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Giants are a fairly widespread feature of European history, often involved in one way or another with the founding or history of a city or township. "Mine's bigger than yours" as an expression of civic pride, indeed.

Here's one typical story, though it's only fair to explain that none of the participants was necessarily a giant at the time the events related took place: Lyderic and Phinaert have become giants since, to be seen during appropriate festivities in and around Lille.

Vers l'an 620, Salvaert, prince de Dijon et son épouse Emergaert, tentent de se réfugier en Angleterre. Arrivés dans notre région, ils s'affrontent au sinistre Phinaert. Le combat ne dure qu'un instant et Salveart est tué avec son escorte. Emergaert réussit trouver refuge dans l'antre d'un ermite nommé Lyderic.

Elle apprend dans cette endroit qu'elle va avoir un fils qui vengera la mort de son père. Quelque jours plus tard[1], l'enfant naît, mais Phinaert la retrouve et elle doit cacher l'enfant avant d'tre faite prisonnière. L'ermite retrouve l'enfant et lui donne son nom. Le jeune Lyderic apprend la vérité durant son adolescence et se rend à Soissons pour réclamer justice auprès du roi Dagobert. Le duel a lieu le 19 juin 640 sur le pont de Fins en présence du roi.

Le prince Lyderic parat sur un blanc cheval fougueux, ses cheveux noirs flottent au vent. Phinaert monte un noir destrier, ses cheveux rouges sont retenus sous un lourd casque de fer. Barbu, massif, il semble remplir tout l'horizon. Lyderic gagne ce combat qui représente pour lui toute sa vie. En effet, il retrouve ainsi sa mère mais aussi les biens de son père et devient le premier comte de Flandres.

A free translation follows, not because I assume visitors to this site don't read French, but because I enjoy the chance to embellish a text that includes rare but venerable clichés such as l'antre de l'hermite.

Around the year 620 of our Christian era, the noble prince Salvaert of Dijon and his wife Emergaert were seeking to escape to England. After many travails, they came at last to the city of Lille upon its islands, but there they were confronted by the terrible Phinaert. The fight was fierce but brief: Salvaert and his accompanying knights were slain. Emergaert, bearing the child who would later avenge the death of his father, found refuge in the cave of Lyderic the hermit. She brought the child into the world some few days later, but Phinaert was unrelenting on her trail. Scarcely had she time to conceal the infant before her enemy dragged her from her place of shelter and imprisoned her in his stronghold. By the mercy of Providence, the hermit Lyderic found the child, gave him his own name and brought him up in the ways of virtue and manliness.

Grown to man's estate, young Lyderic learnt the truth about his birth and upbringing and betook himself forthwith to Soissons, there to demand justice from king Dagobert.[2] The bridge of Fins was fixed on as the place for trial by combat, which took place in the presence of the king on 19 June 640. Prince Lyderic appeared on his mettlesome white steed, his black hair floating in the breeze. Phinaert, ruddy locks imperfectly restrained by his heavy steel casque, opposed him on a coal-black charger. Bearded and sturdy[3], he seemed to dominate the entire scene; but brave young Lyderic, gaining double strength through fighting for all his life held dear, won the day and proved his case. His father's honour avenged, he freed his mother from durance.

The wise and puissant Dagobert declared Phinaert's goods and lands forfeited to Lyderic who, taking by the same event possession of his father's wealth, became the first count of Flanders.
  1. Obstetrics and observation not her strong point, evidently.
  2. A name on many lips even now, referring hereabouts to a well-garnished ham and cheese sandwich. The French, with no sense of history, call the same thing amixte.
  3. A sturdy, bearded redhead? When such a man is seen off by a scrawny long-haired youth with a convent education, there is no justice in this world.

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