Hello, This is Elizabeth, and this is a tale from the time of the Vikings, also known as the Norsement.
The Norsemen were famous for sailing in their longboats, and they were great fishers, As you may know, fishermen may boast about the size of their catch: I leave it to you to decide whether or not the Norse god Thor is telling the truth in this tale.
“I like a good feast, so do all the gods and all mankind. Women lick their fingers, but don’t eat much, maybe a bite of cheese, thinking of their waists... My Sif has a lovely waist, so small I can span it with my hands. Mind you, my hands are a good size, like the rest of me, what? And she has lovely hair... and she has... oh well, enough of Sif, I am trying to tell you about my fishing. We were all feasting with the Sea-God, Aeger and a very fine feast it was, though a bit fishy for me, both gods and men need red meat. A nice bit of reindeer roasted on the spit...served up with sweet red-currant jelly... Too many herrings at Aeger’s, in my view. But we were his guests, the guests of the god of the Sea. He ought to have fresh fish. Anyway, there was plenty to eat.... “Thanks Aeger” I kept saying, “This is a great feast.” We gods liked to keep him in a good mood, for then the seas are calm, we gods and the people of the earth can go sailing and fishing with no worries. When Aeger loses his temper, Odin, how the seas rage! Mind you, it isn’t only Aeger who gets the seas in a froth. There is also the Midgard Serpent. Know about him, do you? No? Well, he’s an offspring of that Loki with some nasty giantess. he’s a slithery, slimy beast, with a flickering tongue and bad breath that smells like the plague. And if you think that sounds nasty enough, he’s a giant too. After he was born, he grew and he grew, and even the gods started to fear him. One day, Odin, our king, picked up the squirmy beast and dropped him in the sea. Silly thing to do,that: he should have killed him when he had the chance. That sea serpent keeps on growing, and growing, and now he encircles the whole world. He’s a monster among monsters. And when he wriggles, oh Odin, the seas go up and down like mountains, and it’s best to take shelter in a nice little port somewhere...
To carry on about the feast, - of course, a good feast needs plenty of mead, and we all drank so much that Aeger ran out. He looked quite crestfallen, embarrassed even. “Don’t upset yourself,” said my gorgeous wife, Thor will help you out, won’t you Thor?”
“Get me a giant cauldron?” said Aeger, looking brighter. “Then we can brew all we need”. There was a great guffaw in the hall. “Invited us to stay for a while, have you Aeger?”
“Of Course I’ll help, I said, but where will I find a cauldron big enough for all of us?” My friend Tyr, a brave young god, though of giant stock, and full of courage piped up: “We can take my father’s, it must be a mile deep!”
I realised that it would be a big cauldron, because Tyr’s father was a giant who lived in a cold castle. All the giants had castles, for no cottage was big enough. No doubt he liked to heat up water in his cauldron for a nice hot bath to warm himself up.
Aeger clapped me on the back. “Glad to see you here Thor, you know that. I’ll be even more glad if you bring me back that cauldron. What drinking we’ll have!”
I set off with Tyr, disguised as a young man, though nothing could hide my massive shoulders.... I was not sad to leave Aeger’s merry hall, for a feast is all sitting down, and I like to be up and about. Tyr is a good fellow, always ready to help you out,and cheerful with it,just what you want in a travelling companion on an adventure to fetch a giant cauldron!
We had a long way to go. The giants’ land is far away, but eventually we got to Tyr’s home castle.... Tyr banged on the door, it was his family after all. His mother opened the bolts and let us in: she was beautiful, though a giantess – not that I mind large women - and it was from her that Tyr got his looks. Not his father, that’s for sure. “You better hide”, said his mother. “My Giant doesn’t like strangers, and when the fishing’s bad, he can be nasty. Here, under these cauldrons”.
“Mother”, said Tyr. “You’re right, we do need to hide. But my friend Thor is our guest, you should kill an ox for him."
“It’s a lot of work,” she said, but she went off all the same. Later she came back with bloody hands, and a great ox. “Heat up the fire, my boy, I’ve done what you asked.” Tyr puffed and puffed the bellows till there was a roaring fire, and the giantess threaded the ox onto a huge spit and put it to roast. Soon there was a wonderful smell..and the thud thud thud of a giant’s footsteps coming home. “Quick, under the cauldrons,” she cried. We hid quickly and Tyr’s father came in. He was much bigger than me, - I’m not used to being the smallest and I don’t like it - and with beady eyes, and vast bushy eyebrows glistening with snowflakes. There was a fearful draught, till he slammed the door shut.
“I’ve news,” said the Giantess. “Our son Tyr has come home, with a friend. They’re hiding behind that column.”
Tyr’s father was called Hymer: he looked at the column: so fierce was his gaze that half the roof fell in, and all the cauldrons were smashed except the one hiding me and Tyr. We stepped out.
“Hmph, “ said Hymer who was not at all glad to see me, “Well, as you’re here, you’d better have some dinner”.
“I’ve killed an ox,” said the Giantess. “Actually I killed three, dear, you often eat a whole one yourself, and we’ve got guests”.
“hmph,” said Hymer. “Lay up, can’t you? I’m hungry.” Tyr and I sat down at table with Hymer while the Giantess set the mead on the table and passed the ox to me. As you can imagine, I helped myself, and there wasn’t much left when I’d finished.
“You’ll have to wait,” said the Giantess to Hymer. “We’ve only got one spit.” and she skewered a second ox on it.
I was quiet. I accept I was a noisy eater and muncher, but I said nothing. No-one did. Hymer watched grumpily as I ate. “If you eat like that, it’ll be fish tomorrow,” he said, “We can’t kill 3 oxen every day for dinner."" It was a tasty meal, and I felt pleasantly full after eating up the ox. “Phew,” I said, more to strike up conversation than for any other reason, for the hall was not cheerful. “Did you say you are going fishing tomorrow? I’d like to come. Will you take me? I’ve strong arms for the rowing...”
“I row far out to sea,” said Hymer. “A stripling like you might catch your death of cold."s
My hand twitched on my hammer. Tyr placed his hand on my arm to calm me. With difficulty, I controlled myself. “I like rowing,” I said. “what do you use for bait?”
“Hmph,” said Hymer as he always did. “Find your own."
The next day, as we were going down to the shore, we passed Hymer’s cattle. I picked out a bull, and killed it. “Makes good bait,” I said. Hymer who was not pleased, but I was his guest, so he couldn’t say anything. We got in the boat. Hymer rowed furiously, and when we were far from land, he shipped the oars. I seized them and rowed on twice as fast. Hymer was a good rower, but he’d never seen anyone row like me.
“Steady on, steady on there,” Hymer began to be frightened, “we don’t want to disturb the Midgard-Serpent.”
I carried on. “You get a bigger catch when the water’s deep,” I said. At last, when I thought we were over the dwelling-place of the Midgard-Serpent, I put a huge hook into the bull, checked my line for strength – it was indeed a good line - and threw it into the sea. Hymer threw in his bait, and it wasn’t long before he had landed two whopping whales. All of a sudden, my line was tugging like mad.
But I, - well, I wondered myself what it was that I had caught.... could it really be the Midgard-Serpent? I summoned my divine strength, pulled and reeled in my line, and the waters began to heave, yes, I pulled and was pulled, heaved and was heaved, and my heart soared! I, Thor, would slay the dread Midgard-Serpent which all the world and Odin himself had feared....
I yanked the head of the monstrous reptile out of the water, gripped it fiercely. Now it was hissing and shaking and lashing his tale, and the sea was swelling and our boat was bopping up and down. Still I heaved on the line :
“My hammer!” I shouted. Tyr did not need to be asked twice and put it in my hand. “Death to the Serpent” I cried and was about to strike, but at that very moment, Hymer took fright and cut my line. “You fool,” I cried and thumped him. The serpent swam off at full speed, glad no doubt to have tangled with Thor and lived to tell the tale. How he would boast to the slimy little serpents when he returned to his sea-layer!
“We’ve still got the whales,” said Hymer.
“Whales, what are whales compared to the Midgard-Serpent?” I said. Still there was nothing for it, Hymer the giant was a shaking wreck. Tyr sniffed the sea air as if he was on a cruise, and I rowed us back to land, working off my fury with the exercise.
Once back in the hall, Hymer recovered himself. “Wife,” he thundered, “I promised you fish, and here are two whales. Bring me my cup and some wine!” She did. The goblet, I saw, was beautiful.
“Thor,” said the giant, - for he had guessed who I was - “He who would drink my wine, must first break my goblet!” My good friend Tyr whispered in my ear, “Dash it against his forehead!” I seized the goblet and dashed it to smithereens against Hymer’s head.
“Come Tyr, it’s time to go."" I picked up the giant cauldron, which is what we came for after all, and marched out of the door while Hymer was still dazed.
We went at a good pace, which was just as well, for soon half the giants in Jotunheim were in hot pursuit. “This’ll be fun” I said, and put down the cauldron to get my hammer ready. Bif! Paf! Bang! Soon Tyr and I were standing surrounded by a hillside of dead giants!
So off we went, with Tyr singing to cheer us along. We made our way back to Aegir’s hall, where we were eagerly awaited. The cauldron was put to brewing mead, and the Feast carried merrily on...... While I told the other gods all about our fishing trip and the One that Got Away - What a size that brute was ! You’ve never seen anything like him, I tell you !
And that was a Fisherman’s tale to end all tales , told by Thor, the Norse god of Thunder. I do hope you enjoyed it.... You might like to know, blah blah.
Was Hymer hospitable? Why do you think this was?
What did Tyr boast about?
Was Thor right to take one of Hymer’s bulls?
Do you think the Norse diet was the same as ours today?
The giant in the story had no heating except for a log fire. How do you think the Norse tried to keep warm in the winter?