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THOR'S WONDERFUL JOURNEY
HOR made many journeys and had many strange adventures; but
there was one journey which was more wonderful than all the
others, and which proves, moreover, that the strongest and
truest are sometimes deceived by those who are weaker than
themselves. The giants in old Norse times were not easy to
conquer; but generally it was when they hid themselves
behind lies and appeared to be what they were not that they
succeeded for a time. Thor's strength was a noble thing
because he used it to help men; but his truthfulness and
honesty were nobler still.
 One morning, just as the sun was beginning to shine through
the mists that overhung the world, the gates of Asgard
opened and Thor's chariot, drawn by the goats, rattled along
the road. Thor and Loke were evidently off for a journey;
but Thor was always going of somewhere, and nobody who saw
him now thought that he was starting out to try his strength
with the most powerful things in the whole earth. Nor did he
know it. All day long the chariot rolled across the level
stretches of meadow and through the valleys, leaving the
echoes shouting to each other from the overhanging mountains
as it passed by. At night it stopped at the house of a poor
peasant, and Thor stepped down and stood in the doorway.
"Can you lodge two travellers over night?" he asked.
 "Certainly," said the peasant, "but we can give you nothing
to eat, for we have nothing for ourselves."
"Give yourselves no trouble about that," answered Thor
cheerfully; "I can provide for all."
He went back to Loke, who got out of the chariot; and then,
to the great astonishment of the people in the house, Thor
killed both his goats, and in a minute they were ready for
cooking. The great pot was soon sending savory odours
through the house, and the whole family with their strange
guests sat down shortly to a bountiful supper.
"The more you eat the better I shall like it," said Thor, as
they took their places at the table, "but do not on any
account break the bones; when you have done with them throw
them into the skins
 which I have spread out on the hearth."
The peasant and his wife and Thjalfe and Roskva, their two
children, ate bountifully; but Thjalfe broke one of the
bones to get the marrow. The next morning Thor was up with
the sun, and when he dressed himself he took the hammer and
held it over the goat-skins: and immediately the bones flew
into place, and the skins covered them, and there were the
two goats as full of life as when they started out the day
before. But one of the goats limped; and when Thor saw it he
was so angry that he looked like a thunder-cloud, and his
fingers closed so tightly round Mjolner that his knuckles
were white. Thjalfe, who had been looking with the rest of
the family in speechless wonder, was
 frightened half out of
his wits when he saw Thor's rage, and would have run away if
he could. The poor peasant and his wife were equally
terrified, and besought Thor that he would not destroy them.
Seeing them in such misery Thor's anger died out, and he
said he would forgive them, but Thjalfe and Roskva must
henceforth be his servants. So taking the two children, and
leaving the goats with their parents for safe keeping, Thor
and Loke set out again.
Thor had decided to go to Jotunheim, and all the morning
they travelled eastward until they reached the shore of the
sea. They crossed the wide waters quickly and climbed up on
the further shore of Jotunheim. Mists floated over the land,
and great rocks rose along the coast so stern
 and black from the wash of the sea and the fury of storms
that they seemed like strong giants guarding their country
against the giant-queller. Thor led the way, and they soon
entered a deep forest through which they travelled until
nightfall, Thjalfe, who was very fleet of foot, carrying the
sack of provisions. As night came on they looked about for
shelter, and came upon an immense building with a whole side
opening into a great room of which they found five smaller
rooms. This was just what he wanted, although they could not
imagine why any one had built such a house in that lonely
place. After supper, weary with the long journey, they were
soon in a deep sleep.
Three or four hours went by quietly enough, but about
 they were suddenly awakened by an awful uproar,
which shook the building to its foundations and made the
whole earth tremble. Thor called the others and told them to
go into the further rooms. Half dead with fright they did
so, but Thor stretched himself, hammer in hand, at the wide
entrance. As soon as there was light enough to see about him
Thor went into the woods, and had gone but a little way when
he came upon an enormous giant, fast asleep, and snoring so
loudly that the very trees shook around him. Thor quickly
buckled on his belt of strength, and had no sooner done so
than the giant awoke and sprang to his feet. The whole earth
shook under him, and he towered as far over Thor, as a great
oak does over the fern that grows at its foot. Thor was
 frightened, but he had never heard of such a giant
before and he looked at him with honest surprise.
"Who are you?" he said, after looking up to the great face a
"I am Skrymer," answered the giant, "but I don't need to ask
your name. You are Thor. But what have you done with my
And stretching out his great hand the giant picked up his
glove, which was nothing less than the building Thor and the
others had spent the night in.
"Would you like to have me travel with you?" continued the
"Certainly," said Thor, although it was plainly to be seen
that neither Thjalfe nor Roskva wanted such a companion.
un-  tied his sack and took out his
breakfast, and the others followed his example, taking care,
however, to put a comfortable distance between themselves
and their dangerous fellow-traveller. After breakfast
Skrymer proposed that they should put all their provisions
into one bag, to which Thor consented, and they started off,
the giant tramping on ahead, and carrying the sack on his
They started off the giant tramping on ahead
All day long he walked steadily on, taking such tremendous
strides that the others could hardly keep up with him. When
night came he stopped under a great oak.
"There," said he, throwing down the sack; "take that and get
some supper; I am going to sleep."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before he began to
 loudly as the night before. Thor took the sack, but
the harder he tried to loosen the string the tighter it
drew, and with all his strength he could not untie a single
knot. Finding he could not get into the sack, and hearing
the giant snore so peacefully at his side, Thor's anger
blazed out, and grasping the hammer he struck the giant full
on the head. Skrymer opened his eyes drowsily.
"Did a leaf fall on my head?" he called out sleepily,
without getting up. "Have you had your supper yet, and are
you going to bed?"
In a minute he was snoring again. Thor went and lay down
under another oak; but at midnight the giant began to snore
so heavily that the forest resounded with the noise. Thor
was fairly beside himself with rage, and swinging his hammer
 Skrymer such a tremendous blow that the hammer sank
to the handle in his head. The giant opened his eyes and sat
"What is the matter now?" he called out; "did an acorn fall
on my head? How are you getting on, Thor?"
"Oh, I am just awake," said Thor, stepping back quickly. "It
is only midnight, and we may sleep awhile longer."
Thor watched until the giant had fallen asleep again, and
just at daybreak dealt him the most terrible blow that he
had ever given with the hammer. It flashed through and
buried itself out of sight in Skrymer's forehead. The giant
sprang on his feet and began to stroke his beard.
"Are there any birds up there?" he asked, looking into the
 thought a feather dropped on my head. Are you awake,
Thor? It is full time to dress, and you are near the end of
your journey. The city of Utgard is not far off. I heard you
whispering together that I was a man of great stature, but
you will find much larger men in Utgard. Take my advice, and
when you get there don't boast very much, for they will not
take boasting from such little fellows as you are. You would
do well to turn back and go home while you have a chance;
but if you will go on, take the road to the eastward,—my
way takes me to the north." And, swinging the sack of
provisions over his shoulder, Skrymer plunged into the
forest and was soon out of sight.
Thor and his companions pushed on as fast as they could
 when suddenly a great city rose before them, on
a vast plain, the walls of which were so high that they had
to lean back as far as they could to see the top. A great
gate, heavily barred, stopped them at the entrance; but they
crept between the bars. After going a little distance they
came upon a palace, and the doors being open went in, and
found themselves in a great hall with long seats on either
side, and on these seats rows of gigantic men larger than
Skrymer. When they saw Utgard-Loke, who was the king of that
country, they saluted him; but he sat for a long time
without taking any notice of them. At last smiling
contemptuously he said; "It is tiresome for travellers to be
asked about a long journey; but if I am not mistaken this
little fellow is
 Thor. Perhaps, however, you are really
larger than you seem to be. What feats of strength can you
show us? No one is permitted to stay here unless he excels
in some difficult thing."
Hearing these words, in a very insulting tone, Loke answered
loudly, "There is one feat in which no one can equal me, and
I am ready to perform it at once. I can devour food faster
than any one here."
"Truly, that would be a feat if you could do it," said the
scornful king; and he called to a man named Loge to contend
A great trough full of meat was placed in the centre of the
hall, and commencing at either end the contestants began to
eat voraciously, and so fast that it is disagreeable even to
think of it. They reached
 the middle of the trough at
exactly the same moment; but Loke had eaten only the meat,
while Loge had devoured meat, bones, trough and all. There
was nothing left on his side, and Loke had to confess
Then the king, looking at Thjalfe, asked, "What can you do,
"I will run a race with any one you will select," answered
"If you can outrun any one I can select, it will certainly
be a splendid feat," said Utgard-Loke; "but you must be very
swift-footed to do it."
There was a noble race-ground just outside the palace, and
every one hurried out to see the race. The king called a
slender young fellow named Huge, and told him to run with
 There was never such running since the world began. Thjalfe
ran like the wind; but Huge reached the goal first, and
turned about to meet Thjalfe as he came breathless to the
"You must use your legs better than that if you intend to
win," said the king, as Thjalfe walked back; "although you
are the fastest runner that ever came here."
They ran a second time, but when Huge reached the goal and
turned around, Thjalfe was a full bow-shot behind.
"Well run!" shouted Utgard-Loke; "well run! a third race
shall decide it."
A third time they were at the starting-place and again they
were speeding down the course, while everybody strained his
eyes to look
 at them; and a third time Huge reached the goal
and turned to find Thjalfe not half-way.
"We have had racing enough!" cried the giants, and they all
went back into the palace again.
And now it was Thor's turn to show his wonderful strength,
but he did not dream that he was going to measure strength
with the most tremendous forces in the whole earth.
"Your fame fills all the worlds, Thor," called out
Utgard-Loke, when they had seated themselves on the benches
along the great hall; "give us some proof of your wonderful
Thor never waited to be asked a second time.
"I will contend in drinking with any one you may select,"
was his prompt acceptance of the challenge.
 "Well answered," said the king. "Bring out the great horn."
A giant went out, and speedily came back bearing a very deep
horn, which the king said his men were compelled to empty as
"A good drinker will empty that horn at a single draught,"
said Utgard-Loke, as it was filled and handed to Thor; "a
few men need to drink twice, but only a milksop needs a
third pull at it."
Thor thought the horn not over large, although very long,
and as he was very thirsty he put it to his lips without
further ado, and drank so long and deep that he thought it
certainly must be empty, but when he set the horn down and
looked into it he was astonished to find that the liquor
rose almost as high as when he set his lips to it.
 "That was fairly well drunk," said the king, "but not
unusually so; if anybody had told me Thor could do no better
than that I would not have believed him. But of course you
will finish it at a second draught."
Thor said nothing, although he was very angry, but setting
the horn to his lips a second time he drank longer and
deeper than before. When he had stopped to take breath, and
looked at it again, he had drunk less than the first time.
"How now, Thor," cried Utgard-Loke, "you have left more for
the third draught than you can manage. If there are no other
feats which you can perform better than this you must not
expect to be considered as great here as among the gods."
Thor became very angry when he
 heard these words, and
seizing the horn he drank deep, fast, and furiously until he
thought it certainly must be empty; but when he looked into
it the liquor had fallen so little that he could hardly see
the difference; and he handed it to the cupbearer, and would
drink no more.
"It is plain," spoke up the king in a very insulting tone,
"that you are not so strong as we thought you were; you
cannot succeed in this strife, certainly; will you try something else?"
"I will certainly try something else," said Thor, who could
not understand why he had failed to drain the horn; "but I
am sure that even among the gods such draughts would not be
counted small. What game do you propose now?"
 "Oh, a very easy one," replied the king, "which my
youngsters here make nothing of; simply to lift a cat from
the floor. I should not think of asking you to try it if I
did not see that you are much less of a man than I have
He had no sooner said this than a large grey cat ran out
into the hall. Thor put his hand under it and tried to lift
it, but the cat arched its back as high as Thor stretched
his hands, and, do his best, he could only get one foot off
"It is just as I expected," cried Utgard-Loke in a loud
voice; "the cat is very large, and Thor is a very, little
fellow compared with the rest of us."
Thor's eyes flashed fire. "Little as I am," he shouted, "I
challenge any of you to wrestle with me."
 Utgard-Loke looked up and down the benches as if he would
call out some one from the two rows of giants. Then he shook
his head, saying; "There is no one here who would not think
it child's play to wrestle with you; but let some one call
in Ellie, my old nurse; she shall try her strength with you.
She has brought many a stronger man than you to earth."
An old woman came creeping into the hall, bent, wrinkled,
and toothless. Thor seized her, but the tighter his grasp
became the firmer she stood. Her thin arms gripped him like
a vise, her strength seemed to grow as she put it forth, and
at last after a hard struggle, in which Thor strained every
muscle to the breaking point, he sank on one knee.
 "That is enough," said Utgard-Loke, and the old woman crept
feebly out of the hall, leaving Thor stunned and bewildered
in the midst of the silent giants. There were no more trials
of strength, and Thor and his companions were generously
feasted after their defeats.
The next morning, after they had partaken of a bountiful
breakfast of meat and drink, they started on their journey
homeward. Utgard-Loke went with them as far as the gate of
the city, where he stopped.
"How do you think your journey has turned out?" he asked
Thor; "and have you met any men stronger than yourself?"
"I have brought shame upon myself," answered Thor frankly
and honestly, after his nature, "and it vexes me to think
that you will
 hereafter speak of me as a weak fellow."
"Now that you are out of the city I will tell you the truth
about these things," said Utgard-Loke. "If I had known how
mighty you are I would never have allowed you to enter the
gates, and you may be very sure you will never get in a
second time. I have beaten you by deception, not by
strength. I have been deluding you from the start. In the
forest I tied the sack with a tough iron wire in such a way
you could not discern the secret of the knot. Thrice you
struck at me with your hammer, and the first blow, though
the lightest, would have killed me had it fallen on me; but
each time I slipped a mountain between myself and the
hammer, and the blows made three deep clefts
 in its stony
sides. I have deluded you, too, in all the trials of
strength and skill. Loke was very hungry, and ate
voraciously, but he contended against fire itself, which
goes like the wind and devours everything in its path;
Thjalfe ran as man never ran before, but Huge, who raced
with him, was no other than my thought, and what man is so
swift as thought? The horn which you strove in vain to empty
had its further end in the sea, and so mighty were your
draughts that over the wide sea the waters have sunk to the
ebb. Your strength was no less wonderful when you lifted the
cat; when we saw one foot raised from the floor our hearts
sank in terror, for it was the Midgard-serpent, encircling
the whole earth which you contended against, and you
 held it aloft
so near heaven that the world was hardly enclosed by its
folds. Most marvellous of all was the wrestling with Ellie,
who was none other than old age itself, who sooner or later
must bring all things to the ground. We must part, I hope
never to meet again; for I can only defend myself against
you by spells of magic such as these."
Thor was so enraged when he heard these words that he swung
his hammer high in air to crush the lying Utgard-Loke, but
he had vanished, and when Thor turned to look for the city
he saw only a beautiful plain spreading its blossoming
meadows to the far mountains; and he went thoughtfully back