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FIG. 1. FIG. 2.
CROSS-SLAB, KIRK BRIDE.
A remarkable uninscribed stone at Kirk Bride, never yet figured nor fully described (pl. VI.), exhibits a wealth of mythological carvings equal to that on the shield given by Thorleif the Wise to Thiodwolf.
On one face (fig. 1), below the head of the cross, on the right, is the figure of a man resting on his spear. It is almost obliterated, but can still be traced, and is probably intended for Odin.
On the other face (fig. 2), below the circle, on the left, the figure with a spear, having a raven or other bird behind it, might be taken for Odin also, but it is attacking a stag, and there is no story of Odin and a stag, nor would there be, for that beast was not introduced into Scandinavia till the sixteenth century.
Below the first figure (fig. 1), separated by a panel of plaitwork, we find human forms among the feet of horses. This, I think, must be intended for the trampling to death of Swanhild beneath the hoofs of Jormanrek's horses; a deed suggested to the Gothic king by Odin in his capacity of Bikke, the evil counsellor, on the ground of her sympathy with his enemies the Huns--"For he was moved to wrath by the treacherous desertion of her husband"--(A lost Jormanrek lay). In the lay known as Gudrun's "Chain of Woe," we read:--"She was like a glorious sunbeam in my bower. I endowed her with gold and goodly raiment or ever I married her into Gothland. That was the hardest
of all my sorrows when they trod Swanhild's fair hair in the dust under the hoofs of the horses."
On the other face of the stone (fig. 2) we find a reference to one of Thor's most famous adventures. 1 The slayer of giants and monsters was destined in the end to meet with the dread dragon Jormungandr; he tried to anticipate matters, and we are told that once upon a time he went in the guise of a young man to the house of the Giant Hymi, where he tarried as guest for the night. At dawn Hymi made ready to go a-fishing, and Thor would go too. He asked what they should have for bait, but the giant, who did not want him, answered surlily that he might go look for bait for himself. Thor noticed on the hillside Hymi's herd of oxen; he went up to the biggest, a coal-black one called Himinbriotr (Heavenly Bull), "wrung" off its head and ran back to the strand. The giant had then shoved off his skiff, but Thor got on board and began to row. At last the giant, who had thought to tire and frighten him by the distance they would pull, himself objected to go further, as, he said, they were already in mid-ocean and were likely to be over the Midgardsorm. Then, we are told, "the sturdy Hymi kept pulling up whales, two at once, on his hook." Thor baited his angle with the ox's head and cast it overboard. The God-abhorred Serpent gulped down the bait, and tugged so hard that both Thor's fists were dashed against the gunwale. Then he put forth his god's strength and hauled with such force that he drove both his feet through the bottom of the boat. He grasped his hammer, but the giant, quaking with fear, fumbled at his fishing knife and cut the line. Back sank the dragon into the deep. Thor flung his Hammer after him, then, with his fist, tumbled Hymi overboard, and waded to land.
In our figure, below the circle on the right, we see Thor, bearded, with his strength-belt on, carrying in one hand the ox-head, and hastening with great strides to reach the strand before the giant will have put off.
On the fragment of a stone at Gosforth, Cumberland, 1 of the same period, and carved by the same people, we have the figure of a boat with the Giant hauling in the whales, and Thor in the stern casting his line. On another we see Thor with his two feet dashed through the bottom of the boat.
Hymi was the first of the Hrímthursar, or Giants, formed by the heat from Muspell meeting the rime of Ginnúnga gap. Another adventure of Thor's with him is related in Hymiskvidar as one with the last, but, in the "Prose Edda" (Gylfi's Mocking) that is treated as a separate incident, as indeed it must have been. This is the recovery of the Caldron, a myth derived possibly from the Celtic one of Cúchulainn (the Sun Hero) and the Caldron of Mider, King of Falga (the Isle of Man). ("Celtic Heathendom," 261, 476.)
The giant Eager, a sea-god (Oceanos), set Thor the task of procuring the famous Caldron, which was a mile deep, promising if he did so to make a Brew for the gods. None of the blessed gods knew how this could be accomplished, but Tew offered to accompany Thor and try what could be done. They came to Hymi's Hall, at the end of Heaven; the giantess hid them behind the pillar. Then Hymi came home from hunting. He looked towards them and the pillar flew asunder, the beam broke in twain, and the caldrons which were set upon it came down, and all except one broke. Then the giant challenged them to break the caldron. Thor dashed it at the pillars, but in
vain; but the giantess whispered to throw it at Hymi's skull, which was harder even than the caldron; so he sprang up and hurled it at his head, and it was cracked all across. As a last task the giant required him to carry the caldron out of his court. Tew tried twice, but could not lift it, but Thor clapped it on his head and the chains rattled about his heels. "So he came to the Gods Thing bringing the Caldron that Hymi had owned."
Now we see, in front of Thor (fig. 1), and above another strange-looking giant, a very curious figure which must have some meaning. I suggest that it is meant to represent this Caldron.
Just below it is a monstrous figure, arms a-kimbo, legs outspread. This may well be the Lord of the Giants, Rungnir, of whom we read in Thiodwolf's "Shield Song " and in the "Edda." Once, having been allowed by Odin to enter Asgard, and treated with hospitality, he grew boastful, and--an unheard of thing--challenged Thor to combat! A date being fixed, and a battle-place (Rockgarth) pitched, Rungnir took up his position. He was very huge, his head was of stone--his heart also was of hard stone--pointed into three horns. He stood with his great stone shield set before him, and, for weapon, had a hone, which he bore on his shoulders. Thor's arrival is finely described. He came down "in a ring of flame"; the heavens thundered beneath him; "the earth was rent asunder as the goats drew the chariot-god on to his tryst with Rungnir." Thor's man Delvr ran before, and, seeing the giant's safe position, gave him to understand that Thor had seen him and was going down into the earth to come up against him from below. Thereupon Rungnir thrust the shield under his feet and stood upon it, and took hold of the hone with both hands. Thor cast his hammer at him
from afar; Rungnir threw the hone, which met the hammer in its flight and broke asunder, one half falling to earth, whence come all rocks of hone, the other crashing into Thor's head, so that he fell forward. But the Hammer broke Rungnir's skull into little bits, and he fell over Thor, so that his foot lay athwart his neck.
Here, then, we may see Rungnir, Lord of the Giants, standing on his shield awaiting Thor's attack.
The figure just above--a bearded man, belted, attacking a serpent, is undoubtedly intended for Thor, who at Ragnarök slays Jörmundgandr, the Midgardsorm. He retreats nine steps, when he is so overcome by the venomous fumes from the monster that he himself succumbs. The step-pattern border of the slab on one face ends ingeniously in the head of a great Serpent, evidently another figure of Jörmungand; it is close by Thor with the Ox head, an anticipation of his further adventures!
At the feet of Thor, between the coils of the Serpent and the Giant, is a small figure, intended probably for the Dwarf Lit, which, at Balder's funeral, when Thor stood up and hallowed the pyre with his Hammer, ran before him, but Thor "spurned at him with his foot and dashed him into the fire, and he was burned."
Among numerous other Dwarves, we are told of four at the cardinal points of the compass, which support the firmament (Hymi's skull) at the four corners, namely, Austri, Vestri, Nordri, and Sudri. Two of these may be seen on this face of the stone, one on either side above the head of the cross, the curved border of the stone suggesting the firmament. 1
On the other face of the stone (fig. 2) their places are taken by figures of a Cock, which, though an early Christian symbol of the Resurrection, appears on our Manks monuments only on Scandinavian pieces, and may have reference to the cock Gollin-Kambi (Gold-comb):--"The cock Gold-comb is crowing to the Anses, waking the warriors of the Father of Hosts. Another cock, Sooty-red, crows under the earth in the halls of Hell." ("Sh. Volu-spa," 122-5.)
Just below the figure of Thor in the fishing adventure is that of a large bird--possibly the Eagle which dwells in the branches of Ygg-drasil. The tree itself would be suggested by the line of "vertebral" pattern down the middle of the stone.
Lastly, in a panel below, at the right corner, we find two great hounds or wolves; doubtless Garm, who at Ragnarök is to swallow the moon, and that other that takes the sun. "Fiercely bays Garm before the cave of the rock, the chain shall snap and the Wolf range free." ("Volu-spa," II.)
23:1 Hymis-kvida, 70.
24:1 "Crosses, &c., in the Diocese of Carlisle." Rev. W. S. Calverley, p. 168.
26:1 So on a Hog-hacked stone at Heysham. See "Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society," Vol. V., Pl. VI., and Vol. IX., P1. IX., X., XI. Note also the use of the Chevron as on the Bride Stone!