When I come across a trap in anime, I think to myself that only the Japanese could make men wearing maid outfits a national obsession. What a bizarre idea! I will never understand those crazy Japanese people with their cross-dressing, maid outfits, and crazy ninja game shows!
Well, this afternoon I was reading The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum, a book about Norse mythology at project Gutenberg (it’s a fascinating read, I highly recommend it) when I came across the following passage. Perhaps the obsession with “traps” is not so uniquely Japanese as I was led to believe. This story outdoes shows such as Moyashimon by having Thor, the mightiest, strongest and manliest of all the gods, dress up in a wedding dress to marry a man. As if that’s not enough, Loki comes with him dressed as a bridesmaid. Enjoy!
HOW THOR AND LOKI BEFOOLED THRYM THE GIANT
Loki told another tale about Thor—about Thor and Thrym, a stupid Giant who had cunning streaks in him. Loki and Thor had been in this Giant’s house. He had made a feast for them and Thor had been unwatchful.
Then when they were far from Jötunheim Thor missed Miölnir, missed the hammer that was the defence of Asgard and the help of the Gods. He could not remember how or where he had mislaid it. Loki’s thoughts went toward Thrym, that stupid Giant who yet had cunning streaks in him. Thor, who had lost the hammer that he had sworn never to let out of his sight, did not know what to do.
But Loki thought it would be worth while to see if Thrym knew anything about it. He went first to Asgard. He hurried across the Rainbow Bridge and passed Heimdall without speaking to him. To none of the Dwellers in Asgard whom he met did he dare relate the tidings of Thor’s loss. He spoke to none until he came to Frigga’s palace.
To Frigga he said, “You must lend me your falcon dress until I fly to Thrym’s dwelling and find out if he knows where Miölnir is.”
“If every feather was silver I would give it to you to go on such an errand,” Frigga said.
So Loki put on the falcon dress and flew to Jötunheim and came near Thrym’s dwelling. He found the Giant upon a hillside putting golden and silver collars upon the necks of his hounds. Loki in the plumage of a falcon perched on the rock above him, watching the Giant with falcon eyes.
And while he was there he heard the Giant speak boastful words. “I put collars of silver and gold on you now, my hounds,” said he, “but soon we Giants will have the gold of Asgard to deck our hounds and our steeds, yea, even the necklace of Freya to put upon you, the best of my hounds. For Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, is in Thrym’s holding.”
Then Loki spoke to him. “Yea, we know that Miölnir is in thy possession, O Thrym,” said he, “but know thou that the eyes of the watchful Gods are upon thee.”
“Ha, Loki, Shape-changer,” said Thrym, “you are there! But all your watching will not help you to find Miölnir. I have buried Thor’s hammer eight miles deep in the earth. Find it if you can. It is below the caves of the Dwarfs.”
“It is useless for us to search for Thor’s hammer,” said Loki; “eh Thrym?”
“It is useless for you to search for it,” said the Giant sulkily.
“But what a recompense you would gain if you restored Thor’s hammer to the Dwellers in Asgard,” Loki said.
“No, cunning Loki, I will never restore it, not for any recompense,” said Thrym.
“Yet bethink thee, Thrym,” said Loki. “Is there nought in Asgard you would like to own? No treasure, no possession? Odin’s ring or Frey’s ship, Skidbladnir?”
“No, no,” said Thrym. “Only one thing could the Dwellers in Asgard offer me that I would take in exchange for Miölnir, Thor’s hammer.”
“And what would that be, Thrym?” said Loki, flying toward him.
“She whom many Giants have striven to gain—Freya, for my wife,” said Thrym.
Loki watched Thrym for long with his falcon eyes. He saw that the Giant would not alter his demand. “I will tell the Dwellers in Asgard of your demand,” he said at last, and he flew away.
Loki knew that the Dwellers in Asgard would never let Freya be taken from them to become the wife of Thrym, the stupidest of the Giants. He flew back.
By this time all the Dwellers in Asgard had heard of the loss of Miölnir, the help of the Gods. Heimdall shouted to him as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge to ask what tidings he brought back. But Loki did not stop to speak to the Warden of the Bridge but went straight to the hall where the Gods sat in Council.
To the Æsir and the Vanir he told Thrym’s demand. None would agree to let the beautiful Freya go live in Jötunheim as a wife to the stupidest of the Giants. All in the Council were cast down. The Gods would never again be able to help mortal men, for now that Miölnir was in the Giants’ hands all their strength would have to be used in the defence of Asgard.
So they sat in the Council with looks downcast. But cunning Loki said, “I have thought of a trick that may win back the hammer from stupid Thrym. Let us pretend to send Freya to Jötunheim as a bride for him. But let one of the Gods go in Freya’s veil and dress.”
“Which of the Gods would bring himself to do so shameful a thing?” said those in the Council.
“Oh, he who lost the hammer, Thor, should be prepared to do as much to win it back,” said Loki.
“Thor, Thor! Let Thor win back the hammer from Thrym by Loki’s trick,” said the Æsir and the Vanir. They left it to Loki to arrange how Thor should go to Jötunheim as a bride for Thrym.
Loki left the Council of the Gods and came to where he had left Thor. “There is but one way to win the hammer back, Thor,” he said, “and the Gods in Council have decreed that you shall take it.”
“What is the way?” said Thor. “But no matter what it is, tell me of it and I shall do as thou dost say.”
“Then,” said laughing Loki, “I am to take you to Jötunheim as a bride for Thrym. Thou art to go in bridal dress and veil, in Freya’s veil and bridal dress.”
“What! I dress in woman’s garb?” shouted Thor.
“Yea, Thor, and wear a veil over your head and a garland of flowers upon it.”
“I—I wear a garland of flowers?”
“And rings upon thy fingers. And a bunch of housekeeper’s keys in thy girdle.”
“Cease thy mockery, Loki,” said Thor roughly, “or I shall shake thee.”
“It is no mockery. Thou wilt have to do this to win Miölnir back for the defence of Asgard. Thrym will take no other recompense than Freya. I would mock him by bringing thee to him in Freya’s veil and dress. When thou art in his hall and he asks thee to join hands with him, say thou wilt not until he puts Miölnir into thy hands. Then when thy mighty hammer is in thy holding thou canst deal with him and with all in his hall. And I shall be with thee as thy bridesmaid! O sweet, sweet maiden Thor!”
“Loki,” said Thor, “thou didst devise all this to mock me. I in a bridal dress! I with a bride’s veil upon me! The Dwellers in Asgard will never cease to laugh at me.”
“Yea,” said Loki, “but there will never be laughter again in Asgard unless thou art able to bring back the hammer that thine unwatchfulness lost.”
“True,” said Thor unhappily, “and is this, thinkst thou, Loki, the only way to win back Miölnir from Thrym?”
“It is the only way, O Thor,” said the cunning Loki.
So Thor and Loki set out for Jötunheim and the dwelling of Thrym. A messenger had gone before them to tell Thrym that Freya was coming with her bridesmaid; that the wedding-feast was to be prepared and the guests gathered and that Miölnir was to be at hand so that it might be given over to the Dwellers in Asgard. Thrym and his Giant mother hastened to have everything in readiness.
Thor and Loki came to the Giant’s house in the dress of a bride and a bridesmaid. A veil was over Thor’s head hiding his beard and his fierce eyes. A red-embroidered robe he wore and at his side hung a girdle of housekeeper’s keys. Loki was veiled, too. The hall of Thrym’s great house was swept and garnished and great tables were laid for the feast. And Thrym’s mother was going from one guest to another, vaunting that her son was getting one of the beauteous Dwellers in Asgard for his bride, Freya, whom so many of the Giants had tried to win.
When Thor and Loki stepped across the threshold Thrym went to welcome them. He wanted to raise the veil of his bride and give her a kiss. Loki quickly laid his hand on the Giant’s shoulder.
“Forbear,” he whispered. “Do not raise her veil. We Dwellers in Asgard are reserved and bashful. Freya would be much offended to be kissed before this company.”
“Aye, aye,” said Thrym’s old mother. “Do not raise thy bride’s veil, son. These Dwellers in Asgard are more refined in their ways than we, the Giants.” Then the old woman took Thor by the hand and led him to the table.
The size and the girth of the bride did not surprise the huge Giants who were in the wedding company. They stared at Thor and Loki, but they could see nothing of their faces and little of their forms because of their veils.
Thor sat at the table with Thrym on one side of him and Loki on the other. Then the feast began. Thor, not noticing that what he did was unbecoming to a refined maiden, ate eight salmon right away. Loki nudged him and pressed his foot, but he did not heed Loki. After the salmon he ate a whole ox.
“These maids of Asgard,” said the Giants to each other, “they may be refined, as Thrym’s mother says, but their appetites are lusty enough.”
“No wonder she eats, poor thing,” said Loki to Thrym. “It is eight days since we left Asgard. And Freya never ate upon the way, so anxious was she to see Thrym and to come to his house.”
“Poor darling, poor darling,” said the Giant. “What she has eaten is little after all.”
Thor nodded his head toward the mead vat. Thrym ordered his servants to bring a measure to his bride. The servants were kept coming with measures to Thor. While the Giants watched, and while Loki nudged and nodded, he drank three barrels of mead.
“Oh,” said the Giants to Thrym’s mother, “we are not so sorry that we failed to win a bride from Asgard.”
And now a piece of the veil slipped aside and Thor’s eyes were seen for an instant. “Oh, how does it come that Freya has such glaring eyes?” said Thrym.
“Poor thing, poor thing,” said Loki, “no wonder her eyes are glaring and staring. She has not slept for eight nights, so anxious was she to come to you and to your house, Thrym. But now the time has come for you to join hands with your bride. First, put into her hands the hammer Miölnir that she may know the great recompense that the Giants have given for her coming.”
Then Thrym, the stupidest of the Giants, rose up and brought Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, into the feasting hall. Thor could hardly restrain himself from springing up and seizing it from the Giant. But Loki was able to keep him still. Thrym brought over the hammer and put the handle into the hands of her whom he thought was his bride. Thor’s hands closed on his hammer. Instantly he stood up. The veil fell off him. His countenance and his blazing eyes were seen by all. He struck one blow on the wall of the house. Down it crashed. Then Thor went striding out of the ruin with Loki beside him, while within the Giants bellowed as the roof and walls fell down on them. And so was Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, lost and won back.