APPENDIX II:

The Lay of Thrym

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    Thrymskvitha is known to have been one of the most popular of the Norse myths. It is also the funniest: though built upon a serious foundation, it is pure burlesque. The Norse are the only people I know who were willing to tell a story in which one of their most powerful and best loved gods goes out into the world in drag. The saving grace for the Norse, of course, was that at the end of the story Thor kills all the witnesses to his embarrassment (Well, they were all Frost Giants, so it was a Good Thing).

    The source for this version of Thrymskvitha is The Poetic Edda translated with notes by Lee M. Hollander (1962, University of Texas Press, Austin, LCCCN 61-10045). The poetic version is remarkably short; one hundred and twenty-nine lines that cover a little less than six pages. In true skaldic form, the poem is replete with kennings, including one of Thor's alternate names, Hlorrithi, which I have kept in my version. To make the story comprehensible to the modern reader I have straightened out most of the kennings and I have added material. If you want to get the full flavor of the original, I recommend that you read any good translation of The Poetic Edda. Here, then, I give you the thirty-two stanzas of

Thrymskvitha

    Oh, was Thor angry! Wild with rage, he ransacked his own quarters. Hither and yon he stormed, overturning furniture, looking under and behind it, then roughly setting it right again. When he paused a moment to think he still trembled so violently that his beard shook. He had awakened to the new day only moments before and discovered, to his horror and wrath, that Mjollnir, his mighty hammer, was missing, gone, nowhere to be found.

eeff

    He went quickly to Loki's residence and barged in. Loki had been sitting in contemplation, cooking up the new day's schemes, when wrathful Thor stormed into his quarters. "Hear me well, Loki," Thor said. "We have big trouble in Asgard. So far no one knows of it, no one in Midgard, no one in Asgard." He slammed his right fist into the palm of his left hand, making Loki jump. "Loki," Thor said, "my hammer has been stolen!"

eeff

    Together, Loki and Thor went to Freyja's residence. There they requested and were granted entry into Freyja's private abode. "Dear Freyja," Thor said, bypassing all formality, "will you lend me your feather cloak?" Freyja started, as if struck. What a strange request to come from manly Thor! "My hammer has gone missing," Thor said in explanation, "and I want to send Loki to find it. Your cloak will help him to fly fast and true."

eeff

    Freyja went to her clothes chest and opened it. From the chest she took the cloak of feathers, shimmering in the light. Draped over both her arms, she carried it to Thor to present it to him. "Even if it were made of gold," she said, "I would give it to you. For your sake I would lend it, even if it were made of purest silver."

eeff

    Loki put on the cloak and became as a great eagle. Out of Asgard he flew, the feather cloak whirring in the wind. Swiftly he left the halls of the Gods behind, set out to seek Thor's lost hammer. High he flew, soaring upon the Wind Roof of the World. East he flew, to Jotunheim, the land of the Frost Giants.

eeff

    Thrym, Lord of the Frost Giants, sat on his ancestor's grave mound. High Lord of the Frost Giants was he and idle too. As he sat he twined golden halters for his hounds. As he sat he sleeked the manes of his slender horses. Here, where he sat, here Loki landed before him.

eeff

    And Thrym said to Loki, "Well, what so ails the Aesir that it makes you leave Asgard? What so ails the elves that it brings you to Jotunheim?"

    And Loki said to Thrym, "It goes ill with the Aesir, for Hlorrithi's hammer has gone missing. And it goes ill with the elves, for they believe that Hlorrithi's hammer is hidden with you."

eeff

    And Thrym said, "Why, yes, I have Hlorrithi's hammer hidden with me. It is hidden eight full leagues under the ground, where none may find it." And Thrym smiled a death's head grin and said, "But I know you, Loki. I know that Frost Giant blood dwells within you, so I will tell you a hidden thing. I tell you that no one may win Mjollnir from me unless they bring me Freyja as my bride."

eeff

    Out of Jotunheim Loki flew, the feather cloak whirring in the wind. Swiftly he left the homes of the Frost Giants behind, set out to bring his report to the Gods. High he flew, soaring upon the Wind Roof of the World. West he flew, to Asgard, home of the Gods. Fell he then, with outstretched wings, to Asgard's middle court. There, in the court, he saw Thor waiting.

eeff

    And Thor called to Loki, saying, "What welcome words have rewarded your labors? Tell me while you are yet in the air what tidings you bring. Sitting often makes a man forget his errand and lying makes his report lies altogether."

eeff

    Wings spread wide, Loki circled the middle court as he descended. And Loki said to Thor, "Welcome words have rewarded my toil. Thrym, Lord of the Frost Giants, has your hammer, has it hidden eight full leagues beneath the ground." Loki's feet touched the ground of the middle court. Wings folded and Eagle-Loki a cloaked man became. And Loki said, "Less welcome words come from Thrym. By his reckoning no one may win Mjollnir from him unless they bring him Freyja as his bride."

eeff

    Together, Loki and Thor went to Freyja's residence. There they requested and were granted entry into Freyja's private abode. "Dear Freyja," Thor said, presenting her the feather cloak, "I return what you have lent and offer my gratitude. We have learned what we need to know." And the fluffy white clouds of his words darkened into thunderheads as he said further, "Dress yourself in bridal linen. The two of us must go to Jotunheim, there to make you wife and widow."

eeff

    Oh, was Freyja angry! So enraged was she that foam flew from her lips. The shining walls of her palace shook and trembled from the force of her wrath. The Brisings' necklace burst asunder and fell from her neck. "All will say that I am most mad for men," she shrieked, "if I go with you to Jotunheim."

eeff

    Came all of the Gods to the council chamber, and all of the Goddesses too. Gathered together, they debated how they might win back Hlorrithi's hammer. Plans and schemes they shared among themselves, all aimed at regaining Mjollnir for mighty Thor.

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    Finally Heimdall, whitest of the Gods, rose and spoke. As a foreknowing Van, he fathomed the future. To him was entrusted the task of guarding the rainbow-colored Bifrost Bridge, there to blow the horn announcing the Day of Ragnarok. He rose and spoke to the assembled Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir together, saying, "Let us dress Thor in bridal linen and put on him the Brisings' necklace."

eeff

    "Let a housewife's door keys dangle from his belt," Heimdall said further, "and let a woman's skirts cover his legs. On his breast let us array the bridal jewels and on his head put the hood and veil as befits a bride. Let us then send Thor, disguised as Freyja to Jotunheim to regain his hammer."

eeff

    "No!" cried out Thor. "No," thundered the mighty one, "never shall I don the guise of a bride! All will say that I am effeminate if I accept your plan. Woe, then, to anyone who brings me bridal linen and the Brisings' necklace! Let no one dare approach me with the housewife's door keys and a woman's skirts to cover my legs! My wrath shall fall hard upon any who come to me with bridal jewels and a hood and veil befitting a bride!"

eeff

    Then Loki spoke up. Laufey's son spoke and said, "Put your own words away, Thor, and heed these words: Truly, I say, no one will dare say you are effeminate when Mjollnir is again in your grasp. But we must, by whatever means, bring your hammer home to you, lest the Frost Giants so fill the world that they will soon dwell even in Asgard."

eeff

    So the Gods dressed fuming Thor in bridal linen and put on him the Brisings' necklace. They dangled a housewife's door key's from scowling Thor's belt and hid his hairy legs under a woman's skirt. On fist-clenching Thor's chest they arrayed the bridal jewels and on his head they put a hood and veil befitting a bride. No cause for merriment did any see in the masquerade, for all were eager for the mission to succeed.

eeff

    Then Loki spoke up. Laufey's son spoke and said, "I will come with you, Thor. In the guise of a bridesmaid I will go with you to the Land of the Frost Giants, to the home of Thrym, Lord of the Frost Giants, there to make you wife and widow."

eeff

    From their pasture to Asgard the giant goats were driven. The pony-sized goats were hitched there to Thor's chariot to carry Thor and Loki to Jotunheim. Out of Asgard they rumbled. Mountains broke, crumbled under the wheels of Hlorrithi's wain. Fire rose up out of the ground to mark their passage. Thus rode Odin's son to Jotunheim.

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    To the Frost Giants said Thrym, their lord, "Get up, all of you, and put fresh straw on the benches in my hall. Prepare a wedding feast: boil an ox and cook eight full salmon; set out dainties for all the women; and bring in three casks of mead. Freyja has been sent to be my bride; I am to wed Njord's daughter from Noatun."

eeff

    On his fortune Thrym then mused. "In my gard graze cattle with golden horns," he said in his heart, "oxen all black. To Frost Giants these are a joy to behold. I have many rings; I have many riches. I lack only Freyja to make my wealth complete."

eeff

    The sun had set in Jotunheim when Thor and Loki came to Thrym's hall. In bridal procession they entered the hall and took their seats. Soon the boiled ox was gone. Soon the full eight salmon were gone. Soon the dainties set out for all the women were gone. And soon the three casks of mead were gone. All of these had Mjollnir's wielder consumed.

eeff

    And when Thrym saw that his bride-to-be ate all of the food and drank all of the mead, he asked Loki, "How is it that fair Freyja, who has an appetite as dainty as a bird's, has eaten all of our food and drunk all of our mead?"

eeff

    And Loki said in his heart, "Thrym must not know yet that the bride is actually Thor in disguise", so he said to Thrym in his sweetest voice, "My good lord Thrym, your bride has been so eager to come to your side that she has taken no food and no drink for eight nights."

eeff

    And Thrym said in his heart, "How I long to kiss my bride." He lifted the veil and met a red-eyed glare that sent him reeling back the full length of the hall. Of Loki he asked, "Why so fearsome Freyja's reddened eyes? Like glowing coals, they seem to be aflame!"

eeff

    And Loki said in his heart, "Thrym must not know yet that the bride is actually Thor in disguise", so he said to Thrym in his sweetest voice, "My good lord Thrym, your bride has been so eager to come to your side that she has slept not a wink for eight nights."

eeff

    In came Thrym's greedy sister. To Thor she came to beg a bridal gift. "I would have from you," she said, "red-gold arm rings if you would have from me friendship and love, yes, friendship and fondness too." The bride stayed silent, seething under the veil.

eeff

    Now Thrym spoke the most welcome words to fall upon Thor's ears. "Come," Thrym said, "bring the hammer to bless the bride. Lay Mjollnir upon the maiden's lap and in Vor's name will our wedlock be hallowed."

eeff

    Hlorrithi laughed in his heart at the Frost Giant's words; soon to his hand the hammer would come. They laid Mjollnir in his lap and began to intone the blessing. Grasping the hammer, Thor rose from his seat and threw off the veil. Thrym, Lord of the Frost Giants, he slew first. Then, releasing the reins on his wrath altogether, he crushed all of Thrym's kin.

eeff

    Even Thrym's greedy old sister, who had begged him for a bridal gift, he slew. She had begged for jewels; she got a jolt from the hammer. Instead of golden arm rings, she got a grinding blow to the head. All of the Frost Giants of Thrym's clan, all of them, were shattered in that great hall.

    Thus Hlorrithi regained his hammer and thus Mjollnir was returned to mighty Thor's hand.

aabb

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