By Adam Eli Clem, 2003

In "The Prose Edda" of Snori Sturlason, a compendium of Norse pagan myths written in 1220 A.D., Thor, the Norse god of thunder, twice encounters a creature known as Jormungander, the "World Serpent," also known as the Midgard Serpent. Jormungander was said to be one of three offspring of the trickster-god Loki and the giantess Angrboda, and so prodigious was the size of their monstrous, aquatic child that it coiled about the entirety of the world.

Thor first encounters Jormungander in the company of the giant Hymir, whom Thor press-gangs into service as a rower in an attempt to capture Jormungander. Taking the severed head of Hymir's favorite ox Himinbrjotr, "Sky Bellower," as bait for the serpent, Thor and the giant row out into the sea. Thor ties a long line to a hook he has fashioned, impales the ox-head with it and lowers the bait to the bottom of the sea.

The narrative continues, per Sturlason:

"The Midgard Serpent snapped at the ox-head, and the hook caught in its jaw; but when the Serpent was aware of this, it dashed away so fiercely that both Thor's fists crashed against the gunwale. Then Thor was angered, and took upon him his divine strength, braced his feet so strongly that he plunged through the ship with both feet, and dashed his feet against the bottom; then he drew the Serpent up to the gunwale. And it may be said that no one has seen very fearful sights who might not see that: how Thor flashed fiery glances at the Serpent, and the Serpent in turn stared up toward him from below and blew venom." (Sturlason, The Prose Edda, Brodeur translation)

Then, just as Thor is about to dispatch the beast with his hammer, Hymir, scared out of his wits (and probably more...
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