Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 39

Full oft against Jotunheim did wend,

But spite his belt celestial, spite his gauntlets,

Utgard-Loki still his throne retains;

Evil, itself a force, to force yields never.”

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

Thor and Hrungnir

Odin himself was once dashing through the air on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, when he attracted the attention of the giant Hrungnir, who proposed a race, declaring that Gullfaxi, his steed, could rival Sleipnir in speed. In the heat of the race, Hrungnir did not notice the direction in which they were going, until, in the vain hope of overtaking Odin, he urged his steed to the very gates of Valhalla. Discovering then where he was, the giant grew pale with fear, for he knew he had jeopardised his life by venturing into the stronghold of the gods, his hereditary foes.

The Æsir, however, were too honourable to take even an enemy at a disadvantage, and, instead of doing him harm, they asked him into their banqueting-halls, where he proceeded to indulge in liberal potations of the heavenly mead set before him. He soon grew so excited that he began to boast of his power, declaring he would come some day and take possession of Asgard, which he would destroy, together with the gods, save [74]only Freya and Sif, upon whom he gazed with an admiring leer.

The gods, knowing he was not responsible, let him talk unmolested; but Thor, coming home just then from one of his journeys, and hearing his threat to carry away the beloved Sif, flew into a terrible rage. He furiously brandished his hammer, with intent to annihilate the boaster. This the gods would not permit, however, and they quickly threw themselves between the irate Thunderer and their guest, imploring Thor to respect the sacred rights of hospitality, and not to desecrate their peace-stead by shedding blood.

Thor was at last induced to bridle his wrath, but he demanded that Hrungnir should appoint a time and place for a holmgang, as a Northern duel was generally called. Thus challenged, Hrungnir promised to meet Thor at Griottunagard, the confines of his realm, three days later, and departed somewhat sobered by the fright he had experienced. When his fellow giants heard how rash he had been, they chided him sorely; but they took counsel together in order to make the best of a bad situation. Hrungnir told them that he was to have the privilege of being accompanied by a squire, whom Thialfi would engage in fight, wherefore they proceeded to construct a creature of clay, nine miles long, and proportionately wide, whom they called Mokerkialfi (mist wader). As they could find no human heart big enough to put in this monster’s breast, they secured that of a mare, which, however, kept fluttering and quivering with apprehension. The day of the duel arrived. Hrungnir and his squire were on the ground awaiting the arrival of their respective opponents. The giant had not only a flint heart and skull, but also a shield and club of the same substance, and therefore deemed himself well-nigh invincible. Thialfi came before his [75]master and soon after there was a terrible rumbling and shaking which made the giant apprehensive that his enemy would come up through the ground and attack him from underneath. He therefore followed a hint from Thialfi and stood upon his shield.