Jarnvidur (The Iron Wood)The strangest place in all Jotunheim is the Iron Wood. While it looks physically like any thick forest, it is a swirling sinkhole of magical energy, almost radioactive in its behavior. Anyone born in the Iron Wood is likely to have both strong magical/spiritual power or great deformities, or both. Most of the major Jotun deities were born there - Hela, Fenris, Jormundgand.
Their mother is Angrboda, the Hag of the Iron Wood. The term Hag should be read as similar to Hagia - wise woman. She is the chieftess of the Wolf Clan, the seer of the Nine Clans of the Iron Wood, the Chief of Chiefs, and the single most respected person who lives there. While each of the Nine Clans has its own chieftain, all defer to her in matters of outside policy. A tall, tough, skin-clad, red-haired giantess with a temper, she must be approached with respect. She has great although erratic powers of foresight, and is not easy to fool. She will prophesy for people, but she demands a high and often uncomfortable price.
Angrboda's hall has a stang a little ways in front of it, although it's not a place to come through unless you are sure you have an appointment. Her hall is hung with bones and skulls, and the door is guarded by two great wolves. Other members of Angrboda's household include her younger sister Glut ("Glow") and Glut's two daughters, Eisa ("Ember") and Einmyria ("Ashes"). Angrboda sent Loki to her sister's bed as a birthday gift, and both daughters are his, and thus her nieces, goddaughters, and stepdaughters at once.
One of the chiefs of the Iron Wood clans is Farbauti the Cruel-Striker, a very tall giant whose skill is with wielding the lightning. He is Loki's father, although for personal reasons Loki chose not to take his name and is referred to only as Laufey's Son. (See the tale of Laufey's Son in the section on Jotun Legends.) Farbauti leads the Lightning Clan, who are mostly fire-giant descendants. The other seven clans are discussed in the separate chapter on the Nine Clans.
Jotnar of the Iron Wood are a strange-looking lot. Although all Jotunkind are skilled shapeshifters, the Iron Wood clans often spend so much time in animal or half-animal form that it is sometimes known as the Wood of Werewolves. Iron Wood Jotnar are shorter than other varieties, not much more than large-human size and sometimes shorter (with exceptions, like the nine-foot Farbauti). Many are deformed, or hairy and pelted, or hermaphroditic in some way, or horned and hooved, or just strange-looking in some odd way. Keep in mind that in the Iron Wood, to be strange-looking physically is not a bad thing. The effects of the magical radioactivity is such that the Jarnvidur folk have had to develop a culture where there is no concept of the "right" or "wrong" way for bodies to be, so long as one's malformities are not life- threatening or prevent one from functioning or enjoying life. Iron Wood Jotnar are raised to compensate for each others' physical differences and difficulties - a dwarfed troll will be put on the shoulders of a tall giant to see properly at a moot; someone with long legs will automatically look to carry someone with short legs if running is necessary; the weak of body are defended (especially since those who are weaker of body are very often stronger of magical powers) and the standard of beauty tends to be more about personal charisma than physical shape.
The Iron Wood folk are also well aware that those outside their wood do not share this cultural blindness to a physical ideal. Part of their tribal pride manifests itself in a form of hazing, wherein bizarrely-shaped trolls and weres may get close to you, and see how you react. If you are clearly made visibly uncomfortable by their shape, they will lose respect for you. To accept them without comment, flinch, or other negative reaction will gain points, and they may accept you as a friend. Once you've made positive contact, the Iron Wood can be a good space for people who don't carry socially acceptable shapes themselves to hang out. Once they accept you, they do so without any judgment as to your body; you are simply shaped the way that you are shaped, and that's just you. There are many healers in the Iron Wood who specialize in helping the kind of deformities associated with Iron Wood bloodlines, including those in humans.
Meat is an acceptable offering for anyone you meet in the Iron Wood. They are also very fond of sweets, as they don't get much of that. If you bring them drink, don't bother with mead or beer; like the folk of Utgard, when they want to drink, they want the hard stuff. Strongly flavored liqueurs are your best bet. Small toys, strangely enough, are highly valued, especially if they are figures of bizarrely-shaped creatures.
Cannibalism is strong in the Iron Wood - not that it is missing anywhere else among Jotunkind - and that goes especially for funerary cannibalism. It is not unusual for a troll who has fallen in battle to expect that he will be cooked and eaten by his kin, who by doing so return his body to his clan, where it belongs. Older etins are stewed up in giant cauldrons to soften the meat, and cooked with savory herbs. If an Iron Wood etin is burned or buried, it means that they died of illness. To be invited to a funeral feast is an honor. If you can't stomach it, find an extremely polite and very solid excuse.
In the mountains above the Iron Wood, you will find a turreted stone cottage that belongs to Laufey, the mother of Loki and the sometime wife of Farbauti, Chief of the Lightning Clan. She lives by herself due to various disagreements with her husband, although he visits her often. Her three sons are all wanderers - Helblindi the sea-giant who prefers the ocean islands, including the one from whence his mother came; Byleistr the storm-giant who attends intermittently on Thrym, and of course the infamous Loki. Any of them might be dropping in at any time, as they are all fond of their mother, and her cottage is really the only place that they might call home.
Laufey is slight, lovely, and very motherly. She is a tree-goddess, with a great affinity for the smaller understory trees. Visiting her home, if she is welcoming, will likely get you fed some soup and gently told some edifying tales. She is generally all right with visitors if they bring a gift and check first before coming. Planting trees in our world is always an appropriate offering for her.
GymirsheimHigh on a mountain in the western range is Gymir's fortress. He is Gerda's father, and the husband of Aurboda, handmaid of Mengloth. He does not see visitors unless he has invited them there himself, so don't bother.
GoldhouseThe two Jotun sisters Fenja and Menja created a mill named "Grotte" that puts out gold dust when turned. The problem with this mill is that it requires living, screaming bodies to go in one end and be turned into gold. They live in a thatched hut on the western beaches covered in gold dust. Many a traveler has attempted to steal the mill, or the piles of gold dust that they export (the roof of Gladsheim is covered in their dust), and come to a bad end. Really, it's just a trap for greed. Don't go there.
Hyndla's CaveDeep in the northern mountains of Jotunheim lies the cave of the giantess Hyndla. At one time she lived in Svartalfheim and guarded the mead of poetry for Ivaldi, king of the Duergar, but Odin seduced her and stole the mead, and Hyndla retired to a cave in the northern mountains. She spends most of her time sleeping, or what looks like sleeping to some folk; actually, she is "faring forth", sending her mind out where her body cannot go. Her cave is guarded by a band of loyal etins, who will not see her disturbed when she is unconscious, so seeing her is only possible during the short periods when she wakes up to eat and walk about a little.
Hyndla is small for a giantess - not more than human size - and wizened and old, with long silver-grey hair that drapes on the ground around her. She is pale from almost never leaving her cave, and walks with a stick. Her apparent frailty makes her guards all the more protective of her. She is a mistress of bloodlines; ancestry is her specialty, and it is rumored that she spends her astral-travel time walking up and down the bloodlines of many races. The Gods consult her when they want to know something about how someone is related to someone else, or for advice on their various human breeding experiments. Non-gods consult her about discovering unknown ancestors, tracing genetic disorders, or asking about future children. She is generally friendly, but can be cantankerous if she has just awoken. Flirting with her will usually soften her, but be prepared to go through with it if she decides to take you up on it; for all that she is old and wrinkled, she is also lusty.
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