Photo: Dr Kaiju
Fjord Tours Articles / 10 Jan 2022

Jötnar and Jötunn

Norse mythology is full of interesting stories, characters and lessons. A wide range of TV shows, movies, books and video games have been inspired by the Norse gods and their many fascinating adventures. Within Norse mythology, there are several races of beings. Of these, gods and giants have played the largest part in key Viking myths and legends.

Most people are quite familiar with the Norse gods, but the giants aren’t as well-known. Keep reading to find out more about the Jötnar, their role in Norse mythology and the spectacular mountain region they lived in!

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Photo: Dr Kaiju

What is a Jötunn?

A Jötunn is a giant, and they are collectively referred to as the Jötnar. They may sometimes be referred to as Jötun or Jotun. In Scandinavian mythology, the Jötnar were a race of giants who were often in conflict with the gods. While they’re generally represented as antagonists to the Gods in Asgard and the people of Midgard, the Jötnar are also allies to the Gods in many ways.

How is Jötunn pronounced?

It’s no surprise that plenty of people from other countries has been confused by the pronunciation of Jötunn. The old Norse word jötunn means “giant”, and is pronounced “Jö·tunn [yœ-toon]”. The word “Jötnar” refers to a group of giants.  However, there’s no need to be too concerned with pronouncing these words correctly. Even Norwegians would struggle to pronounce many Norse words these days, and no one would expect a foreign visitor to manage it perfectly!

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Photo: John Morey

Who are the giants in Norse mythology?

In Norse mythology, the Jötnar were giants. The Jötnar are usually described as quite large and strong. The Jötnar mainly lived in Jötunheimr, one of the nine Norse worlds, a realm which was usually represented as dark, cold and barren.  The Jötnar were considered enemies of the Gods and often in conflict with them. However, the relationship between them was more nuanced than popular culture would have you believe, as many of the Gods had children with Jötnar. In the mythology, the Jötnar play a key role in bringing about the end of the world, known as Ragnarök.

The blockbuster children’s movie franchise Frozen seems to have drawn heavily on inspiration from Norse mythology, and a Jötunn is featured in Frozen II. Elsa has an encounter with a large Earth Giant which is likely inspired by the Jötnar, and which towers high above the trees in the forest.

Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik /

What places are associated with the Jötnar?

In Norway, there are places you can visit that are associated with these mythical giants. There were nine worlds in Norse mythology, and each of the worlds were connected by the tree Yggdrasil. In the old Norse myths and legends, the Jötnar resided mainly in Jötunheimr, the land of giants – a world of thick forests and rocky terrain. They would sometimes venture out of Jötunheimr, settling down in large caves. While Jötunheimr and the Jötnar are mythical and don’t exist, you can still enjoy a hike in Jotunheimen and get the chance to experience breathtaking landscapes fit for giants.

Jotunheimen, which means “the home of the Jötunn” is an expansive mountain region. Jotunheimen is host to all of Norway’s tallest mountains, including the very highest – Galdhøpiggen, which is the highest peak in Northern Europe. Jotunheimen is a very popular destination for hikers and climbers, and the huge Jotunheimen National Park is a fantastic place for an active holiday in Norway, with its breathtaking landscapes – tall snow-capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and rivers. So if you’d like to experience the land of the giants, you’ll want to plan a trip to Jotunheimen!

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Photo: Adventure Tours Norway

In the inner part of Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, you’ll find the village of Skjolden, which is an access point for Jotunheimen National Park. Beyond taking in the stunning nature, there are plenty of fun activities around here – why not try stand-up-paddle-boarding on the fjord?

Whether you have a keen interest in Norse mythology or would just like to take in some spectacular Norwegian scenery, exploring the region of Jotunheimen will be an unforgettable experience. For those looking for an active holiday in Norway, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this stunning natural area which has inspired so many myths, legends and folklore. Enjoy your time in Jotunheimen, and be sure to look out for any tall mythical beings!