Thor and the Jotun Geirrod
In a Nutshell
Remember how in the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion are on a mission to find a heart, a brain, and courage? But when they finally meet the wizard, he tells them that those things were inside them all along? That's actually something that happens a lot in fairy tales and myths.
Here's how it works: The hero thinks that the source of his power is some sort of object, but he learns in the course of the story that his power actually comes from inside himself. It's a great lesson for the hero. Plus, it's an exciting story for the reader. That's because often, the hero only discovers his inner strength by losing his special whiz-a-ma-gog. And when that happens, we're left on the edge of our seats. Will Spidey / Harry / [insert favorite hero here] manage to pull it out of the bag without his special "magical" object?
That's exactly what we're wondering in the myth of Thor and the Jotun Geirrod. Loki convinces Thor to travel to a giant's hall without his invincibility-granting belt and even (gulp!) without his hammer. And we're left wondering how he'll ever be able to defeat mean ol' Geirrod without it. See, his hammer is kind of Thor's thing. It's no ordinary hammer: It never misses its mark, and always returns to its thrower.
But it's more than just an awesome hammer. When people think of Thor, that's what they think of. You might even say that it's the source of his whole identity. Thor without his hammer is like Harry without his wand, Katniss without her bow, Bella without her, uh... you get the picture. Thor without his hammer is just an oversized oaf without much in the way of brains.
Nope. Turns out Thor doesn't need his hammer to kill him some giants. (Although this being Viking mythology, he does need some weaponry, which a friendly giantess is happy to lend him.) He crushes Geirrod's daughters with one effective shove against the ceiling and punctures Geirrod's stomach with a fastball worthy of the best major-leaguer. And then, oh yeah, he kills all the other giants there, too. Because Thor without his hammer is still Thor: A masculine, hard-fighting, bone-crushing warrior dude.
When it comes right down to it, we can all learn a little something from Thor's story. Take Shmoop, for instance: If we didn't have a computer, we'd still be Shmoop. It would just be a little bit harder for us to achieve our plans for world domination. Moral of the story: Our computers and magic hammers may make life easier. In the end, though, we are who we are inside, no matter what special magical objects we carry around.
Explore the ways this myth connects with the world and with other topics on ShmoopHe could be Thor's biggest bromance: Beowulf, too, pits his strength against some larger-than-life monstrous opponents in Beowulf, including a female one with a water fetish.
In the mood for more epic battles with giants? See Book IX of Homer's Odyssey, where, like Thor, Odysseus escapes a giant's lair with the aid of a well-placed puncture wound.
Attention, Lit nerds!: Our sources for Norse mythology are examples of medieval Germanic literature, a group that, with Beowulf, also includes "The Husband's Message," "The Wanderer," and "The Seafarer."
Giants. Trickery. Magic girdles. It's all there in the myth of Thor and the Jotun Geirrod… and also in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The giants are the bad guys in this story (and lots of others where Thor is involved). But for an episode written from the giant's point of view, check out Gulliver's Travels.