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Jötnar

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Giants and Freia

The giants Fafnir and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham's illustration to Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

A Jötunn, sometimed anglicized as Jotun (pronounced yōtən[1]), plural: jötnar, is a giant in Norse mythology, a member of a race of nature spirits with superhuman strength, described as standing in opposition to the races of Æsir and Vanir, although they frequently mingled with or were even married to these. 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. In some legends and myths they are described as having the same height as humans.

In later Scandinavian folklore, the nature spirit called Troll (deriving from the term for 'magic') takes over many of the functions of the more ancient concept of Jötunn.

The mountain range of southern Norway is likewise called in Norwegian Jotunheimen or the Jotunheim Mountains.

EtymologyEdit

In Old Norse, they were called jötnar (sing. jötunn), or risar (sing. risi), in particular bergrisar, or þursar (sing. þurs), in particular hrímþursar ('rime-giant'). A giantess could also be known as a gýgr.

Jötunn (Proto-Germanic *etunaz) might have the same root as "eat" (Proto-Germanic *etan) and accordingly had the original meaning of "glutton" or "man-eater", probably in the sense of personifying chaos, the destructive forces of nature.[2] Following the same logic, þurs[3] might be derivative of "thirst" or "blood-thirst." Risi[4] is probably akin to "rise," and so means "towering person" (akin to German Riese, Dutch reus, archaic Swedish rese, giant). The word "jotun" survives in modern Norwegian as giant (though more commonly called trolls), and has evolved into jätte and jætte in modern Swedish and Danish. In modern Icelandic jötunn has kept its original meaning. In Old English, the cognate to jötunn are eoten, whence modern English ettin. Old English also has the cognate þyrs of the same meaning. [1]

A Finnish sea monster and possible god of war was called Tursas which may be related to the word þurs.

The Saami languages, also Finnic, have in their mythology jiettanas, which were man-eating people with several wives. They could be captured and eaten by humans, and their stomachs were filled with gold and silver. Whether or not this word came from Germanic languages is unknown.

The Viking rune ᚦ, called Thurs (from Proto-Germanic *Þurisaz), later evolved into the letter Þ.

In Scandinavian folklore, the Norwegian name Tusse for a kind of Troll or Nisse, derives from Old Norse Þurs.

Norse giantsEdit

OriginsEdit

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 (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 giantsEdit

The giants represent the forces of the primeval chaos and of the untamed, destructive nature. Their defeats by the hands of the gods represent the triumph of culture over nature, albeit at the cost of eternal vigilance. Heimdall perpetually watches the Bifröst bridge from Asgard to Midgard, and Thor being too heavy to cross the Bifrost Bridge often ventures into Jötunheimr to get to Midgard, slaying as many of the giants as he is able on the way.

As a collective, giants are often attributed a hideous appearance – 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. With bad looks comes a weak intellect; the Eddas more than once liken their temper to that of children.

Yet when giants are named and more closely described, they are often given the opposite characteristics. Unbelievably 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, breeds with Járnsaxa, mother of 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.

Ragnarök and the fire giantsEdit

Main article: Ragnarök


A certain class of giants were the fire giants, said to reside in Muspelheim, the world of heat and fire, ruled by the fire giant Surtr ("the black one") and his queen Sinmore. Logi, the incarnation of fire, was another of their kind. The main role of the fire giants in Norse mythology is to wreak the final destruction of the world by setting fire to the world tree Yggdrasil at the end of Ragnarök, when the giants of Jotunheim and the forces of Hel shall launch an attack on the gods, and kill all but a few of them. During Ragnarök, the fire giants (or Muspeli) 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 set by Odin in a great forest that did not burn down.

Family TreeEdit

Jotun Genealogy in Norse mythology Names in Bold are Vanir Names in Italics are Æsir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ymir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Þrúðgelmir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bergelmir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bölþorn
 
Naglfari
 
 
Nörvi
 
Delling
 
 
 
Aurgelmir
 
 
 
Fornjót
 
Ölvaldi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mímir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Iði
 
Gangr
 
Þjazi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bestla
 
Borr
 
 
 
 
Nótt
 
 
 
 
 
Dagr
 
Fárbauti
 
Laufey
 
Kári
 
Logi
 
Rán
 
Ægir
 
Gymir
 
Aurboða
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nerthus
 
Njörðr
 
Skaði
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vili
 
 
 
 
Auðr
 
 
 
 
 
 
Annar
 
Helblindi
 
Býleistr
 
 
 
 
 
Glöð
 
 
Eisa and Eimirya
 
Nine Maidens
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gerðr
 
Freyr
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sigyn
 
 
 
 
 
Loki
 
 
 
 
Angrboða
 
Heimdall
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Óðinn
 
Jörð
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Narfi
 
Vali
 
 
 
 
Jörmungandr
 
Hel
 
Fenrir
 
Hyrrokkin
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Þórr
 
Sif
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Svaðilfari
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sleipnir
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sköll
 
Hati
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Æsir
 
 
 
 
 
Frigg

Related articlesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
  2. Norman Cohn, Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith, 2001, ISBN-10: 0300090889.
  3. Refer Thurisaz or thorn.
  4. Cognate with Sanskrit rishi? [citation needed]


ReferencesEdit


Norse mythology articles
Major Deities Odin | Thor | Freyr | Freya | Frigg | Loki | Balder | Tyr | Njord
Races Æsir | Vanir | Jotnar | Elves | Dwarves | Valkyries | Einherjar | Norns
Worlds Asgard | Álfheimr | Midgard | Jötunheimr | Vanaheimr | Muspelheim | Niflheim | Svartálfaheim | Helheim
Locations Bifröst | Utgard | Valhalla | Fólkvangr
Topics Yggdrasil | Ginnungagap | Ragnarök | Poetic Edda | Prose Edda | The Sagas

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