Gog and Magog, London
As with so much British folklore, the story of Gog and Magog exists in several versions. The best known of these is another example of the desire to validate our history by linking it with the ancient Greeks and Romans – compare if you will the story of Brutus of Troy with which indeed Gog and Magog are associated.
The Gog and Magog legend has Emperor Diocletian siring 33 daughters, each as wicked as the others. When these charmers all did away with the husbands their hopeful father had found for them they were banished from Italy. Thrown into a boat that was set adrift they miraculously found their way from the Mediterranean to the shores of this island, which took its old name of Alba from the oldest of the sisters.
Having landed in Britain the 33 sisters found more suitable partners – demons – and the result of their unions was a race of giants, of which Gog and Magog were two of the last descendents. When Brutus and his Trojans arrived (a confused timeline even for a folk tale) they fought with Gog and Magog, in one variant Brutus chaining them to his palace on the site of the modern Guildhall. Mayors of London since at least Henry V ’s time have used carved or basket-weave depictions of Gog and Magog in their annual procession, taking them as guardians of the city rather than threatening monsters, and today still a pair of giant figures is kept at the Guildhall for such occasions.
A rather more romantic tale ‘explains’ the Gog Magog Hills in Cambridgeshire : spurned by the river-sprite Granta the big boys turned to stone, their bulk creating the downs there. You pays your money and takes your choice.
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