One day the Aesir all were gathered;
they talked of feasting and framed their thoughts.
The feast should be full, with food for all;
Aegir’s great hall should host the throng.
The Aesir chose Thor, Allfather’s son,
to fare to Aegir, father of waves,
to tell the giant the tale of the gods:
he must get ready for many guests.
Thor fared out to sea, seeking Aegir.
He hurried to Hlesey, home of the giant;
Thor told him the news, the tale of the gods.
The Lord of Nine Daughters laughed when he heard.
“I know you’ve fared far, Flame Eye’s son,
but one small thing I think is amiss:
I have nothing that ale can fill.
You must bring me some barrels or such.”
Again Thor hurried; in haste he flew.
He knew he must never waver.
He was keen to bear his kinfolk’s trust;
a kettle was missed and must be found.
Thor looked all over Asgard’s halls;
both high and low he laid his eyes.
He could not find, full or empty,
a great big kettle to catch the ale.
At every hall, he had no luck.
The Aesir had a host of kettles,
but none so big as Balder’s Kin wanted;
the Aesir’s throats were thirsty and deep.
Thor then halted at the hall of Tyr,
most righteous As, offspring of Hymir.
Tyr had wisdom for wandering Thor;
he knew where to get a great big kettle.
“Off to the east, past Elivagar,
lives my father, lore-filled Hymir.
He has a kettle that could be used.
It’s fit to be filled full of sweet ale.”
Thor othered himself; his age was nine.
As a boy he left Bilskirnir.
Off Thor hurried, in haste he flew,
without his wagon or any thralls.
At dusk he came to a comely hall,
the awesome home of Hymir the giant.
He took Thor in, like other guests;
he let him sleep long through the night.
The moon sank when morning came;
Hymir got ready his rod and line.
Thor asked the giant, who thought him a boy,
if he could go also, out to sea.
“When I am fishing, I fare widely;
I do not yield for young boys’ fears.
The water is deep and warms for no one.
I fear you will freeze, far out to sea.”
Thor became angry. He ached to strike,
to crush the head of Hymir the giant.
But Thor held back, thanks to his will;
he saved his strength for struggles to come.
“If we two go like whales to sea,
miles from dry land, it might be you,
hardest of giants, who halts the trip.
Do you have bait, to bring the fish?”
“You ask too much, you mewling boy.
At first you beg to follow me out,
and then you think I’ve thought of your needs?
My bait is here. Have you your own?”
Thor left the house of Hymir the giant;
he searched the land for something to use.
He came upon a pair of oxen;
he knew they belonged to none but Hymir.
One lowed in fear, full of dread;
it was held by Thor, hard in his grasp.
Thor ripped off its head; his hands dripped blood.
He went to the beach to bide his time.
Hymir then came, kitted out for sea.
Thor climbed aboard and bent to rowing,
two oars in hand, he heaved the waves.
Pull after pull, they plowed the whale road.
“Thanks to your rowing, rugged as it is,
we have now found the fishing ground.
I know full well the ways of the sea;
I’ve fared here often to fish this bank.”
Thor was uneasy; his thoughts ran quick.
He bade Hymir the boat to row further.
Hymir agreed, and gripped the oars;
Thor rowed also, out to the deeps.
“We mustn’t row a rest further.
A lad like you, lacking in sense,
would never think of nasty snakes;
Jormungand gives no boons.”
“Your lack of wits is worrisome;
foolish giant, I fear nothing.
Whether you know or not this truth,
I am yet Thor, Odin’s brave son.
“I have no fear of filthy snakes,
that roll the sea, seafarer’s bane.
He may gird the earth and all it holds,
but I will keep faring out to sea.”
He dropped his oars and drew out a pole:
a mighty hook hung from its end.
He hooked it fast to the head of the ox.
He sent it flying; it sank below the waves.
The snake was quick, he quibbled never.
He gave no thought to games and tricks.
He ate the head and the hook bit him;
Jormungand growled in pain.
Thor’s hands were pulled, hard to the floorboards.
He became angry; his As-strength grew.
He strove with the snake, straining with might.
The floorboards also felt the strain.
Thor set his feet and fought the worm;
he pulled him up, over the side.
They were eye to eye, evenly matched.
The snake was spitting, spraying venom.
Then Hymir felt fear; his face went white.
He hated the snake, the son of Loki,
but also he feared the foaming sea,
the great whale road, wet and cold.
Thor raised his hammer to hit the snake,
but Hymir rose higher, heading him off.
He cut the line that caught the snake.
It went with the worm; the waves swallowed it.
Thor swung Mjolnir with might at the snake;
he hoped it struck home but had no luck.
The snake still grizzled, girding the sea,
waiting to come back and war again.
Thor was angry; all was amiss.
He knew he had missed the Midgard Serpent.
Hymir was scared; he heaved the oars.
He rowed with haste; his hall awaited.
Thor rowed also, aching with strain.
Once they found land, each was tired.
Hymir then played host to his guest;
Thor was bidden to break his fast.
Now that he was home, with nothing to fear,
Hymir began to grow in anger.
He hated Thor, who thought him a fool;
the Son of Earth at sea played tricks.
“Odin’s brave son, always the strongest;
you’ve met your match, the Midgard Serpent.
Jormungand was going to win:
I kept you alive by cutting when I did.
“I can see that you’re itching to fight,
to show us all your As-strength.
I gift you now a game to play:
smash this goblet of glittering crystal.”
“Wise old Hymir, wiliest of giants,
the game you set out is one I will win.
What is a cup to the Wolf Foe’s son?
You giants never know your foemen.”
Hymir’s wife, wearing much gold,
brought the goblet to gleeful Thor.
He could not wait to crush the goblet,
to show his strength, strongest of gods.
Grasping the goblet, the Grim One’s son,
he strode to a pole that stood in the hall;
his strength was full as he struck with might.
The pole was cleaved but the crystal was whole.
Hymir’s wife, wearing much gold,
turned her eyes to Thor, earthy and bold.
She took the goblet and gave it to Hymir,
warder of the hall, wisest of giants.
The feast went on far into the night.
The giants laughed, lolling with mirth,
but Thor was brooding, his blood was up.
He wanted this laughter to be the last they’d know.
Again Hymir’s wife went to Thor.
She whispered words of welcome news.
To Odin’s son, all was now clear:
Hymir’s head alone could harm the goblet.
In her hands she held, wise Hymir’s wife,
the crystal goblet for the Grim One’s son.
Thor took the goblet and threw himself forward;
he hurled the cup at Hymir’s skull.
The cup struck home; Hymir was felled.
He lay on the ground, groaning in pain;
his followers thronged forward to help him,
crowding around their writhing lord.
“I’ve lost my sight, silent are the runes;
I can’t read them from right nor left.
My art of brewing is also gone;
if you can carry it, my kettle is yours.”
Thor grabbed the kettle, grunting with strain:
he could not lift the kettle of Hymir.
The Son of Earth was out of strength;
hardy as he was, the weight was too much.
Then Modi’s father framed a thought.
He heaved the kettle, heavy though it was,
onto its side; he saw that it rolled.
Thor pushed the kettle through the hall.
Once he was outside the awesome hall,
Thor called up his As-strength.
He hoisted the kettle high on his shoulders,
then he ran to the west, away from the giants.
Thor then trekked, trusting his strength,
to Asgard his home, off to the west.
When he turned his head, the Hanged One’s son;
he saw a host, with Hymir in front.
Thor knew a fight would follow soon.
He dropped the kettle and drew Mjolnir.
The giants came on, jumping at Thor:
he swung his hammer, hewing them all.
Once he was free of foemen and strife,
Thor hoisted again Hymir’s kettle.
He headed west, in haste he flew,
back to Asgard, to Allfather’s kin.
[S.R. Hardy is a poet, fiction writer, and translator whose work has appeared in venues such as Mythic Circle, Eunoia Review, Eternal Haunted Summer, the Beorh Quarterly and anthologies such as The Shining Cities, Beyond the Pillars, and Northern Traditions. He is currently at work on a variety of poems, stories, and translations.]
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