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  • Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder, and protector of mankind

  • struggled mightily against his greatest challenge yet: Opening a bag of food.

  • It'd all started when Thor,

  • along with his fleet-footed human servant, Thjalfi and Loki, the trickster god,

  • set out on a journey to Jotunheim, land of the giants.

  • Along the way, they'd met a giant named Skrymir,

  • who offered to accompany them and even carry their provisions in his bag.

  • But when they made camp, Skrymir dozed off

  • and Thor couldn't untie the sack.

  • Frustrated and hungry, Thor tried to wake the giant three times

  • by striking his head with his hammer, Mjolnir, as hard as he could.

  • But each time, Skrymir thought it was only a falling acorn

  • and went back to sleep.

  • The next morning, Skrymir departed

  • and eventually, the travelers reached a massive fortress called Utgard.

  • Inside the long hall, they met the king of giants, Utgard-Loki,

  • who greeted his guests with a challenge.

  • Each of them was to prove they were the best at some particular skill.

  • Loki went first, declaring himself the world's fastest eater.

  • To test him, the king summoned his servant, Logi,

  • and the two were placed at either end of a long trough stuffed with food.

  • Loki ate his way inward with blinding speed.

  • But when the contestants met in the center,

  • Loki saw that his adversary had not only eaten just as much food,

  • but also the bones and even the trough itself.

  • Next was Thjalfi, who could outrun anything in the wild.

  • The king summoned an ethereal-looking giant named Hugi,

  • who outraced Thjalfi easily.

  • But the boy would not give up and demanded a rematch.

  • This time, Thjalfi finished close behind

  • and the king admitted he'd never seen a human run so fast.

  • Thjalfi tried a third time, running like his life depended on it,

  • but Hugi was even faster than before.

  • Finally, it was Thor's turn.

  • The king offered him a drinking horn,

  • saying all his men could drain it in two gulps.

  • Thor raised it to his lips

  • and drank the surprisingly cold and salty mead in the longest gulp he could muster.

  • Then a second.

  • Then a third.

  • But the level of the mead in the horn was only slightly lowered.

  • To test Thor's renowned strength, the king offered a seemingly easy challenge.

  • Lift his pet cat off the ground.

  • But this cat was as tall as Thor.

  • Every time he tried to lift it, it arched its back,

  • and straining with all his godly might, he only managed to lift one paw.

  • Enraged, Thor demanded to wrestle any of the giants.

  • The king summoned the giants' old nursemaid, Elli.

  • Though the woman looked frail, Thor couldn't overpower her

  • and grew weaker the longer he struggled, until he was brought to one knee.

  • The three companions prepared to leave, disappointed and humbled.

  • But as the king escorted them out,

  • he revealed that nothing in the castle had been what it seemed.

  • Loki lost the eating contest because his opponent, Logi, was wildfire itself,

  • devouring everything in its path.

  • Thjalfi couldn't outrun Hugi because Hugi was the embodiment of thought,

  • always faster than action.

  • And even Thor couldn't defeat Elli, or old age,

  • which weakens everyone eventually.

  • As for the other challenges, they had also been illusions.

  • The drinking horn was filled with the ocean,

  • and Thor had drained enough to cause the tides.

  • The cat was the serpent that encircles the world,

  • and Thor's efforts shifted the earth.

  • And Skrymir had been Utgard-Loki in disguise,

  • deflecting Thor's hammer-blows to form valleys in the surrounding mountains.

  • The giant congratulated them on their prowess,

  • which so frightened him he would never allow them in his land again.

  • Thor and his companions failed the challenges presented to them.

  • But in trying to achieve the impossible,

  • they'd pushed themselves harder than ever before

  • and changed the world in ways no one had expected.

Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder, and protector of mankind

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B2 US TED-Ed thor loki king summoned horn

The myth of Thor's journey to the land of giants - Scott A. Mellor

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/03/15
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