By Jackson Crawford, University of Colorado, Boulder
Thor was the most popular of the gods in the Viking Age. And only a very popular god, one whose manly attributes could not really be questioned, had a reputation that could ‘survive’ embarrassing setbacks like he faced in his attempt to retrieve his stolen hammer.
The account of how Thor’s hammer was stolen from right under his nose is detailed in the Poetic Edda in a poem called Thrymskvitha, or ‘Thrym’s Poem’.
Loki is visiting Geirroth, where he wakes up and begins searching in vain for his missing hammer. The first person Thor summons for help is Loki.
Loki advices Loki to visit Freyja to request her to loan him her famous feather suit. This famous feather suit allows Loki, either to turn into a falcon, or in any case to fly. Loki uses this power to fly straight over to the vast realms of the anti-gods and happens to alight exactly at the farm of the hammer’s thief.
The thief, Thrym, is an individual of great wealth, as indicated by the fact that Loki finds him combing the manes of his fine horses and fiddling with the golden collars of his racing dogs.
Thrym casually asks Loki what the news is and Loki, without hesitation, tells him that the news is bad, asking him whether he has hidden Thor’s hammer somewhere.
Thrym says, he has hidden Thor’s hammer eight miles beneath the earth, and that no one will ever see it again unless the goddess Freyja is brought to him to be his bride.
Loki then flies home to the enclosure of the gods, and tells Thor what he has learned. Thor and Loki go to visit Freyja, this time with Thor demanding that she put on a wedding dress and go with him to the homes of the anti-gods.
Understandably, however, despite Thor’s begging, Freyja is unwilling to make the journey. She says that all the gods will think she is too lewd, too lustful, if she shows any inclination to sleep with, or indeed marry, one of the anti-gods.
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The Gods’ Solution
Thus, with the goddess turning down the demands of the thief, the gods meet together in an assembly to discuss their options.
At this assembly, it is the god Heimdall who suggests that the gods put a wedding dress onto Thor himself, and let Thor complete the disguise by wearing the famous necklace of Freyja, if he wants so badly to get his hammer back.
Needless to say, Thor indignantly turns down the suggestion, as he knows that this will open him up to accusations of being unmanly—the worst conceivable insult for a Norseman.
However, Loki reminds Thor that he doesn’t have the luxury of being concerned with his reputation when the weapon that defends the forces of good from their opponents is on the line.
Thor, the Bride
And so the gods dress Thor up as a bride, putting the famous necklace of Freyja around his neck and dressing him up with all the finest jewelry. Loki also disguises himself as a bridesmaid, needling Thor amid what is becoming the most embarrassing episode of Thor’s life.
They leave in Thor’s chariot and travel for eight days and nights, until they reach Thrym’s home.
Thrym is unsuspecting and ready for his wedding, with an excellent feast and plenty of ale prepared. At the wedding feast, Thor eats, all on his own, one ox, eight salmon, and all the treats that were reserved for the ladies. And he drinks three entire kegs of mead.
The prospective bridegroom, Thrym, declares that he’s never seen a woman eat nor drink so much. But Loki, as the bridesmaid, tells Thrym that ‘Freyja’ here has not eaten for eight days in her excitement about marrying him.
Thor and Thrym: The Bride and Groom
Eager to kiss his bride, Thrym lifts off the veil from over Thors’ face, noticing his eyes that he says burn like there’s a fire in them. Surprisingly, Thrym does not notice Thor’s trademark red beard. Loki again has an easy response, and tells Thrym him that his bride has not slept for the eight nights of their journey, because she was so eager to come here and marry him.
Now the bridegroom’s sister also approaches Thor, demanding gifts in exchange for her favor, perhaps in a conventional uncomfortable scene that might have played out for many Norse brides wedded into unfamiliar families.
But before that scene can proceed, the groom calls for the hammer to be brought in and laid across the bride’s knees to bless her. He says this is to sanctify them in the name of the goddess of wedding vows, Var. This is the only time that goddess Var is mentioned.
Hammer to Bless the Bride?
Curiously, the use of a hammer to bless a bride on her wedding day is known in later Swedish folklore as well, so perhaps this was a well-known element of the bridal ritual.
Amusingly, the use of the hammer of the mighty god to bless his own knees as a bride is yet another embarrassment in a long line of humiliations for Thor in this story.
Thor is then finally able to snatch up his hammer again—apparently he’s wearing that special belt and gloves underneath the wedding dress.
Thor takes his revenge and kills first his prospective bridegroom, and then the sister that had asked for gifts, and then he kills all the other assembled anti-gods at this wedding. And the tale in this poem ends with the simple understatement that, in this way, Thor got his hammer back.
Common Questions about When Thor Lost His Hammer
The account of how Thor’s hammer was stolen is detailed in the Poetic Edda in a poem called Thrymskvitha, or ‘Thrym’s Poem’.
Loki advices Thor to visit Freyja, in order to request her to loan Loki her famous feather suit.
The use of a hammer to bless a bride on her wedding day is known in later Swedish folklore as well, so perhaps this was a well-known element of the bridal ritual.