LEND ME YOUR FALCON SKIN,’ Loki said.
Frigg smiled and nodded; then her maidservant Fulla fetched the feather coat and draped it over Loki’s shoulders. “That’s the trouble,” said Loki, leering at Frigg and then at Fulla. “These things so easily won, barely worth winning…” With that he tied on the skin, and flew round Fensalir and out of the door.
The Sky Traveller was bored with the string of days in Angard that unwound without a knot or a twist in them. He headed for Jotunheim and, some time after he had crossed the Iving came to a circle of green fields that he had never seen before. They were enclosed by a jumble of silver and grey rock that stretched for as far as the eye could see. A hall stood there and Loki swooped and settled on a window ledge.
The Sky Traveller peered in and saw a giant and his two daughters feasting in that hall.
The giant, Geirrod, peered out and saw a handsome hawk sitting on the window ledge. “Catch that bird,” said the giant. “Bring it to Me.”
Loki’s eyes gleamed and when one of Geirrod’s servants came out of the hall, he hopped on to the top of the wall just out of his reach.
Geirrod’s servant got a foothold on the window ledge and stretched out a hand to snare the hawk. But the Sky Traveller had no intention of allowing himself to be caught. He hopped up the side of the roof until he stood on the top, near the chimney hole, and he gave a mocking screech. He saw no point in flying off until he had forced the giant servant to climb on to the steep roof where there were no handholds, and risk his life.
Once again the servant reached out and Loki thought it was time to take to the air. He spread his wings, he stood poised. But then, to his dismay, Loki found he was unable to move; his two feet were fixed to the thatch like branches to the trunk of a tree, and Loki knew what kind of a giant it was that he had to deal with. So the servant grabbed the hawk and brought him in to his master, Geirrod.
“I’ll put jesses on him,” Geirrod boomed. “I’ll feed him in his fetters, offer him mere morsels until he’s trained to my hand.”
The servant put the hawk into the giant’s cupped hands and Geirrod grasped it and looked at it. Loki’s eyes were red and green and subtle. “This is no hawk,” said Geirrod to his daughters, Gjalp and Greip. “This is some being in disguise. Look at his eyes.” The giant squeezed the bird in his horny hand. “Who are you?” he demanded.
Loki said nothing.
Geirrod squeezed again until Loki felt that he had been moulded into one solid mass, He gasped and screeched ; but still he said nothing.
“Hunger opens the mouth,” said Geirrod, getting up from his seat and striding across the hall. He unlocked a huge chest, thrust the hawk into it, slammed down the lid and locked it again.
For three months Loki sat in darkness. He had nothing to eat; he fouled his own nest; he breathed stale air; he began to feel extremely sorry for himself. And he became so weak from hunger that he could not call out loudly enough to make himself heard; or else, if they did hear him, Geirrod and his daughters chose to ignore him. At the end of three months Geirrod opened the chest and pulled out the hawk. “Long enough?” was all he said.
The hawk blinked and looked around.
“Not long enough,” said Geirrod.
“Loki,” said the hawk.
“Ah!” exclaimed Geirrod. He took an even firmer grip on his victim. “Loki,” he repeated, and smiled.
The Sky Traveller looked longingly towards the hall door. But the giant had much too firm a hold on him for any chance of escape. “Well, Loki,” said the giant, “do you want to live any longer?” Loki listened.
“We can make this bargain,” said Geirrod. “If you swear on oath that you will bring Thor to this hall without his hammer or his belt of strength, I’ll spare your life.”
When Loki said nothing, Geirrod began the terrible sguezzing again and it was plain that he did not mean to stop. So Loki saw that he had no choice but to agree. He swore to bring Thor to Geirrod’s hall. Then Geirrod let Loki eat as much as he wanted. The Sky Traveller scowled at Geirrod and Gjalp and Greip, spread his wings and flew home to Asgard.
Thor and Loki had a great liking for each other’s company, and often travelled together through the nine worlds. Once they were walking through the rocky uplands to the east of Asgard and, trusting as he was, Thor suspected nothing when Loki said they need travel only a little further, across green meadows springy underfoot, to visit the giant Geirrod.
Thor said he had never heard of Geirrod. “He’s rather ugly,” said Loki, “But he has two attractive daughters. He’d like to meet you and you’d like to meet them.”
‘Thor puckered his mouth, wishing he had brought his hammer Mjollnir and his girdle of strength in case things did not turn out too well.
“What’s more,” said Loki, “we can stay with Grid tonight — her door is always open.”
Thor liked the sound of that.
“Odin went in through it; Vidar came out through it,” said Loki gleefully, raising Ins eyebrows.
Thor kept walking and before nightfall the two of them crossed the river Iving and Grid welcomed them into her hall.
Not long after supper Loki spread out some straw and fell asleep. In the flickering firelight his expression seemed to change from moment to moment, light and dark, gay and grim.
“Now that Loki is asleep,” said Grid, “let me tell you the truth about Geirrod.” Thor looked at the giantess drunkenly. “Listen!” said Grid. “Geirrod has little love for the gods, and even less for the god who killed Hrungnir.”
“But that was me!” exclaimed Thor. “That’s what I am saying,” said Grid sharply. “Listen! Geirrod is as cunning as a fox; he’ll be a worthy enemy, even for you. He will let you walk into his hall and arrange for you to be carried out of it.”
Thor wished the ale mist would clear from his head. He kept screwing up his eyes, then opening them wide and rolling them round and
round. “Go if you must,” said Grid, “but go well armed. I’ll lend you my own weapons.” Then the giantess gave Thor her belt of strength, her iron gloves and unbreakable staff. Thor thanked her and fell asleep.
The next morning Thor and Loki left Grid’s hall and continued their journey. Loki looked at Thor’s weapons and wondered what Grid had said to him after he had fallen asleep; Thor looked at Loki and wondered how much he knew about Geirrod.
After a while the two gods came to the Vimur — a wide torrent of water and menstrual blood. The face of the river was broken by worn rocks and grazed by more rack just liter the surface; it frothed and hissed as it hurried downstream.
Thor secured the belt of strength and told Loki to hang on to it. Then he grasped Grid’s staff and, putting his weight on it, began to wade across the river. The pebbles were slippery underfoot, dogfish tickled his ankles, and Thor Was soon in up to his waist; Loki’s head was only just above the surface.
By the time the two gods were midstream, Loki had his arms around Thor’s neck. The river was breaking over Thor’s shoulders and seemed to be rising all the time. Thor cursed and shouted at the river, “You cannot stop me an my way to the giants. However high you rise, I’ll higher. I’ll rise as high as heaven!”
Thor paused to regain his breath and looked upstream into a rocky ravine. And there he saw the cause of their hardship: Geirrod’s daughter, Gjalp, was standing astride the torrent and blood was streaming from her, increasing the depth of the river.
“Aha!” shouted Thor. He stooped, ducked and gouged a rock from the river bed. “A river must he dammed at its source,” he called, and with huge strength he hurled the hunk of rock at Gjalp. He aimed well. Gjalp was maimed. She howled alai dragged herself back to her father’s hall.
At that moment, the power of the torrent was so great that Thor was swept off his feet, with Loki still clinging to his neck. As he was carried downstream he grabbed hold of a rowan tree growing in the river, and it held firm in the river bed. Thor recovered his footing, arid from there he was able to make his way into the shallows and so, at last, on to the far bank.
“That Cowan tree saved our lives,” said Thor.
After a while the two gods went on their way and, late in the afternoon, they reached Geirrod’s hall. Geirrod himself was nowhere about but their arrival was clearly expected for a giant servant welcomed them and offered to show them where they would be sleeping.
Thor and Loki readily accepted. They were tired, and caked with mud and blood after their journey. Then the servant led the gods through the outhouses to a gloomy, rank goat shed. It was furnished with a heap of rotten straw and a single chair. Thor bristled at such an insult; nevertheless he said nothing. He thought he would bide his time until he came face to face with Geirrod himself.
Loki took himself off to wash in the stream that ran past Geirrod’s hall, and Thor sat down in the chair. He clenched his fist round Grid’s staff, then he yawned. His fatigue got the better of his anger and he began to drowse.
When Thor closed his eyes, it was not long before he imagined he was crossing the river Vimur again — losing his foothold, flailing in the bloody water. floating … Thor opened his eyes and at once saw the reason for his dream: he was indeed floating once more. He was rising his chair towards the rafters of the goat shed, and ws close to being driven against them, head first.
Thor griped Grid’s staff with both hands. He raised it and rammed it against the roof tree, and pushed with all his strength. He thrust so hard that whatever was beneath him, hoisting him towards the roof, could not resist him and gave way. Thor fell back to the ground with a great crash and screams shook the shed.
Gjalp and Greip, Geirrod’s two daughters, had been hiding under the chair when Thor first sat in it, and tried to crush him to death. They themselves suffered the fate they had planned for the Thunder God. Thor’s massive weight was more than their bone-chambers could withstand. Their rib-cages were smashed, their backs were broken, and they died in agony.
It was not long before Loki returned from the stream and, shortly after, the giant servant stood outside the shed and shouted that Geirrod was waiting for Thor in the hall. “He has it in mind to challenge you to a game or two,” he said.
Thor needed no further warning. He put on Grid’s belt of strength and iron gauntlets and then he and Loki made their way hack through the outhouses to Geirrod’s hall. Thor was surprised to see that in place of the usual single fires there was a string of huge furnaces right down the length of the hall. The turf walls glowed and, lofty as it was, the room was rather too warm for comfort.
Geirrod was waiting for his guests at the far end of the hall. As soon as one of his servants had closed the door behind the gods, Geirrod stepped forward with his hand outstretched.
This was not to greet Thor; it was to pick up a pair of tongs. Geirrod gripped a large ball of red-hot iron between the tongs. “Welcome!” he shouted. and aimed the ball straight at Thor.
Thor saw it coming. He dropped his staff, raised both hands and caught the red-hot ball in his iron gloves. He did not move. His eyes flamed, his red beard bristled. Everyone in the hall scrambled under the tables, and Geirrod himself quickly stepped back behind one of the hall supports — an iron pillar.
Then Thor raised his right hand; the ball had begun to smoke. He took one step forward and put all his strength into hurling it down the hall.
The ball punched a hole through the iron support; then it passed through the giant Geirrod’s midriff; it punctured the end wall and lodged in the earth slope outside.
Geirrod fell backwards. He hissed as if all the venom bottled inside were were escaping. Then suddenly he gave a violent jerk, gurgled and was dead.
Then Thor picked up Grid’s staff and began to lay about him. While Loki took the chance of slipping out of the hall unnoticed, the Thunder God smashed the skulls of all the dolts who had waited on Geirrod and his daughters.
That was that. Thor strode out of the silent hall and looked at the jumble of rocks around him. He thought he remembered words about green meadow’s springy underfoot, and talk of two attractive daughters. Thor shook his head and vowed to settle the score with two-faced Loki.