Jötunheimr

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Giant Skrymir and Thor
Louis Huard

Jötunheimr (or Jǫtunheimr; often anglicized as Jotunheim) is one of the Nine Worlds and the homeland (heim 'home') of the Giants of Norse MythologyRock Giants and Frost Giants.

Legend[edit]

From Jötunheimr, the giants menace the humans in Midgard and the gods in Asgard. The river Ifing (Old Norse, Ífingr) separates Asgard, the realm of the gods, from Jötunheimr, the land of giants. Gastropnir, home of Menglad, and Þrymheimr, home of Þjazi, were both located in Jötunheimr, which was ruled by King Thrym. Glæsisvellir was a location in Jötunheimr, where lived the giant Gudmund, father of Höfund. Utgard was a stronghold surrounding the land of the giants.[1]

Territories[edit]

Gastropnir[edit]

The dwelling of Menglöð[2]:80, lover of the human Svipdagr.

Mímir's Well[edit]

Located under the second root of the world tree Yggdrasil in Jötunheim, the jötnar Mímir guards the place. The well is the source of Mímir's wisdom. Odin, wanting to possess great wisdom, journeys through the land of the giants to acquire it.

Þrymheimr[edit]

Often anglicized as Thrymheim, it was the home of the jötnar Þjazi (anglicized as Thiazi). Þjazi once tricked Loki into aiding him on kidnapping Iðunn, the goddess who grants magic apples of youth to gods. This act would be the cause of Þjazi's death.

Útgarðar[edit]

Útgarðar (often anglicized as Utgard) is the capital of Jotunheim, serving as the stronghold of the giants. Útgarða-Loki, also known as Skrýmir, rules the place. The god Thor challenged the fearsome giant, only to get humiliated and defeated.

Vimur River[edit]

The river where the giantess Gjálp tried to drown Thor[2].

Events within Jötunheimr[edit]

How Menglöð Was Won[edit]

Svipdagr was given a task by her stepmother to woo the maiden Menglöð. He summoned his mother, Gróa, a völva in life, to seek her advice on how to woo the maiden Menglöð. Gróa casted a series of charms to protect him on his quest. Upon arriving at Jötunheim, Svipdagr is blocked by a castle gate guarded by the jötnar Fjölsviðr[2], who dismisses him before asking for his name. Svipdagr, giving a false name, answers a series of questions, in which he learned about the castle, its residents, and its environments. Svipdagr learns that the gate will only open up to one person: Svipdagr. The gates opens when he reveals his identity, where he is met by his expected lover, Menglöð.

How Thor Killed Geirröd[edit]

The popular myth of how Thor killed the jötunn Geirröd has many variations, but all of them are caused by the trickster god Loki. Donning a suit of falcon feathers, Loki paid a visit to the jötunn's castle. When Geirröd saw the falcon, he knew right away that it was not a real falcon. Locked in a cage and starving, Loki revealed his identity. Geirröd released him on the condition that he bring Thor without his hammer to his castle. Loki readily agreed.

Back in Asgard, Loki openly discussed the giant's eagerness to meet Thor to introduce his two beautiful daughters[2], Gjálp and Greip. Simple-minded Thor couldn't resist the temptation of meeting beautiful maidens. He agreed to Loki's suggestion of leaving his hammer behind. On the way to the castle, Thor and Loki had to stay overnight with a gentle giantess, Gríðr, who warned Thor of the danger Geirröd possessed. The giantess lent him her belt and her magic staff.

Seeing the giantess Gjálp causing the water on Vimur river to rise, Thor used the magic staff to escape drowning, and then threw a rock at the giantess who fled. Thor and Loki arrived at the castle, where he was placed in a room with one chair. Weary from the travel, he sat down and closed his eyes. All at once, Thor was closing in on the ceiling. He thrust Gríðr's staff against the roof beam and pushed down. With the heavy weight and force of their guest, the giantess sisters, Gjálp and Greip, were crushed to death[2].

Thor, displeased with everything that had happened, went to confront Geirröd. The giant raised his hand and threw a hot lump of iron at the thunder god. Using the iron gloves lent to him by Gríðr, Thor caught the hot iron and threw it back at the giant who hid behind a pillar. The hot ball went straight into the pillar, into the head of Geirröd, and finally rested deep into the earth.

Thrym's Wedding-feast

How Thor Lost His Hammer[edit]

Thor, the god of thunder and storm, once lost his hammer, Mjölnir. With the loss of the mighty weapon, the only absolute defense of the Aesir against the giants, Asgard would be in much danger. Thor's angered shouts were heard by the trickster god, Loki, who knew that he must help this time. Thor and Loki sought out Freyja, a beautiful goddess, to borrow her suit of falcon feathers[3]:1. Putting on the feathered coat, Loki flew to Jötunheim.

Loki met the king of the jötnar, Þrymr (often anglicized as Thrym), who had admitted to the theft of Thor's hammer. Mjölnir was hidden deep beneath the earth.[4] Loki flew back to Asgard and relayed the information to Thor. The gods convened a meeting to discuss how to get back the hammer. Heimdallr offered the solution to their problem. Thor was to be dressed in bridal clothes and meet Þrymr as Freyja.

Upon hearing that Freyja was on her way, Þrymr ordered a grand feast in her honor[5]:48. Seeing his bride consume large servings of food after food, Thrym was astounded by the fact. Loki reasoned "she" had not eaten or drunk for eight days due to her anxiety in meeting him. Elated, Thrym reached over to kiss his bride, but seeing the glaring eyes of Thor through the thin veil, he withdrew in disappointment. Loki explained that "Freyja" had not slept for eight nights in her excitement to come to Jötunheim[2][3]. Wanting the marriage to be done quickly, Thrym ordered for Mjölnir to be brought to his bride. Once Mjölnir was placed on his lap, Thor grabbed the hammer by its short handle and slew every jötnar in sight.

"I am the giant Skrymir" (1902) by Elmer Boyd Smith

How Útgarða-Loki Outwitted Thor[edit]

The tale of how Thor had been humiliated and defeated by the giant Útgarða-Loki (often anglicized as Utgard-Loki) was one of the best known myths of Norse mythology. Thor, wanting to go to Utgard, the stronghold of the jötunn, traveled with Asgard's trickster god, Loki. Utgard was guarded by Útgarða-Loki, a known master of trickery[6]:0. Having a misfortune on the way to Jötunheim, Thor and Loki were then accompanied by Þjálfi (anglicized as Thialfi) and his sister, Röskva.

Idunn and the Apples of Youth
Odin drinking the well's water while Mimir looks on

The group of four fell asleep in a strange cabin at a forest in Jötunheim. The party awoke by the shaking of the earth, a crashing sound, a rumble, and a whistling wind[2]. The party stayed on a narrow side of the cabin. When the first light of the day dawned upon them, Thor ventured outside and saw the cause of the frightful event and the steady noise they had been hearing. At the foot of the tree slept the largest giant Thor had ever seen.

The giant was called Skrýmir. He showed Thor and his companions the way to Utgard. By nightfall, Skrýmir snored loudly, causing the party to stay awake. Thor threw his hammer on the head of the giant. Skrýmir woke up, opened an eye, and said a leaf had fallen, and went back to sleep. Thor threw the hammer again. This time, Skrýmir complained of an acorn[2]. Thor ran and jumped and hurled his hammer with all his might onto Skrýmir's head. The giant finally woke up.

Once they reached Útgarðr, the giants decided to compete with the travelers. Loki proclaimed that he was unbeatable at eating. Thialfi claimed that he was the fastest runner in the world. They both lost. Having two of his companions humiliated and defeated, Thor proclaimed being a mighty drinker[2]. Thor was bursting with confidence, but when he put down the horn, it was still full of liquid. The second time he put it down, the horn was still full. On his third try, Thor finally put down the horn, displeased and angry at the situation. Skrýmir suggested something easier to the mighty Thor. Thor would have to lift a cat. The cat was actually Jörmungandr, the serpent that encircled Midgard. Only succeeding on lifting one paw, Thor was further humiliated by the laughter of the giants. Giving him another try, Skrýmir called on Elli. Thor was sent flying through the air. Thor wrestled the old woman until he gave up.

The next morning, Skrýmir, who was actually Útgarða-Loki, the chief of Utgard, confessed to using magic on the travelers. Thor, angry at the trickery, raised his hand to strike his hammer on the giant, but Útgarða-Loki vanished and so did the castle[6].

The Abduction of Iðunn[edit]

Unlike the Greek gods, the gods of Norse mythology were prone to aging. One day, the jötnar Þjazi, disguised as an eagle[5], swooped down and tricked Loki into bringing him Iðunn, the goddess who supplied magic apples to the gods and goddesses to stay young, in exchange for his life. Fearful of what the ancient giant would do to him, Loki agreed to the bargain.

As soon as Loki reached Asgard, he went straight to the orchard tended by Iðunn and her husband, Bragi[2]. He spun a lie of having found some apples in Midgard that looked the same as hers. Urging her to bring her own basket of apples to compare the two fruits, they departed for the world. When they crossed Bifrost, Þjazi swooped down and carried Iðunn away. The giant had locked her up in the highest tower in Þrymheimr. The gods and goddesses started aging. Summoning a meeting where every god was present except for Loki, the gods knew that Loki was up to no good. Upon finding the trickster god, he was ordered by Odin to bring back Iðunn and her apples or his life would be forfeited.

Fleeing in terror, Loki sought out Freyja to borrow her suit of falcon feathers. Loki flew to Þrymheimr, where he found Iðunn alone and unguarded. Loki turned the goddess and her basket of apples into a nut and held her in his claws. At this time, Þjazi, in his eagle disguise, was following them. Odin, who saw everything, immediately ordered the gods to build a bonfire at the gates of Asgard. When Þjazi reached the walls, his body caught on fire, and he fell to the ground. The gods slew him with no mercy. Releasing Iðunn from the spell, the gods and goddesses were once again youthful.

The Loss of Odin's Eye[edit]

Mimir was an ancient being, notorious for his unparalleled wisdom. His dwelling was a sacred well situated under one of the roots of the tree Yggdrasil in Jötunheim[2]. Odin, wanting to gain immense knowledge and wisdom, consulted all living beings. He ventured to the land of the giants and asked for a drink from the well. Mimir, knowing the value of the water, refused unless Odin offered one of his eyes.[7] The chief god was ready to pay any price for the wisdom he desired that he agreed to the deal and sacrificed his eye. The eye was then placed in Mímisbrunnr.

Jötunheimr in Popular Culture[edit]

  • In the Avengers Universe, Jötunheim is the home of the Giants. The supervillain Loki came from Jötunheim.
  • In the Japanese anime Attack on Titan, Castle Utgard stood within Wall Rose, close to its perimeter. In Norse mythology, Utgard was the stronghold of the giants.
  • In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for the game World of Warcraft, several references to Jötunheimr exists. The continent of Northrend is inhabited by a race of half-giants known as Vrykul. The names of their settlements include Jotunheim, as well as Ymirheim, a reference to Ymir, the being that fathered the Jötun. There are also Vrykul-themed dungeons, among which are Utgarde Keep and Utgarde Citadel, references to the location in Norse mythology, Útgarðar.

See also[edit]

  • Avengers - a series of comic books created by Stan Lee.
  • Geirröd - a giant who tried to kill Thor.
  • Iðunn - a goddess who supplied the magic apples that kept the gods young.
  • Jötunn - In Norse mythology, giant whose otherworldly homeland is Jötunheimr.
  • Jotunheimen - the name of a large mountain range in Norway. The name Jotunheimen was first popularized by Aasmund Olafson Vinje, who spent much time in the area in the 1860s.
  • Svipdagr - the human who wooed and won Menglöð.
  • Thor - the god of thunder and storms. He wields a hammer called Mjölnir.
  • Þrymheimr - In Norse mythology, the abode of Þjazi, located in Jötunheimr.
  • Útgarða-Loki - In Norse mythology, ruler of the castle Útgarðr in Jötunheimr. He was the one who humiliated and defeated Thor, the god of thunder and storm.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jotunhem (Nordisk familjebok / Uggleupplagan. 13. Johan - Kikare /193-194)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Daly, Kathleen (1991). Norse Mythology A to Z: A Young Reader's Companion. New York, NY: Facts on File Inc. ISBN 0-8160-2150-3. 
  3. ^ a b Ashliman, D. L. (trans.) (2009). "The Lay of Thrym". The Lay of Thrym from Poetic Edda. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Carey, G. & Roberts, J. (Eds.) (1973). Mythology. New York, NY: Wiley Publishing Inc. ISBN 0-8220-0865-3
  5. ^ a b Redmond, Shirley-Raye (2012). Norse Mythology. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books. ISBN 978-1-4205-0717-1. 
  6. ^ a b Penguin Classics (2008). "Sagas of the Icelanders". New York, NY: Penguin Books. 
  7. ^ McCoy, Dan (2012). "Norse Mythology: Why Odin is One-Eyed". Norse Mythology. Retrieved 6 February 2014.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]