"Both were tall men, built like tigers. Their shields were gone, their corselets battered and dented. Blood dried on their mail; their swords were stained red. Their horned helmets showed the marks of fierce strokes. One was beardless and black-maned. The locks and beard of the other were red as the blood on the sunlit snow." -- Robert E. Howard: "The Frost Giant's Daughter"
Vanaheim is westernmost of the nations of the Far North, lying west of Asgard and North of Cimmeria and Pictland. The Vanir are a red-haired barbarian people, worshippers of the god Ymir, Lord of the Giants. It is Ymir who gives them strength in battle and fuels their drive for conquest.
Vanaheim was a somber country, mostly a bleak tundra plain that was snow-covered through the long winters. Swampy taiga forests probably clothed its high southern regions thinly. Glaciers crept down from the Eiglophian Mountains in the south and the Blue Mountains on the frontier with Asgard. Far to the north were more mountains, crowned with a permanent ice cap that grew larger as the climate changed. Fierce storms came from the Western Ocean as well as the icy north.
The most inhabited part of Vanaheim lay along the western coast. There were numerous villages there where the people eked out a living by beachcombing, fishing, and hunting marine and land mammals. Children collected seabird eggs from the rugged cliffs of the seacoast. The lands there were less barren of life than those of the interior were since the sea moderated the climate.
The Eiglophian uplands of southern Vanaheim evidently harbored a considerable population, because Cimmerians and Aesir conducted raids there. Legends said that Ymir, the frost giant, lived in the northern mountains of Vanaheim. He was the popular deity of the nation.
The Vanir live in snow-covered lands and are winter-bound throughout the majority of the year. During the warmer season they venture from their homes to prey upon the barbarian tribes around them. In this fashion, they believe, year by bloody year, they will eventually purge the world of their blood enemies, the Aesir and Hyperboreans. They despise each race with equal passion.
Vanir raids are known to be especially brutal. The Vanir are famed for burning all they cannot carry away with them. Vanirs dislike intrusions into their territories and will always destroy any settlements which come within several daysí march of their villages.
Vanir men have only a single mate, although they seek sexual relations with all women who are not of Vanir blood. To the Vanir, this type of sexual activity is not considered adultery and is perfectly acceptable, even to the Vanir women.
Vanir are fond of the spear, axe, and sword. They use wooden shields covered in horsehide and wear horned helms and scale mail shirts.