Updated: Apr 10
Frost Giants are also called Jotun, (“Yo-ton”) translated to mean ‘great eaters.’ Then there are the Fire Giants and Mountain Giants, whom are the same as Frost Giants, just living in different regions, and with different magical abilities.
At the beginning of creation, the giants were the first intelligent beings come to life. They roamed the emptiness of ice and fire before the plains were formed into inhabitable places. All they had to consume was the milk of the great mother cow Auðumbla, and the salt mounds. When the gods were created by the mother cow, the giants and the gods were instant enemies. They have been fighting ever since. To read more about Auðumbla, and the beginning of creation according to Norse mythology, follow the link to our first Norse article: https://www.thedanishcanadianmuseum.shop/post/friday-february-12th-blog-spot The Giants Home Before they were chased off, the giants used to live and roam on earth, when it was freshly formed into an inhabitable land. They helped in many ways to shape the earth as we know it. With their tromping big feet, they created craters that formed into canyons, rivers, and fjords. They created the mountains by shifting the earth and carrying rocks and dirt around with them. If it were not for the giants, earth would be flat, with no rivers or lakes flowing through it. When the giants did populate the earth, and the humans were still a young race. A young giantess saw a farmer and his men ploughing a field. At such a young age, and having never seen humans before, the giantess snatched the men up, thinking they were playthings. She carefully dropped them into her apron pockets, and made her way back to her father. At home she showed her father her new ‘toys’. Her father, who knew that they were humans, bade her take the poor men back to their fields. He then foretold of how the humans would soon help the gods chase the giants off the earth. The gods did eventually banish the giants from earth, to give it to humans to populate. That did not stop giants from occasionally visiting earth’s **plain, just like the gods did. The gods and giants alike often tampered with Norse clans affairs, falling in love with maidens and occasionally befriending people. Exiled from earth, the giants made their home on a plain that was called Jotunheim (“Yo-ton-hime”). The land was similar in shape as earth, with many mountains, glaciers, and fjords. Except, not much of the land was flat enough to plough and farm. They relied more on hunting, and raising livestock for their food. Jotunheim was not only snow, darkness and cold, but it was a harsher climate than earth or Midgard. The elements kept the giants tough, and thick skinned. However, it also made them a bit greedy. Food was not sparce, but since a giants apatite was always great, food was hoarded.
**The plains. Norsemen believed that there were different realms that were inhabitable. Earth (Midgard), Asgard and Jotunheim were not all located on one ‘planet’. Instead, they were each on different layers of plains, with nothing but space in between them. It was easy for the gods and the giants to step from one plain to another, but humans were never able to do it without help. There are references to other plains as well, that the gods and giants had access to, ones where some wars were fought, and where the unworthy dead were sent, but little is known about those.
What the giants looked like In modern fan art frost giants are often depicted with blue tinged skin, since they are of winter. The giants overall were very muscular, and very hairy, with big beards to keep them warm. Many times, the giants were described as being ugly in appearance. Haggard, big nosed, big browed terrifying brutes. However, not all of them were unpleasant to the eye. Skadi for one was a beautiful giantess maiden, turned goddess. Find her story here: https://www.thedanishcanadianmuseum.shop/post/skadi-goddess-of-winter Other giants must have been attractive, because it is written in the poems and sagas, that some of the god have slept with a giantess on numerous occasions. Thor, Loki and Odin have been accused of bearing children with giantesses. However, there are very few cases of a goddess sleeping with a giant. Not without trying on the giant’s side. There are stories of a Giant trying to steal or bargain his way into a goddesses bed. Goddesses were harder to bed than their male counter parts.
There is a story of two giant brothers fafner and fasolt. The giants were paid to help build Valhalla, but Odin went back on his word, and did not pay the brothers in full. Outraged, the brothers kidnapped the goddess Freya to satisfy their payment. It was Faslot’s idea to take her, since he had fallen in love with Freya. While Fafner only wanted to weaken the gods with the lose of one of their own. When Odin made another bargain with the brothers to have Freya returned to them, Fasolt was the one to convince his brother to accept the riches offered, to save Freya from death. What the brothers did not know was that one of the treasures given to them, was a ring that had been cursed. When deciding who should get the ring, a fit of greed came over Fafner, and he killed his brother for the entire treasure. Once Fafnir put the ring on, he was forever transformed into a frightful dragon. For many long years, he hoarded his mountainous treasure, until the hero Sigurd slaid him.
Giants and the gods were the same The giants were actually not all that different from the gods and goddesses of Asgard. First of all, not all of them were necessarily ‘giant’. Some giants were described as being enormous in size, taller than the mountains of earth. Other giants however, were depicted as tall and impossibly strong for their size, but at the same height as gods and humans. In some stories, giants had the ability to change their size and appearance, so that they were disguised as humans, but with amazing strength. Second, All the gods had giants blood running through their veins. At the beginning of creation, the first god, Búri and his sons only had giantesses to bear their children. Thus, began the line of gods and goddesses. It may explain why giants and gods alike share a lot of the same powers. Such as being able to manipulate the weather and atmosphere, have great strength, and able to use magical abilities that humans cannot.
Not as evil as you think While it may seem that all the giants were evil, with cold hearts, and dark intent. That they were always the antagonists to the gods. That is not necessarily true. The giants did have greedy tendencies, and quick tempers. But, much like humans, who have free choice in their actions, so did the giants. There had been stories of giants that have assisted gods, or given them shelter in their adventures. Thor himself, although renowned for being an enemy to the giants, having killed more of them than any other god. He was welcomed into a handful of giants homes, and given shelter. There was respect between the gods and giants, all of them following a general rule of courtesy, even if there was resentment between the two races.
There have been giantesses so beautiful, mortals have fought amongst themselves for the giant lady. Giantesses have born babies belonging to the gods, and the children were welcomed into Asgard as one of them. Giants have built great walls for humans and the gods alike. Not all of the giants were enemies to humans and gods, but they did prefer the cold and hard things. It was in their nature to be tough.
By Billie Richard