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Norse Mythology: How Thor and Loki Recovered Mjöllnir from the Giant, Thrym

While Loki's ultimate fate, in the stories of Norse myth and legend, was to play the part of the antagonistic force whose actions would serve to bring about Ragnarök, he was also often depicted as a useful ally—one whose intelligence and cunning the gods could rely on in their times of need. In one of the most well-known and popular stories of Norse myth, as told in the poem Thrymskvida (The Lay of Thrym) found in The Poetic Edda, Loki once joined Thor on a comedic adventure into the land of the giants.

The story starts simply—with Thor waking to discover that his mighty hammer, Mjöllnir, is missing. Furious, Thor immediately sets out in search of Loki—perhaps suspecting that the notorious trickster was, in some way, responsible. Rather than the angry confrontation he may have been expecting, though, Thor finds that Loki is eager to help. Not only that, but Loki already seems to have some idea of where to look. Knowing that Mjöllnir is Asgard's primary defence against an invasion of giants, Loki suggests that a giant may be responsible for the theft. Taking the lead, Loki sets out to meet with the goddess, Freyja, who happens to have in her possession a feathered cloak enchanted to grant the gift of flight to whoever wears it. While Freyja may have been somewhat dubious about entrusting one of her most precious possessions to Loki, she also recognised the potentially dire consequences for the gods if Mjöllnir was not recovered.

So, with Freyja's cloak in his possession, Loki takes to the sky—covering the distance rapidly as he travelled far from Asgard, and to the land of the giants, and to the home of Thrym, the king of the giants. There, Loki demanded to know whether Thrym had Mjöllnir in his possession and, if so, what he had done with it. Thrym responded by admitting that he did, in fact, have Thor's hammer in his possession, and that he had hidden deep underground, where no one but he would ever be able to find it. More than that, though, Thrym also revealed that he would only return the hammer if Freyja were to agree to become his bride.

Returning to Asgard, Loki and Thor once more meet with Freyja. Desperate to recover his hammer, Thor immediately demands that Freyja be dressed in a bridal gown and presented to Thrym. However, Freyja responded to the demand with such an overpowering display of fury that even the God of Thunder was forced to relent. With Freyja's refusal, though, the gods find themselves at a loss.

"Ah, what a ugly maid it is!", Elmer Boyd Smith, 1902.

"Ah, what a ugly maid it is!", Elmer Boyd Smith, 1902.

Oddly enough, rather than the clever and cunning Loki, it is actually Heimdall, the stern and taciturn guardian of the Bifrost, who provided a solution. With Freyja's outright refusal, Heimdall suggests Thor, himself, could take her place—presenting himself to Thrym clad in a bridal gown, and with his face covered by a veil.

Fearing the mockery that is certain to result from this, Thor is reluctent. Loki, however, is so amused by the idea that he immediately interjects. Playing on Thor's sense of honour, Loki points out that Asgard will be left vulnerable to attack if Mjöllnir is not recovered—and, that Thor should be willing to do whatever is necessary to recover his hammer, as soon as possible. As an added incentive, Loki also offers to accompany Thor, disguised as the bride's handmaid. Still reluctant, though won over by Loki's words, Thor allows himself to be dressed in a bridal gown, his face covered by a veil and with Freyja's gold necklace placed around his neck. With Loki similarly clad in the gown of a handmaid, the pair set out for the land of the giants, to meet with Thrym.

Naturally, Thrym is overjoyed to find who he takes to be the goddess, Freyja, arriving at his home, in the company of a handmaid. He immediately welcomes the pair, and orders a feast to be prepared in their honour. Finding himself presented with so much food, the disguised God of Thunder momentarily forgot his true purpose—rapidly consuming an entire ox, eight whole salmon, along with all of the other delicacies that had been set out, and washing it all down with three horns of mead. Naturally, Thrym has stunned by this display—commenting that he had never seen, or heard of, a maiden eating so much. Thinking quickly, Loki interjected, stating that Freyja had been so excited to come to the land of the giants that she had not been able to eat for eight days. Then, Thrym leaned forward to kiss his future bride, only to find himself driven back Thor's fierce glare. He commented on this as well—though, once more, Loki was able to interject, stating that Freyja had been so excited to meet Thrym that she had not been able to sleep for eight nights.

Reassured, Thrym finally ordered for Mjöllnir to be brought forth, and laid on his future bride's lap, in order to bless the wedding. With Mjöllnir in hs grasp once more, Thor leapt into action. Casting off his veil, Thor finally revealed himself to the gathered giants as he unleashed his fury on them—starting with Thrym, himself. When Thor's fury was finally satisfied, he and Loki returned to Asgard in triumph.

And, that is the story of how Thor recovered Mjöllnir from the giants.

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