The word ‘giant’, conceived in 1297, comes from the Gigantes in Greek Mythology. Since then, the term has largely been associated with towering buffoons who eat people, or large creatures of power who dwell within the pages of kids’ bedtime stories.
In Irish legends, uncommonly tall individuals are depicted as living amongst townsfolk in times gone by. While such tales are often dismissed as a load of old rainbow chasing tommyrot, evidence now suggests there might be some credence to the giant’s life in the Emerald Isle.
A new study conducted by the London School of Medicine claims Northern Ireland is a breeding ground for people suffering from pituitary adenomas – a tumour that can cause excessive amounts of growth hormones, which leads to massive growth spurts.
So there are giants in Ireland? Delving into Ireland’s folklore, Dr Marta Korbonits, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the school, used DNA from the teeth of Charles Byrne, a 7-foot-7 Irish giant from the 18th Century, who was also renown for genetic advancement in pituitary adenoma.
Dr Korbonits connected his DNA with that of four modern day Irish families suffering from the disorder, including Brendan Holland, a 6-foot-9 giant who claims if his tumour had not been treated at 19, he would now be 8-foot tall and beyond.
Korbonits found the gene mutation of both Byrne and Holland were linked, while being connected to a common ancestor that lived roughly 1,425 – 1,650 years ago. So it seems the Irish tales of old might not be such tales after all, as a ‘giant’ is a trait passed down genetically, which means it can be isolated and controlled.
While Irish legends appear to have gained credibility, and pituitary adenoma research promises to reduce the world’s giant population, Tim O’Brien, spokesman for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, is deeply concerned. He says not only will the NBA be deprived of their beanstalk hoop masters, but the number of gangly ‘freaks’ on his show will be drastically reduced.
However, Dr Donald Wump, head of the Belfast Irenic Guild (BIG), says the news is delightful, as Napoleon complex, or short-man syndrome, will be greatly diminished. He says fewer giants in society will lower the country’s mean height and lessen the anxiety of the little man, which will effectively reduce pint-sized hot-head machine gun activity in the country’s north.