Wednesday 25 March 2009

Gog and Magog

One of the earliest recorded mentions of the Hoe area comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote about Plymouth Hoe in 1136 when he told the story of the giant, Gogmagog (which he originally calls Goemagot). The story of Gogmagog's Leap told how Brutus, the great-grandson of the Trojan hero, Aeneas, came to Albion with his followers and decided to settle. He called the land ‘Britain’ which was meant to be a derivation of ‘Brutus’. Brutus drove out the giants who inhabited the land sending them into the mountains in the west. One day, while holding a festival at the port where they first landed, Brutus and his men were attacked by a group of giants who they killed all except one who was called Gogmagog. He was said to be 12 cubits high. A cubit would have been about one and a half feet which would have made Gogmagog about 18 feet tall. It was said that Gogmagog could wield an uprooted oak tree as a weapon. Brutus kept Gogmagog alive so that he could wrestle with Corineus, the then Duke of Cornwall, who loved to wrestle with giants. When the opponents met for the first time, Gogmagog gripped Corineus so tightly around his middle that he broke three of his ribs. This enraged Corineus who then threw Gogmagog off nearby cliffs and he fell to his death on the jagged rocks below. This was all said to have happened on Plymouth Hoe and the chalk giants that once appeared on the Hoe represented this wrestling match. There is a record of the chalk cut giant being on Plymouth Hoe in 1486 and a record in the City Archive shows a receipt for a bill for cleaning and weeding the giant. The bill was paid by the Earl of Edgcumbe. It is uncertain when the figure first appeared. Town records from 1486 onwards call the figure Gogmagog but in Carew's Survey of Cornwall in 1602, he refers to there being two figures on the slopes of the Hoe, both wielding clubs. One was bigger than the other and he calls them Gog and Magog, splitting the name into two halves. Several years later though, the smaller figure was being referred to as Corineus so the figures obviously commemorated the earlier wrestling match mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth . The figures were unfortunately destroyed when the Citadel was built in the reign of King Charles II.

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