FROM ASGARD TO UTGARD
 ONCE on a time, Asa Thor and Loki set out on a journey from
Asgard to Jötunheim. They travelled in Thor's chariot,
drawn by two milk-white goats. It was a somewhat
cumbrous iron chariot, and the wheels made a rumbling
noise as it moved, which sometimes startled the ladies
of Asgard, and made them tremble; but Thor liked it,
thought the noise sweeter than any music, and was never
so happy as when he was journeying in it from one place
 They travelled all day, and in the evening they came to
a countryman's house. It was a poor, lonely place; but
Thor descended from his chariot, and determined to pass
the night there. The countryman, however, had no food
in his house to give these travellers; and Thor, who
liked to feast himself and make every one feast with
him, was obliged to kill his own two goats and serve
them up for supper. He invited the countryman and his
wife and children to sup with him; but before they
began to eat he made one request of them.
"Do not, on any account," he said, "break or throw away
any of the bones of the goats you are going to eat for
"I wonder why," said the peasant's son, Thialfi, to his
sister Roska. Roska could not think of any reason, and
by-and-bye Thialfi happened to have a very nice little
bone given him with some marrow in it. "Certainly
there can be no harm in my breaking just this one," he
said to himself; "it would be such a pity to lose the
marrow;" and as Asa Thor's head was turned another way,
he slyly broke the bone in two, sucked the marrow,
 and then threw the pieces into the goats' skins, where
Thor had desired that all the bones might be placed. I
do not know whether Thialfi was uneasy during the night
about what he had done; but in the morning he found out
the reason of Asa Thor's command, and received a lesson
on "wondering why," which he never forgot all his life
As soon as Asa Thor rose in the morning he took his
hammer, Miölnir, in his hand, and held it over the
goat-skins as they lay on the floor, whispering runes
the while. They were dead skins with dry bones on them
when he began to speak; but as he said the last word,
Thialfi, who was looking curiously on, saw two live
goats spring up and walk towards the chariot, as fresh
and well as when they brought the chariot up to the
door Thialfi hoped. But no; one of the goats limped a
little with his hind leg, and Asa Thor saw it. His
brow grew dark as he looked, and for a minute Thialfi
thought he would run far, far into the forest, and
never come back again; but one look more at Asa Thor's
face, angry as it was, made him change his mind. He
thought of a better thing to do than running
 away. He came forward, threw himself at the Asa's
feet, and, confessing what he had done, begged pardon
for his disobedience. Thor listened, and the
displeased look passed away from his face.
"You have done wrong, Thialfi," he said, raising him
up; "but as you have confessed your fault so bravely,
instead of punishing you, I will take you with me on my
journey, and teach you myself the lesson of obedience
to the Æsir which is, I see, wanted."
Roska chose to go with her brother, and from that day
Thor had two faithful servants, who followed him
wherever he went.
The chariot and goats were now left behind: but, with
Loki and his two new followers, Thor journeyed on to
the end of Manheim, over the sea, and then on, on, on
in the strange, barren, misty land of Jötunheim.
Sometimes they crossed great mountains; sometimes they
had to make their way among torn and rugged rocks,
which often, through the mist, appeared to them to wear
the forms of men, and once for a whole day they
traversed a thick and tangled forest. In the evening
of that day, being
 very much tired, they saw with pleasure that they had
come upon a spacious hall, of which the door, as broad
as the house itself, stood wide open.
"Here we may very comfortable lodge for the night,"
said Thor; and they went in and looked about them.
The house appeared to be perfectly empty; there was a
wide hall, and five smaller rooms opening into it.
They were, however, too tired to examine it carefully,
and as no inhabitants made their appearance, they ate
their supper in the hall, and lay down to sleep. But
they had not rested long before they were disturbed by
strange noises, groanings, mutterings, and snortings,
louder than any animal that they had ever seen in their
lives could make. By-and-bye the house began to shake
from side to side, and it seemed as if the very earth
trembled. Thor sprang up in haste, and ran to the open
door; but, though he looked earnestly into the starlit
forest, there was no enemy to be seen anywhere. Loki
and Thialfi, after groping about for a time, found a
sheltered chamber to the right, where they thought they
could finish their night's rest in safety;
 but Thor, with Miölnir in his hand, watched at the door
of the house all night. As soon as the day dawned he
went out into the forest, and there, stretched on the
ground close by the house, he saw a strange, uncouth,
gigantic shape of a man, out of whose nostrils came a
breath which swayed the trees to their very tops.
There was no need to wonder any longer what the
disturbing noises had been. Thor fearlessly walked up
to this strange monster to have a better look at him;
but at the sound of his footsteps the giant-shape rose
slowly, stood up an immense height, and looked down
upon Thor with two great misty eyes, like blue
"Who are you?" said Thor, standing on tiptoe, and
stretching his neck to look up; "and why do you make
such a noise as to prevent your neighbours from
"My name is Skrymir," said the giant sternly; "I need
not ask yours. You are the little Asa Thor of Asgard;
but pray, now, what have you done with my glove?"
As he spoke he stooped down and picked up the hall
where Thor and his companions had
 passed the night, and which, in truth, was nothing more
than his glove, the room where Loki and Thialfi had
slept being the thumb.
GIANT SKRYMIR AND THOR.
Thor rubbed his eyes, and felt as if he must be
dreaming. Rousing himself, however, he raised Miölnir
in his hand, and, trying to keep his eyes fixed on the
giant's face, which seemed to be always changing, he
said, "It is time that you should know, Skrymir, that I
am come to Jötunheim to fight and conquer such evil
giants as you are, and, little as you think me, I am
ready to try my strength against yours."
"Try it, then," said the giant.
And Thor, without another word, threw Miölnir at his
"Ah! Ah!" said the giant; "did a leaf touch me?"
Again Thor seized Miölnir, which always returned to his
hand, however far he cast it from him, and threw it
with all his force.
The giant put up his hand to his forehead. "I think,"
he said, "that an acorn must have fallen on my head."
A third time Thor struck a blow, the heaviest
 that ever fell from the hand of an Asa; but this time
the giant laughed out loud.
"There is surely a bird on that tree," he said, "who
has let a feather fall on my face."
Then, without taking any further notice of Thor, he
swung an immense wallet over his shoulder, and, turning
his back upon him, struck into a path that led from the
forest. When he had gone a little way he looked round,
his immense face appearing less like a human
countenance than some strange, uncouthly-shaped stone
toppling on a mountain precipice.
he said, "let me give you a piece of good
advice before I go. When you get to Utgard don't make
much of yourself. You think me a tall man, but you
have taller still to see; and you yourself are a very
little mannikin. Turn back home whence you came, and
be satisfied to have learned something of yourself by
your journey to Jötunheim."
"Mannikin or not, that will I never do," shouted
Asa Thor after the giant. "We will meet again,
 and something more will we learn, or teach each other."
The giant, however, did not turn back to answer, and
Thor and his companions, after looking for some time
after him, resumed their journey. Before the sun was
quite high in the heavens they came out of the forest,
and at noon they found themselves on a vast barren
plain, where stood a great city, whose walls of dark,
rough stone were so high, that Thor had to bend his
head quite far back to see the top of them. When they
approached the entrance of this city they found that
the gates were closed and barred; but the space between
the bars was so large that Thor passed through easily,
and his companions followed him. The streets of the
city were gloomy and still. They walked on for some
time without meeting any one; but at length they came
to a very high building, of which the gates stood open.
"Let us go in and see what is going on here," said
Thor; and they went.
After crossing the threshold they found themselves in
an immense banqueting hall. A table stretched
 from one end to the other of it; stone thrones stood
round the table, and on every throne sat a giant, each
one, as Thor glanced round, appearing more grim, and
cold, and stony than the rest. One among them sat on a
raised seat, and appeared to be the chief; so to him
Thor approached and paid his greetings.
The giant chief just glanced at him, and, without
rising, said, in a somewhat careless manner, "It is, I
think, a foolish custom to tease tired travellers with
questions about their journey. I know without asking
that you, little fellow, are Asa Thor. Perhaps,
however, you may be in reality taller than you appear;
and as it is a rule here that no one shall sit down to
table till he has performed some wonderful feat, let us
hear what you and your followers are famed for, and in
what way you choose to prove yourselves worthy to sit
down in the company of giants."
At this speech, Loki, who had entered the hall
cautiously behind Thor, pushed himself forward.
"The feat for which I am most famed," he said,
 "is eating, and it is one which I am just now inclined
to perform with right good will. Put food before me,
and let me see if any of your followers can despatch it
as quickly as I can."
"The feat you speak of is one by no means to be
despised," said the King, "and there is one here who
would be glad to try his powers against yours. Let
Logi," he said to one of his followers, "be summoned to
At this, a tall, thin, yellow-faced man approached, and
a large trough of meat having been placed in the middle
of the hall, Loki sat to work at one end, and Logi at
the other, and they began to eat. I hope I
shall never see anyone eat as they ate; but the giants
all turned their slow-moving eyes to watch them, and in
a few minutes they met in the middle of the trough. It
seemed, at first, as if they had both eaten exactly the
same quantity; but, when the thing came to be examined
into, it was found that Loki had, indeed, eaten up all
the meat, but that Logi had also eaten the bones and
the trough. Then the giants nodded their huge heads,
and determined that Loki was
 conquered. The King now turned to Thialfi, and asked
what he could do.
"I was thought swift of foot among the youth of my own
country," answered Thialfi; "and I will, if you please,
try to run a race with any one here."
"You have chosen a noble sport, indeed," said the King;
"but you must be a good runner if you could beat him
with whom I shall match you."
Then he called a slender lad, Hugi by name, and the
whole company left the hall, and, going out by an
opposite gate to that by which Thor had entered, they
came out to an open space, which made a noble
race-ground. There the goal was fixed, and Thialfi and
Hugi started off together.
Thialfi ran fast—fast as the reindeer which hears the
wolves howling behind; but Hugi ran so much faster
that, passing the goal, he turned round, and met
Thialfi half-way in the course.
"Try again, Thialfi," cried the King; and Thialfi, once
more taking his place, flew along the course with feet
scarcely touching the ground—swiftly as an eagle when,
from his mountain-crag, he swoops on his prey in the
valley; but with all
 his running he was still a good bow-shot from the goal
when Hugi reached it.
"You are certainly a good runner," said the King; "but
if you mean to win you must do a little better still
than this; but perhaps you wish to surprise us all the
more this third time."
The third time, however, Thialfi was wearied, and
though he did his best, Hugi, having reached the goal,
turned and met him not far from the starting-point.
The giants again looked at each other, and declared
that there was no need of further trial, for that
Thialfi was conquered.
It was now Asa Thor's turn, and all the company looked
eagerly at him, while the Utgard King asked by what
wonderful feat he chose to distinguish himself.
"I will try a drinking-match with any of you," Thor
said, shortly; for, to tell the truth, he cared not to
perform anything very worthy in the company in which he
King Utgard appeared pleased with this choice, and when
the giants had resumed their seats in
 the hall, he ordered one of his servants to bring in
his drinking-cup, called the "cup of penance," which it
was his custom to make his guests drain at a draught,
if they had broken any of the ancient rules of the
"There!" he said, handing it to Thor, "we call it well
drunk if a person empties it at a single draught.
Some, indeed, take two to it; but the very puniest can
manage it in three."
Thor looked into the cup; it appeared to him long, but
not so very large after all, and being thirsty he put
it to his lips, and thought to make short work of it,
and empty it at one good, hearty pull. He drank, and
put the cup down again; but, instead of being empty, it
was now just so full that it could be moved without
danger of spilling.
"Ha! ha! You are keeping all your strength for the
second pull I see," said Utgard, looking in. Without
answering, Thor lifted the cup again, and drank with
all his might till his breath failed; but, when he put
down the cup, the liquor had only sunk down a little
from the brim.
 "If you mean to take three draughts to it," said
Utgard, "you are really leaving yourself a very unfair
share for the last time. Look to yourself, Ving-Thor;
for, if you do not acquit yourself better in other
feats, we shall not think so much of you here as they
say the Æsir do in Asgard."
At this speech Thor felt angry, and, seizing the cup
again, he drank a third time, deeper and longer than he
had yet done; but, when he looked into the cup, he saw
that a very small part only of its contents had
disappeared. Wearied and disappointed he put the cup
down, and said he would try no more to empty it.
"It is pretty plain," said the King, looking round on
the company, "that Asa Thor is by no means the kind of
man we always supposed him to be."
"Nay," said Thor, "I am willing to try another feat,
and you yourselves shall choose what it shall be."
"Well," said the King, "there is a game at which our
children are used to play. A short time ago I dare not
have named it to Asa Thor; but now
 I am curious to see how he will acquit himself in it.
It is merely to lift my cat from the ground—a childish
As he spoke a large, grey cat sprang into the hall, and
Thor, stooping forward, put his hand under it to lift
it up. He tried gently at first; but by degrees he put
forth all his strength, tugging and straining as he had
never done before; but the utmost he could do was to
raise one of the cat's paws a little way from the
"It is just as I thought," said King Utgard, looking
round with a smile; "but we all are willing to allow
that the cat is large, and Thor but a little
"Little as you think me," cried Thor, "who is there who
will dare to wrestle with me in my anger?"
"In truth," said the King, "I don't think there is any
one here who would choose to wrestle with you; but, if
wrestle you must, I will call in that old crone Elli.
She has, in her time, laid low many a better man than
Asa Thor has shown himself to be."
 The crone came. She was old, withered, and toothless,
and Thor shrank from the thought of wrestling with her;
but he had no choice. She threw her arms round him,
and drew him towards the ground, and the harder he
tried to free himself, the tighter grew her grasp.
They struggled long. Thor strove bravely, but a
strange feeling of weakness and weariness came over
him, and at length he tottered and fell down on one
knee before her. At this sight all the giants laughed
aloud, and Utgard coming up, desired the old woman to
leave the hall, and proclaimed that the trials were
over. No one of his followers would now contend
with Asa Thor, he said, and night was approaching. He
then invited Thor and his companions to sit down at the
table, and spend the night with him and his guests.
Thor, though feeling somewhat perplexed and mortified,
accepted his invitation courteously, and showed, by his
agreeable behavior during the evening, that he knew how
to bear being conquered with a good grace.
In the morning, when Thor and his companions were
leaving the city, the King himself accompanied
 them without the gates; and Thor, looking steadily at
him when he turned to bid him farewell, perceived, for
the first time, that he was the very same Giant Skrymir
with whom he had met in the forest.
"Come, now, Asa Thor," said the giant with a strange
sort of smile on his face, "tell me truly, before you
go, how you think your journey has turned out, and
whether or not I was right in saying that you would
meet with better men than yourself in Jötunheim."
"I confess freely," answered Asa Thor, looking up
without any false shame on his face, "that I have
acquitted myself but humbly, and it grieves me; for I
know that in Jötunheim henceforward it will be said
that I am a man of little worth."
"By my troth! no," cried the giant, heartily. "Never
should you have come into my city if I had known what a
mighty man of valour you really are; and now that you
are safely out of it, I will, for once, tell the truth
to you, Thor. All this time I have been deceiving you
by my enchantments. When you met me in the forest,
 and hurled Miölnir at my head, I should have been
crushed by the weight of your blows had I not skilfully
placed a mountain between myself and you, on which the
strokes of your hammer fell, and where you cleft three
deep ravines, which shall henceforth become verdant
valleys. In the same manner I deceived you about the
contests in which you engaged last night. When Loki
and Logi sat down before the trough, Loki, indeed, eat
like hunger itself; but Logi is fire, who, with eager,
consuming tongue, licked up both bones and trough.
Thialfi is the swiftest of mortal runners; but the
slender lad, Hugi, was my thought; and what speed can
equal his? So it was in your own trials. When you
took such deep draughts from the horn, you little knew
what a wonderful feat you were performing. The other
end of that horn reached the ocean, and when you come
to the shore you will see how far its waters have
fallen away, and how much the deep sea itself has been
diminished by your draught. Hereafter, men watching
the going out of the tide will call it the ebb, or
 of Thor. Scarcely less wonderful was the prowess you
displayed in the second trial. What appeared to you to
be a cat, was, in reality, the Midgard serpent, which
encircles the world. When we saw you succeed in moving
it we trembled lest the very foundations of earth and
sea should be shaken by your strength. Nor need you be
ashamed of having been overthrown by the old woman
Elli, for she is old age; and there never has, and
never will be, one whom she has not the power to lay
low. We must now part, and you had better not come
here again, or attempt anything further against my
city; for I shall always defend it by fresh
enchantments, and you will never be able to do anything
At these words Thor raised Miölnir, and was about to
challenge the giant to a fresh trial of strength; but,
before he could speak, Utgarda vanished from his sight;
and, turning round to look for the city, he found that
it, too, had disappeared, and that he was standing
alone on a smooth, green, empty plain.
"What a fool I have been," said Asa Thor, aloud,
 "to allow myself to be deceived by a mountain giant!"
"Ah," answered a voice from above, "I told you, you
would learn to know yourself better by your journey to
Jötunheim. It is the great use of travelling."
Thor turned quickly round again, thinking to see
Skrymir behind him; but, after looking on every side,
he could perceive nothing, but that a high,
cloud-capped mountain, which he had noticed on the
horizon, appeared to have advanced to the edge of the