Thor felt emasculated. And it was not because he had been spurned by his wife, Sif. Neither was it because he had been chastised by his father, Odin. He had lost his famous hammer, Mjölnir, which had been granted to him by the dwarfs during a smithing contest organized by Loki. This was the weapon that made him the most powerful of the Aesir, and the greatest foe of the giant race at that. Not having it was worse than losing his manhood. He was still strong, but he would not be able to fend off an attack of the giants if they were ever to invade either Asgard or Midgard.
Checking the usual suspects
Of course, Thor suspected Loki to be able to tell him where his hammer had gone. After all, the trickster was usually the culprit when anything had gone wrong in Asgard. So Thor did not waste any time talking to any of the Aesir and headed straight for his father’s blood brother to collect his hammer. Yet when he accused Loki, the god of mischief answered that he did not know anything about its disappearance.
Yet the trickster was sharp of mind. “I am flattered to be your number 1 suspect, but might I suggest you look into Jotunheim?”, he said. His lips curled into a sly smile. “The giant chieftains would pay good money for your precious artifact, so they will most likely know something”. Thor’s face grew grim. “I do not think it would be wise for me to travel to Jotunheim without my hammer. I killed some giant families a few weeks ago and these giants are known to hold a grudge”. Loki rolled his eyes. “The outrage”, he said with sarcasm. “All you did was slay some of their kin”.
‘Volunteering’ for the cause
The son of Odin did not like to be mocked. And although Loki was more intelligent than the god of thunder, he was no match for Thor’s prowess. “So you will go in my stead, Loki”, Thor grunted. “If you do not bring back my hammer, I will crush you”. Loki snickered at the threat, even though he knew it was a serious one. He had grown used to the threats Thor made on his life. “Fine”, he conceded. “But only if I can use Freyja’s feathered falcon suit to fly over”. He yawned, demonstrating how exciting he thought a long journey through hostile territory would be.
Loki received the falcon suit of Freyja after a long discussion. He already had his suspicions regarding which giant had stolen the hammer. When he entered Jotunheim, he decisively flew for the stronghold of Thrym. This was a mighty chieftain amongst giants, earning his status through violence and displays of might. He was not the smartest giant though, so Loki was pretty sure that he would be able to find out if he was indeed the thief of Mjölnir. Yet before making any accusation, he first needed to collect evidence.
The ugly chieftain
Still high up in the sky, he circled a few times around the stronghold of Thrym. He heard the sound of celebrations vibrating through the air: the giants were having a party. He flew right at the stronghold, where many giants had indeed gathered to celebrate and pay homage to their leader. With grand spectacle, Loki dropped himself at the throne of the giant and transformed himself back into his regular self. The giants clapped and cheered for him, for they loved a good show. Especially when magic was involved.
When Loki lifted himself to his feet, Thrym stood before him. “A nice trick you have there”, he said with a smile. He had the ugliest face that Loki had seen in a while. “I have had worse entries, I suppose”, he said as if the transformation was something he did on an everyday account. “How do you fare, great Thrym?”. Now the smile became even wider, making the giant even more ugly when he answered: “More than well, I am certain of it. For soon, I am to wed the most beautiful being in all nine realms”. He licked the grease of an animal off of his hand. “Who would not be happy to wed the goddess Freyja?”, I ask you.
Loki frowned. “Why is it that you, a giant, are marrying the goddess of love, fertility, and magic?”. He shifted on his feet. “No offense, given your splendor and riches she would be happy to have you. But why would the Aesir let you?”. He hoped flattery would get him somewhere. That is why he did not speak his mind when he finished his thought: “why would Freyja want to?”. Thrym started laughing. It was a loud and booming laugh. As the other giants joined in, all of the castle grounds started to shake. “It is a good question, little one”, Thrym admitted. “Let’s say I have come to obtain an artifact that will be used as a bargaining chip. Do I care about what the Aesir think?”. He shrugged. “Not too much. Me robbing the gods of their most beautiful asset would be seen as a grand feat by my kin”.
Loki smiled. He had heard enough. His gut feeling had been right after all. “So I gather you are only willing to part with Mjölnir if the Aesir hand over Freyja’s hand in marriage?”, he asked, feigning a look of disinterest. “That’s right, Loki Lauffeyson”, the giant said, clearly pleased with himself. “And there is little you can do to change my mind”. Loki cursed the giant in his mind but refused to grant him the satisfaction of seeing his surprise. “Do you want riches?”, he asked. “Or maybe an alliance with Thor? I know he has killed some giants recently, but please keep in mind that his mother is a giantess as well. Surely, he would be grateful to you for returning his hammer”. Thor would be all but grateful, Loki knew. It would be more likely for him to kill the giant where he stood.
What’s one woman in the grand scheme of things?
The giant’s face grew grim now. “I will make no such deal”, he said. “Either you will arrange Freyja’s hand in marriage or I will hold on to the hammer until the end of days”. He made a hand gesture that indicated that he was done with the conversation. Loki’s mind was now running at full speed, trying to think of a way to outsmart the giant. He did not mind that Thor’s hammer had been stolen, but he did not want to be crushed by him when returning to Asgard.
“Fair enough”, he said. “Clearly you have outsmarted me and the Aesir”. Again, the giant chieftain looked pleased with himself. “I will make the arrangements and send Freyja your way, so you can start making wedding preparations”. He fixed his gaze on the giant, no longer feigning disinterest. “My sole condition is that you will grant her Mjölnir as a wedding gift, a boon to start your marriage on the right foot”. Thrym nodded. “You have a deal Loki”, he said.
And so Loki transformed himself back into a falcon, using the feathered suit of Freyja. His mind was still racing. He had just sold off the owner of that suit. He was already trying to picture how Freyja would respond to the deal he had just made.
Clearly, too much to handle
Freyja’s fury was everything Loki had anticipated. It was no surprise, he supposed. He had already bartered off her hand to a giant once before. He shifted in his seat, hoping that he would not have to give birth to another horse. “There is no way I will marry some ugly giant!”, she exclaimed. Thor had been trying to talk her into accepting the deal, valuing the return of his hammer above anything else. Others tried to support him, understanding that Asgard was doomed without the protection of Thor and Mjölnir.
Now mind you, it is not that the other Aesir were weaklings who were unable to fight off some giants. Odin, Tyr, and Frey were all battle-hardened warriors in their own right. And Odin still had many warriors in Valhalla that would assist him in the protection of Asgard, as he was saving them for Ragnarok to come. Indeed, Mjölnir was their nuclear shield and nuclear warhead all in one. In the hands of Thor, it had the ability to lay waste to entire armies of giants We should understand, however, that the Aesir were not immortal. They merely led extended lifespans due to Idunn‘s apples. They were very much capable of dying in battle, which is something we have seen in the story of Baldr’s death.
Now that he heard enough, Loki figured he could sow some extra disarray among the ranks of the Aesir. “My dear Freyja”, he said. “Surely you understand how dire our situation is?”. He gave him a reassuring smile. “Our very lives might depend on your next actions… and the giant is not that ugly I’ll have you know”, he lied. Freyja stared at him with disgust. She trembled, a mixture of fear, rage, and despair. She hated Loki with all her heart.
A serious trick
This was the moment that Heimdall intervened. Heimdall was wise, able to see things more clearly than the others usually did. “If I could make a suggestion?”, he asked. “I think we should marry someone else off to Thrym in Freyja’s stead”. Heimdall’s face was as solemn as ever. The room grew quiet as everyone was curious to hear his plan.
Loki raised an eyebrow. “My dear Heimdall”, he said. “Surely, you are not advocating that we lower ourselves to trickery?”. Heimdall had often seen him play his tricks from afar, but he had a dull sense of humor. He never appreciated Loki’s games. “Shut up Loki”, Thor mumbled, “I would do anything to get my hammer back, so let the man speak his mind”.
Heimdall now turned to Thor with a rare twinkle in his eyes. “I am glad you feel that way, Odinson”, he said. “For it is you we should marry off to the giant”. A painful silence fell over the room, broken after a few seconds by none other than Loki who was laughing hysterically. It was only when Thor knocked him to the ground, that the room grew quiet once more. It would take some time before he could rise to his feet again.