Jötnar are a type of entity contrasted with Gods and other figures, such as Dwarves and Elves. The entities are themselves ambiguously defined, variously Jörmungandr referred to by several other terms, including eóten, risi, thurs, ogre and troll.
Old Norse jötunn (also jǫtunn,) and Old English eóten developed from the Proto-Germanic masculine noun etunaz which has a connection with the Proto-Germanic etanan which was reconstructed from the words of Old Norse etall, meaning "consuming", Old English etol meaning "voracious, gluttonous", and Old High German filu-ezzal meaning "greedy".
Several terms are used specifically to refer to female entities that fall into this category, including íviðja (plural íviðjur) and gýgr (plural gýgjar).
God of War (2018)
Despite being called "Giants", not all Jötnar were large in size, as many members of the species depicted in their Shrines vary between human and giant sized. Not all were humanoid in shape either, since several Jötnar were depicted with animal heads in the aftermentioned Shrines, and some had the full shape of animals like the World Serpent, the arch-wolf Hróðvitnir and his sons Sköll and Hati.
The progenitor of all species was Ymir, who was the largest Jötunn there ever was himself. Ymir birthed more of his kind and others through his armpits and feet, who in turn had offspring of their own which marked the beginning of their race. However, the Aesir, also of his creation, desired to have control over all of creation by themselves. Odin, Ve, and Vili slew the primordial Giant whose bleeding fluids drowned almost all of his other descendants, the sole survivors being the Jötunn Bergelmir and his wife.
Together, Bergelmir and his wife searched for and found a land where they could be safe and prosper, a land they called Jötunheim. As father and mother they reproduced tremendously, and as King and Queen, they made sure that the Jötnar would be the only rulers of their new home and themselves. Bergelmir never sought revenge against the Aesir desiring only for his people to prosper. Because of his actions, the first King of the Giants of Jötunheim was forever remembered as "Bergelmir the Beloved".
The Jötnar were an intelligent and civilized race that practised architecture, masonry, art, trade, prophecy, and some were even famous combatants and hunters. They had their own native spoken language known as the Ancient Tongue, which was said to be so old that it predates mountains. Many were known to visit and even live in Midgard, where the Giants once moderated a marketplace where they traded with many races. One of their residences in the Middle Realm was what is known as the highest mountain of Midgard, a place that they used to share with a native Troll until they had a fallout and the Troll was cast out.
The Jötnar were mostly a peaceful race that didn't bother to engage in conflict, they didn't have anything as organized as an army and kept themselves away from the raging Aesir-Vanir War. Despite their neutral status, Odin still sought to eliminate them, thus commissioned the creation of the superweapon Mjölnir which would become the bane of Giant-kind.
Besides their destruction, Odin also desired to acquire their forbidden knowledge, prophecies regarding the twilight of the Gods that so obsessed him. After the Giants assisted Týr with the construction of his temple, they requested an audience with Odin, one they hoped would reach a peaceful agreement between their races, but the Giants nonetheless exposed Odin's treachery when the Raven God set foot in Jötunheim, thus they banished him with their ancient magic and cursed him to never return.
In his rage, Odin ordered Thor to carry a genocide of all the Jötnar in Midgard, thus forcing the Giants to flee towards their home realm, an endeavor in which they received the help of Týr whom they trusted with their sacred artifact the Unity Stone in order to sever any bridge to Jötunheim, covering their tracks.
No Jötunn has been seen on Midgard ever since, the only exceptions being their guardian who decided to stay behind, and the colossal World Serpent.
Despite their escape to Jötunheim, however, it seems all the Frost Giants have perished, being long dead by the time Kratos and his half-Jötunn son Atreus arrive at the Giant Realm. After they climb up the highest peak in all the realms, they see the surrounding mountains riddled with the corpses of the giants. This leaves Atreus the Last known Frost Giant in all the 9 realms.
The Stone Giants are born without a head or a heart. The Frost Giants built the Stone Giant's with other stone. The only known Stone Giant was Hrungnir.
The Eldjötnar have always remained hidden in Muspelheim, next to nothing is known about their culture, with no notable Fire Giant ever been seen or heard of besides for their progenitor Surtr. It is prophetised that they shall reveal themselves when Surtr leads the Fire Giants to destroy Asgard come Ragnarök.
Wolf Giants have wolf-like features. Fenrir and his two sons, Sköll and Hati are the only known Wolf Giants.
Powers and Abilities
The Jötnar are incredibly powerful and have long longevity, but not immortal since they can die of old age. There are some exceptions to only possessing long longevity. Surtr for example, the first of the Fire Giants and being almost as old as Ymir himself can be considered immortal. For he has lived for ages without deteriorating and can only be killed by the combined power of Odin and Thor, the most powerful of the Aesir Gods. Ymir himself also seemed to have immortality, as he lived long enough for Odin, Vili and Ve to be born, at which it took the combined might of the most powerful Norse Gods to kill him. Some of the Giants, especially the most powerful ones, are powerful enough to surpass even the mightiest of the Norse Gods and pose a challenge to many of the top-tier Aesir, as shown by Surtr's ability to fight against both Thor and Odin, Odin needing the aid of his brothers to kill Ymir and Starkaðr being strong enough to challenge the might of the Aesir, Vanir and Midgard forces all at once.
Frost Giants, as their name suggests, have a degree of power over ice. The Jötunn Thamur had the ability to blow extremely cold air, with his last breath unwillingly freezing the village he fell upon. Likewise, Fire Giants seem to have power over flames and heat, since they can live without any hinder in the Realm of Fire. It seems that the primordial giants have the highest level, as Surtr is noted to be capable of conjuring enough flames to burn down a realm as vast and powerful as Asgard and having birthed the suns and stars with his primordial fires.
An ability most common among the Jötnar seem to be the power of prophecy, a power Odin greatly coveted for himself. It is thanks to such ability that the Giants could foresee many significant events, like the stalemate of the Aesir-Vanir War, the journey of Laufey, Kratos and Atreus, and even Ragnarök.
Jötnar seemingly possess shapeshifting abilities as demonstrated by Laufey and Hrimthur who took the form of mortals to hide their true identities. Thiazi also has been mentioned capable of transforming into various animals to assist his daughter during their hunts. Giants can assume any size they wish.
- Ymir - The first being in existence, father and mother of all lifeforms except for Surtr.
- Surtr - The first Fire Giant to be born and the ruler of Muspelheim. He wields a powerful sword described as a "weapon of legend", and was said to have created the sun. Surtr will lead the Fire Giants into battle during Ragnarök and is destined to fall against Odin and Thor, but not before destroying Asgard with his flames.
- Bergelmir - The forefather of the Frost Giants in Jötunheim.
- Aurvandil - Husband of Gróa and warrior of renown.
- Gróa - Wife of Aurvandil and gifted Seiðr.
- Thiazzi - Father of Skaði, a Jötunn that could shape-shift into any animal.
- Skaði - The Queen of the Hunt, the most skilled huntress that surpassed even the Gods. She was tricked into killing her own father by the Aesir.
- Fjörgyn - Mother of Thor and one of Odin's great loves.
- Thor - A son of Odin, though half-Jötunn by the Giantess Fjörgyn. Thor is a notoriously bloodthirsty and cruel Aesir God who was responsible for the near genocide of the Jötnar in Midgard. His power is unmatched thanks to his wielding of Mjölnir. He is destined to fight Jörmungandr during Ragnarök.
- Starkaðr - An eight armed swordsman and the strongest of the Frost Giants. He was slandered by the Aesir and was subsequently subdued by the combined armies of Asgard, Vanaheim and Midgard. After he surrendered, he was murdered by Thor.
- Thrym - A Frost Giant King that stole Thor's hammer.
- Hrungnir - A Stone Giant. He was invited to the Halls of Asgard by the Allfather, but was eventually killed by Thor.
- Thamur - A Frost Giant who died when he was ambushed by Thor, a fight that ended with him landing on his own chisel. In the final battle against Baldur, the Vanir Goddess Freya takes control of Thamur's corpse and uses it in an attempt to prevent further bloodshed between Kratos and her son.
- Hrimthur - Son of Thamur. Hrimthur is responsible for finishing the Great Walls of Jötunheim and for rebuilding Asgard's walls, the latter which he likely embedded with a weakness only known to Freya that could be exploited when Ragnarök begins when Surtr arrives to burned down Asgard to ashes..
- Laufey - Also known as Faye. She was the second wife of Kratos and the mother of Atreus. After her demise, Kratos and Atreus embark on a journey to the highest peak in all the realms to spread her ashes. At the highest summit in all of the Nine Realms, her son and widowed husband released her ashes into the wind. She was also responsible for the artwork discovered by Atreus in Jötunheim that depicted events of their journey and even future events.
- Atreus - Also known as Loki. Through his father, Kratos, he is also a quarter God and mortal. Following the death of his mother, Laufey, he journeys with his father to fulfill his mother's final wish of having her ashes scattered at the summit of the highest mountain in all the Nine Realms, which is located in Jötunheim. During his journey, his father mentors and tests him on his readiness to survive in the harsh world. He proves to be a skilled combatant, specializing in daggers and the bow and arrow.
- Angrboða - Atreus'/Loki's future wife and the mother of Jörmungandr, Fenrir and Hel. Her current status and whereabouts are unknown.
- Jörmungandr - Also known as "The World Serpent". He only speaks in his native Ancient Tongue, and is apparently rather chatty. He encompasses all of the Midgard, though now his whereabouts are unknown.
- Fenrir - A wolf giant, one of the greatest enemies of the Aesir and the father of Sköll and Hati. He is the son of Loki and Angrboða and brother of Jörmungandr and Hel.
- Sköll and Hati - The twin sons of Hróðvitnir, the chasers of the sun and moon.
- Hel - Is the giantess/goddess who rules over the identically-named realm of Hel. She is the daughter of Loki and Angrboða and the sister of Jörmungandr and Fenrir.
- Hræsvelg - a Jötunn who takes the form of a bird and sits at the edge of the world overlooking Helheim and makes the wind blow with the flapping of his wings.
- It's possible that other Jötnar survived Thor's onslaught other than Jörmungandr, Surtr, Hræsvelg and Faye, such as Angrboða.
- Their Greek equivalents (in term of being colossal race that oppose the gods) are the Titans.
- Similar to the Titans they also strongly dislike the Gods of their world (with the exception of the God of War, Tyr, and Mimir).
- Unlike the Titans, however, the Jötnar were never imprisoned by the Gods. Rather, they hid any access to their realm with the help of Týr. Furthermore, the Jötnar were peaceful beings whereas the Titans were violent.
- There were other types of Jötnar besides the Frost and Fire Giants. One of those variants were the Mountain Giants (Bergrisar).
- With the possible exceptions of Ymir and Surtr, the Jötnar differ from the Titans in the respect that they aren’t ageless possessing only long longevity (though according to Mimir, dying of old age is rare for a Jotunn).