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Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 37

In Germany, where the eastern storms are always cold and blighting, while the western bring warm rains and mild weather, Thor was supposed to journey always from west to east, to wage war against the evil spirits which would fain have enveloped the country in impenetrable veils of mist and have bound it in icy fetters.

Thor’s Journey to Jötun-heim

As the giants from Jötun-heim were continually sending out cold blasts of wind to nip the tender buds and hinder the growth of the flowers, Thor once made up his mind to go and force them to behave better. Accompanied by Loki he set out in his chariot, and after riding for a whole day the gods came at nightfall to the confines of the giant-world, where, seeing a peasant’s hut, they resolved to stay for rest and refreshment.

Their host was hospitable but very poor, and Thor, seeing that he would scarcely be able to supply the [69]necessary food to satisfy his by no means small appetite, slew both his goats, which he cooked and made ready to eat, inviting his host and family to partake freely of the food thus provided, but cautioning them to throw all the bones, without breaking them, into the skins of the goats which he had spread out on the floor.

The peasant and his family ate heartily, but his son Thialfi, encouraged by mischievous Loki, ventured to break one of the bones and suck out the marrow, thinking his disobedience would not be detected. On the morrow, however, Thor, ready to depart, struck the goat skins with his hammer Miölnir, and immediately the goats sprang up as lively as before, except that one seemed somewhat lame. Perceiving that his commands had been disregarded, Thor would have slain the whole family in his wrath. The culprit acknowledged his fault, however, and the peasant offered to compensate for the loss by giving the irate god not only his son Thialfi, but also his daughter Roskva, to serve him for ever.

Charging the man to take good care of the goats, which he left there until he should return, and bidding the young peasants accompany him, Thor now set out on foot with Loki, and after walking all day found himself at nightfall in a bleak and barren country, which was enveloped in an almost impenetrable grey mist. After seeking for some time, Thor saw through the fog the uncertain outline of what looked like a strangely-shaped house. Its open portal was so wide and high that it seemed to take up all one side of the house. Entering and finding neither fire nor light, Thor and his companions flung themselves wearily down on the floor to sleep, but were soon disturbed by a peculiar noise, and a prolonged trembling of the ground beneath them. Fearing lest the main roof [70]should fall during this earthquake, Thor and his companions took refuge in a wing of the building, where they soon fell sound asleep. At dawn, the god and his companions passed out, but they had not gone very far ere they saw the recumbent form of a sleeping giant, and perceived that the peculiar sounds which had disturbed their rest were produced by his snores. At that moment the giant awoke, arose, stretched himself, looked about him for his missing property, and a second later picked up the object which Thor and his companions had mistaken in the darkness for a house. They then perceived with amazement that this was nothing more than a huge mitten, and that the wing in which they had all slept was the separate place for the giant’s great thumb! Learning that Thor and his companions were on their way to Utgard, as the giants’ realm was also called, Skrymir, the giant, proposed to be their guide; and after walking with them all day, he brought them at nightfall to a spot where he proposed to rest. Ere he composed himself for sleep, however, he offered them the provisions in his wallet. But, in spite of strenuous efforts, neither Thor nor his companions could unfasten the knots which Skrymir had tied.


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