in Framley Parsonage

Chapter 23 – The Triumph of the Giants

The Triumph of the Giants

Throughout most of this chapter, Trollope draws a complex comparison between the political change going on in Britain and the myth in which the giants, monstrous children of Gaia (the Earth), make an attack on the gods and their home, Mount Olympus.  Trollope makes no distinction between the giants and the Titans, who were also born from Gaia and also fought against the gods.  Confusion between these two stories is not particular to Trollope.  It is interesting to note that in none of the variations of the theme in antiquity do the giants actually win, but in Trollope’s political analogy the giants come out as the winners, at least for a time.  Typhoeus was, depending on the tradition, either the child of Hera alone or the child of Gaia and another monster.  He was more monstrous in form than many of the other giant beings who attacked the gods, with a hundred snake heads, fiery breath, wings, and a lower-half made of serpent’s coils.  He attacked Zeus, but lost.  Mimas was one of the giants who attacked the Olympian gods; he was killed with molten metal thrown by Hephaestus, the smith of the gods.  Porphyrion and his brother were the strongest of the giants; Zeus inspired Porphyrion with desire for Hera, and then destroyed him with lightening for attempting to rape her.  Rhoecus was a centaur who tried to rape Atalanta, who was endeavoring to remain a virgin; she shot and killed him.  Enceladus was a giant; the island of Sicily was thrown on top of him by Athena, and he was trapped under it eternally, causing earthquakes and volcanic activity with his tossing and turning.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Diana of the Petty Bag and Orion

Harold Smith, Lord of the Petty Bag, is being made to resign his office, along with the rest of the ministry; his job will be taken over by someone else.  Orion was a giant and a hunter; Diana was an Italian goddess of the hunt who was later identified with Artemis, likewise a divine huntress.  In some versions of Orion’s death, Diana killed him for attempting to best her in a contest.  Just as with the other giant-versus-god allusions in this chapter, Trollope’s outcome is the reverse of the Classical one: Diana is replaced by another hunter, like the gods are displaced by the giants, whereas the gods triumphed in the actual myths.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


hundred-handed Gyas supposed to be of the utmost importance to the counsel of the Titans

Gyes or Gyes was one of three giant hundred-handed children of Gaia and Uranus.  [JM 2005]

The children of Gaia and Uranus are the Titans, as opposed to the Olympians (who are the children grandchildren of Gaia and Uranus).  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


bees round a sounding cymbal

Vergil discusses the behaviours and keeping of bees; the cymbals were used to attract bees.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Georgics 4.62-64.


every son of Tellus

Tellus was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Gaia, goddess of the earth.  The giants and Titans were children of Gaia.  [JM 2005]


piling Pelion on Ossa

Pelion and Ossa were two of the mountains the giants piled up in order to reach the heavens.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Briareus and Orion

Briareus was one of the three hundred-handed children of Gaia and Uranus.  For Orion, see note earlier in the commentary for this chapter.  [JM 2005]


Herculean toils

Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles.  Heracles was fathered by Zeus on a mortal woman and was persecuted throughout his life by the king of the gods’ wife, Hera.  Her most notable act against the hero was inflicting him with insanity, causing him to kill his own children; in repentance for this he served king Eurystheus for 12 years, performing 12 tasks that are sometimes referred to as the Herculean labors.  Here, the “gods” have suggested that the number of bishops in the Church should be increased, in order to share between them their “Herculean” labors.  [JM 2005]