Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 38

“Skrymir’s thongs

Seemed to thee hard,

When at the food thou couldst not get,

When, in full health, of hunger dying.”

Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).


Angry because of his snoring, which kept them awake, Thor thrice dealt him fearful blows with his hammer. These strokes, instead of annihilating the monster, merely evoked sleepy comments to the effect that a leaf, [71]a bit of bark, or a twig from a bird’s nest overhead had fallen upon his face. Early on the morrow, Skrymir left Thor and his companions, pointing out the shortest road to Utgard-loki’s castle, which was built of great ice blocks, with huge glittering icicles as pillars. The gods, slipping between the bars of the great gate, presented themselves boldly before the king of the giants, Utgard-loki, who, recognising them, immediately pretended to be greatly surprised at their small size, and expressed a wish to see for himself what they could do, as he had often heard their prowess vaunted.

Loki, who had fasted longer than he wished, immediately declared he was ready to eat for a wager with any one. So the king ordered a great wooden trough full of meat to be brought into the hall, and placing Loki at one end and his cook Logi at the other, he bade them see which would win. Although Loki did wonders, and soon reached the middle of the trough, he found that, whereas he had picked the bones clean, his opponent had devoured both them and the trough.

Smiling contemptuously, Utgard-loki said that it was evident they could not do much in the eating line, and this so nettled Thor that he declared if Loki could not eat like the voracious cook, he felt confident he could drain the biggest vessel in the house, such was his unquenchable thirst. Immediately a horn was brought in, and, Utgard-loki declaring that good drinkers emptied it at one draught, moderately thirsty persons at two, and small drinkers at three, Thor applied his lips to the rim. But, although he drank so deep that he thought he would burst, the liquid still came almost up to the rim when he raised his head. A second and third attempt to empty this horn proved equally unsuccessful. Thialfi then offered to run a race, but a young fellow named Hugi, who was matched [72]against him, soon outstripped him, although Thialfi ran remarkably fast.

Thor and the Mountain

Thor and the Mountain

J. C. Dollman

Thor proposed next to show his strength by lifting weights, and was challenged to pick up the giant’s cat. Seizing an opportunity to tighten his belt Megin-giörd, which greatly enhanced his strength, he tugged and strained but was able only to raise one of its paws from the floor.

“Strong is great Thor, no doubt, when Megingarder

He braces tightly o’er his rock-firm loins.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson).

A last attempt on his part to wrestle with Utgard-loki’s old nurse Elli, the only opponent deemed worthy of such a puny fellow, ended just as disastrously, and the gods, acknowledging they were beaten, were hospitably entertained. On the morrow they were escorted to the confines of Utgard, where the giant politely informed them that he hoped they would never call upon him again, as he had been forced to employ magic against them. He then went on to explain that he was the giant Skrymir, and that had he not taken the precaution to interpose a mountain between his head and Thor’s blows, while he seemingly lay asleep, he would have been slain, as deep clefts in the mountain side, to which he pointed, testified to the god’s strength. Next he informed them that Loki’s opponent was Logi (wild fire); that Thialfi had run a race with Hugi (thought), than which no swifter runner exists; that Thor’s drinking horn was connected with the ocean, where his deep draughts had produced a perceptible ebb; that the cat was in reality the terrible Midgard snake encircling the world, which Thor had nearly pulled out of the sea; and that Elli, his nurse, was old age, whom none can resist. Having finished these [73]explanations and cautioned them never to return or he would defend himself by similar delusions, Utgard-loki vanished, and although Thor angrily brandished his hammer, and would have destroyed his castle, such a mist enveloped it that it could not be seen, and the thunder god was obliged to return to Thrud-vang without having administered his purposed salutary lesson to the race of giants.

“The strong-armed Thor