but not (3a/3b).

(f) The mythology behind the far-flung Carrock of (1) is instantly conjured by the picture of gigantic Senoj (2).

(g) The purpose of stone-giants per (1) as builders of mountains as set forth in (2) provides us with some sort of read across as to why they exist. Thus they have a decent rooting in mythology.

(h) The giants of (1) are not all bad – in line with (2) not (3a) but arguably (3b).

(i) Just about all of the major traits of the stone-giants of (1) are contained in (2) but not in (3a/3b) or any other solitary fairy tale involving giants (to my knowledge).

(j) E. Knatchbull-Huggessen was for Tolkien a particularly favored fairy-tale author – but there again I'm sure he admired the Grimm collection too.

I think it would be particularly rare to find such a good match-up of the above in a singular fairy-tale without there being something more to it. Thus I think we should all be able to acknowledge that the match (2) is about as direct a hit as there could be. Indeed a bulls-eye hit much better than Michael Drout has written up in his Encyclopedia (female giants from the Grottasongr) or what Doulas Anderson of The Annotated Hobbit has suggested (Rubenzahl from Lang's Brown Fairy Book).

Alphaelin 09-10-2019 12:49 AM

I almost laughed out loud when I this thread! I'm re-read this scene today and was wondering about the Stone Giants.

Really interesting link. To me, it seems believable that Tolkien might have asked about old tales of the area in the Alps he visited, or even asked about them based on having read 'River Legends'. Of course, we'll probably never know for certain where he first came across the idea. :p

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