Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/Thorr's hunt for his hammer

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THORR’S HUNT FOR HIS HAMMER.

 

 

The Norse gods (As, pl. Æsir, gen. pl. Asa) dwelt in As-garth, a high burg in the midst of the earth; round them lived the race of men in Manheim, or Manhome. All round Manheim rolled the great sea, and beyond that sea, and below the earth, was Iötunheim, Etinhome, Ogreland, the abode of the huge Giants of Frost and Snow, who were at perpetual feud with gods and men, and ever watchful to do them mischief. One of the chiefest and hugest of these giants was Thrym, who, while Thorr was asleep, contrived to steal his hammer; this was a dreadful loss to gods and men, for Thorr’s hammer was the main defence of As-garth and Manheim, and without it he was unable to crack the skulls of the Ogres who were ever ready to make an onslaught on the Æsir. The Song of the Edda, which is here laid before the reader in a translation very nearly literal, is one of the oldest in that venerable collection. It belongs to the grey dawn of Norse Mythology, and the latest date that can be assigned to it is the eighth century of our era. It may well be, and probably is, much earlier. The alliterative rhythm of the original has been adhered to. This kind of verse was slowly and solemnly sung or chanted to some rude instrument, and in reading it, care should be taken that the accents, or beats, should fall as much as possible on the words which in each line begin with the alliterative letters. After so much preface, here follows

THE HUNT FOR THE HAMMER.

 

I.

Wrath was Wing-Thorr
When he woke from his rest,
Felt for his hammer
And found it was gone;
Beard he ’gan bristle,
Locks he ’gan lug,
Earth’s boy[1] took to beating
About with his fists.

 

II.

And this was the speech
He first of all spoke:
Listen now, Loki,[2]
Come list to my tale,—
Nor here on earth below,
Nor in high heaven above,
Knoweth man aught of this,—
The God’s maul is missing.”

 

III.

Off they went fair
Freyja’s[3] town toward,
And this was the speech
He first of all spoke:
Wilt thou now, Freyja,
Thy feather-suit lend me?
So I my hammer
May hope to regain.”

 

IV.

Freyja quoth:

Give it I would thee,
Though golden it were;
Lend it? ay, surely,
Though silvern it were.”



V.

Away then flew Loki,
Feather-wings whirring,
Till he came outside
Asa-garth holy,
Till he came inside
Ogreland ugly.

 

VI.

Thrym sat on hillock,
Lord of the Thursa-kin,[4]
For his greyhounds
Gold bands twisting,
And his grey mares’
Manes a-smoothing.

 

VII.

Thrym quoth:

How is’t with Asa-kin?
How is’t with elves?
Why art thou come alone
Down into Ogreland?”

Loki quoth:

Ill is’t with Asa-kin,
Ill is’t with elves;
Hast thou the Hardhitter’s[5]
Hammer here hid?”

 

VIII.

Thrym quoth:

I have the Hardhitter’s
Hammer here hidden,
Miles measured eight
Deep down in mould.
It now no man
E’er may bring back,
Save when he fetches me
Freyja to wife.”

 

IX.

Away then flew Loki,
Feather-fledge flutter’d,
Till he came outside
Ogreland ugly,
Till he came inside
Asa-garth holy;
Met him there Thorr,
Moody in mid-yard,
And this was the speech
He first of all spoke:

 

X.

Hast thou thy errand’s toil
Taken in vain?
Utter aloft now
All thy long story;
Often a sitting man’s
Mind misses something,
And lying men’s stories
Are lengthened with lies.”

 

XI.

Loki quoth:

Sped has my errand,
Not mis-spent my toil;
Thrym hath thy hammer,
Lord of the Thursa-kin;
It now no man
E’er may bring back,
Save when he fetches him
Freyja to wife.”

 

XII.

Off they go fair
Freyja to find,
And this was the speech
He first of all spoke:
Bind thyself, Freyja,
In bridal array,
We two must drive off
To Ogreland down.”

 

XIII.

Wrath then waxed Freyja,
Fiercely she foam’d,
All that high Asa-hall
Under her quivered,
Up on her bosom leapt
Brising’s broad jewel:[6]
Wanton and wedding-sick
Call thou this woman,
If I drive with thee
To Ogreland down.”

 

XIV.

Then the great Gods all
Gather’d in meeting,
Goddesses proud too
In parley there met,
And they devised then,
Those deities mighty,
How they the Hardhitter’s
Hammer might get.

 

XV.

Then thus spoke Heimdall,
Fairest-hued As,
Wise-minded master,
More cunning than most:
Bind we now Thorr here
In bridal array;
Brising’s broad collar
We’ll clasp round his throat;
Down at his girdle
The house-keys shall dangle;
Full round his knees, too,
Women’s weeds fall;
Broad stones and bright
He shall bear on his breast;
Tidily, too, let us
Top up his head.”

 

XVI.

Out stuttered Thorr,
Sturdiest of Asa-stock:
Me will ye Asa-kin
Craven heart call,
If o’er my body
These bride-weeds ye bind.”

 

XVII.

Then thus spoke Loki,
Laufey’s son shifty:
Hush, Thorr! nor utter
These idle words;
Straightway will Ogres
As-garth abide in,
Save thou thy hammer
May’st hope to get back.”

 

XVIII.

Then they bound Thorr
In bridal array;
Clasp’d round his throat
Brising’s broad collar;
Down at his girdle
The housewife’s keys dangled;
Full round his knees, too,
Women’s weeds fell;
Broad stones and bright
He bore on his breast;
Ay, and so tidily
Topp’d up his head.

 

XIX.

Then thus spoke Loki,
Laufey’s son shifty:
I too with thee now
Will go as thy maid;
We two will drive off
To Ogreland down.”

 

XX.

Then were Thorr’s he-goats[7]
Soon driven home;
Tied to the traces
They trotted off fast:
Rocks rent asunder,
Earth roar’d with flame:
So drove great Odin’s son
Down into Ogreland.

 

XXI.

Then thus quoth Thrym,
Lord of the Thursa-kin:
Stand up, ye Ogres all,
Strew us our seats;
Fetch me now hither
Freyja to wife,
Njord’s fair daughter
From Noatown.”

 

XXII.

Here in the garth graze
Gold-hornèd kine,
Oxen all-swarthy,
The Ogre’s delight;
Rich store of rings have I,
Hoards of red gold;
Freyja alone methinks
Fails to my lot.”

 

XXIII.

Then down to supper
They speedily sate,
And for the Ogres all
Ale was brought out;
One ox all alone,
Salmons eight, also,
Together with dainties
Dished up for the women—
These—and three butts of mead
Sif’s husband[8] bolted.

 

XXIV.

Thus then quoth Thrym,
Lord of the Thursa-kin:
Where saw’st thou bonny burd
Bite more keenly?
Ne’er saw I bride before
Broader in mouth;
No! nor more mead ever
Maiden drain down!”

 

XXV.

There sat in wait
That waiting-maid witty,
Finding an answer
For all Ogre-talk:
Nights eight fair Freyja
Ne’er once her fast broke,
So eager was she
For dear Ogreland.”

 

XXVI.

Under her veil he look’d,
Longing to kiss her,
But back he leapt soon
The length of the hall:
Why so fierce, pri’thee!
Are fair Freyja’s eyeballs?
Methinks from her eyne flames
Burning flash forth!”

 

XXVII.

There sat in wait
That waiting-maid witty,
Finding an answer
For all Ogre-talk:
Nights eight fair Freyja
Ne’er once a wink slept,
So eager was she
For dear Ogreland.”

 

XXVIII.

In came the ugly
Ogre-lord’s sister,
She that a bride-fee
Dared to beseech:
Reach from thy fingers
Gold rings so ruddy,
If my own heart’s love
Thou listest to have,
True love so heart-whole,
That all homage pays.”

 

XXIX.

Thus then quoth Thrym,
Lord of the Thursa-kin:
Bring here the hammer[9]
To hallow the bride,
Lay now the Mauler
On fair maiden’s knee;
Wed us together
With Var’s[10] holy hand.”

 

XXX.

Laugh’d then the Hardhitter’s
Heart in his breast,
As hard-hafted hammer
He handled again;
Thrym he slew first of all,
Lord of the Thursa-kin,
Then all that Ogre-band
Batter’d to bits.

 

XXXI.

Her too he slew there—
That old Ogre’s sister,
She who for bride-fee
Had dared to beseech;
Hard blows she had then
Instead of hard coin,
Maul’s ringing strokes
Instead of red rings—
So came at last
Odin’s son to his hammer.

G. W. D.

 

  1. Thorr, who was son of Odin and Earth.
  2. Loki, the Norse Mercury, who was always getting the Æsir into scrapes, out of which his shrewdness set them free.
  3. The Goddess of Love and Beauty.
  4. Thursa-kin, Giant-kin, Ogre-kin. The word survives in some British proper names, as Tuskar, Thurs-skar, “the Giant’s skerry.”
  5. Hardhitter, a name of Thorr.
  6. Brising’s broad jewel was a famous necklace which Freyja owned, and always wore.
  7. Thorr’s thundering car was drawn by two he-goats.
  8. Sif’s husband, Thorr.
  9. Thorr’s hammer, “the holy maul,” was necessary to hallow the wedding rite. Thrym, therefore, had to produce it.
  10. Var, the goddess who presided over weddings.