Greetings, empty heads in need of filling! It is I, Professor Blorp, palaeontologist, archaeologist, xenologist, biologist… in fact, your source on all matters related to life, culture and history of Tyria!
Today, we will be speaking of the lumbering brutes of the Shiverpeaks. No, not the norn, those other lumbering brutes. Listen closely, and you will learn of the history and culture of the jotun, and of the object lesson that this provides to all bookahs that would rather fight among themselves than respect the superior intellect and organisational skills of the asura!
First, we shall talk about their history:
As some of the less ignorant of you may already be aware, the jotun were one of the races known to have existed at the time the dragons were last active. Showing a wisdom lacking in most today, the jotun put their faith in the most magically accomplished among them, raising them as so-called ‘giant-kings’ over the brutish warriors. Under the giant-kings, the jotun dominated the Shiverpeaks, building a civilisation upon magical devices that can now be found spread throughout the mountains. Many of these serve as monuments to the giant-kings, some of which have bound spirits to the physical plane, but the most significant of these was a magical telescope – or “far-viewing device” to you bookahs unfamiliar with scientific instruments – which the jotun used to predict the rise of new Elder Dragons, having observed that new constellations formed in warning of the waking of an Elder Dragon. Worryingly, such a constellation was observed by the Pact agents who retrieved the telescope, but such discussions are not the topic of this discourse.
Through their alliance with the other races present at the time – dwarves, seers, forgotten, and the treacherous mursaat – the jotun survived the last rise of the Elder Dragons to rebuild their civilisation. And then, they destroyed it themselves due to infighting. Two theories have come forth as to how this happened.
The credible theory is that having run out of foes to fight, the jotun, like the charr before unification under the Khan-Ur, fell to fighting among themselves. To make it worse, there was more at stake than who would unify jotun civilisation among themselves. You see, the jotun believed that their magical and physical power came from their blood – and from slaying another jotun, they could claim that jotun’s power. Thus, instead of a war of unification, it became a war of genocide, each jotun clan seeking to slay all others. The realisation that all this killing was doing nothing to increase their power and was in fact consuming it as their most adept minds were the most high-profile targets never seemed to enter their small minds.
A jotun claiming to be the last jotun thruln – their title for a historian – claims that the jotun and norn were once the favoured of the gods and protectors of other races, including the humans. He claims that the gods betrayed the jotun and norn, taking away their magic and giving it to other races, leaving norn and jotun civilisation to flounder. Where the norn regained its sense of identity and purpose through the Spirits of the Wild, the jotun had no such supposed anchor – as if the favour of supernatural beings is needed to maintain a civilisation! – to prevent their slide into their current barbarism.
It is my opinion – and thus you bookahs should take it, unless evidence is found to the contrary, as absolute, incontrovertible FACT - that the first theory is the closest to the truth. In addition to archaeological evidence, a norn adventurer claims to have communed with the spirit of a thruln from the time of the fall of jotun civilisation, who corroborates the Priory’s theory. The modern Thruln’s oral history, by contrast, has had thousands of years in which it may have been corrupted. Through the brutish behaviour of the jotun clan-chiefs, it is likely that any thruln who told a story that the clan-chief did not approve of – such as a story of the fall of the jotun that places the blame solely on the clan-chief’s ancestors, the only things that jotun clan-chiefs respect except themselves – would face significant evolutionary pressure to change their story to one more palatable or be replaced. Posthumously. At the time this would likely have happened, humans were the dominant barely-sapient species on the surface of Tyria (beneath was, of course, another story), so what account could be better received than one that says the dominant species only had its power through stealing the legacy of the jotun?
However, it is possible that the modern Thruln’s story does contain an element of truth. We know that, in the last rise of the Elder Dragons, one of the other races – the Seers – coalesced most of the world’s magic into the Bloodstone in order to protect it from the Elder Dragons. We do not know if the Seers consulted their allies on this action, and with the seer civilisation not surviving the last rise beyond a few scattered survivors due to the seer-mursaat war, they may not have been able to inform the jotun of what they had done – leaving the jotun with an unexplained deficit of magic. A deficit they attempted to replace with the lifeblood of their rivals. When they heard of the human gods and how they manipulated magic through interfering with, and then breaking, the Bloodstone, they may have come to the conclusion that the sudden loss of magic described in their histories – which may, at that time, have still been written – was the fault of the same gods.
The fighting between jotun tribes still goes on today – while jotun will attack anyone who enters their territory, they place particular priority on other jotun not of their tribe. As a result, their knowledge and culture has continued to deteriorate. While the norn are more concerned with their stories of so-called heroism than over maintaining a coherent historical record, human adventurers who fought the jotun around the time of the Destruction of Quora Sum reported fighting jotun wielding powers similar to those of necromancers and mesmers. Whether through the actions of adventurers, each other, or the rise of Jormag, these are no more. Now, the only magic you’re likely to find among a jotun clan is within the artifacts and spirits of their ancestors.
Having discussed their history, it is time to move onto their culture – such as it is, anyway:
The first thing you need to know about jotun culture – and understand that I use that term very loosely – is that each jotun worships only himself. This should not be mistaken for the enlightened rationalism of the charr – each jotun truly believes that he himself is a god.
Now, I know what some of you bookahs are thinking, and no, we asura do not consider ourselves gods. We’re just smarter than you. Now, if I may continue in my possibly ill-advised attempt to educate you…
As I outlined in my observations on jotun history, the jotun believe in the power of their blood. Naturally, every male jotun believes that the power of his blood is the most potent and every other jotun is his inferior, seeking to hold him down out of jealousy when they should be recognising him as the most suitable to lead the tribe. As a result, leadership of a jotun tribe is determined on the basis of who is strong enough to bully the other jotun into submission. Jotun show no loyalty to their chieftains and will seek to take their place at the first opportunity – often fatally, as the new chieftain takes revenge for past real and imagined slights.
You're probably now wondering why I specified 'male' there and wondering about their females. Well, they don't get it even that lucky. To the mind of male jotun, female jotun are prized sources of the next generation to carry the tribe’s oh-so-potent blood… and little else. Females belonging to the clan are kept in the safest hiding places known to the tribe where they can continue bearing children, and where they will not be found by other tribes. Females of other tribes are killed on site – no tribe wants to dilute their own blood by mingling it with that of another tribe.
For those of you who are aware of a little thing called “inbreeding” and what that can do to the health of a population, this will explain a lot about the jotun.
The one thing that jotun revere apart from themselves are the relics and monuments of their ancestors, which they believe to be their rightful inheritance – and evidence of the power they will surely hold once again, after they have consumed all of the power held within the blood of their rivals. As a result, jotun will preferentially settle in the ruins left behind by their ancestors when possible. In some cases, the presence of these relics can temper the usual anarchy of jotun leadership – such as the artifact containing the spirit of the Elder Thruln I mentioned earlier, which the tribe used as a means of weeding out contenders for the leader’s position without the strength to pose a real challenge. More evidence for the jotun regard for objects of their ancestors is their use of stones bearing script from their ancient written language as currency. Of course, the oafs have long since forgotten what they meant, and it is likely that being removed from their original site to serve as currency has destroyed whatever message they once carried.
Having said that, for any of you who are brave or foolish enough to seek them out in their lairs, where can they be found?
Most of the known jotun settlements (or “kennings”, in their language) are to be found in the vicinity of Hoelbrak – in fact, most travellers entering or leaving Hoelbrak will pass by at least one, unless they travel by gate. It may seem strange that the majority of that barbaric race may be found so close to the closest thing to civilisation in the Shiverpeaks, but it is likely that the same considerations led norn and jotun both to settle in that area – a relative lack of worse enemies. Close to Hoelbrak, the jotun are shielded by efforts of the Priory and the norn to hold off more implacable enemies such as Jormag’s minions and the dredge – foes that the jotun, fragmented into small tribes as they are, would not be able hold off on their own. Meanwhile, the jotun themselves are not considered enough of a threat for priority eradication – some, in fact, hold out hope that the jotun might be recivilised through patience and re-education.
Two such kennings can be found in Wayfarer Foothills, apparently belonging to a single tribe – Kresdor Kenning just east of the Shrine of Bear in the foothills below the snowline, and Haivoissen Kenning in some of the most well-preserved ancient ruins known north of Breakneck Pass, including the stone reported to contain the Elder Thruln.
Three more kennings can be found south of Hoelbrak – Hessdallen, in the shadow of the archway on the road through the Troll’s Teeth, Theign Kenning on the mountain to the east, and a third kenning of unknown name further to the southeast, near Nakrojos Pass. The jotun of these kennings often come into conflict with Priory archaeological teams studying ruins and artifacts nearby, and seem to have a particularly strong link to the spirits of their ancestors, which have often been seen and sometimes fought by adventurers raiding the kennings.
More distantly, a small jotun tribe is known to have occupied a grove on the Gentle River, just south of Kyesjard. Further north, Grogshadow Kenning can be found on a ledge overlooking Vanjir’s Stead in southern Lornar’s Pass. Finally, a jotun tribe has taken up residence on the north shore of Valslake, opposite the Song of Final Exile. Previously a wilderness, this area has become more important since icebrood encroachment forced the Lionguard to reroute travellers through this territory, leading to efforts being undertaken in order to pacify the jotun population there to ensure the safety of travellers.
And here ends the lesson for today. You can continue sitting here – or sleeping as the case may be for some of you at the back, don’t think I can’t see you – but I’m going to get back to more interesting projects than trying to teach you lot. Seriously, it’s like the Priory will take any bookah with delusions of scholarliness these days…