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The Jötnar (singular: Jötunn), commonly known as Giants, are an ancient race native to Jötunheim and Muspelheim, but are also known to inhabit realms such as Midgard. They have long been at war with the Aesir. There are many varieties of Jötnar, including Frost and Fire Giants. They made their first appearance in God of War (2018).

Norse Mythology

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)

Jötnar Shrine depicting Jormungandr

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.

Frost Giants

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, , 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. Most notably however, the Jötnar possessed the gift of precognition, which allowed them to see visions of the future, something that earned them the eternal jealousy, hatred and paranoia of the King of the Aesir Odin. This gift even allowed them to see the twilight of the Gods and Kratos and Atreus's involvement in it, something which they kept a very closely guarded secret due to Odin's renowned hatred for them.

Many Jötnar 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 due what he knew of their role in Ragnarok and 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 secret knowledge; prophecies regarding Ragnarok that so obsessed him as he himself did not have their gift of precognition. 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. However, Odin had no desire to make peace and instead used the invitation into Jötunheim as an opportunity to steal some of the knowledge of the future. Entering Jötunheim, Odin and Týr met with the Giant's in a grand hall covered in tapestries and triptychs displaying different events. Odin's unexpected proposal of handing over Mjolnir as a peace offering was discovered to be a ruse after a Jötunn present in the hall noticed the one-eyed Aesir memorising the events displayed on the tapestries and triptychs while the other Giant's were busy discussing the unexpected offering and sounded the alarm. The Jötnar then tried to capture Odin who transformed into a silver hawk and fled the hall and Jötunheim. The Jötnar spared Týr, on account that they knew his heart was noble and had never intended to help Odin steal their wisdom, but they made him swear to sunder his temples connection to Jötunheim once left their realm while announcing their intentions to recall every Giant in Midgard back to Jötunheim, so they may live in peace and solitude until the end of days without fear of genocide. Finally recognising that Odin wouldn't stop until all of the Jötnar were dead, Týr agreed with sadness in his heart.

Enraged at having being forced to flee Jötunheim before he could steal more knowledge, Odin ordered Thor to carry out a genocide of all the Jötnar in Midgard before they could travel back to their home realm. However, with the help of Týr they managed to escape back to Jötunheim. He then severed his temples connection to Jötunheim by destroying the original travel crystal and hiding the corresponding tower in the Realm Between Realms with the Unity Stone, an artifact trusted to him by the Giants to help cover their tracks. From then on, access to the realm through the temple was rendered impossible, leaving the gate atop Midgard's mountain the only known gate left in all of the Nine Realms, although no one but a Giant or someone who knew the secret rune of Jötunheim could access it.

No Jötunn has been seen on Midgard ever since, the only exceptions being their guardian who decided to stay behind, the colossal World Serpent Jörmungandr and Atreus.

When Kratos and Atreus fulfilled the first part of the ancient prophecy the Giants had foreseen and finally managed to travel to Jötunheim, they found a large number of deceased Jötnar below the Giants Fingers mountain. The exact cause of their deaths and whether or not these were the last of the Frost Giants in Jötunheim is currently unknown.

Stone Giants

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.

Fire Giants

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 prophesised that they shall reveal themselves when Surtr leads the Fire Giants to destroy Asgard come Ragnarök.

Wolf Giants

Fenrir and his two sons, Sköll and Hati are the only known Wolf Giants, although it is possible for other Giant's to take the forms of animals such as wolves.

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 the second being in existence to be born after Ymir, can be considered immortal, as Surtr 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 mightiest 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 precognition, which allowed them to see the future, a power Odin greatly envied and 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, with the former maintaining her appearance even in death. 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.[1]

Known Jötnar

  • Ymir - The first being in existence, father and mother of all lifeforms except for Surtr. He was murdered by Odin and his brothers.
  • 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. He was murdered by Thor.
  • Gróa - Wife of Aurvandil and gifted Seiðr who was the first Giant to have a vision of the events of Ragnarok. She was murdered by Odin after she refused to tell him what she had seen in her vision of the future.
  • Thiazzi - Father of Skaði, a Jötunn that could shape-shift into any animal. He was unknowingly killed by his daughter Skaði.
  • Skaði - The Queen of the Hunt, the most skilled huntress that surpassed even the Gods. She was tricked into killing her own father by Odin after she spurned his affections. Overcome with grief upon realising what had happened, she died while holding her father.
  • Fjörgyn - Mother of Thor and one of Odin's great loves. Its implied that she was killed by Thor.
  • 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. Due to the potential threat he could pose in Ragnarok, he was falsely slandered by the Aesir and was subsequently subdued by the combined armies of Asgard, Vanaheim and Midgard. After he willingly surrendered to try and clear his name, he was promptly murdered by Thor.
  • Thrym - A Frost Giant King that stole Thor's hammer and offered to exchange it back for Freya's hand in marriage. He was later killed by Thor who secretly followed Freya into Jötunheim under Odin's instruction to both get his hammer back and establish a foothold in the realm.
  • 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 was renowned as the greatest Stone Mason who ever lived. His grandest work was the Great Wall of Jötunheim, which he wanted to build to protect his people. He was ambushed by Thor while he was in Midgard searching for his son, a fight that ended with him landing head-first on his own chisel, killing him instantly. 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 at first had no interest in his fathers craft and instead wished to be a warrior. After he accidentally caused his fathers death however, he became wiser and ended up finishing his fathers work on the Great Walls of Jötunheim and was later responsible for rebuilding Asgard's walls, which he secretly embedded with a weakness known only to Freya that will be exploited when Ragnarök begins and when Surtr arrives to burn 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 half God and through his mother half-Jötunn. Following the death of his mother, Laufey, he journeys with his father to fulfil 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 Midgard.
  • 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. The Aesir refer to him as Hróðvitnir, one of his alternative names. It is hinted through dialogue regarding the forging of Gleipnir that he is currently imprisoned and has been for some time. His current location is unknown.
  • Sköll and Hati - The twin sons of Hróðvitnir, grandsons of Loki and the chasers of the sun and moon.
  • Hel - Is the Jötunn 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. Her current status and whereabouts are unknown.
  • 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.

Trivia

  • 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 a colossal race that oppose the gods) are the Titans.
    • Unlike Titans, however, Jötnar aren't divine themselves. This is referenced in their leitmotif "Lullaby of the Giants", in which the lyrics stated that they are neither mortal nor divine.[2]
    • 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).
  • The exact nature of the Jotnar differs from the Aesir and Vanir gods but has intermingled with them. It was said in-game the Jotnar are neither gods or mortals. As with the Aesir and possibly the Vanir, including Odin himself are descended from Ymir in someway. The first of the Aesir were a creation of Ymir while Odin could be part Jotunn himself like Thor for having a Jotunn mother. They also weren't necessarily giants as they could come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes; from human-looking, to troll-like and even being the shape of animals, and everything in between.

References

  1. @corybarlog "Hmmm...that is a good question."
  2. Jötnar ei guðir né dauðlegir (Jötnar neither gods nor mortals)