WHEN THOR AWOKE and reached out to grasp his hammer, it was not there. The Hurler leaped up. He tousled and tangled his red beard; his hair bristled as he searched for Mjollnir. ‘Listen, Loki!’ said Thor. ‘No god in Asgard has seen my hammer; no man in Midgard has seen my hammer: it has been stolen.’
Then Thor and Loki hurried to Folkvang, and into Freyja’s hall Sessrumnir. They well knew that if the hammer were not found, it would not be long before the giants stormed Asgard’s walls and brought the bright halls of the gods crashing to the earth.
‘Will you lend me your falcon skin,’ asked Loki, ‘so that I can search for Thor’s hammer?’
‘If it were fashioned of silver,’ cried Freyja, ‘you could use it. I would lend it even if it were spun out of gold.’
Then Loki donned the falcon skin. The feather dress whirred as he climbed into the moving air, and left the world of the gods behind him. He flew until Asgard became no more than a bright haze away to the west; he flew as fast as he could until at last he reached the world of the giants.
Thrym, king of the frost giants, felt at ease with the world. He had unteased and combed his horses’ manes; he was sitting on a green mound, plaiting gold thread, making collars and leashes for his horrible – hounds.
When the Sky Traveler saw Thrym, he swooped down beside him.
‘How are things with the gods?’ said Thrym. ‘How are things with the elves? And what brings you to Jotunheim alone?’
‘Things are bad for the gods,’ said Loki. ‘Things are bad for the elves. Have you stolen Thor’s hammer?’
Thrym laughed, and the sound was like the chuckle of broken ice. ‘I’ve hidden Thor’s hammer eight miles deep in the earth. No one is going to touch it unless he brings Freyja here to be my bride.’
Loki grimaced and the sound of Thrym’s freezing laughter followed
him as he climbed again into the sky. The feather dress whirred. He left the world of the giants behind him and flew as fast as he could until at last he returned to the world of the gods.
Thor was waiting in the courtyard of Bilskirnir and at once asked the Sky Traveler, ‘What’s in your head and what’s in your mouth? Real news or mere nuisance?’ The Thunder God’s eyes blazed and it was clear that he would brook no nonsense. ‘Stand here and tell me the truth at once. A sitting man forgets his story as often as not, and a man who lies down first lies again afterwards.’
‘I bring nuisance and I bring news,’ said the Sly One, the corners of his crooked mouth curling. `Thrym, king of the frost giants, has your hammer. And no one is going to touch it unless he brings Freyja to be his bride.’
Then Thor and Loki hurried to Sessrumnir for a second time and found Freyja there.
‘Well, my beautiful!’ said Loki, narrowing his eyes. ‘Put on your bridal veil.’
‘What?’ retorted Freyja.
‘We two must hurry,’ answered Loki, grinning. ‘You and I are going to Jotunheim. Thrym, king of the frost giants, has taken a fancy to you.’
Freyja was so angry that the walls of Sessrumnir shuddered. The gold-studded benches started from the floor. Then Freyja snorted; her face became fiery; her breasts rose and fell; her neck muscles bulged. Then suddenly the marvelous Necklace of the Brisings burst apart — the links snapped and a shower of precious stones rolled around the hall. ‘How would it look if I went with you to Jotunheim?’ demanded Freyja. ‘Everyone would say the same. A whore! Just a whore!’
Loki raised his eyebrows; Thor sniffed and smirked and shifted from foot to foot and did everything except look Freyja in the eye. ‘Go away!’ said Freyja. ‘Both of you.’
Then every god headed for Gladsheim, the hall with the silver thatch, to sit in solemn council and discuss how to recover Mjollnir. The goddesses joined them there. The watchman Heimdall had left Himinbjorg and the trembling rainbow bridge. Like the other Vanir, he could read the future. The White God said, ‘Let us swaddle Thor …’ He paused and looked around ‘… swaddle Thor in the bridal veil!’
There was a moment of silence and then a howl of laughter from the assembled gods and goddesses.
Heimdall waited until the uproar had died down and then he went
on: ‘Let us repair the Necklace of the Brisings and secure it round his … his pretty neck.’
Once again Gladsheim erupted and Thor looked across at Heimdall with profound distaste. But the White God was unabashed. ‘He must be decked as befits any bride. A bunch of jingling keys must hang from his waist. And he must wear a becoming dress — as long a dress as possible! We mustn’t forget to pin well-wrought brooches on her … on his breast.’
This care for detail delighted the gods and goddesses; and they also saw the force of Heimdall’s argument.
‘And he’ll need a charming cap,’ concluded Heimdall in a sing-song voice, ‘a charming cap to crown it all.’
Thor scowled. ‘You’ll all mock me and call me unmanly if I put on a bridal veil,’ he said.
Then Loki, the son of Laufey, called out insolently, ‘Silence, Thor! There’s no argument. Giants will live in Asgard if we don’t retrieve your hammer.’
So the gods and goddesses swaddled Thor in a bridal veil. They repaired the Necklace of the Brisings and clasped it round his neck. They hung a bunch of jingling keys from his waist, and he wore a becoming dress down to his knees; they pinned well-wrought brooches on his breast, and they crowned it all with a charming cap.
‘I’ll be your maidservant,’ warbled Loki. ‘We two will hurry to Jotunheim.’
The Thunderer’s goats were rounded up and driven to Bilskirnir. There they were harnessed, and impatiently bucked and wrestled with their halters.
Gaping fissures opened in the fells, flames scorched the earth, and Thor, the son of Odin, galloped with Loki to Jotunheim.
‘She will come!’ shouted Thrym in a frenzy. ‘She’s coming! Stir your great stumps! Spread straw on the benches! They’re bringing Freyja, Njord’s daughter from Noatun, to be my bride.’
Thrym strode up and down his chilly hall, checking the arrangements. Then he sat on a bench and said to himself: ‘I’ve cattle in my stables with horns of gold; I’ve jet black oxen — beasts to gladden the heart of any man. I’ve piles of precious stones, and mounds of silver and gold.’ Thrym’s thoughts evaporated in the cold air, and he sighed, ‘I’ve had everything I wanted — everything except Freyja.’
When the travelers from Asgard arrived at Thrym’s hall in the early evening, they were welcomed with great ceremony. The same giant servants who had spread straw on the benches now served up a fine supply of good food and drink.
Thrym ushered Thor, in his bridal veil, to the feasting table. With all the courtesy he could command, he pointed out the fine fare drawn from earth, sea and air alike in her honor. Then he led his intended bride to one high seat and himself sat in the other. Loki promptly ensconced himself next to Thor on the other side.
Thor felt hungry. He devoured an entire ox, and followed that with eight salmon. Then he scooped up and scoffed all the delicacies set apart for the women. And to round things off, he downed three horns of mead.
Thrym watched this feat with growing surprise and anticipation. ‘Who has ever seen a bride with such hunger, such thirst?’ he exclaimed. ‘I’ve never met a woman who took such huge mouthfuls or who drank so touch mead.’
The subtle bridesmaid sitting at Thor’s side took it upon herself to answer Thrym. ‘Freyja has not eaten for these past eight nights, so wild was her desire for her wedding night.’
Thrym leaned forward and peered under the veil; he could not wait to kiss her. The giant king was so startled that he leaped back the whole length of the hall. ‘Her eyes!’ he shouted. ‘Why are Freyja’s eyes so fearsome? They’re like burning coals.’
The subtle bridesmaid sitting at Thor’s side took it upon herself to answer Thrym. ‘Freyja has not slept for these past eight nights, so wild was her desire for her wedding night.’
Now Thrym’s luckless sister walked up to the bride and bridesmaid, and she was not half-hearted about asking for a dowry. ‘If you want my love,’ she said, ‘and my loyalty, give me the rings of red gold on your fingers.’
‘Bring forward the hammer!’ called the king of the giants. ‘Bring forward the hammer to hallow the bride. Put Mjollnir between her knees now so that Var will hear our marriage oath and give us her blessing.’
The Thunder God’s unsparing heart sang and danced when he saw his hammer. As soon as it was placed between his knees, he snatched it up in his mighty grasp, swept off his veil and stood revealed as the god, Thor, the Hurler.
Thrym leapt up from his high seat and his companions leapt up from their benches.
Thor’s eyes were as red as his beard. He glared at the company of giants and growled. Then he raised his hammer, took one massive step’ towards Thrym, and crushed his skull. Thor showed no mercy: he felled all the other giants and giant women at that bridal feast. The hall floor was strewn with a host of bodies. Thrym’s luckless sister had dared ask for gold rings but the iron hammer rang on her skull.
And so Thor, the Son of Odin, won back his hammer.