Thor and the World Serpent

Thor set out early one morning taking time neither to prepare his chariot nor find a companion, such was his haste. He went to Jotunheim in the disguise of a young man. After traveling the whole day in the country of the giants, evening fell as he came to the home of Hymir. Here Thor stayed the night.

In the morning when the giant dragged his fishing boat to the sea's edge Thor begged that he might be permitted to join him in his fishing. Hymir said that such a skinny little man could be of no help to him, and added that in all probability all he would catch would be a cold going so far out to sea. Thor was so furious at this that he would have let the giant feel the weight of Mjolnir upon his skull. But controlling his anger he answered politely that he was willing to go as far as the giant wished and he asked what Hymir intended using for bait. Hymir told Thor to find his own bait, so he went to the giant~'s head of oxen and, taking the head of the largest beast, retuned and took his seat in the boat. The giant and Thor rowed the boat together, the giant at the prow and Thor aft, but the god rowed with such powerful strokes that the giant was surprised at the rate at which the boat sped forwards.

Before long they had reached the giant's usual fishing place, but Thor preferred to go further. So they continued rowing until the giant called for him to stop for fear of entering the deep waters of the Iormungandr, the World Serpent. The god continued pulling at the oars and did so for a long while. Finally, when he was satisfied, Thor put up his oars and preparing his line with a good strong hook cast the ox head aver the side. Soon the bait was resting on the dark floor of the ocean and then, as Thor had known it would, the World Serpent bit at it greedily. The hook caught deeply in its great gaping mouth. Twisting in pain the serpent dragged violently at the line. The cord held strong but Thor needed both hands to keep his prize from r escaping. Then summoning all his might the god pulled so " hard that both of his feet were driven through the floor of the boat into the sea bellow.

Amidst the drenching spray and the incoming water the _ giant turned pale and cowered away from Thor. The World Serpent in all its fury raised up above the churning waters, breathing out streams of venom upon the wild eyed god. Just as Thor raised up his hammer to kill the serpent, the giant drew his knife and swung at the taut quivering line. It split with a resounding crack. The serpent released from Thor's hands fell backwards, sliding from view beneath the turbulent waves.

In one last desperate effort to slay the creature Thor hurled his hammer after it, but whether it reached its mark he knew not. In his anger for letting Iormungandr escape he dealt the giant a fearful blow with his gauntleted fist throwing him into the sea. Then leaving the sinking boat far behind he waded with powerful strides back to the shore.

© copyright Clive Barrett 2012