Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Norse God Thor, by John M'Clintock and James Strong 1894


The Norse God Thor, by John M'Clintock and James Strong 1894

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Thor, the god of thunder, in Northern mythology, was, next to Odin, the highest and most feared of the gods. His parents were Odin and Frigga. His wives were the beautiful gold-haired Sif, by whom he had two sons, Loride and Mode; and the Jotes maiden Jarnsaxa, a giantess of such beauty that Thor, although a sworn enemy of the Jotes, could not refrain from making her his wife. She bore him his favorite son Magni, who was most like his father in courage and strength. Terrible is the flight of Thor through the heavens, rolling, thundering behind the clouds. Still more terrible is he when he has buckled his girdle Megingjardar about him, which gives him double strength. Thus ready, grasping with his iron gloves the hammer Mjolnir, he appears as an annihilator among the enemies of the gods. Thor's kingdom is called Thrudvangr; and the pahice in his realm, Bilskirnir, is the largest that was ever built, and contains five hundred and forty halls. There is no one so wise as to be able to state all of Thor's deeds, and a day would be too short to mention them all. The most remarkable, however, are the following: In company with his two bucks and the evil Loki, he made a journey. Towards evening they came to a certain man whom they asked for a night's lodging. Here Thor killed his bucks and ordered them to be fried, and then invited his host and family to partake of the repast, warning them, however, not to devour the bones, but to place them on the spread-out hides of the bucks, before starting farther on his journey the following morning, Thor bewitched the hides with his mighty hammer, and the bucks immediately came to life, fresh and young, with the exception that one of them limped, because Thialfi, the host's son, had broken the bone of his foot in order to get at the marrow. Now Thor, enraged, threatened to kill the whole family; but he allowed himself to be pacified, when the father offered him both his children, Thialfi and Roskva, as servants, whom Thor carried away on his journey. They lodged in the iron glove of the giant Utgartsloki, who accompanied Thor under the false name of Skirner, and sought to dissuade Thor from journeying towards his (Utgartsloki's) castle. This, however, was useless, and the trifling hindrances with which Utgartsloki sought to obstruct his path—for example, tying together his cloak-sack, in which the provisions were kept—made Thor the more zealous. Thor attempted, at three different times, to break the giant's forehead, but without success. Finally they separated, and Thor continued his journey with his bucks and servants. About noon he noticed, in a large plain, a castle which was so high that it was impossible for Thor to look over it. The travellers arrived at a garden gate; and as Thor found it locked and was unable to open it, they managed to get through the space between the bars. Inside they found a spacious hall, in which there were seated upon two benches a great number of giants. King Utgartsloki, distinguished by his height and dignity, sat in the centre, but he did not even seem to notice the strangers, who saluted him. He only remarked, "This small fellow, I think, is Aukathor. Perhaps you are greater than you appear? What skilful things can you perform? In this place no one is permitted to remain who does not distinguish himself in some art or Science." Loki answered him that he thought himself to be a great eater, and did not believe any one was able to cope with him. "We shall see immediately," said the king, and ordered one named Logi, who sat upon the bench, to try an eating-match with Loki. Thereupon a large trough filled with meat was placed on the ground. At one end of the trough sat Logi, at the other end Loki; and as the former had eaten nothing for quite a while, he devoured very much. But although Loki ate all the meat, Logi, besides having eaten his half, devoured the bones also. All were agreed that Loki had failed in the attempt. "What is that young man able to do?" the king inquired further. Thialfi answered he would try a walking-match with whomsoever Utgartsloki desired. The king went out and called a young man named Hugi to try a running-match, pointed out a track, and fixed the limit. But Hugi was ahead in three successive rounds. The king admitted, however, that of all previous racers, none could have beaten Thialfi. Then the king asked Thor what he was able to do, as he had a great name among the Asas. Thor answered that he would try his skill in drinking. Then the king brought a large horn, and said, "It requires great skill to empty this horn in one drink; some have accomplished it in two, yet none have been so unskilful as not to be able to empty it in three draughts." Thor put the horn to his lips three times; but when he looked into the horn, he saw that the water had hardly diminished in quantity. Thor gave it up, and said he did not wish to attempt it any longer. Thereupon the king said, "Now it is evident that your power and skill are not so great as we supposed, and you will receive very little praise should you, in other attempts, be again unsuccessful." Thor answered that he was willing to attempt something else, and it surprised him much that what he had done was looked upon as a small affair. Utgartsloki proposed that he should lift a cat from the ground, a feat which the smallest boy could perform, and the king added that he should never have proposed this to Thor were he not persuaded that Thor was by no means the mighty king he had been represented. A large gray cat was then brought forth, which Thor held around the body and attempted to lift from the ground. But the more he raised the cat from the ground, the more she would curve her back; and, after having exerted himself as much as possible, he found that only one of the cat's forepaws had been lifted from the ground. "Just as I expected," said the king; "the cat is large, and Thor is much behind those who have tried to lift her before." "If I am small," answered Thor, "I challenge each of you to a prize-fight, because now, as I am angry, I feel my entire strength has returned to me." Upon this, Utgartsloki said, "There is no one here who would not consider it child's play to fight with you; however, call in my old nurse, who has fought with more men before; she will probably be his match." The king's nurse, Elle, came, and, however much Thor exerted himself, he was not strong enough to move her one inch; and when she applied her strength, Thor fell on his knee, until the king separated them. After very hospitable treatment, and a good night's rest, the strangers left the castle, much chagrined. But when they were outside the door, the king said, "Now you are out of the castle, to which, as long as I have strength, you shall never again be admitted, and into which you would not have entered had I known Thor's strength. Know now that all that has occurred was done through witchery. At first I met you in the forest under the name of Skirner; there I fastened your provision-bag with iron cords, so that you were unable to untie them; then you struck at me thrice with your hammer, and the force with which you struck at me may be seen in the valleys hewn out of the hard rocks which, unseen. I had placed between you and me. When you subsequently came to my castle and made your attempts, I selected a man to eat who certainly could eat more than any other man, because Logi is a consuming fire that devours wood and bones and everything. Thialfi ran with no one but my thoughts, and it is easy to conceive how these reached the limit before him. But you have accomplished something supernatural, because the horn which you attempted to empty was at one end sunk in the ocean, aud you took such immense draughts of water that the ocean for a great distance became dry, which is now called ebb. The cat which you lifted from the ground was the Midgard's Serpent, and you were so strong as to lift her so high from the earth that only her head and tail were visible. Finally, the old nurse with which you wrestled was Old Age itself, and honor be to that man who flinches from decrepit old age no more than you. Now, farewell. Although I have numerous stratagems remaining to shield my castle, still I hold it advisable that you and I should meet no more." Thor, very wroth to see himself thus fooled, grasped his hammer to strike, but immediately Utgartsloki and the castle became invisible, and afterwards they saw each other a great distance apart on the great plain. To seek revenge at least upon the Midgard's Serpent, Thor sailed shortly afterwards upon the ocean with the giant Ymer, and went out so far that the giant became afraid. Then he threw the head of a large ox, attached to a strong rope, into the water, which the Serpent seized upon. When she felt herself wounded, she started back with such force that Thor's hands, holding the line, struck against the ship. He then applied his entire strength, and placed his foot so firmly upon the bottom of the boat that it went through, and he stood upon the bottom of the ocean. The giant was very much frightened when Thor drew up the Serpent by the line, and gazed at her with his tiery eyes, as she aimed a stream of poison at him. Then Thor raised his hammer, but, before he could strike, Ymer had cut the line, and the Serpent fell back into the water. Thor then threw the giant head-foremost into the ocean, so that his feet appeared above the water. He then waded ashore. Another deed was done by Thor under Gejwod and Hrugner. The Wends also worshipped Thor as one of the highest gods. They erected to him numerous monuments, cut from a willow-tree, which was to represent the face of the god without any form. A platform built about the monument was used as an altar to worship upon.

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