Giant John: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta Part 3


The Tehuelches likely were taller than the Europeans, though
their height was no doubt exaggerated.

Written by Antonia Pigafetta, chronicler who sailed with Magellan's armada.

Six days after the above [Part 2], a giant painted and clothed in the same manner was seen by some [of our men] who were cutting wood. He had a bow and arrows in his hand. When our men approached him, he first touched his head, face, and body, and then did the same to our men, afterward lifting his hands toward the sky. 

When the captain-general was informed of it, he ordered him to be brought in the small boat. He was taken to that island in the port where our men had built a house for the smiths and for the storage of some things from the ships. 

That man was even taller and better built than the others and as tractable and amiable. Jumping up and down, he danced, and when he danced, at every leap, his feet sank a palmo into the earth. 

He remained with us for a considerable number of days, so long that we baptized him, calling him Johanni. He uttered [the words] “Jesu,” “Pater Noster,” “Ave Maria” and “Jovani.

Then the captain-general gave him a shirt, a woolen jerkin [camisota de panno], cloth breeches, a cap, a mirror, a comb, bells, and other things, and sent him away like his companions. He left us very joyous and happy.

The following day he brought one of those large animals to the captain-general, in return for which many things were given to him, so that he might bring some more to us; but we did not see him again. 

We thought that his companions had killed him because he had conversed with us.

Editor's Note: Ferdinand Magellan and his Armada de Molucca were the first Europeans to encounter the "Patagonian giants," whom chronicler Antonio Pigafetta described as so tall that "we reached only to his waist." Europeans on later voyages, including Sir Francis Drake's in 1579, also reported this race of giants living along the Patagonian coast (modern-day Argentina). The giants were likely Tehuelches, an indigenous people in the region.

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Series: Magellan Chronicler Antonio Pigafetta Describes the Patagonian Giants

Part 1. First Contact Patagonia: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 1

Part 2. Giants and Guanacos: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 2

Part 3. Giant John: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 3

Part 4. How to Capture Patagonian Giants: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 4

Part 5. Culture of the Giants: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 5

Part 6. Words of the Patagonians: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 6

Part 7. Journey's End: Magellan and the Patagonians, Pigafetta 7

See Also:

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a
linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he became a slave of Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands.  Read more: