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Viking - 24: Giants, Dark Elves and Monsters, Hearthside Reading for Those Dark Winter Nights

Updated on May 31, 2019

"Of small grains of sand, of small seas small men are made. Not all men are matched in wisdom, the witless are easily found".


Into another world, a world of violence, of mystery and the uncanny

Viking warrior - belief in the herafter ran deep in their veins, that they would fight into the hereafter by day and carouse nightly with the Valkyrie maidens
Viking warrior - belief in the herafter ran deep in their veins, that they would fight into the hereafter by day and carouse nightly with the Valkyrie maidens | Source
The path to the hereafter could only be found through death in battle - a warrior who died in bed could only end in carousing with Hel
The path to the hereafter could only be found through death in battle - a warrior who died in bed could only end in carousing with Hel | Source

'Seat yourselves, drink deeply from your cups, hold them up for the alewife to fill again and gaze into the leaping flames as I tell you of grim fetches,

shape changers, dark elves, dwarves, giants and other beings that go 'bump' in the night - around you, remember them well and learn to recognise them... One day they may yet catch you out, as artful and sly as they are...

AELHEIM/ALFHJEM (Elf World), Part of ASGARD where the LIGHT ELVES dwell;or even in the daytime!. Draw closer to the fire, you never know - if you sit back too far - you might be taken from the fireside beside your kith and kin and hauled through cold caverns, bone-gnawing monsters glowering at you as you feebly and foolishly try to hold back. These, then are the ghouls you would not wish to have

ALVIS (All-Knowing), Wise dwarf outwitted by THOR and turned to stone;

ANDVARI, Dwarf who owned a Treasure Hoard and cursed it when it was prised from his grip to pay OTTER'S RANSOM;

ANGRBODA (Distress-Bringer), GIANTESS and mistress of LOKI, mother of JORMUNGAND the World Serpent, FENRIR the wolf that was bound and HEL, good-looking woman from the waist upward, but rotten, putid flesh below the 'belt-line';

AURGELMIR, Other name for YMIR, first of the FROST GIANTS;

AURVANDIL, Husband of the Seeress GROA - THOR made a star from his frozen toe by throwing it into the heavens;

BAUGI, GIANT brother of SUTTUNG who employs BOLVERK (ODIN in disguise) on his way to JOTUNHEIM to secure the mead of poetry;

BERGELMIR, The only GIANT to escape the flood made of the dead YMIR'S blood in the creation of the world;

BESTLA, GIANTESS wife of BOR, mother of ODIN, VILI and VE;

BROKK, Dwarf who fashioned three gifts for the gods with his brother EITRI with which he won a bet with LOKI;

DARK ELVES, who dwell in the lower root-levels of YGGDRASIL; craftsmen of splendid treasures including the Brisingamen, yearned after by Freyja, goddess of the battle-slain;

DURIN, Second in the DWARVES' hierarchy;

DVALIN, Dwarf turned to stone by the sun - ironically the dwarves called the sun 'DVALIN'S delight';


FARBAUTI (Cruel Striker), GIANT who fathered LOKI;

FENRIR the Wolf, son of LOKI, bound by the gods after biting off TYR'S hand - he will stay bound until RAGNAROEK, wrought by his head-strong father to bring about the end of the gods he envies;

FILMBULVETR, The terrible, long, bone-gnawing, ice-cold winter that lasts for three years and precedes RAGNAROEK (cf);

FJALAR, Dwarf brother of GALAR and with him slayer of the wise KVASIR from whose blood the mead of poetry is made by them;

FJOLSVID, GIANT with some of ODIN'S traits, warder of the hall of JOTUNHEIM/JOTUNHJEM where MENGLAD dwells;

GANGLATI (Tardy), Manservant of HEL, slow in answering the demands of his mistress;

GANGLOT (Tardy), Maidservant of HEL, equally slow - they are both beyond death;

GARM, Hel's hound chained in GNIPAHELLIR, the cave by the way in to NIFLHEIM/NIFLHJEM - he will break loose at RAGNAROEK and kill and be killed by the War God TYR;

GEIRROED, GIANT who tried to slay THOR;

GILLING*, GIANT and his wife slain by the DWARVES FJALAR and GALAR - avenged by their son SUTTUNG;

GJALP (Howler or Yelper), Daughter of GIANT GEIRROED, who tries to drown THOR in a torrent of menstrual blood and later tries to crush him against the rafters;

GREIP (Grasper), Daughter og the GIANT GEIRROED, sister to GJALPI;

GRID, GIANTESS mistress of ODIN, who helped THOR in lending him her magic gloves, girdle and staff to fight off the GISANT GEIRROED;

GROA, Seeress who tried to draw whetstone chips from THOR'S head - wife of AURVANDIL, mother of SVIPDAG;

GUNNLOD, Daughter of the GIANT SUTTUNG and guardian of the mead of poetry - ODIN seduced her and won the mead;

GYMIR, FROST GIANT, father of GERD who married FREYR;

HATI, Wolf that chases the moon and will swallow it before RAGNAROEK - named HATI HRODVITNISSON by Snorri Sturlusson;

HEL, Daughter of LOKI, half alive, half dead (above the waist she is physically perfect, below her flesh is putrid and rotten) god-progeny - rules the kingdom of the dead known also as HEL;

HIMINHRJOT (Heaven-Bellower or Heaven-Leaper), Ox belonging to HYMIR - his head was used by THOR as fishing bait;

HNITBJORG, SUTTUNG'S mountain stronghold where he hid the mead of poetry;

HRAESVEIG Corpse-Eater) GIANT who used the guise of an eagle to bring about the wind;

HRODVITNIR, Another of FENRIR'S names;

HRUNGNIR, Strongest of the GIANTS - lost a horse race with ODIN and later slain in a duel with THOR;

HUGI, Young GIANT who outstripped THOR'S human servant THJALFI in a running race - young HUGI was in fact the embodiment of UTGARD-LOKI's thoughts;

HYMIR, GIANT whose massive cauldrom was needed by the gods for brewing ale and was wrested from his grip by THOR, who later slew him;

HYNDLA (Bitch) GIANTESS who reveals the lineage of FREYJA'S human lover OTTAR;

HYRROKIN, GIANTESS who drags BALDER'S ship RINGHORN down to the sea before it is set on fire and set adrift;

IVALDI, Pair of DWARVES called th sons of IVALDI who make great treasures for the gods;

JORMUNGAND, The World Serpent, third offspring of LOKI and ANGRBODA - he coils himself around MIDGARD and bites his own tail - also known as the MIDGARD SERPENT;



LIT, DWARF cremated with BALDER and NANNA;

LOGI, (Flames), Fire in the guise of a GIANT who beat LOKI in an eating match at the court of UTGARD-LOKI;


MODGUD, Maiden who guards the bridge over the River Gjoell in JOTUNHEIM/JOTUNHJEM;


MUSPELL, sons of the GIANTS who will fight the gods under SURT at RAGNAROEK;

NASTROND (Corpse-Shore), Where evil-doers come to HEL and where the Serpent NIDHOEGG (Corpse-Tearer) gnaws on the bones of corpses at the roots of YGGDRASIL in NIFLHEIM/NIFLHJEM;

NIFLHEIM/NIFLHJEM, Kingdom of freezing fog and darkness beneath one of the roots of YGGDRASIL;

OKOLNIR (Not Cold), where to go after RAGNAROEK, where the earth will always be tolerably mild - site of the hall BRIMIR;

SINDRI, Hall with a roof of red gold, where survivors must make for after RAGNAROEK;

SKADI. Daughter of the GIANT THJAZI, once married to NJORD - linked with skiing and hunting;

SKRYMIR (Big Fellow). Much greater GIANT - UTGARD-LOKI in disguise, met by THOR and his companions on their way to UTGARD;

SURT, GIANT who has guarded MUSPELL since before the Creation - he will set fire to the world after RAGNAROEK;

SUTTING, GIANT son of GILLING - sometime guardian of the mead of poetry;

SVADILFARI, Stallion that helps the giant mason build the walls of ASGARD - father of SLEIPNIR, eight-legged steed given by Loki (its 'mother') as a gift to ODIN;


THJAZI, GIANT who kidnapped the goddess IDUN and the golden apples in her keeping - LOKI brought them back and the GIANT was slain by the gods;

THOKK, GIANTESS thought to be LOKI in one of his guises to hinder BALDER'S return from incarceration by HEL in NIFLHEIM/NIFLHJEM;

THRYM, Spoken of as king of the FROST GIANTS - stole MJOELLNIR (THOR's HAMMER), and paid for it with his life;

THRYMHEIM/THRYMHJEM (Place of Noise), GIANT THJAZI'S stronghold in the mountains - passed on to his daughter SKADI, whose husband NJORD refused to live there;

UTGARD, Stronghold within JOTUNHEIM/JOTUNHJEM ruled by UTGARD-LOKI, master of sorcery who outwits THOR and his travelling companions;

VAFTHRUDNIR (Great in Riddles), Wise GIANT tricked by ODIN in a test of knowledge and paid with his life;

VIMUR, Flood of GJALPI's menstrual blood in her bid to drown THOR;

VON (Forestallment), River of the Wolf FENRIR'S slobber;

YMIR, First GIANT, formed out of fire and ice - the world was made from all parts of his corpse after ODIN and his brothers slew him.

Some of these monsters and ogres will chill your marrow, others are the tools of the evil ones and might dwell in your soul if you are careless enough to let them in! Be careful who crosses your threshold. Never turn your back on them... Oddly - or maybe not - witches and seeresses were held in awe. No-one saw fit to hunt them down and burn them because each had a role to play in man's fate. The lesson is, 'Do not cut down the man you at first take to be your foe, he could be your friend - your real foe is your king's or jarl's foe, who seeks to withhold the prize that is your due!'

Next - 25: OF MANKIND - Fanfare for the Common Man

*There are two villages in North Yorkshire that bear the name GILLING. One is near the western edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, not far from Helmsley. The other is GILLING WEST by the banks of the River Swale near Richmond, west of the A1(M).

See description below
See description below | Source

There is the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. My own preference is for the Prose Edda. Snorri Sturlusson wrote hundreds of years later, in the dying breaths of the Viking Age. He raised the Norse kings to another level in his telling, in a way linking them to the gods

Gods and evil giants...

Thor brandishes the hammer Mjoellnir against an attack on Asgard by giants
Thor brandishes the hammer Mjoellnir against an attack on Asgard by giants | Source
The fire giant Surt brandishes his flaming sword - a recent volcanic upsurge south of Iceland was named after him
The fire giant Surt brandishes his flaming sword - a recent volcanic upsurge south of Iceland was named after him | Source

Deep down, nestled amongst the smouldering rocks thrown up by Surt,

dwell the Dark Elves. They ply their trade, crafting wondrous body ornaments or weapons for whoever is willing to pay their price. With Freyja it was the Brisingamen necklace (see the Hub-page, 'Freyja Craves The Brisingamen'). She was loth, though in the end prepared, to lie with them as her price. Loki followed and blackmailed her, threatening to tell the other gods and goddesses.

They are as willing for the Giants to buy their weaponry as they are the Gods. They are shunned by both, so it is no loss to them who pays - or how. The Dark Elves will be with the Giants, however, at Ragnaroek. They are as keen to be rid of the Gods as any of the monsters and ogres that stalk the shadows.

Sleep well.

The end of the world - Ragnaroek

Ragnaroek - showing Thor locked in the immortal fight against another of Loki's 'children', Jormungand the World Serpent
Ragnaroek - showing Thor locked in the immortal fight against another of Loki's 'children', Jormungand the World Serpent | Source

Hel would play a part in the road to Ragnaroek

As one of Loki's children Hel was both protagonist and antagonist in the Aesir's long war with the darkness. She is described as being fair, good looking from the waist upward. Below the waist she was putrid, rotten flesh. A horror to behold, in short. Only the strong-minded could bear to speak to her, face to face. As it was when Odin sought her out after Baldr's death she took the form of a seeress, telling Odin that in order for Hel to yield Baldr all the creatures in Midgard would have to weep for him. Loki her father took the shape of one, and refused to weep for Baldr, thus consigning the world to oblivion. What he could not foresee was that the gods would chain him in a cave with his head under the gaping jaws of a vile serpent Skadi fastened there.. Each drop of saliva from the serpent's jaw would eat into his flesh and his faithful wife Sigyn would have to hold a cup over her husband's face - but she had to to empty it from time to time, leaving the poison to drip on him into eternity.

So how come he was unable to change shape and flee? Now, that would be telling.

See the Hub-page 38: Baldur's Dream

Daughter of Loki...

One of Odin's younger sons, Hermod kneels before Hel in Niflheim in a bid to have Baldr released
One of Odin's younger sons, Hermod kneels before Hel in Niflheim in a bid to have Baldr released | Source

© 2012 Alan R Lancaster


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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Folios probably exist in private libraries. In Iceland you'd have better luck finding rarely documented tales because they have a fascination for books about the island's history. Many of the Icelandic sagas were translated by Hermann Palsson and Magnus Magnusson amongst others, and there were many poets who were sponsored by the Norse kings of Denmark and Norway. The court skald Egil Skallagrimsson fell foul of Eirik 'Blood-axe' Haraldsson and came across him again at Jorvik (York) in the late 10th Century. He got away with his hide - just.

    • daskittlez69 profile image


      7 years ago from midwest

      That is quite a list. It is ashame that there are probally more stories that have been lost than what we know. Thanks for this informative Hub.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I've got to add the "EDDA" by Snorri Sturlusson, translated and edited by Anthony Faulkes (Univ. Birmingham -UK) first published 1987 by Everyman, J M Dent London/Charles E Tuttle Vermont, reprinted up to 2004 under ISBN 0-460-87616-3 with a chronology of early Icelandic literature and exerpts of orig. Icelandic verse.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Just make sure it isn't Loki who's standing behind you. Blame Ragnaroek on him! There's a book I bought in paperback by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the Penguin Book of "NORSE MYTHS - Gods of the Vikings", first published by Andre Deutsch Lird in 1980, and published again -by Penguin - in 1982. In its later form it was reprinted 1993 (my edition) under ISBN 0-14-0258869-8. I daresay it's available through Amazon or 2nd-hand. There are several features such as the building of Asgard's wall, Thor's journey to Utgard, Otter's Ransom and the ultimate tale of Ragnaroek. Good reading!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Quite a list! I've at times felt some sort of "presence" in a room with I was alone. I always wondered if it was good or ill...all I knew was there was something suddenly there.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      8 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Unnamed Harald, have you looked at my profile page? It gives my name on there. Aside from that RAGNAROEK is the 'twilight of the gods', as Wagner would have it (the Nazis hi-jacked Norse history and made it 'dirty'). We're only just getting back to appreciating the fineness of the whole system. It wasn't about 'survival of the fittest (the Nazis confused it with Darwinism), so we have to build up our understanding like a house. Christianity also helped 'demonise' pre-Christian beliefs. There was more equality between men and women, which is one reason for the Church's demonification of Pagan beliefs. As it happens, Balder/Baldur, the White God presaged the coming of Christianity with his Christ-like manner, easing Norse mankind away from an age and psyche of violence that many resisted until late in the age. Northern European Christianity adopted the persona of its Viking predecessor, taking on an aggressive stance and alienating our neighbours, as opposed to the tolerance the Vikings showed toward other mens' beliefs. Read on and learn, they're more than 'fairy stories'...

    • ChrisMyth profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Brilliant! I loved the opening paragraphs which drew you into the world of giants, dwarves and monsters. Thanks, keep it up!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      8 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      alancaster, this is quite a compendium of who's who in Nordic mythology. Is RAGNAROEK like the end of an era? Oh, and I think I figured out "alancaster" is not "alan caster" but "a lancaster". Am I correct?


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