November Lesson

This month we will read some myths about Thor, the god of thunder who rode the skies with his hammer and the belt that made him so strong.

Thor travels to Utgard-Loki

Thor and Loki travelled in Thor’s chariot, pulled by two goats, and stayed one night at a peasant’s farm. Thor offered a meal from his two goats, but when he resurrected them the next morning he noticed that one of them had a limp, caused by the peasant’s son breaking a bone during dinner. Thor was very angry but agreed to settle things by getting the peasant’s son Thjalfi and daughter Roskva for his servants. They left the goats at the farm to be healed and continued by foot towards the castle of Utgard-Loki.

One day they met a giant called Skrymir. Skrymir agreed to show them part of the way but for certain reasons Thor tried to beat him to death in his sleep three times with his hammer – in the mornings the giant only muttered about things falling onto his head from the trees and went on. Then they arrived at Utgard-Loki’s castle and Skrymir left them.

Before they were allowed to enter his castle, Utgard-Loki wanted them all to compete at sports to prove themselves worthy of entering the castle. Loki said he was a fast eater, so they arranged a competition where Loki and a man called Logi (“fire”) were to eat meat in a huge trencher. They started from one end each and met at the middle, but even though Loki consumed all the meat off the bones he lost, because Logi consumed the bones and the trencher itself as well as the meat. Thjalfi was a fast runner and competed in a race against Hugi (“thought”). Thjalfi got three chances but lost all three races.

Thor competed in three sports. First there was a drinking contest, where Utgard-Loki brought forward a special drinking horn and asked Thor to empty it in less than three gulps. Thor, who was a master drinker, thought it would be easy, but after three gulps the horn still wasn’t empty. The second contest was to prove his strength. He was told to lift a big gray cat, but even though Thor was so strong he could only lift one paw. The third contest was a wrestling contest against an old woman who was Utgard-Loki’s nurse Elli. After a hard fight, Thor lost. Utgard-Loki told them they would have to leave on the next morning.

However, before they left the castle Utgard-Loki told them that he hadn’t played fair. He revealed that he was Skrymir, their guide, and that he created illusions to save himself when Thor tried to kill him (he placed an invisible mountain in front of him). He also created illusions during all the contests. Loki lost the eating contest against a flame of real fire. Thjalfi lost the races against Utgard-Loki’s own swift thoughts. Thor couldn’t empty the drinking horn because the other end of it opened to the sea (and Thor’s effort to drink it caused ebb and flood), the gray cat was actually the Midgard serpent, and the nurse was in fact old age which no man can defeat. Utgard-Loki didn’t play fair because he had realized these guests were too strong and powerful to be let inside his castle, and he asked them to never visit him again.

Thor and Skrymir
Thor and Skrymir

Thor goes fishing with Hymir

On one of his journeys Thor travelled in the disguise of a young man, and one evening he arrived at the house of the giant Hymir. In the morning Hymir got ready to go fishing, and Thor asked if he could join him. Hymir, who thought Thor was a young and weak man, agreed but warned him that he would probably get too tired and cold if they went so far onto the sea as Hymir usually did. Thor swallowed his pride and said Hymir would be surprised. Hymir still told him he would have to get his own pile of bait.

Thor went into the forest and got the head of Hymir’s best ox for bait. When he arrived at the shore, Hymir had already started rowing. Thor jumped into the boat and grabbed the oars. After a while Hymir said they had arrived at his usual fishing spot. Thor said he wanted to row further and didn’t stop until much later, when Hymir was already scared of how far they had gone.

Thor put the ox head on a strong fishline, threw it into the sea and waited. Before long, the Midgard serpent took the bait and Thor struggled so much to catch it that his feet went through the bottom of the boat and he ended up standing on the sea floor. But Hymir was so scared of the Midgard serpent, that right when Thor was about to hit it with his hammer, Hymir cut the fishline and the serpent escaped into the depths of the sea.

Thor was so angry that he threw Hymir overboard and walked ashore. Ever since that day, Thor and the Midgard serpent were bitter enemies.

Thor fishing with Hymir
Thor fishing with Hymir, catching the Midgard serpent

Thor fights Hrungnir

There was a giant called Hrungnir (“the brawler”) who once boasted to Odin that his horse Gullfaxi was much faster than Odin’s Sleipnir. They raced, but Sleipnir won and Hrungnir was very angry. At the end of the race he came to Asgard, and Odin invited him to enter Valhalla and drink with the gods. Hrungnir quickly became drunk, and the gods grew tired of his boasting, so they summoned Thor.

Thor was very upset that they had let a giant into Valhalla, and a fight between Thor and Hrungnir wasn’t far off. But Hrungnir, who hadn’t brought his weapons, quickly challenged Thor to a duel in Jotunheim. Thor agreed, and both giants and gods looked forward to this duel. The gods wanted Hrungnir defeated, because he was the strongest giant; but the giants wanted Thor defeated, because he was the biggest enemy of the giants.

Before the duel, Hrungnir prepared a clay giant to assist him. He put his own heart in the clay giant, because no other heart was big and strong enough. When Thor arrived, he brought his servant Thjalfi with him. Thjalfi beat the clay giant, and Thor threw his hammer at Hrungnir at the same time as Hrungnir threw his club at Thor. The weapons met mid-air, but the hammer was stronger; it shattered the club and buried itself in Hrungnir’s head, killing him.

But Hrungnir fell on top of Thor, and Thor’s leg got stuck under the giant. No-one managed to free Thor, until Thor’s 3-days-old son Magni (“strength”) arrived and lifted the giant. To thank him, Thor gave Magni the horse Gullfaxi. Thor then went to see the sorceress Groa, because a piece of Hrungnir’s club had got stuck in Thor’s forehead. While she was singing to loosen the stone, Thor told her that her husband was coming home soon. She was so excited that she forgot to finish the song, and because of that no-one should ever throw a whetstone across the room – because then the stone in Thor’s head moves.

Thor fights Hrungnir
Thor fights Hrungnir


Stora boken om vikingarnas gudar och myter by Lars Magnar Enoksen (ISBN 978-91-7738-792-3)