Wood is a remote high-altitude oakwoods on Dartmoor, England. While
obviously not a rock, the forest is actually situated on top of a large bank of
exposed granite boulders where pockets of acid have formed, and loamy brown
earth soils have accumulated. It is home to a surprising amount of poisonous
adders as well. (Maybe this is where all our hag stones come from?)
The Wood has been mentioned in writing for hundreds of years, but
has existed since 7000 BC and was partially cleared in 5000 BC by Mesolithic
hunter/gatherers. It’s thought the name derives from the dialect word “wisht”
meaning eerie, uncanny, or “pixie-haunted,” and some legends tell that the
Heath Hounds (aka – hellhounds) originate from these woods, and are set loose
to chase the region’s sinners or the unbaptized into hell.
This story is itself a distinctly British offshoot of the Wild
Hunt legend that pervades many Northern European cultures, and describes a
gathering of ghostly or supernatural hunters who streak the sky in dogged
pursuit of something. The identities of the hunters vary and can be elves,
fairies, or simply the dead; and the leaders of the hunt are typically Gods or
Heroic figures of some kind. Seeing the hunt is said to presage a catastrophe,
or at best the death of the person(s) who witnessed it. Witnesses may also be
dragged to the underworld or a fairy kingdom, or their souls could be dragged
from their bodies to join in the hunt.
Question connected with last crash course post - can you tell something more about ice/fire giants?
I can definitely do my best.
Eldjötnar (Fire Giants)
(Eldr = fire, Jötnar = giants)
I am not sure that they are often directly referred to in such a way, but I do believe that Surtr and the other jötnar of Muspellsheimr (also referred to just as Muspell)fit such a description. That being said, I would say that the natives of Muspell fit this idea. These Jötnar have quite an important role in Norse mythology as well. Surtr (“the swarthy one”) is definitely the most well known of these types of Jötnar. Here is an image of him:
He is also mentioned here in the Poetic Edda:
This stanza tells of Surtr coming from Muspell to wage the final battle with the gods during Ragnarök. Surtr and his realm of Muspellsheimr is best described in the Prose Edda:
I would say that Eldjötnar are the ones who live in Muspellsheimr. Surtr is their leader and he will lead the sons of Muspell (the Eldjötnar, essentially) to battle the gods during Ragnarök. Surtr will fight Freyr during Ragnarök and he will be victorious over him. Here is an image of those events:
They are definitely very powerful Jötnar. Given the information I have found about Eldjötnar, I would say they are mainly associated with Ragnarök. Surtr is also the main Eldjötnar that is preserved in our sources.
These are the giants that formed from the rivers stretching from the spring called Hvergelmir, which is in Niflheimr. These events are best described in the Poetic Edda:
These are the giants that trace their lineage back to Ymir himself. They are old and existed before the gods. The primeval cow Auðhumla nourished Ymir and as she continued to lick the ice this is what happened, as told in the Prose Edda:
From Búri came Borr, who was Buri’s son. For married Bestla, who was the daughter of Bölþorn the giant. They had three sons together: Odin, Vili, and Ve. Odin and his brothers kill Ymir and, as a result, drown all Hrímþursar in Ymir’s blood. However, one Hrímþurs survived and his name is Bergelmir. From him come all Hrímþursar thereafter.
I believe what I have told you is what Hrímþursar are best known for. I would say they are among the most common of Jötnar. They definitely are among the oldest of Jötnar, for sure. It is possible that other Jötar stemmed from them, but that is just my suspicion and speculation.
I am sure there is much more to be said, but this is what I know without doing many hours of research and reading. One day I will likely know more, but I think this will prove to be what you were looking for, I hope. The “element” association with Jötnar is not always mentioned, it seems. Most often such things are determined by a Jötuns characteristics, origin story, or any major events that he/she is associated with.
Anyway, if there is anything else you would like me to elaborate on, please let me know and I would be happy to do so. As always, thank you for asking!
Andy Orchard, trans., The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore. (London: Penguin Classics, 2011), 12, 44.
Geir T. Zoëga, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic. (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004).