| 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 |
THE QUEST OF THE HAMMER
NE morning Thor the Thunderer awoke with a yawn, and
stretching out his knotted arm, felt for his precious hammer,
which he kept always under his pillow of clouds. But he
started up with a roar of rage, so that all the palace
trembled. The hammer was gone!
Now this was a very serious matter, for Thor was the
protector of Asgard, and Miölnir, the magic hammer
which the dwarf had made, was his mighty weapon, of
which the enemies of the Æsir stood so much in dread
that they dared not venture near. But if they should learn
that Miölnir was gone, who could tell what danger
might not threaten the palaces of heaven?
Thor darted his flashing eye into every corner of Cloud
Land in search of the hammer. He called his fair wife, Sif of
the golden hair, to aid in the search, and his two lovely
daughters, Thrude and Lora. They hunted and they hunted;
they turned Thrudheim upside down, and set the clouds
 to rolling wonderfully, as they peeped and pried behind and
around and under each billowy mass. But Miölnir
was not to be found. Certainly, some one had stolen it.
Thor's yellow beard quivered with rage, and his hair bristled
on end like the golden rays of a star, while all his household
"It is Loki again!" he cried. "I am sure Loki is at the bottom
of this mischief!" For since the time when Thor had
captured Loki for the dwarf Brock and had given him over
to have his bragging lips sewed up, Loki had looked at him
with evil eyes; and Thor knew that the red rascal hated him
most of all the gods.
But this time Thor was mistaken. It was not Loki who had
stolen the hammer,—he was too great a coward for that.
And though he meant, before the end, to be revenged upon
Thor, he was waiting until a safe chance should come, when
Thor himself might stumble into danger, and Loki need only
to help the evil by a malicious word or two; and this chance
came later, as you shall hear in another tale.
 Meanwhile Loki was on his best behavior, trying to appear
very kind and obliging; so when Thor came rumbling and
roaring up to him, demanding, "What have you done with
my hammer, you thief?" Loki looked surprised, but did not
lose his temper nor answer rudely.
"Have you indeed missed your hammer, brother Thor?" he
said, mumbling, for his mouth was still sore where Brock
had sewed the stitches. "That is a pity; for if the giants hear
of this, they will be coming to try their might against
"Hush!" muttered Thor, grasping him by the shoulder with
his iron fingers. "That is what I fear. But look you, Loki: I
suspect your hand in the mischief. Come, confess."
Then Loki protested that he had nothing to do with so
wicked a deed. "But," he added wheedlingly, "I think I can
guess the thief; and because I love you, Thor, I will help
you to find him."
"Humph!" growled Thor. "Much love you bear to me!
However, you are a wise rascal, the nimblest wit of all the
 it is better to have you on my side than on
the other, when giants are in the game. Tell me, then: who
has robbed the Thunder-Lord of his bolt of power?"
Loki drew near and whispered in Thor's ear. "Look, how
the storms rage and the winds howl in the world below!
Some one is wielding your thunder-hammer all unskillfully.
Can you not guess the thief? Who but Thrym, the mighty
giant who has ever been your enemy and your imitator, and
whose fingers have long itched to grasp the short handle of
mighty Miölnir, that the world may name him
Thunder-Lord instead of you. But look! What a tempest!
The world will be shattered into fragments unless we soon
get the hammer back."
Then Thor roared with rage. "I will seek this impudent
Thrym!" he cried. "I will crush him into bits, and teach him
to meddle with the weapon of the Æsir!"
"Softly, softly," said Loki, smiling maliciously. "He is a
shrewd giant, and a mighty. Even you, great Thor, cannot
go to him and pluck the hammer from his hand as one
would slip the rattle from a
 baby's pink fist. Nay, you must
use craft, Thor; and it is I who will teach you, if you will be
Thor was a brave, blunt fellow, and he hated the ways of
Loki, his lies and his deceit. He liked best the way of
warriors,—the thundering charge, the flash of weapons, and
the heavy blow; but without the hammer he could not fight
the giants hand to hand. Loki's advice seemed wise, and he
decided to leave the matter to the Red One.
Loki was now all eagerness, for he loved difficulties which
would set his wit in play and bring other folk into danger.
"Look, now," he said. "We must go to Freia and borrow her
falcon dress. But you must ask; for she loves me so little
that she would scarce listen to me."
So first they made their way to Folkvang, the house of
maidens, where Freia dwelt, the loveliest of all in Asgard.
She was fairer than fair, and sweeter than sweet, and the
tears from her flower-eyes made the dew which blessed the
earth-flowers night and morning. Of her Thor borrowed the
magic dress of feathers in which Freia was wont
 to clothe
herself and flit like a great beautiful bird all about the world.
She was willing enough to lend it to Thor when he told her
that by its aid he hoped to win back the hammer which he
had lost; for she well knew the danger threatening herself
and all the Æsir until Miölnir should be found.
"Now will I fetch the hammer for you," said Loki. So he
put on the falcon plumage, and, spreading his brown wings,
flapped away up, up, over the world, down, down, across
the great ocean which lies beyond all things that men
know. And he came to the dark country where there was no
sunshine nor spring, but it was always dreary winter; where
mountains were piled up like blocks of ice, and where great
caverns yawned hungrily in blackness. And this was
Jotunheim, the land of the Frost Giants.
And lo! when Loki came thereto he found Thrym the Giant
King sitting outside his palace cave, playing with his dogs
and horses. The dogs were as big as elephants, and the
horses were as big as houses, but Thrym himself was as
huge as a
moun-  tain; and Loki trembled, but he tried to seem
"Good-day, Loki," said Thrym, with the terrible voice of
which he was so proud, for he fancied it was as loud as
Thor's. "How fares it, feathered one, with your little
brothers, the Æsir, in Asgard halls? And how dare
you venture alone in this guise to Giant Land?"
"It is an ill day in Asgard," sighed Loki, keeping his eye
warily upon the giant, "and a stormy one in the world of
men. I heard the winds howling and the storms rushing on
the earth as I passed by. Some mighty one has stolen the
hammer of our Thor. Is it you, Thrym, greatest of all
giants,—greater than Thor himself?"
This the crafty one said to flatter Thrym, for Loki well
knew the weakness of those who love to be thought greater
than they are.
Then Thrym bridled and swelled with pride, and tried to
put on the majesty and awe of noble Thor; but he only
succeeded in becoming an ugly, puffy monster.
"Well, yes," he admitted. "I have the
 hammer that belonged
to your little Thor; and now how much of a lord is he?"
"Alack!" sighed Loki again, "weak enough he is without his
magic weapon. But you, O Thrym,—surely your
mightiness needs no such aid. Give me the hammer, that
Asgard may no longer be shaken by Thor's grief for his
But Thrym was not so easily to be flattered into parting
with his stolen treasure. He grinned a dreadful grin, several
yards in width, which his teeth barred like jagged boulders
across the entrance to a mountain cavern.
"Miölnir the hammer is mine," he said, "and I am
Thunder-Lord, mightiest of the mighty. I have hidden it
where Thor can never find it, twelve leagues below the sea-caves,
where Queen Ran lives with her daughters, the
white-capped Waves. But listen, Loki. Go tell the
Æsir that I will give back Thor's hammer. I will give it
back upon one condition,—that they send Freia the
beautiful to be my wife."
"Freia the beautiful!" Loki had to stifle a laugh. Fancy the
Æsir giving their
fair-  est flower to such an ugly fellow
as this! But he only said politely, "Ah, yes; you demand
our Freia in exchange for the little hammer?—It is a costly
price, great Thrym. But I will be your friend in Asgard. If I
have my way, you shall soon see the fairest bride in all the
world knocking at your door. Farewell!"
So Loki whizzed back to Asgard on his falcon wings; and as
he went he chuckled to think of the evils which were likely
to happen because of his words with Thrym. First he gave
the message to Thor,—not sparing of Thrym's insolence, to
make Thor angry; and then he went to Freia with the word
for her,—not sparing of Thrym's ugliness, to make her
shudder. The spiteful fellow!
Now you can imagine the horror that was in Asgard as the
Æsir listened to Loki's words. "My hammer!" roared
Thor. "The villain confesses that he has stolen my hammer,
and boasts that he is Thunder-Lord! Gr-r-r!"
"The ugly giant!" wailed Freia. "Must I be the bride of that
hideous old monster,
 and live in his gloomy mountain
prison all my life?"
"Yes; put on your bridal veil, sweet Freia," said Loki
maliciously, "and come with me to Jotunheim. Hang your
famous starry necklace about your neck, and don your
bravest robe; for in eight days there will be a wedding, and
Thor's hammer is to pay."
Then Freia fell to weeping. "I cannot go! I will not go!" she
cried. "I will not leave the home of gladness and Father
Odin's table to dwell in the land of horrors! Thor's hammer
is mighty, but mightier the love of the kind Æsir for
their little Freia! Good Odin, dear brother Frey, speak for
me! You will not make me go?"
The Æsir looked at her and thought how lonely and
bare would Asgard be without her loveliness; for she was
fairer than fair, and sweeter than sweet.
"She shall not go!" shouted Frey, putting his arms about his
"No, she shall not go!" cried all the Æsir with one
"But my hammer," insisted Thor. "I must have
Miölnir back again."
 "And my word to Thrym," said Loki, "that must be made
"You are too generous with your words," said Father Odin
sternly, for he knew his brother well. "Your word is not a
gem of great price, for you have made it cheap."
Then spoke Heimdal, the sleepless watchman who sits on
guard at the entrance to the rainbow bridge which leads to
Asgard; and Heimdal was the wisest of the Æsir, for
he could see into the future, and knew how things would
come to pass. Through his golden teeth he spoke, for his
teeth were all of gold.
"I have a plan," he said. "Let us dress Thor himself like a
bride in Freia's robes, and send him to Jotunheim to talk
with Thrym and to win back his hammer."
But at this word Thor grew very angry. "What! dress me
like a girl!" he roared. "I should never hear the last of it! The
Æsir will mock me, and call me 'maiden'! The giants,
and even the puny dwarfs, will have a lasting jest upon me!
I will not go! I will fight! I will die, if need be! But dressed
as a woman I will not go!"
 But Loki answered him with sharp words, for this was a
scheme after his own heart. "What, Thor!" he said. "Would
you lose your hammer and keep Asgard in danger for so
small a whim? Look, now: if you go not, Thrym with his
giants will come in a mighty army and drive us from
Asgard; then he will indeed make Freia his bride, and
moreover he will have you for his slave under the power of
his hammer. How like you this picture, brother of the
thunder? Nay, Heimdal's plan is a good one, and I myself
will help to carry it out."
Still Thor hesitated; but Freia came and laid her white hand
on his arm, and looked up into his scowling face pleadingly.
"To save me, Thor," she begged. And Thor said he would
Then there was great sport among the Æsir, while
they dressed Thor like a beautiful maiden. Brunhilde and
her sisters, the nine Valkyrie, daughters of Odin, had the
task in hand. How they laughed as they brushed and curled
his yellow hair, and set upon it the wondrous headdress of
silk and pearls! They let out seams, and they let
 down hems, and set on extra pieces, to make it larger, and so they
hid his great limbs and knotted arms under Freia's fairest
robe of scarlet; but beneath it all he would wear his shirt of
mail and his belt of power that gave him double strength.
Freia herself twisted about his neck her famous necklace of
starry jewels, and Queen Frigg, his mother, hung at his
girdle a jingling bunch of keys, such as was the custom for
the bride to wear at Norse weddings. Last of all, that
Thrym might not see Thor's fierce eyes and the yellow
beard, that ill became a maiden, they threw over him a long
veil of silver white which covered him to the feet. And there
he stood, as stately and tall a bride as even a giant might
wish to see; but on his hands he wore his iron gloves, and
they ached for but one thing,—to grasp the handle of the
"Ah, what a lovely maid it is!" chuckled Loki; "and how
glad will Thrym be to see this Freia come! Bride Thor, I
will go with you as your handmaiden, for I would fain see
 "Come, then," said Thor sulkily, for he was ill pleased, and
wore his maiden robes with no good grace. "It is fitting that
you go; for I like not these lies and maskings, and I may
spoil the mummery without you at my elbow."
There was loud laughter above the clouds when Thor, all
veiled and dainty seeming, drove away from Asgard to his
wedding, with maid Loki by his side. Thor cracked his whip
and chirruped fiercely to his twin goats with golden hoofs,
for he wanted to escape the sounds of mirth that echoed
from the rainbow bridge, where all the Æsir stood
watching. Loki, sitting with his hands meekly folded like a
girl, chuckled as he glanced up at Thor's angry face; but he
said nothing, for he knew it was not good to joke too far
with Thor, even when Miölnir was hidden twelve
leagues below the sea in Ran's kingdom.
So off they dashed to Jotunheim, where Thrym was waiting
and longing for his beautiful bride. Thor's goats thundered
along above the sea and land and people far below, who
looked up wondering as
 the noise rolled overhead. "Hear
how the thunder rumbles!" they said. "Thor is on a long
journey to-night." And a long journey it was, as the tired
goats found before they reached the end.
Thrym heard the sound of their approach, for his ear was
eager. "Hola!" he cried. "Some one is coming from
Asgard,—only one of Odin's children could make a din so fearful.
Hasten, men, and see if they are bringing Freia to be my
Then the lookout giant stepped down from the top of his
mountain, and said that a chariot was bringing two maidens
to the door.
"Run, giants, run!" shouted Thrym, in a fever at this news.
"My bride is coming! Put silken cushions on the benches
for a great banquet, and make the house beautiful for the
fairest maid in all space! Bring in all my golden-horned
cows and my coal-black oxen, that she may see how rich I
am, and heap all my gold and jewels about to dazzle her
sweet eyes! She shall find me richest of the rich; and when I
have her,—fairest of the fair,—there will be no treasure that
I lack,—not one!"
 The chariot stopped at the gate, and out stepped the tall
bride, hidden from head to foot, and her handmaiden
muffled to the chin. "How afraid of catching cold they must
be!" whispered the giant ladies, who were peering over one
another's shoulders to catch a glimpse of the bride, just as
the crowd outside the awning does at a wedding nowadays.
Thrym had sent six splendid servants to escort the maidens:
these were the Metal Kings, who served him as lord of
them all. There was the Gold King, all in cloth of gold, with
fringes of yellow bullion, most glittering to see; and there
was the Silver King, almost as gorgeous in a suit of spangled
white; and side by side bowed the dark Kings of Iron and
Lead, the one mighty in black, the other sullen in blue; and
after them were the Copper King, gleaming ruddy and
brave, and the Tin King, strutting in his trimmings of gaudy
tinsel which looked nearly as well as silver but were more
economical. And this fine troop of lackey kings most
politely led Thor and Loki into the palace, and gave
 them of the best, for they never suspected who these
seeming maidens really were.
And when evening came there was a wonderful banquet to
celebrate the wedding. On a golden throne sat Thrym, uglier
than ever in his finery of purple and gold. Beside him was
the bride, of whose face no one had yet caught even a
glimpse; and at Thrym's other hand stood Loki,
the waiting-maid, for he wanted to be near to mend the mistakes which
Thor might make.
Now the dishes at the feast were served in a huge way, as
befitted the table of giants: great beeves roasted whole, on
platters as wide across as a ship's deck; plum-puddings as
fat as feather-beds, with plums as big as footballs; and a
wedding cake like a snow-capped haymow. The giants ate
enormously. But to Thor, because they thought him a
dainty maiden, they served small bits of everything on a
tiny gold dish. Now Thor's long journey had made him very
hungry, and through his veil he whispered to Loki, "I shall
starve, Loki! I cannot fare on these nibbles. I must eat a
 goodly meal as I do at home." And forthwith he helped
himself to such morsels as might satisfy his hunger for a
little time. You should have seen the giants stare at the meal
which the dainty bride devoured!
For first under the silver veil disappeared by pieces a whole
roast ox. Then Thor made eight mouthfuls of eight pink
salmon, a dish of which he was very fond. And next he
looked about and reached for a platter of cakes and
sweetmeats that was set aside at one end of the table for the
lady guests, and the bride ate them all. You can fancy how
the damsels drew down their mouths and looked at one
another when they saw their dessert disappear; and they
whispered about the table, "Alack! if our future mistress is
to sup like this day by day, there will be poor cheer for the
rest of us!" And to crown it all, Thor was thirsty, as well
he might be; and one after another he raised to his lips and
emptied three great barrels of mead, the foamy drink of the
giants. Then indeed Thrym was amazed, for Thor's giant
appetite had beaten that of the giants themselves.
 "Never before saw I a bride so hungry!" he cried, "and never
before one half so thirsty!"
But Loki, the waiting-maid, whispered to him softly, "The
truth is, great Thrym, that my dear mistress was almost
starved. For eight days Freia has eaten nothing at all, so
eager was she for Jotunheim."
Then Thrym was delighted, you may be sure. He forgave
his hungry bride, and loved her with all his heart. He leaned
forward to give her a kiss, raising a corner of her veil; but
his hand dropped suddenly, and he started up in terror, for
he had caught the angry flash of Thor's eye, which was
glaring at him through the bridal veil. Thor was longing for
"Why has Freia so sharp a look?" Thrym cried. "It pierces
like lightning and burns like fire."
But again the sly waiting-maid whispered timidly, "Oh,
Thrym, be not amazed! The truth is, my poor mistress's
eyes are red with wakefulness and bright with longing. For
eight nights Freia has not known a wink of sleep, so eager
was she for Jotunheim."
 Then again Thrym was doubly delighted, and he longed to
call her his very own dear wife. "Bring in the wedding gift!"
he cried. "Bring in Thor's hammer, Miölnir, and give
it to Freia, as I promised; for when I have kept my word
she will be mine,—all mine!"
Then Thor's big heart laughed under his woman's dress, and
his fierce eyes swept eagerly down the hall to meet the
servant who was bringing in the hammer on a velvet
cushion. Thor's fingers could hardly wait to clutch the
stubby handle which they knew so well; but he sat quite
still on the throne beside ugly old Thrym, with his hands
meekly folded and his head bowed like a bashful bride.
The giant servant drew nearer, nearer, puffing and blowing,
strong though he was, beneath the mighty weight. He was
about to lay it at Thor's feet (for he thought it so heavy that
no maiden could lift it or hold it in her lap), when suddenly
Thor's heart swelled, and he gave a most unmaidenly shout
of rage and triumph. With one swoop he grasped the
hammer in his
 iron fingers; with the other arm he tore off
the veil that hid his terrible face, and trampled it under foot;
then he turned to the frightened king, who cowered beside
him on the throne.
"Thief!" he cried. "Freia sends you this as a wedding gift!"
And he whirled the hammer about his head, then hurled it
once, twice, thrice, as it rebounded to his hand; and in the
first stroke, as of lightning, Thrym rolled dead from his
throne; in the second stroke perished the whole giant
household,—these ugly enemies of the Æsir; and in
the third stroke the palace itself tumbled together and fell to
the ground like a toppling play-house of blocks.
But Loki and Thor stood safely among the ruins, dressed in
their tattered maiden robes, a quaint and curious sight; and
Loki, full of mischief now as ever, burst out laughing.
"Oh, Thor! if you could see"— he began; but Thor held up
his hammer and shook it gently as he said,—
"Look now, Loki: it was an excellent joke, and so far you
well,—  after your crafty fashion, which likes me
not. But now I have my hammer again, and the joke is done.
From you, nor from another, I brook no laughter at my
expense. Henceforth we will have no mention of this
masquerade, nor of these rags which now I throw away. Do
you hear, red laugher?"
And Loki heard, with a look of hate, and stifled his laughter
as best he could; for it is not good to laugh at him who
holds the hammer.
Not once after that was there mention in Asgard of the time
when Thor dressed him as a girl and won his bridal gift from
Thrym the giant.
But Miölnir was safe once more in Asgard, and you
and I know how it came there; so some one must have told.
I wonder if red Loki whispered the tale to some outsider,
after all? Perhaps it may be so, for now he knew how best
to make Thor angry; and from that day when Thor forbade
his laughing, Loki hated him with the mean little hatred of a
mean little soul.
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