Thor’s Day Alert #23: Thor Battles Hrungnir
Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!
It’s been awhile since I actually posted about Thor on a Thursday — the very day named for him. Following I hope you’ll enjoy a story short but full with classic Thor goings-on: big talk and battle complete with hammer-throwing.
From Snorri Sturluson’s The Prose Edda, as translated by Jean L. Young and published by the University of California Press:
At once Thor came into the hall in a fury with his hammer raised aloft and asking on whose authority sly devils of giants were drinking there, and under whose safe conduct [the giant] Hrungnir was inside Valhalla, and why Freyja was waiting on him, as if it were a banquet of the gods.
Hrungnir looking at Thor in no friendly manner answered that Odin had invited him to drink with him, and that he was there under his safe-conduct. Thor declared that Hrungnir would be sorry for this invitation before he left. Hrungnir said that it would not enhance Thor’s reputation to kill him unarmed as he was, and that it would be a greater test of courage if he dared to fight him on the frontier at Grjotunagardar [meaning “Stone Fence House”].
‘I’ve been a great fool,’ he added, ‘to leave my shield and hone at home; if I had my weapons we should fight a duel now. On the other hand, I pronounce you dastard if you are intending to kill me unarmed.’
No one had ever challenged Thor to a duel before, so he would not on any account fail to meet Hrungnir in single combat. Hrungnir went off on his way home galloping furiously until he reached Giantland. This expedition of his and the fact that he had arranged to meet Thor won him great fame amongst the giants. They felt that it mattered a good deal which of them should prove victorious; they could expect the worst from Thor if Hrungnir perished, for he was strongest of them.
Then the giants made a man of clay at Grjotunagardar. He was nine leagues high and three broad under his armpits and they could not get a heart large enough to fit him, until they took a mare’s, and this was not steady in him when Thor arrived.
[But] Hrungnir’s heart is famous. It was of hard stone and sharp-edged and three-cornered like the runic character known as ‘Hrungnir’s heart’ which has since been made that way. His head, too, was of stone, also the broad, stout shield which he held before him while he was standing at Grjotunagardar waiting for Thor. As weapon of attack he had a hone poised on his shoulder and he looked like an ugly customer. At his side stood the clay giant called Mist Calf, and it was terrified. It is said that it made water when it saw thor.
Thor went to the dueling ground, and with him Thjalfi. Then Thjalfi ran forward to where Hrungnir was standing and told him: ‘You’re taking a risk the way you’re standing, giant, with your shield in front of you; Thor has seen you. Put it down on the ground beneath you for he will come at you from below.’
Hrungnir shoved his shield under his feet and stood on it, grasping the hone with both hands. At once he saw flashes of lightning and heard great claps of thunder; he was seeing Thor in his divine wrath. [The god] bore down on him at tremendous speed and brandishing his hammer hurled it at Hrungnir from a great distance. Hrungnir lifted up the hone in both hands and flung it against the hammer, and the hone colliding with it in mid-air was smashed to pieces. One part of it fell to the ground and all hone quarries have come from those fragments. The other pierced Thor’s head so that he fell forward on the earth. The hammer Mjollnir, however, struck Hrungnir in the middle of his head shivering his skull into small fragments, and he fell prone across Thor with one leg over Thor’s neck. Thjalfi attacked Mist Calf and he fell with little renown.
Then Thjalfi went up to Thor to lift Hrungnir’s leg off him, but he could not move it at all. When they heard that Thor was down, all the Aesir went up to him to lift off the leg, but they were unable to do anything. After that Magni, the son of Thor and Jarnsaxa [a giantess whose name means “Iron Cutlass”], came up to them — he was three years old then — and he flung Hrungnir’s leg off Thor saying: ‘What a pity I didn’t come sooner, father; I reckon I’d have struck the giant dead with my bare fist if I had met him.’
Thor stood up then and gave his son a fine welcome saying he would be a strong man: ‘And,’ said he, ‘I’ll give you the horse Gold-mane’ — which Hrungnir had had. Odin spoke then declaring that Thor was doing wrong to give a fine horse like that to the son of a giantess instead of to his own father.
I hope you enjoyed the story of Thor versus Hrungnir — what did you think of young Magni? Like father, like son, eh?
Thanks for stopping by! My next post will be on Tuesday, April 21.