The Lay of Thrym

1905 Frank E. Bryant
The Thrymskwitha
(The Lay of Thrym)

Translated from the Edda by
Frank Egbert Bryant

Lawrence Kansas
Midwinter 1904-1905.

 This is book number 96 in an edition of one hundred twenty-five.

Originally published in Poet Lore No. 14, Oct. 1902






The following poem is to some extent a reprint of my translation of the Thrymskwitha published in Poet-Lore in 1902. The form there given to the work, however, has never completely satisfied me. Furthermore, I have found the poem practically inaccessible, buried as it is in a magazine. Largely for these reasons I am now printing this little gift-book edition. I have taken this opportunity to make a number of changes in the text of the translation—all of which, I hope, will be considered as improvements.

There have been several previous translations of the Thrymskwitha, but none of them are very accessible, and, of those which I have seen, none have tried to preserve the alliterative form. In the present translation, I have endeavored to reproduce as far as possible the ideas, the form, and the spirit of the original poem; and having attempted so much, I should like to beg indulgence for all failures to live up to my ideal. Early Germanic poetry is apt to seem formless to the modern reader even at its best, because it makes use of a system of versification so entirely different from that now employed. I have not been always able to preserve the exact quantitative character of the original verse. The short, choppy form is not well adapted to modern English. The excellences, such as brevity and simplicity, are most difficult to imitate, while all the original crudities stand out the more plainly in translation. Nevertheless, I hope that this work may give to the reader at least a faint idea of the characteristic qualities of the original.

The Thrymskwitha is one of the very best of the Eddie poems. It is the story of how Thor, aided by Loki, got back his famous hammer, Miolnir. Thrym, the hated winter-giant, had stolen it and would not give it up until they would bring him Freya, the fairest of goddesses, to be his wife. She, however, with righteous indignation, refused to get married under any such terms. But this hammer was a very important defence for the gods, so it is finally arranged, though much against his will, that Thor himself must dress up to impersonate Freya, and go to be married to the giant Thrym. The latter half of the poem contains the carrying out of this plan. Now, Thor is the great thunder-god. He is the largest and strongest of them all, and a ravenous eater and drinker. The story is elsewhere told of him that once, in a drinking contest, he lowered the sea several inches. It is he alone that was not allowed to walk over the bridge of the rainbow for fear he might break it down. What could be more incongruous and ridiculous than to have this great, clumsy god dress up as the fair Freya and to go off in her name to marry the ice giant Thrym! The Norse poet has made good use of his opportunities, and we have in this poem a master-piece of its kind.

Perhaps it may make the reading more interesting to know that this story has been explained as a nature myth, symbolizing winter. Thrym, the ice-giant, has stolen Thor's hammer, the lightning and thunder. He has buried it under eight months of northern winter, and he will not return it until Thor comes to him with Freya, the goddess of the summer rains, whose feathercoat is the clouds.

In my translation I have used the text of Finnur Jonsson. The brackets indicate parts that he thinks are not original; the dashes, parts he thinks lacking. I have treated the meter of the poem very briefly in my translation in Poet-Lore.




1. Wroth then was Wingthor,[1]

Waking from sleep,
To find missing

Miolnir, his hammer.
He shook his beard

And shaggy head:
The son of Earth

Sought to find it.


2. First of all said he

The following word:
"Hear now, Loki,

What I tell you;
No one knows it,

Nowhere on earth
Nor up in heav'n:

My hammer's stolen!"


3. Went they to Freya's

Fair abode then;
First of all said he

The following word:
"Wilt to me, Freya,

Thy feathercoat lend,
If I my hammer

May recover?"


Freya said:



4. "I would give it thee,

Gold though it were;
Thou mightst have it,

Though of silver."[2]


5. Flew then Loki,

Feathercoat rustling,
Until he was out

Of the Asa-land
[And was far within

The loton's[3] home.]
On a mound sat Thrym,

Thurses' ruler,
For his greyhounds

Gold bands plaiting,
[And smooth the manes

Of his mares he combed.]


Thrym said:

6. "What ails the gods?

What ails the elves?
To the home of the giants

Why journey alone?"
"Much ails the gods!

Much ails the elves!
Have you Hloritha's

Hammer hidden?"


7. "I have Hloritha's

Hammer hidden:
Under eight miles

Of earth it lies.
No one shall take

That treasure home
Save he first bring me

Freya to wife."


8. Flew then Loki,

Feathercoat rustling;,
Until he was out

Of loton-heim
[And was far within

The Asa-land.]
Thor he found there

Thirsting for tidings.
First of all said he

The following word:


9. "Hast thou reward

Worthy thy labor?
Tell there aloft

Thy long tidings.

Oft the sitter

Strays from his subject,

And one lying

Lies most easily."[4]


 Loki said:


10. "I have reward

Worthy my labor.
Thrym has thy hammer,

Thurses' ruler.
No one shall take

That treasure home
Save he first bring him

Freya to wife."


11. They go the fair

Freya to seek:
First of all said he

The following word:
"Bind thyself, Freya,

In bridal linen—
We two must journey

To the giant's home."


12. Wroth then was Freya,

Fairly snorting,
The Asa's hall

All a-shaking:
[Broke then the famous

Brisinga necklace.]
"Me wouldst thou think

Man-crazy quite,
Should I journey with thee

To the giant's home."


13. Soon the Ases

Were all at the Thing,[5]

And their Asynyas,

All to hold conference.
On this pondered

The powerful gods:
How to recover

Hloritha's hammer.


14. Then said Heimdall,

Whitest of Ases,
Of the future aware,

As were the Vanir:
"Let us bind then Thor

In bridal linen.
Let him bear the famed

Brisinga necklace,


15. And let clinking

Keys hang from him,
And female dress

Fall round his knees,
And let bright stones

His breast adorn,
And with much skill

Make him a head-dress."


16. Then Thor replied,

That powerful god,[6]

_ _ _ _ _ _

 _ _ _ _ _ _


"Me would all Ases

Unmanly call

If I let you bind me

In bridal linen."


17. Said then Loki,

Son of Laufey:
"Cease, Thor, at once,

Such words as those.
Soon will the lotons

In Asgard dwell
Unless thy hammer

To thee is returned."


18. Bound they Thor then

In bridal linen,
Had him bear the famed

Brisinga necklace.



*                           *



19. And let clinking:

Keys hang from him,

And female dress

Fall round his knees,
And let bright stones

His breast adorn,
And with much skill

Made him a head-dress.


20. Said then Loki,

Son of Laufey,

­­­­_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ _ _ _  _


"I'll also so

To act as maid;
We two girls journey

To the giant's home."


21. Both the goats[7] were then

Brought from pasture,

Thrust into harness—

They had to run well.

Mountains broke open,

The earth was aglow,

Into lotonheim

Went Odin's son.



22. Then did Thrym say,

Thurses' ruler:
"Stand up, lotons,

Strew the benches.
Now they fetch me

Freya to wife,
Niord's daughter

Of Noatum.


23. "Gold-horned cows

For the court prepare;
All-black oxen

For the loton's feast.
I own many jewels,

I own many gems:
I seemed lacking

Alone in Freya."


24. Early did there

The evening come,
And for the lotons

Ale was brought forward.
Thor ate an ox

And eight salmon,
[All the tidbits

Intended for women.]
Sif s husband drank

Three hogsheads of mead.


25. Then did Thrym say,

Thurses' ruler:
"Didst e'er see a bride

That seemed so greedy?
I ne'er looked on one

With so large a mouth, Nor on a maid

That more mead drank."


26. Sat a crafty

Serving maid[8]* there,
That found answer

To the loton's speech:
"Naught has she eaten

For eight long nights,
So much she yearned

For lotonheim."


27. Thrym stooped; 'neath the veil

He sought to kiss,
And then sprang back

The breadth of the hall.
"Why so frightful

Are Freya's eyes?
I believe they look

Like burning coals!"


28. Sat a crafty

Serving-maid there,
That found answer

To the Ioton's speech:
"She’s not slept at all

For eight long nights,
So much she yearned

For Iotonheim."


29. In came the giants'

Joyless sister.
She dared to beg

A bridal gift.
"Grant me the ruddy

Rings on thy fingers,
If you would merit

My good wishes.

[My good wishes,

My kind favor.]"


30. Then did Thrym say,

Thurses' ruler:
"To gain the bride,

Bear in the hammer.
Lay now Miolnir

In the maiden's lap.

Make us husband and wife
By the hand of Var."[9]


31. Laughed the heart in

Hloritha's breast
As the bold-hearted one

his hammer saw.
Thrym he slew first,

Thurses' ruler,
And the giants' kindred,

Killed were they all.


32. Slew he the giants'

Joyless sister,
Who had begged of him

A bridal gift.
She a stroke got

Instead of shillings,
A stroke of the hammer

Instead of rings.
[Thus again Thor

Got his hammer.]



Printed at the Graduate Magazine Press

at the University of Kansas

[1] Another name for Thor, who is the son of Odin and Earth. He is also called Hloritha, and Sif’s husband.

[2] This anticlimax it in the original.

[3] The lotona or Thurses are the giants; the Ase are the gods; the Asynya, the goddesses.

[4] Thor is here the speaker. Loki is still up in the air in the feathercoat. If the last line contains a pun, it is also to he found in the original. Thor is probably quoting here some old Norse saw.

[5] The council or assembly

[6] Is this an editor's joke at the expense of Thor?

[7][7] Thor rode in a wagon drawn by two goats.

[8] Loki. He was ever practicing deceit.

[9] Goddess of marriage.