Thor’s Adventures and a Chariot Pulled by Goats

From the Lecture Series: Norse Mythology

By Jackson CrawfordUniversity of Colorado, Boulder

On his many adventures, Thor travels on a chariot pulled by his two goats. In one particularly humorous adventure, Thor is on his way to the realm of the anti-gods. Here, Thor and Loki appear as comedic traveling partners in the best tradition of buddy-cop movies. What happens next?

A sketch of Thor with another man on a chariot, where Thor can be seen checking on the goats
Thor’s chariots are pulled by two goats which can be resurrected after death by Thor himself. (Image: Lorenz Frølich/Public domain)

Thor’s Goats

Thor’s association with goats is strong. One of his titles is the ‘lord of the goats’. And his two goats, which have names that in Old Norse mean roughly ‘tooth-cruncher’ and ‘tooth-grinder’, are his usual means of transportation when he leaves the enclosure of the gods. Furthermore, his great magical hammer, Mjollnir, has among its powers the ability to resurrect goats—though apparently only goats and not anything else!

We learn of this unusual power because on his journey to the realm of the anti-gods, Thor and Loki stop at the home of a farmer to stay the night. Thor declares that he can supply dinner in the form of his goats. He slaughters the two goats and skins them. He tells the them to eat as much of the meat as they like, just as long as they leave the bones unscratched and unbroken. In the morning, Thor gets up and goes to the piles of his goats’ bones and touches them with his hammer to bring the goats fully back to life. 

But one of them comes back to life with a broken thigh bone, and so Thor knows that someone in the farmer’s family must have broken it to get at the marrow. Thor threatens to kill the farmer and his entire family in retribution, but the farmer suggests that Thor please take his two children as his slaves instead.

This article comes directly from content in the video series Norse MythologyWatch it now, on Wondrium.

A Mysterious Earthquake

A sketch of a huge man two men and two children.
Thor and his companions discover that the cause of the earthquake they felt was a huge man’s snores. (Image: Elmer Boyd Smith/Public domain)

Now, the four of them travel on in Thor’s goat chariot until they land in a region of dense forest.

As night settles down, they look for a place to camp and they find a huge empty house in the forest. Then, in the middle of the night, they are disturbed by an earthquake. Thor and company seek refuge in a chamber off to the side of the house, where Thor keeps watch through the night. And at dawn, when Thor steps outside, he sees before him a huge man snoring fearsomely loud—the explanation for last night’s earthquake. 

The huge man wakes up and towers over Thor. But the titanic man recognizes Thor as one of the gods and asks him what he’s doing with his glove. Then the huge man picks up the house that Thor and his companions have been sleeping in. He asks if Thor wants his company on his journey, and Thor agrees.

The Huge Man

Late in the evening, they come to a spot where the huge man says he means to sleep under a certain oak tree. The huge man says he is not hungry but invites the others to open up his food bag and take whatever they like. As he snores, Thor struggles to open the food bag. 

Unable to loosen the knot and get at the food, Thor is enraged and picks up his hammer in both hands, and slams it into the head of the huge man. But he simply wakes up bleary-eyed and asks if a leaf has fallen from the tree above him onto his head. Then the man asks if the others are getting ready to sleep, too. Thor says they are, and they all begin to prepare their camp around the same tree. 

Thor lifting his hammer to hit the huge man’s head
Thor meets a huge man in the forest, whom he eventually tries to hit on the head unsuccessfully. (Image: Ludwig von Maydell/Public domain)

But by midnight, the man is snoring again, and Thor picks up his hammer and slams it right into the middle of his head a second time. Again, he wakes up and says that an acorn must have fallen on his head, and he sees again that Thor must be awake, too, and again asks him why. Thor says it is still time for him to sleep, and the huge man goes back to his slumber.

A Rare Defeat for Thor

Then Thor lies in wait till he is sure that this huge man has fallen back asleep. When Thor is sure, a little before dawn, he tries driving the hammer into his head one last time, getting a running start at him with the hammer clutched in both hands and sinking it into his temple. 

The man wakes up, stroking the side of his face. He remarks that some birds must have slept in the oak tree above him and defecated on him. The man sees that Thor is awake, too. He says he has heard his traveling companions whisper about his huge size, but he assures them that they will find even bigger men if they make the trip to Utgard.

For his part, the huge man says he is going a different way and advises Thor and his companions to do the same. But Thor silently parts from him, fuming with the humiliation of a rare defeat for his legendary strength.

Common Questions about Thor’s Adventures and a Chariot Pulled by Goats

Q: How do we know that Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir, is capable of resurrecting life?

After a family eats the meat of the goats that pull Thor’s chariot, he uses his magical hammer, Mjollnir, to resurrect the goats. Though, it’s worth mentioning that Mjollnir is only capable of resurrecting life when it comes to goats and apparently nothing else.

Q: How does Thor acquire his child slaves?

When Thor arrives at the home of a farmer and stays the night for their hospitality, Thor skins his goats so they can feast on the meat but on the condition that they leave the bones unscratched and unbroken. When Thor finds out that one of the goats has a broken bone and gets angry, the farmer offers his two children as slaves for compensation.

Q: Why does Thor attack the huge man the first time?

Thor and his companions are traveling through a forest. There, they meet a huge man who offers his food bag for them to feast on. Thor tries to open the bag but gets frustrated since he can’t open its knots. Thus, an angry Thor hits the huge man.

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