On the Frost Giants of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Date: Thu, April 02, 2009
Topic: Monsters of Greyhawk
To have strength and power, and fierceness in combat, is ideal; but to remain as cold, savage and treacherous as a frost giant is to fall to the lowest depths of perdition.
---Snow Barbarian proverb
On the Frost giants of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Social mores and practices:
Frost giants are large humanlike creatures over fifteen feet in height, with skin as white as ivory or snow, thick and bushy blond or blue-white hair, and ice-blue or golden eyes. They wear their hair long and down to their shoulders, with males almost always sporting thick moustaches and beards, which are a point of pride among male frost giants. Commonly dressing in thick garments of woven cloth and animal hides of much better quality than those of hill giants, frost giants frequently also wear vests and coats of mail, carrying their weapons with them at all times. Their voices are, like those of hill giants, of a deep baritone, although much richer and clearer than the guttural voices of their kin.
Frost giants are, of course, commonly found in frigid climates, preferring mountains and forested highlands for their lairs. Eager for treasure, glory and food, they frequently raid other races for such things, and are always eager to seek battle, although they are not conquerors but raiders, preferring to ravage and destroy their victims rather than deign to rule over them. For all their civilized pretenses among their own people, frost giants can be savage killers, and know little to nothing of mercy. Their homes are often large castles and fortresses carved from mountain stone or glacier ice, although like other giants they will also take up large caves or rifts that can be adapted to their own use.
As can be expected, frost giant society values strength and prowess in battle, but it also places great emphasis on social rank and nobility. Frost giants organize themselves into clans centered around the rule of a jarl, or king, who rules the giants of his clan by virtue of his noble bloodlines and his great deeds in war. Below the jarls are the carls, or aristocracy, frost giants that have themselves received prestige through their own prowess in combat. The carls frequently act as check and balance on the jarlís power, offering or withdrawing support for the jarl and even potentially deposing him if the clan becomes dissatisfied with his rule.
Through their own noble bloodlines, carls may themselves ascend to become jarls, their sons therefore becoming royalty, although such ascensions are very rare unless the jarl has grievously failed or sinned in some manner, and one carl manages to position himself as the most worthy candidate for the office. To prevent frequent turnovers in leadership and assure stability, however, frost giants frequently only employ such a strategy as a last resort. Similarly, the jarl may strip a carl of his noble rank if he oversteps his bounds, or promote a commoner to join the aristocracy if his deeds are sufficiently impressive. In this way, the powers of jarl and carl balance out, and their abuse by either party is seen as very bad form.
Frost giants are also patriarchal, but they are rather less cruel to their womenfolk than are hill giants. While they wield no official power, frost giant women are frequently sought after by males, and the most beautiful or talented women can attain greater status by wedding the best mates available. Oftentimes, particularly ambitious women will seek to marry outside their clans, possibly to become the lover or even the wife of a foreign jarl, and thereby attain greater power in society. Frost giants can and do marry outside their clans, and there is little stigma attached to a dissatisfied giant renouncing his loyalties to a particular clan and jarl and moving to pledge himself to another one. While the clans are strictly organized, and frequently battle with one another, individual giants can and do move freely between them.
In many cases, frost giants base their relations on other races on what kinds of advantages they may gain by favorable contact. Dwarves, elves and gnomes, as well as orcs, goblins and almost all other humanoids, are all viewed as enemies, and halflings are seen as insignificant worms, although some few daring humans trade and sell the giants items they desire but cannot obtain on their own. Similarly, powerful human wizards and warlords, such as the leaders of the Horned Empire or Iuz, frequently gain the respect of frost giants, who serve in their armies for the opportunities of power and plunder. Ogres are valued as lackeys, servants and additional sword arms in battle.
Their relations with other giant races are another matter. Some frost giants disdain the savage and disorganized ways of the hill giants, but all appreciate the cruelty and violence of the smaller race and frequently cooperate with them in raids and wars. Ettins are frequently viewed with disdain and disgust, and formorians are outright hated. Stone giants are often ignored, although the two races frequently participate in alliances of convenience, aiding one another in mutual endeavors. Fire giants are admired for their hierarchy and military tradition, although frost giants generally view the fire giant system of nobility and hierarchy as restricting and inferior to their own. Verbeeg are viewed with disdain for what the frost giants view as their weakness and unwillingness to more directly confront the smaller races. Mountain giants are revered both for their strength and mysterious powers. Evil cloud and fog giants are frequently strong and faithful allies to frost giants, while their good-aligned counterparts are deadly enemies. Frost giants view firbolgs and storm giants with nothing less than pure hatred and jealousy for their powers.
Frost giants have long lived for battle, conquest and plunder. The oral lore of the Flan elders, the songs of the bards, and the legends of the barbarian shamans are all replete with stories of the savagery and cruelty of the frost giant race, and their peoplesí struggles against these foul beings. Unlike many other humanoids and giant races, however, frost giants have rarely served in the armies of evil, save in alliance with other giant leaders who they respect-rather, the frost giants typically attempt to destroy and ravage their enemies themselves, therefore building up their own power. When they have allied with other beings, they typically do so as partners or enlisted allies, rather than servants. The frost giants serving the alliance of Eclavdra and King Snurre Iron Belly in the battles Against the Giants, for example, saw themselves not as servants of the drow or the fire giants but rather comrades in arms deserving of respect and consideration.
The race of frost giants was made in the image of its creator, the god Thrym. According to legend, the deity Annam, the greatest of the giant gods, observed the rise of mortal beings in the time after the Dark Lord was imprisoned, created by the gods and allowed to flourish upon the Oerth as a reward for their help in defeating Dread Tharizdunís minions. As he had himself fought valiantly against the Dark Lordís forces, Annam decided that he would also create mortal beings to revere him and live upon the Oerth. He sealed a pact with the Oerth Mother, who repaid his loyal service by giving him the same boon she had to the other creator gods.
Crafty Annam then devised a plan. His weakness for women of beauty had led him to father many sons, all of whom clamored for their fatherís favor, and he feared that some of these might become a threat to his position. To avert this, he gathered his sons together in his hall and announced that he would hold a contest to determine the most worthy heir to his throne. As his sons eagerly listened, Annam proclaimed that he would take the boon granted him by Beory and share it with them, allowing them all to create races in his image. The son who produced the most worthy race would thus be given Annamís position.
As the cunning Annam had foreseen, his sons competed vigorously with one another, creating multiple races who all came to revere him in some form, even as his sons soon became more concerned with besting one another and fighting for dominance in the contest, than seeking to overthrow him. In this way, Annam maintained his hold on power as ruler of the gods of the giants.
One of Annamís sons was the deity Thrym, who was known for his cold, stern demeanor and his frightening savagery in combat. Often aloof and solitary by nature, he nonetheless allied with his brothers or other gods as necessary, although he jealously guarded his independence and power. He viewed the world as cold and harsh, and believed that people could only depend on themselves to survive, lest they perish and die. Nonetheless, people could ally with one another if it was in their mutual self-interest, partnering for some shared benefit. Those who offered no benefit could be murdered and robbed without remorse, for they were not strong enough to survive in a harsh world.
Thrym believed that Annam would respect these traits of cruelty, selfishness, and aloofness, and so he bequeathed them upon the frost giants he created as part of his fatherís contest. Placing them in the coldest and harshest regions of the Oerth so as to impress Annam with their strength, Thrym carefully selected other deities of ice and cold for the frost giants to worship, such as the Oeridian winter deity Telchur, who could mutually profit from their association without these new deities weakening his control of the frost giants.
As with the other giant gods, Thrymís relationship with his brothers reflected the relationships the frost giants have with other giant races. Grolantor and Thrym admired one anotherís fighting prowess, and frequently allied in battle, oftentimes supported by the fire giant lord Surtur, although Thrym and Surtur had less affection for one another. Thrym often cooperated with Skoraeus Stonebones for their mutual benefit, although there was little true kinship between the two brothers. Thrymís outright hatred for Karontor and Stronmaus meant that their races shared the same loathing for one another.
Famous Frost Giant Holds:
-The Citadel of the Dragonís Skull: Established in the area between the Corusk Mountains and the Griff Mountains; famed for their intense worship of the Oeridian winter god Telchur, who they consider a friend and ally of Thrym, and of the ritual feasts they carry out in the godís honor; famed for their tradition of wrestling and killing remorhaz with their bare hands; famed for often fighting wearing no armor at all, attacking completely naked when facing smaller opponents; ruled by High King Anvar, Lord of the Frozen Hells.
-The Cloven: Established in the western Yatil Mountains, east of the Caliphate of Ekbir and the northern reaches of Tusmit; famed for the legends surrounding the cold valley the frost giants claim as their home, claiming that it was ďclovenĒ for them out of the Oerth by Thrym himself; famed for their surprisingly elaborate religious art, with which they decorate the walls of the valley in veneration of Thrym; ruled by High Legate Underno, Most Blessed of the Sons of Thrym.
-The Broken Glacier: Established in the Rakers east of the Theocracy of the Pale; famed for their often beautiful ritual songs and music, which they play before planning a raid or battle, and which echo throughout the surrounding area; famed for their frightening war paint and tattoos of demons, remorhazes, and white dragons; famed for foaming at the mouth with a berserk rage in combat; ruled by High Jarl Magnarn Ognersson Trollbane.
-The Ice Crypts: Established in the Sepia Uplands west of the northernmost reaches of the Vesve Forest; famed for being carved out of a massive glacier with roots deep in the surrounding hills, with ice as hard as stone that is said to never melt; famed for their endless clashes with the gnomes and dwarves of the Uplands, the Wolf Nomads, and the peoples of Iuz and the Vesve Forest; famed for their ale, renowned among humanoids of all races for its extremely potent kick, and the variety of vintages and flavors that it comes in; famed for their tradition of being ruled by female jarls, rather than males; ruled by Grand Dame Lyngnarra Frostblood.
-The Whitedeath: Established in the northeastern Crystalmist Mountains; famed for their intense nature worship, and the ability of their shamans to conjure elementals of oerth and ice to aid them in battle; famed for the Sacred Icicle of Thrym, a long spear of pure ice said to be a gift from the Oerth Mother to the frost giants for slaying a white dragon that poisoned the lands around; famed for the elaborate design of their village, a series of towers carved out of the surrounding ice and rock surrounding a statue of a frost giant slaying a dragon; ruled by Grand Jarl Staghorn the Nineteenth, of the Holy Line of Dragonís Bane.