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The Giants of Cornwall

Cornish Legends and Myths

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2 October 2010

Cornish Legends

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Through-out the ages Cornwall's legends and myths have always told of Giants. Below are a few of these stories.

 

The Giant Bolster

Giant Bolster - Said to have a six mile strideGiants loom large in the folklore of Cornwall, and legend tells us that once upon a time the Penwith area was plagued with them. Of the two most famous, Cormoran, the wicked Giant of St. Michael's Mount was eventually dispatched by Jack the Giant Killer, but Giant Bolster is said to have succumbed to the wiles of a saintly woman!

 

Bolster must have been a truly enormous figure, since he could plant one foot on Carn Brea (the high hill just outside Camborne) and the other on the cliffs outside St. Agnes-some six miles away as the crow flies-he must have been about 12 miles high.

 

Bolster was a bad tempered and violent brute who terrorised the countryside and struck fear into the hearts of ordinary folk, but he met his match in the pious and chaste St. Agnes. He fell in love with her and pursued him relentlessly, but St. Agnes wanted none of it.

 

Sick of his constant attentions, St. Agnes told him to prove his love for her by filling up a hole in the cliff at Chapel Porth with his own blood. To Bolster that was an easy task. After all, he'd never miss a few gallons-but St. Agnes knew that the hole was bottomless and led into the sea below!

 

He stretched out his arm, plunged a knife into it and lay down to wait for the hole to fill up. It never did, of course and eventually Bolster lost so much blood he died. Thus, St.Agnes was rid of his unwanted attentions but he left his mark behind. The cliffs at Chapel Porth to this day still bear a red stain, said to be from where his blood ran down into the sea.

 

The Giant Cormoran

 

One of the best known stories tells of a giant named Cormoran and his wife Cormelian.

 

They had their homes in the forest that ounce covered Mounts bay between Penzance and Marazion. Cormoran intent on building himself a stronghold of white granite, and forced his wife to carry the boulders in her apron. One day Cormelian seeing her husband asleep decided to bring back greenstone instead as it was much closer to hand, but Cormoran awoke and caught her. He was so enraged with her actions he kicked her and broke the apron strings which caused the greenstone to dropped.

 
Mounts Bay forest has long been submerged but a block of greenstone is still standing on the causeway to the mount, and it is said that this is the stone that was dropped from the apron.

 

Jack the Giant Killer

 

According to Cornish legend, Jack was a farmer's son who lived near Land's End in the days of King Arthur. The folk of the area were being terrorised by Cormoran, the Giant of St. Michael's Mount, who stole cattle and carried them away either on his back or dangling from his belt. A reward was offered to anyone who would slay the fearsome giant, and Jack took up the challenge. He dug a huge pit near Morvah and covered it with sticks and straw. Then he lured the Giant away from the Mount by blowing his horn. The angry Giant rushed down the Mount and fell into the pit. Jack then struck him a mortal blow with his pick- axe and filled the pit with earth. For his brave deed he was given a magnificent sword and belt.

Famed for his bravery Jack The Giant Killer became something of a super hero, killing wolves and breaking the skulls of pirates in addition to being on hand to deal with other troublesome giants. Later he travelled on to Wales to slay more of them and further embroidered his legend, and, to mark his slaying of Cormoran there stands to this day near Morvah Church a huge stone which is said to mark the Giant's Grave. It is also said that sometimes voices can be heard coming from beneath it!

 

Ralph's Cupboard

 

Wrath of PortreathLegends of fierce giants abound in Cornwall, but surely one of the fiercest and most wicked was the giant known as Wrath of Portreath. Wrath lived in a huge cavern, known as his "cupboard" where he would lie in wait for passing ships, wade out into the sea and attack them, killing the sailors with a single blow from his huge fingers. Then he would carefully select the better specimens for supper and, tying the ships up to his belt he would tow his booty back to his cave. Even those who warily sailed by at what they thought was a safe distance were in danger. Wrath would fling huge rocks onto them from high up on the cliff and these are still visible today when the tide is low, forming a deadly reef that stretches from Godrevy Head. St. Ives sailors avoided the "cupboard" at all costs, swearing that nothing that went into it ever came out again.


Some years ago it lost it's roof and became an open gorge with the sea flowing into it at high tide, but Ralph's Cupboard, as it is now known, is still one of the more spectacular-if no longer terrifying-sights along the cliffs at Portreath.

 

 

 

       

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