The skies rumbled with the sound of thunder. Thor, the famous guardian of Midgard, was on his way to Jotunheim for an exploratory expedition. He had heard stories of a place called Útgard, a place ruled by a mighty giant king. The god was traveling along the sky in his chariot, which was pulled by his two faithful goat companions: Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. We will soon learn that these were not random goats (although the fact that they were pulling a chariot through the sky might already have set you off on that). Loki was at his side. The god of thunder had figured that the journey would be long and boring, so he had asked the trickster to come along. Despite their differences, Loki would often be amusing company during their travels.
Feasting with the peasants
As the two gods decided that they would soon make camp for the night, they came across a cabin. “Halt!”, Thor shouted at his goats while pulling the reins. “Let’s see if we can stay the night here”, he said. Loki grimaced. He was not a big fan of human beings. Then again, their minds were almost as fun to toy with as those of the Aesir. Thor pounded on the door with his mighty fist. “Who’s there?”, a shrill voice came from the cabin. “I am Thor Odinson, and with me is Loki Farbautison”, Thor boomed. “We are weary of our travels and would appreciate your hospitality for the night”.
A boy opened the door. “My name is Thialfi”, he said. “These are my parents, brothers, and sisters”, he gestured to the other humans in the cabin. One of the peasants, most likely the boy’s father, rose from the table and invited the gods in. “You are welcome to warm yourselves to our fire and to share our roof for the night”, he told them. His face then turned solemn,
He pointed at the pot on the fire. “You are also welcome to our food, but I am afraid it is not much. I do my best to provide for my family, but I have not been able to put meat on the table for a long time”. Thor shrugged his shoulders, clearly not moved by the scene before him. “I will take care of the meat”, he said brusquely. He then left the house without further explanation, closely followed by Thialfi.
Here, have a haunch of my companion
The boy was astonished when he saw the events that unfolded outside. One of Thor’s goats lay dead by the door. The god was sitting on top of the other one, strangling his animal companion to death. He then began skinning the animals and hung their hides across the fence outside the cabin. “I told you I would take care of the meat, boy”, he grinned. Thialfi gazed at him in shock. Thor handed him one of the goats. “Here boy, take this inside. You and your family can eat all the meat you want tonight. Just make sure that the bones are not damaged”. Thialfi hurried inside and shared the news with his family. They were overwhelmed by this act of kindness.
During the feast, Loki took the boy apart for a moment. “Boy, have you ever tasted marrow before? It is the most delicious thing. Just crack one of those bones”, he said. Thialfi shook his head. He then pointed out that Thor had asked him to not damage the bones. “Of course he would say that”, Loki replied, “as the marrow is the tastiest thing of a goat’s leg”. He then turned away from the boy and went off to his bed, clearly pleased with his own cleverness.
You goat to be kidding me
The next morning, Thialfi woke to see that both his family and the gods had already woken before him. Thor had just finished his breakfast and walked outside. As Thialfi followed him, he witnessed a wondrous scene. Thor was greeted by both his goats as if they had not feasted on their flesh the night before. “How is this possible?”, the boy murmured. “I saw you killing both of them. We ate them!”.
Loki grinned at him. “These are the perks of being a god, boy. Those goats are a walking, unlimited supply of food for the great Thor Odinson”, he said with nonchalance. “And they even pull his chariot for him”, he added with a wink. For the gods, this was not a strange thing. After all, Odin had a boar in Valhalla that would be revived each day as well, feeding thousands of fallen warriors each night. For us, mere mortals, this is hard to fathom.
Out on a limp
When the two goats started running towards Thor, all parties noticed something curious. One of the animals was limping as if his rear leg had been hurt. When Thor had examined the leg for a brief moment, he turned around. He looked as if he was ready to smite the entire peasant family. “Who has had the guts to crack his bones when I explicitly told you not to?!”, he boomed. Thialfi blushed, staring at his feet. “I did, my lord”, he finally confessed. He then threw himself at the feet of the gods, screaming “please allow me to repay you, my lord!”.
Thor, clearly uncomfortable, gave Loki a look. Although he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, he quickly understood what had transpired. He raised the boy to his feet with one hand. “How would you repay this debt, boy?”, he asked calmly. The farmer then stepped forward. “The boy will serve you, my lord”, he said. “He is strong, so he will carry your tools”, he continued, “and he is a good runner too!”. Thor nodded. “I suppose that will do”, he said. He gestured to his chariot. The boy would never see his parents again (which meant the peasants had one less mouth to feed, so we guess everybody wins).
Into the land of giants
So it was that the boy Thialfi pledged himself to servitude. And although they were slowed down by the injured leg of the goat, they were still able to reach Jotunheim in one piece. As they explored their surroundings, they could only see trees and mountains. It was a beautiful, raw scene of nature. Then they heard a rumbling sound. This time it was not the sound of thunder, but something more horrifying. They looked around but could still only see trees and mountains. Thialfi pointed to one of the mountains, his mouth was open from anguish. Then they realized that this mountain was in fact a giant, one that was bigger than any giant they had ever encountered.
“Well, hello there little ones”, rumbled the giant. “What might you be doing here?”, he asked eyeing them with curiosity. The three travelers were speechless. The one eye that was taking stock of them was easily bigger than the three of them combined. Finally, Loki regained his senses. “We are some humble travelers, in search of Útgard”, he said. “Could you provide us with some directions?”. The giant frowned. “My name is Skrymir”, he said. “ I am familiar with that place. It is just a few days from here. Just follow me, if you can keep up with me”. Now Thor was the one to respond: “Are you mocking us? Of course we can keep up with you. Lead the way!”. Skrymir grinned and repeated, “Of course you can keep up. For I am but the smallest giant of my village”.
Having said those words, he headed off in the direction of Útgard. The three travelers looked at each other in silence for a moment, all pondering the same question. What had they gotten themselves into?