That is also a very striking conception that of the Ragnarök, Consummation, or Twilight of the Gods. It is in the Völuspa Song ; seemingly a very old, prophetic idea. The Gods and Jötuns, the divine Powers and the chaotic brute ones, after long contest and partial victory by the former, meet at last in universal world-embracing wrestle and duel ; World-serpent against Thor, strength against strength ; mutually extinctive ; and ruin, ‘twilight,’ sinking into darkness, swallows the created Universe. The old Universe with its Gods is sunk ; but it is not the final death : there is to be a new Heaven and a new Earth ; a higher supreme God , and Justice to reign among men. Curious : this law of mutation, which also is a law written in man’s inmost thought, had been deciphered by these old earnest Thinkers in their rude style ; and how, though all dies, and even gods die, yet all death is but a phoenix fire-death, and new-birth into the Grater and the Better! It is the fundamental Law of Being for a creature made of Time, living in this Place of Hope. All earnest men have seen into it ; may still see into it.
And now, connected with this, let us glance at the last mythus of the appearance of Thor ; and end there. I fancy it to be the latest in date of all these fables ; a sorrowing protest against the advance of Christianity, -set forth reproachfully by some Conservative Pagan. King Olaf has been harshly blamed for his over-zeal in introducing Christianity ; surely I should have blamed him far more for an under-zeal in that! He paid dear enough for it ; he died in the revolt of his Pagan people, in battle, in the year 1033, at Stickelstad, near that Drontheim, where the chief Cathedral of the North has now stood for many centuries, dedicated gratefully to his memory as Saint Olaf. The mythus about Thor is to this effect. King Olaf, the Christian Reform King, is sailing with fit escort along the shore of Norway, from haven to haven ; dispensing justice, or doing other royal work : on leaving a certain haven, it is found that a stranger, of grave eyes and aspect, red beard, of stately robust figure, has stept in. The courtiers address him ; his answers surprise by their pertinency and depth : at length he is brought to the King. The stranger’s conversation here is not less remarkable, as they sail along the beautiful shore ; but after some time, he addresses King Olaf thus : ‘Yes, King Olaf, it is all beautiful, with the sun shining on it there ; green, fruitful, a right fair home for you ; and many a sore day had Thor, many a wild fight with the rock Jötuns, before he could make it so. And now you seem minded to put away Thor. King Olaf, have a care!’ said the stranger, drawing-down his brows ; and when they looked again, he was nowhere to be found. This is the last appearance of Thor on the stage of this world!
Do we not see well enough how the Fable might arise, without unveracity on the part of any one? It is the way most Gods have come to appear among men : thus, if in Pindar’s time ‘Neptune was seen once at the Nemean Games,’ what was this Neptune too but a ‘stranger of noble grave aspect,’ fit to be ‘seen’! There is something pathetic, tragic for me in this last voice of Paganism. Thor is vanished, the whole Norse world has vanished ; and will not return ever again. In like fashion to that pass away the highest things. All things that have been in this world, all things are or ill be in it, have to vanish : we have our sad farewell to give them.
That Norse Religion, a rude but earnest, sternly impressive Consecration of Valour (so we may define it), sufficed for these old valiant Northmen. Consecration of Valour is not a bad thing! We will take it for good, s far as it goes. Neither is there no use in knowing something about this old Paganism of our Fathers. Unconsciously, and combined with higher things, it is in us yet, that old Faith withal! To know it consciously, brings us into closer and clearer relation with the Past, with our own possessions in the Past. For the whole Past, as I keep repeating, is the possession of the Present ; the Past had always something true, and is a precious possession. In a different time, in a different place, it is always some other side of our common Human Nature that has been developing itself. The actual True is the sum of all these ; not any one of the, by itself constitutes what of Human Nature is hitherto developed. Better to know them all than misknow them. ‘To which of these Three Religions do you specially adhere? ’ inquires Meister of his Teacher. ‘To all the Three!’ answers the other : ‘To all the Three ; for they by their union first constitute the True Religion.’"