If you’re a fan of the new Thor movies, you might have heard that the original legends are… weird. Like, really weird. John Waters weird. This was not my field, so I am only dimly aware of what is going on here thematically, but I do know that this story is a prime example of the Norse gods’ proclivity towards gender-bending magic and ultraviolence.
This particular story comes from the Poetic Edda, one of the better preserved collections of Norse mythology. We can’t tell for certain when this particular tale was first told, because the manuscript is a collection of uncited work recorded from an older oral tradition. Some scholars will tell you it’s a legit pagan story, others contend that it’s an over-the-top Christian parody of these heathen gods.
Thor wakes up and realizes that he’s lost his hammer Mjölnir, so he goes to Loki for help. Loki flies off to the realm of the giants, where the thieving Thrym has hidden Thor’s hammer out of reach underground. Thrym wants to marry Freyja, the babeliest of the gods, and he offers to trade her for the hammer.
Loki returns to the realm of the gods. He and Thor are perfectly content to make the trade, but Freyja doesn’t think so highly of the idea:
Wrathful was Freyja, | and fiercely she snorted, And the dwelling great | of the gods was shaken,
And burst was the mighty | Brisings’ necklace (source)
Heimdal comes up with the idea of having Thor, not Freyja, be presented as the bride:
“Bind we on Thor | the bridal veil,Dress him up as a pretty princess, is what I’m saying. (source)
Let him bear the mighty | Brisings’ necklace;”
Thor isn’t too keen on this idea, but Loki talks him into it; Mjölnir is such a powerful weapon that the giants could take over the realm of the gods if Thor doesn’t man up and put on that dress. So he gets gussied up, and off they go to the realm of the giants for the wedding:
Then bound they on Thor | the bridal veil,
And next the mighty | Brisings’ necklace. Keys around him | let they rattle,
And down to his knees | hung woman’s dress;
With gems full broad | upon his breast,
And a pretty cap | to crown his head. Then Loki spake, | the son of Laufey:
“As thy maid-servant thither | I go with thee;
We two shall haste | to the giants’ home.”
Yeah, Loki’s getting in on this cross-dressing action too.source)
Thor makes a fool of himself at the wedding by drinking an enormous amount of mead and eating, among other things, an entire ox and eight salmon. Loki is forced to make excuses for him, and things get dicey when Thrym decides to look under the veil:
Thrym looked ‘neath the veil, | for he longed to kiss,
But back he leaped | the length of the hall:
“Why are so fearful | the eyes of Freyja?
Fire, methinks, | from her eyes burns forth.” Hard by there sat | the serving-maid wise,
So well she answered | the giant’s words:
“No sleep has Freyja | for eight nights found,
So hot was her longing | for Jotunheim.”
Nice save, Loki. Thrym brings Mjölnir out as part of the ceremony. Thor grabs the hammer and kills his husband-to-be, followed by all the other giants in the hall. That’s it, folks: don’t steal from the gods, because you’ll be killed by angry drag queens. Let’s see if that story makes it into The Avengers 2.