List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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but let us call hither the old Ella, my nurse; with her
shall Thor prove his strength, if he will. She has given
many one a fall who appeared far stronger than Thor is.
On this there entered the hall an old woman, and Utgard
Loke said she would wrestle with Thor. In short, the
contest went so, that the more Thor exerted himself, the
firmer she stood, and now began the old woman to exert
herself, and Thor to give way, and severe struggles
followed. It was not long before Thor was brought down
on one knee.  Then Utgard Loke stepped forward, bade them
cease the struggle, and said that Thor should attempt
nothing more at his court. It was now drawing towards
night; Utgard Loke showed Thor and his companions their
lodging, where they were well accommodated.

"As soon as it was light the next morning, up rose Thor
and his companions, dressed themselves, and prepared to
set out. Then came Utgard Loke, and ordered the table to
be set, where there wanted no good provisions, either
meat or drink. When they had breakfasted, they set out
on their way. Utgard Loke accompanied them out of the
castle, but at parting he asked Thor how the journey had
gone off, whether he had found any man more mighty than
himself? Thor answered, that the enterprise had brought
him much dishonour, it was not to be denied, and that he
must esteem himself a man of no account, which much
mortified him.

"Utgard Loke replied: 'Now will I tell thee the truth,
since thou art out of my castle, where, so long as I live
and reign, thou shalt never re-enter; and whither, believe
me, thou hadst never come if I had known before what
might thou possessest, and that thou wouldst so nearly
plunge us into great trouble. False appearances have I
created for thee, so that the first time when thou mettest
the man in the wood it was I; and when thou wouldst open
the provision-sack, I had laced it together with an iron
band, so that thou couldst not find the means to undo
it. After that thou struckest at me three times with the
hammer. The first stroke was the weakest, and it had been
my death had it hit me. Thou sawest by my castle a rock,
with three deep square holes, of which one was very deep:
those were the marks of thy hammer. The rock I placed in
the way of the blow, without thy perceiving it.

"'So also in the games, when thou contendedst with my
courtiers. When Lopt made his essay, the fact was this:
he was very hungry, and ate voraciously; but he who was
called Loge, was FIRE, which consumed the trough as well
as the meat. And Huge (mind) was my THOUGHT with which
Thjalfe ran a race, and it was impossible for him to
match it in speed. When thou drankest from the horn, and
thoughtest that its contents grew no less, it was,
notwithstanding, a great marvel, such as I never believed
could have taken place. The one end of the horn stood in
the sea, which thou didst not perceive; and when thou
comest to the shore thou wilt see how much the ocean has
diminished by what thou hast drunk. MEN WILL CALL IT THE

"'Further,' said he, 'most remarkable did it seem to me
that thou liftedst the cat, and in truth all became
terrified when they saw that thou liftedst one of its
feet from the ground. For it was no cat, as it seemed
unto thee, but the great serpent that lies coiled round
the world. Scarcely had he length that his tail and head
might reach the earth, and thou liftedst him so high up
that it was but a little way to heaven. That was a
marvellous wrestling that thou wrestledst with Ella (old
age), for never has there been any one, nor shall there
ever be, let him approach what great age he will, that
Ella shall not overcome.

"'Now we must part, and it is best for us on both sides
that you do not often come to me; but if it should so
happen, I shall defend my castle with such other arts
that you shall not be able to effect anything against

"When Thor heard this discourse he grasped his hammer
and lifted it into the air, but as he was about to strike
he saw Utgard Loke nowhere. Then he turned back to the
castle to destroy it, and he saw only a beautiful and
wide plain, but no castle."

So ends the story of Thor's journey to Jotunheim.

It was now just upon the stroke of midnight. Ever since
leaving England, as each four-and-twenty hours we climbed
up nearer to the pole, the belt of dusk dividing day from
day had been growing narrower and narrower, until having
nearly reached the Arctic circle, this,--the last night
we were to traverse,--had dwindled to a thread of shadow.
Only another half-dozen leagues more, and we would stand
on the threshold of a four months' day! For the few
preceding hours clouds had completely covered the heavens,
except where a clear interval of sky, that lay along the
northern horizon, promised a glowing stage for the sun's
last obsequies. But like the heroes of old he had veiled
his face to die, and it was not until he dropped down to
the sea that the whole hemisphere overflowed with glory
and the gilded pageant concerted for his funeral gathered
in slow procession round his grave; reminding one of
those tardy honours paid to some great prince of song,
who--left during life to languish in a garret--is buried
by nobles in Westminster Abbey. A few minutes more the
last fiery segment had disappeared beneath the purple
horizon, and all was over.

"The king is dead--the king is dead--the king is dead!
Long live the king!" And up from the sea that had just
entombed his sire, rose the young monarch of a new day;
while the courtier clouds, in their ruby robes, turned
faces still aglow with the favours of their dead lord,
to borrow brighter blazonry from the smile of a new

A fairer or a stranger spectacle than the last Arctic
sunset cannot well be conceived: Evening and Morning--like
kinsmen whose hearts some baseless feud has kept asunder
--clasping hands across the shadow of the vanished night.

You must forgive me if sometimes I become a little
magniloquent;--for really, amid the grandeur of that
fresh primaeval world, it was almost impossible to prevent
one's imagination from absorbing a dash of the local
colouring.  We seemed to have suddenly waked up among
the colossal scenery of Keats' Hyperion. The pulses of
young Titans beat within our veins. Time itself,--no
longer frittered down into paltry divisions,--had assumed
a more majestic aspect. We had the appetite of giants--was
it unnatural we should also adopt "the large utterance
of the early gods?"

As the "Reine Hortense" could not carry coals sufficient
for the entire voyage we had set out upon, it had been
arranged that the steamer "Saxon" should accompany her
as a tender, and the Onunder Fiord, on the north-west
coast of the island, had been appointed as the place of
rendezvous. Suddenly wheeling round therefore to the
right we quitted the open sea, and dived down a long grey
lane of water that ran on as far as the eye could reach
between two lofty ranges of porphyry and amygdaloid. The
conformation of these mountains was most curious: it
looked as if the whole district was the effect of some
prodigious crystallization, so geometrical was the outline
of each particular hill, sometimes rising cube-like, or
pentagonal, but more generally built up into a perfect
pyramid, with stairs mounting in equal gradations to the
summit. Here and there the cone of the pyramid would be
shaven off, leaving it flat-topped like a Babylonian
altar or Mexican teocalli; and as the sun's level
rays,--shooting across above our heads in golden rafters
from ridge to ridge,--smote brighter on some loftier peak
behind, you might almost fancy you beheld the blaze of
sacrificial fires. The peculiar symmetrical appearance
of these rocks arises from the fact of their being built
up in layers of trap, alternating with Neptunian beds;
the disintegrating action of snow and frost on the more
exposed strata having gradually carved their sides into
flights of terraces.

It is in these Neptunian beds that the famous surturbrand
is found, a species of bituminous timber, black and
shining like pitch coal; but whether belonging to the
common carboniferous system, or formed from ancient
drift-wood, is still a point of dispute among the learned.
In this neighbourhood considerable quantities both of
zerlite and chabasite are also found, but, generally
speaking, Iceland is less rich in minerals than one would
suppose; opal, calcedony, amethyst, malachite, obsidian,
agate, and feldspar, being the principal. Of sulphur the
supply is inexhaustible.

After steaming down for several hours between these
terraced hills, we at last reached the extremity of the
fiord, where we found the "Saxon" looking like a black
sea-dragon coiled up at the bottom of his den. Up fluttered
a signal to the mast-head of the corvette, and blowing
off her steam, she wore round upon her heel, to watch
the effects of her summons. As if roused by the challenge
of an intruder, the sleepy monster seemed suddenly to
bestir itself, and then pouring out volumes of sulphureous
breath, set out with many an angry snort in pursuit of
the rash troubler of its solitude. At least, such I am
sure might have been the notion of the poor peasant
inhabitants of two or three cottages I saw scattered here
and there along the loch, as, startled from their sleep,
they listened to the stertorous breathing of the long
snake-like ships, and watched them glide past with magic
motion along the glassy surface of the water. Of course
the novelty and excitement of all we had been witnessing
had put sleep and bedtime quite out of our thoughts: but
it was already six o'clock in the morning; it would
require a considerable time to get out of the fiord, and
in a few hours after we should be within the Arctic
circle, so that if we were to have any sleep at all--now
was the time. Acting on these considerations, we all
three turned in; and for the next half-dozen hours I lay
dreaming of a great funeral among barren mountains, where
white bears in peers' robes were the pall-bearers, and
a sea-dragon chief-mourner. When we came on deck again,

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