THE STORY OF THE ADVENTURES OF THOR IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS
THOR AND THE HAMMER MJOLNIR
Now Thor was the mightiest of all the gods. And he owed his might chiefly to three precious possessions. One was his hammer, called Mjolnir, which the Frost-giants and Mountain-giants knew well, for it had broken many a head of their forefathers and kindred. And the second of Thor’s treasures was the Belt of Strength, which, when he girded it about him, gave him strength beyond all living things. And his third treasure was a pair of iron gauntlets which he was obliged to wear when he would use his hammer.
Now it happened on a morning that Thor awoke, and stretched forth his hand for Mjolnir, the hammer, which always lay beside him. His hand groped everywhere around him, but could not find it. Then Thor arose and searched, but in vain; the hammer was gone.
And great was the wrath of Thor; his red beard quivered, his eyes were aflame, he struck his head and tore his hair.
Then called he aloud for Loki, and told him the (lire news. “Hear now, Loki,” he cried, “what I tell thee, which no one knows on earth, or in Heaven above: Thor’s hammer is stolen!”
And Loki, the god of cunning, advised that they should seek Freyja, the fair goddess of Love, and gain her aid. And they went together to Freyja’s shining hall, and Thor spake to Freyja and said: “Wilt thou, Freyja, lend me thy feather-coat, that perchance I may find my hammer.”
And Freyja answered: “I would give it thee, though it were of gold; I would grant it, though it were of silver.”
And Loki clad himself in the feather plumage and flew away till he came to the land of the giants, which is called Jotunheim. And there he found Thrym, the lord of the giants, sitting on a mound, plaiting golden bands for his greyhounds and smoothing his horses’ manes.
And Thrym asked Loki: “How is it with the gods? And why art thou come alone into Jotunheim!”
And Loki answered him: “It is ill with the gods. Hast thou hidden the hammer of Thor?”
Then said Thrym: “I have hidden the hammer of Thor eight miles below the Earth. No man shall bring it back, unless he bring the fair Freyja for my bride.”
And at these words Loki flew with all haste from Jotunheim till he came again to Asgard. And there, in the middle court, Thor awaited him. And before Loki reached the ground, Thor cried out to him to tell him his news.
And Loki answered him: “I have had toil, but I bring thee news. Thrym, lord of the giants, has thy hammer, and no man shall bring it back, unless he take him fair Freyja as a bride.”
And together they went again to the goddess. And Thor said to Freyja: “Bind on the bridal veil, Freyja; we two must drive to Jotunheim.”
Then was the goddess full wroth at his words. So fiercely she panted that the halls of Asgard trembled, and the great necklace, called the Brising necklace, which was the work of the dwarfs, and had been given her by them, burst and fell. And angrily she spoke
and said: “Eager indeed for marriage wouldst thou think me, if I should drive with thee to Jotunheim.”
And the gods in despair went into council, and long they deliberated as to how they might get back again the precious weapon. Then spake Heimdall, the White god, he who could see into the future. “Let us bind on Thor the bridal veil, he said: “Let him have the great necklace Brising. Let the keys jingle by his side, and let women’s weeds fall about his knees. On his breast let us place precious stones, and daintily let us hood his head.”
But Thor was in no wise pleased at this. “Womanish will the gods call me,” he cried, “if I let the bridal veil be bound on me.”
But Loki said: “Silence, Thor, with words so witless. Soon will the Giants dwell in Asgard unless thou bring home thy hammer.”
So they bound on Thor the bridal veil, and hung the gleaming necklace of Freyja around his neck, and the keys jingled at his side, and woman’s raiment fell about his knees. And they placed great jewels on his breast, and the hood upon his head. And Loki arrayed himself as a serving-maid, and prepared to set out with Thor to Jotunheim. And hastily they harnessed the goats to the car, and departed.
And Thrym, the lord of the Giants, looked out
from Jotunheim and saw them approaching, and he cried to the giants: “Rise up, giants, and strew the benches! The fair Freyja, my bride, cometh! Gold-horned kine I have, oxen all-black, many treasures I own, and jewels many, only Freyja is lacking.”
And the giants made a great feast and many guests assembled, and there came the bride in her bridal raiment and her serving-maiden beside her. And they sat down to the board, and the bride ate eagerly. One ox did she eat, and eight salmon, and of all the sweetmeats prepared for the women, and three casks of mead.
And Thrym, the lord of the giants, wondered at her. “Didst ever see a maid eat so bravely?” he said. And the serving-maiden made discreet answer “Eight nights has the maiden fasted, so eager was she to be in Jotunheim.”
And Thrym, the lord of the giants, would fain kiss the fair bride, and he stooped and lifted the veil that fell about her. Then back he leapt the whole length of the hall. “Why are Freyja’s eyes so terrible?” he cried. “Methinks that fire burns from her eyes.”
And again the serving-maid made discreet answer: “Eight nights has Freyja had no sleep, so eager was she to be in Jotunheim.”
Then said Thrym, the lord of the giants: “Bring in the hammer of Thor to hallow the bride. Lay Mjolnir on the maiden’s knee.” For it was the custom for men to call upon Thor to hallow their marriage ceremonies with the hammer, Mjolnir.
And Thor laughed in his heart at these words of
the giant, and full of glee he was when they brought the hammer and placed it on his knee. And he seized it and leapt to his feet, throwing aside the bridal veil. And first he killed Thrym, the lord of the giants, and all the race of giants he crushed.
Then he and Loki returned to Asgard and the gods rejoiced in the recovery of Mjolnir.
Now on a day Thor set out on a journey, in his car drawn by two he-goats. Loki was with him and they travelled on together till night fell. Then they came to a peasant’s cottage, and they besought shelter of him. Thor killed his goats and put the flesh to cook in a kettle. And when it was ready he invited the peasant and his family to share the meal. And they sat down together, and Thor bade them throw all the bones into the skins of the goats which where lying by the fire. And Thjalfi, the peasant’s son, broke one of the shank bones, that he might take the marrow from it, but Thor (lid not notice what he had done. And after the meal they betook them to rest.
And at the dawn of day, Thor arose and took his hammer and came to the goatskins with the bones piled upon them. And he lifted up the hammer over the skins, and straightway the two he-goats took form again. Then did Thor see that one limped badly, and he knew that one of the bones had been broken. And very angry grew the god, and he knit his brows, and grasped his hammer fiercely in his hand, and came to
the peasant and his family. And they were terror-stricken, and besought pardon, offering to make amends with anything which they had. And Thor, seeing their fear and penitence, restrained his wrath, but demanded as recompense the peasant’s son Thjalfi, and his daughter, Roska. And these became his bond servants, and have followed him ever since.
And now Thor set out again, taking the road to Utgard, the land of the giants. He left his car and his goats with the peasant and started on foot, with Loki, and Thjalfi, and Roska. And they came to the shores of a great sea, and over this they passed, and found themselves in a strange country. And they came to a dense forest, and wandered there all the day.
And when darkness fell they searched about for shelter, and at last came to a very large dwelling. And finding no one about they took shelter in one of the chambers. And towards midnight the whole building was shaken as if by an earthquake. And Thor started up and grasped Mjolnir, his hammer, and awakened his companions that they might seek safety together.
And they found another chamber, and while the others, trembling with fear, crept into the farthest corner, Thor stood at the entrance, with the hammer in his hand, ready for defence. And presently a terrible groaning was heard which continued through the night. And at break of day Thor went out, to find the cause of the noise, and he saw, lying near, an enormous giant. He was asleep and snoring, and his snores were the groans which they had heard all the night.
And Thor girded on his belt of strength and grasped his hammer, for he knew that he would need all his strength to encounter this monster. And at this moment the giant awakened, and stretched himself, and stood up.A fearsome sight he was, and Thor for the first time in his life could do nothing more than ask the giant his name.
“My name is Skrymir,” said the giant, “and I know that thou art the god Thor. But where is my glove?” And he stretched out his hand and picked up his glove, which, to Thor’s surprise, was the dwelling in which they had lodged during the night, their chamber being the thumb of the glove.
And now they all took their morning meal, and when it was finished, Skrymir suggested that the remainder of the provisions should be put together in one wallet. And Thor consented, and the giant put all the meat into his wallet and slung it on his back. Then they set on together, the giant leading the way and taking enormous strides. And all day long he continued without once stopping, but at dusk they came to a great oak tree, and there he told them they would pass the night.
I would fain sleep,” he said, “but you take the
wallet and eat.” And he stretched himself on the ground and was soon fast asleep and snoring loudly.
Now, unnoticed by Thor, the giant had bound up the wallet containing the meat with iron wire, and now, when Thor and his companions would eat, none of them could loosen the string of the wallet. And Thor tried every way, but still it remained as fast as ever. And angrier and angrier he waxed, till at last he grasped his hammer with both hands, and striding towards the giant, he brought it down with all his might on the giant’s head. But Skrymir, knowing his purpose, brought a rocky mountain between him and Thor, at the very moment that Thor struck at him, but the mountain was invisible to Thor.
So the great god of Strength was mightily amazed when the giant sat up and asked: “Was that a leaf that fell upon my bead?”
And Thor, shamed at his failure, answered that he was just going to rest, and he went and laid himself down. But he could not sleep. And when the giant was again snoring so loudly that the forest re-echoed with his noise, Thor rose and grasped his hammer again, and struck at the giant with all his strength. And again the giant, in the very nick of time, protected himself with the mountain, but the blow of the hammer was so great that it struck right through to his skull. But he sat up and said quietly: “What’s the matter? Did an acorn fall on any head?”
And Thor answered in shame that he was about to sleep, and hastened away. And wroth was Thor, and right sore at the failure of his strength. But he
determined to strike a third blow. And when the day was breaking and Skrymir’s snores again resounded through the forest, Thor arose, and took his hammer, and summoning all his strength, he brought it down on the giant’s head, and the giant was again quick enough to place the mountain between himself and Thor, but even so the hammer went right through and into the giant’s cheek up to the handle.
And Skrymir sat up and stroked his cheek, and said: “Are there any birds perched on this tree? Me-thought some moss fell on my head.”
And he rose and dressed, and directed them on their road towards the city of Utgard, saying that his road lay in another direction. Thereupon he threw his wallet over his shoulder and strode forward into the forest, and Thor was well pleased to part from him, for he deemed himself beaten and shamed. Yet the truth was that his three blows had been so wondrous mighty that you may still see in the mountain with which Skrymir protected himself, three deep glens, which were caused by Thor’s hammer.
And now Thor and his companions went on, until, near noon, they saw a great city standing in the middle of a plain. And they went up to the gateway, and found it locked and barred. And Thor tried to open it, but in vain. So he and his companions crept through the bars, and went on through the city till they came to a large palace. And the door being wide open they went in. And in the great hall they saw a number of giants sitting on benches, and farther on they saw the King. And they saluted the King with
great respect, but he looked scornfully upon them, and asked what feats they were skilled in, saying that no one was allowed to stay there who did not excel in some feat or other, above all men.
And Loki cried: “My feat is to eat quicker than anyone else.”
“That will indeed be a feat,” said the King, “if thou doest what thou promisest.”
And he called to one of his men, who was named Logi, to come and try his skill with Loki. And a trough filled with meat was set upon the floor, and Loki placed himself at one end and Logi was at the other end. And they began to eat as fast as they could. But when they met, it was found that Logi had devoured flesh and bone, and the trough as well, while Loki had eaten only the flesh. So all the giants cried out that Loki was beaten, and so indeed it seemed. But the truth was that Logi was nothing else but a devouring flame, and therefore was it that Loki’s skill availed him nothing.
And the King of the giants looked upon Thjalfi and asked him, scornfully, what feat he could perform. And Thjalfi, who was of all men the swiftest of foot, answered that he would run a race with any that might be matched against him. And the King looked scornfully upon him and said that skill in running was something to boast of, yet would he have to be very swift of foot if he would race the man that he would set against him.
And they went out to a great plain and the King called a young man named Hugi to him, and made
him run with Thjalfi. And they ran three courses, and each time did Hugi far outrun Thjalfi. And all the giants cried out that Thjalfi had failed, but in truth he had performed a great feat, for Hugi was Thought, and none can outrun Thought in swiftness.
Then said the King to Thor: “What canst thou do, O Thor, to prove thy fame?”
And Thor answered he would begin a drinking match with any one. And the King bade his cupbearer bring to him a large horn, and when it was brought, the King said: “A good drinker will empty that horn at a single draught, though some men will make two of it, but a puny drinker will do it in three.”
And Thor looked at the horn, which seemed of no great size, but somewhat long. And being thirsty, he put the horn to his lips and took a long pull at the drink, thinking to empty it at the first draught. But lo, when he set the horn down, and looked into it, there seemed as much liquor there as before he had tasted it.
“I would not have believed it,” said the King, looking contemptuously upon the god, “had it been told me that Thor could drink no greater draught than that.”
And Thor was wroth, but he said nothing. And again he put the horn to his lips, and took a long draught, and this time the horn could be carried without spilling, but that was all.
Then said the King: “I think thou wilt hardly be called so mighty a man here as thou art among the gods, if thou can show no greater skill in any feat than thou showiest in drinking.”
And Thor, exceeding wroth, again set the horn to his lips, and drank with all his might, yet, when he set it down, the liquor was only a little lower. And he was ashamed and gave back the horn to the cupbearer. Now, one end of the horn reached into the sea, therefore none could empty it, even in three draughts, but Thor had drunk so marvellously that the sea had sunk to a considerable extent.
“What new trial canst thou propose?” Thor asked of the King, ashamed at what he thought to be his failure.
“We have a very trifling game here,” said the King disdainfully, “which none but the children play. It is to lift my cat from the ground, a feat which I should not have dared to mention to Thor, had I not seen that thou art by no means so great as thy fame.”
And now a large grey cat sprang on to the floor. And Thor put his hand underneath him, and exerting all his wondrous strength tried to raise him from the floor, but he only succeeded in lifting one of his feet.
Now the grey cat was in truth the great Midgard serpent, and Thor had raised him so high from the sea that the giants were all terror-stricken at his amazing feat. But Thor deemed he had failed to lift a cat, and exceeding wroth he was, and shouted that he would wrestle with any that should come against him.
“I see no one here,” said the King coldly, “who would consent to wrestle with one so weak as thou art; but call hither that old crone, my nurse, Elli, and let Thor wrestle with her.”
And they called, and there came into the hall a
toothless old woman, and the King bade her wrestle with Thor. And they wrestled, but the tighter Thor held her, the firmer did she stand her ground. And at length, after a fierce struggle, Thor was brought down on one knee. And he was sore ashamed; but Elli was no old woman, but Old Age itself, which lays low every man in his time.
And now the King called upon them to stop, and he spoke more kindly to Thor and his companions, and showed them to their seats at the board, and they spent the night in good cheer.
And in the morning they arrayed them for departure. And the King came to them, and his men set before them the best of food and drink, and afterwards led them to the gate of the city. And as they parted the King asked Thor how he thought his journey had sped, and Thor answered that he had brought great shame on himself in that they must regard him as a man of little worth.
But the King answered that he would now tell him all the truth, seeing that if he had his way, Thor should never enter the city again. And he told Thor all the truth, praising his wondrous prowess and great strength. And when Thor heard him speak thus he was filled with rage, and lifted his hammer to strike him, but the King had disappeared. Then Thor turned to go back to the city, thinking to destroy it, but lo, where the city had stood was nothing but a green plain.
So Thor returned to Asgard, but he determined to revenge himself by attacking the Midgard serpent as soon as he might.
THOR AND THE MIDGARD SERPENT
And on a day Thor set out alone, and without his car and goats. And he took upon him the form of a young man. And at dusk he came unto the dwelling of a giant named Hymir. And he begged for shelter for the night.
And in the morning he saw how the giant made ready his boat for fishing, and he begged that he might accompany him. But the giant answered that such a weakly stripling was of no use to him, and that he would catch his death of cold if he were to stay out at sea as long as he was used to do. At these words Thor waxed wroth, and he was fain to cleave the giant’s skull with Mjolnir, but he restrained himself, wishing to keep all his strength for other feats.
So he pressed the giant to let him go with him, and at last Hymir consented, telling him gruffly that he must find his own bait. At this Thor went up to a herd of oxen which belonged to the giant, and chosing the largest bull, wrung off its head and brought it back with him into the boat for bait.
And Thor took two oars, and rowed off, and Hymir rowed at the prow. And Hymir was amazed at the speed of the boat. And when they had come to a certain spot, the giant would stop there, but Thor said he would go a great way farther yet. And he went on rowing till Hymir cried out in terror that they would be in danger from the Midgard serpent.
Still farther went Thor, but at last he lay down his oars, and baited his fishing-rod with the bull’s head. And the bait went right to the bottom of the sea, and
the great serpent caught at it, and the hook stuck fast in his mouth, and he struggled violently, so that the boat was nearly upset.
And now Thor gathered all his great strength and pulled so hard at the line that his feet went through the bottom of the boat, and right down to the bottom of the sea. Then with his hands he drew up the great head of the serpent to the side of the boat. And Thor glared upon the serpent in great wrath while the monster poured out floods of venomous poison upon him.
And the giant Hymir trembled with fear at the sight, and just as Thor raised his hammer to kill the serpent Hymir took his knife and cut the line, and the serpent sank back again into the sea. But Thor struck at him as he sank, and some there are who say that he struck the monster’s head off, but it is more likely that he escaped in consequence of the giant’s interference.
And Thor turned next upon Hymir, and struck him such a blow with his fist that he fell into the sea, and was killed. Then Thor waded back to land again, and went home to Asgard.