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Thread: Folktales of Thor from Sweden

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    Folktales of Thor from Sweden

    Holy Thursday Nights:

    Until recent times Thursday nights were considered holy. The home would be cleaned and people kept still, because Tor would visit. After him followed Frigg, and it was important that the floor was swept so she could give birth on it if she needed to. Tor was often called Gofar (the Good Father), and His hammer was called Gofarsviggar (the Good Father's projectile).
    Tor's Hammers (and Prehistoric Stone Axes) as Charms:

    In Sweden there was a belief that the hammer didn't return to Tor's hand when he cast it, but that it could be found in the forests and fields. These hammers were in reality stone-age exceeds or arrows, but it didn't matter really. As charms to ward off evil or Trolls, they were thought to be as powerful as the Christian cross. People used to hang one of these hammers over the door at their home as a protection against fire, lightning, sickness and Trolls: in short, for the same reasons the hammer was used during the Viking Age. The belief was that if you hung a hammer over the barn door, your livestock would get fat and healthy. If one got sick anyway, you would scrape some stone powder from the hammer and mix it into the animal's medicine. That could cure anything!
    Tor and Trolls:

    Tor is very prominent in the tales about the Trolls. They feared him more than anything. In many tales Tor is not mentioned by name, but described just as "The Thunder", but this is clearly a diluted version of an ancient tradition. He is mentioned by name often enough. Trolls did not dare call him by real name, however, they called him "Trummslagaren" (The Drummer). Trolls had their own -- often very poetic and beautiful -- version of local Swedish dialects.
    Tor Visits Humans:

    When Tor was not chasing Trolls, he sometimes visited human feasts. The story goes that a big, red-bearded stranger came to a party and dared all men to a wrestling contest. Everybody was up to it, but the stranger won easily. Then he disappeared,and everybody understood that the stranger was Tor himself, that no man can defeat. My personal theory is that Tor enjoys visiting us humans, and did it to amuse himself and the gathered people.
    A Troll's Meeting with Tor, from Halland:

    Two miles south of the town of Varberg lies Höråsen (Mountain of Flax),where the events in many Troll-tales happened. On the North side is a place called Tvååker (doublefield) where lies Trollstugan (the Troll house).

    There the Troll Hagen lived with his wife Ula-Hula. The couple was not the best of friends but still had two children, Lilla-Pippel and Rangel. A dark autumn night, Tor was out driving with a tremendous noise. Lightning struck and thunder rolled so that Ula-Hula couldn't sleep. Hagen slept well though, and his wife got angry.

    "You may talk big, but you are just as cowardly as all men when something really happens! Why do you lie there and refuse to do something? It would be better if you smashed that oaf Tor's head in. But for that you are no good. To let him disturb others' sleep because of your cowardice is the only thing you can do!

    Hagen had heard enough, so he rose from his bed and went up to the mountaintop, with a big rock in his hand. In the flash of a lightning bolt he saw Tor clearly. He took aim and he threw the rock right at Tor. But Tor heard the rock coming and threw his hammer at it, and the rock was split in two. And still today you can visit the place, and see for yourself the rock that Tor split in half with his mighty hammer.

    From Sällsamheter i Halland, by Mats Bramström
    ________________________________________ ______________________

    Tor in Gotland:


    Gotland is an island in the Baltic Sea that has belonged to Sweden for a long time. Tor has left many memories of himself there. According to Gotland's mythical origin,the island could only stay above the sea in daytime, and at night it sank under the sea. But one day Tjelvar came there,and he brought fire. Since then, Gotland never sank again. Tjelvar got three sons who where the ancestors to all Gutar (Gotlanders). The name Tjelvar has connection to Tor, because Tjelvar is nothing than an Eastern Old Norse form of Tjalve, Tor's servant.
    Of Torsburgen:

    In Gotland there is a enormous fortification from ancient times called Torsburgen. Here Tor lived then he visited Gotland. Torsburgen is full of caves and crags, most of them named after him. There is a place called "Tor's table" there, and "Tor's oven", and many others. Tor lives in the Svartstugan (the Black House), a ten metre long and two metre wide crag on Torsburg's highest point.

    Tor tended his household by himself, and got what he needed from the lakes and forests. In the Western part of Torsburg lies Burg Lada, a cave there he stored his fish and game. If Tor wanted to look out over the sea to the North and East, he sat down on a rock by the cliff. In later times this place has been called "the Preaching Chair", but originally it is from there that Tor started with his wagon when he travelled.

    The Giants and Trolls feared him, and from Svartstugan there was a third exit that lead down under the mountain for three miles until it reached open air at Endre Backe, a mile from Visby. Tor often walked this way then he wanted to punish the Giants when they celebrated some evil deed they had wrought upon the humans.
    Tor 's "Death"

    In the end, a rumour was born that Tor had died and been buried in a secret place in Torsburg. But even after that Tor used to visit his old home, especially at Östergarnsholm: there the Trolls had one of their main gatherings.

    (Comment: I don´t believe in Tor´s "death", it sounds more like a weakened tradition or a piece of Christian propaganda than a true tradition. And in contrast to Odin, Frö and Njord, who in the folklore all "died" after they first ruled as kings in human shape, Tor was never a king in Gotland).
    An Archeologist in a Pinch:

    A little more than a hundred years ago, Tor made a visit to Hejdeby farm. An archeologist from the mainland rented a room at the farm,and was searching for Tor´s grave. One night he came back and told the woman he rented from that he had found the grave and would start digging the next day. But after nightfall, when the woman was outdoors on some business, a big wagon came to the farm. It was drawn by two black horses, and all of it glowed with sparks and fire. A man in dark clothes came from the wagon, and passed the woman without greeting her, and went in to the archeologist's room. Next morning the archeologist took the train back home, for such a night he didn't want again. Somebody had drawn and pinched his body all night. And since then, no one has searched for Tor’s grave!
    Mysterious Goings-on at Krak's Farm:

    By Torsburg lies a farm called Kräklingebo, but which was once called Tor Kräklings farm. To this place a rich man named Krak came one day. He started building a farm next to Torsburg, which got the name Herregården. Then he started to plan how to build up on Torsburg itself, and he started to build a wall up there. But now he had made a sacrilege. One night the villagers saw a wagon arrive at Krak's farm. It was drawn by two black horses and followed by two dogs with tongues of fire. A man got out of the wagon and entered the house, and soon everybody heard noise and sounds of a fight, but no one dared enter to have a look. Next morning, Krak was found dead inside.

    Since that day, nobody has dared to touch Herregården or build at Torsburg!
    Tor's Journey to Östergarnsholm:

    One night the owner of Hvidfelder farm laid in his bed asleep. He waited for the net he had sat out to fill up with fish. Then the door opened gently and Tor came in. The Hvidfeller-farmer woke up and sat bewildered in his bed. He was always brave and cool, but this was something you didn't see everyday! Tor noticed his bewilderment, greeted him calmly and started to talk to him about the fishing. Soon the tension had gone, and Tor asked the farmer to row him over to Östergarnsholm.
    "No", said the farmer, "the wind is getting worse and you can't steer and row at the same time."
    "You just steer, so shall I row," answered Tor.
    And so they went to Östergarnsholm, and even though the farmer had been there many times before, he never made the journey faster.
    When they reached land, Tor said that Hvidfeller should row out a bit in the water "for safety reasons" and wait there. Then Tor walked up the hill and suddenly he met a great Giant. That meeting became a violent battle, but in the end the Giant got such a blow that he fell unconcious to the ground. Before he lay still however, he managed to kick Tor on his leg, but Tor didn't notice.
    Then the Hvidfeller-farmer rowed ashore to pick Tor up, and when he jumped into the boat he said: "Did you see who won?"
    "Yes", said the Hvidfeller, "but I also saw who got the last kick!
    "You just wait," said Tor, and he went right up to the fallen Giant and beat him to death!
    When they were back home, Tor thanked the farmer for all his help,but said that he had nothing with which to pay him. But he would not go unrewarded. Tor left the beach and disappeared up to Torsburg. But next morning,the Hvidfeller found all his nets in the best of shape, ready to use, and he got plenty of fish what day.

    Stories from Gotland are from Gotländska Sagor,by John Nihlén.
    ________________________________________ ______________________

    Of Tor's Hammer:

    A very widespread custom in most of Sweden was the use of the hammer as a wedding symbol. Clearly, this goes back to pre-Christian marriage customs. In Trymskvida, Mjöllnir is placed in "Freia's" lap as a blessing, but probably also as a fertility-bringer (quite possibly as a phallic symbol).
    Tor himself says in Alvismal that he is the patron of marriages and weddings alone among the Gods. Early in the Christian era, the hammer still continued to be a part of the wedding feast, not in the the Christian ritual, but in the "profane" customs having to do with the newlyweds first night together in their own bed. The guests and parents used to make a "hammer-bed" for the couple by hiding a hammer in the marriage bed. It was considered best if the couple didn't notice the hammer at all. The meaning of all this was to ensure a good marriage full of happiness,many children, and general blessings.
    As said, this was a very widespread custom in the whole of Sweden, but sadly Tor himself was never mentioned in this custom. However, there can be no doubt that the custom has its origin in Heathen marriage-customs connected to Tor in ancient times. It is a rare gift to find a such a richly described ceremony in these latter days. The Hammer-bed tradition was practised at least until the First World War, but after that it was mostly forgotten. However, followers of Tor today continue the practice.
    ________________________________________ ______________________

    Sources:

    The stories in general are found in many books about Swedish folklore,but the the story of Hagen is from Sällsamheter i Halland,by Mats Bramström. The stories from Gotland are from Gotländska Sagor,by John Nihlén. Those two are collections of folklore from the two provinces.

    Another book is Wärend och Virdane, by Hyltén-Cavallius. Some of the traditions I mentioned are described there more in detail. Wärend och Virdane is a gold mine! It was collected in the first half of the nineteenth century,and tells of traditions about the Gods, sacrificial sites still in use in those days, spells, and ceremonies.

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    When my Geschwister and I were small children, our dad would tell us bedtime stories, most of which were the tales of the old north European deities, and we loved them.
    We were brought up in the knowledge that we had our own rich, arcane stable of myths and legends, without having to rely on the dry, tired Greco-Roman stuff.

    So, when I did a module of "Ancient Mythology" at school, and the young student teacher explained the whole course would only involve Roman and Greek myths, and "are there any questions before we begin?", I immediately raised my hand and politely asked why we can't include the Norse pantheon?

    Without explanation, she demanded I leave the class! I was 18 years old, 5 months later I would be studying for a degree in a far away city!! And the stupid woman told me to get out of the classroom.

    Mind you, even then I had a reputation at my rather strict C.of E. Comprehensive as "the School Nazi".
    But she was the Fascist that day. Oh yes!

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