Thor's Visit to Geirroed
Once upon a time, as Loki was flying about for sport in Frigg’s falcon
disguise, he was taken with a desire to see how matters stood on the
estates of Geirrœd. Settling on a window ledge, he looked into the hall.
Geirrœd bade one of his men take the bird captive; but this was more
easily said than done, and Loki was vastly amused at the proposal. He
therefore remained sitting on his perch for a while, thinking there would be
time enough to escape when the man had clambered up; but when Loki
wanted to fly away, his feet clung to the wall and so he was taken in the
toils. Geirrœd, on examining his eyes, knew that it was no real bird, but a
shape-shifter; he spoke to Loki but received no answer. Geirrœd then
locked him up in a chest, where he left him for three months without food.
Finally he took him out again, and Loki was compelled to reveal who he
was. To save his life he promised to induce Thor to pay a visit to the
farmstead of Geirrœd without his hammer, his belt of strength, or his
gauntlets. It is not known how Loki managed this affair, but certain it is that
Thor set forth on the journey. Loki and Thjalfi went with him. On the way
Thor sojourned for a time with the Giantess Grid, who was the mother of
the god Vidar and as such a friend of the Æsir. From her Thor learned that
Geirrœd was a crafty Giant, with whom it was no simple matter to deal.
Accordingly she made Thor a loan of a belt of strength, a pair of iron
gauntlets, and her own staff, the “Grid-Staff” (Gríðarvolr; volr = staff). Thor
presently arrived at the banks of a great river called Vimur, across which he was
compelled to wade. Girdling on his belt, he braced himself against the
current by means of the staff, while Loki held fast to the belt. By the time he
had reached midstream, the water flowed over his shoulders. Then quoth
Wax no more, Vimur;
My purpose holds to wade
To the very home of the Giants.
Know this, that as thy waxing
Will wax my Æsir power,
Even as high as the heavens.
Soon he became aware that Geirrœd’s daughter Gjalp was standing
astride the river where it narrowed between rocky walls, and that the
swelling of the waters was her work. He picked up a boulder from the bed
of the stream and threw it at her, saying, “A river must be dammed at the
mouth.” The boulder found its mark, and now the current bore him so close
to the bank that he was able to catch hold of a mountain ash, by the aid of
which he pulled himself ashore. From this incident comes the saying, “The
mountain ash is the salvation of Thor.” Thjalfi — according to a skaldic
poem — had seized the thong of Thor’s shield and effected his passage in
this way. When Thor arrived at Geirrœd’s house, he and his companions
were lodged in a goat-house where there was but a single chair. Thor sat
down in it, but soon noticed that it was being raised with him toward the
roof. He thrust the Grid-Staff up against a beam and let all his weight sink
heavily into the chair, whereupon there at once arose from below a great
crashing and wailing; the din came from Gjalp and Greip, the two daughters
of Geirrced, who had lain beneath the chair and whose backs he had thus
broken. Then quoth Thor:
Once I made use
Of my Æsir might,
Yonder in the home of the Giants;
That was when Gjalp and Greip,
Daughters of Geirrœd,
Would fain lift me up to the heavens.
Now Geirrœd called Thor into the hall to make trial of his prowess in
games of skill. Great fires were burning lengthwise of the room, and just as
Thor passed in front of Geirrœd, the Giant picked up with his tongs a
glowing bolt of iron and threw it at him. Thor caught it in his iron gauntlet
and raised it aloft, but Geirrœd leaped for refuge behind a pillar. Thor
hurled the bolt with such force that it went through the pillar, through
Geirrœd and the wall, and then buried itself in the earth.
Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 70-72.
The Younger Eddas: Skaldskaparmal, p. 121 ff.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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