The Lay of Thrym

1804 William Herbert

Þrymskviða or Hamarsheimt

from Miscellaneous Poetry, 2 vols





From the Old Icelandic in Sæmund's Edda


Edda of Saemund is a collection of old Icelandic odes, some of which are supposed to have been written before the birth of Christ. It is said to have been compiled by the learned Saemund, who was born in Iceland in 1056; according to some, 1054 or 1057. The name of Saemund's Edda was affixed to the manuscript in the seventeenth century by Bryniolfus Svenonius, bishop of Skalholt. The prose Edda, attributed to Snorro Sturleson, is founded upon these poems.

Mr. Cottle has published, what he calls a translation of this ode, but it bears little resemblance to the original. Translations made, like Dr. Percy's, by a person nacquainted with the Icelandic language, through the medium of a Latin prose version, cannot be expected to represent the style and spirit of the originals: but Mr. C. has not even taken the trouble of understanding the Latin; otherwise he never could have translated, Ex Noatunis, "Whom Noathuna calls her son;"  or, Illico gigantes Asgardum habitahunt, "Know the Asgardi sons shall reign:" or, what is more extraordinary, in the 22d stanza, Tunc profatus est Thrymus Thursorum dynastes, "Thursori! dynasts of this sphere !" (Thor began approaching near) and in the 20th,


 Tunc profatus est Lokius Loveyia; natus ;

"Abstin, Thore, istorum verborum."

"Care not for that, Loveyia's son!'

Lok in quick reply begun.


 In the three last mentioned passages Mr. C appears to have confounded the nominative with the accusative; which is not improbable, as he has given Thursi for the nominative of Thursorum. In the tenth stanza he has represented Freyia as consenting to go instead of refusing, which destroys the sense of all, that follows.




Wrath -waxed Thor,[1] when his sleep was flown,

And he found his trusty hammer gone;

He smote his brow, his beard he shook,

The son of earth[2] ‘gan round him look;

And this the-first word, that he spoke; 5

"Now listen what I tell thee, Loke;[3]

Which neither on earth below is known,

Nor in Heaven above; my hammer's gone.

Their way to Freyia's[4] bower they took,

And this the first word, that he spoke; 10

"Thou, Freyia, must lend a winged robe,

To seek my hammer round the globe."



That shouldst thou have, though 'twere of gold,

And that, though 'twere of silver, hold."[5]

Away flew Loke ; the wing'd robe sounds, 15


Ere he has left the Asgard grounds,

And ere he has reach'd the Jotunheim bounds.

High on a mound in haughty state

 Thrym the king of the Thursi sate; [6]

 For his dogs he was twisting collars of gold, 20

 And trimming the manes of his coursers bold.


THRYM sung.


"How fare the Asi? the Alfi how? [7]

 Why com'st thou alone to Jotunheim now?”


LOKE sung.

 "Ill fare the Asi; the Alfi mourn;

Thor's hammer from him thou hast torn." 25


THRYM sung.

“I have the Thunderer's hammer bound,
Fathoms eight beneath the ground; [8]  
With it shall no one homeward tread,
Till he bring me Freyia to share my bed."

Away flew Loke; the wing'd robe sounds, 30
Ere he has left the Jotunheim bounds,
And ere he has reach'd the Asgard grounds.
At Midgard[9]  Thor met crafty Loke,
And this the first word, that he spoke;

"Have you your errand and labor done? 35

Tell from aloft the course, you run.
For setting oft the story fails,
And lying oft the lie prevails.''[10]


LOKE sung.

"My labor is past, mine errand I bring;
Thrym has thine hammer, the giant king:
With it shall no one homeward tread,
Till he bear him Freyia to share his bed."


Their way to lovely Freyia they took,

And this the first word, that he spoke;


"Now, Freyia, busk, [11] as a blooming bride; 45

Together, we must, to Jotunheim ride."


Wrath waxed Freyia with ireful look;

All Asgard's hall with wonder shook;

Her great bright necklace started wide.


“Well may ye call me a wanton bride, 50

If I with ye to Jotunheim ride"


The Asi did all to council crowd,

The Asiniæ[12] all talk'd fast and loud;

This they debated, and this they sought,

How the hammer of Thor should home be brought. 55

Up then and spoke Heimdallar[13] free,

Like the Vani, wise was he;[14]


"Now busk we Thor, as a bride so fair;

Let him that great bright necklacewear;

Round him let ring the spousal keys, [15]  60

And a maiden kirtle[16] hang to his knees,

 And on his bosom jewels rare;
And high and quaintly braid his hair."


Wrath waxed Thor with godlike pride;
"Well may the Asi me deride, 65

If I let me be dight,[17] as a blooming bride."


Then up spoke Loke, Laufeyia's son;

" Now hush thee, Thor; this must be done:
The giants will strait in Asgard reign,
If thou thine hammer dost not regain." 70



Then busk'd they Thor, as a bride so fair,
And the great bright necklace gave him to wear;
Round him let ring the spousal keys,
And a maiden kirtle hang to his knees,
And on his bosom jewels rare; 75

And high and quaintly braided his hair-
Up then arose the crafty Loke,
Laufeyia's son, and thus he spoke;

"A servant I thy steps will tend,
Together we must to Jotunheim wend." 80


Now home the goats together hie;

Yoked to the axle they swiftly fly.[18]

The mountains shook, the earth burn’d red,

As Odin’s son to Jotunheim sped.

Then Thyrm the King of the Thursi said: 85


“Giants, stand up; let the seats be spread:

Bring Freyia, Niorder’s daughter down

To share my bed from Noatun.[19]

With horns all gilt each coal-black beast

Is led to deck the giant’s feast;  90

Large wealth and jewels[20] have I stored;

I lack but Freia to grace my board."


Betimes at evening they approached,

And the mantling ale the giants broach’d.

The spouse of Sif ate alone 95

Eight salmon, and an ox full-grown,

And all the cates on which women feed

And drank three firkins of sparkling mead.

Then Thrym the king of the Thursi said;


“Where have ye beheld such a hungry maid?” 100

Ne'er saw I bride so keenly feed,
Nor drink so deep of the sparkling mead."

Then forward lent the crafty Loke,
And thus the giant he bespoke ;


"Nought has she eat for eight long nights, 105

So did she long for the nuptial rites."

He stoop'd beneath her veil to kiss,
But he started the length of the hall, I wiss.

"Why are the looks of Freyia so dire?
It seems, as her eyeballs glisten'd with fire.' 110


Then forward lent the crafty Loke,
And thus the giant he bespoke;

"Nought has she slept for eight long nights.
So did she long for the nuptial rites;" 

Then in the giant's sister came, 115

Who dared a bridal gift to claim;

"Those rings of gold from thee I crave,
If thou wilt all my fondness have,
All my love and fondness have."


Then Thrym the king of the Thursi said; 120


"Bear in the hammer to plight the maid;
Upon her lap the bruizer lay.
And firmly plight our hands and fay.”[21].

The Thunderer's soul smiled in his breast,
When the hammer hard on his lap was placed; 125

Thrym first the king of the Thursi he slew,
And slaughter'd all the giant crew.
He slew that giant's sister old,
Who pray'd for bridal gifts so bold.
Instead of money and rings, I wot? 130

The hammers bruises were her lot.

Thus Odin's son his hammer got.



[1] Thor. Thor was worshipped by the Norwegians, as the most powerful of the Gods. His favorite weapon was a hammer, which was shaped like a cross. The following passages are translated from Peringskiold's Uplandic monuments relative to a Runestone, on which this hammer is represented. " Johannes Magnus Goth. Sveon. Hist. lib. 1. cap. 9. pag. 30 och brodren Olaus Magni, lib. 3. cap. 3. pag. 100. afbilda Thor med en spira, &c." i.e.. "Johannes Magnus, &c. and his brother Olaus, &c. represent Thor with a sceptre in his right 'hand, and twelve stars round his head. Others give Thor also a cruciform thunderbolt in his left hand, and seven stars over his head. Thor's hammer is described in the Eddas with the additional name of miolner; viz. in Sturleson's, &c. it may be seen, that Thor the son of Odin amongst his chattels possessed the hammer miolnor, which the Rimthussi .and mountain sorcerers knew to their cost. When Thor dressed himself, he took the hammer miolner, lifted up and brandished it. Thor struck the hammer against the head of the giant Skrymner; another time Thor threw the hammer after Yme the sorcerer, and broke his head, &c."

"The mark of the hammer with its handle up. on the Runestone at Roby is seven spans, as the length of a moderate sceptre requires. The ancient inhabitants of this country did not use a sceptre with lilies, but with a cross upon it, or like the trident of Neptune. The shape of Thor's hammer in the time of paganism was exactly a cross; for when king Hacon sacrificed with the Heathens in Norway, and was forced to drink out of the offering cup, he made the Christian sign of the cross before his mouth; but this was interpreted by his heathen subjects, as if he had made the sign of Thor's hammer before his mouth, and so made the holy libation to the God Thor. The king's governors and ministers had formerly permission to use the representation of Thor's hammer or a cross, to shew the might and power entrusted to them. In former times, when the people were convened by the king to the public assembly and court of judicature, the hammer of Thor was used amongst the Hea thens for sign and summons; but, when they became Christians, a cross of wood was adopted in its stead, which was sent round the villages. See Angr. Jon. lib. 1. Rerum Island, c. 7. and Stephan. in Sax. Gram, p. 250." Peringskiold's Uplandic Monuments. Stockh. 1710. pag. 555.

Thor is stated in the Edda (Göransori's edition, p. 22.) to have been the son of Odin and Jorth, the earth, who was his own daughter.

[2] "The son of earth." Jardar bur, one of Thor's appellations.

[3] "Loke" The son of Laufey or Laufeyia, was one of the Asi.

[4] "Freyia." The daughter of Niorder of the nation of the Vani. "Tha er Niordur var meth Vönom, &c." i. e. “ Whilst Niorder was amongst the Vani, he had espoused his sister; for that was according to their law. Frey and Freyia were their children. But amongst the Asi it was forbidden to marry such near relations." Ynglinga Saga, c. 4.

V. 16. " Asgard." As-gard means the abode of the Asi, who were the countrymen of Odin. Suhm in his Historie af Danmark (v. 1. p. 17.) considers, that there were three Odins. The first, son of Bör of the nation of the Asi, who dwelt in the old Asgard at the mouth of the Tanais, introduced the worship of the Sun, and after his death was deified by his countrymen. The second, son of Heremod, a descendant of the old Odin, fled before Darius at the time of his expedition against the Scythians, built the new Asgard near the Duna, and inhabited the country between that river and the Veissel. From thence he passed over into Sweden, and waged war against all the Jotuns, who would not acknowledge him to be their God and the offspring of the Sun. Lastly came the third Odin, son of Fridleif, from old Asgard about 50 years before the birth of Christ, stopped some time at the new Asgard, and from thence proceded to Sweden, where he dwelt at Sigtuna, and built a temple at Upsala, which became his principal residence. It is the opinion of some writers, that Upsala itself is sometimes called Asgard ; and it seems very probable, that this name was applied to the metropolis of the Asi, in whatever country they sojourned. In his observations  Saxo Grammaticus, which are printed in the eleventh volume of his Samlede skrifter, Suhm is contented with two Odins. The following passage, which gives a very plausible solution of some of the difficulties, that occur in the Northern mythology, is translated from thence.


"It was not difficult for Odin to make the progress, which he did in the North; for he gave out, that he and his companions were the very Gods, who were already worshipped there. For this must be observed, that I reckon more, than one Odin. Saxo himself speaks in this place of a Mit-Odin, that is a middle Odin, from which we may conclude, that he believed, there were three. But I hold, that not more than two are necessary. The first inhabitants of the North came undoubtedly out of Asia, from the countries situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian. That is the reason, that the name Aser is found in our old histories, and the last Odin improperly took the name of As. Whether some men, called Odin, Thor, and so forth, were amongst the first, I shall not attempt to say; but thus much is certain, that by Thor was understood the supreme Deity, and by Odin the Sun. The last Odin, whether he bore that name before, or adopted it after his arrival, sometimes gave himself Out to be the Deity Odin, and, as he was the most eminent of his party, sometimes also to be the first and Supreme God. Perhaps at the commencement he met with people, who were acquainted with the God Odin only; for otherwise it would have been as easy for him to have called himself Thor; but, when he had once established himself as Odin, it was necessary to adhere to that. Hence sprung the diversify of notions in our mythology: for Odin induced some to believe, that he was the supreme God; some on the contrary could not be brought to this, but, as his exploits were great in war, they conceived, that he was the God-of battle, which others thought to be either Thor, or Tyr. Eut some held him in such abhorrence, that they considered him as a God indeed, (for they had felt his might too much to deny this) but as a wicked God ; and they reckoned, that he was the evil, and Thor on the other hand the good being. The seat of Thor was principally in Norway, where it does not seem, that the arms of Odin made great progress. The true seat of Odin was in Sweden. Before his time, according to my opinion, the great northern peninsula and its inhabitants had no special name amongst the natives themselves, excepting, that the northern division was called Nor-riget, or the north kingdom, and the southern Sydriget, or the south kingdom; from which the names Norvegia, Norvegi, Normanni, Suionia, Suiones, are derived; whence Norige, corruptly Nerigon, is found in Pliny, and Suiones in Tacitus. The large and tall people are called in our language Riser, from which perhaps the Russians acquired their name; Jetter, which according to different pronunciations was changed to Jyder, Gauter, Geater, and Gother; (by which last name a German nation near the Baltic, in. troduced by the last Odin, was particularly called in ancient times) and Kiaemper, which the Romans changed into Cimbri, or Kimbri. It is certain, that our old history and mythology has been very much perplexed by confounding the elder Odin and Thor with the later." Suhm's Samlede skrifter, 11. 146.

I have subjoined an extract from the old Icelandic Rymbegla, in which Odin is called the son of Thor. It is not singular, that so much diversity should appear in the accounts of Odin's parents, as there were evidently more, than one Odin, and the object of the last was to conceal the whole of his real history. "Upp-haf allra frasagna i Norrainne tungu theirra," &c. i. e. "All the accounts in the northern tongue, which adhere to truth, commence at the time, when the Turks and Asiatics settled in the north; whence it may be truly said, that the language, which we call Nor. them, came with them here into the North, and spread over Saxony, Denmark, and Sweden, Norway, and some parts of England. The leader of these people was Odin the son of Thor; he had many sons. Many trace their descent from Odin; he established his sons in the country, and made them rulers over it. One of his sons was named Skiolldur, who took to himself the land, now called Denmark; but at that time those lands, which the Asiatics inhabited, were called the lands of the Gods, and the nation the people or race of the Gods. Boundaries were fixed between Skiolldur and his brother Ingfreir, who dwelt in the kingdom now called Sweden. Odin and his sons were very wise and deeply learned, beautiful in countenance, and mighty in strength. Many others of their race were men of great eminence with various perfections; and the people took some of them to worship and believe in, and called them their Gods." Rymbegla, 3. I. p. 316. Having mentioned the various countries, in which was spoken the ancient language of Odin, now called the Icelandic, it may not be improper to add the following translation of a passage in Baron Holberg's reign of king Canute concerning its prevalence in England. "It is to be remarked, that various languages were used in Great Britain from the first arrival of the Anglo. Saxons. The English tongue, or that, which was spoken by the Angli, differed very little from the Danish, because the Angli came from Jutland, on which account their language was also called by ancient writers Cimbric or Gothic. This language was spoken in the provinces, which lay north of the river Thames, as the Saxon was in the south. Although they differed from each other, yet the distinction was not so great, but that each of them could be understood by both nations, the Angli and the Saxons. These languages flourished together in the country, till the heptarchy was Abolished and the seven small kingdoms united; for then the Saxon began to prevail together with the Saxon kings, and the English or Danish fell gradually into disuse. But afterwards, when a new swarm of Danes established in the country, the Danish came into use again, although it was not the same, which the Angli or South Jutlanders had brought with them; so that there may be reckoned three distinct tongues besides the British or Welsh language, namely the English or old Danish, the Saxon, and the new Danish, which last was principally spoken in Northumberland, East Anglia, and Mercia, of which the Danes had gained possession. At last, as the Danish was the language of the court under Canute the great and his two successors, the other provinces, even the West Saxons,' -were forced to accustom themselves to the Danish dialect then in fashion; so that the old West Saxon tongue was corrupted by the Danish, as we now see the Danish corrupted and likely to be completely changed 'by the German, which is at present the court language of the country. For the court is the principal school for language, as all affect to speak the same, or at least attempt to introduce words or expressions from iit into the general tongue. So it happened with the Danish under the three Danish kings: but when their rule had ended, and Edward the Confessor acceded to the throne, the Saxon became the language of the court again, until William the conqueror gained possession of England, and introduced the Norman tongue, which was a mixture of Danish and French. The English of the present day is a composition of all these languages." Holbergs Dannemarks riges Histiorie, 1. 150.

[5] It is remarkable, that silver is here mentioned, as preferable to gold, and I believe intentionally; for gold is frequently spoken of by the old Icelandic poets, and silver very rarely. Suhm (Hist. afDaitm. I. 119) observes, that many utensils of gold have been dug out of the earth in the northern countries, but very few of silver.

[6] Jotunheim/ "Thursi.”  The situation of Jotunheim is supposed to have been north east of the Baltic, and to have extended from the White Sea even to the north western coast of Norway, where Helgeland was inhabited by a nation of this race. They were indiscriminately called by the names of Jotni, or Jæter, and Thursi, Riser, Kiæmper, (whence the old English word Kemp and Kemperye man, a soldier) and several others expressive of their size and ferocity. Angrim Jonas, who was fully convinced of the gigantic bulk of the ancient inhabitants of the north before the time of Odin, is very desirous of establishing their descent from the Canaanites, who were routed by Joshua, which he has labored at length to prove in the first book of his Crymogaea. After enumerating the most conspicuous giants of the north, (the last of whom, fifteen cubits high, is said to have been killed by king Magnus Erichson in 1338) to shew how wide they extended in earlier times he continues, "Adde, quod provincia quantum Norvegiae seu Fiumarkiae contermina Risaland (id est, gigantum terra, nam en rise et rese gigantem significat) antiquitus dicta est; a qua non longe abest Jotunheimar, id est, gigantum habitatio; (unde etiamnum en Jæt gigas dicitur) ut nihil dicam de Jütumland, quo nomine nostratibus dicebatur olim, quae hodie vocatur Jutland, et coropluribus etiam Cimbrorum terra sen Chersonesus; eo quo. que nomine facto a Kemper, id est, gigantibus pugnantibus." Crimogæa, p. 42. 

Schoning, who completely agrees with Angrim Jonas as to the reality of their immense size, rejects the idea of their coming into the north from Canaan; for which indeed there is no ground, but the similarity of their bulk, and the letter th in their language, which is supposed to be of Hebrew origin. Schoning reckons, that they were descendants of the Thussagetae, which he considers to be compounded from Thursi or Thussi (for they are sometimes called Hrim-thussi or cold Thussi) and Jotner or Jeter; and supposes them to have been first driven from their old habitations at the time of the famous expedition of Darius against the Scythians. They were originally connected with the tribes, which Odin afterwards led to the same countries in consequence of the violence of Mithridates, and spoke the same language. See Schoning's Nordiske folkes oprindelse, p. 157. It is certainly probable, that the first that the first inhabitants of the north were of superior strength and stature, accustomed, as they must have been, from the rugged nature of the climate and country, to a hardy and fearless life, and at the time of their first establishment amply supplied with animal food to increase their bulk, and enable them to contend with the severity of the seasons. When Odin invaded the same regions with a second hoard of settlers, he resolved to exterminate those, whom he could .not subdue, or win over to his party; and he therefore represented them to his followers as miscreated monsters and sorcerers; and all the accounts of their enormous stature, which probably had some foundation, were naturally exaggerated by their opponents.

[7]  "Alfi The Edda of Snorro gives the following account of Alfheim, and its inhabitants, who were inferior to the Asi or Gods, and held the rank of secondary divinities; and from their name is derived our word Elf. The Latin writers have thought proper to call them Fauni, from a prevailing desire of identifying the Roman and Scandinavian mythology. "Sa er thar stadr," &c. i. e. "There is a place, which is called Alfheim; there dwell a people hight Liosalfar or Light Alfs ; but the Dauckalfar or Dark Alfs inhabit under ground, and they are unlike the others in appearance, and still more unlike in fact. The Light Alfs are whiter in appearance, than the Sun; but the Dark Alfs more swarthy, than pitch." Göransson's Edda, p. 34. The Alfi were in fact a tribe related to the Asi, and inhabited the province of Eahus, a part of Norway now belonging to Sweden.

[8] "Fathom," raustom. It is not known exactly, what thjs measure is; though probably much more, than a fathom: but the precise depth is of no importance.

[9] "Midgard." The boundary between the Asi and Jotuns or giants. The following account of it is given in the Edda of Snorro.—"Kringlott er jorth," &c. i, e. The earth is circular, and a deep sea, lies round it; and on the shores they (the sons of Bor, viz: Odin, Vili, and Ve) gave a habitation t« the giants; but in front within the earth they made a town against the attacks of the giants, and for this purpose they used the eyebrows of Yme, and called the town Midgard. They cast his brains into the air, and made the clouds of them; as is here stated : "Of Yme's flesh was the earth created, Of his sweat the sea, the hills of his bones, The meadows of his hair, and of his head the heaven, And of his eyebrows the blithe Gods made Midgard for the sons of men, and of his brains Were all the hard-tempered clouds created. When the sons of Bor walked on the sea strand, they found two trees, and of these they formed mankind. The first gave breath, the second life, the third hearing and sight; and the man was called Askr and the woman Emla. From them sprung mankind, to whom a habitation was given under Midgard. After that they made Asgard in the middle of the world. There dwelt Odin, and the race of those, from whom our race is descended." Göransson's Edda, p. 20. See also Schoning's Nordiske folkes oprindelse, p. 101, &c.

[10] "Opt sitianda saugor um fallaz, ok liggiandi lýgi um bellir." These lines are translated literally. It is probably an old proverbial saying, and seems to mean, that, if Loke waited till he sat down he might forget half his story; and, if he waited till he had slept upon it, he would probably invent a false one.

[11] busk, dress.

[12] "Asiniæ." The wives and daughters of the Asi.

[13] "Heimdallar." Literally, Heimdallar, the whitest of the Asi. He was the son of Odin, from whom he received the kingdom of Scania." Heimdallar was called the white God; he is great and holy; he was the son of nine virgins, all sisters. He is the sentinel of the Gods, and sits at the extremity of heaven to guard the bridge against the mountain-giants. He requires less sleep, than a bird; he sees by night, as well as by day, a hundred miles (rasta) before him; he hears the grass grow on the earth, and the wool on the flocks, and every thing, that sounds. He has a trumpet, which is called' Giallarhorn, and its blast is heard throughout the world." See Göransson's Edda, p. 44. This probably meant, that he was the God of light, which springs from the nine heavens or worlds, as they are numbered in Vafthrudnismal, "nio kom ec heima fyr niflhel nedan." i. e. I have visited nine worlds above the abyss of hell.

[14]  "Vani." The Vani were a nation, who dwelt near the river Tanais, which in the old northern tongue was called the Vana, and they extended towards the Volga. See Yngl. Sag. c. 1. Before the emigration of Odin a long war had been carried on between the Vani and their neighbours the Asi, which, after a dubious contest, terminated in peace and exchange of hostages. Niorder and his son Frey were hostages from the Vani, and they accompanied Odin into the north. See Yngl. Sag. c. 4. The Vani had the character of superior 'wisdom and learning, as appears also in Scirnis-for in the old Edda, where Gerdur asks Scirner, whether he comes from the Alfi, the Asi, or the wise Vani. "Hvat er that Alfa, ne Asa sona, ne víssa Vana?" The same epithet is applied to them in Vafthrudnismal. Schoning reckons, that they were a Grecian colony, and on this account superior to their neighbours in learning. See N. F. Oprindelse, p. 268.

[15] It was customary to hang the keys to the waist of the bride, to shew, that the management of the household was intrusted to her.

[16] kirtle, a woman's garment.

[17] dight; dressed, adorned

[18] "Thor possesses two goats and a chariot; the goats are called Tangnoster and Tangsnir (or Tangrisner). When he goes to Jotunheim, Thor drives the chariot, which is drawn by them; and on that account he is called Auko-Thor." See Göransson's Edda, p. 38.

[19] "Noatun." The habitation of Niorder. See Göransson's Edda, p. 40. Yngl. Sag. c. S. and Grimnismal, st. 16.

[20] "Jewels." In the original menia, necklaces

[21] Fay, faith.