Today I’d like to write about giants in the Shine Cycle—perhaps somewhat of a follow-up to my earlier post about the series’ portrayal of dwarves.
Giants are humanoid creatures—and more than creatures, persons—of great size. They average about nine or ten feet of height, but their typical build is more similar to that of a dwarf—short and stocky for a given height—than to a human or a (yet slenderer) elf.
A dwarf (I didn’t think to mention in the post about that race) has a somewhat faster—even though more efficient—metabolism than the average human being, and channels this extra energy mostly into strength and speed. But a giant has a metabolism that is as efficient as a dwarf’s, if not slightly more so, and is significantly faster—yet giants are far weaker and no faster than one would reasonably expect given their size. Instead, this prodigious energy requirement goes almost entirely toward simply maintaining their great bulk. As so many legends involving giants tell us, they need vast quantities of food to live.
Individual giants’ intelligence and personalities vary, just as that of individual human persons. With the rate at which they burn energy by merely existing, they (unlike in all the legends and fictional portrayals I’m familiar with) tend toward intellectual, analytical, and even manipulative temperaments and personalities—while they can if necessary armor up and wade into a physical fight, without a great deal of preparatory training, at a cost proportionally more than their normal ravenous appetite, this is enough of an exertion that it usually can’t be repeated until after a month or so of recovery, so they generally prefer to leave any strenuous efforts to hirelings.
Because of their massive energy requirements, giants tend to live in isolation from each other. In the two continents with which the story is most concerned (other than in the Dragon Empire, where they are slave labor like every other race, if often in supervisory positions), individuals find (usually remote) communities with large (potential) food surpluses and find some way to make themselves useful and welcomed. In their own country, to the east, the giants live apart from each other, but as (effectively) feudal lords have encouraged “smaller folk” to settle on and work their lands, in exchange for tribute of food and labor.
With this fairly insular society, combined with the understandable cultural divide between giants and “smaller folk” (there are communications difficulties even beyond those you’d expect merely from differences in size, albeit ones that can be readily overcome), it takes quite a long time for most innovations—cultural, political, or technological—to catch on. But by the very end of the period I have outlined so far—about a century or so after the arrival of the Chosen—the giants’ society has begun to change, with some supplementing (but not yet replacing) their human workforce with mechanized farms, and a few beginning to experiment with weapons and weapons systems that won’t tax their limited endurance.
What do you think?