What would you do if you lost your favorite possession? Something that kept you and your entire family safe? If you were a man, would you dress up as a woman and pretend to be the bride of your sworn enemy?
If you were Thor, you would.
One of my favorite stories of the Norse gods is the Thrymskvitha, the story of when Thor lost his hammer, Mjolnir.
Thor woke one morning to discover that he’d lost his hammer. He looked everywhere and could not find it, so he went to Loki, the cunning, clever god and asked him about it. Loki hadn’t seen it either, but he suspected that the giant Thrym had something to do with the missing Mjolnir. After all, Thor and Loki had been at Thrym’s hall the night before feasting. Of course, Thor had had too much to drink and it was quite likely that he’d forgotten his hammer. Even a mighty god gets careless when drunk.
Loki and Thor went to Freya and asked her if they could borrow her falcon-feathered cape so Loki could fly to the land of the giants and talk to Thrym. She lent them the cape; Mjolnir was one of the weapons the gods used to protect themselves from the giants.
Losing Mjolnir was a serious problem!
Loki flew off to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, and he talked to Thrym, who sat on a mound petting his enormous dogs who he held on golden leashes. Loki asked Thrym if he’d stolen the hammer.
“Yes,” Thrym said, “I buried it eight miles deep into the ground. And I will not give it back unless you give me Freya as my wife.”
That was a problem.
Loki flew as fast as he could back to Asgard, the home of the gods, to tell the other gods the bad news. Freya, in particular, did not take it well,
‘wrathful was Freya
and fiercely she snorted;
and the dwelling great
of the gods was shaken.’
But they had to do something, so the gods met and talked about it. Heimdall, the god who watches over the Bifrost Bridge that separates Asgad from all other realms, thought up a solution, a very clever solution.
“We’ll dress Thor up as a woman in a bridal dress and veil. He’ll wear Freya’s Brisingamen necklace. We’ll put a pretty cap on his head, beads around his neck, and he’ll wear women’s keys on his dress.”
“No!” Thor shouted. “I’m not dressing up as a woman. All the gods will make fun of me.”
“Be quiet,” Loki told him. “If you don’t do this, Thor, if you don’t get back your hammer, the giants will break into Asgard and take over.”
Thor relented and allowed the other gods to dress him up as Freya in a bridal dress, veil, necklaces, jewelry, a garland on his head, and women’s keys. Make no mistake, the gods enjoyed themselves very much as they did this. They laughed and told jokes at Thor’s expense. Loki also dressed up as a woman to be Thor’s waiting woman when he went to visit the giants.
Thor and Loki journeyed to Thyrm’s hall, where Thrym waited anxiously for his new bride. When Thor and Loki arrived, Thrym boasted that he had an abundance of riches in his possession, but what he lacked was Freya.
Thrym threw a feast for his new bride and was shocked by how much she could eat! Thor ate an entire ox, eight salmon, all the sweets that had been put out for the women, and drank barrels of mead.
“I’ve never seen a woman with such a big appetite,” Thrym said.
Loki, the clever god, came up with an answer. “She has been so excited about her journey to Jotunheim and so filled with longing to marry you that she lost her appetite and could not eat for eight days.”
Thrym accepted this and then, wanting to see his bride’s eyes, tried to lift her veil. Again he was shocked at what he saw.
“Why are her eyes so glaring? It is like fire burns out of them,” Thrym asked, dropping the veil quickly.
Loki answered, “Freya has not slept for eight nights, so great was her longing for Jotunheim.”
It finally came time to exchange the bridal gifts. Thrym was to give Freya the hammer to bless their union. He had it brought in and laid it across Thor’s lap.
Thor, happy to have his hammer once again, laughed a triumphant laugh. Throwing off his veil, he slew Thrym by bashing him in the head with the hammer and then killed all the other giants in the hall.
He and Loki returned to Asgard, Mjolnir safe at Thor’s side.