magic of jotunheim

Unfortunately, we do not know how powerful jotunn magic could be, since we only see glimpses of the Casket’s power (worldhopping, freezing stuff), and the present-day jotunn ice manipulation we see is after a millenium of devastation and probably lost art.

I think that the jotnar we see with the ice blades at first are doing level one stuff; note that the ice never detaches from their bodies, and the blades are very erratically shaped. Then there are the jotnar who jump into the fight after, ‘at least make it a challenge for me!’ These jotnar are capable of throwing ice chunks as missiles, creating ice pillars and ice spikes; they are better at it. Laufey is probably either at their level or above it, being that he can send magic through the ground, raise himself on a platform, and create ice weapons that are not fused to his skin. However, much of their expertise has probably been lost.

Odin’s monologue shows jotnar standing on ground that glows slightly, and the rocks around the throne also have a hint of shimmering light. This may well be an effect of jotunn magic.

The possibilities, with what we know of it, are fantastic. They could, perhaps, create a ship of ice, that either glides along the surface or actually parts the ice in front of it. Fighting them on home territory would, presumably, be a nightmare as fortifications are flung up behind the fleeing jotnar in seconds. Perhaps their greatest places always shimmered with magical light, and were remade periodically depending on the occasion. They can create ice on walls, and so could announce their presence. They could create artwork of light in the ice.

The jotunn ability to manipulate ice is apparently magically-mediated/to do with dark energy, since light and a sprinkling of sound are in evidence when they use it. They are able to create hand-blades, normal icicles as daggers, pillars, spikes, spiked balls, and a coating of ice on a large critter; they also cause frost to form. Most of this takes place on Jotunheim, although some is seen on Midgard and Asgard.

All of what they use are created in contact with their skin, except when they’re using the Casket of Ancient Winters. When pillars are created or ice monsters freed, the light shimmers across the ground-ice that the jotnar are standing on; things are created directly from the hand; Asgard ices when they touch its walls. It is possible that they need a greater cold to be able to pull off any major ice shenanigans, and Jotunheim itself provides this, as did the Casket when they had it. Thus, depriving them of the Casket means that they can only manage small and rudimentary weapons offworld; even if they got off Jotunheim in numbers, they would be much less of a threat.

Jotnar are obviously not incapable of Asgardian magic, but it seems to me that the two peoples conceive of it very differently. In Asgard, dark energy is used to manipulate light in the form of illusions (as well as the dimension stuff) whereas in Jotunheim light is only a side-product of the manipulation of ice. If the jotnar started using it in connection to the Casket of Ancient Winters, the fact they use ice makes sense; that is the history of jotnar dark energy manipulation, and it has shaped heavily the present. Their environment will also have made them think of using ice more quickly; it may have led to them working out how to manipulate it before the Casket was made/revealed. In contrast, Asgard doesn’t seem to do much in the way of solid manipulation, but if they started either by having an object like the Tesseract revealed to them or by having to deal with the strange matter and gravity and so on of Asgard, they would think first of the light or the dimensions.

Jotunheim seems to work in three layers. First, there is the lower layer of caverns and canyons that a lot of the rest tumbles into after Thor and Loki’s respective assaults. Second, there is a layer of ice and/or rock above it, and thirdly there is what I believe are the ruins of Jotunheim’s answer to Asgard’s shining city.

The jotnar live on the upper surface. Presumably this is because the lower surface is far too dark for them, even though they are probably fairly well-adapted to the dark; they’re certainly well adapted to the colour palette. It’s stable, quite possibly reinforced by centuries of jotunn magic prior to the loss of the Casket and not yet falling; perhaps it, like the buildings, is in the process of disintegrating.

However, it must be stable enough to be the foundations of this dark city (the ‘dark city’ is in Jotunheim and the 'shining city’ is in Asgard; I may attempt Norse translations), which is still partially standing. I would love to see Jotunheim in all its former… glory, find out how these buildings worked.

They do not appear to be inhabited outside of the immediate throne room area (I conclude this because bits fall off them, and personally I’d rather not live somewhere high that bits were falling off). It may be that they were constructed with magitek and engineering, and without the power source, the heart of the world, they are now disintegrating. Meanwhile the throne area is held together with the remnants of jotunn magic, because it’s the heart of Laufey’s power and he may well be the heart of jotunn magic.

Jotunn offspring look to be equivalent to our own; big heads, pretty helpless. This raises the question of whether, like adult jotnar, they are pretty much immune to cold or whether, like our offspring, they die easily of exposure. The answer to this will lie in whether their systems of cold/heat control are involuntary or not.

I can’t remember who it was raised the possibility that jotnar involuntarily attempt to cool down warm Asgardian-type rooms, given the advance of frost in the weapons vault and Odin’s chamber. (If it was you, please let me know.) This seems plausible, since the advance of frost across the doors warned Frigga and cost a jotunn life, implying that it’s not a good idea. However, on the other hand, we didn’t see frost happening in the Bifrost, but this could have been lag time.

While part of it may therefore be involuntary, it cannot be all; jotnar can choose to cold-burn people, and they can create things of ice.

It is possible that jotunn babies are capable of certain adjustments, although it may be that those abilities are not fully developed. This would especially be the case for premature babies. It would be easier to answer this if we could be sure that Laufey intended Loki to die; if so, we could say that jotunn children have to develop the ability to go near-naked in the cold.

However. Through simple biological principles, it seems highly unlikely that they are conceived able to cope with severe cold. This means that parents probably are careful to make sure that their uterus stays warm, and it may be that after birth babies’ resistance to cold, just like their resistance to disease, has to be built up. It is probable that parents mainly use their own body heat to keep their offspring warm; clothing may also be used, but jotnar don’t seem to do much in the way of clothing in the normal run of things and also don’t look to have many external means of heating such as fire, and may prefer to use their biomagical systems of heat transfer.

One thing that has been striking to me recently is the proliferation of detailed designs associated with the use of dark energy. This is present both in Jotunheim and Asgard.

  • When the Bifrost opens above Midgard to drop Thor into Jane’s lap, there is a circle of patterns visible in the sky.
  • Again during this event, it leaves a detailed design on the New Mexico desert. Jane remarks, ‘We have to move quickly before this all changes.’
  • There are designs on the Casket as well as on the podium upon which the Casket rests in both the temple and the vault.
  • The Bifrost itself has complicated designs inside, and the circular parts are terminals for the lightning (a post is in the works about the workings of the Bifrost, Mjollnir and lightning, and I may end up quoting Steve Rogers).
  • Heimdall’s sword has designs on the hilt (it is not the only decorated weapon, but it is the only one that has decorations on the grip).
  • When Odin rips the discs on Thor’s armour off, designs (not runes, and I don’t think they are circuits, certainly not in the Earthling sense) are visible sparking orange and then fading underneath.
  • In the picture they have of Thor in the Bifrost, there are faint patterns visible in the background.

I am also going to remark on several styles of design that we see in the film.

  • The first consists of Urnes/Jelling style interlaced animal motifs. This is seen on doors, on the throne, on Odin’s pillow and on Mjollnir.
  • The second consists of more Celtic-style ribbon interlace. This is visible on Asgardian floors, around the Bifrost both in the clouds and on the ground, on Heimdall’s sword, on Thor’s armour discs, on Odin’s robe and on Volstagg’s armour. I would also include Odin’s triquetra symbol in this (I’m a little annoyed because a Valknut would have been more appropriate…)
  • The third is much more angular (it’s reminding me of an art style but I can’t work out what) and is present in Asgardian architecture, weaponry and in the armour of Thor, Loki (especially his ceremonial armour), Sif, Odin and to a lesser extent Heimdall (Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun’s is slightly different).
  • The fourth is found inside the Bifrost and is made up of split circles/wheels with curved, flaring lines repeating inside.
  • The fifth is much simpler, made up of single lines in curves. Sometimes lines overlap each other, or a design will go on top of another. This is seen in the weapons vault, on the Casket’s podium in Jotunheim, on the floor in Laufey’s throne room (I think; see next point) and possibly on Laufey’s arms.
  • The sixth is also single lines, but they are much more regular. The circular forms are present on the Casket and on Loki’s head, and the line forms are visible on most jotnar, including Laufey. It may be that the designs on Laufey’s throne room are included in this.