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THE SERPENT AND THE KETTLE.
THOR turned away from Giant-land, and on the road homeward he passed through the Sea-King's dominions. There he found that Ægir the Old was giving a banquet to all the Æsir in his wide coral-caves. At a little distance Thor stood still to listen and to look. It was a fair sight: cave within cave stretched out before him decked with choicest shells, whilst far inward lay the banqueting-hall, lighted with shining gold; white and red coral-pillars stood at uneven distances; the brightbrowed Æsir reclined at the board on soft water couches; Ægir's daughters—the fair-haired waves -murmured sweet music as they waited on their guests; and little baby-ripples ran about laughing in all the corners. Thor walked through the caves and entered the hall. As he did so Odin looked up from his place at Ægir's right hand, and said,–
“Good evening, son Thor; how has it fared with you in Jötunheim ?"
Thor's face grew a little cloudy at this question, and he only answered,
“Not as it ought to have done, father.” Then he placed himself amongst Ægir's guests.
“In my dominions," said King Ægir, looking all round, “an extraordinary thing has happened.”
“And what may that be, brother?” asked Niörd.
“From the shores of Jötunheim," answered Ægir, “the sea has run back a quarter of a mile, drawing itself away as if a giant were drinking it in.”
“Is that all you have got to say, father?” said a tall Wave, as she swept her hair over the SeaKing's shoulder, and peeped up from behind him; “is that all you know of the wonders which are going on in your deep home? Listen."
Then Ægir bent forward on his seat; the Æsir
all ceased speaking, and drew in their breath; the waves raised their arched necks, and were still, listening From a great way off came the sound of a sullen swell.
“Who is that speaking ?" asked Odin.
Thor?” He says that I could not conquer him.” “Pass round the foaming mead," cried Ægir, who saw that it was time to turn the conversation.
But alas ! Ægir's mead-kettle was so small, that before it had gone half down the table it stood empty before Tyr.
“There is a giant called Hymir," remarked Tyr, “who lives far over the stormy waves to eastward at the end of heaven."
The Æsir all looked up.
“He has a kettle,” Tyr went on to say, “which is a mile deep, and which would certainly hold mead enough for all this company."
“If Hymir would lend it to us,” said Ægir, “we could finish our supper ; but who would go to the end of heaven to borrow a kettle ?"
Then Thor rose from the table, and began to tighten round him his belt of power; he put on his iron gloves, and took Miölnir in his hand.
“What! off again to Giant-land, Ving-Thor ?" cried Ægir.
“ Didn't you say you wanted Mile-deep?” said Thor. “I am going to borrow it of Hymir for you. Will you come with me, Tyr?”
Tyr sprang up joyfully, and the two brothers started on their journey. When they arrived at Hymir's dwelling, which was a roughly-hewn
a on the shore of a frozen sea, the first person they met was a wonderful giantess with nine hundred heads, in which glittered fiery eyes. and which grew out from all parts of her body, so that it was impossible to tell whether she was walking upon her head or her heels. As Thor and Tyr were looking at her trying to discover this, a woman came out of the giant's home quite as lovely as the giantess was hideous. She greeted them on the threshold. Her golden hair fell thick upon her shoulders; her mild eyes shone upon them;
and with words of welcome she held out
her hands and led them into the cavern. There she offered them meat and drink, and bade them rest until her husband, Hymir, should come home. As the darkness came on, however, and the time of his expected return drew near, she became silent and anxious; and at last she said, “I am very much afraid that my husband will be angry if he sees strangers here when he comes in. Take my advice, now, Asa Thor and Asa Tyr, and hide behind one of these pillars in the rock. My lord, I assure you, is surly sometimes, and not nearly so hospitable as I could wish."
“We are not accustomed to hide ourselves," remarked Thor.
“But you shall come forth when I call you," answered the woman.
So the Æsir did as she desired. By-and-bye they heard heavy footsteps far off, over the frozen sea, coming nearer and nearer every moment. The distant icebergs resounded, and at last Hymir burst open the door of his cavern, and stalked angrily in.
He had been unsuccessful that day in the chase, his hands were frost-bitten, and a “hard-frozen wood stood upon his cheek.”