Page 46 of Norse Mythology

“I am done with you and your foolishness,” sighed Thor. “So it’s to be used to trap fish? Well, bully for you. Loki would have been hungry, and so he must have wanted to catch fish to eat. Loki invents things. That’s what he does. He always was clever. That’s why we used to keep him around.”

“You are correct. But ask yourself, why would you, if you were Loki, invent something to trap fish with, and then throw the net you made onto the fire when you knew we were coming?”

“Because . . .” said Thor, creasing his brow and pondering so hard that distant thunder could be heard in the mountaintops. “Er . . .”

“Exactly. Because you would not want us to find it when we arrived. And the only reason for not wanting us to find it is to stop us, the gods of Asgard, from using it to trap you.”

Thor nodded slowly. “I see,” he said. Then, “Yes, I suppose so,” he said. And finally, “So Loki . . .”

“. . . is hiding in the deepwater pool at the foot of the waterfall, in the shape of a fish. Yes, exactly! I knew you would get there in the end, Thor.”

Thor nodded with enthusiasm, not entirely certain how he had come to this conclusion from ashes on the floor but happy to know where Loki was hiding.

“I will go down there, to the pool, with my hammer,” said Thor. “And I will . . . I will . . .”

“We will need to go down there with a net,” said Kvasir, the wise god.

Kvasir took the remaining nettle twine and the piece of spacing wood. He tied the end of the twine to the stick, and he began to wrap the twine around the stick, to weave it in and around and through. He showed the other gods what he was doing, and soon each of them was weaving and knotting. He attached the nets they made one to the other until they had a net as long as the pool, and they made their way down the side of the waterfall to the base of the mountain.

There was a stream that ran out of the pool where it overflowed. That stream ran down toward the sea.

When they reached the base of Franang’s Falls, the gods unrolled the net they had made. The net was huge and heavy, and long enough to go from one end of the pool to the other. It took all the warriors of the Aesir to hold up one end of it and Thor to hold up the other end.

The gods started from one end of the pool, beginning immediately underneath the falls and wading until they reached the other side. They caught nothing.

“There’s definitely something living down there,” said Thor. “I felt it push against the net. But it swam down deeper, into the mud, and the net went over it.”

Kvasir scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Not a problem. We need to do it again, but this time we will weigh down the bottom of the net,” he said. “So nothing can get underneath it.”

The gods gathered heavy stones with holes in them and tied each stone to the bottom of the net as a weight.

The gods waded into the pool again.

Loki had been pleased with himself the first time the gods had entered his pool. He had simply swum down to the muddy bottom of the pool, slipped between two flat stones, and waited while the net had gone above him.

Now he was worried. Down in the dark and the cold, he thought about this.

He could not transform himself into something else until he left the water, and even if he did, the gods would be after him. No, it was safer to remain in salmon shape. But as a salmon he was trapped. He would have to do what the gods would not be expecting. They would expect him to head for the open sea—he would be safe there, if he got to the sea, even if he would be easy to spot and catch in the river that led from the pool to the bay.

The gods would not expect him to swim back the way he had come. Up the waterfall.

The gods hauled their net along the bottom of the pool.

They were intent upon what was happening in the depths, and so were taken by surprise when a huge silver fish, bigger than any salmon they had ever seen before, leapt over the net with a twist of its tail and began swimming upstream. The huge salmon swam up the falls, springing up and defying gravity as if it had been thrown upward into the air.

Kvasir shouted at the Aesir, ordering them to form into two groups, one on one end of the net, one on the other.

“He will not stay in the waterfall for long. It’s too exposed. His only chance is still to make it to the sea. So you two groups will walk along, dragging the net between you. Meanwhile, Thor,” said Kvasir, who was wise, “you will wade in the middle, and when Loki tries that jumping-over-the-net trick again, you must snatch him from the air, like a bear catching a salmon. Do not let him go, though. He is tricky.”

Thor said, “I have seen bears pluck leaping salmon from the air. I am strong, and I am as fast as any bear. I will hold on.”

The gods began to drag the net upstream, toward the place where the huge silver salmon was biding its time. Loki planned and plotted.

As the net came closer, Loki knew that this was the critical moment. He had to leap the net as he had done before, and this time he would race toward the sea. He tensed, like a spring about to whip back, and then he shot into the air.

Thor was fast. He saw the silver salmon glitter in the sun, and he grabbed it with his huge hands, just as a hungry bear snatches a salmon from the air. Salmon are slippery fish, and Loki was the slipperiest of salmon; he wriggled and tried to slip through Thor’s fingers, but Thor simply gripped the fish harder and squeezed it tightly, down by the tail.

They say that salmon have been narrower near the tail ever since.

The gods brought their net, and they wrapped it tightly around the fish and carried it between them. The salmon began to drown in the air, gasping for water, and then it thrashed and twitched, and now they were carrying a panting Loki.