104 - Norse Myths 04 - Thor

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The fourth of ten Norse myths tells of the story of the Thor and how he gained his hammer through the wicked machinations of the mischievous Loki.

The Legend of Thor.

Thor was one of the twelve principal deities of Asgard, and he lived in the splendid realm of Thrudvang, where he built a palace called Bilskirnir. Here he lived as god of thunder, and his name was invoked more than any other in the age of the Vikings. For Thor was the protector of the land, a fine figure of a man with glowing eyes, firm muscles, and a red beard that made him instantly recognizable. He became known across the worlds for his great hammer, Miolnir (the crusher), which had been forged by the dark elves. This hammer, together with Thor’s strength and his terrible temper, made him the fiercest god of Asgard, and the personification of brute force. Thor was also god of might and war, and because of his popularity, he soon grew to embody the forces of agriculture, and became a symbol of the earth itself. He is remembered throughout the world on the fourth day of every week – Thursday, or Thor’s day.

How Thor Gained His Hammer

Thor was married to Sif, whose long golden hair was one of her great prides. It fell to her feet like a ray of sunlight, and it was the colour of ripe cornsilk in the summer fields. As she brushed it, it glinted in the light and became a symbol of great beauty across Asgard. One day, the glistening cascade of hair caught the eye of Loki, and he wondered then how he ever could have imagined living without it. He thought about that hair all day, and all through the night. And then, just as the moon reached her pinnacle in the midnight sky, Loki leapt to his feet and made for Sif’s bedchamber, where he knew he would find her sleeping. The moon cast long shadows into the sleeping goddess’s delicately furnished room, and it was easy for the fleet-footed Loki to steal in and set to work.

***

Loki crept to the side of Sif’s bed and very gently, so that he did not disturb her, he withdrew a pair of great shears from his cloak and cut her long veil of hair from her head. Winding the tresses around his arm, he darted from the room once again, and there was silence. Until, that is, Sif awoke to discover the travesty that had occurred.

Her shrieks brought everyone in the kingdom running to her side, and Thor howled with such outrage that the entire kingdom of Asgard shook. It was not long before Loki was ferreted out and brought before the irate god. Thunder boomed in the sky as the shaking trickster fell to his knees before Thor.

‘I beg you, Thor,’ he cried, ‘let me free and I will find a new head of hair for Sif – one that is even more beautiful than the one she has now. I’ll go to the dark elves. They’ll fashion one!’ Loki’s head bobbed up and down with fright and eventually Thor gave in.

‘You have twenty hours to come forward with the tresses, and if you fail, Loki, you will be removed from Asgard forever.’ Thor banged down a thunderbolt at Loki’s feet, and the traitor scampered hastily away, hardly daring to breathe at his good fortune.

Loki travelled at once to the centre of the earth, down into the Svart-alfa-heim, where the wily dwarf Dvalin had his home. He threw himself on the mercy of the dwarf, and requested as well two gifts with which he could win the favour of Odin and Frey, who were bound to hear of the news and wish to punish him themselves.

Dvalin worked over the heat of his forge for many hours, and as he worked he chanted the words which would make all he forged the finest there was – for there are no arms as powerful nor as invincible as those fashioned by dwarfs. First he finished the spear Gungnir, which would always hit its mark. Next, he formed the ship Skiblanir, which would always find wind, on even the most silent of seas, and which could sail through the air as well as on water. The ship was folded carefully and placed in a tiny compass. Loki’s eyes shone at its undoubted worth.

Finally Dvalin spun the most graceful of golden threads, and these he wove into a head of hair so lustrous and shining that all the dark elves gasped at its beauty. Dvalin handed it carefully to Loki, wrapped in the softest of tissues, and said, ‘As soon as this touches your princess’s head, it shall grow there and become as her own.’

Loki took all the gifts from Dvalin, who he thanked profusely, and feeling very pleased with himself he set off for Asgard with a skip in his step. His jauntiness attracted the attention of two dwarfs who sat by the side of a small cottage.

‘Why do you smile so?’ asked the first – for Loki’s reputation had preceded him and the dwarfs were certain that his happiness could have no virtuous cause.

‘Dvaldi,’ boasted Loki, ‘is the most clever of smiths – both here and in all the nine worlds.’ And with that he held up his prizes for the dwarfs to examine.

‘Pish,’ said the first dwarf, who was called Brokki, ‘my brother Sindri can fashion gifts that are far more beautiful than those – and sturdier too.’ He paused, and then continued, leaning towards Loki who began to look rather put out. ‘Our gifts would hold the magic of the very centre of the earth,’ he whispered.

Loki choked, and then, recovering himself, immediately challenged the dwarf to prove his words. So confident was he of the gifts he held now that he placed a wager on his own head.

And so it was that Brokki and Sindri made their way into their smithy and began work on the hottest of forges. Sindri agreed to fashion the goods, on the condition that Brokki blew the bellows – a task which would prove difficult over the great heat that was necessary for Sindri to win the wager.

Sindri at once threw some gold into the fire, and left the room, eager to invoke the powers which would be invested in a great wild boar, which he had decided upon for Frey. Alone with the roaring fire, Brokki worked hard at the bellows, never pausing despite the tremendous heat. Loki watched from the window and as he observed the determination and strength of the dwarf he began to grow uneasy. At once, he decided that he must intervene and as quick as a flash of light he turned himself into a gadfly and alighted on the hand of Brokki, where he set in a stinger so deep that a rush of blood rose to the surface immediately.

Brokki cried out in pain, but he continued the bellowing, never missing a beat. Sindri returned to the room and drew from the fire an enormous boar, who they called Gulinbursti for its radiant gold bristles. This boar would have the strength of all other boars there were, but he would have the additional ability to shine a rich and powerful light into any part of the world in which he travelled. He was the perfect gift for the sungod Frey and nothing could match the brilliance of its light but the sungod himself.

So Sindri flung more gold into the fire, and instructed Brokki to continue to blow. Once again, he left the room to seek the necessary enchantment, and once again Loki took on the form of a gadfly. In an instant he had landed on Brokki’s cheek and stung through the weathered skin until Brokki cried out and turned white with pain. But still he worked on, pumping the bellows until Sindri returned once more. And triumphant, Sindri drew from the fire a ring which he called Draupnir, which would become the very symbol of fertility – for on every ninth night, eight identical rings would drop from Draupnir, with powers to match.

The final gift was yet to be prepared, and this time Sindri threw iron on to the fire, leaving Brokki hard at work as he left to call upon the final spirits. Brokki’s strength was beginning to flag, but his will was as strong as ever. He pumped away as the fire burned brighter and brighter until, suddenly, a horsefly lit on his neck and stung him with a ferocity that caused him to leap into the air, but still he did not miss even one pump of the bellows. Loki was becoming desperate. He arranged himself on the forehead of the hapless dwarf and he stung straight into a vein on his forehead that throbbed with effort. He was rewarded by a gush of blood that streamed out into the fire and into the Brokki’s eyes. The dwarf raised his hand for a split second to wipe aside the blood, but that moment caused damage that could not be erased. When Sindri returned and drew out the great hammer, its handle was short and ungainly.

Brokki hung his head in disappointment, but Sindri pointed out that the powers of the great hammer would more than make up for its small size. Indeed, he thought it might be an advantage, in that it could be neatly hidden in a man’s tunic.

So Brokki gathered up the gifts and carried them outside to Loki, who accompanied the dwarf back to Asgard with his booty. Odin was given the ring Draupnir, Frey was given the boar Gulinbursti, and Thor was given the hammer, which they had named Miolnir – meaning invincible power.

Loki then presented Sif with her golden hair, and when she placed it upon her shorn head it latched itself there and began to grow in swirls and waves until it reached her feet once more – a shining veil of hair that shone more brightly than ever. Gungnir, the spear, was given to Odin, and the ship Skidbladnir to Frey. Each god was delighted with his gift, and there was much camaraderie as they slapped the backs of the dwarfs and the redeemed Loki. It was Brokki who put a stop to the celebrations when he stepped forward and explained the wager that had been made by Loki.

The gods looked at one another, and eyed their magnificent gifts. Although it was agreed that Sif’s hair could not be more lustrous, or more beautiful, the gods announced that Brokki’s gifts were the finest and the most magical – for the sole reason that Thor’s great hammer was of such a magnificent size that it could be hidden away and used against the frost-giants at a moment’s notice.

Loki’s games had backfired, and he turned on his heels and fled before Brokki could undertake his part of the bargain and behead him! Brokki started in outrage and implored Thor to come to his rescue in catching Loki who was making away at all speed. Still smarting from Sif’s agony, Thor threw out a lightning bolt and caught Loki by the ankles, returning him to face his fate at the hands of Brokki and his brother.

But when Loki was delivered to the dwarfs, Thor took pity on Loki and insisted to Brokki that he could have Loki’s head but that he must not touch his neck – for the neck of Loki belonged to him, Thor. Of course there was no way to remove a head without touching the adjoining neck, and Brokki stomped around in fury before he came up with a plan which would serve him equally. Gathering his brother’s great awl for the purpose, he punched holes along Loki’s lips and stitched them together with an unbreakable cord.

It was many days before Loki’s howls of pain ceased, and many more before he was able to unstitch the cord. Loki did not speak for almost one hundred days, as his torn lips were so painful he could not bear to move them. In time, however, Loki was able to speak once again causing Thor – and everyone in Asgard – to rue the day that the wager was broken.

The next story tells of Heimdall and his Journey to Midgard

The first Norse Myth is Creation

The second Norse Myth is Odin and Frigga

And the third tells of the Valkyrie

The fourth Norse Myth tells how Thor Gained his Hammer.

The fifth tale is about Loki

The Sixth tale focuses on the God Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost

Part of a series on world myths and legends, released through Libsyn, on These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Vurbl and Stitcher and more. Also on this blog, These Fantastic Worlds. RSS feeds available on request by email.

Text based on Norse Myths, General Editor Jake Jackson. Copyright © 2014 Flame Tree Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 9780857758200. This and other books on African, Indian, Polynesian, Aztec, Greek, Celtic and mythology are available online at flametreepublishing.com and in store worldwide, including Amazon, BookDepository, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, Blackwells and Waterstones.

Online production, images and audio © 2021 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam and Elise Wells, Logic ProX, Sound Studio, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, and Scrivener.

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