Larger than Life: The Story of Andre the Giant

By Reiner Geiling

Andre the Giant was a man everyone wanted to see, but in reality, fame ruined him. His true personality was hidden from the public and few truly knew the origin of his massive size. 

Andre Roussimoff was born in Coulommiers, France — the French Alps. His growth was normal as a child, however, at 14 years old, his growth became abnormal. His hands, feet, chest, and other body parts grew rapidly until he became an adult, and his organs were proportional to the enormous size of his body.

Andre’s decision to wrestle originated from his incredible height of 7’4 and weight of  540 pounds. While this may seem unfair since his hand alone was twice the size of a normal one, he qualified for heavyweight wrestling. He quickly grew in fame because of his massive size. He was even broadcasted nationally. Andre had no losses because no one could hurt him; in a fair fight, two or three men would take him together. 

Guess which hand is Andre the Giant’s.

Unfortunately, his career didn’t last long. Doctors soon realized Andre had a medical condition called acromegaly. This disease caused his pituitary gland to create excessive amounts of growth hormones. People with acromegaly are very tall, and their hands and feet are enlarged along with their chest and organs. Their faces are also distorted, because of the appearance of a bigger jaw and forehead. Andre’s life expectancy was around forty years old.

After Andre’s fights, he would party for hours and drink incredible amounts of alcohol. He rarely worked out since his massive size already gave him such an advantage. Behind all the fame, he was a cheerful person who just wanted to be normal. As he famously said: “It’s not my fault, being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise!”

As he got older, he began to get  back aches from his large stature. Since his bones grew to match his size, he needed knee surgery to continue his career. Although walking was hard and his back was becoming unstable, he still wanted to continue his career and entertain others. However, his condition quickly worsened and Andre had to quit his wrestling career in 1992. 

Andre the Giant moved to Ellerbe, California to happily live out the rest of his life. During his time in Ellerbe, he bought a house close to his childhood friends where he could feel love and acceptance. While Andre was there, his dad died in France, and even though his health was poor, he went to France for the funeral. Two weeks later, while sleeping in a hotel room, Andre tragically died of a heart attack.

Entertainment businesses put the wants of the general public ahead of Andre himself, as his fame was more important to these companies than his well being. Andre was dragged into that world and needed more of it. In the end, he shocked everyone with his amazing stature, and died peacefully doing what he loved. While his life was short-lived, Andre enjoyed his life and cherished every moment.