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Norse Giants or Jötunn
A jötunn, sometimes anglicized as jotun (pronounced yotun), is a giant in Norse mythology, a member of a race of nature spirits with superhuman strength, described as sometimes standing in opposition to the races of the tribes of the Æsir and Vanir, although they frequently mingle with or intermarry with these. In some legends and myths they are described as having the same height as humans. In later Scandinavian folklore, the nature spirits called trolls (deriving from the term for 'magic') take over many of the functions of the more ancient concept of the jötunn. The mountain range of southern Norway is likewise called in Norwegian Jotunheimen or the Jotunheim Mountains.
The first living being formed in the primeval chaos known as Ginnungagap was a giant of monumental size, called Ymir. When he slept a giant son and a giantess daughter grew from his armpits, and his two feet procreated and gave birth to a monster with six heads. Supposedly, these three beings gave rise to the race of hrímþursar (rime giants or frost giants), who populated Niflheim, the world of mist, chill and ice. The gods instead claim their origin from a certain Búri. When the giant Ymir subsequently was slain by Odin, Vili and Vé (the grandsons of Búri), his blood (i.e. water) deluged Niflheim and killed all of the giants, apart from one known as Bergelmir and his spouse, who then repopulated their kind.
Character of the GiantsSome of the giants are attributed with hideous appearances - claws, fangs, and deformed features, apart from a generally hideous size. Some of them may even have many heads, such as Thrivaldi who had nine of them, or an overall non-humanoid shape; so were Jörmungandr and Fenrir, two of the children of Loki, viewed as giants. Yet when giants are named and more closely described, they are often given the opposite characteristics. Very old, they carry wisdom from bygone times. It is the giants Mímir and Vafþrúðnir Odin seeks out to gain this pro-cosmic knowledge. Many of the gods' spouses are giants. Njord is married to Skaði, Gerðr becomes the consort of Freyr, Odin gains the love of Gunnlod, and even Thor, the great slayer of their kind, produces a child with Járnsaxa; Magni. As such, they appear as minor gods themselves, which can also be said about the sea giant Ægir, far more connected to the gods than to the other giants occupying Jotunheim. None of these fear light, and in comfort their homes do not differ greatly from those of the gods.
Different Kinds of Giants
Frost Giants: Are said to live in the coldest parts of the world and Jötunheimr. There are many Norse tales and legends that speak of frost giants catching unsuspecting travelers by luring them to sleep in the cold by whispering sweet words and lullabies when they became to exhausted to carry on. They mostly populated Niflheimr.
Fire Giants: Are said to live in the lower parts of Jötunheimr where it is warm and has a scattering of volcanoes. During Ragnarök it is said that the fire giants will ride on great horses and burn Midgard killing all the people, some of the gods, and all the fire giants themselves except a man and a woman sent by Odin in a great forest that was not destroyed by the chaos and flames.
Their otherworldly homeland is Jötunheimr, one of the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, separated from Midgard, the world of humans, by high mountains or dense forests. Other place names are also associated with them, including Niflheimr, Utgarðr and Járnviðr. This part of the cosmos is inhabited by giants. "The fact that this term is plural may indicate that there were multiple areas inhabited by giants, as opposed to the single enclosure of the gods(Ásgard)." (From-Norse Mythology: A guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs. By John Lindow Pg. 206)
*Some of the ^above^ information is from the following:*
- Stave Academy Rune Library: http://www.stavinternational.org/runelore8.htm
- The Free Wiki Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6tunn
- Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. By John Lindow. Copyright 2001
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