09 February 2006

And once there were Giants upon the Earth

Norse mythology can be a bit dour, to say the least. A great frost giant formed from a drop of water touching the Muspelheim, and Ymir stood the first of a race of giants. His lesser children were finally taken down by the Gods Odin, Villi and Ve. And the blood of Ymir drowned nearly all the frost giants....

Later mythology talks of Thor's thundering hammer striking giants of many sorts and killing them. And the final arrival of Odin to send the giants packing from the land.

I was in that land between here and Nod a few nights back and the History Channel had on "When Giants Walked The Earth" recounting the stories of giants through history. And I remember they did mangle the Norse legends, but in an interesting way... and this will be a paraphrase.... 'And out of the valley rose a mist to form the Frost Giants, which the gods did battle back... until they were defeated and they appealed to Odin and he sat and looked at them with his gaze which pushed them back and held them there until they come again after the long winter'

Things turned and clicked somewhere in that gray land I was in... and then it clicked into a pattern, an ancient pattern and from that garbled retelling and paraphrasing and hatcheting of the mythology something suddenly became clear: there was a second group outside of the Aboriginies who remembered far back in time. The gap, the wind, the mist, the flood, the storming and the thundering and the lightning striking giants and forcing them back it all fits exactly one time in the last 15,000 years.

The end of the last ice age.

Think of a people who live on the tundra, but with more and more warming winds coming against the giant ice sheet, a mile thick or more in some places. These people have walked upon it and knew its extent and seen the giant layer of ice and the frosty lands around it. And then the winds come, year on year... the weather changes year on year and the mists rise from the ice... new patterns of storms come...melting in torrents... great storms with lightning, perhapse even striking the edges of the ice itself. And these people watch and follow as the ice retreats more and more and more and more... land upon land revealed, bare to start with but in some few generations slowly turning green.

They are seeing a giant turned back, the great Ymir of ice and frost. A mighty god of wind and storm and thunder unleashed to strike again and again and again, winning a great battle against this giant. The people follow until, one day in a far northern clime, the ice suddenly breaks off and breaks up and the ocean swells with icebergs from it. A shoreline appears. And the people live and watch and wait as the ice retreats under the threat and gaze of the gods that have defeated it and put the giant down and away. Until the next long winter comes and the giant returns.

The stories of the battles would have been told for generations and how the giant was forced to retreat. These people would pass those stories down, even once the great giant had fully gone as there were and are lesser giants in the mountains, mere mountain glaciers of frost compared to the giant of old that washed so many others away. As that great old one died his body bled water that dissolved other ice... rivulets... streams... rivers... torrents. Other myths and legends would grow up over the next 10,000 years, until the barest memory survives as frost giants and their frigid lands.

And no matter how cold it got in winter, when the sun passed its lowest point and the next day rose slightly higher in the south, they would give thanks. For the great giant would not return the next year. But they always remember that one day the moon would be swallowed and the new long winter return... and soon a giant of frost and ice would stride the land again, and take back what was his.

Take it as you will, but you can still see the marks where that giant clawed against bare rock and left its mark. And the boulders it had used against the gods to no avail, still dot many lands. One people remember, kept faith and let us know that so that we could prepare and protect should the giant return. For the next time the gods would fail... and we would be left on our own against a giant that was unstoppable.

No comments: