Why did Thor go Fishing ?

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Thor goes fishing




The story of Thor goes fishing is mentioned in the 13th century Icelandic work of literature the Prose of Edda, and the Poetic Edda within Hymiskvitha. It is also depicted upon a 17th century Icelandic rune stone at Altuna, Sweden. Below pictures the runestone found in Altuna. 



The story tells of Thor's visit to Hymir the giant, to take his colossal cauldron back to Asgard for the gods, who needed it to replenish their supply of ale. It is unclear of the reason why the gods had no ale, however the poetic Edda mentions that it was Hymir who kept the cauldrons to himself to spite the gods and that the Aesir Thor to take the giant’s cauldron. Tyr, the god of war, who is also the son of Hymir tells Thor that to take the cauldrons from his father they must be cunning. Thor travels to Hymirs disguised as a young boy as not to make the giant suspicious. Within the Poetic Edda Thor goes under the guise of the name Veur. He took Tyr with him as he was the giants son and would  help outwit the fierce giant. The gods travelled as far east as they could go, to the near end of earth and sky in heaven where Hymir’s hall sat on a hill side near the sea.


The Poetic Edda tells us that upon their arrival Tyr’s mother and his nine-hundred headed grandmother tell them to hide in the cauldron as Hymir does not take kindly to guests. After knocking down all of his cauldrons bar the one Thor and Tyr are hiding in, Hymir begrudgingly accepts his son and his friend into his hall. He even slaughters three of his bulls for the boys provision during their stay. He is shocked when Veur (Thor) devours two of the three slaughtered bulls in one sitting. Irked by Thor’s legendary hunger, Hymir set off the following day to go fishing for more food. Thor asks to accompany Hymir on his fishing trip and Hymir accepts, telling Thor to collect some bait from his pasture. Hymir is dismayed when Thor comes back with the head of the his best Ox, Himinhjrot the Heaven Bellower.


Hymir, and the nuisance Veur launched the boat. After some time Hymir took over the oars and Thor urged him to row further out into the sea. Hymir was fearful of Jormungand the Midgard Serpent who lurked below the deepest part of the ocean, so he stopped rowing and began to fish. Hymir quickly pulled up two whales, their fight churning the water into a whirlpool. Thor then cast his line, with the oxen’s head hooked at the end, into the deep dark water. Suddenly Thor's line began to tighten. As he pulled the enemy of the gods Jormungand the Serpent to the surface, Thor reached for his hammer, his feet snapping through the boat from the tension of reeling in the enormous creature. As the serpent writhed and twisted, Thor stuck his hammer on its head, the highest mountains of Jotunheim heard its screams and they replied with a shudder. The hook that was tangled in the serpent's jaw broke loose and Jormungand sank to the bottom of the sea. Hymir, appalled at Thor’s actions, began to row homeward.  It is important to note that within the Poetic Edda, the explanation of why the serpent breaks loose from Thor’s line is missing.

(Pictured below is Thor capturing Jormungand beside a fearful Hymir).


When the boat’s hull finally hit the shingle, Hymir cheekily asked for assistance to haul the boat up the beach. Thor responded by jumping out of the boat and dragging the boat with the giant and two whales on board up the shore, through the woods and over the hills until the boat was put to rest outside the giant’s house.


Now back in his great hall, Hymir is intimidated by Thor’s strength and fearlessness in his near capture of the Jormungund. Rather unwisely, Hymir challenges Thor with another task: to smash his unbreakable glass goblet. Thor threw the Goblet across the hall against a pillar. Pieces of stone and rubble flew everywhere, but the glass was still intact. Hymir’s wife whispered to Thor to throw it against Hymir’s head for it was hard as stone. Once again Thor threw the goblet, and this time it smashed in two against the giant’s solid forehead.


The giant stared at the broken shards with defeat in his eyes and then granted ownership of the cauldron to Thor; “‘With the loss of this goblet,’ he said ‘I lose far more than a goblet’.... ‘What's mine is yours now. My last cauldron is yours.’ he said. ‘I can’t stop you from taking it’” (Crossley-Holland, pp. 101, 1985).


Thor carried the cauldron out of the hall on his shoulders. Thor and Tyr had not gone far when they turned to discover Hymir and the other giants emerging from their lairs after Thor and the cauldron. Thor released the cauldron and swung his hammer, knocking all the giants with their many heads down.


Thor and Tyr returned home to Asgard acclaimed by the gods. That winter, and every other winter since, the gods enjoy ale brewed in the sea giant’s cauldron.



Thanks for reading!





All pictures used are our own images or have been labelled for reuse.


[1]Ashliman, E. (1997). Thor and the Midgard Serpent. [online] Pitt.edu. Available at: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/thorserpent.html [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].


[2] Bellows, H. (1936). The Poetic Edda. New York: The American- Scandinavian Foundation.


[3] Crossley-Holland, K. (1985). Axe-Age, Wolf-Age. A selection from the Norse Myths. 1st ed. London: Faber and Faber Limited, pp. 97-102.


[4] Larrington, C. (1996). The Poetic Edda. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 78-83.


[5]Sturluson, S. and Brodeur, A. (1916). The Prose Edda. 1st ed. Michigan: American-Scandinavian Foundation.


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