Thor and the Midgard Serpent

The Giants gathered around Thor in the mead hall were laughing mockingly at his failure to drain the drinking horn. A feat that would have normally been the simplest of tasks for him. With a condescending grin, Utgarda-Loki, their king, gestured towards the extremely large black cat that was now slinking sinuously into the hall.
“It seems that for a god, you might need a simpler task,” he scoffed, “surely even you, one the strongest of gods, would be able to lift my little cat.” Thor regarded the beast, his eyes flashing briefly as his lips curled into a wry smile. “Little” was not a word he would have used to describe this sizeable beast. But this task he surely could not fail. His own massive strength when coupled with megingjörð, his belt of power, meant he had the strength to crush the heart of stars.

The god strode up to the cat confidently, appraising how best to lift it as he did so. With a sudden lithe movement, he dropped to one knee, pushed his left arm under the beast, and braced his shoulder against its massive ribcage. With Mjölnir his trusty hammer clutched in his right hand and planted on the floor to give an extra boost of power, he summoned all his strength and started to rise, slowly.

His brow furrowed and knitted with a mix of strain and surprise. The beast was the heaviest thing he’d ever tried to lift! Grunting with effort, he let out a long, deep growling breath as he pumped his legs again, inching the impossibly heavy feline up from the ground. It began to rise, imperceptibly at first, but it was moving upwards. Yelling with the uneven effort the god shifted his weight underneath the beast as it rose, bringing it squarely onto his left shoulder. His legs, back, arms, and sinews were burning like lava with the strain as the cat turned its head to gaze back at Thor with what looked like growing apprehension.

First one, then two, and then three of the gigantic paws lifted from the floor of the hall. But try as he might, Thor could not heft the beast high enough to lift the final, fourth paw from the ground. The air crackled and sparked with electricity as the god put one final mighty effort into the lift. But to no avail. Roaring with frustration Thor finally gave up, casting the beast to one side from his left shoulder as he dropped it, spitting out curses at this new humiliation.

He had dropped to one knee again, eyes downcast as his mighty chest heaved, gulping in lungful after lungful of air into his burning chest.

With his eyes to the floor, he failed to notice the quickly hidden looks of alarm on the face of every single one of the giants in the mead-hall. Their king, Utgarda-Loki had tricked the god once more, for this was not merely a cat, but Jörmungandr, the gigantic Midgard Serpent, wrapped like a gargantuan girdle in the ocean around Midgard. And Thor, god of Thunder, had so very nearly achieved the impossible of lifting this colossus from the ocean floor entirely. This was a Viking to be respected, and feared.
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