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Giants have been part of D&D since the very beginning, with the hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, and cloud giant featuring in the original version of the game, and the storm giant being added in the earliest supplement, Greyhawk.

For the original bunch, their creative origins seem clear: the hill giant is the archetypical giant from fairy tales, the cloud giant likewise (in particular, from Jack and the Beanstalk, which I think was one of Gygax' favorites), the stone giant is from Tolkien's depiction of giants in the mountains, and the frost giant and fire giant are both from Norse myth (the frost giant being the better known, the fire giant features mostly during creation and Ragnarök).

But I don't know any mythological or literature archetype for the Storm Giant. Where did it come from?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Guessing you're looking for a specific reference from the creators stating their creative influence? Rather than the speculation style "origins seem clear" for the other giants you've given in your question? (Not a criticism, realise it could be read that way, just clarifying). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2022 at 12:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's not guess as to what they might have used based on what was 'available' then- i don't think that will be helpful at all. Answers should be fully supported. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Sep 28, 2022 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt That would be a supported answer :) An unsupported one would be Storm Giants are described in X mythology and Gygax must have seen that because it was around then and it must have influenced him. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Sep 28, 2022 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ The storm giant first appeared in Greyhawk (1975). Unfortunately, Gygax didn't mention it in his Q&A threads on either ENWorld or Dragonsfoot. My guess is it was invented as a more powerful version of the cloud giant, but I don't have a source. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2022 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Damn, if even Quadratic Wizard does not know the answer, my hopes to find out are slim indeed. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2022 at 16:41

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He got a lot of material from Norse Mythology.

I have recounted this experience before, but I'll do so again: When I was part of a large con panel on the East Coast, one young twit of an editor for a major publisher also a panelist asked me before the audience why I had stolen dwarves from Tolkien. I responded in august tones: "I beg your pardon, Young Lady," but I stole my dwarves from the same source the Good Professor did, Norse Mythology."

You can see the influence of Norse Mythology on the giants fairly openly, for example in the Glacial Rift of The Frost Giant Jarl, Jarl is a norse word for leader.

There's no shortage of storm giants in Norse Mythology- Býleistr, brother of Loki and storm rouser, Eistla mother of Heimdallr and the Stormy one, Aegir, commander of the sea and sea storms. The best guess is as such he pulled them straight from Norse Mythology, as he did with dwarves.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As he did Frost Giants (any Jötunn/Jötnar) and Fire Giants (inspired by Surtr). Though it's Ægir. Ligature letter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jan 30, 2023 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Or any other Muspelheim giant, really, though Surtr is certainly the most famous of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Jan 30, 2023 at 23:13
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Inspiration from Marvel Comics is plausible, though there are other mythical sources.

D&D's original giants were, in general, inspired by Norse mythology and fairy tales. However, JWT made an answer which suggests a connection to the creatures named Storm Giants appearing in Marvel Comics. I'd like to address the possibility of this being correct, but with the caveat that I cannot find a certain source.

Marvel's storm giants first appeared in Journey into Mystery #100 (Nov 1963), with various appearances in Thor in the early 1970s. We know from the AD&D 1e Dungeon Masters Guide, Appendix N, that Gygax was a fan of comics:

Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect.

He would mention the EC Comics again in 2007 in an an ENWorld forum post:

How I loved those Weird Science, Crypt of Horror, and all the rest of the EC Comics line

Weird Science ran from 1950 to 1953, and for the second he probably confusing Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, which both ran from 1950 to 1953. He would have been a teenager or so when these came out.

However, Gygax continued reading comics into adulthood. According to former TSR employee Tim Kask, Gary Gygax was specifically a fan of Dr. Strange, a character who first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (Jul 1963) and received his own comic, Doctor Strange, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kask noted:

The only comic book I was really into was Dr. Strange. And Gary was also into Dr. Strange, and that's how we got psionics, and a lot of the sillier spells.

This means Gary was familiar with at least one Marvel comic around the time the storm giants were added to D&D, so it's plausible that he was also reading one of the Marvel comics which featured the storm giants.

Rob Kuntz, who co-wrote the Greyhawk supplement that specifically added the storm giants to D&D's roster of giants, was also a fan of comics at the time, including Dr. Strange, which he mentions Dragonsfoot forum post:

I had a lot of related stuff concerning DR. Strange, and ST was one of many titles, so I could be mistaken. I believe ST dealt with other stories in addition to tales about Doctor Strange himself and I believe that the image occurs in one of those stories. As far as dates, might have been as early as 1970, but I cant hazard a guess. The image is unmistakable. If I were to see the covers from those issues, a memory might be jogged, as I was pretty good on covers of those issues I owned.

It's plausible, therefore, that the name "storm giant" was borrowed from a Marvel comic, either by Gary Gygax or Rob Kuntz.

A supporting detail for this theory is that, at least as far as I can find, there was otherwise no creature called a "storm giant" in Norse myth. The other forms of giant originally appearing in Gygax's original D&D were specifically attested in various translations of Norse mythology: the frost giant (Old Norse hrímthurs), hill giant (bergrisi), stone giant (probably an alternative translation of bergrisi), and fire giant (an identity given to Surtr in the Prose Edda). Gygax attributed to cloud giant to the giant of Jack and the Beanstalk in a 2005 Dragonsfoot forum post.

Non-comic book sources of the term "storm giant"

However, even then, Marvel Comics is not the earliest source of something called a "storm giant". Rather, it appears in old books of mythology (of which Gygax owned or read several). For example, according to Old Norse Stories, published in 1900:

The storm giant, Thiassi, had a daughter named Skadi.

The best guess I have for why Thiassi is called is called a "storm giant" by this retelling is that in the Prose Edda, his home is called Thrymheim, meaning "Thunderhome". It's therefore likely that Marvel Comics drew from books like these in coming up the term "storm giant", and that D&D borrowed the name from either Marvel or the same books from which Marvel got the term. We will probably never know which.

One more interesting reference from Tim Kask is that Gygax had a set of four metal figurines of vikings which he used as miniatures for giants in D&D. These may perhaps have had some influence on D&D's giants.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Marvel's Thor line, and thus the Storm Giants, also are inspired by the Norse sagas/Edda, making them the underlying source in either way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 14, 2022 at 9:19
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In all Likelihood Gygax got the idea for Storm Giants from Marvel Comics.

Storm Giants come out of Norse Mythology, albeit along a crooked path. To keep it brief, the beings were originally called Jotunn, or variations on that name. In translations the term Jotunn became conflated with giants, and are now generally understood to be the same thing. Keep in mind though that this is not entirely accurate - especially when you go back to the original myths

In Norse mythology all Jotunn were related to the elements. They also were all individuals - there were no Fire Giants as a group - only Surtr. There are Jotunn who are described as "of the earth" - prototypical stone-giants, as well as giants who are associated with frost, fire, etc. The one we are probably interested in is Gang, although there are several others who wield lightning, or the power of the storm.

As you can see, the Jotunn are a few steps removed from what we see in the Monster Manual. In fact, I personally think Gygax probably didn't pull the Fire and Frost giants directly from myth either. They are too far removed from their Monster Manual entries.

So, it is more likely Gygax pulled the name "Storm Giant" from Marvel Comics. In addition to the well known Fire and Frost giants (which Gygax also used), Marvel comics also codified a group of giants known as Storm Giants. They first appeared in the early 60s when Gygax was in his mid 20s.

Gygax probably got all three giant types from the pages of Thor and Journey into Mystery

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    \$\begingroup\$ It may help your answer if you can cite a source saying that Gygax was influenced by comics at all. Or is this influence just so well known that there's no need? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2022 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1. This is exactly the type of answer we DON'T WANT. It's pure speculation with zero support whatsoever and is just Gygax must have seen and been influenced by Marvel. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Oct 7, 2022 at 12:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ The trouble here is that I could post an answer citing some different media with literary parallels and it would be just as supported as this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2022 at 12:55

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