Midweek Writer-Rummage: Tales of the British Isles

The Giants of Albion

Going back to ancient stories, this time to do with the British Isles, starting with Britain. It was a common belief that, in ancient times, giants inhabited the lands of the earth; and giants were the first to come to the island that was first known as Albion, and then Britain.

Many, many years ago, in a past so distant no one knows when exactly, there lived a great king in Greece. He was an honourable man, brave and proud and he ruled over many kings. With his beautiful queen, he had 30 daughters who grew up tall, very tall, like their parents. Of all the daughters, only the name of the oldest is known – Albina. When all were of marriageable age, they were wedded, each one, to kings of renown.

Sadly, their demeanour did not match their outward beauty, for they were filled with haughty pride. Believing they should answer to no one but themselves, the sisters met in secret and devised a plan. They agreed that they would not be subject to the authority of anyone else for were they not the daughters of the greatest king? Having never had any master, they wished to do as they pleased and not answer to their husbands. So they made a pact, that when each of their husbands came to them privately, they would kill them. They agreed on a day; that is, all agreed save one, the youngest, for she loved her husband dearly. But, being the youngest, she was too afraid of her sisters to argue against them.

The sisters returned to their countries, eager for the arrival of the fated day. The youngest, however, was weighed down with grief. And when she saw her beloved husband, her grief increased. Noticing her sadness, he asked her for the reason. She tried to deny her sadness but her grief was too great, and she confessed the plot her sisters had devised. He took her in his arms and kissed her, assuring her there was no reason for her sorrow.

The next day, the youngest sister and her husband hastened to her father, the king of Greece. They told him of his daughters’ plot, and he was dismayed. He summoned them all to attend him at once. When they were before him, he accused them of treason against their husbands and bringing dishonour to them all.

Although dismayed at the accusation, the sisters could not deny it. Their husbands were furious and wanted them all put to death, but their father declared instead that they would be imprisoned while awaiting judgement. Only the youngest escaped condemnation for she had remained true to her husband and father. The judges were wise and, because the accused were of noble birth, did not condemn them to death for that would have dishonoured the family of the king and queen, and the families of the sisters’ husbands. Instead, the sisters were banished forever from their home, never to return.

They were taken down to the sea and escorted onto a large ship with no provisions. Although they wept bitterly, none took pity on them because of the heinous nature of the crime they had plotted. The ship was pushed out to sea, and was tossed on the waves and driven by the winds. They knew not where the waters would carry them, and they cared not for all the while hunger tormented them. When a great storm blew the ship hither and yon, they lay on the deck as if in a trance.

Finally, the storm ceased, and the ship was within sight of land, a land with no name for none dwelt there. The sisters, overjoyed to see land, dragged themselves to their feet and struggled off the ship. The first to feel the land under her feet was the oldest, Albina. Relieved though they were to finally be off the ship, they were soon overcome by their great hunger. They found plentiful fruit such as plums, apples and pears. As they sated their hunger, their anxiety grew for they did not know where they were.

With the passing of the days, the sisters recovered their strength and took to exploring the land. To their surprise, they found no one; they traversed the woods and the plains, the valleys and the hills, but there was no sign that anyone had ever lived there. But they did find beasts aplenty, wild birds and fish in the rivers.

So it was that, because she had been first to set foot on the land, Albina declared that she be acknowledged the ruler of this country, and her sisters agreed. She decided to name it after her and called it Albion.

The sisters had all been taught how to hunt when they were young girls, and through their cunning, devised ways to build traps and other devices to catch beast and bird. As they thrived in their new home, so they regained their strength. But they were full-blooded young women and longed for men to satisfy their needs.

Although the land had no human inhabitants, unknown to the sisters, it was home to many unseen spirits, including evil ones called incubi. Able to take on human form, they were drawn to the sisters’ lust and lay with them, after which they disappeared. In time, Albina and her sisters gave birth to children who became giants, because of their mothers’ exceptional height and their fathers not being of the mortal world. The incubi never returned. Shamefully, when their sons came of age, Albina and her sisters used them to beget more children; of their children, sisters bore children by their brothers. All grew to become giants.

The giants spread through the land, creating dwellings in caves and mountains. As they multiplied, each sought to conquer the land to become its lord and master. They took to fighting one another until only twenty-four remained.

It was around this time that Brutus, also known as Brute of Troy, landed on Albion. He was a descendant of Aeneas. The remaining giants came to fight him, but he overthrew them all save one. He spared the life of their leader, Gogmagog, for he had never seen such beings and was amazed. Brutus wanted to know of Gogmagog’s lineage. The giant told Brutus of his ancestors, of Albina and her sisters, as he had heard it passed down from the elders. Brutus then claimed the land as his and changed its name to Britain.