Myth Monday: Thor fishes for the serpent

** As usual, anything in the story that is inside quotation marks and in italics is quoted from Faulkes translation of The Prose Edda.**

After returning from Utgard, Thor did not stay home long before heading out for redress against Jormungandr. He left “so hastily that he had with him no chariot and no goats and no companionship“. He disguised himself as a young boy as he traveled across Midgard until he came to the home of a giant named Hymir. He stayed the night there and, when Hymir woke in the morning to go fishing out at sea, Thor got up and asked to go with him. Hymir told him he didn’t think it would be helpful to take a young boy with him and he was afraid the boy would catch a cold if he went out as far and as long as he usually goes. But Thor said he shouldn’t worry about that because there was no way to know that it wouldn’t be Hymir himself that wanted to rush back to shore instead. And he was so angry at Hymir at this moment that he thought about smashing him with his hammer. But he decided to calm down and save his strength for his run in with the serpent later. He asked Hymir what bait they would use and was told he would have to go get his own bait. So Thor went out to a herd of oxen and tore the head off the biggest ox there and it took it with him for bait. They rowed out to where Hymir meant to do his fishing, but Thor insisted they row farther. After another stretch of rowing, Hymir told Thor they should stop there since it was too dangerous to go further because of the Midgard Serpent. But Thor did row farther despite it making Hymir unhappy. “And when Thor had shipped his oars, he got out a line that was pretty strong, and the hook was no smaller or less mighty-looking”. And he fastened the ox head onto the hook and threw it overboard so the hook went to the bottom. “Thor fooled the Midgard serpent no less than Utgarda-Loki had made a laughing-stock of Thor”, and when Jormungandr took the bait, he pulled back so hard that Thor’s fists banged down on the gunwale. This made Thor so angry that he summoned all his “As-strength” and planted his feet down through the boat and braced them into the sea-bed itself, pulling the serpent up with his hands. Thor fixed his eyes on the serpent, “and the serpent stared back up at him spitting poison”. Hymir became so frightened when seeing the serpent and the sea flowing into the boat, that he took his knife and cut Thor’s line from the gunwale causing the serpent to sink back into the sea. Thor threw his hammer after it, and was so angry at losing the serpent that he hit Hymir’s ear with his fist so hard that it plunged him overboard and one could see the soles of his feet going under the water. “But Thor waded ashore“. 

Thoughts for discussion: Why are there so many continued attempts to do things opposite of the prophecy of Ragnarok if they know they can’t stop it? This happens multiple times in the myths. Could it be that they didn’t believe in a totally unchangeable destiny after all? Or were they just trying to buy time and slow down the inevitable? Along the same line, Why is Thor so much more actively aggressive toward the Jotun than the other Aesir? Many of them had at least some form of aggression towards giants, but Thor would actually go out on journeys for the purpose of “thrashing trolls”. And the myths often repeat the fact that he does this so often that the giants fear being around him. So why is he specifically the one who is that focused on killing them? Just some points to ponder.

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