Þór and Hymir

The gods decided to hold a feast, and they decided that Ægir, god of the sea, would host it for them. But the gods' abrupt tone annoyed Ægir. He denied having a cauldron big enough to hold the ale necessary for the gods and demanded that Þór bring him one.

None of the gods possessed such a large cauldron. Týr remembered that his father, the giant Hymir, had a cauldron that was a mile deep. But the gods knew they would have to use cunning to get it from their enemies, the giants. Þór and Týr traveled to Hymir's hall, where they first encountered Týr's 900 headed grandmother. They were recognized by Týr's mother, who was sympathetic to their task. She introduced Þór to Hymir as Véor, an enemy of Hymir's enemy.

At dinner, Þór astonished the company by devouring two entire oxen. The next morning, Hymir said that if they were to eat again together, they would need to get more food. Þór suggested going fishing and asked for bait from Hymir. The giant told him to find his own and pointed to his field. Þór tore off the head of Hymir's finest ox to use as bait.

The giant and the god rowed out to sea in Hymir's boat. Þór kept urging Hymir to row further and further from shore. Finally, Hymir refused to row one stroke more. While Hymir caught and landed two whales, Þór threw his line baited with the ox head over the side.

Thor fishing for JormangandrBelow them was Jörmangandr, the Miðgarð serpent that encircles the entire world, holding his tail in his mouth. He let go of his tail and grabbed the bait. Þór did not hesitate and began to pull up the line. The serpent lashed the sea into a frenzy, but Þór did not loosen his grip. He braced his feet so strongly against the bottom of the boat that they broke through, and Þór stood on the sea bed. He pulled Jörmangandr up to the keel and then over the gunwale. The serpent twisted and tugged and roared and spat poison as Þór began to beat the head of the serpent with his hammer Mjöllnir.

Hymir, frightened for his safety, cut the fishing line with his knife, allowing the serpent to slide back to the bottom of the sea. Þór, angered by the giant's cowardice at the moment he was about to dispatch the serpent, struck Hymir a blow with Mjöllnir, knocking Hymir out of the boat.

Together, the two returned to shore. Hymir asked Þór whether he would carry the two whales to the hall, or simply drag the boat up past the high tide line. In reply, Þór dragged the boat, the two whales, and Hymir himself back to the hall. 

Hymir could see that he had come off second best, and so challenged Þór to smash a glass goblet as a test of strength. Þór threw the goblet at a stone pillar, but it was the pillar that broke into bits. Hymir's wife whispered to Þór that he should throw the goblet at Hymir's head, which was as solid as rock. Þór did so, smashing the goblet.

Hymir sadly recognized defeat and his strength ebbed from him. He gave the cauldron to Týr and Þór. Týr was unable to lift it, but Þór was able to hoist the cauldron to his shoulder and they walked away. Þór turned for one last look at the giant's hall and saw that a throng of many-headed giants had congregated and were coming after the gods for revenge. Þór swung Mjöllnir again and again, killing all the giants.

Þór and Týr returned with the cauldron. Ægir brewed the ale, and now every winter, the gods drink their ale at Ægir's hall.

Thor fishing for JormangandrThe story of Þór fishing for the serpent apparently had a special resonance for people during the Norse era, since many stone carvings exist from the period illustrating the story.


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