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THOR GOES A FISHING
IDWAY between Niflheim and Muspelheim lay Midgard, the home
of men, its round disk everywhere encircled by the ocean,
which perpetually rushed upon it, gently in still summer
afternoons, but with a terrible uproar in winter. Ages ago,
when the Midgard-serpent had grown so vast that even the
gods were afraid of him, Odin cast him into the sea, and he
lay flat at the bottom of the ocean, grown to such monstrous
size that his scaly length encircled the whole world.
Holding the end of his tail in his mouth, he sometimes lay
motionless for weeks
 at a time, and looking across the water
no one would have dreamed that such a monster was asleep in
its depths. But when the Midgard-serpent was aroused his
wrath was terrible to behold. He lashed the ocean into great
sheets of foam, he piled the waves mountain high, he dashed
the spray into the very heavens, and woe to the galleys that
were sailing homeward.
It happened once that the gods were feasting with
Æger, the sea-god, and the ale gave out, and
Æger had no kettle in which to brew a new supply.
"Thor," said Æger, after he had thought a moment,
"will you get me a kettle?"
Thor was always ready for any hard or dangerous thing.
"Of course I will," was his quick
 reply, "only tell me where
to get one."
That, however, was no easy thing to do. Kettles big enough
to brew ale for Asgard were not to be picked up at a
moment's notice. Everybody wanted more ale, but nobody could
tell Thor where to find a kettle, until Tyr, the god of
courage, spoke up: "East of the rivers Elivagar lives my
father, Hymer, who has a kettle marvellously strong and one
This was large enough even for the gods.
"Do you think we can get it?" asked Thor, who always wanted
to succeed in his undertakings.
"If we cannot get it by force we can by stratagem," answered
Tyr, and they started off at once, Thor taking the disguise
of a young man.
 The goats drew them swiftly to Egil, with whom Thor left
them while he and Tyr pushed on to finish the journey afoot.
It was rough and perilous travelling, but they reached
Hymer's hall without accident, and there Tyr found his
grandmother, a frightfully ugly giantess, and his mother, a
wonderfully beautiful woman, with fair hair, and a face so
radiant that the sun seemed to be always shining upon it.
The latter advised them to hide under the great kettles in
the hall, because when Hymer came home in bad temper he was
sometimes cruel to strangers.
Late in the evening Hymer came home from his fishing. A cold
wind swept through the hall as he entered, his eyes were
piercing as the stars on a winter's night, and his beard was
white with frost.
 "I welcome you home," said Tyr's beautiful mother; "our son,
for whom we have been looking so long, has come home,
bringing with him the enemy of giants and the protector of
Asgard. See how they hide themselves behind that pillar
She pointed to a pillar at the farther end of the hall.
Hymer turned and looked at it with his piercing, icy glance,
and in an instant it snapped into a thousand pieces; the
beam overhead broke, and eight kettles fell with a crash on
the stone floor. Only one out of the eight remained
unbroken, and from it Thor and Tyr came forth. Hymer was not
glad to see Thor standing there under his own roof, but he
could not turn him out, so he made the best of it and
ordered three oxen to be served for supper. Thor had
travelled a long distance and was
 very hungry, and ate two
of the oxen before he was satisfied.
"If you eat like that," said Hymer, "we will have to live on
Early the next morning, before the sun was up, Thor heard
Hymer getting ready for a day of fishing. He dressed himself
quickly and went out to the giant. "Good morning, Hymer," he
said pleasantly. "I am fond of fishing; let me row out to
sea with you."
"Oho," answered the giant scornfully, not at all pleased
with the idea of having his powerful enemy in the boat with
him, "such a puny young fellow can be of no use to me, and
if I go as far out to sea as I generally do, and stay as
long, you will catch a cold that will be the death of you."
 Thor was so angry at this insult that he wanted to let his
hammer ring on the giant's head, but he wisely kept his
"I will row as far from the land as you care to go," was his
answer, "and it is by no means certain that I shall be the
first to want to put in again. What do you bait with?"
"Find a bait for yourself," was the giant's surly reply.
Thor ran up to a herd of Hymer's cattle, seized the largest
bull, wrung off its head without any trouble, and put it in
the boat. Then they both pushed off and were soon rowing
seaward. Thor rowed aft, and the boat fairly shot through
the water. Hymer could pull a strong oar, but he had never
seen such a stroke as Thor's before. The boat fairly
trembled under the force of it. In a few moments
reached Hymer's fishing-ground, and he called out to Thor to
"Oh, no, not yet," said Thor, bending steadily over his
oars; "we must go a good distance beyond this."
Thor pulled with such tremendous power that they were soon
far out to sea, and Hymer began to be frightened.
"If you don't stop," he called out, "we shall be over the
Thor paid no attention, but rowed on until they were far out
of sight of land and about where he thought the great snake
was coiled in the bottom of the sea; then he laid down the
oars as fresh and strong apparently as when he got into the
boat. It was the strangest fishing party the world ever saw,
and the most wonderful fishing. No sooner had Hymer's bait
 water than it was seized by two whales. Thor smiled
quietly at the giant's luck, took out a fishing-line, made
with wonderful skill, and so strong that it could not be
broken, fastened the bull's head upon the hook and cast it
into the sea. The Midgard-serpent instantly seized it, and
in a second the hook was fast in its palate. Then came a
furious struggle between the strong god and the terrible
monster which was the dread of the whole earth.
Stung by the pain, the serpent writhed and pulled so hard
that Thor had to brace himself against the side of the boat.
When he found that the snake had taken his hook his wrath
rose, and his divine strength came upon him. He pulled the
line with such tremendous force that his feet went straight
through the bottom of
 the boat, and he stood on the bed of
the ocean while he drew the snake up to the side of the
boat. The monster, convulsed with pain, reared its terrible
head out of the water, its glittering eyes flashing, its
whole vast body writhing and churning the ocean into a
whirlpool of eddying foam. Thor's eyes blazed with wrath,
and he held the serpent in a grasp like a vise. The uproar
was like a terrible storm, and the boat, the fishers, and
the snake were hidden by columns of foam that rose in the
air. No one can tell what the end would have been if Hymer,
trembling with fright and seeing the boat about to sink, had
not sprung forward and cut the line just as Thor was raising
his hammer to crush the serpent's head. The snake sank at
once to the bottom of the sea, and Thor, turning upon the
 him such a blow under the ear that he fell
headlong into the water. The giant got back to the boat,
however, and they rowed to land, taking the two whales with
Hymer sprang forward and cut the line
When they reached shore Thor was still filled with rage at
the meddlesome giant, because he had lost him the serpent,
but he quietly picked up the boat and carried it home, Hymer
taking the whales. Once more under his own roof, the giant's
courage returned, and he challenged Thor to show his
strength by breaking his drinking-cup. Thor sat down and,
taking the cup, hurled it against a pillar. It flew through
the air, crashed against the stone, bounded back, and was
picked up as whole and perfect as when it came into Thor's
hands. He was puzzled, but Tyr's beautiful fair-haired
 to him, "Throw it at Hymer's forehead; it
is harder than any drinking-cup."
Thor drew in all his godlike strength and dashed the cup
with a terrific effort at Hymer. The forehead was unharmed,
but the cup was scattered in a thousand pieces over the
floor. Hymer had lost a great treasure by the experiment,
but he only said, "That drink was too hot. Perhaps you will
take the kettle off now," he added with a sneer.
Tyr immediately laid hands on the kettle, but he could not
move it an inch. Then Thor took the great pot in his hands
and drew it up with such a mighty effort that his feet went
through the stone floor of the hall, but he lifted it and,
placing it on his head like a mighty helmet, walked off, the
rings of the kettle clanging about his
 feet. The two gods
walked swiftly away from the hall where so many troubles and
labours had awaited them, and it was a long time before Thor
turned to look back. When he did, it was not a moment too
soon, for Hymer was close behind, with a multitude of
many-headed giants, in hot pursuit.
In one minute Thor had lifted the kettle off his head and
put it on the ground, in another he was swinging the hammer
among the giants, and in another, when the lightnings had
gone out and the thunder had died in awful echoes among the
hills, Tyr and Thor were alone on the field.
They went on to Egil, mounted the chariot and drove the
goats swiftly on to Æger's, where the gods were
impatiently waiting for
 the kettle. There was straightway a
mighty brewing of ale, Thor told the story of his adventures
in search of the kettle, and the feast went merrily on.