Saturday, May 28, 2011
Thor Visits the Giant Skrymir
Thor wandered with Loki and Thialsi through the mountains a long, long time ago. Evening came and they arrived at a building they thought was a mountain shelter. They entered the hut and found all the rooms empty. Disappointed, because they had hoped for a hearty meal, they went to bed.
The companions lay hungry on the wooden slats of their beds. At midnight a terrifying noise could be heard. They thought it was an earthquake shattering the ground around them. The entire house groaned and creaked so the three crept into a smaller antechamber, where they believed themselves to be better protected. But the terrifying roar continued through the night.
The next morning when they got up and looked outside, they found a giant lying next to the hut in deep sleep and snoring frightfully. The giant had been the source of the terrifying sound during the night!
Thor was just about to wake the noisy fellow with his hammer when the sleeper awoke and looked around in amazement. He recognized Thor immediately and said his name was Skyrmir. Then he got up and looked for his glove. Thor looked on in wonder when he recognized the giant’s glove as the house they had been sleeping in! The little corner where they had crept for protection was the thumb of the giant’s glove!
Skyrmir observed the three travelers for a short time. He then took his breakfast and when he was finished he tied his belongings into a bundle and led the others into the forest. When they had walked for a while and it was evening, they rested. The giant lay down and left his food to his companions. But the bundle had been tied so tightly that Thor could not open it. He also tried waking the giant by striking the forehead of the sleeper with his hammer. It was all to no avail. The giant only rubbed his forehead in his sleep and probably thought a leaf or acorn had fallen on his head.
When the companions separated the next morning, Skrymir pointed out the way to King Utgard-Loke. But he instructed them to be unassuming and unpretentious in demeanor because otherwise things would go badly for them.
King Utgard received the strangers but did not think much of them. As he considered them carefully and even recognized Thor, he expressed his surprise that he was so small in stature. Hopefully, he said, his strength and skill were all the greater.
The next day several contests were held. Loki bragged that no one could surpass him in eating. He took a trough full of meat and ate until it was empty. The cook of the king ate the same sized portion, but also swallowed the bones. Loki was not pleased.
Thialsi began to race a young man named Hugin. Despite his incredible speed, his opponent won the race. Now it was Thor’s turn. He was to empty the wine in the drinking horn by taking one swallow, but at most three. Thor drank and drank but the level in the drinking horn did not diminish.
Then he was told to lift up the gray cat of the king. But he could hardly raise it a finger’s width from the ground. Finally he was to wrestle the old nursemaid of the king. But here, too, he was inferior.
This failure also troubled him and his companions. They decided to continue on their journey the next morning. When they took their leave the king said to them:
“Now it will be revealed to you that yesterday during the contest you were blinded by magic. Skrymir – that was me! When you administered the beatings to my brow, I used a mountain to protect myself. With your hammer you beat into that mountain three deep valleys. The cook who ate everything was the all-consuming wild fire, which nothing can withstand. Hugin, the racer, is actually my thinking, my thoughts. Even you, swift-footed Thialsi, could not win that race. The drinking horn was the world ocean and you drank so much of it that the water receded from the shore and an enormous ebbing resulted. The gray cat was the Midgard snake. You couldn’t tell that you were raising it to the heavens and it almost was ripped in two. That would have caused enormous trouble on earth. The old nursemaid was old age. It comes slowly and in stealth, but no one can keep old age at bay forever. Now return happily to your home!
As soon as he said this he vanished in the fog so that Thor could not fulfill his keenest desire to mow down the giant with his hammer. This time the three returned home to Aasgard but they were not as satisfied as they usually were.