One day Thor turned to Loki and said; “I’m tired of simply lying around in Asgard. I’m bored, there’s nothing to do, nothing to test my mighty strength against. ”
“Well,” said Loki to Thor,” There’s no point in testing it against my wits for I would most certainly win !”. “Never!”, boasted Thor, “Brawn is always better than brain, all it needs is exercise. Loki, how do you think I’d fare in the Land of the Giants ?”. “I don’t know,” replied Loki, “But there’s only one way to find out.”
And that was how Thor and Loki began their adventure to the land of the giants.
In the Land of the Giants
After some adventures on the way the two gods, with two peasant children named Thailfi and Roskva, journeyed east until they came to the sea, and there they crossed to the land of the giants.
Once they arrived they found themselves in a deep forest. They walked and walked deep into the night until they found a large cave with several long passages and a side chamber. Loki and the children slept while Thor kept guard with his hammer, Mjollnir, and during the night there was a tremendous earth shudder with rumblings and groanings. The following morning they stepped out of the cave only to discover a sleeping giant ….. The earthshudder was from the giant lying down and the rumblings and groanings from his snoring.
“Greetings,” said the giant, “My name is Skrymir, what were you doing in my glove ?”
And then Thor turned to see that the cave was not really a cave but indeed a giant’s glove, and the side chamber was the thumb. “You all seem to be going in my direction, ” said the giant. “come with me, I’d like company, put your food in my knapsack.” So they continued along their journey together.
That night the giant stopped under an oak tree, and throwing his knapsack to the ground, promptly fell fast asleep. Thor busied himself trying to undo the knots in the knapsack but could he undo a single one ? Harder and harder he tried until hunger and fatigue made him furious and he struck a mighty blow to the centre of the sleeping giant’s forehead with his hammer.
The giant opened one eye, “What was that?” he murmured sleepily, “did a leaf fall on me?” He closed his eye and went back to sleep. So our travellers had to go without their supper, which was bad enough but they couldn’t sleep either for the giant snored loudly enough to wake the dead!
At midnight, furious, hungry, Thor struck yet again at the giant, and this time he actually felt the hammer sink into the flesh of the giant’s forehead. “Was that an acorn?” murmured the giant, rolling over for a moment sleepily.
Just before dawn Thor felt that a third blow would surely fix the giant once and for all. This time the mighty blow sank the hammer into the giant’s flesh right up to the handle. The giant awoke, “Did a bird drop a twig on me? No matter it’s time to be up anyway, we’re almost upon the giants citadel at Utgard, but be warned, you won’t like it, why don’t you be sensible and turn back now !” Skrymir pointed out the way to Utgard and off he went, swinging his knapsack behind.
Thor and his companion’s weren’t sorry to see the back of the giant, but as to heeding his warning, that was another matter altogether. Thor thumbed his nose. “I’m not afraid. I’ve come too far to turn back now.”
On to Utgard
So on they went to Utgard and entered the great hall of the giants.
The chief, Utgard-Loki, bared his huge teeth at them. “Surely this puny thing is not the famous Thor? Why, he is as tiny as a mouse!” “I am no mouse,” was the thundery answer, “I am the mighty Thor!” “Well then, ” said the chief, “you had better hurry up and entertain us with mighty feats.”
Loki the Mischief Maker, bringing up the rear, his stomach rumbling with hunger, without thinking, called out: “I’m so hungry I could out eat a giant!”
So a giant by the name of Logi was chosen to compete with Loki in an eating contest. Now Loki was a god known for his ferocious appetite, and we must remember he had missed breakfast. An enormous dish piled with meats was placed on the floor and the giant and the god started at either end. Although Loki gobbled the meat down and met the giant in the middle, the giant had also eaten the bones and the dish. Loki had lost his contest.
The next to compete was Thailfi, who said that he would be willing to race against any of the giants, being lean and fast and never having lost a race. A giant by the name of Hugi stepped forward. Now, as the race began Thailfi was so fast that you could barely see him – just a blur of lean muscle by your eyes. But the giant was faster. He was so fast that he actually turned back at the end of the race to meet Thailfi halfway. Thailfi had also lost his contest.
It was Thor’s turn to compete against a giant.
“How about a drinking match ?” suggested Thor, for he was very thirsty, as thirsty as only a god can be. Out came an enormous drinking horn, filled to the brim with mead.
“A truly good drinker would be able to finish off this mead in one draught,” said the chief with a bellowing laugh. “Though of course many can only manage it in two and there is no one as feeble as to need three draughts. ”
Although the horn didn’t look very big, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Thor tried and tried with all his might, taking one great gulp after another until finally he could take no more. But when he looked, the level of the mead in the horn had hardly dropped. Thor tried his luck again, and drank and drank until he almost burst. Splattering mead everywhere and decidedly out of breath Thor at last gave in, but the horn was still not empty.
Utgard-Loki looked at Thor in scorn, “Why do you bother when obviously you are such a feeble man? The great Thor! It hardly seems worth your while to attempt any other feat.”
“I shall try any feat you set before me!” said Thor defiantly
Thor demanded another chance.
“Very well,” mocked Utgard-Loki, “we have a game that our youngsters play, all you have to do is lift that grey cat of the ground, I wouldn’t normally suggest it to a god of your reputation, but …”
Thor approached the big cat and, wrapping his mighty arms around the cat’s stomach, heaved and humphed, but no matter how hard he tried, he could lift up only one paw. “No matter Thor,” laughed the giant chief, “she is certainly a very heavy cat.”
Thor roared in an uncontrollable rage. “If you all think that I’m such a feeble weakling why won’t any of you come and fight me, or are you scared that I’ll beat you ?”
“Now now Thor, calm down, calm down, you can’t honestly expect any self respecting giant to fight you, a person who can’t even lift up a cat! However, I’m reasonable, if you really must fight someone you may as well fight my old nurse Elli.”
A withered old women stepped into the great hall and adopted a wrestler’s stance. Thor ran forward, trying to throw her to the floor, but however he groaned and struggled and strained he couldn’t move her, not even an inch. The old woman cackled, and forced the mighty Thor to one knee.
“Stop!” shouted Utgard-Loki, “This fight is finished, it’s pointless continuing this any further. However, Thor and his companions have done their best and will be granted safe passage back to their own lands.”
The following morning Utgard-Loki accompanied Thor and his companions to the road back to Asgard. “You giants have made a fool of me,” said Thor miserably, “how shall I ever be able to hold my head up amongst the gods again?” “Not all is as it appears to be,” replied Utgard-Loki. “Explain yourself.” said Thor, getting angry again.
“It was I under the name of Skrymir who met you along the road to Utgard, if you look near my great hall you will see three deep fjords. Those are the marks left by the blows of your hammer. You thought you were hitting me, but in truth we tricked you. We also tricked you in the contests. Loki’s opponent was really Flame, who devours anything that stands in his path. Thailfi ran against someone no one can ever beat: Thought.
As for you, mighty Thor, when you were drinking from the drinking horn, you didn’t know that at the other end was the sea, there’s no one who can drink the ocean dry, but you are the only one to lower it. From this day forth, twice each day the ocean will empty and refill in memory of your heroic draughts.
As for the cat, it was no cat – but indeed it was the Midgard serpent who encircles the entire world, you managed to raise one of its paws which was an even greater feat.”
Turning redder by the minute Thor asked Utgar-Loki, “But what of the old woman?” “Ah,” said the chief, “The old woman was someone no one can or ever will beat, no matter how hard they try : Old Age.”
Furious, Thor reached for his hammer to teach the trickster a lesson, but when he turned around, the giant was gone.
“Like I told you Thor,” said Loki with a grin, “The cunning will always defeat the strong.”
“I’d like to see you tell that to my hammer.” growled Thor.