Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia



A uniquely Cornish character, the most famous of all English giants. He was popularly disposed of by Jack the Giant-Killer, who, in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur and earlier in Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae, fought the prototype of the later popular giant, whose home was on Saint Michael’s Mount, off Penzance, Cornwall.

Jack the Giant-Killer, who is English rather than Cornish, illustrates the popularisation of the tale as it spread from its origins in Cornwall to the rest of the country. He remains, uniquely, the only European hero to triumph over a giant by his own natural dexterity and wit rather than relying on force of arms. Later legends replace Jack the Giant-Killer as the killer of Cormoran with King Arthur.

Cormoran and King Arthur

In the ancient days of Camelot, King Arthur, the legendary ruler of Britain, heard tales of a fearsome gint named Cormoran, who wreaked havoc upon the people of Cornwall. The giant demanded tribute and terrorized the locals, causing fear and despair. King Arthur knew he had to put an end to the giant’s reign of terror. With his loyal knights by his side, Arthur set forth to the land of Cornwall, determined to confront the malevolent giant.

Arriving near Castle-as-Dinas, Arthur faced the massive and menacing Cormoran. The giant roared with fury as he saw the legendary king daring to challenge him. With the courage and strength befitting a true hero, Arthur engaged in a mighty battle with Cormoran.

The struggle was fierce, with each blow shaking the earth and the very air echoing with the clash of swords and the giants’ roars. Yet, Arthur’s prowess in combat and his noble hear drove him onward. Using his skill and cunning, Arthur maneuvered the giant, striking precise blows against the Cormoran’s legs, weakening him bit by bit. And so, in a final valiant strike, King Arthur dealt a powerful blow that brought the giant to his knees.

Defeated and humbled, the once-terrifying Cormoran pleaded for mercy. In an act of grace, Arthur spared the giant’s life on the condition that he would never again harm the people of Cornwall or any innocent soul. With Cormoran vanquished, the people of Cornwall rejoiced, and they named the pool where the giant’s tears fell as Cormoran’s Pool in rememberance of the great battle. King Arthur, in his wisdom and compassion, extended his protection over the land, ensuring peace and prosperity for the people he had rescued.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Cormoran has become immortalised in the fairytale of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” for he is none other than the giant who lives in the wonderful land Jack stumbles across when he climbes the beanstalk that has magically appeared outside his house. Cormoran is, in this instance, possibly based on an earlier tradition, which would replace ‘Englishman’ with ‘Cornish-man’, said to have rejoiced in the familiar cry:

Fee, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!

Identification has also been made between this giant and Gogmagog (Gog and Magog) through the variant Gourmaillon, which has been applied to both. If this is the case, then Jack the Giant-Killer would seem to be a commemoration of Corineus, the giant Trojan ally of Brutus, who was said to have flung Gogmagog into the sea at Plymouth, which is not too far distant from Saint Michael’s Mount.

See also
Mont Saint Michel (Normandy) | The Legend of King Arthur
Fairies | The Legend of King Arthur