Mythic West Background

A Quick Thought on Giant Economics

June 16, 2018

As I’ve been writing Sharpshooter, I’ve had to wrestle with a bunch of questions about how the Jotun giants run their society. Specifically, what resources do they have?

Food and water are fairly straightforward. They basically eat the same stuff we humans do. So they just have to eat a lot more of it. So where butchering a cow would feed several families (or one family for a long time given proper meat preservation), it’d be a single meal for a Jotun.

Gathering the required volume of other food types would be labor intensive. Take wheat for example. If a Jotun were harvesting Jotun-sized wheat plants, it’d take about the same effort as it takes a human farmer. But if they’re harvesting human-sized wheat plants, it’d be nearly impossible. It’d be like us trying to eat the mown grass of a lawn. It’s so short and you’d basically be trying to turn clippings into a meal. You’d need a lot of acreage.

A straightforward solution to the labor is human slaves. It’s much easier to get those “little people” to harvest the “little grains” and then, once you have flour, cook something at a useful size.

But after food and water, a Jotun has other needs. And here’s where living in a human world (they came through the rift, remember) can cause serious hardships for them.

They can get metal and stone. They could’ve brought Jotun-sized domestic animals through the rift, which would help with the food problem a bit (except now you have to feed the animals) and provide hides, wool, and leather.

But those animals would be rare. You have what you brought. You’re having trouble feeding them. They’re not easy to raise to adulthood. Clothing becomes even more precious.

Wood, however, is a problem. You can’t bring trees through the rift. Any tree on the human side of the rift is about the same size as a Jotun (20ish feet tall). The trunks (outside of Redwoods, which the Jotun haven’t discovered, being nowhere near California) are often only about as thick as your forearm. Anything you build out of wood is basically a manufactured collection of kindling.

EDIT: I’ve been told about some very large trees that grow in the south. I think that means that wood products would be rarer, but not impossible.

Now a good carpenter can make quite a bit out of kindling sized pieces. But I’ve thought of two things that would be difficult: doors and longbows. Walls would be difficult too, but one could use stone for those.

A door has to be light enough to move, and wants to be made out of as few boards as possible. You wouldn’t want to make many, given the pain of joining all those small pieces together

A longbow requires a long single piece of good quality wood. It also requires specific types of wood that bend but don’t break. There aren’t going to be many trees that yield a long, straight, flexible twenty foot length.

So your Jotun society on Earth is a slave state focused on heavy agriculture and mining (stone, ore for metal) and protecting the precious resources you brought across that can’t be replaced (notably wood objects and animals).

Which is now part of the story.

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