Stories of Norse Gods and Heroes/Thor
Thor was the strong god. So strong was he that he could crush mountains with one blow of his hammer.
His eyes shone like fire. When he drove in his chariot, the sound could be heard all over the earth. When he struck with his terrible hammer fire streamed through the sky.
On one hand he wore an iron glove to grasp the hammer. Around his waist was a belt. Every time he tightened the belt his strength was redoubled.
If he had crossed the rainbow bridge it would have fallen down. So every day he waded through four rivers to go to the council of the gods.
Thor was usually as good-natured as he was strong. But sometimes he had sudden attacks of anger. Then he drove furiously in his chariot, striking in every direction with his hammer. Sometimes he did damage which, with all his strength, he could never repair.
Very often Thor did kind things. Once the dwarf, Orvandal, did not go into his home in the ground when the frost giants were in the land. They caught him and took him to Jotunheim.
Thor waded across the ice-cold river, Elivagar, to the land of the giants, and brought Orvandal back in a basket. When they were nearly across, Orvandal put one toe outside and it was bitten off by the frost giants.
Thor liked nothing, better than to go on long journeys, seeking adventures.
Once he set out in his chariot drawn by goats. Loke, the cunning, went with him.
Night came. Thor made himself no larger than a man, and asked to stay all night in a poor man's hut by the seashore.
The man welcomed them. Thor killed his goats, and the poor man's wife cooked them.
When nothing was left but the bones, Thor told the children to put them all into the skins on the floor. But one of the boys broke a bone to get the marrow.
At dawn the next day, Thor touched the bones with his hammer, and the goats sprang up alive. But one of them was lame. When the family saw the bones changed into living goats, they were very much frightened.
Thor was angry because the goat was lame and grasped his hammer so tightly that his knuckles grew white. At first he meant to kill the whole family, but after he thought, he only took away two of the children for servants.
They crossed the ocean that day and found a forest on the other side.
When it grew dark they went into a cave to sleep. In the cave there were five small rooms and one large one. All night they heard a great rumbling noise.
Early in the morning when they went out, they found an immense giant sleeping on the ground. The noise they had heard was the giant's breathing, and the cave was his glove.
When Thor saw him, he tightened his belt of strength and grasped his hammer. But just then the giant awoke and stood up. His great height so amazed Thor that he forgot to strike and only asked the giant's name.
The giant replied that he was Skrymer. Then he asked to go along with Thor. Thor said he might, and they all sat upon the ground to eat breakfast.
After breakfast, the giant put Thor's provision sack into his own and carried both. All that day he strode in front and Thor followed.
At night they stopped. The giant drank a small brook dry; and at once lay down on the ground and fell asleep.
Thor found that he could not untie the sack. At this he was very angry.
He tightened his belt and went out where the giant lay. He swung his hammer above his head and struck the giant's forehead with all his strength.
The giant awoke and rubbed his eyes. Then he said sleepily, "I think a leaf must have fallen upon me." With that he fell asleep again.
Thor and the others lay down without any food, and the giant snored so that they could not sleep.
Again Thor arose. He tightened his belt twice and struck the giant a harder blow than the first. The giant only stirred and muttered, "This must be an oak-tree, for an acorn has fallen upon my forehead."
Thor hurried away and waited until the giant once more slept soundly. Then he went softly, and struck him so hard that the hammer sank into his head.
This time the giant sat up and looked around him. Seeing Thor, he said, "I think there are squirrels in this tree. See, a nutshell has fallen and scratched my forehead."
"But make ready to go now. We are near the palace of Utgard."
"You see how large I am. In Utgard's palace I am thought small. If you go there do not boast of your strength."
With that, he directed Thor to the palace, and went away northward.
At noon they saw a palace so high that they had to bend back their heads to see the top of it.
The gate was locked. So they crept in through the bars, and went from room to room until they came to the hall where sat Utgard with his men around him.
For some time he pretended not to see Thor. Then with a loud laugh he said, "Ho! ho! who is this little creature?" Without waiting for a reply, he cried, "Why, I believe it is Thor of whom we have heard."
Then speaking to Thor for the first time, he said. "Well, little man, what can you do? No one is allowed here unless he can do something."
Loke, who was quicker than Thor, said, "I can eat faster than any one here." Then Utgard said, "Truly that is something. We will see if you have spoken the truth."
The giants brought in a trough filled with meat. Utgard called Loge, one of his men, to contend with Loke.
Loke and Loge met at the middle of the trough. But Loke had only eaten the meat, while Loge had eaten, meat, bones, and trough. So Loke was beaten.
Then Utgard asked what Thjalfe, the boy Thor had taken from the seashore, could do. Thjalfe replied that he could outrun any man there.
Utgard called a little fellow whose name was Huge. Huge so far outran Thjalfe that he turned back and met him half-way.
Utgard said: "You are the best runner that ever came here, but you must run more swiftly to outrun Huge."
Then Thor was asked in what he wished to contend. He answered: "In drinking."
Utgard sent the cup-bearer to bring his great drinking-horn.
When Thor took the horn in his hand, Utgard said: "Most of the men here empty it at one draught. Some empty it at two draughts. But no one ever takes three."
Thor put the horn to his lips and drank deep and long. When he was out of breath, he lowered the horn. To his surprise very little of the water was gone.
Utgard said: "I should have thought Thor could drink more at a draught."
Thor did not reply, but drank again as long as he had any breath. This time enough was gone so that the horn could be carried easily without spilling any of the water.
Utgard said: "Have you not left too much for the third draught?"
Thor became angry. He put the horn to his lips and drank until his head swam, and his ears rang, and fire floated before his eyes.
But the horn was not nearly empty, and he would not try again.
Then Utgard said: "Will you try something else?" Thor replied that he would. Utgard said: "We have a little game here that the younger children play. The young men think nothing of lifting my cat. I would not propose it to you if you had not failed in drinking."
The cat ran in, and Thor did his best. But he could only lift one paw from the ground.
Then he called for some one to wrestle with him, but Utgard said the men would think it beneath them to wrestle with Thor. Then he called his old nurse, Elle, to wrestle with him.
The tighter Thor gripped the old woman, the firmer she stood. Soon he was thrown on one knee, and Utgard sent the old woman away.
The next morning at dawn, Thor and Loke and the two children prepared to go away.
Utgard gave them breakfast and went a little way with them.
When he was ready to go back, he asked Thor how he liked his visit. Thor replied that he had done himself dishonor.
At this Utgard said: "I will tell you the truth now that we are out of my palace. You shall never come into it again. If I had known your strength you should not have come this time.
"In the forest it was I you met. If I had not held a mountain between your hammer and my head, you would have killed me. There is the mountain. The three caves you see were made by the three blows of your hammer.
"One end of the drinking-horn stood in the sea. When you come to the shore you will see how much water is gone.
"What you took for a cat was the great Midgard Serpent which encircles the earth and holds its tail in its mouth. The nurse was old age. No one can resist her."
Hearing this, Thor raised his hammer to strike. But Utgard and the palace vanished and left only a grassy plain.
Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miolner 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!
Used by permission of Houghton, Mifflin & Co.