VOL. 8 September ISSUE YEAR 2007
Off the Beaten Track
in Vol. 8 - September Issue - Year 2007
Sparks and Lightning
The clang of metal upon metal rang through the forest with clear, regular blows, undiminished by the thick vegetation. The man straightened his back and let the hammer slide slowly to the ground, his hand remaining curved around a thick wooden handle which his fingers no longer gripped. His eyes, two white globes encased in a face blackened by soot, lifted towards the sky as he sought respite from the smoke and the heat.
“O mighty Thor,” he muttered, “protect your humble servant, grant me the strength to complete my task, for the consequences of failure would be too great for me to bear.”
He peered into the waning sunlight, calculating how long before darkness would envelope the small clearing which was his worksite, his home, his entire world. For a brief moment, he held his breath as he listened for a sign, but his prayer was answered only by the chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves. The weather was changing and he didn’t know how much time he had before the rain would come and smother his fire. Fifty iron rings. His lord and master had commanded fifty iron rings to be made by the break of day on the morrow, when the guards would arrive and either collect the rings or administer a terrible punishment. His shoulders gave a deep heave and he returned to his labors, sparks flying as he beat the red hot iron into shape.
Thor occupied a prominent place in the pantheon of the peoples living in northern Europe, from the Alps to Scandinavia and the British Isles. He was the most physically powerful among gods, a massive, red-bearded figure who was often depicted riding his chariot drawn by two huge goats across the sky. He used his magical hammer, which could throw lightening bolts, and his girdle of strength to defend his people against the evil giants who roamed the Earth. Thor was the god of thunder and war, but he also represented order and stability and his name was invoked for fair weather and safe passage by seafarers. He was the protector of ironmongers and metalworkers and it was said that the sound of thunder was produced by his hammer at work.
While the Scandinavians called him Thor, he was known as Donner among the Germanic tribes, whereas the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles knew him as Thur or Thunor. In recognition of his importance, all of these people dedicated the same day of the week to him, recognizable in the modern languages: Thursday in English, Donnerstag in German and variations of the same name in Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish. In these languages, the very word for thunder is derived from his name.
As the Roman Empire gradually spread north, the conquerors immediately saw the similarities between Thor and one of their own gods, Jupiter, whom the Romans called Juvis. Both divinities controlled the weather, thunder and lightening. Both traced their birth to the Earth goddess and held the oak tree as sacred. As the northern Europeans had done for Thor, so the Romans had honored Juvis, whose name can be recognized in the word for the same day of the week in modern Latin languages.
His arms and shoulders had turned numb and his tools had become one with his body, the short-handled pincer in his left hand and the hammer in his right. His rough woolen tunic, soaked with sweat, did nothing to protect his back from the brisk night breeze, while his face and arms felt like burning coals over the fire. How many rings had he made? He could not remember when he last counted them, but he dared not stop, for he dreaded the moment in which he could begin to see the treetops around him. Finally, when he could bear the pain no longer, he paused to lift a small wooden bucket to his lips, and then counted the rings. Forty-nine? He dashed some water on his face, rubbed his eyes and counted again. Forty-nine. He felt a wave of strength surge through his back, his arms, his hands. His mind cleared and the hammer and pincer felt like feathers in his hands. The fire illuminated a faint smile on his face as a deep rumble of thunder, barely audible at first, rolled across the sky until it broke with a deafening crack right over his head. He did not flinch, for he knew that Thor had rushed to his aid.
By Giovanni Gregorat, Contributing Editor MFN
& Sales Manager, Pometon Abrasives
Author: Giovanni Gregorat, Contributing Editor MFN