the dictionary of norse mythology


GIANTS Giants play a central role in Norse mythology, mainly as the enemy of the gods but also as the race from which the gods most likely were off-spring. The different roles that giants play in the sur-viving stories are so confusing that some experts suggest that in Norse religious beliefs, the giants were gods themselves or perhaps the gods were giants. The giant ymir was the first being in the cosmos, according to 13th-century writer snorri sturlu-son's version of the Norse creation myth. Details from Snorri's prose edda tell how Ymir evolved from the heat and cold in the beginning times, and from the parts of his body were born the jotun giants and the hrimthurssar frost giants. At the same time that Ymir came into being, the first cow, audhumla, formed out of the chaos. She licked at a salt block and uncovered buri, whose son bor mated with bestla, one of the first giantesses. From these latter two, one a giant, came the first gods odin, vili, and ve. This shared ancestry of gods and giants has caused much curiosity among modern scholars, though no answers to the puzzle exist in surviving records. Most commonly, the giants are interpreted as representing the wild forces of nature that threat-ened people living in northern climates more so than those in southern lands. The giants lived in moun-tains and often hurled huge boulders at one another. They loved darkness and often confronted the gods at night. See also jotun.

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