Page 26 of Norse Mythology

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“Grinder’s hind leg is broken,” said Thor. “Bring me wood and cloth.”

He made a splint for his goat’s leg, and he bandaged it up. And when that was done, he looked at the family, and Thialfi did not think he had ever seen anything quite as scary as Thor’s burning red eyes. Thor’s fist was wrapped around the shaft of his hammer. “Somebody here broke that bone,” he told them, in a voice like thunder. “I gave you people food, I asked only one thing of you, and yet you betrayed me.”

“I did it,” said Thialfi. “I broke the bone.”

Loki was trying to look serious, but even so, he was smiling at the corners of his mouth. It was not a reassuring smile.

Thor hefted his hammer. “I ought to destroy this entire farm,” he muttered, and Egil looked scared, and Egil’s wife began to weep. Then Thor said, “Tell me why I should not turn this whole place to rubble.”

Egil said nothing. Thialfi stood up. He said, “It has nothing to do with my father. He didn’t know what I had done. Punish me, not him. Look at me: I’m a really fast runner. I can learn. Let my parents be, and I’ll be your bondservant.”

His sister, Roskva, stood up. “He is not leaving without me,” she said. “Take him, you take both of us.”

Thor pondered this for a moment. Then: “Very well. For now, Roskva, you will stay here and tend Snarler and Grinder while Grinder’s leg heals. When I return, I will collect all three of you.” He turned to Thialfi. “And you can come with me and Loki. We are going to Utgard.”

II

The world beyond the farm was wilderness, and Thor and Loki and Thialfi traveled east, toward Jotunheim, home of the giants, and the sea.

It became colder the farther east they went. Freezing winds blew, draining them of any warmth. Shortly before sunset, when there was still enough light to see, they looked for a place to shelter for the night. Thor and Thialfi found nothing. Loki was away the longest. He came back with a puzzled look on his face. “There’s an odd sort of house over that way,” he said.

“How odd?” asked Thor.

“It’s just one huge room. No windows, and the doorway is enormous but it has no door. It’s like a huge cave.”

The cold wind numbed their fingers and stung their cheeks. Thor said, “We shall check it out.”

The main hall went back a long way. “There could be beasts or monsters back there,” said Thor. “Let’s set up by the entrance.”

They did just that. It was as Loki had described—a huge building, one huge hall, with a long room off to one side. They made a fire by the entrance and slept there for an hour or so, until they were woken by a noise.

“What’s that?” said Thialfi.

“An earthquake?” said Thor. The ground was trembling. Something roared. It might have been a volcano, or an avalanche of great rocks, or a hundred furious bears.

“I don’t think so,” said Loki. “Let’s move into the side room. Just to be safe.”

Loki and Thialfi slept in the side room, and the tumbling-roaring noise continued until daybreak. Thor stationed himself at the door to the house all night, holding his hammer. He had been getting more irritable as the night wore on, and wanted only to explore and to attack whatever was rumbling and shaking the earth. As soon as the sky began to lighten, Thor walked into the forest without waking his companions, looking for the source of the sound.

There were, he realized as he got closer, different sounds, which occurred in sequence. First a rumbling roar, followed by a humming, and then a softer sort of whistling noise, piercing enough to make Thor’s head ache and his teeth hurt each time he heard it.

Thor reached the top of a hill and looked at the world beneath him.

Stretched out in the valley below was the biggest person Thor had ever seen. His hair and beard were blacker than charcoal; his skin was as white as a snow field. The giant’s eyes were closed, and he was regularly snoring: that was the rumble-hum and whistle that Thor had been listening to. Every time the giant snored the ground shook. That was the shaking they had felt in the night. The giant was so big that by comparison Thor might have been a beetle or an ant.

Thor reached down to his belt of strength, Megingjord, and pulled it tight, doubling his strength to make sure that he was strong enough to battle even the hugest of giants.

As Thor watched, the giant opened his eyes: they were a piercing icy blue. The giant did not seem immediately threatening, though.

“Hello,” called Thor.

“Good morning!” called the black-haired giant, in a voice like an avalanche. “They call me Skrymir. It means ‘big fellow.’ They are sarcastic, my lot, calling a runty little chap like me Big Fellow, but there you are. Now, where’s my glove? I had two, you know, last night, but I dropped one.” He held up his hands: his right hand had a huge mittenlike leather glove on it. The other was bare. “Oh! There it is.”

He reached down to the far side of the hill Thor had climbed, and he picked up something that was obviously another mitten. “Odd. Something’s in it,” he said, and gave it a shake. Thor recognized their home of the previous night just as Thialfi and Loki came tumbling out of the mouth of the glove and landed in the snow beneath.

Skrymir put his left mitten on and looked happily at his mittened hands. “We can travel together,” he said. “If you’re willing.”

Thor looked at Loki and Loki looked at Thor and both of them looked at young Thialfi, who shrugged. “I can keep up,” he said, confident of his speed.

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