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Gogmagog (folklore)

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Title: Gogmagog (folklore)  
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Subject: Albion, Plymouth Hoe, Cormoran, Greysteil, Matter of Britain
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Gogmagog (folklore)

Gogmagog – also Goemagot, Goemagog or Gogmagoc – was a legendary giant in British folklore. According to the 12th Century Historia Regum Britanniae ("The History of The Kings of Britain") by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gogmagog was a giant inhabitant of Albion, and was thrown off a cliff during a wrestling match with Corineus who was a companion of Brutus of Troy.

Geoffrey of Monmouth's account

The Historia Regum Britanniae relates that Albion was only inhabited "by a few giants" when Brutus and his fellow Trojans arrived. Corineus was given Cornwall to govern, where there were more giants than in any other province. Among these giants "was one detestable monster, named Goëmagot (Gogmagog), in stature twelve cubits, and of such prodigious strength that at one shake he pulled up an oak as if it had been a hazel wand".

When Brutus is holding a feast with his companions in Totnes, (or more likely Dartmouth which is much nearer the sea) some twenty giants led by Goëmagot descend on the company "among whom he made a dreadful slaughter". At last the giants were routed and slain except for Goëmagot who is captured so that Corineus can wrestle with him. The giant breaks three of Corineus's ribs, which so enrages him that he "ran with him, as fast as the weight would allow him, to the next shore" and "getting upon the top of a high rock, hurled down the savage monster into the sea; where, falling on the sides of craggy rocks, he was torn to pieces". The place where he fell "is called Lam Goëmagot, that is, Goëmagot's Leap, to this day".[1]

Later versions

The story is repeated by Wace, Layamon and Milton amongst others. Because Geoffrey of Monmouth's work is regarded as fact until the late 17th Century, the story appears in most early histories of Britain. Raphael Holinshed places the event near Dover, but William Camden in his 1586 work Brittannia locates it on Plymouth Hoe, perhaps following Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall.[2] Carew describes "the portraiture of two men, one bigger, the other lesser.. (whom they term "Gogmagog") which was cut upon the ground at the Hawe (i.e. The Hoe) in Plymouth...".[3] These figures were first recorded in 1495 and were destroyed by the construction of the Royal Citadel in 1665.[4]

In the City of London, the effigies of two giants were recorded in 1558 at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I and were described as "Gogmagot the Albion" and "Corineus the Britain". These, or similar figures, made of "wickerwork and pasteboard" made regular appearances in the Lord Mayor's Show thereafter, although they became known as Gog and Magog over the years. New figures were carved from pine in 1709 by Captain Richard Saunders and displayed in the Guildhall until 1940 when they were destroyed in an air-raid; they were replaced by David Evans in 1953.[5]

Origin of the name

The name "Gogmagog" is often connected to the biblical characters Gog and Magog;[6] however Manley Pope, author of an 1862 English translation of the Welsh chronicle Brut y Brenhinedd (itself a translation of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae") argued that it was a corruption of Gawr Madoc (Madoc the Great).[7]


  1. ^ "History of the Kings of Britain: Book 1: #16". 
  2. ^ The Sources of The British Chronicle History in Spenser's Faerie Queene, Carrie Anne Harper, Haskell House, 1964, pages 48-49.
  3. ^ The Sources of The British Chronicle History in Spenser's Faerie Queene, Carrie Anne Harper, Haskell House, 1964, page 50.
  4. ^ "The Giants: Corineus and Gogmagog". Popular Romances of the West of England. 
  5. ^ Public sculpture of the city of London, Philip Ward-Jackson, Liverpool University Press 2003, ISBN 0-85323-977-0
  6. ^ English Pageantry: An Historical Outline, Volume 1; Harvard University Press, 1918, page 59
  7. ^ "The Chronicle of the Early Britons". p. 16. 
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