Our Little Viking Cousin of Long Ago - C. H. Johnston




How Thor Lost His Hammer

The next morning dawned cold and blustery, with a chill wind blowing, so the boys were informed by Thorwald that they would not go out horseback riding, or to practice with the javelin; but would spend their time in playing upon the harp and learning about the gods and their life at Thrudvangar, "The Plains of Strength."

Lothair had spent the night with them, and, in the morning, told them that he had a story to tell them. They all went into the long room, and, after some huge logs had been heaped upon the fireplace, the boys lay down before it, while Lothair and Thorwald stretched themselves out in long chairs.

"Boys, as I have told you before," said Lothair, "Bilskirnir, the Palace of the great god Thor, King of all the gods, is built in his Kingdom of Thrudvangar, the realm that lies beyond the thunder clouds. It is the largest palace that has ever been roofed over for it has five hundred and forty halls beneath its silver dome, and it is so bright and so dazzling that when people on the earth catch a glimpse of it through the clouds, they blink their eyes and say that they have seen lightning. Thor spends most of his time there. When he is not away from home, fighting giants or attending assembly meetings, he is wandering around in the five hundred and forty halls, or sitting in a tremendous hall in the center of Bilskirnir. Around the walls he has benches placed for his followers; gleaming weapons hang there; great fires blaze upon the hearth of gold; while in the center, beneath a high, crystal dome, Thor, the Splendid One, has a high throne of glittering magnificence.

"Now, boys, Thor had a great hammer of which he was very proud. He called it The Crusher (Mjolnir) because nothing could withstand a blow from it when delivered by his arm. When he slept, it always lay near him, within easy reach of his hand. Some dwarfs had made this great weapon for him and he was very proud of it, I can assure you. When he struck a blow, all the heavens pealed with a clap of thunder, and way down below the people would gaze upward and would say: 'Thor has made a mighty blow with his hammer. Thor must again be angry.'

"One night Thor was sleeping in his palace, surrounded by his retainers, who had gone to rest on cushioned benches. Among his followers was one Loki—known as the Sly One—who was visiting him, and who sprawled at full length upon some cushions near the fire, glowing brightly in the great golden hearth. Thor had a red beard, and it was tossed up in the air as he leaned back in his high seat. His bushy brows had a frown upon them, for a bad dream was troubling his usually tranquil mind. Thor, in fact, had dreamed that his hammer had been stolen by Thrym, the Giant King who lived not far away in the heavens, and who was very jealous of Thor and his power.

"The god of all gods awoke with a start and sat up. He looked about him. He was safe in his own hall, and his retainers slept peacefully around him. He could hear their gentle snoring, as they dreamed away upon the cushioned benches. It seemed to be impossible that anything could have happened, yet he felt that something ill had befallen him, and, to make sure, he put out his hand and reached for his hammer, that weapon before which nothing could stand. Instantly Thor's red face grew ashen pale, for The Crusher had gone!

"The Strong One uttered such a wild yell that it was heard far down below upon the earth, and the Vikings thought that a thunder storm was brewing. Thor's beard quivered with righteous anger, and he leaned over to where Loki, the Sly One, was sleeping, and clutched him by the arm.

"'Awake, Loki!' said he, 'a terrible calamity has overtaken me. My good hammer, my trusty sledge hammer+ has been stolen what shall I do? I will now be powerless in warfare, and no longer can my peals of thunder ring out to warn the people on earth that I am alive and am god of all gods!'

"The Sly One jumped up, rubbed his eyes, and looked at Thor's troubled face. Loki was clever, so, after thinking the matter over for some time, he said:

"'I think that Thrym has stolen your hammer. But you must not go to him, for, like your red beard, you are of a fiery nature, and you would kill him ere you have learned whether he has your hammer or not. Therefore, let me visit Thrym. I will disguise myself in the feather-dress of Freyja, the lovely one. I will get news to you of your hammer. If possible, I will steal it myself.'

"Thor's face grew more calm and tranquil.

"'I will reward you greatly if you recover my hammer, Loki!' said he. 'I cannot be happy without it.'

"'Wait for me, Thor, god of all gods,' Loki replied. 'I will be sure to bring you good news.'

"The Sly One immediately went outside and harnessed up two goats to a silver chariot. 'I will go to the goddess Freyja's palace,' said he. 'I will borrow her dress of feathers, and, thus disguised, I will go to the land of the giants, and will find out whether or not Thor's hammer is there.'

"Loki soon arrived at Freyja's immense palace and, when he asked her for her dress, she gladly gave it to him. It was made of the white and brown plumage of falcons and fitted Loki's body like a glove.

"The Sly One then spread his wings and flew out of the window, on and on and on, until he arrived at Jotunheim, where the giants all lived. There Thrym had his home. Thrym was very, very large, and he was also very old. He had a long beard which glittered like frost and shone like molten silver. His hands and face were covered with short, glistening hairs. He was crafty and cruel, and, when Loki alighted before him, he apparently was expecting him, for he looked up with a wicked smile, and said:

"'Welcome, Sly One. Welcome, O Loki! How fares Thor, god of all gods? How fare the elves? How fares the beautiful Freyja? Why do you come alone to Jotunheim?'

"Loki looked sternly and fearlessly at him.

"Ill fares the Mighty One. Ill fares the beautiful Freyja. Ill fare the elves,' said he. 'Thor has lost his hammer and I think that you have it. Have you not stolen Thor's hammer? And where have you concealed it?'

"Thrym grinned, even laughed derisively.

"'Yes, I have Thor's hammer,' said he. 'I have concealed it eight lengths beneath the ground. I intend to keep it until Freyja, the Beautiful One, becomes my bride. No man can have it unless Freyja becomes mine.'

"Loki burst out laughing. 'Think of it! Freyja the bride of such a horrible, old giant? Freyja—sweet, lovely Freyja—to become the wife of a wicked ugly monster!' His very soul revolted at such a thought, and he laughed long and loudly, while Thrym grinned, turned his back on him, and began to talk to his many white horses, with long manes and still longer tails, which he had all about him.

"Loki said again:

"'Is this the only answer that you give?

Remember that Thor is god of all gods, and that his vengeance is swift and sure. Demand not too much of Thor.'

"Thrym glowered savagely at him.

"'What do I care for Thor,' said he; ' I have his hammer. What can he do without it?'

"Loki saw that it was useless to talk with him further, so he spread his shining wings, leaped into the air, and flew back over the world to Thrudvangar, where Thor was eagerly waiting for him."

"And, now, boys, we will all have some luncheon," said Thorwald, at this point in the narrative, "and, when it is all over, Lothair will tell you how Thor regained his mighty hammer."

The boys jumped up, right merrily, and soon they were all feasting around the long, oaken table.