The early books of the Bible are littered with strange names and peoples. I mentioned giants last time and the Sons of God who came down and had sex with human females. There are also the mysterious Nephilim or Refraim (I think I am getting the words right). And in Numbers and Deuteronomy, there are the giantish Anaks or Anakim. Of course, later on there is Goliath. The Anakim and Og of Bashan, mentioned in my previous giant post, are cited by Moses’ pusillanimous scouts to emphasize the might of the Canaanite hosts the Israelites will face if they go down across the Jordan as God wants them to do. Their fear (or prudence) is infectious. God gets angry and wants to kill his chosen people (once again). But Moses (once again) talks Him down, and God merely sends them off into the Wilderness til everyone in the cowardly generation dies off.
In any case, I find these giants fascinating, as I do the prophets (like Balaam) and the dreamers (like Joseph & Jacob) and the 70 tribal elders who sit down around the tabernacle, go off into an ecstatic trance, and can’t stop prophecying (although their prophecies aren’t true). I like the Children of Israel dancing naked before the Canaanite Golden Calf and whoring with the Moabite (or was it the Midianite) women (really a quasi-euphemism for lapsing into ancient religious ways)–all these are traces of cultural elements beginning to disappear before the book and monotheism, the first signs of modernity.
I also like that 1971 George C. Scott movie They Might be Giants about a wealthy man who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes and manages to convince the psychologist his relatives hire that it’s better to live thinking there might be giants than not. Which is, of course, a re-working of Quixote. The words “they might be giants” are from the windmill chapter of the novel. Quixote convinces his friends that life is more interesting when he’s insane than when he’s not. The message of the Bible is somewhat different–there is so much effort put into stamping out the last vestiges of the ancient religions; those old beliefs are a kind of cultural insanity (uncleanness), though the problem for God and Moses is that they are also deeply attractive. As you all know (or maybe not), I wrote a book about Quixote which talks, among other things, about obsession, plot, and books.
I think I used to like Jack and the Beanstalk more than any other fairy tale. I seem to recall lying in bed a night, thinking of how I would approach a giant.
I don’t know where this is leading. Probably the fact that I drove 720 miles to Halifax on Monday and then most of the way back on Tuesday has something to do with this.