Tales of Thor: Fishing for the Midgard Serpent

Thor did not stay at home long before he made ready for a journey, so hastily that he took neither chariot, he-goats, nor retinue with him. He went out across Midgard disguised as a young lad, and came one evening at twilight to the home of a giant called Hymir. Thor stayed as guest there overnight. At dawn, Hymir rose, clothed himself, and made ready to row out to sea to fish. Thor sprang up and was quickly ready, and asked Hymir to let him row to sea with him.

“You’ll be of little help to me, being so small and a youth,” Hymir said. ‘And you’ll freeze, if I stay so long and so far out as I normally do.”

“I will be able to row far out from land,” said Thor, “and do not be certain that I will be the first to ask to row back.”

Thor was so enraged at the giant that he was ready to wield his hammer against him, but he forced himself to forbear, since he wanted to try his strength in another quarter.

“What do we have for bait?” he asked.

“Get bait for yourself,” said Hymir.

Thor turned went away to where he had seen a herd of oxen, which Hymir owned. He took the largest ox, called Himinbrjotr, cut off its head, and carried it to the shore. By that time, Hymir had shoved the boat out.

Thor got aboard the skiff, sat down in the stern, took the two oars, and rowed. It seemed to Hymir that he made swift progress with his rowing. Hymir rowed forward in the bow, and they proceeded even more rapidly.

“We have arrived at the fishing banks where I usually anchor and angle for flat fish,” said Hymir.

“I want to row much further,” said Thor, and took a sharp pull at the oars.

“We’ve come so far that it’s perilous to go out farther because of the Midgard Serpent,” said Hymir.

“I’ll row a while yet,” said Thor, and he did.

Hymir was sorely afraid. As soon as Thor had laid by the oars, he made ready a very strong fishing line, with a hook no less large and strong. He put the ox head on the hook and cast it overboard, and the hook went to the bottom. Then Thor beguiled the Midgard Serpent no less than Útgarda-Loki had mocked him, the time he had lifted up the Serpent in his hand.

The Midgard Serpent snapped at the ox-head, and the hook caught in its jaw. When the Serpent became aware of this, it dashed away so fiercely that both Thor’s fists crashed against the gunwale. Then Thor was angered, and summoned his divine strength, bracing his feet so strongly that they both plunged through the bottom of the boat and came to rest on the sea bed. He pulled the Serpent up to the gunwale.

jormungandrNo one has seen as fearful a sight. Thor flashed fiery glances at the Serpent, and the Serpent in turn stared up at him from below and spat venom. The giant Hymir grew pale, then turned yellow. He was so terrified when he saw the Serpent, and how the sea rushed in and out of the boat.

At the very moment when Thor clutched his hammer and raised it high, the giant fumbled for his fish knife and hacked off Thor’s line at the gunwale, and the Serpent sank down into the sea. Thor hurled his hammer after it, and some say that he struck off its head against the sea bed. But in truth, the Midgard Serpent still lives and lies in the encompassing sea. Thor swung his fist and smashed it into Hymir’s ear, so that he plunged overboard, and Thor saw the soles of his feet as he sank. Then Thor waded to land.

Image By Nils Fredrik Sander, Public Domain

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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