Tuesday, 16 August 2016

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


A bit of photoshop at work here, I believe

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 don't recall how the topic came up (talking 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 ENCYCLO-
PAEDIA BRITANNICA 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 a
brick-tomb 30 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high;  on which was a
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 breast-
bone 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 on my head.

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

"There's no such thing as giants!  Only the most unedu-
cated 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
that there weren't tall men.  This was obviously just tall man -
a very tall man," she said lamely.  The class sniggered at her
desperate and unconvincing efforts to extricate herself from
an embarrassing situation 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 under-
estimating 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 know-
ledge 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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