OdinPaths - The Path of Thor
Thor and the Giants
It was a long time since Thor had slain any giants, and he was growing restless for adventure. “Come, Loki, let us fare forth to Jotunheim and see what news there is among the Big Folk.”
Loki laughed, saying, “Let us go Thor – I know I am safe with you.”
Mounting the goat chariot, the two headed out of Asgard, riding all day until coming to a little house on the edge of a forest, where lived a poor peasant with his wife, his son, and his daughter.
“May we rest here for the night, friend?” asked Thor – and noting their poverty, said, “We bring our own support, and ask but a bed to sleep in.” So the peasant was glad to have them stay. Then Thor killed and cooked his two goats, and invited the family of the peasants to sup with him and Loki, bidding them to carefully save all the bones and throw them into the goatskins which he had laid beside the hearth. Then Thor and Loki lay down to sleep.
In the morning, very early, Thor rose and took his hammer into the kitchen, to the remains of his faithful goats. Now Mjolnir was about not only to slay, but also to restore, when wielded by the god of Thunder; he touched with it the two heaps of skin and bones, and up sprang the goats alive and well, and as good as new. But no, one of the goats was lame and limped sorely.
Then Thor and Loki took the son Thialfi and the daughter Roskva with them to be servants, leaving the goats behind to heal, and fared forth straight towards the east and Jotunheim. Roskva carried Thor’s wallet with their scanty store of food. They crossed the sea and came at last to a great forest, tramping all day until night fell once more, and they must needs find a place where they all could sleep safely until morning. They wandered about looking for some sign of a dwelling, and came at last to a big, queer shaped house next to a mountain. The entrance was a long, wide hall that had no doorway; when they entered, they found long and narrow chambers running off it. Loki and Thor took the two longest rooms, while the peasants took two of the smaller rooms.
They lay down to sleep, but in the night Thor was wakened by a terrible noise, and the ground shook under them like an earthquake, and the house trembled. None of the companions slept that night.
In the morning, when the noises had stopped, Thor emerged to investigate. And he saw that it was not a mountain at all, but a giant, who had just woken up. He did not seem a fierce giant, so Thor did not kill him at once, but rather demanded his name.
“I am the giant Skrymir, little fellow, and well I know who you are, Thor of Asgard.” When the giant learned of their goal, he asked if he might travel with them, and Thor was willing. Now Skrymir untied his wallet and sat down under a tree to eat his breakfast, while Thor and his party chose another nearby tree for their own. When all had finished, the giant said, “Let us put our provisions together in one bag, my friends, and I will carry it for you.” Roskvar noted that there was so little food there was no risk in losing it, so this seemed fair enough; Skrymir tied all the provisions in his bag and strode on before them with enormous strides.
The day passed, and late in the evning Skrymir halted under a great oak tree, saying, “Let us rest here. I must have a nap, and you must have your dinner. Here is the wallet – open it and help yourselves.” Then he lay down on the moss, and was soon snoring lustily.
Thor tried to open the wallet, in vain – he could not loosen a single knot of the huge thongs that fastened it, try as he might with all his strength. In rage, he seized his hammer and struck Skrymir a blow on his head. Skrymir stirred lazily, yawned, and opened one eye. “Did a leaf fall upon my forehead?” Thor bit his lip in frustration. “Have you dined yet?” Unwilling to admit his failure, Thor replied that they were ready for bed, so they retired to rest under another oak.
Thor did not sleep that night, feeling embarrassed and ashamed of how Loki had chuckled at the sight of Thor’s struggles with the wallet. At about midnight, when he again heard the giant’s snore resounding like thunder through the forest, he arose and stole over to the tree where Skrymir slept. He hurled Mjolnir with all his might and struck the giant on the crown of his head so hard that it sank deep into his skull. The giant awoke with a start: “What is that? Did an acorn fall on my head?”
Thor stepped back quickly, and Skrymir fell asleep once more when it was near daybreak. Going very softly to the giant’s side, Thor smote him on the temple so sort that the hammer sank into his skull up to the very handle.
But Skrymir only raised himself on his elbow and stroked his chin. “There are birds above me in the tree; methinks just now a feather fell on my head. What, Thor! Are you awake? I am afraid you slept but poorly this night. Come, now, it is high time to rise and make ready for the day. You are not far from our giant city Utgard.”
As they made their way toward the city, Skrymir noted, “I have heard you whispering together. You think that I am big, but you will see fellows taller still when you come to Utgard. If you will go on, your way lies there to the eastward – yonder is my path, over the mountains to the north.” So saying, Skrymir hoisted his wallet upon his shoulders, and turned towards the mountains, leaving the companions behind.
Thor journeyed on till noon, when they saw in the distance a great city on a lofty plain. As they came nearer, they found the buildings so high that the travellers had to bend back their necks in order to see the tops. At the entrance was a great barred gate.
Regardless, Thor and his companions entered the city. In front of them was a great hall with the door wide open; they entered, and found themselves in the company of the hugest giants they had ever seen. At the end of the hall sat the king upon an enormous throne; Thor greeted the king civilly, but the giant replied with a disagreeable smile, “It is wearying to ask travellers about their journey. Such little fellows as you four can scarcely have had any adventures worth mentioning. Stay, now! Is this manikin Thor of Asgard, or no? You cannot really be he; I have heard tales of Thor’s might. Are you perhaps taller, or stronger, than you seem? Let us see what feats you and your companions can perform to amuse us. No one is allowed here who cannot excel others in some way or another. What can you do best?”
At this Loki, who had entered last, spoke up: “I can eat faster than any man.” For Loki was famished, and saw a way to win a good meal.
Then the king answered, “Truly, that is a noble accomplishment of yours, if you can prove your words true. Let us make the test.” So he called forth from among hist men Logi, and bade him match his powers with the stranger.
Now a trough full of meat was set upon the floor, with Loki and one end of it and the giant Logi at the other. Each began to gobble the meat as fast as he could, and it was not a pretty sight to see them. But Loki was defeated, and retired looking much ashamed and disgusted.
The king then pointed at Thiafli, and asked what the young man could do. “Of all men, I am the swiftest runner, my lord. I will race anyone you select.”
They retired to the racing ground, where the king selected his man Hugi to race with the young Thialfi. They raced thrice, but Thialfi was defeated each time, and withdrew as had Loki.
Thor had watched with surprise and anger, and resolved to succeed where his companions had failed. Thor claimed he would undertake to drink more mead that any of the king’s men. The king summoned his great vessel, but Thor was defeated here as well.
Angrily, he boasted, “Fine, I will wrestle any of your men.” The king shook his head, “Nay, little Thor, there are none who would wrestle with you – it would be child’s play, you little fellow. For the joke of it, call in my old foster-mother, Elli. She shall try a fall with you.” Now came in an old crone whose back was bent nearly double with age.
Roskva exclaimed, “Your majesty, you insult my lord Thor. If this is truly the only giant amongst you that will accept my lord’s challenge, let me wrestle her instead.” For Roskva was stronger than any man, and could pin a bear to the ground – she felt more than able to defeat the old woman. But Roskva, like all her companions, was also defeated.
The king frowned. “You cannot truly be Thor of Asgard. You have failed in all of your endeavours.”
Thor fumed. “Come now – name whatever game you wish, and Thor shall win it.”
The king thought a moment. “There is a little game with which my youngsters amuse themselves, though it is so simple as to be almost childish. It is merely the exercise of lifting my cat from the ground. I should never have suggested such a feat had I not seen that greater tasks are clearly beyond your skill.”
At that moment there came stalking into the hall a monstrous grey cat, with eyes of yellow fire. Thor seized the cat around its grey, huge body and tugged with all his might, but he was to fail in this task as well.
Because the companions had been such good sport, the king was gracious and kind, offering them food and shelter for the night. But with the mood of Thor and his companions, they had little appetite and slept poorly. In the morning at daybreak they arose, and made ready to steal back to Asgard without attracting any more attention, and Thor was feeling humble for the first time in his life.