Thor Destroys the Giant Thrym. At the end of Þrymskviða, Þórr gets his hammer back and uses it to kill the giants. Rydberg, Viktor. 1906. Teutonic Mythology Vol. II.

Then Thor Stole His Hammer Back

This post concludes the story of Thrym’s theft of the hammer of Thor, the third post of three.

"Tor såsom Freya, Loke brudtärna" by Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell, published in Fredrik Sander's 1893 edition of the Poetic Edda.
“Tor såsom Freya, Loke brudtärna” by Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell, published in Fredrik Sander’s 1893 edition of the Poetic Edda.

The first post showed how Thor awoke one morning to find his famous hammer Mjolnir missing, and his frequent companion Loki took Freyja’s flying cape to Jotunheim to find the thief, named Thrym. The required ransom was Freyja’s hand in marriage.

The second post told the story of what happened when Loki relayed this news to Thor and the Aesir of Asgard. Freyja angrily rejected being involved in the ordeal. Instead, Thor followed Heimdall’s advice and dressed himself as Freyja in her stead, to fool the giants since they had never met the beautiful goddess themselves. Loki offered to accompany Thor as his maid-servant.

These final lines of the poem show what happens when you steal Thor’s hammer.

Thor plays along briefly with the idea that he, the angry, violent protector god is instead the beautiful fertility goddess. But once Mjolnir comes into his possession, he quickly dispatches all those complicit in the crime.

This part of the poem is perhaps most often referenced in scholarship for its use of Mjolnir in the ritual to bless the wedding, adding to our knowledge of how Mjolnir was used to hallow grave sites and meals. There may also be some ritual significance to the repeated line of how Thor could neither eat nor sleep for eight nights, “So hot was her longing for Jotunheim.”

Of course this section of the poem is what makes it most famous. People for hundreds of years have enjoyed thinking of the powerful embodiment of masculinity pretending to be a much more meek and passably feminine woman. The humor of the poem is both in the idea, and also in the execution: Thor has a really hard time pretending to be a woman, and the giants are just gullible enough to believe it until it’s too late.

Thor vs. Thrym by Louis Moe, 1906
Thor vs. Thrym by Louis Moe, 1906

As with the previous post in the series, we get a bit of insight into what was expected of women at the time the poem was written, as Bellows suggests possibly in the 10th century. Those expectations may include a longing for men, and a quiet, more respectful undertone to meal-time. At the same time, Thor’s behavior when playing at being Freyja is surprising because he cannot restrain his typical masculine behavior: eating and drinking with abandon, looking directly into the eyes of other men with keenness and ferocity (“Fire from her eyes burns forth”), and of course, in the end, Thor violently avenged the theft of the hammer Mjolnir.

Thor was bad at pretending to be a woman but still good at being Thor.

THRYMSKVITHA

The Lay of Thrym

Translation by Henry Adams Bellows

21. Then home the goats | to the hall were driven,
They wrenched at the halters, | swift were they to run;
The mountains burst, | earth burned with fire,
And Othin’s son | sought Jotunheim.

22. Then loud spake Thrym, | the giants’ leader:
“Bestir ye, giants, | put straw on the benches;
Now Freyja they bring | to be my bride,
The daughter of Njorth | out of Noatun.

23. “Gold-horned cattle | go to my stables,
Jet-black oxen, | the giant’s joy;
Many my gems, | and many my jewels,
Freyja alone | did I lack, methinks.”

24. Early it was | to evening come,
And forth was borne | the beer for the giants;
Thor alone ate an ox, | and eight salmon,
All the dainties as well | that were set for the women;
And drank Sif’s mate | three tuns of mead.

25. Then loud spake Thrym, | the giants’ leader:
“Who ever saw bride | more keenly bite?
I ne’er saw bride | with a broader bite,
Nor a maiden who drank | more mead than this!”

26. Hard by there sat | the serving-maid wise,
So well she answered | the giant’s words:
“From food has Freyja | eight nights fasted,
So hot was her longing | for Jotunheim.”

27. Thrym looked ‘neath the veil, | for he longed to kiss,
But back he leaped | the length of the hall:
“Why are so fearful | the eyes of Freyja?
Fire, methinks, | from her eyes burns forth.”

28. Hard by there sat | the serving-maid wise,
So well she answered | the giant’s words:
“No sleep has Freyja | for eight nights found,
So hot was her longing | for Jotunheim.”

29. Soon came the giant’s | luckless sister,
Who feared not to ask | the bridal fee:
“From thy hands the rings | of red gold take,
If thou wouldst win | my willing love,
(My willing love | and welcome glad.)”

30: Then loud spake Thrym, | the giants’ leader:
“Bring in the hammer | to hallow the bride;
On the maiden’s knees | let Mjollnir lie,
That us both the band | of Vor may bless.”

31. The heart in the breast | of Hlorrithi laughed
When the hard-souled one | his hammer beheld;
First Thrym, the king | of the giants, he killed,
Then all the folk | of the giants he felled.

32. The giant’s sister | old he slew,
She who had begged | the bridal fee;
A stroke she got | in the shilling’s stead,
And for many rings | the might of the hammer.

33. And so his hammer got Othin’s son.

Lolland Mjõlnir pendant
Lolland Mjõlnir pendant
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