Tales of Thor: Útgarda-Loki

Öku-Thor drove forth in his chariot drawn by he-goats, and the Ás called Loki came with him. That evening, they came  to a husbandman’s, and there received a night’s lodging.

When evening fell, Thor took his he-goats and slaughtered them both, after that they were flayed and put in the caldron. When the cooking was done, Thor and his companion sat down to supper. Thor invited the husbandman and his wife to eat with him, along with their children. The husbandman’s son was called Thjálfi, and his daughter Röskva.

After dinner, Thor laid the goat hides farther away from the fire, and told the husbandman and his servants to cast the bones on the goat-hides. Thjálfi, the husbandman’s son, was holding a thigh-bone of the goat, and split it with his knife and broke it for the marrow.

Thor stayed there overnight. Before dawn, he rose and clothed himself, took his hammer Mjöllnir, swung it up, and hallowed the goat hides. Right away, the he-goats rose up, but one of them was lame in a hind leg. Thor discovered this, and declared that the husbandman and his household had not dealt wisely with the bones of the goat, the lame goat’s thighbone was broken.

The husbandman was terrified when he saw how Thor’s brows sank down in front of his eyes. When he looked into the god’s eyes, it seemed that he would fall down before their gaze alone. Thor clenched his hands on the hammer shaft so that the knuckles whitened. The husbandman and his household did what was to be expected: they cried out, prayed for peace, and offered all that they had in recompense. When Thor saw their terror, his fury departed from him, he was appeased, and in atonement, took their children, Thjálfi and Röskva, who became his bond servants, and they follow him ever since.

Thor left his goats behind, and began his journey eastward toward Jötunheim, and came clear to the sea. He went out over the depths, and when he came to land, he went up, and Loki and Thjálfi and Röskva went with him. When they had walked a little while, a great forest stood before them. They walked all that day until dark. Thjálfi was swiftest footed of all men. He carried Thor’s bag, but there was no food in it.

As soon as it was dark, they sought shelter for the night, and found a very large hall. There was a door in the end as wide as the hall, in they took refuge for the night. About midnight, they were shaken by a great earthquake. The earth rocked under them terribly, and the house trembled. Thor rose up and called to his companions, and they explored farther, and found a side-chamber in the middle of the hall  on the right side, and they went in to it. Thor sat down in the doorway, but the others went further in from him, and they were afraid. Thor gripped his hammer shaft and prepared to defend himself. Then they heard a great humming sound, and a crashing.

When it drew near dawn, Thor went out and saw a man lying a little way from him in the wood. The man was huge. He was asleep, and snored mightily. Thor realized what kind of noise they had heard during the night. He girded himself with his belt of strength, and his divine power grew. At that instant, the man awoke and rose up swiftly. It is said that this was the first time Thor’s heart failed him, and he failed to strike the giant with his hammer. Instead, he asked the man his name.

Giant_Skrymir“I am called Skrýmir,” he said. “But I have no need to ask you for your name. I know that you are Ása-Thor. But why have you dragged away my glove?”

Skrýmir stretched out his hand and took up the glove, and at once Thor saw that it was what they had taken for a hall during the night, and as for the side-chamber, it was the thumb of the glove.

“Will you allow me to accompany you?” Skrýmir asked.

Thor assented.

Skrýmir took up and unloosened his provisions and made ready to eat his morning meal, and Thor and his fellows did the same in another place.

“I proposed that we lay our supplies of food together,” said Skrýmir.

Again Thor assented.

Skrýmir bound all the food in one bag and laid it on his own back. He went before them during the day, stepping with very great strides. Late in the evening, Skrýmir found them a place to camp under a great oak.

“I will lay him down to sleep,” said Skrýmir. “Take the provision bag and make ready your supper.”

Skrýmir fell asleep and began to snore hard. Thor took the provision bag and set about to untie it. He couldn’t loosen the knot or even stir a thong end so as to be looser than before. When he saw that his work was to no avail, he became angry, gripped his hammer Mjöllnir in both hands, strode with great strides to the place where Skrýmir lay, and smote him in the head. Skrýmir awoke.

“Did a leaf had fall upon head?” he asked. “Have you eaten and are you ready for bed?”

“We were just then about to go to sleep,” Thor replied.

They went under another oak, but even Thor was not able to sleep fearlessly. At midnight he heard how Skrýmir snored and slept fast, and how it thundered in the woods. He stood up and went to the giant, shook his hammer eagerly and hard, and struck the middle of his enormous forehead. The head of the hammer sank deep into the giant’s head.

“What now?” Skrýmir asked, awakening. “Did an acorn fall on my head? What is it, Thor?”

Thor retreated quickly.

“I have just awakened,” he replied. “It is midnight, and there is still time to sleep.”

Thor debated whether he should give Skrýmir a third blow, in hopes that the giant would never see himself again. The god lay and waited for Skrýmir to sleep soundly once more. A little before dawn, Thor perceived that Skrýmir must have fallen asleep. He stood up at once, rushed over to the giant, swung his hammer with all his strength, and struck the one of the giant’s temples that was turned up. Skrýmir sat up and stroked his cheek.

“Some birds must be sitting in the tree above me,” he said. “I imagined, when I awoke, that some dirt from the twigs fell upon my head. Are you awake, Thor? It’s time to rise and cloth ourselves. It’s no long journey forward to the castle Útgard. I’ve heard you whisper among yourselves that I am no little man in stature. You will see taller men than I if you come to Útgard. Let me give you some good advice: do not conduct yourselves boastfully, for the henchmen of Útgarda-Loki will not endure big words from such swaddling babes as you. Otherwise, turn back, and I think it would be better for you to do that. But if you do go forward, then turn to the east. As for me, I must go north into the hills that you now see.”

Skrýmir took the provision bag, cast it on his back, turned from them, and strode off through the forest, and the Æsir did not wish him god speed.

Thor went forward on his way with his fellows, and they went onward till midday. They saw a castle standing on a plain, and their necks touched their backs before they could see over it. They went to the castle. There was a grating in front of the castle gate, and it was closed. Thor went up to the grating, but could not succeed in opening it. Instead, to make their way in, they crept between the bars. They saw a great hall and went toward it. The door was open, and they went in, and saw many men sitting on two benches, and most of them were gigantic. They came before the king Útgarda-Loki and saluted him. He looked at them in his own good time, and smiled scornfully over his teeth.

“It is late to ask tidings of a long journey,” he said. “Is it otherwise than I think: that this toddler is Öku-Thor? Yet you may be greater than you appear to me. What manner of accomplishments do you and your fellows think to be ready for? No one shall stay here with us who does not know some kind of craft or cunning surpassing most men.”

“I know such a trick, which I am ready to try,” said Loki. “There is no one here who can eat food more quickly than I.”

‘That is a feat, if you accomplish it,” Útgarda-Loki answered. “Your claim shall accordingly be put to the test. Logi, come forth on the floor and try your prowess against Loki.”

A trough was brought in, set upon the hall floor, and filled with meat. Loki sat down at one end and Logi at the other, and each ate as fast as he could, and they met in the middle of the trough. Loki had eaten all the meat from the bones, but Logi had eaten the meat, the bones with it, and the trough too. It seemed to all as if Loki had lost the game.

“What can the young man play at?” Útgarda-Loki asked.

“I will undertake to run a race with whoever you bring up,” Thjálfi answered.

“That would be a good accomplishment, but you must be well endowed with fleetness if you are to perform that feat,” Útgarda-Loki said. “We will soon see to it that the matter is tested.”

Útgarda-Loki arose and went out and led them to a good course to run on over the level plain. He called for a lad named Hugi, and bade him run a match against Thjálfi.  They held the first heat, and Hugi was so far ahead that he turned back to watch Thjálfi at the end of the course.

“You will need to lean forward more, Thjálfi, if you are to win the game,” said Útgarda-Loki, “but it is none the less true that no man has ever come here who seemed fleeter of foot than you.”

They began another heat, and when Hugi had reached the course’s end, and was turning back, Thjálfi was still a long bolt shot away.

“Thjálfi appears to run this course well, but I do not believe he will win the game,” said Útgarda-Loki. “But it will be made manifest presently, when they run the third heat.”

They began the heat. When Hugi had come to the end of the course and turned back, Thjálfi had not yet reached mid-course. Then all said that that game had been proven.

“What feats are there that you might desire to show us,” Útgarda-Loki asked Thor, “since men tell such great tales of your mighty works?”

“I would most willingly contend with any in drinking,” Thor answered.

Útgarda-Loki went into the hall and called his serving boy, and bade him bring the sconce horn which his henchmen were wont to drink off. Straightway the serving-lad came forward with the horn and put it into Thor’s hand.

“It is held that this horn is well drained if it is drunk off in one draft, but some drink it off in two,” said Útgarda-Loki. “But no one is so poor a man at drinking that he fails to drain off in three.”

Thor looked at the horn, and it did not seem big to him, yet it was somewhat long. Still he was very thirsty. He took it and drank, and swallowed enormously, and thought that he should not need to drink again to empty the horn. But when his breath failed, and he raised his head from the horn and looked to see how it had gone, it seemed that the drink was hardly lower in the horn than before.

“It was well drunk, but not too much,” said Útgarda-Loki: “I should not have believed, if it had been told me, that Ása-Thor could not drink a greater draft. But I know that you will wish to drink it off in another draft.”

Thor said nothing. He set the horn to his mouth, thinking now that he would drink an even greater drink, and struggled with the draft until his breath gave out, though the tip of the horn would not come up so much as he liked. When he took the horn from his mouth and looked into it, it seemed to him that it had decreased less than the previous time, but there was a clearly apparent lowering in the horn.

“What now, Thor? You won’t shrink from one more drink than may be good for you?” asked Útgarda-Loki. “If you take a third draft from the horn, it seems to me that this will be esteemed the greatest, but you cannot be called a great a man here among us as the Æsir call you, if you don’t give a better account of yourself in the other games than it seems to me may come of this.”

Thor became angry, set the horn to his mouth, and drank with all his might, struggling with the drink as much as he could. When he looked into the horn, at least some space had been made. Then he gave up the horn and would drink no more.

“Now it is evident that your prowess is not so great as we thought it to be,” “Then said Útgarda-Loki. “Will you try your hand at more games? It may readily be seen that you get no advantage here.”

“I will try other games,” Thor answered, “but it would have seemed a wonder to me, when I was at home with the Æsir, if such drinks as I took had been called so little. But what game will you now offer me?”

“Young lads here are wont to do a thing that is thought of small consequence,” said Útgarda-Loki. “Lift my cat up from the earth. I would not even have suggested such a thing to Ása-Thor if I had not seen that you have far less in you than I had thought.”

A very large grey cat leaped forth on the hall-floor, and Thor went to it, put his hand under the middle of its belly, and lifted up. The cat bent into an arch as Thor stretched up his hands so that when Thor reached up as high as he could, at the very utmost the cat had only lifted up one foot off the floor, and Thor got this game no further advanced.

“This game went even as I had foreseen,” said Útgarda-Loki. “The cat is very great, whereas Thor is low and little beside the huge men who are here with us.”

“Little as you call me, let any one come up now and wrestle with me,” said Thor, “for now I am angry.”

“I see no man here who would not hold it a disgrace to wrestle with you,” Útgarda-Loki answered, looking about him on the benches. “Let us see first. Let the old woman, Elli, who was my nurse be called here, and let Thor wrestle with her if he will. She has thrown men who seemed to me no less strong than Thor.”

Right way, an old woman, stricken by years,  came into the hall .

“Grapple with Ása-Thor,” Útgarda-Loki ordered.

The harder Thor strove to grip her, the faster she stood. The old woman essayed a hold, and Thor staggered on his feet, and they tugged at each other very hard. It was not long before Thor fell to his knee, on one foot. Útgarda-Loki came up to them.

“Cease the wrestling,” he said. “Thor need not challenge the men of  my body-guard to wrestle.”

By then, night had fallen. Útgarda-Loki showed Thor and his companions to a seat, and they stayed there the whole night long in good cheer.

In the morning, as soon as it dawned, Thor and his companions arose, clothed themselves, and were ready to leave. Útgarda-Loki came to them and caused a table to be set for them. There was no lack of good cheer, meat, and drink. As soon as they had eaten, Útgarda-Loki left the castle with them.

“How do you think your journey has ended?” Útgarda-Loki asked Thor. “Have you met any man mightier than yourself?”

“I cannot say that I did not earn much shame in our dealings together,” Thor answered. “I know that you will call me a man of little might, and I am unhappy with that.”

“I will tell you the truth, now that you have left the castle,” said Útgardi-Loki, “and if I live and am able to prevail, then you will never again enter it. This I know, by my word! You would never have come here, If I had known that you had such strength in you, and that you would so nearly have had us in great peril. But I made illusions ready against you. I came upon you first in the wood, and when you tried to untie the provision bag, I had bound it with iron, and you did not find where to undo it. Next, you gave me three blows with the hammer. The first was the least, yet was so great that it would have killed me, if it had landed upon me. When you saw a saddle backed mountain near my hall, its top cut by threes dales, those were the marks of your hammer. I brought you to the mountain before the blow, but you did not see it. It was the same with the games in which you contended against my henchmen. In the first, which Loki was very hungry and ate zealously, but the one who was called Logi was wild fire, and he burned the trough no less swiftly than the meat. When Thjálfi ran the race with the one called Hugi, that was my thought, and it was not to be expected of Thjálfi that he should match swiftness with it. When you drank from the horn, and it seemed to you to go slowly, by my faith, it was a wonder that I should not have believed possible: the other end of the horn was out in the sea, but you did not perceive it. But now, when you come to the sea, you shall be able to mark what how much you have drunk from the sea: this will henceforth be called an ebb tide. It was no less noteworthy when you lifted up the cat, and to tell you truly, we were all afraid when we saw how you lifted one of its feet clear of the earth. That cat was not what appeared to you: it was the Midgard Serpent, which circles all the land, and it length scarcely suffices to encompass the earth with its head and tail.  You stretched your arms so high that there was only a little way more to the heavens. The wrestling match was also a great marvel, considering that you withstood her so long, and did not fall to more than on one knee, wrestling with Elli. None has ever been and none other shall be that old age will not cause to fall. And now we must part, and it would be best for both of us that you never seek me again. I would only defend my castle with similar tricks, so that you get no power over me.”

When Thor had heard this, he clutched his hammer and swung it aloft, but when he was about to launch it forward, Útgarda-Loki was gone. Thor turned back to the castle, planning to crush it to pieces. He saw a wide and fair plain, but no castle. Finally, he turned his back and went on his way, until he had come back again to his hall, Thrúdvangar. But it is true that he resolved to bring about a meeting between himself and the Midgard Serpent, which afterward came to pass.

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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