The name of the god Thor (ON Þórr) of the Eddas occurs elsewhere in the following forms — OHG Donar, OS Thunaer, AS Thunor, and, in the speech of the Normans, Thur. These are from an earlier Thunaraz, and the root is connected with Indo-Germanic (s)ten, “to boom,” “to roar.” Donar-Thor is thus the Loud-sounder, the Thunderer, the Thunder-god — the earliest aspect of this deity.

His widespread cult is attested by the equally widespread name of the fifth day of the week over the Teutonic area — OHG Donarestag or Toniristag; AS Thunoresdaeg; OE Thunresdaeg, hence Thursday; Swedish Thorsday, Danish Torsdag. The names were equivalents of the Roman Dies Jovis, and this suggests that Donar was regarded as the Teutonic Jupiter. In the early part of the eighth century S. Boniface found the Hessians at Geismar revering a huge sacred oak, robur Jovis, which he began to cut down, when the wind completed his efforts.1 Boniface denounced the cult of such demons as Jupiter and spoke of Christian priests who sacrificed to Jupiter, feasting on the sacrifice.2 Jupiter is undoubtedly Thor. The Indiculus Superstitionum (eighth century) speaks of the Saxon sacra Jovis and feriae Jovis, and Thunaer was one of the gods whom Saxons renounced at baptism.3 The eighth century Homilia de Sacrilegiis, probably written by a priest of the northern part of the Frankish kingdom, says that no work was done on the day of Jupiter, and earlier notices of this ritual idleness occur in Cæsarius of Arles (fifth century) and Eligius of Troyes (588 to 659 A.D.), both referring to customs of the Germanic inhabitants of these regions.4 The German Penitential



The uppermost design, from the smaller golden horn, of a three-headed deity is held by some to represent Thor with an axe and one of his goats. The central design, of a god with an axe and a monster at his right hand, is supposed to represent Thor. From the decoration of a helmet found at Vendel in Sweden. The two lowest designs are embossed bronze plates from the island of Öland, Sweden, representing Thor and a monster, and a god (Thor?) between two monsters.


bearing the names “Corrector” and “Medicus” which forms the nineteenth Book of the collection of decrees made by Burchard of Worms, c. 1000 A.D., and which was itself compiled in the early tenth century, also speaks of the observance of the fifth day in honour of Jupiter.5

Saxo had difficulty in accepting the equivalence of Thor as Jupiter and Odin as Mercury, for this would make Jupiter son of Mercury, since Thor was Odin’s son. He concludes that, if Jupiter was father of Mercury, Thor could not be Jupiter nor Odin Mercury.6

The identification of Thor with Jupiter was apparently subsequent to his equivalence with Hercules as the interpretatio Romana. Tacitus places Hercules next to Mercury among the German tribes, and Hercules with his club is plainly the same as Thor with his hammer. Both were strong, both fought against evil powers. Hercules also occurs in inscriptions in Batavian territory — Hercules Magusanus, and in the lower Rhine region, where dedications to a Germanic Hercules occur. Magusanus, “the strong,” from an old German magan, “to be strong,” is connected with the name of Thor’s son Magni, and corresponds to a Norse epithet of Thor’s, hin rammi, “the strong.” A Hercules Deusoniensis, named on coins, is presumed to be a native German god, the name appearing in such place-names as Duisberg. Hercules Barbatus on Rhenish inscriptions is also Donar, whose beard is often mentioned in Norse literature. Hercules Malliator, in an inscription at Obernburg, refers to Donar with his hammer.

Tacitus speaks of the Germanic Hercules and Mars being placated with the permissible animal victims. “They tell how Hercules appeared among them, and on the eve of battle they hymn the first of all brave men.” Arminius convened the tribes in a wood sacred to Hercules — a cult-centre of the Cherusci and other tribes, east of the Weser.7

Donar-Thor, the Thunder-god, thus corresponds to Jupiter, in whose hands are thunder and lightning; and, as the strongest


of the gods with his hammer, to Hercules, the strong hero with his club. If the Teutons known to the Romans told myths about Donar conquering giants and monsters, like the Norse Thor, the equivalence with Hercules is intelligible.

Apart from the occurrence of Donar’s name in that of the fifth day of the week, we find it on the Nordendorf brooch, discovered in Alemannic territory and belonging to the seventh century, joined with that of Odin in a runic inscription. The meaning of this seems to be that Thonar and Wodan are asked to consecrate a marriage. Donar the mighty is named in a twelfth century manuscript in a charm against epilepsy.8 The witness of mountain names in Germany is significant — Donnersberg (Thoneresberg), Thuneresberg, and others, like the Thorsbiorg in Norway.9 Among the Anglo-Saxons the name Thunor does not occur in the royal genealogies as does that of Woden, but its frequent appearance in English place-names points to his cult.10

Saxo speaks of Thor among the Danes as a god “to the greatness of whose force nothing human or divine could fitly be compared.” He, Odin, and many others, “being once men skilled in magic, claimed the rank of gods, and ensnared the people of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.”11 For Thor’s cult and popularity in Sweden we have the witness of Adam of Bremen who equates Thor with the sceptre with Jupiter, and describes him as “most powerful of the gods” there. He is “ruler of the air, controls lightning and thunder, winds, rain-storms, fine weather and crops.” Saxo also speaks of him as “the great Thor” of Sweden.12 Above all, Norway was the region where the cult of Thor was most popular and long existent.

In Norway and in Iceland after its colonization, and to some extent in Sweden, Thor appears as the chief god, whose sovereignty Odin had taken. His cult was popular; his images are often mentioned. Where his image stood beside those of other deities, it had the most prominent place or was most richly decked. At Throndhjem, in the chief temple, Thor sat in the


midst as the most honourable, his image large and decked with gold and silver. He sat in his wagon, very magnificent, drawn by two goats carved in wood, with horns covered with silver. The whole was mounted on wheels.13 His image with his hammer was carved on the pillars of high-seats belonging to heads of families, or on the backs of chairs, or on the sterns of ships.14 Carved in bone, it was used as a protective amulet. Men carried his images with them, made of silver or ivory. Many temples of Thor existed in Norway and Iceland, and are mentioned in the Sagas and other writings. No other god had so many temples there as Thor.

Thor’s name was common in personal- and place- names in Scandinavia — Thordis, Thorkell, Thorgerd, Thorstein, and innumerable others, and the proportion is large compared with those of other deities, Odin’s name occurring seldom in Norse names. Among the Icelandic colonists of the ninth and tenth centuries names compounded of Thor are fifty-one as compared with three of Frey and none of Odin. On monuments with runes Thor is besought to consecrate these, and they sometimes have the form of his hammer.15 The Thing or assembly was opened on Thor’s day, in a place consecrated to Thor, showing that he was associated with law and justice. His superiority is seen in epithets bestowed upon him — ásabragr, “first of the Æsir”; landás, “god of the country”; hofdingi allra goda, “chief of all gods”; mest tignadhr, “most honoured.” He is “Midgard’s warder”; “the mighty one of the gods.” At law-business oaths were taken with the words: “so help me Frey and Njord and the almighty god,” viz., Thor.16 It is significant that Odin’s name does not occur in this formula.

The reasons for Odin’s later supremacy have already been discussed. Thor’s supremacy, however, was never forgotten, and to the end he remained chief god to the peasants and yeomen. The Icelandic colonists believed that they were under his protection and guided by him to their new abodes, which they called after him. The images of Thor and Frey are often


mentioned in Iceland: Odin’s but once. Apart from the king’s sacrifice to Odin, sacrifices were made only to Thor and Frey. Thor consecrates runes, not Odin; and the Thing met on his day, not Odin’s. The lines already cited from Harbardsljod show that the warrior aristocracy went to Odin at death, the folk to Thor, and the statement is significant of the relative position of the two gods at the time when the poem was composed (tenth century). The poem might be viewed as an attempt of its author to emphasize Odin’s greatness at the expense of Thor’s. While this is possible, yet the poem illustrates the lower aspects of Odin, his amours and magic, and it might equally be regarded as the comment of a mocking half-believer upon the gods. The poem is a contest of wits between Thor and Odin, disguised as a ferryman, Harbard. Thor appears as a peasant, with a basket on his back, coming back from a journey to the East. He asks Harbard to bring his boat over, but Harbard enquires what sort of peasant is this and twits him with his lowly position, not even possessing the usual peasant’s farm, barefoot, and in a peasant’s dress. What is his name? “I am Odin’s son, the strong one of the gods,” Thor replies, and threatens Harbard for his mockery. The two then relate their adventures: each bidding the other tell what he was doing at the time. Thor’s adventures are the slaying of the giants Hrungnir and Thjazi, and of evil giant-women; his compelling the sons of Svarang to sue for peace; his slaying the evil brides of the berserkers. Odin recounts his love-affairs and his causing of wars, and taunts Thor with cowardice, betraying troth, slaying women, and with Sif’s infidelity. Thor reproaches Harbard with repaying good gifts with evil mind, calls him “womanish,” utters foul speech against him, and threatens him with death if he could cross the water to him. Harbard still refuses to ferry him over, and adds that he never thought that Asa-Thor, Thor of the Æsir, would be hindered by a ferryman. Finally he bids him take his way on foot and directs him how to go. Thor says that Harbard is speaking in mockery and then


the latter tells him to go hence where every evil thing will harm him.

Odin’s contempt for Thor in this poem mirrors the relation of the higher classes with their cult of Odin to the people outside the courtly and aristocratic circles to whom Thor was still the chief god.

Thor’s supremacy is attested in Lokasenna, for he alone of the gods can silence Loki. He saves the gods from the vengeance of giants according to other myths, or, as the poet Thorbjorn sings: “Bravely fought Thor for Asgard and the followers of Odin.”17

The opposition between Thor and Odin appears in an episode of the life of the ideal Danish and Norse hero, Starkad. He had been nourished by Odin, called Hrosshars-grani, “Horsehair-beard.” Becoming one of king Vikar’s companions, he was with him when his fleet was stayed by a storm, and when the lots showed that Vikar himself must be sacrificed to Odin. That night Odin called Starkad and took him to a wood where, in a clearing, eleven men were sitting on as many seats. The twelfth seat was empty. Odin sat on it and was hailed by the others as Odin. The occasion had now come for Starkad’s fate to be pronounced. Thor said that as his mother had chosen a giant for his father instead of Thor, Starkad would have neither son nor daughter. Odin then said that he would live for three generations. In each, Thor said, he would do a dastard’s deed. Odin announced that he would have the best of weapons and armour. Thor replied that he would have neither lands nor heritage. Odin promised him many possessions. Thor asserted that still he would always long for more. Odin promised him victory in every fight. Thor said that he would always receive terrible wounds. Odin announced that he would give him such a gift of poetry that verse would flow from his lips like common speech. Thor said that he would forget all his poems. Odin declared that the bravest and noblest would honour him; Thor said that the common people would hate him. These


different fates were endorsed by the others. Odin finally said that Starkad must repay him by slaying Vikar, and gave him instructions how to effect this, as has already been told.18

Thor appears in this story as opponent of the aristocratic warrior class dear to Odin, and of their ideals, turning every gift of Odin’s into a curse or neutralizing it, and thus acting the part of the third Norn in some tales.

In the Eddas Thor is regarded as son of Odin, but this could only have been a mythic convention resulting from Odin’s growing supremacy and the desire to bring all other deities into relation with him. This mythic relationship is asserted in the old English homily written by Ælfric, who says that the Danes held Jupiter, whom they call Thor, to be son of Mercury, called by them Odin. This he regards as erroneous according to Roman mythology. Saxo, as has been seen, was also puzzled by the equation.

Thor’s mother is Jord, “Earth.” His wife is Sif, “the fair-haired goddess,” with hair like gold, who was accused by Loki and by Odin of unfaithfulness to him. Thor himself was not faithful to her. Their daughter is Thrud, “might,” promised by the gods to Alviss in Thor’s absence. Thor is sometimes described as “Thrud’s father”: hence she may be regarded as a personification of his might. He himself is Thrudugr, “the Mighty,” and Thrudvald, “strong Protector”; his hammer is Thrudhamarr, “mighty Hammer”; his dwelling Thrudheim and Thrudvang, “Strength-home,” “Strong field.” The giant Hrungnir is called “thief of Thrud” in allusion to some unrecorded abduction of her.19

Thor’s sons are Magni (his mother Jarnsaxa) and Modi, who survive the Doom of the gods and inherit his hammer. They are personifications of his might (Magni) and wrath (Modi). When Magni was three days old he lifted the giant Hrungnir’s foot off Thor, a feat which none of the Æsir could do.20 Thor’s brother is Meili, of whom nothing is known. His


servants are Thjalfi and Roskva, children of a husbandman, according to a story presently to be told.21 His relationship to Jord is seen in the epithet given to him, burr Jarthar, “son of Earth,” in Lokasenna and Thrymskvitha.22

Thor’s names and epithets throw light on his character and functions. He is thrudvaldr goda, “the strong one of the gods”; veorr Midgards, “Warder of earth”; vinr verlidha, “the Friend of man”; Vingnir, “the Hurler”; Vingthor, “Thor the Hurler”; Hlorrithi, “the Noisy one”; orms ein-bani, “Serpent’s destroyer”; Thurs radbani, “Giant-killer.” These show him as the champion of the gods, the Thunder-god, the destroyer of obnoxious powers and beings, the helper of men. Though in origin a Thunder-god, he has other aspects, mostly of a beneficent kind, as summed up in Adam of Bremen’s account, cited above. As Thunder-god his functions show that the thunder-storm was regarded in a beneficent aspect as furthering fertility. Sacrifices were made and prayers offered to Thor by the Swedes and Norsemen in times of famine and sickness, as Adam of Bremen and a passage in the Eiriks-saga show. Thorkill prayed to Thor, the red-bearded god, for food, and he sent a whale to the shore.23 Thor helped to make the ground arable, and protected men against rocks and cliffs.24 To sea-farers he was helpful, giving them favourable winds. The Norman Vikings offered him human victims before setting sail, and animal and food offerings were made to him by voyagers to Iceland.25 Helgi the Thin asked him where he should land in Iceland, and he was advised to go to Eyjafjord. Helgi was a Christian, but was still so inclined to the old faith that he sought Thor’s help in all sea-faring and difficult journeys.26 Kraoko Hreidarr and his party sailed to Iceland, and he made vows to Thor in order that he should point out a site for his possession. Though the land to which he was directed belonged to another, Kraoko maintained that Thor had sent him to it and intended him to settle there.27 Settlers in Iceland dedicated their land to Thor and called it by his name.28 Hence


the great number of place-names which bear witness to the cult of Thor.

Several accounts in the Sagas show how prominent this cult was in the lives of the Norse settlers in Iceland. Rolf, who was called Thorolf, had been guardian of Thor’s temple on the island of Most near the Norwegian coast. He was called “a great friend” of Thor’s, and, when he quarrelled with king Harald, he made a great sacrifice and enquired of “his beloved friend” Thor whether he should make peace with the king or leave Norway. The answer was that he should go to Iceland. He now took the temple to pieces and removed the timbers and earth from the spot where Thor’s image had rested. On drawing near Iceland, he threw overboard the pillars carved with Thor’s image, believing that by them he would be guided to a landing-place. They drifted ashore at a place afterwards called Thorsness, and there Thorolf landed and built a temple.29 Other examples of this use of pillars are given in the Landnáma-bók, as well as of taking down a temple before migrating.30 The Kjalnesinga-saga tells of a great sacrificer called Thorgrim, grandson of Ingolf, the first settler in Iceland. He had a large temple to which all his men had to pay toll. He held Thor in highest honour, and in the temple his image was in the centre, with those of other deities on either hand.31 The dedication of sons to the service of Thor is also spoken of in the Sagas. Thorolf, himself dedicated to Thor, gave his son Stein to the god as Thorstein. His son in turn, Grim called Thorgrim, was also dedicated to Thor in order that he should be a temple-priest. The naming of lands or places or persons after Thor is prominent in stories of the settlement of Iceland.

Thor’s power over the winds and storms is also seen in the fact that he caused shipwreck to those who forsook their allegiance to him by turning to Christianity. In the Njals-saga Thangbrand, a Christian, was asked by Steinvora, mother of Ref the skald, if he had heard that Thor challenged Christ to single combat and that He dared not accept the challenge. He



The upper design shows a sculptured capital from the church of Bocherville, Normandy, eleventh century, and is supposed to represent Thor attacking the Midgard-serpent. The lower illustration of a sculpture of Scandinavian origin in the churchyard of Gosforth, Cumberland, shows Thor fishing with the giant Hymir (p. 85).


replied that he had heard that Thor was but dust and ashes, if God had not willed that he should live. Then she asked him if he knew how he had been shipwrecked, and told him that Thor had done this. “Little good was Christ when Thor shattered ships to pieces. . . . A storm roused by Thor dashed the bark to splinters small.”32 An Icelander named Thorgisl became a Christian, and in dreams was threatened by Thor if he did not return to his allegiance. The ship on which he was sailing encountered a great storm, caused by Thor. The god asked him in one dream to pay him what he had vowed to him. On awaking he recalled that this was a calf which was now an old ox. He threw it overboard, as this was the reason that Thor was haunting the ship.33

Thor’s aid was also sought in war. Styrbjorn prayed to him for victory over king Eirik, who prayed to Odin, and because he was mightier than Thor, Eirik was victorious.34

At banquets a cup of wine, consecrated by the sign of Thor’s hammer, was drunk to him. At a certain banquet Earl Sigund signed the first cup to Odin. King Hakon, a Christian, took it and signed it with the Cross, whereupon Sigund said that he was signing it to Thor with the hammer sign.35

Before discussing Thor’s possessions a passage from Snorri’s Edda describing him may be quoted. “He is strongest of gods and men. His realm is in Thrudvang; his hall is Bilskirnir, and in it are five hundred and forty rooms. That is the greatest house known to men.” Here Snorri quotes a verse of Grimnismal in which Odin describes his son’s hall and says that it is the greatest of all houses, i.e., greater even than his own Valhall. The stanza is an interpolation, but it may be a reminiscence of Thor’s supreme place among the gods, and it is significant also that, in describing the various seats of the gods, Odin begins, not with his own, but with Thor’s. Snorri then speaks of Thor’s chariot and goats, and his three precious possessions — hammer, girdle, and iron gloves.36

Thor has two he-goats called Tanngnj ost, “Tooth-gnasher,”


and Tanngrisnir, “Tooth-gritter,” and a chariot in which he drives, drawn by them. Hence he is called Öku-Thor, Wagon-Thor.” Snorri also quotes the poet Kormak who said: In his wagon Thor sitteth.” The wagon is “the car of Hrungnir’s slayer,” on which runes were bidden to be written by Mimir.37 In thunder-storms a god or supernatural being is often supposed to be on a journey through the sky, and this was true of Thor. A thunder-clap was reidar thruma, the rumbling noise of chariot wheels. In Sweden the people said during thunder: godgubben åker; gofar åker, “the good old fellow” or “the gaffer drives.” In Gothland thunder is Thors akan, “Thor’s driving,” and in Schleswig-Holstein the noise of thunder is attributed to the rumbling of a wagon through the air, i.e., Thor’s wagon. Hence his name Öku-Thor or such epithets as Valdi Kjöla, “ruler of the wagon,” Reidartyr, “god of the wagon,” Vagna verr, “wagon-man.”38 From the goats which drew the wagon Thor was called Hafra drottin, “lord of the goats.”39 One of the myths of Thor told by Snorri begins: “Öku-Thor drove out with his he-goats and his chariot,” and in the Haustlong of Thjodolf of Hvin we see the goats driving the god in his wagon to fight with giants. Hail beats down, earth is rent, rocks shake, crags are shivered, the sky burns, as he rolls along — the description of a thunder-storm. Thrymskvitha describes how the mountains were rent and earth burned with fire, as the goats drove Thor’s wagon to Jötunheim.40

Besides going in his wagon Thor is depicted walking, while other gods ride. Thus he walks to the daily Thing or perhaps to the final catastrophe, wading through many rivers according to an obscure passage in Grimnismal.41

“The hammer Mjöllnir which is known to the Frost-giants and Hill-giants, when it is raised aloft; and little wonder, for it has smashed many a skull of their fathers or kinsfolk.” This “mighty” or “murder-greedy” hammer was made by the dwarf Sindri and was deemed by the gods to be best of all precious works. It could be wielded by Thor only when he wore his


iron gloves. However hard he smote, it would not fail him: if he threw it, it would never miss nor fly so far as not to return to his hands. If he desired, it could become so small that he could keep it under his shirt. The only flaw in it was the shortness of its haft.42 With his hammer Thor slew monsters and giants, and forced Loki to keep silence by threatening him with it. Thunder and lightning sometimes preceded its stroke.43 Hence it is most easily explained as the thunderbolt, which, in German superstition, was an essential part of the lightning-flash, and believed to be a black wedge which buried itself in the earth, but at each succeeding thunder-storm rose towards the surface, which it reached in seven years.44 Does this belief correspond to the statement that Thor’s hammer returned to his hand after being thrown? The superstition is echoed in Thrymskvitha in which the giant Thrym steals the hammer and buries it eight miles deep in the earth. In many regions flint weapons found in the earth are believed to be thunderbolts, and the myth of Thor’s hammer is doubtless connected with this belief. They are generally used as amulets or for magical purposes.

The hammer was a sacred symbol, and the sign of the hammer was used in consecrations and blessings. This custom is reflected in certain passages of the Eddas. The giant Thrym, believing the disguised Thor to be Freyja, the bride demanded by him, said:

“Bring now the hammer, to bless the bride, Lay Mjollnir in the maiden’s bosom, That our bond may be consecrated in Vor’s name.”45

Thor himself hallowed the hides and bones of his dead goats with his hammer, so that they lived again. With it he also hallowed Balder’s pyre. The sign of the hammer, as in Christian circles the sign of the Cross, was made over cups of liquor, especially in sacrifices. As a divine symbol the hammer was used for many purposes. Sickness was healed by it, demons kept


at a distance, marriages consecrated. According to Norse custom, when a newly born child had been accepted by its father and so permitted to live, it was washed and signed with Thor’s hammer, i.e., a symbol of that mythic weapon, and thus received into the family.46 The hammer carved on a tombstone showed that the dead man was dedicated to Thor. Small hammers were used as amulets, and specimens of these have been found in Denmark and Sweden. “Thor’s hammers “were used by the island-men in their ancient faith, according to Saxo, who calls them malleos joviales. The men of old thought that thunder was caused by such hammers, and they apparently used them in thunder-storms. In c. 1123 A.D. Magnus Nicholasson the Dane spoiled Thor’s temple in Sweden of these tokens of the god’s, and the Swedes considered him guilty of sacrilege.47 All this points to the connexion of Thor’s hammer both with the mythic powers attributed to weapons and with the superstitious use of stone weapons regarded as supernatural. Thor’s hammer became the possession of Magni and Modi, his sons, in the renewed world.48

When Thor clasps his girdle around him “his divine strength is increased by half.” In his iron gloves, his third precious possession, there is also much virtue.49

Thor is red-bearded, though whether this redness alludes to the fiery appearance of lightning, as Grimm supposed, is doubtful. He shakes his beard when roused; when he speaks into it, every one quails. His anger is described by his bristling hair and tossing beard, or he lets his brows sink down below his eyes, so that whoso looks at him must fall down before his glance alone. Flame flashes from his eyes. When Thor met king Olaf at a time when Christianity was encroaching on his cult, “he blew hard into his beard, and raised his beard’s voice,” with the result that a storm arose.50 He is seen travelling on foot like a peasant, carrying a basket on his back — an appropriate appearance for a god of the peasants and the folk. He visits a peasant’s house for a night’s lodging, and from such a house


he took his servants Thjalfi and Roskva. Thjalfi, the swift runner, is so swift that only Hugi or thought can beat him. Hence he may be a personification of lightning. Peasant-like, too, is Thor in his wordy flyting with Odin in Harbardsljod.51

At the Doom of the gods Thor fights with the Midgard serpent, which he slays, but falls dead through its venom.52

Thor is often described as journeying to the East to fight giants or trolls. The Eddas contain several myths of these expeditions and combats. Indeed no other Eddic god has so many myths told of him as Thor. Several of his titles refer to his power over giants and monsters: “adversary and slayer of giants and troll-women,” “smiter of Hrungnir, of Geirrod, of Thrivaldi,” “foe of the Midgard-serpent,” “hewer in sunder of the nine heads of Thrivaldi,” “merciless destroyer of giantesses.” Hence also he is “the defender of Asgard and of Midgard.”53 In his aspect as queller of giants, Thor, the Thunder-god, represents the folk-belief that thunder is obnoxious to giants, trolls, and other demoniac beings.54

The myths in which Thor plays a part will now be given, beginning with that of the giant Hrungnir. After Odin’s visit to Hrungnir (p. 66), the giant pursued him into Asgard. The Æsir gave Hrungnir drink out of Thor’s flagons, and when drunk, the giant boasted that he would carry Valhall into Jötunheim and kill all the deities, save Sif and Freyja. Freyja alone dared pour ale for him, and now, as his insolence increased, the gods called for Thor. Thor, swinging his hammer, asked why Hrungnir was drinking here and who had given him safe-conduct, and, hearing from him that it was Odin, Thor said that he would repent of his presence there. Hrungnir protested that Thor would have no fame for killing a defenceless giant, and offered to fight him on the borders of Grjotunagard. He then rode back to Jötunheim, and news of the duel was spread among the giants, who feared for themselves lest Thor should win. They made a giant of clay, nine miles high and three broad, and gave him a mare’s heart. Hrungnir had a stone


heart with three corners; of stone also were his head and shield. His weapon was a whetstone. Beside him stood the clay giant, Mökkurkálfi, in great terror.

Thor and Thjalfi went to the meeting, and Thjalfi ran forward and advised the giant to stand on his shield for Thor would come up through the earth to him. This he did. Now arose thunder and lightnings, and Thor in divine fury (ásmodi), swung his hammer and cast it at Hrungnir, who meanwhile threw his whetstone. The weapons crashed together, and part of the whetstone fell to earth, forming all the whinstone rocks, part of it burst on Thor’s head, so that he fell forward. The hammer, however, broke Hrungnir’s head in pieces, and he fell with his foot on Thor’s neck. Thjalfi struck the clay giant down. He tried to raise Hrungnir’s foot from Thor’s neck, but could not, neither could any of the Æsir when they arrived. None could succeed but Magni, Thor’s three days’ old son by the giantess Jarnsaxa. “Sad it is,” he said, “father, that I came so late, for I would have slain this giant with my fist, had I come sooner.” Thor praised him and gave him Hrungnir’s horse, which Odin said should have been given to him.

The whetstone fragment remained in Thor’s head. The wise woman Groa, wife of Aurvandil the Valiant, sang spells over Thor until the stone was loosened. Thor told her how he had waded from the north over Elivagar, “Icy Stream,” bearing Aurvandil in a basket on his back from Jötunheim. As one of his toes stuck out of the basket, he broke it off and cast it up to the sky, where it is now the star called “Aurvandil’s toe.” He also said that soon Aurvandil would be home, and in her joy Groa forgot her incantations, and the stone remained in Thor’s head. Hence a stone should not be cast across the floor, for the stone is then stirred in his head.55

A poem by Thjodolf of Hvin (tenth century) deals with this myth as depicted on a shield, and gives a vivid description of the rending of earth, the beating down of hail, and the shaking of the rocks, as Thor drives forth in his wagon to the fight.56


There are occasional references to the myth in the Eddic and other poems. Thor calls Mjöllnir “Hrungnir’s slayer,” and he himself is “Hrungnir’s killer,” “smiter of Hrungnir,” “skull-splitter of Hrungnir.” The stone shield is “blade of Hrungnir’s foot-soles” according to a kenning, because the giant stood on it.57 The fullest reference is in Harbardsljod. Harbard said to Thor that he would await his attack and that since Hrungnir died no stouter opponent has faced him. Thor replied:

“Thou now remindest me
How I with Hrungnir fought,
The insolent Jötun,
Whose head was all of stone;
Yet I made him fall,
And sink before me.”

While the foundation of this myth may be the effect of a thunder-storm in the mountains, the further modern interpretations of details in it can only be regarded as highly problematical. The story of the part of the whetstone which stuck in Thor’s head is possibly an ætiological myth originating as an explanation of images of the god Thor which, as among the Lapps, had an iron nail with a piece of flint stuck in the head, as if Thor should strike out fire.” The purpose of this iron and flint was probably to produce the sacrificial fire. On the high-seat pillars of the Norsemen the image of Thor was carved and in the head was set the reginnagli. In earlier times flint may have been used instead of iron in these images.59

Aurvandil, “the Sea-wanderer,” is the hero Orendil still sung in an epic of the twelfth century, and possibly the Horvendillus of Saxo, father of Amleth (Hamlet). The constellation Earendel was also known to the Anglo-Saxons.60 This constellation is thought to be Orion.

Another giant adventure of Thor’s is that in Geirrod’s land, related by Snorri. Loki, flying in Frigg’s hawk-plumage, went to Geirrod’s court where he was shut up in a chest for three months. In order to get free, he told Geirrod that he would


induce Thor to come there without his hammer or girdle. Thor, having been persuaded, went off with Loki and spent the night with the giantess Grid, mother of Vidarr, who told him of Geirrod’s craft and lent him a pair of iron gloves, a girdle of might, and a staff called “Grid’s staff” (Gridar völr). By aid of the staff Thor crossed Vimur, greatest of rivers, Loki holding on to the girdle of might. When they were in mid-stream Gjalp, daughter of Geirrod, caused the waters to increase. Thor sang: “Swell not, O Vimur, I must wade through thee to the giants’ garth. If thou swellest, so will swell my divine strength in me up to Heaven.” Going forward he saw how Gjalp caused the swelling of the stream, and caused her to retire by throwing a stone at her. Then taking hold of a rowan-tree on the bank, he pulled himself out: hence the rowan is called “Thor’s deliverance.” Reaching Geirrod’s court, Thor was given a seat which moved under him to the roof. Thrusting his staff against the rafters, he pushed back the chair, which now crashed on Gjalp and her sister Greip, breaking their backs. Geirrod called him to play games in a hall where great fires burned, and taking with the tongs a white hot iron bar from the fire, he threw it at Thor, who caught it with his iron gloves. Seeing him about to throw it at him, Geirrod leaped behind an iron pillar, through which the bar passed, as well as through Geirrod and the wall into the earth.61

This myth is the subject of a poem by Eilif Gudrunarson (c. 976 A.D.), in which, not Loki, but Thjalfi accompanies Thor.62 Saxo Grammaticus, in his account of King Gorm’s visit to the land of Geruthus (Geirrod), refers to the hurt done by Thor to him and his daughters, here three in number. Geirrod’s land is full of treasure. The way to it across the ocean is beset with peril. Sun and stars are left behind and the journey is taken down to chaos, to a land of darkness and horror, and here the story is probably coloured by visions of Hell. “Long ago the god Thor had been provoked by the insolence of the giants to drive red-hot irons through the vitals of



The upper, of silver, from Uppland, Sweden. The lower, of silver decorated with gold and filigree work, is from East Götland, Sweden.


Geirrod, who strove with him. The iron slid farther, tore up the mountain, and battered through its side. The women were stricken by the might of his thunderbolts, and were punished for their attempt on Thor, by having their backs broken.”63

The myth of Hymir is told by Snorri and also in the Eddic poem Hymiskvitha. Snorri says that Thor went from Midgard on foot and in haste disguised as a youth, and arrived at the giant Hymir’s abode. Next morning he wished to aid Hymir in fishing, but Hymir said he was so small that he would freeze. Thor’s anger was great, but he restrained himself from attacking Hymir, as he had another purpose to fulfill. To obtain bait he struck off the head of Hymir’s largest ox, Himinbrjot. He aided Hymir in rowing to the usual fishing-banks, and beyond them, in spite of the giant’s fear of the Midgard-serpent. Thor prepared a strong line with a large hook, on which he fixed the ox’s head. Then he cast it overboard, intending to beguile the Midgard-serpent. The monster snapped at the bait and was caught by the hook, dashing off so quickly that Thor’s fists crashed against the gunwale. Thor’s divine anger came upon him: he braced his feet so firmly that they dashed through the planking and struck the bottom of the ship. Then he drew the serpent up, flashing fiery glances at it, while it glared at him and blew venom. The giant was in terror and, while Thor clutched his hammer, he fumbled for his knife and hacked the line, so that the serpent fell back into the sea. Thor hurled his hammer after it, and “men say that he struck off its head,” but “I think it were true to tell thee that the serpent still lives and lies in the encompassing sea.” Then Thor struck Hymir with his fist and sent him overboard, and he himself waded ashore.64

Snorri makes this adventure one taken in revenge for Thor’s outwitting by Utgard-Loki, of which we shall hear presently. The Hymiskvitha gives a somewhat different version of the myth, showing that Snorri must have used other sources, and


it is the subject of several poems, verses of which are quoted by him in Skaldskaparmal.65

The Hymiskvitha, which is based on earlier lays, consists of three incidents — the obtaining of a kettle for the gods’ banquet, the Hymir story, and the tale of Thor’s goats. The third has no real connexion with the rest of the poem, the two incidents of which are much more welded together.

The gods were feasting and not satisfied, so they used divining-twigs to discover where more drink could be obtained. They learned that there was plenty in the hall of the giant or sea-god Ægir, and to him they went, bidding him prepare a feast for them. The giant sought revenge and bade Thor bring a kettle in which to brew ale. The gods did not know where to seek it, until Tyr, who here calls Hymir his father, said that Hymir had a mighty kettle, a mile deep. Thor and Tyr set out to the east of Elivagar at the end of Heaven, where Hymir dwelt, first going to Egil’s house, where Thor left his goats. At Hymir’s abode Tyr found his grandmother, who had nine hundred heads, and his bright-browed mother, who brought them ale. She hid them beneath the kettle, for Hymir was often hostile to guests. Late returned the giant from hunting, icicles rattling on his beard. His wife told him that Thor and their son Tyr, long waited for, had come, and were sitting under the gable, behind the beam. The giant looked at the gable: it gave way and eight kettles fell, of which all but one — that under which the gods were hiding — broke. The giant saw them, and, though enraged, could not forget the duty of hospitality. Three oxen were slaughtered and their flesh boiled: of these Thor ate two, to Hymir’s amazement. The poem now passes suddenly to the fishing incident. Hymir bids Thor go and get bait from the oxen. On this expedition Hymir caught two whales, while Thor was still preparing his hook with great cunning. Having cast it he drew up the serpent, and struck at its “hill of hair” (head) with his hammer, and it sank into the sea.


Thor and Hymir returned to the giant’s house. Hymir would reckon no one strong who could not break his glass cup. Thor struck the stone pillars with it: they broke, but not the cup. Now Hymir’s wife told Thor to strike the giant’s head with the cup, for that was harder than the glass. Hymir bewailed his treasure, and said that now they might take the kettle if they could move it. Tyr tried in vain: Thor raised it to his head and set off. The giant with other many-headed ones out of caves pursued. Thor put down the kettle, swung his hammer and slew the giants. Thus the kettle was brought to the gods. After the killing of the giants, one of Thor’s goats was found with its leg hurt — this evil Loki had done. Nothing further is said of this in the poem, and the goat incident is told by Snorri in another connexion.

This lay consists mainly of a widespread folk-tale, to which the episode of the Midgard-serpent has been attached, unlike the prose account. Heroes come to a giant’s abode to seek some coveted possession. In the adventure they are aided by the giant’s wife or daughter, and so overcome him and obtain the desired object. Thor and Tyr are here made the heroes of the tale. The cup is suggestive of the giant’s Life-token, containing his soul, but contrary to usual custom, though it is broken, the giant does not immediately die. Such folk-tales usually tell how the pursuers are stopped by transformed objects thrown down by the pursued. This is lacking in the lay. That the kettle signifies the sea, frozen in winter, i.e., in the power of the Frost-giant, and freed by the first thunder-storm in spring, seems a forced and unnatural explanation of the tale.66 A gigantic vessel would rather be the rock basin or shores containing the sea, not the sea itself.

The adventure with the Midgard-serpent prefigures the coming time when, at the Doom of the gods, Thor will have to engage with it. But this adventure may have given rise to the conception of that final combat with the monster. The suggestion of both prose and poetic narrative is that the serpent is slain


or receives a severe wound. The poem called Bragi’s Shieldlay and the Húsdrápa both describe the adventure, and in the latter Thor struck the serpent a deadly blow and smote off its head as it rose from the sea.67

One of the finest Eddic poems, Thrymskvitha or “Lay of Thrym,” composed about 900 A.D., has, as its subject, the recovery of Thor’s hammer from the giant Thrym, who had stolen it. Ving-Thor awoke to find his hammer missing. Great was his rage — hair bristling, beard shaking — as he sought it. Loki was told of his loss, and together they sought Freyja and borrowed her feather-dress. In this Loki flew to Jötunheim (as he had flown to Geirrod’s realm), where Thrym, lord of the giants, sat on a mound, making golden leashes for his dogs and stroking the manes of his steeds. “How fares it with gods and elves: why comest thou alone to Jötunheim?” he cried to Loki. “Ill fares it with gods and elves,” replied Loki, “hast thou hidden Hlorrithi’s hammer?” Thrym said it was hidden eight miles deep: none would win it back, unless Freyja was given him as a bride. Back flew Loki to Thor with the tidings, and again they sought Freyja, Loki bidding her bind on the bridal veil and haste to Jötunheim with him. So great was Freyja’s anger that the gods’ dwelling was shaken and her necklace, Brisinga-men, broke. The gods met in council. How was the hammer to be recovered? Heimdall advised that Thor, disguised as Freyja, should go to Thrym. Thor refused such unmanly conduct, but Loki bade him be silent, for if the advice were not followed, and he did not recover his hammer, the giants would soon dwell in Asgard — a significant statement.

So the bridal-veil was put on Thor, with a woman’s dress, keys at her girdle, a woman’s head-gear, and the necklace and other gems. Loki attended him as a maidservant, and in the goats’ chariot they sped to Jötunheim, while the mountains burst and blazed with fire. Thrym bade a great feast to be prepared. To his amazement Thor ate an ox, eight salmon, and all the dainties provided for the women, and drank three huge vessels


of mead. Loki said that the bride had been fasting for eight nights, in her longing for Jötunheim. Thrym, eager to kiss the bride, lifted her veil, but at sight of the fiery eyes, leaped back the length of the hall. Loki explained that for eight nights the bride had not slept, in her longing for Jötunheim. Now came the giant’s sister, asking the bridal fee — rings of gold from the bride’s hand, if she would gain her love and favour. Then Thrym commanded that the hammer be brought to hallow the bride, and placed on her knees, that the hand of Vor, goddess of vows, might bless them both. Thor laughed in wardly and, seizing the hammer, slew Thrym and all the giants and his sister.

Some dualistic conceptions may lie behind this myth. The giant wishes to gain the power of the gods, and steals its symbol and medium, the hammer Mjöllnir. But what precisely the giant represents, whether a primitive thunder-deity or demon or the force of winter, is problematical. Thor, whose strength is quiescent apart from his hammer, may represent here a nature god whose power wanes in winter, but waxes in spring. If this is the mythic foundation, the story is built upon it without itself having any significance in nature phenomena. It is well told, with much humour, and Thor excellently sustains the part of the bride. The story is remembered in Norse folk-tales.68

Here, there is a quest by Thor for his own property, as in Hymiskvitha for that of another, in Jötunheim. In both tales he eats in a gluttonish manner, and in both he ends by slaying the giants.

Still another exploit of Thor’s against a giant is found in the tale of the building of a citadel for the gods, which would be proof against the Hill-giants and Frost-giants. This was done by a giant craftsman (smidr) on condition that he should have Freyja and the sun and moon. The occasion of the building was after the attack on Asgard by the Vanir. The gods said that the giant must complete it in one season, and that he would lose his reward if it were not done by the first day of summer.


The bargain was sealed with many oaths, since it was unsafe for the giant to be in Asgard without truce, should Thor, who was in the East fighting trolls, return. The giant asked permission for the help of his stallion Svadilfari. He began on the first day of winter, and the gods were amazed to see the horse drawing such huge stones. Within three days of summer, the work was nearly done. The gods were inclined to evade their promise, asking who had advised handing over Freyja or so destroying air and sky as to propose taking sun and moon from them. All agreed that Loki must have advised this. He deserved death, if he could not devise means of outwitting the giant. Accordingly, in the form of a mare he met Svadilfari, who snapped his traces and rushed after the mare. The giant fell into frenzy, knowing that the work would not now be finished. The gods sent for Thor who came and struck the giant into fragments with his hammer. Loki gave birth to a foal with eight feet, Odin’s horse Sleipnir.69

This bargain and Thor’s deliverance of the gods are referred to in Voluspa, quoted also by Snorri:

“Then went the powers to their judgment seats,
The all-holy gods, and thereon held council
Who had all the air with venom mingled
Or given Od’s maid to the giant race.

Then alone was Thor with anger swollen,
He seldom sits when the like he hears.
Oaths were broken, words and pledges,
The mighty bonds between them made.”

Behind this myth as applied to the gods and their citadel is the traditional belief that large buildings of unknown origin must have been the work of giants. Some German and Scandinavian folk-tales closely resemble this story, though the method of outwitting giant, troll, or devil is different.70

Thor here appears as guardian and helper of the gods, as in the Hrungnir myth. So Lokasenna shows his coming in to the


banquet-hall where Loki has been slandering the deities, and bidding him be silent or he will close his mouth. So the skald Thorbjorn sang:

“Bravely fought Thor for Asgard
And the followers of Odin.”

Other adventures of Thor with giants are mentioned in the Eddas. Harbardsljod and the skald Bragi attribute to him the destruction of Thjazi, “the Thick,” and the casting of his eyes to Heaven. The former deed, however, is ascribed to the gods generally by Snorri and in Lokasenna; the latter to Odin by Snorri.72 Thor slew the nine-headed Thrivaldi, broke the leg of Leikn, and slew giantesses.73 “Eastward I fared and felled the giants’ ill-working women,” says Thor in Harbardsljod, and again,” When I was in the East, guarding the river, the sons of Svarang sought me and assailed me with stones. But little joy was theirs: they were first to sue for peace.” He also slew the brides of the berserkers in Hlesey, who were like she-wolves rather than women. They crushed his ship and threatened him with iron clubs, and drove off Thjalfi. In Hyndluljod Thor is said by Freyja to love little the brides of the giants. Of the tales here referred to or in the epithet “slayer of Hrod” nothing is known.74

In these myths Thor is a boisterous, undaunted being, opponent of the forces which are inimical to the rule of the gods and, therefore, presumably, to the welfare of men. These forces, personified as giants, are the wild, harsh, sinister aspects of nature, all in nature that is opposed to the kindly forces of growth and fertility.

Another long story, related by Snorri, may have less mythical significance than some are disposed to discover in it. It rather suggests the inventive imagination of one well-versed in folktale formulae than a myth proper, though the first incident belongs to Thor-mythology.

Thor and Loki stayed for the night at a peasant’s house,


where the god slew his goats as a meal for his host and his family and guests. He bade them lay the bones on the hides, but Thjalfi, the peasant’s son, split a thigh-bone to extract the marrow. Next morning Thor resuscitated the goats by swinging his hammer, and, discovering that one was lame, was angry and so terrified the peasant that he and his family offered all they had as a recompense. Thor therefore took his son Thjalfi and his daughter Roskva as his servants.

All four journeyed towards Jötunheim, and at night reached a great forest, where they found a huge hall in which they lay for the night. At midnight an earthquake caused them to seek shelter in a side-chamber. Thor kept watch with his hammer at its entrance. In the morning he went out and found a huge man sleeping and snoring. He would have struck him with his hammer, but for the first time his heart failed him. The giant recognized him as Asa-Thor and, telling him that his name was Skrymir, asked why he had dragged away his glove. Then Thor saw that the hall with the inner chamber where they had slept was Skrymir’s glove with its thumb. All now joined forces and shared their food, but next night Thor was unable to open the provision-bag, try as he might. Skrymir was asleep. Seizing his hammer, he dealt him three successive blows on the head. After each blow Skrymir said that a leaf had fallen on him, then an acorn, then some bird-droppings. Next morning he left the others after directing them to Utgard, and bidding them not boast before its lord, Utgard-Loki.

Arrived at the castle of Utgard, its lord spoke of Thor as a toddler, and asked what accomplishments he and the others could show. Loki said that no one could eat food more rapidly than he. A trough of food was set out and one Logi (Fire) was set to eat against him, and ate meat, bones, and trough also. The swift Thjalfi was beaten in a race by the lad Hugi. Thor boasted of his drinking-feats, but could not do more in three prodigious draughts than take a little from a horn which was given him. Then he attempted to lift Utgard-Loki’s cat, but


could do no more than raise one of its feet from the ground. Lastly he attempted to wrestle and throw Utgard-Loki’s nurse Elli, but was himself brought to one knee. Now Utgard-Loki bade them spend the night in feasting.

Next morning Thor admitted that he must be called a man of little might, but Utgard-Loki said that he would never have received him, had he known he was so strong. He himself was Skrymir and had prepared “eye-illusions” to outwit him. The provision-bag was bound with iron, hence Thor could not undo its apparent knots. He had struck three terrific blows, which would have been fatal had not Skrymir placed a hill between himself and them, and the hill was now deeply indented. Logi was Fire and thus could consume meat, bones, and trough so quickly. Hugi was Thought and Thjalfi could not outrun him. The end of the horn was in the sea, so Thor could not empty it, yet he had diminished the sea, and this is the cause of ebb-tides. The cat was the Midgard-serpent, and Thor had raised it nearly to Heaven. Elli was Old Age, and it was a marvel that Thor had withstood her so long. Hearing all this, Thor clutched his hammer and was about to strike, when he found that Utgard-Loki had vanished, and where the castle stood was a wide plain. Hence Thor resolved to encounter the Midgard-serpent again, if he could.75

The goat-episode is referred to in Hymiskvitha, as has been seen. In Harbardsljod Harbard taunts Thor with cowardice in creeping into the glove of Skrymir, here called Fjalar; and in Lokasenna Loki sneers at him for the same act and for believing that he was no longer Thor, and for failing to open Skrymir’s provision-bag.76

How far the episodes of this story are to be interpreted in terms of natural phenomena, or what these may be, is difficult to say, in spite of many attempts in this direction. Some of the mythical conceptions of the North are here — Thor in his contest with giant or unearthly powers; the region of these powers; Utgard, Outside Land; the power of Thor’s hammer, penetrating


a hill; the might of fire; the Midgard-serpent; the idea

that a god is superior to old age, yet not immortal; the mythic explanation of the origin of ebb-tide. But, on the whole, the story — the longest in Snorri — is perhaps no more than a skilful weaving of episodes and ideas into one tale, utilizing Märchen formulae — deception and glamour, by which even gods are deceived, and the futility of a race with Thought or of defeating Old Age. The episode of the restoration of Thor’s goats to life has many folk-tale parallels, in which dead or dismembered persons or animals are restored. A near parallel is found in Celtic mythology. One of the swine of the god Manannan is slain and cooked, and afterwards restored to life, in a story where the god and his wife are hosts to the adventurer Cormac. Manannan’s swine were immortal, and myth said of them that, killed one day, they came alive next day, and with their flesh the gods were made immortal.77

By some, Utgard-Loki is regarded as a form of Loki himself, partly because the Midgard-serpent, his offspring, appears in the story. But as Loki himself shares in the adventure, this is unlikely, and he may be regarded as an abstraction of giant power, against which, for once, Thor sets himself in vain. A distorted form of Utgard-Loki, with traits of the medieval devil, appears in Ugarthilocus whom Saxo describes as a being or deity to whom sacrifices are paid. King Gorm was perplexed about immortality. Some of his courtiers told him that the gods should be consulted and suggested that Thorkill should be sent on this mission. Thorkill sailed to a sunless region and reached a place where he entered a foul cavern, at the entrance to which were two huge men, swart, with beaked noses. One of them told Thorkill that he had a dangerous journey before him in his desire to visit a strange god. After four days roving in darkness he would reach a dark land and discover Ugarthilocus in his grisly caves. When Thorkill and his party reached these caves they saw seats covered with serpents, and beyond this another cave with a foul room where Ugarthilocus was bound


with chains. Each of his hairs was as large as a spear of cornel. Thorkill plucked one from his beard as a token, and straightway a foul stench nearly choked the visitors. Only five escaped with Thorkill, pursued by demons. Eventually he reached Germany and became a Christian. King Gorm was so affected by his description of Ugarthilocus that he died. Many of the bystanders perished of the smell from the hair when he produced it.78 Gorm himself, after visiting Geirrod’s realm, on the return journey had obtained fair weather by vows and peace-offerings to Ugarthilocus.79 In this narrative, Ugarthilocus is rather a blending of Loki chained by the gods and the medieval Satan bound in Hell, than the Utgard-Loki of Snorri’s story.

Another story, the subject of Alvissmal, shows how Thor tricked a dwarf and caused his destruction. The narrative part of this Eddic poem is slight: most of it consists of questions put by Thor to the dwarf Alviss about the different names, mainly fanciful, given to earth, Heaven, moon, sun, clouds, wind, calm, sea, etc., by men, gods, Vanir, giants, dwarfs, and elves. These different synonyms resemble the artificial kennings of the scalds, but more recent investigation shows that some, at least, are circumlocutions used e.g., at sea, to avoid the real names, which were dangerous and tabu.80 Alviss has come by night to claim Thor’s daughter, Thrud, who had been promised him by the gods in Thor’s absence. Thor confronts Alviss and asks who he is and why he is so pale of face, as if he had been lying with the dead. Alviss says that his home is under the earth, beneath the rocks. He has come to speak with the Wagon-man (Vagna-verr) and trusts that the gods will keep their word. Thor says that he will break it, for, as father, he has foremost right over the bride, nor was he present when the promise was made. Alviss pretends to take Thor for a wandering man, such is his appearance. “I am Ving-Thor, the wide-wanderer, Longbeard’s (Sidgrani’s, Odin’s) son, and against my will shall thou take the maid,” cries Thor. Alviss says he would fain gain her through good will, and Thor says that he will not keep her


from a guest so wise, if only he will tell about every world of which he asks him. Then follow the questions and answers; at the end of them Thor says he has never known such wealth of knowledge in a single breast, but he has detained Alviss by craft and betrayed him. “The day has caught thee, 0 dwarf; the sun (deceiver of Dvalin) shines in the hall.” The dwarf is destroyed by daylight, fatal to underearth beings, and Thor thus overcomes him by craft, as he overcomes giants by strength. Thor’s rôle of seeker after wisdom is unusual, and rather suggests that of Odin in Voluspa, Vafthrudnismal, etc.

If Miss Phillpotts is right in her theory that many of the Eddic poems are folk-dramas, there is a distinct group in which, as she points out, a god causes the death of his opponent. Odin slays Vafthrudnir, Freyja destroys the giantess Hyndla by fire, but the rôle of destroyer is mainly Thor’s, the great champion of gods and men against all dangerous forces and especially the Frost-giants. The power of frost was feared by the Northern people, and a mighty winter was expected to destroy all life in the future, as will be seen later. Such folk-dramas were not performed merely with a view to entertainment. Hence when Thor was represented destroying giants, the purpose was to secure his victory in actual fights against these forces. The dramas were, in fact, a kind of mimetic magic, intended to bring about the result which was enacted. The time of the action-drama may have been the winter festival of Yule, when evil powers were in the ascendant. Then it was necessary to strengthen the hands of the guardian of Midgard, the champion of gods and men. Miss Phillpotts also makes the interesting suggestion that if the lost poem on which Snorri founded his story of Thor and Hrungnir was a folk-drama, then an effigy probably represented Hrungnir. This effigy, after the dramatic tradition was lost, was regarded as an accessory to Hrungnir, and called Mökkurkálfi.81