With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology in the Marvel comics.
From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!
By Matt Powell
With Winter setting in, we decided to turn our attention to one of the Nine Realms most fitted to the season—the frigid world of Jotunheim, land of the Frost Giants. With snowcapped mountaintops rivaled only by the stature of its inhabitants, Jotunheim's icy exterior belies the natives' burning hatred for all for things Asgardian. The Asgardians and Frost Giants have warred for millennia, with the former claiming most of the victories. Let's explore this frozen wasteland.
Existing on its own separate dimensional plane, different from Asgard's or Midgard's (Earth), Jotunheim is a flat, ring-shaped world with high mountains along its inner edge. The presence of interdimensional portals between the mountains of Jotunheim and Asgard simplify travel between the two worlds and operate as the gateway to their unyielding conflict.
For a visual, hierarchical overview of all the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil, check out the classic OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE: DELUXE EDITION #1.
Ymir and the Origin of the Frost Giants
Ymir, also known as Aurgelmir, the Living Winter, is the eldest ancestor of all Frost Giants. According to legend, Ymir came into being when the heat of Muspelheim met the ice of Niffleheim among the primordial Well of Life, Hyergelmir. Ymir would roam the frozen wasteland for ages with another ancient elder, the enchanted cow Audumbla, who would wear down the ice enough to reveal Buri, the first of the Asgardians. Later, Ymir would settle in Niffleheim siring not only Frost Giants but also other races including Ice, Mountain, Rime and Storm Giants.
The Frost Giants would later migrate to their present home of Jotunheim. Since Jotunheim is a intensely cold world similar to Earth's polar regions, the Frost Giants are immune to and draw strength from the cold temperatures. However, this attribute makes the giants extremely vulnerable to heat, the exposure to which can cause the giants to shrink in a fashion similar to melting; while a return to the cold will restore them to full size and power.
Ymir first appeared in the "Tales of Asgard" feature from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #97, collected in THOR: TALES OF ASGARD as well as ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 1.
Frost Giants live under a monarchial rule, and one of the most notorious rulers of Jotunheim was Utgard-Loki. The monarch of the giants first came into contact with Thor and Loki when the two brothers came to his castle. Using his powers of illusion, Utgard-Loki challenged Thor and Loki to a set of difficult tasks disguised as simple challenges. As a frequent agitator to the kingdom of Asgard, Utgard-Loki has led many attacks on its populace notably through attacking its allies. Utgard-Loki enlisted his forces to invade Nornheim, home to the Norn Queen—and lover of Thor's brother, Balder—Karnilla. Utgard-Loki enslaved the Norn Queen and used enchanted dust to turn the citizens of Nornheim to stone. In a direct confrontation with Balder, however, Utgard-Loki's forces fell. Subsequent attacks on Asgard by the Frost Giants would ultimately be thwarted by the Asgardians and their allies.
Utgard-Loki challenged Thor and Loki in THOR #272 and began his assault on Nornheim in BALDER THE BRAVE #1-4, found in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 4.
Laufey and Loki
Greed and treachery echo in the kingdom of the Frost Giants, but arguably the greatest betrayal came between King Laufey and his son Loki. In an intricate plot to assure his ascent into power, Loki conspired with his daughter, Hela, and traveled back in time to his youth where he instructed his younger self to goad his brutish father to war with the Asgardians. Knowing Odin would slay Laufey, Loki played on the emotions of Odin to allow himself to be adopted by the Lord of Asgard and begin his perpetual quest to destroy Asgard from within and assert himself as ruler.
Loki's treachery is revealed in full in THOR VOL. 3 #12, collected in THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL. 2.