Every November the new Lord Mayor of London holds his Show – a colourful procession of the City Guilds and dignitaries through the streets of the City. At the head of the procession are two enormous effigies of giants. These are Gog and Magog, the traditional guardians of the City of London and they have been carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show since the reign of Henry V. Their origins lie in the distant past and are quite unknown to us. Over the centuries, many people have produced various “explanations” of their origins. Perhaps the most entertaining was that of John Galt who published his History in 1819. In this series we will present his full text, Chapter by chapter. Here is Chapter 8.
CHAPTER VIII.HOW THE GIANT USED GOG AND MAGOG.THE war, which I have thus described as commencing at Easter, had raged all the summer in the bosoms of the antagonists, and the autumn was by this time long over. In fact, it was the 9th of November when the exchange of Londona for Gog and Magog took place, a day annually commemorated by the Lord Mayor resigning the magisterial functions to his successor ; a ceremony instituted to keep up to all posterity the memory of the deliverance of Londona.When Humbug had settled his scheme of torture, he seated himself at his supper-table, and ordered Gog and Magog to be brought before him. The prisoners, expecting to be put to death, had thought it unnecessary that morning to take any breakfast ; they were, therefore, exceedingly hungry. The giant knew this, and had directed his cook to prepare a sumptuous banquet, of the most savoury viands, that he might sharpen their appetite with the smell. Smarting with the pains of hunger, as Gog and Magog then were, they bore the tantalizing offers which Humbug made them, of dainty morcels on his fork, with as much apparent equanimity as their statues overlook the vanishing luxuries of the city-feast, which is annually held in the same place, to perpetuate a just abhorrence of the tyrant’s method of torture.
When the giant perceived that they were not to be moved by his insulting and refined cruelty, he grew exceedingly fierce; and, bending forward, he grinned with vexation in their face. This was too much for their patience ; and they both simultaneously hit him such a blow in the mouth, with their fists, that it loosened several of his enormous teeth. The instantaneous pain of the blow stunned him for a moment, and he rose upon them like a tempest.One of his attendants, having observed the manner in which they had struck the giant, would have sacrificed them on the instant, but Humbug called to him to forbear, for they were his own prey, and he would give into fractions the audacious mortal that dared to interfere with his revengeThe prisoners, who had retreated to the bottom of the hall from the presence of the wrathful giant, saw no possibility of escape ; and the servants, whom the uproar had gathered round, stood so between them and the piles of clubs and shields, that they had no means of defence in their power.The giant came towards them, dilated with passion, and thundering vengeance ; but, just as he approached so near as to put forth his hand to seize Gog by the throat, Magog leapt forward, and gave him such a stamp with his heel on the gouty toe, that the monster roared out in an agony of pain, and the courageous youths again escaped from his clutches.