Sure of his fact, Harbard drinks big sips until he misses his breath. But when he rests his horn, the liquid level has barely dropped. A little unhinged, he then claims a second chance in the form of a fight fight. To his great surprise, he is opposed to the nurse of the king who is then very old. From the beginning of the fight, Harbard realizes that the woman is incredibly strong. In spite of all her efforts, an arm-wrench of the grandmother forces her to kneel down.
When the visitor, humiliated, prepares to leave the scene, the king of the giants confesses to him to have resorted to subterfuges and illusions to fool him. The horn, he tells him, is connected to the sea, so he could not empty it. But he will be surprised, the king continues, when he returns to the ocean to see how his level has fallen. The old nurse, meanwhile, represents old age. Nobody can defeat her. But the king was nevertheless impressed by the resistance offered by Harbard.
Having listened to the tale, one of the women then claims not to believe that the hero of these adventures is the vagabond but rather the god Thor, the only one capable of emptying the oceans and to resist old age. By serving this story, the writers of the series have apparently wanted to remind the attentive viewer of the delineation of the roles of the two main gods of Norse mythology: Thor with Thor’s Hammer, who symbolizes strength and who is the original hero of this episode, and Odin, cunning and crafty who appears under the features of the vagrant-storyteller. Harbard , which means gray beard in old Norois, is indeed one of the many nicknames of the master of Walhalla, the home of the Nordic gods.
Impossible Challenge “ It’s a little reductive vision,says Nicolas Meylan. This story is a summary and a simplification of the episode of Thor’s trip with Thor’s Hammer to the giant Utgarda-Loki as it can be read in different sources. In one version, Thor is not alone but accompanied by the god Loki and two children who serve him as servants or slave. In addition, the adventures begin well before the arrival to the castle. The trials are also more numerous, including an impossible challenge to eat a trough filled with meat faster than a certain Logi (which turns out to be the wild fire), a race against Hugi (unbeatable since it ‘s isin reality the spirit of the king of giants) or the unsuccessful attempt to lift a cat in whose features is actually hiding the Midgard snake. ”
The source in question is none other than the famous Eddawritten by the Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241). It is in this same collection that Michael Hirst, the writer of Vikings, drew on to reconstruct the Scandinavian religion of the characters of his series and in particular the simplified history of the voyage of Thor with Thor’s Hammer. The choice is not illogical. It is one of the oldest and most comprehensive stories about Nordic mythology as a whole. Many historians of religion believe that it is based on older oral and written sources, now extinct, and faithfully transmits an ancestral Scandinavian tradition. Some specialists are still trying to unravel in the content of the Edda what is “authentic” what Snorri Sturluson himself has brought.
For Nicolas Meylan, however, such an approach is futile. According to him, mythology is nothing more than a political ideology put into narrative form. It is therefore necessary to read Thor’s journey taking into account the political and social context of Scandinavia during Snorri Sturluson’s lifetime. Since its colonization in the ninth century by the Norwegians (among others), Iceland, devoid of executive power, is independent. The inhabitants are free – their status has even made the American economist Milton Friedman dream a millennium later – although their society is based on a subsistence economy. However, at the beginning of the 13th century, Norway sought to extend its influence abroad. Having completed the process of centralization and calmed the last attempts at internal rebellion, King Håkon IV (1204-1263) is particularly interested in Iceland. This is the beginning of Norwegian imperialism. After a few decades of turmoil, the volcanic island eventually lost its independence and is attached in 1262 to the crown.
Homeland of poets “ Knowing this, many elements of the journey of Thor with Thor’s Hammer, in its original version at least, make sense, says Nicolas Meylan. It is difficult not to recognize, hidden under the features of Thor, the king of Norway who then has the monopoly of violence in the North Atlantic. As for Utgarda-Loki, the king of the giants, he symbolized Iceland, which at that time enjoyed a monopoly on speech. The island is indeed the homeland of poets and historiographers of Norway. And poetry, for the ancient Scandinavians, represents the capacity of persuasion and organization of memory. The force of this quasi- performative speech is reflected in Utgarda-Loki’s illusionist power to deceive Thor. ”
Suddenly, the intention of Snorri Sturluson appears in a new light. The Icelandic poet is a Christian, there is no doubt. It is not forbidden to imagine that he feels a certain nostalgia for the religion of his ancestors. But this is clearly not an ethnographer and his purpose, with the Edda, is not to recall the beliefs of the past. With these particular and prestigious tools that are the Nordic myths, that he does not hesitate to model as he pleases, the poet poses a look and a commentary on his society and his time.
An era all the more difficult for Snorri Sturluson as he attends at the same time the loss of speed of an old order characterized in particular by an oligarchy of which it is a part. Having benefited from a solid literary training and concluded a very profitable marriage, he is at the age of 25 the most powerful man in Iceland when he decides to go to Norway. He hopes to become scalde for the new king, that is to say official propagandist of the crown, like so many Icelandic poets before him. The problem is that this king is different. Raised by the Church and not in the old tradition, exposed to continental and non-local literature, he no longer understands the old traditions. The current does not flow. The fortune of Snorri Sturluson then declines slowly. He will return to Iceland and will even be murdered by order of the King of Norway in 1241.