King Arthur and the Giant of Mont Saint-Michel

Illustration by David A. Claerr

**This is a guest post by one of my favorite researchers of Bigfoot and giants, David Claerr. He is a real mind in the field of study and one to follow closely. I have listed his books below and where you can buy this awesome poster (David is also an artist).**


This modern English translation, by David A. Claerr, is based directly on the text of the Middle English saga, the Brut originally written by Layamon.
Layamon (ca. 1190 - 1215), a Welshman, is self-described in his poem as a priest, living at Areley Kings in Worcestershire, England.

Layamon's Brut also known as The Chronicle of Britain, is an epic poem, written in Middle English, which was commonly spoken in his region. The Brut is 16,095 lines in length, and is an embellished version of the legendary history of early Britain. 

Layamon has added to the Arthurian legends, and many of these stories were thought to have been passed down by word of mouth in the Welsh tongue. The poem is largely based on the Roman de Brut by (Robert?) Wace, (c. 1110 – 1174) a Norman poet, written in Anglo-Norman , which is in turn a version of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin Historia Regum Britanniae, although Layamons version is considerably longer than both, and contains additional episodes in the legendary life of King Arthur.

Geoffrey of Monmouth () (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric. Geoffrey asserts that he translated the Historia into Latin ( in about 1136) from "a very ancient book in the British tongue", that was loaned to him by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford.

Mont Saint-Michel is an island in northern France along the English Channel, at the border of the provinces of Normandy and Brittany. The island today is ringed with medieval fortifications and is the site of a monastery and picturesque abbey with a magnificent church crowning the summit, which dates from the 11th century AD. The island is in one of the areas of Europe that is subject to the highest ocean tides, which interestingly, is is mentioned in the story. In Layamon's version, he uses the English rendering, Mount of St. Michael.

Regarding the Giant: the author has researched ancient legends and historigraphic references that describe a nomadic tribe which originated in the Levant, or Middle East. The tribe had a predominance of red-haired people, often with an unusually tall stature, and there are accounts of individuals up to 10 feet tall. The tribe was driven from the Levant in the Roman era, and migrated across northern Africa along the Mediterranean coast. (Africa is likely the source of the crocodile-hide armor, rendered by Layamon as “serpent-hide”) Eventually, remnants of the tribe became seafarers and sailed past the Straits of Gibraltar, migrating northward along the coasts of Spain and France some time after 1000 AD.

Another intriguing element in the story is that the sword used by Arthur is not Excalibur, but a sword taken from a Frankish king that Arthur had defeated in battle.

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Tidings came to King Arthur about the giant that destroyed the land and the countryside of Britanny, so much so, that therein there dwelled neither man nor woman that had not fled through the fields like wild beasts, for dread of the giant.

The giant had borne off by force a maiden, Helen, that was niece of the Lord of the country and a great nobleman. The Giant had carried her with him up the mountain where he lived, and that mountain, surrounded by the sea, was called the Mount of Saint Michael, but at that time there was neither a chapel nor minister.

No man was either hardy or mighty enough to dare fight with the giant by himself. And when the people of the country tried to assail him together, they could not prevail on land or sea, for he hurled rocks down from the mount and sunk their ships.

The people of the country fled through the woods, forests and hills with their children in their arms, and so left their land and all their possessions behind.

When King Arthur heard how the giant destroyed their land, he called Kay the Squire and Bevidere and bade them make him ready and armed about midnight, when the three of them with two squires rode up to shore across from the mountain. 

There they saw a huge fire burning brightly on one side. But on the other side was another, smaller peak with a marvelously great fire burning also, so they did not know to which side they should go. Arthur called Bevidere and asked him to go scout ahead to see which peak the giant was on.

So Bevidere went into a boat and crossed over the channel of the sea, and when he came to the first peak, he hastily climbed up the rock face and heard someone weeping loudly.

When he heard that he was shaken, for he thought the giant would be up there. But he gathered his courage and drew his sword, and went forth to fight him, hoping that, for no fear of death would he be found a coward. With this thought he climbed up the mountain peak.

And when he reached the top, he saw the fire burning brightly and saw a tomb nearby that was newly made. Beside the tomb sat an old woman with disheveled clothes and tangled hair, weeping and sighing. 

And when she saw the knight. she said "Oh! Gentleman, who are you? What misfortune has brought you to this place? For with great sorrow you will end your life if the giant finds you here! Flee from here hastily, as fast as you can, for it will end badly if you wait until this devil returns; he has no pity for anyone! Flee as far from here as you can, if you want to save your life!"

When Bevidere saw the woman weeping and grieving so over Helen he said " Good Woman, cease your weeping and tell me who you are and why you mourn so greatly; and how is it that you are here at this tomb? Please, tell me the reason for your sorrow, and who lies here, in this sepulcher.

"I am" she said, "a sorrowful old woman that weeps and makes lamentation for a maiden that was niece to Hoell of Nauntes, that I myself nursed as a baby, and whose duty it was to provide for and keep; and 
now she lies under this tomb.”

Now there is a devil over there that took her away and brought her here, and would have lain by the child that was young and tender. But she could not bear him for he was loathsome and hideous; and he caused her soul to depart from the body, and thus he took away my daughter with falsehood and treason. And there I have buried her, and weep for her night and day."

" And why," asked Bevidere,"do you not leave, since you are now alone and have lost her and can never recover her?"

"Sir," she said, "I know well there is no way I can recover her; but since I see that you are a gentleman, and so courteous, I will keep nothing from your knowing and will tell you the truth. After my daughter was buried, for whose love I have nearly lost my wits and died of sorrow, the giant made me stay here still and force his foul, lecherous lust on me."

"And you will die and in no way escape for he will be coming here soon; he is there on the other peak where you see that fire. So, therefore, please go now on your way and leave me here to mourn for my daughter."

Bevidere had great pity for the woman and comforted her as much as he could. Then he returned to the King and told him what he had seen, and how the giant was on the highest peak with the great smoke and fire.

Then the King had his companions go with him up the mountain, and they went up to the high peak. Then the King commanded his companions to stay below the peak a ways, and said that he himself alone would would go to fight with this giant.

"Nevertheless," said the King," see that you wait and be ready, and if I call, come help me." And they said they would with good will, and stayed there waiting.

And the King went toward the giant, who was sitting before the fire, roasting meat on a spit. He cut off the side that was cooked the most and began to eat it. The King stealthily approached with his sword drawn, gripping his shield, hoping to catch him by surprise. But the giant, who was evil and malicious, saw the King coming and leapt up, since the King had his drawn sword in his hand.

And the giant grabbed up a huge club that he had next to him. It was a great gnarly limb of an oak and made a deadly weapon for a mighty man. He thrust the club into the fire and set it ablaze. Then resting it on his shoulder, said to the King that we was a great fool to come there, and then raised the club to smite the King on the head.

But King Arthur was quick and agile, and he leapt aside so that the giant's blow missed him, and the King then struck at him with his sword, trying to strike him on the head. But the giant, who was bold and hardy, blocked it partly with his club, or else he would have been dead.

Nevertheless, King Arthur had struck him with the sword, called Marmidoise, the good sword that he had taken from King Rion when he conquered him. The sword cut the giant right between his eyebrows, and the giant was blinded by the blood flowing into his eyes. And that was a thing that greatly hindered the giant, because he couldn't see where to strike, and he began to swing and thrash about wildly with his club.

And the King tried to fight against him but couldn't touch him, for the giant cast about himself with great strokes, that if he had hit the king with one he would have been smashed. And so the fought like this, neither one able to touch the other, and so they were both extremely annoyed.

Then the giant went groping about blindly until he seized the King by his arm. When he caught him, he was exultant for soon he would have crushed him to death. And so he would have, but the agile King wrested free of his grip with great pain, and then set upon him with his sword, striking him on his head and on the left shoulder, damaging his arm.

The giant had armor made of crocodile hide that was so tough that Arthur's sword could not penetrate it to cut the giant's flesh. The giant could still not see Arthur since his eyes were still blinded by blood. He glimpsed the shadow of the King and ran that way, but the King, wary of the giant's great strength, dared not let the giant seize him.

The giant, when seeking the king, stumbled on his club and picked it up again to go after the King. but the King dodged around so that the giant was unable to reach him. The giant threw down his club and tried to catch the King in his arms. And so he went, groping and rubbing his eyes until he saw the light and shadow of the king, then he sprang at him and caught him by the legs with both his arms.

Then the giant began to grasp for his arm to take the sword out of his hand, but he King perceived what he was doing, and threw down the sword so that it would clang loudly on the ground. The giant held the King with one hand and when he stooped to pick up the sword with the other, King Arthur smote the giant on the chin with his knee, so hard that it knocked the giant unconscious.

The King then leapt to his sword and picked it up, went to the giant and lifting up his crocodile-hide armor, thrust the sword right through the body of the giant, killing him.

And Kay the Squire, and Bevidere rejoiced over the King's victory and looked at the giant, that was so huge it was a marvel to behold. They thanked our Lord for the honor and the victory that he had handed over to the King, for never had they seen so great a fiend.

The King asked Bevidere cut off the giant's head so that it might be carried back to the armies for everyone to marvel at the sight. He did as the King commanded, and they came down from the mountain, and mounted their horses. But the great tide had come in, and it was with great difficulty that they crossed the channel to return to the armies.

But before they had returned to the armies, the Barons were confused by the absence of the King, for they did not know where he had gone. They were about to search for his in separate parties, but Merlin advised them not to be worried, for the king would return shortly.

While the Barons and Princes were in this state of dismay over King Arthur, he and Kay the Squire and Sir Bevidere came down to his tent, and they had the head of the giant that Bevidere had tied to his saddle by the hair.

And all the Barons came to him and asked where he had been, for he had caused them a great deal of worry. And Arthur told them had had come from the mountain, where he had fought with the giant that had so destroyed the land and the country all around, and how he had slain him through the grace of our Lord. And he showed them the head that Bevidere had tied to his saddle. When the Barons saw it, they blessed him for the wonder of it, and said that in all their life they had never seen so large a head. And everyone in the armies praised God for the King's victory, and they embraced the King with great joy and gladness. 

• • • •       

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Valley of the Neanderthal People?