Myth Monday: Thor Meets with Geirrod

* Italicized text is quotation from  Skaldskaparmal in Faulkes translation of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. 

Bragi told Aegir that there was once a time when Thor went to the courts of the giant, Geirrod without Mjolnir or his girdle of might, or gauntlets. He said “that was Loki’s doing. He went with him, for it had befallen Loki, having gone flying once for fun with Frigg’s falcon form”. While Loki was flying he spotted a great hall in Giantland that belonged to Geirrod. He flew in for a closer look and peeked into the window. Geirrod spotted the falcon and sent one of his servants to go and catch it. So Loki flew up to the top of the hall’s roof and perched there amused at how difficult it was for Geirrod’s servant to make the climb. He decided to stay there and wait until the servant got to the top to fly away as a way of taunting. However, as Loki started to flap his wings to fly away, he found that his feet were stuck on the roof and he was caught by the servant. The servant took the falcon to Geirrod. But when Geirrod looked into the falcon’s eyes he sensed that it may actually be a person and questioned it to reveal itself and other things. But Loki remained silent and would not speak a word no matter what. So Geirrod locked him in a chest without any food or drink, starving him, for three months. When he brought Loki out of the chest and demanded that he speak, Loki finally talked and admitted who he was. And, in exchange for his life, he swore oaths that he would get Thor to come to Geirrod’s courts without his hammer, girdle of might, or gauntlets. Thor agreed to go along with this and had Loki accompany him on the journey. Along the way, he stopped for lodging one night at the home of a giantess called Grid. She told him that Geirrod was a cunning giant and hard to deal with. So she loaned him a girdle of might and iron gauntlets of hers along with her staff called Grid’s Pole. “Then Thor approached the river called Vimur, greatest of all rivers”. So he buckled on the girdle of might and pressed down on Gird’s pole away from the current while Loki held onto the bottom of the girdle. When Thor got to the middle of the river it rose up so much that it went over his shoulders. He got angry and called to the river saying that if it continued to rise he would raise his As-strength all the way to heaven until the river subsided. Then he noticed a cleft and saw one of Geirrod’s daughters, Gialp, standing astride the river and making it rise. So he pulled a great stone out of the river and threw it at Gialp saying “At its outlet must a river be stemmed”. Snorri goes on to tell us “He did not miss what he was aiming at, and at that moment he found himself close to the bank and managed to grasp a sort of rowan-bush and thus climbed out of the river”. Because of this they say “Thor’s salvation is a Rowan”. 

When Thor and Loki arrived at Geirrod’s they were shown to a goat-shed for their lodging. Inside the shed there was a single chair. Thor took the seat so Loki sat on the floor. Suddenly the chair began to rise toward the ceiling. It rose so high that he would have gotten his head crushed. But he pushed down with Grid’s pole and slammed the chair back down on the ground. This crash of the chair was followed by a loud crack and loud scream. They saw that it had been Geirrod’s daughters, Gialp and Greip under the chair pushing it upward, and that the chair slamming down had broken both of their backs. Then Geirrod had Thor called into his hall for some games. Once Thor entered the hall and stood opposite of Geirrod, Geirrod used tongs to pick up a lump of molten iron and threw it at Thor. But Thor used the iron gauntlets he had gotten from Grid and caught the flaming ball. Seeing this, Geirrod hid behind an iron pillar for protection. But “Thor flung the molten lump and it crashed through the pillar and through Geirrod and through the wall and so into the ground outside”. And that is the end of the tale in Snorri’s version. 

Discussion Thoughts:  1) This is Snorri’s version of portions from the older poem “Thorsdrapa”, which is then cited in the Prose Edda after Snorri’s own telling. Thorsdrapa does say that Loki tricked Thor into going to Geirrod, but doesn’t say how he got the idea or that Geirrod had tortured him first like Snorri’s version. However, this is the second time we’ve seen Snorri write something as Loki’s fault when he clearly says it was after being tortured by another giant. Is this Snorri’s way of presenting a standard of loyalty that was expected in his time? In similar situations, or less, Odin had many times made oaths knowing he would not keep them just to get out of the mess or get what he wanted. So was it considered more wrong to crack under torture than it was to break an oath? We know they did have a lot of exchanges of power in Snorri’s lifetime. Maybe that played a role in this view? 

2) This tale (in both versions) shows more examples of Thor’s temperament and ego. And Grid did warn him that Geirrod was very cunning. When the river started rising, he threatened it as if it were a person before he knew it was being affected by someone else. Could this have been a way to mess with his mind more so than it was to drown him? In the goat-shed, there was only one chair. Had he not sat himself on the higher and nicer seat and made his companion sit on the ground, the sisters could not have lifted him up with it. That being said, is it possible that Geirrod and his daughters knew that Thor would take the chair instead of giving it to his companion and that being a way to lure him to it by having only the one chair? 

3) Since Grid also had a girdle of might and iron gauntlets to use with her staff like Thor does with his hammer, is this more proof that the Norse too believed that Iron could help deflect or ground excessive energy or strong energy? Also, with or without the gaunts, does the power from her staff indicate that Grid was in fact a volva herself? 

These are just a few questions I thought worth discussing. Feel free to comment your thoughts on these or other feelings and questions you have from the tale, and I will respond as able.

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