“I should hope not,” muttered Thor.
Var looked at Thor. “If I pull down the headdress, it will hide them, but he still has to be able to see.”
“Do your best,” said Loki. And then he said, “I’ll be your maidservant and go with you to the land of the giants.” Loki shifted his shape, and now he was, in voice and in appearance, a beautiful young serving woman. “There. How do I look?”
Thor muttered something under his breath, but it might have been a good thing that nobody could hear it.
Loki and Thor clambered into Thor’s chariot, and the goats who pulled it, Snarler and Grinder, leapt into the skies, eager to be off. Mountains broke in half as they passed, and the earth burst into flame beneath them.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” said Thor.
“Don’t speak,” said Loki in the form of a maiden. “Let me do all the talking. Can you remember that? If you speak, you may ruin everything.”
They landed in the courtyard. Giant-sized jet-black oxen stood impassively. Each beast was larger than a house; the tips of their horns were capped with gold, and the courtyard stank with the sharp smell of their dung.
A booming voice could be heard from inside the huge high hall: “Move it, you fools! Spread clean straw on the benches! What do you think you’re doing? Well, pick it up or cover it with straw, don’t just leave it there to rot. This is Freya, the most beautiful creature in existence, Njord’s daughter, who comes to us. She won’t want to see something like that.”
There was a path made of fresh straw through the courtyard, and after leaving their chariot, the disguised Thor and the serving maiden who was Loki walked across the straw, lifting their skirts so they did not drag in the muck.
A giant woman was waiting for them. She introduced herself as Thrym’s sister, and she reached down and pinched Loki’s pretty cheek between her fingertips, and she prodded Thor with one sharp fingernail. “So this is the most beautiful woman in the world? Doesn’t look much to me. And when she picked up her skirts, it seemed to me that her ankles were as thick as small tree trunks.”
“A trick of the light. She is the most beautiful of all the gods,” said the maiden who was Loki smoothly. “When her veil comes off, I promise you will be struck down by her beauty. Now, where is her groom? Where is the wedding feast? She is so eager for this, I have barely been able to restrain her.”
The sun was setting as they were led into the great hall for the wedding feast.
“What if he wants me to sit next to him?” whispered Thor to Loki.
“You have to sit next to him. That’s where the bride sits.”
“But he might try and put his hand on my leg,” Thor whispered urgently.
“I’ll sit between you,” said Loki. “I’ll tell him it’s our custom.”
Thrym sat at the head of the table, and Loki sat next to him, with Thor at the next seat on the bench.
Thrym clapped his hands and giant serving men came in. They carried five whole roast oxen, enough to feed the giants; they brought in twenty whole baked salmon, each fish the size of a ten-year-old boy; also they carried in dozens of trays of little pastries and fancies intended for the women.
They were followed by five more serving men, each one carrying a whole cask of mead, a barrel huge enough that each giant struggled beneath the weight of it.
“This meal is for the beautiful Freya!” said Thrym, and he might have said something else, but Thor had already started to eat and to drink, and it would have been rude for Thrym to have talked while the bride-to-be was eating.
A tray of pastries for the womenfolk was placed in front of Loki and Thor. Loki carefully picked out the smallest pastry. Thor just as carefully swept the rest of the pastries up, and they vanished, to the sound of munching, under the veil. The other women, who had been looking at the pastries hungrily, glared, disappointed, at the beautiful Freya.
But the beautiful Freya had not even begun to eat.
Thor ate a whole ox, all by himself. He ate seven entire salmon, leaving nothing but the bones. Each time a tray of pastries was brought to him, he devoured all the fancies and pastries on it, leaving all the other women hungry. Sometimes Loki would kick him under the table, but Thor ignored every kick and just kept eating.
Thrym tapped Loki on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” he said. “But the lovely Freya has just polished off her third cask of mead.”
“I’m sure she has,” said the maiden who was Loki.
“Amazing. I’ve never seen any woman eat so ravenously. Never seen any woman eat so much, or drink so much mead.”
“There is,” said Loki, “an obvious explanation.” He took a deep breath and watched Thor inhale another whole salmon and pull a salmon skeleton out from under his veil. It was like watching a magic trick. He wondered what the obvious explanation was.
“That makes eight salmon she’s eaten,” said Thrym.
“Eight days and eight nights!” said Loki suddenly. “She hasn’t eaten for eight days and eight nights, she was so keen to come to the land of the giants and make love to her new husband. Now she is in your presence, she is finally eating again.” The maiden turned to Thor. “It’s so good to see you eating again, my dear!” she said.
Thor glared at Loki from beneath the veil.
“I should kiss her,” said Thrym.
“I wouldn’t advise it. Not yet,” said Loki, but Thrym had already leaned over and was making kissing noises. With one huge hand he reached for Thor’s veil. The maiden who was Loki put out her arm to stop him, but it was too late. Thrym had already stopped making kissing noises and had sprung back, shaken.