| In the Days of Giants|
|by Abbie Farwell Brown|
|Strength and joy of life ever marked the doings of the old Norse gods and heroes. These qualities abound in these stories of Norse mythology retold in a simple direct fashion appealing to younger children. Tells among other things how Father Odin lost his eye, how Thor went fishing, of the death of Baldur, and of the other doings of the gods and goddesses of Asgard. Vigorous black and white illustrations complement the narrative. Ages 9-11 |
IN THE GIANT'S HOUSE
LTHOUGH Thor had slain Thiasse the giant builder, Thrym
the thief, Hrungnir, and Hymir, and had rid the world of
whole families of wicked giants, there remained many
others in Jotunheim to do their evil deeds and to plot
mischief against both gods and men; and of these
Geirröd was the fiercest and the wickedest. He and
his two ugly daughters—Gialp of the red eyes, and Greip of
the black teeth—lived in a large palace among the
mountains, where Geirröd had his treasures of iron
and copper, silver and gold; for, since the death of Thrym,
Geirröd was the Lord of the Mines, and all the riches
that came out of the earth-caverns belonged to him.
Thrym had been Geirröd's friend, and the tale of
Thrym's death through the might of Thor and his hammer
had made Geirröd very sad and angry. "If I could but
catch Thor, now, without his weapons," he said to his
daughters, "what a lesson I would give him! How I would
punish him for his deeds against us giants!"
 "Oh, what would you do, father?" cried Gialp, twinkling
her cruel red eyes, and working her claw fingers as if she
would like to fasten them in Thor's golden beard.
"Oh, what would you do, father?" cried Greip, smacking
her lips and grinding her black teeth as if she would like a
bite out of Thor's stout arm.
"Do to him!" growled Geirröd fiercely. "Do to him!
Gr-r-r! I would chew him all up! I would break his bones
into little bits! I would smash him into jelly!"
"Oh, good, good! Do it, father, and then give him to us to
play with," cried Gialp and Greip, dancing up and down till
the hills trembled and all the frightened sheep ran home to
their folds thinking that there must be an earthquake; for
Gialp was as tall as a pine-tree and many times as thick,
while Greip, her little sister, was as large around as a
haystack and high as a flagstaff. They both hoped some
day to be as huge as their father, whose legs were so long
that he could step across the river valleys from one hilltop
to another, just as we human folk cross a brook on
stepping-  stones; and his arms were so stout that he could
lift a yoke of oxen in each fist, as if they were red-painted
Geirröd shook his head at his two playful daughters
and sighed. "We must catch Master Thor first, my girls,
before we do these fine things to him. We must catch him
without his mighty hammer, that never fails him, and
without his belt, that doubles his strength whenever he puts
it on, or even I cannot chew and break and smash him as he
deserves; for with these his weapons he is the mightiest
creature in the whole world, and I would rather meddle with
thunder and lightning than with him. Let us wait, children."
Then Gialp and Greip pouted and sulked like two great
babies who cannot have the new plaything which they
want; and very ugly they were to see, with tears as big as
oranges rolling down their cheeks.
Sooner than they expected they came very near to having
their heart's desire fulfilled. And if it had happened as they
wished, and if Asgard had lost its goodliest hero, its
strongest defense, that would have been red Loki's fault, all
Loki's evil planning; for you are now to hear of the
wickedest thing that up to this time Loki had ever done. As
you know, it was Loki who was Thor's bitterest enemy;
and for many months he had been awaiting the chance to
repay the Thunder Lord for the dole which Thor had
brought upon him at the time of the dwarf's gifts to Asgard.
This is how it came about: Loki had long remembered the
fun of skimming as a great bird in Freia's falcon feathers. He
had longed to borrow the wings once again and to fly away
over the round world to see what he could see; for he
thought that so he could learn many secrets which he was
not meant to know, and plan wonderful mischief without
being found out. But Freia would not again loan her feather
dress to Loki. She owed him a grudge for naming her as
Thrym's bride; and besides, she remembered his treatment
of Idun, and she did not trust his oily tongue and fine
promises. So Loki saw no way but to borrow the feathers
without leave; and this he did one day when Freia was gone
to ride in
 her chariot drawn by white cats. Loki put on the
feather dress, as he had done twice before,—once when he
went to Jotunheim to bring back stolen Idun and her magic
apples, once when he went to find out about Thor's
Away he flew from Asgard as birdlike as you please,
chuckling to himself with wicked thoughts. It did not make
any particular difference to him where he went. It was such
fun to flap and fly, skim and wheel, looking and feeling for
all the world like a big brown falcon. He swooped low,
thinking, "I wonder what Freia would say to see me now!
Whee-e-e! How angry she would be!" Just then he spied
the high wall of a palace on the mountains.
"Oho!" said Loki. "I never saw that place before. It may be
a giant's dwelling. I think this must be Jotunheim, from the
bigness of things. I must just peep to see." Loki was the
most inquisitive of creatures, as wily minded folk are apt to
Loki the falcon alighted and hopped to the wall, then giving
a flap of his wings he flew up and up to the window ledge,
 he perched and peered into the hall. And there within
he saw the giant Geirröd with his daughters eating
their dinner. They looked so ugly and so greedy, as they sat
there gobbling their food in giant mouthfuls, that Loki on
the window-sill could not help snickering to himself. Now
at that sound Geirröd looked up and saw the big
brown bird peeping in at the window.
"Heigha!" cried the giant to one of his servants. "Go you
and fetch me the big brown bird up yonder in the window."
Then the servant ran to the wall and tried to climb up to get
at Loki; but the window was so high that he could not
reach. He jumped and slipped, scrambled and slipped, again
and again, while Loki sat just above his clutching fingers,
and chuckled so that he nearly fell from his perch. "Te-he!
te-he!" chattered Loki in the falcon tongue. It was such fun
to see the fellow grow black in the face with trying to reach
him that Loki thought he would wait until the giant's fingers
almost touched him, before flying away.
But Loki waited too long. At last, with a quick spring, the
giant gained a hold upon
 the window ledge, and Loki was
within reach. When Loki flapped his wings to fly, he found
that his feet were tangled in the vine that grew upon the
wall. He struggled and twisted with all his might,—but in
vain. There he was, caught fast. Then the servant grasped
him by the legs, and so brought him to Geirröd,
where he sat at table. Now Loki in his feather dress looked
exactly like a falcon—except for his eyes. There was no
hiding the wise and crafty look of Loki's eyes. As soon as
Geirröd looked at him, he suspected that this was no
"You are no falcon, you!" he cried. "You are spying about
my palace in disguise. Speak, and tell me who you are."
Loki was afraid to tell, because he knew the giants were
angry with him for his part in Thrym's death,—small
though his part had really been in that great deed. So he
kept his beak closed tight, and refused to speak. The giant
stormed and raged and threatened to kill him; but still Loki
Then Geirröd locked the falcon up in a chest for three
long months without food or
 water, to see how that would
suit his birdship. You can imagine how hungry and thirsty
Loki was at the end of that time,—ready to tell anything he
knew, and more also, for the sake of a crumb of bread and a
drop of water.
So then Geirröd called through the keyhole, "Well, Sir
Falcon, now will you tell me who you are?" And this time
Loki piped feebly, "I am Loki of Asgard; give me something
"Oho!" quoth the giant fiercely. "You are that Loki who
went with Thor to kill my brother Thrym! Oho! Well, you
shall die for that, my feathered friend!"
"No, no!" screamed Loki. "Thor is no friend of mine. I love
the giants far better! One of them is my wife!"—which was
indeed true, as were few of Loki's words.
"Then if Thor is no friend of yours, to save your life will
you bring him into my power?" asked Geirröd.
Loki's eyes gleamed wickedly among the feathers. Here all
at once was his chance to be free, and to have his revenge
upon Thor, his worst enemy. "Ay, that I will!"
 he cried
eagerly. "I will bring Thor into your power."
So Geirröd made him give a solemn promise to do
that wrong; and upon this he loosed Loki from the chest
and gave him food. Then they formed the wicked plan
together, while Gialp and Greip, the giant's ugly daughters,
listened and smacked their lips.
Loki was to persuade Thor to come with him to
Geirrödsgard. More; he must come without his
mighty hammer, and without the iron gloves of power, and
without the belt of strength; for so only could the giant
have Thor at his mercy.
After their wicked plans were made, Loki bade a friendly
farewell to Geirröd and his daughters and flew back
to Asgard as quickly as he could. You may be sure he had a
sound scolding from Freia for stealing her feather dress and
for keeping it so long. But he told such a pitiful story of
being kept prisoner by a cruel giant, and he looked in truth
so pale and thin from his long fast, that the gods were fain
to pity him and to believe his story, in spite of the many
 that he had deceived them. Indeed, most of his tale
was true, but he told only half of the truth; for he spoke no
word of his promise to the giant. This he kept hidden in his
Now, one day not long after this, Loki invited Thor to go
on a journey with him to visit a new friend who, he said,
was anxious to know the Thunder Lord. Loki was so
pleasant in his manner and seemed so frank in his speech
that Thor, whose heart was simple and unsuspicious, never
dreamed of any wrong, not even when Loki added,—"And
by the bye, my Thor, you must leave behind your hammer,
your belt, and your gloves; for it would show little courtesy
to wear such weapons in the home of a new friend."
Thor carelessly agreed; for he was pleased with the idea of a
new adventure, and with the thought of making a new
friend. Besides, on their last journey together, Loki had
behaved so well that Thor believed him to have changed his
evil ways and to have become his friend. So together they
set off in Thor's goat chariot, without weapons of
 any kind except those which Loki secretly carried. Loki chuckled as
they rattled over the clouds, and if Thor had seen the look
in his eyes, he would have turned the chariot back to
Asgard and to safety, where he had left gentle Sif his wife.
But Thor did not notice, and so they rumbled on.
Soon they came to the gate of Giant Land. Thor thought
this strange, for he knew they were like to find few friends
of his dwelling among the Big Folk. For the first time he
began to suspect Loki of some treacherous scheme.
However, he said nothing, and pretended to be as gay and
careless as before. But he thought of a plan to find out the
Close by the entrance was the cave of Grid, a good giantess,
who alone of all her race was a friend of Thor and of the
folk in Asgard.
"I will alight here for a moment, Loki," said Thor carelessly.
"I long for a draught of water. Hold you the goats tightly by
the reins until I return."
So he went into the cave and got his draught of water. But
while he was
drink-  ing, he questioned good mother Grid to
"Who is this friend Geirröd whom I go to see?" he
"Geirröd your friend! You go to see Geirröd!"
she exclaimed. He is the wickedest giant of us all, and no
friend to you. Why do you go, dear Thor?"
"H'm!" muttered Thor. "Red Loki's mischief again!" He told
her of the visit that Loki had proposed, and how he had left
at home the belt, the gloves, and the hammer which made
him stronger than any giant. Then Grid was frightened.
"Go not, go not, Thor!" she begged. Geirröd will kill
you, and those ugly girls, Gialp and Greip, will have the
pleasure of crunching your bones. Oh, I know them well,
But Thor declared that he would go, whether or no. "I have
promised Loki that I will go," he said, "and go I will; for I
always keep my word."
"Then you shall have three little gifts of me," quoth she.
"Here is my belt of power—for I also have one like your
 she buckled about his waist a great belt, at
whose touch he felt his strength redoubled. "This is my iron
glove," she said, as she put one on his mighty hand, "and
with it, as with your own, you can handle lightning and
touch unharmed the hottest of red-hot metal. And here, last
of all," she added, "is Gridarvöll, my good staff,
which you may find useful. Take them, all three; and may
Sif see you safe at home again by their aid."
Thor thanked her and went out once more to join Loki, who
never suspected what had happened in the cave. For the
belt and the glove were hidden under Thor's cloak. And as
for the staff, it was quite ordinary looking, as if Thor might
have picked it up anywhere along the road.
On they journeyed until they came to the river Vimer, the
greatest of all rivers, which roared and tossed in a terrible
way between them and the shore which they wanted to
reach. It seemed impossible to cross. But Thor drew his
belt a little tighter, and planting Grid's staff firmly on the
bottom, stepped out into the stream. Loki clung behind to
his cloak, frightened out of his wits. But Thor
 waded on bravely, his strength doubled by Grid's belt, and his steps
supported by her magic staff. Higher and higher the waves
washed over his knees, his waist, his shoulders, as if they
were fierce to drown him. And Thor said,—
"Ho there, river Vimer! Do not grow any larger, I pray. It is
of no use. The more you crowd upon me, the mightier I
grow with my belt and my staff!"
But lo! as he nearly reached the other side, Thor spied some
one hiding close down by the bank of the river. It was Gialp
of the red eyes, the big elder daughter of Geirröd. She
was splashing the water upon Thor, making the great waves
that rolled up and threatened to drown him.
"Oho!" cried he. "So it is you who are making the river rise,
big little girl. We must see to that;" and seizing a huge
boulder, he hurled it at her. It hit her with a thud, for Thor's
aim never missed. Giving a scream as loud as a steam-whistle, Gialp limped home as best she could to tell her
father, and to prepare a warm reception for the stranger
who bore Loki at his back.
 When Thor had pulled himself out of the river by some
bushes, he soon came to the palace which Loki had first
sighted in his falcon dress. And there he found everything
most courteously made ready for him. He and Loki were
received like dear old friends, with shouts of rejoicing and
ringing of bells. Geirröd himself came out to meet
them, and would have embraced his new friend Thor; but
the Thunder Lord merely seized him by the hand and gave
him so hearty a squeeze with the iron glove that the giant
howled with pain. Yet he could say nothing, for Thor
looked pleased and gentle. And Geirröd said to
himself, "Ho, ho, my fine little Thor! I will soon pay you
for that handshake, and for many things beside."
All this time Gialp and Greip did not appear, and Loki also
had taken himself away, to be out of danger when the hour
of Thor's death should come. For he feared that dreadful
things might happen before Thor died; and he did not want
to be remembered by the big fist of the companion whom
he had betrayed. Loki, having kept his promise to the giant,
was even now far on the road back
 to Asgard, where he
meant with a sad face to tell the gods that Thor had been
slain by a horrible giant; but never to tell them how.
So Thor was all alone when the servants led him to the
chamber which Geirröd had made ready for his dear
friend. It was a wonderfully fine chamber, to be sure; but
the strange thing about it was that among the furnishings
there was but one chair, a giant chair, with a drapery all
about the legs. Now Thor was very weary with his long
journey, and he sat down in the chair to rest. Then,
wonderful to tell!—if elevators had been invented in those
days, he might have thought he was in one. For instantly
the seat of the chair shot up towards the roof, and against
this he was in danger of being crushed as Geirröd had
longed to see him. But quick as a flash Thor raised the staff
which good old Grid had given him, and pushed it against
the rafters with all his might to stop his upward journey. It
was a tremendous push that he gave. Something cracked;
something crashed; the chair fell to the ground as Thor
leaped off the seat, and there were two terrible screams.
 Then Thor found—what do you think? Why, that Gialp
and Greip, the giant's daughters, had hidden under the seat
of the chair, and had lifted it up on their backs to crush
Thor against the roof! But instead of that, it was Thor who
had broken their backs, so that they lay dead upon the floor
like limp rag dolls.
Now this little exercise had only given Thor an excellent
appetite for supper. So that when word came bidding him
to the banquet, he was very glad.
"First," said big Geirröd, grinning horribly, for he did
not know what had happened to his daughters,—"first we
will see some games, friend Thor."
Then Thor came into the hall, where fires were burning in
great chimney places along the walls. "It is here that we
play our little games," cried Geirröd. And on the
moment, seizing a pair of tongs, he snatched a red-hot
wedge of iron from one of the fires and hurled it straight at
Thor's head. But Thor was quicker than he. Swift as a flash
he caught the flying spark in his iron glove, and calling forth
all the might of Grid's
 belt, he cast the wedge back at the
giant. Geirröd dodged behind an iron pillar, but it was
in vain. Thor's might was such as no iron could meet. Like a
bolt of lightning the wedge passed through the pillar,
through Geirröd himself, through the thick wall of the
palace, and buried itself deep in the ground, where it lodges
to this day, unless some one has dug it up to sell for old
So perished Geirröd and his children, one of the
wickedest families of giants that ever lived in Jotunheim.
And so Thor escaped from the snares of Loki, who had
never done deed worse than this.
When Thor returned home to Asgard, where from Loki's
lying tale he found all the gods mourning him as dead, you
can fancy what a joyful reception he had. But for Loki, the
false-hearted, false-tongued traitor to them all, there was
only hatred. He no longer had any friends among the good
folk. The wicked giants and the monsters of Utgard were
now his only friends, for he had grown to be like them, and
even these did not trust him overmuch.
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