Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Stolen Hammer

Sometimes, it was not just mortals who had to go to incredible lengths in the name of honour. Sometimes, even the gods themselves were forced to endure shame and indignity for a greater good. One famous example of this was the time when the Hammer of Thor, son of Odin, god of Thunder and powerful deity of the Norse pantheon, was stolen...

Amulet discovered in Skåne, Sweden
One day, high in the golden fields of Asgard, there was great consternation. For it was that Thor, mighty among the Aesir, had awoken to his greatest fear. As he rose from his bed, he discovered to his horror that Mjöllnir, his legendary Hammer, was no where to be found. The Thunderer let out a shout of rage which shook Valhalla to its very foundations. For Mjöllnir was no ordinary tool of war. Forged by the dwarves deep in their earthly forge (for the story of this, please click here), the thunder god's hammer was more powerful than any other weapon in the cosmos. So great was the Hammer's power that only one who wore megingjörð, the belt of hyper strength, and the Járngreipr, the gloves of iron, could wield it. Understandable, therefore, was Thor's anguish. Roused by the thundering bellow, Loki, the scheming and deceitful ally to the Aesir, came before the dismayed son of Odin. Desperate now, Thor turned to Loki and said:

             " Listen, Loki, to what I am saying,
               what no one knows neither on earth
               or in Heaven: the Hammer of the God is stolen! "
                             - THOR'S PLEA

Painting by Nils Blommér
Delighting in chaos, as ever he did, Loki heard Thor's call. The trickster soothed Thor, assuring him that he would look for it. Without delay, both made leave for the goddess Freyja. Renowned throughout the Nine Worlds for her beauty, Freyja was the envy of ladies of every race. Loki bowed to the fair goddess, and asked of her the exquisite cloak of feathers which she possessed, an enchanted artifact which could change the form of any being to an eagle. "I'd give it to you even if it were made of gold", she replied at once, handing the magical plumage over. In a flash, Loki drew the cloak around his shoulders, and in an instant, spread forth his elegant wings, and soared into the sky. On and on he charged through the skies, past the boundaries of the divine house, past the golden plains, past the boundaries of Asgard itself. Soon, the airborn deceiver circled Jötunheim, the cruel land of snow and ice, home of the Jötunn, the fierce race of frost giants (for more on this race, please click here). This was a land hostile to gods, for the giants and the Aesir were locked in perpetual war, but Loki, himself half giant, could enter where gods could not (for more on Loki's past, click here). Spotting a giant from a great distance through his aquiline eye, Loki made haste toward his fellow Jötunn. The giant Thrym, King of Jötunheim, sat high upon a grave mound, tending his monstrous flock. Loki, in uncharacteristic urgency, demanded to know the location of the Hammer, suspecting as he did the evil machinations of the Jötunn. Triumphantly, Thrym replied:

          " I have hidden Thor's Hammer
            eight leagues under the earth;
            no man will ever take it back again,
            unless I am brought Freyja as my wife "
                           - THRYM'S TAUNT

Elated that the location of the Hammer was known, Loki sped forth to return to the Aesir's Halls, unknowing of the indignity of the words he was to bear. The son of Odin leaped to his feet at the approach of the trickster, and leaped higher still when Loki told him of his beloved Mjöllnir. Both friends came once again before fair headed Freyja, and told her of their plight. Snorting in rage, Freyja furiously refused Thrym's request, suffering not the dishonour of living as a Jötunn's bride. Fair though her decline was, great was Thor's dismay. Summoning the Aesir to their glorious array, the Thunderer put forth his ghastly plight. Silent were the words on the Aesir's lips, when out spake far sighted Heimdall, watchman of the gods:

          " Let's dress Thor in a bridal head-dress,
             let him wear the necklace of the Brisings.

             Let keys jingle about him
             and let women's clothing fall down to his knees,
             and on his breast let's display jewels,
             and we'll arrange a head-dress suitably on his head! "
                             - HEIMDALL'S PLAN

Loki conceals Thor
Engraving by Carl Larsson
At once, the Thunderer leaped up in rage. Such outrage! Such indignity! The mightiest of the war gods, dress as a woman! The shame would be the end of him. Then out spake Loki, whose mischievous words were cloaked in honey. He too would don a maid's attire, so that he would not be alone. Only Thor alone could wield Mjöllnir, no other god could lift it. Thor, seething with fury, saw wisdom in Loki's words, and thought only of the Jötunn who would pay. All too conscious of his powerless state, Thor bade the Aesir dress him without delay. Not a moment passed, and both friends made haste to Jötunheim.

King Thrym was overjoyed at the sight before his eyes, and could scarcely believe his good fortune. The two maidens were welcomed into the royal halls, whence forth a magnificent banquet was soon laid. The Jötunn gathered from far and wide for the union of their mightiest kin and fairest god, little aware of the bride's true veil. The night drew in, the fires roared and the places were set. There at the head of the high table sat the king of the giants and his apparent bride. Thor, who had a godly appetite, soon devoured his way through many a plate of roasted meat, oblivious as he was to the countless eyes upon him. The king of the icy realms looked on bewildered, but quick thinking Loki allayed his fears. "For eight days and eight nights the lady has not eaten, so excited was she at the thought of marriage to thee", the trickster explained. Delighted at this, was the king of giants and merrily he beckoned forth more plates. The revelry went on into the night, and when the wine began to take its dark effect, King Thrym leant in to embrace his new wife. A flash of crimson darkened Thor's eyes, as the Thunderer's anger grew, and the Jötunn saw it. Cunning Loki struck up once more, "For eight days and eight nights the lady has not slept, so excited was she at the thought of marriage to thee". The cruel king once again was elated at this news, and the merriment grew. The king of the frozen peaks called for silence to the gathered crowd, and beckoned a servant to enter the hall.

In he came, bearing the most splendid gift fit for the finest of brides, and there, seated upon opulent cushion, was the mighty Hammer of Thor. At the king's command, the gift was laid upon the knees of his bride, and the hall looked on eagerly. A dark smile passed over the bride's face. His moment come at last, the son of Odin tore his veil asunder, seizing the haft of Mjöllnir. A flash of lightning, his true identity revealed, and the Jötunn saw their fate sealed. With a roar that rocked the cosmos, the Thunderer took up the Hammer, and with every muscle in his swing, did verily spare not one thing. A ripple of fear gripped the room, but nothing could save them from their doom...

United Kingdom

The Poetic Edda:
The Poetic Edda (Oxford World's Classics)
(A sizeable collection of stories, telling many of the myths of Norse Mythology, each in a short and accessible poem)

United States

The Poetic Edda:
The Poetic Edda (Oxford World's Classics)
(A sizeable collection of stories, telling many of the myths of Norse Mythology, each in a short and accessible poem)


  1. A great retelling of the tale. Good job.

    1. I am delighted that you enjoy the story! Welcome to the site!