Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH!" PART NINE OF SCHOOLTIME SCANDALS...


A bit of 'photoshop' going on here I believe

I don't remember her name, but I do remember what she looked like.  She taught English (I think) in a room of one of the annexed huts at the back of my secondary school's main building.  I no longer recall how the topic came up (talk-ing about DAVID and GOLIATH perhaps), but I suddenly tuned in to what she was saying when I heard her say that giants had never existed. 

I knew that wasn't necessarily true.  Didn't my ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITAN-NICA Anthology say otherwise?  You can bet your last ROLO it did!  Here's part of what it said:

Remains of Giants

January 11.  1613, some masons digging near the ruins of a castle in Dauphine, France, in a field which (by tradition) had long been called the giant's field, at the depth of 18 feet discovered brick-tomb 30 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high;  on which was grey stone, with the words Theutobochus cut thereon.  When the tomb was opened, they found a human skeleton entire, 25 feet and a half long, 10 feet wide across the shoulders, and five feet deep from the breastbone to the back.  His teeth were about the size each of an ox's foot, and his shin bone measured four feet.

It goes on to list other examples, but the one above will suffice for the purpose of this post.  I couldn't remember the exact details when I put my hand up to point out her 'error', but I knew I had the book back home which revealed the rashness of her claim.  I told her (in the politest of terms, naturally) that (if the EB accounts were true) she was wrong, but she pooh-poohed my earnest assertion with the assured, contemptuous manner of the intellectually superior towards the gullible and superstitious, and heaped scorn and derision upon my head.

The very book I took to school in 1971 or '72

"There's no such thing as giants!  Only the most uneducated of people would ever believe they once existed," she mocked, dismissing me with a wave.  Next day, I brought in the very book and showed it to her in front of the class.  As she read, she paled, then blushed, looking distinctly uncomfortable.  She might be able to look down her nose at me, but the Encyclopaedia Britannica was a different matter.

She spoke, but her voice was hoarse.  She cleared her throat, then stuttered and stammered her reply.  "Er, there's no such thing as giants, but there were tall men.  I never said there weren't tall men.  This was obviously just a tall man - a very tall man," she said lamely.  The class sniggered at her desperate and unconvincing efforts to extricate herself from an embarrassing siyuation of her own making.

"Well, 25 and a half feet seems pretty gigantic to me - but regardless of their exact height, that's what they called 'very tall men' back then - 'giants'," I said.  "And what about the other examples?" I continued, triumphant in my vindication.  "Tall men, just very tall men," she blustered, trying to cling on to her credibility.  Too late!  It had vanished like a thief in the night, and yet another teacher had learned the folly of underestimating me.  Neds they could deal with, but  I represented an altogether different kind of challenge - one that they routinely found themselves ill-equipped to tackle.  (Yeah, you can feel the ego there, can't you?)

She always tried to avoid my gaze after that.  We both knew who had come off second-best in our little encounter and doubtless she didn't want to be reminded of it should our eyes meet across the classroom.  Teachers, eh?

Famous 'giant' Robert Wadlow

The full extract.  Click to enlarge

******

(What she should have said, of course, was that she was talking about fairy-tale giants who lived in castles in the sky, or that the excerpts in the book reflected the knowledge and opinions of earlier times, which had since been supplanted by subsequent discoveries and enlightenment.  However, she wasn't quick-thinking enough for that.)

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