The Birth of the Belief in Patagonian Giants
Magellan’s men made contact with the rest of the big man’s tribe and befriended them. The expedition stopped for a few weeks to rest and replenish their supplies. They took on fresh water, and what fresh meat they could by joining the tribe in hunts. When they were finally ready to leave, Magellan wanted to take some Patagonians with him to display back in Spain. So he lured some aboard his ship with the offer of trinkets, got them drunk until they passed out, and had them chained. When the Patagonians came to, Magellan’s ships were already underway, with Patagonia receding in the distance.
Sadly, the kidnapped Patagonians did not survive the voyage. Nor, for that matter, did Magellan. However, expedition members who completed the voyage returned to Spain with fantastic tales of a land inhabited by giants. It was a tall tale that grew taller over the years. Later sailors claimed to have seen Patagonians who stood ten-feet-tall. Others came in contact with ones whose height was measured at twelve feet. Yet others encountered Patagonians who truly towered above normal people, measuring fifteen feet in height. Reports of the South American giants gripped European imaginations for over 250 years.