Here’s how myths of Giants get started.
The region of Patagonia (southern Argentina and Chile) was first mentioned in European accounts in 1520 by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. His chronicler was Antonio Pigafetta who first described the Patagonian people as giants.
The Giants Described
The main interest in the region sparked by Pigafetta’s account came from his reports of their meeting with the local inhabitants, whom they claimed to measure some nine to twelve feet in height —“…so tall that we reached only to his waist”—, and hence the later idea that Patagonia meant “big feet”. This supposed race of Patagonian giants or Patagones entered into the common European perception of this little-known and distant area, to be further fuelled by subsequent reports of other expeditions and famous-name travellers like Sir Francis Drake, which seemed to confirm these accounts. Early charts of the New World sometimes added the legend regio gigantum (“region of the giants”) to the Patagonian area. By 1611 the Patagonian god Setebos (Settaboth in Pigafetta) was familiar to the hearers of The Tempest.
12 Foot Giants in 1767!
The concept and general belief persisted for a further 250 years, and was to be sensationally re-ignited in 1767 when an “official” (but anonymous) account was published of Commodore John Byron‘s recent voyage of global circumnavigation in HMS Dolphin. Byron and crew had spent some time along the coast, and the publication (Voyage Round the World in His Majesty’s Ship the Dolphin) seemed to give proof positive of their existence; the publication became an overnight best-seller, thousands of extra copies were to be sold to a willing public, and other prior accounts of the region were hastily re-published (even those in which giant-like folk were not mentioned at all).
Finally – Reality
However, the Patagonian giant frenzy was to die down substantially only a few years later, when some more sober and analytical accounts were published. In 1773 John Hawkesworth published on behalf of the Admiralty a compendium of noted English southern-hemisphere explorers’ journals, including that of James Cook and John Byron. In this publication, drawn from their official logs, it became clear that the people Byron’s expedition had encountered were no taller than 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m), very high but by no means giants. Interest soon subsided, although awareness of and belief in the myth persisted in some quarters even up into the 20th century.
Golith was six feet, six inches – a giant of the times
Can there be any doubt that Goliath was not a giant. He was probably no taller than the giants of Patagonia who at six feet, six inches were giants of their times. The average height of a European was 5’3″.