Thor awakened in a mood, for he desired to take Utgard, the great fortress inside of Jotunheim. So he took his two servants, Thialfi and Roskva, along with his brother Loki, and they travelled to Jotunheim.
It was a long journey, and as the sun set, the four companions vowed to settle down for the night. They were in forest, and came across a cave that was quite a marvel, for it was not made of rock, but of iron, and had five deep tunnels. So, tired from their long day’s journey, they settled into one of the chambers and fell deeply asleep. But their sleep did not last, for in the middle of the night they were awakened by a terrible shaking of the cave. They immediately rushed outside and found a frost giant lying next to the cave, snoring and slumbering, quaking the ground.
Thor called up to the giant, “Awaken! What is your name?”
The giant’s eyes slowly opened, and he looked at Thor. “My name,” he said slowly, his deep voice rumbling in the night, “is Skrymir.” He looked at the group, and then at the cave. “Why,” he asked, “were you in my glove?” As he asked this, he picked up the cave and placed it over his hand.
Thor and his companions much marveled that they had spent the night in a glove, and were sore afraid that the giant might exact revenge, but Skrymir did not appear to be angry, and merely asked instead where they were going. When they told him they were going to Utgard, he asked if he might travel with them, for he, too, was going to Utgard.
Thor did not like the idea, but consented. Skrymir, without another word, grabbed their provisions and placed it in his own bag, and began leading them through the forest. They followed him until night fell once more, when Skrymir placed his bag upon the ground and without eating or speaking promptly went to sleep.
The four men were hungry, however, and so Thor tried to open the giant’s bag. It was sealed, as if by magic; Thor was unable to open it. His rage at last increased, and taking his hammer, he rushed upon Skrymir, striking the giant on the head. But the hammer bounced off of it, and the giant said, “Did an acorn hit my head?” He fell back asleep, and Thor tried again, but Smrymir only asked, “Did a gnat strike my head?” Thor tried once more, and Skrymir stood up and said, “I believe dirt from a tree branch has fallen on me.” Then he took up his bag and strode off into the woods, leaving them without provisions.
Thor held his hammer aloft, and marveled at what had occurred. He greatly feared that his hammer had lost its magic, and he would be unable to wield it any longer against the frost giants. Loki placed his hand on Thor’s shoulder, however, and offered comforting words. Thor, encouraged, led them on through the woods.
At last, near the day’s end, they reach Utgard. They entered the Great Hall, where the giant king was holding a feast. When the four companions entered, all revelry stopped, and the king demanded, “What has brought you here? No one can enter my Great Hall unless he can prove himself in some fashion!”
Thor, who did not expect this response, stammered, “Loki can eat faster than anyone in the kingdom!”
The giant king laughed, and said, “Then let us hold a contest! I will call my loyal subject, Logi, to hold an eating match.”
Soon, Loki and Logi were seated at either end of a long table. In between them stood plate after plate of food. The king raised his hand to signal the contestants to be ready, and then he swiftly lowered it with a word: “Begin!”
Loki ate with all of his might, and when he had finished what was set before him, he looked at the giant, assured that he had beaten Logi. But to his dismay, Logi had eaten, not only the food, but all of the plates, as well!
Thor thought quickly, and said, “Thialfi here is the swiftest runner in the kingdom!”
So the king called for Hugi, a young giant boy, and everyone went into the courtyard. The two stood at one end, and the king announced the beginning of the contest. Thialfi ran fast, but before he was halfway across the courtyard, Hugi had already finished.
Thor was afraid for their lives, and said, “I shall prove my skills at drinking!”
So the king had a horn full of mead brought out, and Thor set about drinking. But no matter how much he drank, the horn never emptied, and Thor flung it aside, exhausted. “You may kill us now, for we have failed.”
The king laughed and said, “I will give you a challenge of my own. Try to lift my cat from the floor.” He placed an old gray cat on the ground, and Thor tried to lift it. But the cat arched its back, and appeared to be a rainbow over Thor’s head, and Thor was only able to lift one paw from the ground.
The king laughed again and said, “Perhaps I should bring you an old woman with whom you can wrestle!” But the old woman quickly pinned Thor to the ground. Thor knew, at last, that it was the end. He knelt before the giant king, awaiting death.
But the giant king only laughed once more and said, “I will not kill you, for I had to use many magic spells to defeat you. For I am Skrymir, the giant from the forest. When you tried to strike me in the woods, I made your hammer strike the ground. When you held these contests, I placed a spell on my servants so that they would win. When you drank from the horn, it had been dipped in the sea, and you drank an endless supply of seawater. My cat was the Midgard Serpent, which encircles the world, and I am astonished that you lifted what you did. And the old woman was Old Age herself, whom no one can cheat. It took a great amount of magic to humiliate you, and I am deeply impressed.”
Thor, at hearing this, grew angry and leapt upon the giant king, swinging his hammer in full force. But the king had disappeared, so Thor swung his hammer at the great walls of Utgard, hoping to tear it down. But he found himself in an empty field, swinging only at air. This was the first time Thor had ever been defeated by a giant.