The seeds of betrayal: Loki, Thor and the Jotun Geirrod – Part 2 of 2


This story takes part soon after Loki’s imprisonment and torture by the hands of the jotun Geirrod. The giant tortured Loki for three months, almost killing him, until he managed to extract an unbreakable oath from Loki, to bring Thor without his mighty Mjolnir and belt of strength back to his halls in Jotunheim. If you didn’t read the first part, you can find it here.

During the early days of Asgard, Thor and Loki were very good friends and often traveled together through the nine worlds. It was during one of such travels, when the Gods wandered through the rocky uplands to the east of Asgard that Loki, noticing that Thor was unarmed, chose to fulfill his torture-extracted oath to the giant, and thus to seal his own Wyrd.

Thor suspected nothing when Loki said they need travel only a little further across green meadows and springy underfoot, to visit the giant Geirrod. Thor said he had never heard of Geirrod. Loki replied with a grin that the giant would like to meet Thor and, although he was rather ugly, he had two attractive daughters that Thor would like to meet in turn.

Thor felt unease without his trusty hammer Mjolnir, but he trusted Loki and decided to go with him, specially when Loki mentioned that on their way, they would spend the night on the house of the giantess Grid. Grid is the consort of Odin and the mother of the God Vidarr, a well liked and respected jotun.

Soon before nightfall, the two Gods crossed the river Iving and Grid welcomed them into her hall as she would welcome her own son, offering them food and drink to their heart’s content.

Not long after supper, Loki spread out some straw and fell asleep. In the flickering firelight his expression seemed to change from moment to moment, light and dark, gay and grim, like he was fighting with himself in his sleep.

When Grid saw Loki fast asleep, she called the inebriated Thor for a quiet word and told him in a hushed voice the truth about Geirrod. She told Thor that Geirrod had little love for the Gods, and even less for the God who killed the giant Hrungnir (read about it here).

Thor was the one who had slayed Hrungnir in a duel, and a bad feeling crept over the God of Thunder. Grid advised Thor that Geirrod was as cunning as a fox and that he would be a worthy enemy. Geirrod would gladly allow Thor to walk into his hall, while arranging for him to be carried out of it.

Thor felt naked without his trusted hammer, specially now, when his wyrd was tied to battle. Grid felt Thor’s consternation, and offered him her own weapons as a loan: her belt of strength, iron gloves and unbreakable staff. Grateful, Thor soon fell asleep.

In the next morning Thor and Loki left Grid’s hall and continued their journey. Loki looked at Thor’s weapons and wondered what Grid had said to him after he had fallen asleep, while Thor looked back at Loki and wondered how much he knew about Geirrod and the dangers of the journey.

After a while the two Gods came to the river Vimur — a wide and fast torrent of water, that was weirdly streaked with blood. The face of the river was broken by worn rocks, frothing and hissing as it flowed.

Thor donned the belt of strength and told Loki to hang on to it. Then he grasped Grid’s staff and, putting his weight on it, began to wade across the river. The pebbles were slippery underfoot and fish tickled his ankles, but he strode on. Soon the water reached Thor’s waist, while Loki’s head was only just above the surface as the rapid currents swayed him like a leaf. By the time the two Gods were midstream, Loki had his arms around Thor’s neck. The river was breaking over Thor’s shoulders and seemed to be rising continuously.

Thor briefly paused to regain his breath and looked upstream into a rocky ravine. There he saw the cause of their hardship: Geirrod’s daughter, Gjalp, was standing over the torrent and menstrual blood was streaming from her, greatly increasing the depth of the river.

Upon seeing this very disturbing image, Thor picked a rock from the river and threw it with all his might at the giantess, maiming her. Howling with pain, the giantess dragged herself back to her father’s hall.

Thor's Journey to Geirrodsgard (1906) by Lorenz Frølich

At that moment, the power of the torrent was so great that Thor was swept off his feet, with Loki still clinging to his neck. As he was carried downstream Thor managed to grab a branch of a rowan tree growing by the side of river, and used it to recover his footing, managing to make his way into the shallows and finally crossing the river.

The two Gods continued their journey, reaching Geirrod’s hall by the end of the afternoon. Geirrod himself was nowhere to be seen, but to welcome the Gods he left a jotun servant, who showed them where they would be sleeping.

Thor and Loki were tired and caked with mud and blood after crossing the river, with little choice, they accepted the giant’s hospitality. The servant led the Gods through the outhouses to a gloomy, rank goat shed, furnished with a heap of rotten straw and a single chair. Thor bristled at such an insult, nevertheless he said nothing. He would bide his time until he came face to face with Geirrod himself.

Loki went to wash in the stream that ran past Geirrod’s hall, and Thor sat down in the chair. He clenched his fist round Grid’s staff, feeling very tired from his exertions and soon fell asleep.

In Thor’s dreams he felt like he was crossing the river Vimur again, in a desperate battle against the waters. Opening his eyes, at once saw the reason for his dream: he was indeed floating once more. He was rising his chair towards the rafters of the goat shed and was close to being driven against them, head first.

Thor griped Grid’s staff with both hands, he rammed it against the roof beam and pushed with all his strength. He thrust so hard that whatever was beneath him, hoisting him towards the roof, could not resist him and gave way. Thor fell back to the ground with a great crash. At the same moment screams shook the shed: the mangled bodies of Gjalp and Greip, Geirrod’s two daughters laid under the broken chair.

They had been hiding under the chair when Thor first sat in it, and tried to crush him to death, but Thor’s massive strength crushed them in turn, and they died in agony with broken backs and rib-cages.

Loki soon returned from the stream, but had no time to make any comments over the dead giants as Geirrod’s servant appeared just outside the shed, shouting that Geirrod was waiting for Thor in the hall and that his master was challenging Thor to a game.

With a stern look, Thor donned Grid’s belt of strength and iron gauntlets and proceeded alongside Loki back through the outhouses to Geirrod’s hall.

Thor was surprised to see that, instead of the usual single fires, there was a string of huge furnaces right down the length of the hall, heating the place to uncomfortable levels.

Geirrod was waiting for the Gods at the far end of the hall. As soon as one of his servants had closed the door behind them, Geirrod stepped forward with his hands outstretched. The gesture however, was not a greeting. The giant grabbed a long pair of tongs that held large ball of red-hot iron. “Welcome!” he shouted, and tossed the glowing-hot iron ball straight at Thor.

Thor, already suspecting subterfuge, was prepared. Dropping Grid’s unbreakable staff, he raised both his hands and caught the red-hot ball in his iron gloves. He did not move. His eyes flamed, his red beard bristled. Everyone in the hall scrambled under the tables, and Geirrod himself quickly stepped back behind one of the hall supports — an iron pillar.

This final affront would not go unpunished. Thor took one step forward and put all his strength into hurling back the molten sphere at the jotun.

The ball punched a hole through the iron support like it was made of butter, making a hole through Geirrod’s midriff and through the wall behind him. Mortally struck, Geirrod fell backwards and died, hissing as if all the venom bottled inside him was escaping.

Thor’s fury was finally unleashed. Picking up Grid’s staff, the enraged God of Thunder slew all of Geirrod’s servants, while Loki quietly left the hall unnoticed.

As Thor’s rage left him, he strode out of the now silent hall, remembering Loki’s words about Geirrod’s and his and talk of two “attractive” daughters. In his mind ha had but one thought: Loki would answer for this.

This story can be viewed as a turning point for Loki amongst the Gods and specially in his relationship with Thor. Despite Loki’s incredible cunning, I wonder what would have happened if he confessed about his oath to bring Thor unarmed to the giant. The oath Loki made was extracted after long three months of torture, and it is quite possible that Thor would help Loki, willingly walking unarmed into the giant’s hall, if only he was told the truth. Perhaps that is the root of Loki’s wyrd to be a villain during Ragnarok.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

 

Sources

Jesse Byock (2005) Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda. 1st. edition. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN-13 978-0-140-44755-2

Saxo Grammaticus. The History of the Danes. ISBN-13 9780859915021


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