The myth of Thor’s journey to the land of giants – Scott A. Mellor

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Thor—son of Odin, god of thunder,
and protector of mankind— struggled mightily against his greatest
challenge yet: opening a bag of food. It’d all started when Thor, along with his fleet-footed human servant
Thjalfi and Loki, the trickster god, set out on a journey to Jotunheim,
land of the giants. Along the way, they’d met
a giant named Skrymir, who offered to accompany them and
even carry their provisions in his bag. But when they made camp,
Skrymir dozed off and Thor couldn’t untie the sack. Frustrated and hungry, Thor tried
to wake the giant three times by striking his head with his hammer
Mjolnir as hard as he could. But each time, Skrymir thought
it was only a falling acorn and went back to sleep. The next morning, Skrymir departed and eventually, the travelers reached
a massive fortress called Utgard. Inside the long hall,
they met the king of giants, Utgard-Loki, who greeted his guests with a challenge: each of them was to prove they were
the best at some particular skill. Loki went first, declaring himself
the world’s fastest eater. To test him, the king summoned
his servant Logi and the two were placed at either
end of a long trough stuffed with food. Loki ate his way inward
with blinding speed. But when the contestants
met in the center, Loki saw that his adversary
had not only eaten just as much food, but also the bones
and even the trough itself. Next was Thjalfi, who could
outrun anything in the wild. The king summoned an ethereal-looking
giant named Hugi, who outraced Thjalfi easily. But the boy would not give up
and demanded a rematch. This time, Thjalfi finished close behind and the king admitted he’d never
seen a human run so fast. Thjalfi tried a third time,
running like his life depended on it, but Hugi was even faster than before. Finally, it was Thor’s turn. The king offered him a drinking horn, saying all his men
could drain it in two gulps. Thor raised it to his lips and drank the surprisingly
cold and salty mead in the longest gulp he could muster. Then a second. Then a third. But the level of the mead
in the horn was only slightly lowered. To test Thor’s renowned strength, the king
offered a seemingly easy challenge: lift his pet cat off the ground. But this cat was as tall as Thor. Every time he tried to lift it,
it arched its back, and straining with all his godly might,
he only managed to lift one paw. Enraged, Thor demanded
to wrestle any of the giants. The king summoned
the giants’ old nursemaid, Elli. Though the woman looked frail,
Thor couldn’t overpower her and grew weaker the longer he struggled,
until he was brought to one knee. The three companions prepared
to leave, disappointed and humbled. But as the king escorted them out, he revealed that nothing in the castle
had been what it seemed. Loki lost the eating contest because
his opponent Logi was wildfire itself, devouring everything in its path. Thjalfi couldn’t outrun Hugi because
Hugi was the embodiment of thought, always faster than action. And even Thor couldn’t defeat Elli,
or old age, which weakens everyone eventually. As for the other challenges,
they had also been illusions. The drinking horn
was filled with the ocean, and Thor had drained
enough to cause the tides. The cat was the serpent
that encircles the world, and Thor’s efforts shifted the earth. And Skrymir had been
Utgard-Loki in disguise, deflecting Thor’s hammer-blows to form
valleys in the surrounding mountains. The giant congratulated
them on their prowess, which so frightened him he would
never allow them in his land again. Thor and his companions failed
the challenges presented to them. But in trying to achieve the impossible, they’d pushed themselves
harder than ever before and changed the world
in ways no one had expected.


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