Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A giantess is a female giant. The word has at least three interpretations:
- A mythical being, resembling a woman of superhuman size and strength.
- A human woman of exceptional stature, often the result of some medical or genetic abnormality. A typical example was Jane Bunford (d.1922) who grew to a height of 7'7".
- A giganta, a several-meters-tall figure representing a woman. It is carried by a strong man in street festivals in Spain.
Giantesses are worthy of separate discussion from male giants for a number of reasons. To begin with, although Classical and Norse mythologies contain many references to giantesses, very little information is given about them. (This is in sharp contrast to the detailed stories of male giants such as the Utgardaloki in the Eddas). This may be because of the patriarchal nature of these societies, which was opposed to the idea of female empowerment.
Medieval European Literature
A notable example of the depiction of giantesses in art and literature arose in the medieval period. In her book Scivias , St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) used the giantess as a representation of "Ecclesia", the Church as the Bride of Christ. As Hildegard is often seen as an early leader of the Feminist movement, the emergence of the giantess symbol may not be coincidental.
Later European Literature
- Once, when Nature's overpowering vigorousness
- Conceived each day children this monstrous
- I would love to have lived with a young giantess
- Around her feet like a cat to a queen voluptuous.
- Would love to have seen the spirit that grew out of her
- Distending as she played her terrible game
- From the damp mist that swam in her eyes to wonder
- If her sullen heart would catch into flames.
In contrast to this, A Voyage to Brobdingnag, the second part of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), describes the hero's revulsion at the female form enlarged to gigantic proportions. This view of the giantess as an anerotic symbol persisted into the 20th Century: C.S. Lewis's short story The Shoddy Lands describes a journey through the mindscape of the "modern woman". The woman herself appears giant-sized and subsequently (in Lewis' view) repulsive; obsessed with her own beauty, she has become oblivious to the way that beauty is perceived by its intended admirers, i.e., men. Similarly Arthur C. Clarke's story Cosmic Casanova describes an astronaut's revulsion at discovering that an extra-terrestrial female he adored on a video screen is in fact thirty feet tall.
Comic Book Art
A few motion pictures are also worth mentioning. The 1958 B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman formed part of a series of size-changing films which also included The Incredible Shrinking Man. The 1993 remake of this movie, starring Daryl Hannah in the title role, was advertised as a comedy; many scenes did parody earlier size-changing movies (most notably The Amazing Colossal Man), although central theme was feminist. The heroine Nancy, formerly a cypher to her domineering father and husband, is empowered by her new-found size and starts to take control of her destiny, and encourages other women to do the same. Both versions of the movie enjoy a cult following.
Adult Art and Literature
Paraphiliac fantasies of being crushed by giantesses are a frequently recorded, but unusual, sexual fantasy, that is common enough to support a sub-genre of "trampling pornography". A great many Internet websites are devoted to this topic.
Other fantasies derive soley by being in the presence of a giantess. These fantasies can be classified under macrophilia, or the sexual attraction to gigantic persons.
Spanish Street Festivals
In Spanish festivals, it is common to find a procession of gigantes y cabezudos ("giants and big-heads"). The giants are hollow figures several-meters tall depicting the upper part of a person and having a skirt. The skirt covers a strong man that carries a harness linked to the internal structure. The porter turns and shakes the giant to the tune of a marching band. Giants usually parade in couples of gigante and giganta. Rich towns have more than one couple. The figures usually depict archetypes of the town, such as the bourgeois and the peasant woman, or historical figures of local relevance, such as the founding king and queen.
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