Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 44

“Wax not, Veimer,

Since to wade I desire

To the realm of the giants!

Know, if thou waxest,

Then waxes my asa-might

As high as the heavens.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

Thor now became aware of the presence, up stream, of Geirrod’s daughter Gialp, and rightly suspecting that [82]she was the cause of the storm, he picked up a huge boulder and flung it at her, muttering that the best place to dam a river was at its source. The missile had the desired effect, for the giantess fled, the waters abated, and Thor, exhausted but safe, pulled himself up on the opposite bank by a little shrub, the mountain-ash or sorb. This has since been known as “Thor’s salvation,” and occult powers have been attributed to it. After resting awhile Thor and his companions resumed their journey; but upon arriving at Geirrod’s house the god was so exhausted that he sank wearily upon the only chair in sight. To his surprise, however, he felt it rising beneath him, and fearful lest he should be crushed against the rafters, he pushed the borrowed staff against the ceiling and forced the chair downward with all his might. Then followed a terrible cracking, sudden cries, and moans of pain; and when Thor came to investigate, it appeared that the giant’s daughters, Gialp and Greip, had slipped under his chair with intent treacherously to slay him, and they had reaped a righteous retribution and both lay crushed to death.

“Once I employed

My asa-might

In the realm of giants,

When Gialp and Greip,

Geirrod’s daughters,

Wanted to lift me to heaven.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

Geirrod now appeared and challenged Thor to a test of strength and skill, but without waiting for a preconcerted signal, he flung a red-hot wedge at him. Thor, quick of eye and a practised catcher, caught the missile with the giantess’s iron glove, and hurled it back at his opponent. Such was the force of the god, that the missile passed, not only through the pillar behind which the giant had taken refuge, but through him and [83]the wall of the house, and buried itself deep in the earth without.

Thor then strode up to the giant’s corpse, which at the blow from his weapon had been petrified into stone, and set it up in a conspicuous place, as a monument of his strength and of the victory he had won over his redoubtable foes, the mountain giants.

The Worship of Thor

Thor’s name has been given to many of the places he was wont to frequent, such as the principal harbour of the Faroe Islands, and to families which claim to be descended from him. It is still extant in such names as Thunderhill in Surrey, and in the family names of Thorburn and Thorwaldsen, but is most conspicuous in the name of one of the days of the week, Thor’s day or Thursday.

“Over the whole earth

Still is it Thor’s day!”

Saga of King Olaf (Longfellow).

Thor was considered a pre-eminently benevolent deity, and it was for that reason that he was so widely worshipped and that temples to his worship arose at Moeri, Hlader, Godey, Gothland, Upsala, and other places, where the people never failed to invoke him for a favourable year at Yule-tide, his principal festival. It was customary on this occasion to burn a great log of oak, his sacred tree, as an emblem of the warmth and light of summer, which would drive away the darkness and cold of winter.

Brides invariably wore red, Thor’s favourite colour, which was considered emblematical of love, and for the same reason betrothal rings in the North were almost always set with a red stone. [84]

Thor’s temples and statues, like Odin’s, were fashioned of wood, and the greater number of them were destroyed during the reign of King Olaf the Saint. According to ancient chronicles, this monarch forcibly converted his subjects. He was specially incensed against the inhabitants of a certain province, because they worshipped a rude image of Thor, which they decked with golden ornaments, and before which they set food every evening, declaring the god ate it, as no trace of it was left in the morning.

The people, being called upon in 1030 to renounce this idol in favour of the true God, promised to consent if the morrow were cloudy; but when after a whole night spent by Olaf in ardent prayer, there followed a cloudy day, the obstinate people declared they were not yet convinced of his God’s power, and would only believe if the sun shone on the next day.