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Norse Tales with Giants and Dwarfs

thor

Norse Tales with Giants and Dwarfs

The following tales contained mainly Norse myths of Thor and Loki and about their adventure and dealings with giants and the dwarves (dwarfs).

All of the stories come from two main sources, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda.

Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and historian, wrote the Prose Edda (1222-23). Snorri was believed to be a chieftain. The Prose Edda was sometimes called the Younger Edda or Snorra Edda. It has been divided into two sections: the Gylfaginning ("The Beguiling of Gylfi"), and Skáldskaparmál ("The Language of Poetry").

The Poetic Edda was also called the Elder Edda. There were over 30 poems in the Poetic Edda, which was divided into mythological and heroic sections.

Gifts of the Dwarves

sif_lokiThor was married to Sif, the lovely goddess. Sif had beautiful, long, golden hair. It was something she took great pride of.

Loki, the mischievous fire-god, loved playing practical jokes on the gods. One night, Loki decided to cut off all Sif's hair.

What Loki didn't count on, was Thor's temper. When Thor found his wife weeping over the lost of her golden hair, the thunder-god caught Loki and threatened to beat and break every bone in Loki's body. Loki promised Thor to replaced Sif's beautiful hair with hair of gold.

Loki sought the master dwarven craftsmen, the sons of Ivaldi. The hair or wig was made out of finely spun gold. The magical property of the gold hair was that it was alive like real hair, which would grow naturally.

The sons of Ivaldi also created two other splendid gifts for the Aesir. They created the indestructible spear, called Gungnir, for Odin. They also created a magical ship for Freyr, which was called Skidbladnir. The remarkable thing about Skidbladnir was that it was a collapsible ship, which Freyr could fold up to a size smaller enough to carry in his pocket.

As Loki carried the gifts to the Aesir, Loki encountered another two dwarfs – Brokk and Eiti. Loki boasted of the gifts and craftsmanship of the sons of Ivaldi. Loki made a wager on his head that Brokk and Eiti and could not make better three gifts than those of the sons of Ivaldi. Brokk and Eiti agreed to the wagers.

First, Eiti placed a pig's hide in the forge, he told his brother to keep working on the bellows, until he completed the work. As they started working, a fly (Loki?) tried to distract Brokk from blowing air into the forge fire, by biting into Brokk's left arm. Brokk ignored the fly and continuously worked on the bellows. From the hide, bristles of gold sprouted out, giving life to a wild boar. The boar was called Gullinbursti, "golden bristles". The boar had the ability to run faster than any horse, across the sky or over water. The gold bristle ensured that it was bright enough to see where it was going, even at the darkness night.

During the second piece of work, the fly landed this time on Brokk's neck, nibbling harder than before, but Brokk ignored the fly and kept working on the bellows. Eiti made a gold ring called the Draupnir. The ring had the ability to make eight other rings of the same size, every ninth night.

When they were working on a third item, the fly now landed between Brokk's eyes, and nibbled on his eyelid. Blood dripped into his eye, so Brokk quickly rubbed the blood out of his eye and swatted the fly away, before he continued to work the bellows. Eiti had placed a large piece of iron in the forge and created a  hammer called Mjollnir. Eiti told Brokk that he nearly ruined this work. The only flaw of the hammer was that the handle was quite short.

The Mjollnir was the strongest weapon in the world. It would not fail to hit any target, either struck at or thrown at. If the hammer was thrown, it would always return to its hands, after striking its target.

Eiti sent his brother with the gifts to Asgard. Loki and Brokk gave the gifts to the Aesir. Odin, Thor and Freyr acted as judges over the gifts, to see which was the best of them all.

Loki gave the hair or wig of gold to Sif, to appease Thor's anger towards him. The collapsible ship, Skidbladnir, was given to Freyr, and Loki gave the indestructable spear, (Gungnir), to Odin.

Brokk gave the boar with gold bristles (Gullinbursti) to Freyr, the gold ring (Draupnir) to Odin, and the Mjollnir to Thor.

The three judges found that the Mjollnir was the best gift, since it gave the person greatest chances against the giants at Ragnarok.

Losing the wagers, Loki tried to flee, but was caught by Thor. Odin decided that Loki losing his head was a bit drastic, so Brokk decided upon a different measure. Brokk sealed Loki's mouth shut with wire.

Sources

Skaldskaparmal, from the Prose Edda, was written by Snorri Sturluson.

Fighting Illusions

thor_big_drinkThor and Loki were journeying to Utgard, a city of Jötunheim. On their journey they were given lodging from a poor farmer, named Egil, and his family. The peasant had a son named Thialfi and a daughter named Roskva. Thor killed his two magical goats, and skinned them. After supper, Thor tossed the whole bones of the goat on the goat hides, and told the family not to touch the bones. As the guests slept, Thialfi, who was still hungry, took the thighbone, split it and sucked the marrow out.

In the morning, Thor woke up and cast a spell using the Mjollnir, and brought both goats back to life. However one of the goats was crippled. Astonished and terrified by the event, Egil offered Thialfi and Roskva in bondage as servants, to appease the angry god.

So Thor took his new bondservants with him in their journey to Utgard. They had to take shelter for the night in the huge forest. They found what was a deserted building and found themselves a place to sleep.

At midnight, they were awakened by an earthquake that shook the whole building. They heard some more rumbling and groaning.

At dawn Thor went out and discovered the cause of the noises. Thor found a sleeping giant, not far where they took shelter. The giant's snoring was deafening.

Thor was about to attack with the Mjollnir until the giant woke up and stood up. For once, Thor was afraid to attack a giant, because it stood many times taller than any giant he had ever seen.

The giant was called Skrymir and he seemed to be a friendly enough giant. Thor also discovered that they were not sleeping in a building, but in Skrymir's immense glove.

Skrymir recognized Thor and told the thunder-god that he would like to travel with them. Thor did not make any objection. Actually Thor would never consider arguing over the issue with a giant as tall as Skrymir.

When they stopped for a night, Skrymir told them he would like to sleep. The snoring was so loud that Thor swung his mighty, but very small, hammer at Skrymir's head. Skrymir woke and asked Thor did foliage or a leaf fall on his head.

At midnight Thor and his other companions could not sleep, because the Skrymir was snoring so loudly that the whole forest shook. Again, Thor irritably struck the sleeping giant, dead-centre on the crown of his head. Skrymir woke and asked Thor did an acorn fall on his head. Thor fearfully replied that he just only woken up and told the giant to go back to sleep.

Thor was determined that the next time he struck the giant, Skrymir would not wake up. By morning, Thor was becoming very irritable from not getting any sleep the night before. Thor once again struck Skrymir, this time on the temple, with all his might.

Again, the Mjollnir did not harm Skrymir, who woke up and asked if some stick had fallen on his face while he was sleeping. Thor finally admitted it was futile trying to kill this enormous giant.

Skrymir decided that they should go their separate ways, and gave them directions to Utgard. Thor thought that he would be happy to never see Skrymir again.

Thor and his companions arrived at Utgard. Utgarda-Loki was the king of the giants.

Utgarda-Loki told them he would allow them to stay at Utgard, if they had any special skill. Loki declared he could out-eat any giant. Loki ate all of the meat from the bone, but his rival named Logi, ate meat, bone and even the trencher. Obviously Loki lost to Logi.

Then Thialfi challenged the giant in a foot race, but he lost all three races against the giant named Hugi, each time doing worse than the last time.

Next, Thor challenged them in a drinking contest. Utgarda-Loki had a servant bring out a long drinking horn. Anyone able to empty the horn in one draught would be considered a great drinker, and a good drinker in two draughts.

Try as he might, Thor could not empty the horn in one draught. The frustrated thunder-god couldn't even finish it in two or even three draughts.

Thor was becoming quite belligerent, preferring to fight someone. Utgarda-Loki challenged Thor if he could lift a large cat. Thor struggled and tried to lift the large cat off the ground, but failed. All he succeeded was lifting one of the cat's legs.

Thor insisted on fighting someone. Utgarda-Loki, however, sent an old crone named Elli to wrestle with Thor. Thor could not even move the crone, but the old woman managed to pull him off balance.

Thor was ready to bash the giant for the embarrassment, but Utgarda-Loki placating offered the angry god and his companions a place to sleep.

In the morning, after Thor and his friends ate their breakfast, the king of the giants took them outside of Utgard.

Utgarda-Loki revealed the truth of the events of the last few days. Utgarda-Loki told Thor that he was Skrymir, the giant they met in the forest.

Skrymir was actually an illusion. Had Thor struck right on the mark, he would have killed Utgarda-Loki. The contestants that Thor and his companions had competed against, were also illusions.

Loki did not lose the eating contest to a giant (Logi), but to a wildfire. While Thialfi raced against Utgarda-Loki's thought, not the giant Hugi.

The other end of drinking horn was out in the sea. What Thor was drinking was the sea. The level of the sea had actually dropped considerably from Thor's deep draughts.

As for the cat. Well, one of the cat's legs, Thor managed to lift off the ground was actually the tail of the Midgard Serpent. And the old crone (Elli) Thor was wrestling with, was nothing but "old age" itself.

Utgarda-Loki was really quite amazed what Thor managed to achieve. Utgarda-Loki told Thor to leave Jötunheim. He told Thor that he would protect his domain again with deception and illusion if the thunder-god ever returned.

Thor was outraged by the deception, and would have killed Utgarda-Loki, had the giant not vanished out of thin air. Thor was going to storm Utgard, but the castle also vanished. Thor had no choice but to return home.

Sources

Gylfaginning, from the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson.

Harbardzljod ("Harbard's Song") from the Poetic Edda.

Hymiskvida ("Hymir's Poem") from the Poetic Edda.

Giant of Clay

Odin encountered the giant Hrungnir at Griotunagardar (frontier of Giantland), where he told the frost-giant there was no better horse in the Giantland than his own (Sleipnir). Angry at this challenge Hrungnir pursued Odin in his own horse Gullfaxi.

When he arrived in Asgard, the Aesir welcomed him, with Freyja serving him ale that Thor usually drank from. As Hrungnir became drunk, he was boasting and becoming more hostile. Hrungnir told the Aesir that he would move Valhalla to Jötunheim, and destroy Asgard and the gods. However, he would keep Freyja and Sif as his concubines.

Thor arrived and challenged Hrungnir to fight him. Hrungnir agreed, only if Thor met him at Griotunagardar, since he had not brought a weapon with him.

At Griotunagardar, the giants did not like the prospect of Hrungnir losing the fight to Thor, so they created a giant made of clay, which they called Mokkurkalfi. This clay-giant stood nine leagues tall and three leagues wide, and it had the heart of a large mare.

Hrungnir had a heart of stone. His head was also made of stone. The giant had a shield of stone and a large whetstone as a weapon.

Thor saw Mokkurkalfi standing beside Hrungnir. However, instead of frightening Thor, the sight of Thor caused the clay-giant to feel enough fear to wet himself. Thor came with his servant named Thialfi, who ran ahead to speak with Hrungnir.

Thialfi deceived Hrungnir that Thor was coming towards him, from an underground route to attack the giant from below. Hrungnir believed Thialfi, so he placed his shield on the ground and stood on top of it.

Thor charged across the plain and threw Mjollnir at Hrungnir, at the same time the giant hurled his whetstone at the thunder-god. The Mjollnir broke the whetstone in two. Half of it landed on the ground; the other half struck and lodged itself in Thor's head. Thor fell to the ground, at the impact of the whetstone.

The Mjollnir continued its flight and shattered Hrungnir's stone head. Hrungnir fell dead and landed on top of Thor. The giant's legs broke off from his body, the legs pinning Thor's neck to the ground. Thialfi easily despatched Mokkurkalfi.

Thor had trouble getting the Hrungnir's heavy legs off him. Thialfi tried to remove the legs off, but couldn't budge it. None of the Aesir, who arrived could help Thor, until Magni, the three-year-old son of Thor and the giantess Jarnsaxa, arrived and removed the legs from Thor. Thor rewarded his son by giving Hrungnir's horse (Gullfaxi) to Magni.

Thor returned to Thrudvangar, to have the whetstone removed from his head by the sorceress Groa, wife of Aurvandil the Bold. Aurvandil the Bold had been riding on a basket, which Thor was carrying, when the god wade through the river Elivager, in the Giantland. Since one of Aurvandil's feet was sticking out of the basket, one toe got frozen. Thor broke off Aurvandil's toe, and threw it into the sky, becoming a star, called Aurvandil's Toe. But Thor distracted Groa with this tiding, during her spell, so that the whetstone remained in his head.

Sources

Skaldskaparmal, from the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson.

Harbardzljod ("Harbard's Song") from the Poetic Edda.

Geirrod

One day, while Loki was flying through the wood in the form of a falcon, he was captured by the frost-giant named Geirrod. Geirrod confined Loki within a chest for three months, almost starving Loki to death. Geirrod refused to release Loki, until his prisoner agreed to persuade Thor to come to his domain.

Thor unsuspectingly agreed to go to Geirrod's court, without the Mjollnir, his girdle of might, which was called Megingjord, and pair of iron gauntlets, called Járngreipr.

Fortunately, they spent the night in the home of a friendly giantess named Grid. Grid told Thor that Geirrod had intended to kill him. Grid gave Thor her unbreakable magic staff, her own girdle of might and pair of iron gloves.

Thor and Loki tried to cross the river of Vimur. The water kept rising. Loki was hanging about Thor's girdle of might. Thor realized that a giantess named Gialp, daughter of Geirrod was causing the river to rise. Thor threw a rock at Gialp to stem the river flow. Reaching the riverbank, Thor pulled himself out of the water from the rowan bush.

Thor and Loki arrived at Geirrod's home. They were taken to a chamber with only a single chair. Thor sat on this chair. Suddenly he felt the chair rising up toward the roof. Thor would have been crushed to death, between the chair and roof, but Thor quickly put the Grid's staff on the rafter, before pushing hard against the rafter. Thor heard a couple of loud cracks before he heard screams of agony. Looking down under his seat, Thor saw Gialp and Greip, the two daughters with their backs broken.

Geirrod arrived at the other side of the chamber. Geirrod picked up a glowing molten iron out of a fire, with tongs. Geirrod threw the iron at Thor with all his might, but Thor easily caught the molten iron with iron glove (Járngreipr) that Grid had given him. Geirrod ran and hid behind the iron pillar for protection. Thor threw the molten iron back at Geirrod. The molten iron punctured through the iron pillar and Geirrod, killing the giant.

Sources

Skaldskaparmal, from the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson.

Fishing Expedition

thor_fishingAegir was holding a feast for the gods, but did not have enough ale to be able to invite everyone. Tyr suggested that they go to his father, the giant Hymir, who had a magic cauldron, which would allow Aegir to brew almost unlimited ale.

Thor and Tyr had to fetch a cauldron to join Aegir's feast. The giant Hymir possessed the cauldron. After a series of arguments and tests between Thor and Hymir, they set out to sea test their strength.

Note that in Snorri Sturluson's version of this tale, he left all details concerning about Aegir's feast and winning the cauldron.

In the small boat, Thor used rope and a large hook. Thor had killed the largest ox in Hymir's herd, using an ox's head as bait; Thor tossed the hook into the sea. Soon, he caught Jörmungand and titanic struggle between the thunder god and the Midgard Serpent, causing the boat to rock dangerously. Hymir was horrified when Thor brought the serpent's head out of the water. As the god and serpent faced one another, Thor tried to smash his hammer on monster's head.

Hymir, who saw Jörmungand, was frightened almost to death. There are two different version of what happened next.

According to the version from Hymiskvida (Poetic Edda), Thor managed to deliver one mighty blow, but failed to kill Jörmungand. Jörmungand escaped back into the sea when Thor's line snapped. Thor and Hymir returned to the giant's home with only two whales.

However, in the Prose Edda, Hymir was frightened by the size of the monster, used his bait-knife to cut off Thor's line. Thor threw Mjollnir at Jörmungand's head, but failed to kill the serpent.

Thor was angry with that the giant for allowing Jörmungand to escape, the god struck Hymir's ear with his fist. Hymir plunged overboard; the giant's feet could be seen sticking out of the water.

Going back to Poetic Edda's version (Hymiskvida), Hymir told Thor he would give cauldron, if he went through some tests of strength. The last test was to break the crystal goblet. When Thor threw the goblet on a stone column, it did not break.

One beautiful woman gave Thor a wise advice. Thor picked up the goblet and threw it again, but this time smashing the goblet on Hymir's forehead.

Hymir had no choice, but to give his prized cauldron to Thor. Tyr could not even lift the cauldron off the ground. Thor easily carried the cauldron on top of his head.

Hymir and his companions dislike losing to Thor, so they followed in pursuit of the two gods into the forest. Thor realizing the danger, decided to confront them. With Mjollnir, Thor killed Hymir and all the giants who had followed him.

Thor returned triumphal to Aegir's feast with the cauldron.

Sources

Hymiskvida ("Hymir's Poem") from the Poetic Edda.

Gylfaginning, from the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson.

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