Eotenas

Eoten translates as “giant” from Old English and were named as beings that were “inimical to the gods” in Beowulf. It is cognate to the Old Norse jötunn which describes a rough but powerful being who lives in the wilderness (Ūtangeard). Old English tradition associates greediness in eating, not with the eotenas, but with the þyrse as mentioned in that entry.

Eoten is a weak form of the name Eote which represents the people called by Bede Iutae and later transcribed to be the Jutes. In Beowulf there is a clever conflation between “giant” and “enemy tribe” in the riddling style of the poem.

The Norse giants were ancestors to the gods, yet also hostile to them. They are often possessed of magical weapons, great strength and great wisdom yet they are routinely overcome militarily, by power or wits by the gods. They represent personified natural phenomena like ice storms and natural disasters, seen by many to have been demoted in stature to “less than” the gods and yet bringers of death to the world of Middangeard.

They are said to possess great amounts of arcane lore that they do not like to share willingly with the likes of Wōden. They are seen by many to be driven by resentment as their main motivation, resentful of what others have and they do not, particularly the gods. They will therefore take that which they want for themselves, and it is unlikely that they will be outwitted or outmatched into giving anything in return, thus they make unreliable idols for worship as little can be gained from petitioning them.

Giants are often credited with construction of unusual geological features including caves, mountains, glaciers, rocky places and large solitary boulders.

Some giants are said to be physically abhorrent, with many heads or many limbs whilst some “giant-maids” are said to be comely enough to bring about lust in the gods themselves.

It is said that the giants occupy a space in Norse myth that the titans filled in ancient Greece – IE an older, fiercer group of powers whom men had generally outlived on Middangeard and no longer had a use for. The Norse legends indicate that these giants and their offspring are biding their time until the end of the world as we know it, or Ragnarok, in order to upend the balance of the world and force everything to start over again.

There is no cognate for this “end of world” scenario in Anglo-Saxon lore, yet giants feature prominently in tales up and down the country and were clearly linked to significant geological features and natural occurrences.

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