The Parable of Thor's Gift

by Russell Impagliazzo

         When the giant Knae married Miriam Lazarussdottir, he invited all the Aesir to the feast. The journey being long, only Thor and Jesus came. Undaunted, Knae threw open the gates of his hall to all, noble and peasant alike, and even sent his servants to bring people in to the feast, for he had ample food for armies.

         Seeing the empty banquet table, Thor sat down at the head, which had been reserved for the bridegroom. But Jesus sat on a wooden stool nearby, and offered his own seat to Knae.

         When the feast ended, Knae first presented Jesus with a jeweled sword, and a tub of expensive fragrant oil. Jesus kept the oil, but returned the sword, and gave Knae in return a golden chalice, which, when water was poured into it, turned the water into the strongest and most exquisite mead.

         Thor sulked because Jesus was given the first gift, and became irate when, instead of the sword, Knae gave him a shield and a helmet of iron. ``Do you think I need protection from blows? Does the storm cloud where a fur coat to protect it from chills? Does the volcano need gloves to protect it from the heat?''

         He threatened violence unless he were given the jeweled sword. If he had asked politely, Knae would have given him the sword, but by this point Knae was sick of his rudeness and wished he had never invited him. He refused to budge.

         Then Jesus said, ``Let us hold two contests to see who is the worthiest. The winner of the first will have my ointment, the winner of the second will have the sword." All agreed.

         The first contest was an eating contest. All sat back at the table. In through the open gate walked an old man, dressed in rags, as thin as a post. Without saying a word, he sat at the table. Food was brought in huge quantities to all the guests. Thor ate seven pigs, three goats, and a bull; but the man ate all that was put in front of him, including the bones and the plates, and showed no sign of satiation. It looked as though he would eat Knae out of house and home. Then Jesus, who had been nibbling modestly at his portion, took out his dagger, and cut a small sliver of flesh from his own side. When he gave it to the old man to eat, he turned and left the household without claiming his prize. Jesus took the ointment, and put a little on the wound he had made.

         The second contest was a wrestling contest. No one could stand against Thor for even a minute, not even giants. He was about to declare himself victor when a stout, harsh-faced woman walked in the gate and challenged him. He struggled against her, but could not move her an inch. He grabbed her with both hands around her wrist, but with an almost invisible movement, she flung him across the room. Thor became irate, and attacked the woman with all his strength, pounding her with blows that could level mountains. But he could not move her an inch, nor even get any reaction from her. From time to time, she would toss Thor around the hall. Sometimes she would announce where he was to fall in advance.

         But wherever she threw him, Thor returned to face her. He would not give up, no matter how battered, but he no longer thought of attack. Instead, he concentrated on recovering his footing as gracefully as possible and returning to the fray as quickly as he was thrown. The battle was like that of the waves and the shore, where the waves are constantly repulsed but never cease their blows. The woman smiled at Thor as he came back over and over, and her face took on a beauty that shone like the moon. But she did not hold back, and in the end threw him from the hall and down a deep well. With that, she vanished, but did not claim her prize.

         Thor felt humiliated as he was hauled up from the well, but all the guests were awestruck, and it was unanimously decided that he had earned the jeweled sword.

         Jesus said to him, ``It is better to put yourself in the back and be brought up front, than to place yourself in the front and be asked to yield your place. It is the role of the great man to give gifts, not to demand them."

         All present were perplexed by the events of the day, and asked Jesus to explain them. He said unto them, ``The hungry old man was Time, who devours all. But by offering myself as a sacrifice, I will defeat even Time. The woman who Thor wrestled was Wyrd, against whom all strive in vain. The mark of the honorable man is not that he escapes the blows of Wyrd, but that he does not let them crush his spirit. By losing valiantly, Thor proved his worth and earned his prize. In the last days, Thor will not seek to escape his destiny, but will face it boldly, killing the Serpeant as it devours him."

Last modified: Mon Jun 2 22:07:58 2003