The Giants of Treryn Castle

The Giant in his dozing afternoons would rock Men Amber for a bit, this he could easily do with the tip of his finger, when standing on the grass below it as the Treen Giant stood stoutly at 40 feet high, without his boots. Sometimes, with his staff, he kept the sacred stone in motion when seated in his chair which was just opposite the logging stone The story was recorded by Bottrell in 1870s in his book “Traditions and Heathside stories of West Cornwall” and re-written by us

Giants Chair

Picture of Giant’s Chair: by kind permission of Penlee Gallery

The first dwellers on the Treen cliffs were the Giants, who in return for daily necessities such as cattle, protected the people of the area. An aged giant and his childless wife, to be precise. But, all the people who depended on his protection, particularly those of Treen and other close by places, were grieved and disappointed when they found their giant and giantess were middle-aged with no children who would help them in their old age or continue the giant’s race. The giantess, was as most unemployed women are: peevish and troublesome. As for the giant, who had no tasks to occupy himself with, grew fat and lazy. Even if he was quiet and goodtempered, his wife tormented him. She would called him a fat, useless old loon; and so on. When he had nothing else to do, she told him that he should rock the Stone, for a few hours every day and go fishing, to keep in shape instead of dozing away all day and night in his chair. The dissatisfied woman’s advice was sometimes taken. He would swim away, and, in an hour or two, bring her home a string of fish. Then he would rock Men Amber for a bit, this he could easily do with the tip of his finger, when standing on the grass below it. After all the rock is only 30 feet or so from the grass, and Treen giant stood stoutly at 40 feet high, without his boots. Sometimes, with his staff, he kept the sacred stone in motion when seated in his chair which was just opposite. But often when doing this method he fell asleep, long before the wife’s hourglass indicated he had finished his exercise. And then she, the hag, would pelt her quiet husband with rocks, some which can still be seen dropped not far from the poor giant’s chair. He would wake up, with a sore head, to hear her shout, “Stop thy snoring, thou confounded old fool, and work away, west ah? or I’ll pommel thy noddle to browse.” “What the deuce shall I do to stop her tongue and cure her temper? Can ’e tell me, my good people?” He would often say to Treen folks and others, who visited him in the summer’s evening; ”she’s the most troublesome woman I ever heard of!” All kinds of suggestions were made. In those days everybody thought he could manage a discontented wife; but it was difficult. “Why should she fret and fume for lack of children,” he used to say to his Treen neighbours, “and what erred have you either, in these peaceful times, to care whether we have descendants or no?” Many reasons were given by giantess and the people why they desired that their giant’s race to be continued. Yet much time passed, and their granite cradle was still empty, when a thought struck the wise man of Treen. He advised that a baby should be stolen from the giant of Maen, a very troublesome and aggressive neighbour who had a large family. Our giant and his wife were delighted with the sage man’s advice. To steal a baby from the big man who was proud of his stronghold between Pen-von-las (Land’s End) and Pedn-men-du (Black Stone Headland) would be capital revenge on him. “Then how nice it will be for me,” said the giant’s wife, “to sit on the Logan stone with the child in my arms, on summer afternoons, when the waves sing a lullaby, and my old man can rock us both till the dear baby falls asleep. Or he may dandle it in his arms atop of Castle Peak, and you, my good people, can bring us down plenty of milk to nurse him on, that he may grow quickly.” A wise woman, (or witch of Treen) who could take any shape, was selected as the best person to execute their project without causing any stir with Maen giant, who was very fierce, and proud of his descent from old blustering Bellerus, who was said to have lived thereabouts in days of old. One afternoon away went the witch, when she reached Cairn-men-ellas unnoticed, where she hid herself between rocks to watch. A little before sunset she saw a giant’s child, of four years or so, with some of the common people’s children, who wanted to show him how to play bob. Now the infant giant, though as big as a man, was a baby in every feature; he still wore a bib, though he had out-grown his clothes, and his frock and pinafore scarcely reached to his knees. The common boys and girls, from ten to a dozen years of age, played with the giant’s child. The woman, seeing them place buttons (they didn’t have many) on a great stone slab, took from her basket a string of large bright ones, shook them before the giant baby, and said, “Now kiss me, dear, and I will give ’e all these.” He kissed her again and again, delighted to have the buttons. After a while she said, “The tides are low and I am on my way to get limpets and winkles from Cowloe; will ’e go, dears?” The people’s children said that it was late—they had to go home to Trove before sundown, or their mothers would strap them soundly and send them to bed without supper. But the babe-giant said, “I’ll go, for I want some winkles to play five-stones, and limpets too, that my da may throw the limpet-shells at the cats. He do dearly like that fun, and my ma do never beat me.” “Come along then, my turtle,” said the witch, as she took his hand and led him off. On the way she took out toys and showed him how to play with them. This pleased him, soon he forgot about going home and she led him away. Halfway to divert him, she changed herself into the shape of a horse, and he trotted on her a mile or more, when she resumed her woman’s form, and sent him to Castle Treen, where he was received with open arms by the mistress. It would take too much time to tell you how he was nurtured by the childless couple and rested in a small chair that may still be seen near the large one where the giant usually sat—the one just opposite the Logan Rock; until he grew too big. At sunrise in summer the old giant delighted to carry him up to Castle Peak, where he placed the infant on the topmost stone so he may see the magnificent scene in the wild, sea-lashed headlands in the distance, and noble earns towering near, the Giant would exclaim:

“My dear boy, who wouldn’t be proud of such a home as this? Believe me, dear son, in all this western land—from the Lizard Point, that you see yonder, to Pedn-pen-with, which lies under the setting sun—there is not another giant who owns a place equal to Castle Treen; and all shall be thine, my darling, when I am dead and gone.”

When a few years older the giant taught his big boy to fish from the rocks with rod and line, showed him how to make fishhooks out of bones and sea shells. For in giants’ times they didn’t have one bit of iron, not even a nail. The giantess with her distaff and spindle, spun them yarn that served for lines.
Meanwhile the giantess took care that the boy had an unlimited quantity of food, that he might eat and drink whenever he choose. Over a few years he was nearly equal in bulk to his new Dadda, as he called the old giant. We like to linger over these pleasant times, for the old Titan when he took much delight in his charge. But alas! the sequel must be told, we don’t like to repeat all the stories for the most part are highly unfavourable to the moral character of Treen Giantess. Yet, all traditions agree in representing her as a lonely female in her later years. All her care and attention were bestowed on the boy and she neglected her old husband, so that he had to dive for fish, and skin oxen, (or eat them skin, horns, and all). The poor old giant was often driven to such extremities that, to appease hunger, which makes brutes of the best of men, he was made to eat seaweed. To add insult to injury she often taunted her aged spouse with his weakness, which was the consequence of her neglect, and hurt the giant by making unfavourable comparisons between him and the pampered youth who could now rock the Stone from sitting on the grass. Worst of all, her maternal love then changed into something more, she and her adopted child became lovers. The poor old giant was slow at becoming jealous, until he found himself utterly forsaken by his spouse and adopted son, who always stole away to sunny glades. That would have passed without notice (he rather liked to be left alone, to dose in his chair in the afternoons). But, some Treen women, spied what was going on, and told the giant out of spite. He became surly, and began to interrupt their peace when they went to have some time alone with each other. They had nearly never had much time together, except when the old fellow left his castle to get provision. One winter’s day, when he was about to start for this purpose, he told his wife and the youngster that one of them should meet him on his way back to assist in taking home whatever he might procure. They promised to do so, but time passed so pleasantly with the couple that they forgot about the giant until they heard his footsteps and angry voice, as he came stamping along Pedn-y-vounder cliff vowing vengeance on his ungrateful wife and foster-son. They became somewhat frightened, and the giantess, knowing that “the first blow was half the battle,” prepared for the giant by placing herself a dozen feet or so above the narrow path which he would have to pass.

The giant came stamping along, an ox strung around his shoulders and on each arm he carried a sheep. His fury grew when no one came to meet him so he strode along without noticing his wife, with her bared arm and clenched fist, awaiting him. The giantess pushed him down the cliff, to his doom.

When the giantess saw him fall, she had a sudden feeling of revulsion towards herself for killing the giant who she once loved, which made her regret her rashness. Unwilling to witness her husband’s dying agony, she stepped back and stood still. Though the giant’s thick skull was badly smashed on the boulders; he didn’t die until he called on the Powers whom he served to avenge him.

lady logan rock Not a moment later his vile partner was turned into stone, where she stood and may still be seen. The old giant, in his dying moments, thought of the young one sorrowfully—he couldn’t in his heart feel very bitter for the young one was regarded as the innocent, and his wife as the seducer.
Nothing more is known of the young giant, and little of any remaining Titan race that in mythic ages dwelt in Castle Treen. As time went by the late Giant’s Lady, as she was formerly called, was renamed the Logan Rock’s Lady by those who are ignorant of our old traditions. When tempests rage she rocks to and fro; but her movements are languid with age or sorrow Pitiless storms have beaten on her head for so long that one can’t make out her features, and her body is so mutilated that one cannot see her once gigantic form in the time-worn granite mass..