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Giants seem to come in many varieties, from the big to the very big indeed. Some—the giants of Greek mythology and Norse legend, for instance, and of fairy tales like Jack-in-the-Beanstalk—are very big. One of the Greek giants, Tityus, covered nine acres of ground when stretched out flat, and another, Enceladus, was so big the gods had to pile Mount Aetna on top of him to keep him down. In Norse myth, the giant Skrymir was so big that Thor and Loki unwittingly slept in his glove one night, thinking it a "very large hall." Even Bran the Blessed, while not quite in that league, is still huge enough that the Welsh myth describes him as looking like an approaching mountain as he wades across the channel between Wales and Ireland—wading the sea because no boat was big enough to hold him.

Several folklorists have suggested that some of the really immense giants, particularly those in the Celtic tradition, had once been gods ... now dwindled and diminished from gods to "mere" giants with the passage of time, and especially with the coming of Christianity to the pagan North. (Interestingly, William Butler Yeats offers the exact opposite suggestion, saying that "when the pagan gods of Ireland—the Tuath-De-Dandn—robbed of worship and offerings, grew smaller and smaller in the popular imagination, until they turned into the fairies, the pagan heroes grew bigger and bigger, until they turned into the giants.") Some giants are reasonably human-looking, some have several heads, some are grotesque and monstrous of face, with huge fangs or tusks (although here we are beginning to approach the ambiguous dividing line between giants and trolls or ogres). Sometimes they are man-eaters, like the fearsome Jack-in-Irons who haunts Yorkshire lanes at night, or like the giants in a dozen fairy tales. Sometimes they are benevolent and good-natured, willing to be helpful to human folks—although, sadly, it seems to be true that the benign giants are also usually portrayed as being rather stupid, and are often taken shameful advantage of by the humans they try to assist. Sometimes humans even trade on their good nature to trick them to their doom.

Interestingly, giants seem to be slowly getting smaller as the twentieth century progresses, continuing the dwindling process begun in dim antiquity. The really huge, mountain-sized giants are somewhat out of fashion, and most of the giants who turn up these days in the pages of fantasy literature are closer to ten feet tall than a hundred. That's still pretty big, of course—although, as the giant in the story that follows discovers, there's no man so big that he can't run up against a problem that's bigger still .. .

Manly Wade Wellman is perhaps best known in the fantasy field for his series of stories detailing the supernatural adventures of "John the Minstrel" or "Silver John," of which "Walk Like a Mountain" is one. The Silver John stories were collected in Who Fears The Devil? and in recent years there have been Silver John novels as well, the most recent of which is The Voice of the Mountain. Wellman has won two World Fantasy Awards, one the prestigious Life Achievement Award.

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