“My greatest treasure is no longer mine,” said Hymir. “I could always tell it to brew me ale, and the cauldron itself would magically brew the finest beer. Never again will I say, Brew me ale, my cauldron.”
Thor said nothing.
Hymir looked at Tyr and said bitterly, “If you want it, stepson, then take it. It’s huge and heavy. It takes over a dozen giants to lift it. Do you think you are strong enough?”
Tyr walked over to the cauldron. He tried to lift it once, twice, but it was too heavy even for him. He looked at Thor. Thor shrugged, grasped the cauldron by the rim, and flipped it so he was inside it and the handles clattered at his feet.
Then the cauldron began to move, with Thor inside. It headed toward the door, while all around the hall many-headed giants stared, openmouthed.
Hymir no longer wept. Tyr glanced up at him. “Thank you for the cauldron,” he said. And then, keeping the moving cauldron between himself and Hymir, Tyr edged out of the room.
Thor and Tyr left the castle together, untethered Thor’s goats, and climbed into Thor’s chariot. Thor still carried the cauldron on his back. The goats ran as best they could, but while Snarler ran well and ran fast, even with the weight of the giant’s cauldron to pull, Grinder limped and staggered. Its leg had once been broken for marrow, and Thor had set it, but the goat had never been as strong again.
Grinder bleated in pain as it ran.
“Can’t we go any faster?” asked Tyr.
“We can try,” said Thor, and he whipped the goats so they ran even faster.
Tyr looked behind. “They are coming,” he said. “The giants are coming.”
They were indeed coming, with Hymir at their rear, urging them on: all the giants of that part of the world, a many-headed monstrous bunch, the giants of the waste, misshapen and deadly. An army of giants, all intent on getting their cauldron back.
“Go faster!” said Tyr.
It was then that the goat called Grinder stumbled and fell, throwing them out of the chariot.
Thor staggered to his feet. Then he threw the cauldron to the ground and began to laugh.
“What are you laughing about?” asked Tyr. “There are hundreds of them.”
Thor hefted Mjollnir, his hammer. “I didn’t catch and kill the serpent,” he said. “Not this time. But a hundred giants almost make up for it.”
Methodically, enthusiastically, one after the next, Thor killed the giants of the waste, until the earth ran black and red with their blood. Tyr fought one-handed, but he fought bravely, and he slew his share of giants that day.
When they were done and all the giants were dead, Thor crouched beside Grinder, his injured goat, and helped it back to its feet. The goat limped as it walked, and Thor cursed Loki, whose fault it was that his goat was lame. Hymir was not among the slain, and Tyr was relieved, for he did not want to bring his mother any additional distress.
Thor carried the cauldron to Asgard, to the meeting of the gods.
They took the cauldron to Aegir. “Here,” said Thor. “A brewing cauldron big enough for all of us.”
The sea giant sighed. “It is indeed what I asked for,” he said. “Very well. There will be an autumn feast for all the gods in my hall.”
He was as good as his word, and since then, every year once the harvest is in, the gods drink the finest ale there ever was or will be, in the autumn, in the sea giant’s hall.
THE DEATH OF BALDER
Nothing there is that does not love the sun. It gives us warmth and life; it melts the bitter snow and ice of winter; it makes plants grow and flowers bloom. It gives us the long summer evenings, when the darkness never comes. It saves us from the bitter days of midwinter, when the darkness is broken for only a handful of hours and the sun is cold and distant, like the pale eye of a corpse.
Balder’s face shone like the sun: he was so beautiful that he illuminated any place he entered. Balder was Odin’s second son, and he was loved by his father, and by all things. He was the wisest, the mildest, the most eloquent of all the Aesir. He would pronounce judgment, and all would be impressed by his wisdom and his fairness. His home, the hall called Breidablik, was a place of joy and music and knowledge.
Balder’s wife was Nanna, and he loved her and only her. Their son, Forsete, was growing to become as wise a judge as his father. There was nothing wrong with Bal-der’s life or his world, save only one thing.
Balder had bad dreams.
He dreamed of worlds ending, and of the sun and the moon being eaten by a wolf. He dreamed of pain and death without end. He dreamed of darkness, of being trapped. Brothers slew brothers in his dreams, and nobody could trust anyone else. In his dreams, a new age would come upon the world, an age of storm and of murder. Balder would wake from these dreams in tears, troubled beyond all telling.
Balder went to the gods and he told them of his nightmares. None of them knew what to make of the dreams, and they too were troubled, all but one of them.
When Loki heard Balder talk of his bad dreams, Loki smiled.
Odin set out to find the cause of his son’s dreams. He put on his gray cloak and his broad-brimmed hat, and when folk asked his name, he said he was Wanderer, son of Warrior. Nobody knew the answers to his questions, but they told him of a seer, a wise woman, who understood all dreams. She could have helped him, they said, but she was long dead.
At the end of the world was the wise woman’s grave. Beyond it, to the east, was the realm of the dead who had not died in battle, ruled over by Hel, Loki’s daughter by the giantess Angrboda.
Odin traveled east, and he stopped when he reached the grave.