TEUTONIC MYTH AND LEGEND
by DONALD A. MACKENZIE
An Introduction to the Eddas & Sagas, Beowulf, The Nibelungenlied, etc.
London, Gresham Publications 1912
Thor in Peril
The Theft of Mjolner--Loke's Mission--Thrym demands Freyja--The Wrath of the Goddess--Thor disguised--Giant Bridegroom's Amaze--A Hungry Bride--The Hammer recovered --Vengeance of Thor--Loke in Geirrod's Castle--Plot to capture Thor--Grid intervenes--Vidar the Silent--Crossing Elivagar--The High Flood--Giant Maid is punished--Geirrod's Flaming Javelin--Thunder-god's Victory
Now there was a king of giants whose name was Thrym, and he desired to have Freyja, the beauteous Asa-goddess, for his bride. A deep plot he laid, nor did the gods become aware of it until a grievous misfortune befell Thor. He was returning with Loke from Jotun-heim, and together they lay down to sleep. In great wrath was the thunder-god when he awoke because he could find not his hammer, Mjolner. He grasped his red beard and shook it, and fear crept over him as he searched around and about, because without his hammer he was powerless to contend against the giants.
When the other awoke, Thor spoke to him, saying: "Listen to me, and I shall tell thee what is known not in heaven nor upon earth--Mjolner is stolen!"
Speedily they took flight towards high Asgard, and to the dwelling of Freyja went they. Thor spake abruptly, and said: "Wilt thou lend thy falcon-guise to me, for my hammer hath been stolen, and I would fain find it."'
"Gladly shall I give it thee, O Thor," Freyja answered, "even although it were made of silver; yea, if it were of fine gold thou wouldst have it without delay."
To Loke gave Thor the falcon-guise, and he flew speedily from Asgard to the northern coasts of distant Jotun-heim. Nor did he pause or stay until he reached a high mountain on which sat Thrym, king of giants, twisting bands of gold for his dogs, and anon smoothing the gold mane of his horse.
When he beheld Loke in falcon-guise he said: "How fare the gods, and how fare the elves? Why dost thou come alone unto these shores?"
Loke answered: "Ill fares it with gods and ill fares it with the elves. Hast thou hidden the hammer of Thor? "'
Thrym. answered boldly and with gladness: "I have indeed done so. Nine miles below the ground have I buried Mjolner. Nor shall it ever be recovered or returned unto Thor until I am given the goddess Freyja for my bride."
Having spoken thus he smoothed leisurely the golden mane of his fleet-footed steed, and Loke flew back towards Asgard.
Thor awaited him on the battlements, and when the falcon drew nigh he cried: "Hast thou indeed performed thy mission, O Loke? Tell me what thou knowest ere thou dost descend. What is spoken by one who sits is often of small worth. He who reclines is prone to utter what is untrue."
Loke answered and said: "I have discovered all that needs be known. Thy hammer hath been stolen by Thrym, King of Jotuns, and he hath buried it nine miles down below the mountains. Nor will he deliver it to thee again until Freyja is given him to be his bride."
Then Thor and Loke went unto Freyja and told her what the giant had said. Impatient, indeed, was the thunder-god, for he feared that if it became known to the Frost-giants that his hammer was lost they would fall upon Asgard and overcome the gods.
"Right speedily thou must don thy bridal attire, O Freyja," Thor exclaimed, "and together shall we hasten unto Jotun-heim."
Freyja was filled with anger, and as she raged she broke her flashing necklace that gave her great beauty. "A love-sick maid, indeed, I would be," she exclaimed, "ere I would hasten to King Thrym."
To the high Thingstead of Asgard went Thor, and the gods assembled there to hold counsel one with another and decide how the hammer should be recovered. To the hall Vingolf went the goddesses, to consult regarding the fate of Freyja.
In the Thingstead, Heimdal, the wise Van, the shining god, spake with foreknowledge and cunning, and thus he advised: "Let Thor be dressed in the bridal robes of Freyja, and let him also don her sparkling necklace, which gives its wearer great beauty. In a woman's dress let Thor go forth, with keys jingling at his waist. His hair must be pleated, and on his breast must be fixed great brooches."
But Thor made protest, and declared that the gods would mock him if he were attired in woman's dress. Ill-pleased was he with Heimdal's words. "Be silent, Thor," Loke exclaimed; "thou knowest well that if thy hammer is found not the Frost-giants will come speedily hither and build over Asgard a dome of ice."
The other gods spake likewise, and Thor consented to be attired as a bride. When this was done, Loke was dressed, at his own desire, as a maid attendant, and together they went forth from Asgard in Thor's sublime car. The mountains thundered and fire swept from the heavens over Midgard as Thor journeyed to Jotun-heim.
Thrym was sitting on the mountain top, and to the Jotuns about him he spoke, when he beheld Thor in female-guise coming nigh, saying: "Arise, O giants! let the feast be spread, for Freyja comes hither to be my bride."
Then were driven before him into his yard his red cows with golden horns, and his great black oxen.
"I have great wealth indeed," the king exclaimed; "all that I desire is mine. I lack naught save Freyja."
The feast was made ready, and at the board sat Thor, whom Thrym deemed to be Freyja, and Loke, who was "maid attendant".
Thor had great hunger, and he ate an ox, eight salmon, and all the sweets which had been made ready for the giantesses. Then he drank three great barrels of ancient mead.
Wondering, Thrym sat and watched him. Then he cried: "Hath anyone ever beheld a bride so hungry? Never have I known a maid who ate as Freyja hath eaten, or a woman who ever drank so great a quantity of mead."
Loke, the cunning one, fearing that Thor would be discovered, said: "For eight days hath Freyja fasted, so greatly did she long to come unto Jotun-heim."
Thrym was well pleased to hear what Loke said, and he rose and went towards Thor. He lifted the veil he wore and sought to kiss, but he shrank back suddenly. Indeed he retreated to the hall end, where he cried: "Why are the eyes of Freyja so bright and so fierce? They seem to glow like hot embers."
Then spake cunning Loke again, and said: "Alas! O Thrym, for eight nights Freyja hath slept not, for she longed to be here with thee in Jotun-heim. Thus are her eyes a-fire."
Thrym's sister then entered, and she went towards Thor humbly and with due respect, and asked to be given golden bridal rings from his fingers.
"Thou shalt gift them to me," she said, "if thou desirest to have my friendship and my love."
But naught did she receive from the angry and impatient god of thunder.
Thrym then desired that the wedding ceremony should be held, but Loke asked that as proof of his friendship, and to complete the bargain the giant had made, Thor's hammer should be laid upon the maiden's lap.
Then did Thrym order that Mjolner be lifted from its hiding place deep in the bowels of the earth.
In Thor's heart there was great laughter when Thrym spoke thus, yet was his mind solemn, and he waited anxiously until Mjolner was laid upon his knees.
A servant came forward with it, and Thor clutched the handle right eagerly. Then he tore off the bridal veil from his face and the woman's dress from about his knees, and sprang upon King Thrym, whom he killed with a single blow. Around the feasting board he went, slaying the guests, nor one would he permit to escape from the hall, so fierce was he with long-restrained wrath.
Thrym's sister, who had begged from Thor the bridal rings, he slew with the others. A blow she received from the hammer instead of golden treasure.
Cunning Loke watched with pleasure the devastation accomplished by the fierce thunder-god as he raged round the hall and through the castle, wreaking his fierce vengeance on the whole clan of Thrym.
Then together hastened they to where the goats were bound at the home of Orvandel, nor did they pause to rest. Across the heavens was speedily driven the black sublime car. Swiftly o'er mountain and sea it went, blotting out the sparkling stars. Mountains thundered and the wide ocean trembled with fear as the car rolled on. The earth was filled with fire.
Thus did Thor return in triumph unto Asgard, because Mjolner was recovered and the King of Mountain Giants was slain.
But although Loke had served Thor well when his hammer was stolen by Thrym, there came a time when he brought the god of thunder nigh to great misfortune. It was in the days ere the winter war was waged between the Asa-gods and the sons of Ivalde, and the cunning artisans were yet friendly with the dwellers in Asgard.
Loke had gone forth in the falcon-guise of Freyja to pry round Jotun-heim, and especially the castle of King Geirrod, whose daughter he desired for a bride. He flew towards a window, and sat in it while he listened to the words that were being spoken, and surveyed the guests who were there. A servant beheld him with curious eyes, and perceived that he was not a real falcon. So, making cautious approach, he seized Loke and brought him before the king. The eyes of the falcon were still the cunning eyes of Loke, and he was recognized by Geirrod, who demanded ransom ere he would release him. In vain did Loke endeavour to escape. He flapped his wings, he pecked with his beak, but the servant held his claws securely.
Silent was he before Geirrod, and no answer would he make when he was addressed. So to punish him the giant locked him in a chest, in which he was kept for three months. Then was Loke taken forth, and ready indeed was he to speak. To Geirrod he confessed who he was, and the giant constrained him to promise, by swearing a binding oath, that he would bring Thor to Jotun-heim and unto that strong castle without his hammer or his belt or his iron gloves. For greatly sought the giant to have the thunder-god in his power.
Loke then flew back to Asgard, and with great cunning he addressed Thor, so that he secured his consent to visit the castle of Geirrod without taking with him his hammer and gloves and his strong belt. For Loke assured Thor that the castle stood on a green and level plain, and that they were invited to attend together a feast of friends.
Thor set forth, and Loke went with him. All day they travelled on their way until they came to the borders of Elivagar in Alf-heim, where dwelt the sons of Ivalde.
There dwelt also in that realm and in the midst of a deep wood a giantess who was friendly towards the gods. Her name was Grid. She was the mother of Odin's son Vidar, the Silent One, whose strength was so mighty that none save Thor was his equal. A great shoe he had; its sole was hard as iron, for it was formed of the cast-off leather scraps of every shoe that was ever made. This son of Grid was born to avenge his father's death. When Odin is slain at Ragnarok, then shall Vidar combat with the wolf Fenrer and tear its jaws asunder. Nor shall Surtur destroy him with his firebrands, for the wood-god perishes never in Nature's deep solitudes.
Now Grid, mother of Vidar, had power to work magic spells, and she possessed a magic rowan wand which was named Gridarvold. When she beheld Thor going unarmed towards Geirrod's castle, she warned him that the giant was as cunning and treacherous as a wolf-dog, and dangerous to meet without weapons. So to Thor she gave her magic staff, her belt of strength, and her iron gloves, and when he set out he took with him the sons of Ivalde. Together they travelled in safety until they came to Vimur, which is the greatest of the rivers Elivagar. The clouds drove heavily above them, and hailstones fell around. Wild and mountainous was the country which Loke had said was green and level. There were swift and treacherous eddies in the swollen waters.
But Thor put on the belt of strength which Grid had given him, and in his hand he took her magic staff. Rapidly did the river rise as he entered it with his men. From the mountains icy torrents poured down with increasing strength, and the sons of Ivalde were soon in great peril. They thrust their spears into the shingle as they tried to ford the river, and the clinking of the steel mingled with the sharp screams of the waters. When they were but halfway across a high wave burst out from a great mountain torrent, and the waters rose to Thor's shoulder. The others were swept down towards him; for, perceiving their peril and desiring to be a protection to them, he had chosen the deepest part through which to wade. Orvandel leapt upon Thor's shoulder, and there stood, bending his bow. Loke and the others clung to the belt of Grid, which was about Thor's body. Towards the bank the thunder-god laboured, and when he came nigh to it he beheld, at the torrent's source a daughter of Geirrod, whose name was Gjalp. It was she who, standing high on the hillside, caused the river to increase so that Thor and his followers might be drowned. The angry god seized a boulder and flung it towards her. Sure was his aim, for it struck her heavily, so that her back was broken. Thus was the Hag overcome and the torrent stayed.
Then did Thor seize a rowan-tree branch which overhung the river, and with its aid he pulled himself up the bank. Thus had its origin the ancient proverb: "Thor's salvation, the rowan".
Up the steep mountain did the thunder-god climb with all his men. Against them came the giants who sought to destroy Ygdrasil, "the World-tree". Bravely fought Thor, and the arrows of Orvandel sped fast until the horde of giants were put to flight. Speedily did the heroes follow them. They pressed onward and reached Geirrod's castle amidst the clamour and the howling of the storm-giants and the giants that dwell within the caves of the mountains.
When Thor entered Geirrod's hall the giant king cast at him a red-hot flaming javelin from behind a great pillar of wood. But with Grid's iron gloves Thor caught it, and past Orvandel's head he flung it back, so that it went through the pillar and through Geirrod, who was slain; and it passed through the wall of his castle ere it sank deep into the earth.
Then loudly thundered the din of battle in Geirrod's hall, which was shaken to its foundations. With slings and boulders did the giants contend, but from Thor and his men they received their deathblows.
Thus was Geirrod and his clan overcome in dread conflict; but no less terrible was the battle which Thor waged against Hrungner, the stone-giant, the tale of which now follows.
I am the god Thor,
I am the war god,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!
Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Mjolner, the mighty
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!
These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle,
Whenever I brace it
Strength is redoubled!
The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations.
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant;
Over the whole earth
Still is Thor's-day!