Mr. Carl Thorne, the well-known authority on folk-lore and mythology, has recently returned from a trip to Norway where he went to secure data for a work which he had long planned, entitled: “The Eddas: Their Origins and Fact Bases.” He has returned, I say, yet the Carl Thorne that I saw not long ago at the offices of Dr. J. Seabright Carroll, the psychiatrist, was quite a different man from the dapper student whose face has been made familiar to thousands in the last few years by that excellent picture which forms a frontispiece to his splendid work on mythologies.
Indeed, with his graying hair and clothes which hung loosely on a form shrunken by loss of weight, the figure which sat listlessly in one of the chairs in Seabrights’s waiting room appeared to be a Thorne who had aged by as much as ten years in the few months he had been away. I had been honored, in the year or so preceding his departure on this trip, to count myself among his closer friends, yet I entered the room that day and seated myself directly in his line of vision without eliciting the faintest sign of recognition. For a moment, I thought he might have been angered at some blunder of mine, for I am notoriously clumsy and frank in my manners and Thorne is of a most sensitive type. But I remembered how friendly he had been the last time I saw him, and how he had spent several hours in my company, enthusing over the trip he was about to make, and I felt certain that we had parted on the very best of terms. So at last I ventured to speak. He started at the sound of my voice, raised his head, and I saw the far-away look in his eyes melt into confused recognition.
He spoke, and I tried to draw him into conversation, but at the time he was most elusive and vague. I invited him to call around and visit me, for I was really anxious to hear about his trip, but he made confused excuses and even more confused promises, and finally entered the doctor’s private office without even bidding me good-bye.
It was several days before I saw him again. This time he sought me out, and for a week or so did all he could to keep constantly in my company. I learned later that this was at the advice of Dr. Carroll, who had suggested the well-known Cathartic method of ridding oneself of an obsession. There is no doubt that Thorne’s experiences were fast becoming an obsession with him, for he had kept them a secret since leaving Norway and had brooded over them night and day for several weeks.
But now, under Carroll’s suggestion, he talked on the subject continually, and I had no trouble at all in hearing his entire story. And at first I was convinced, just as was Carroll and, to be frank, Thorne himself, that he had been the victim of a remarkable hallucination. But lately, through certain facts that he let drop, I have come to think otherwise, and to form a most remarkable theory, a theory the acceptance of which has brought courage and strength back to Carl Thorne, and which has explained one phenomenon and offered a possible explanation for at least a dozen others.
Thorne’s story came to me piece-meal, as stories usually do, but I offer it here in as balanced a manner as my lack of literary ability allows me. And at the last, I offer my theory to you, as I offered it to Thorne, for what it is worth.
First he had gone to Denmark, Thorne told me, and after a month or so there, he had sailed over to Norway and worked his way gradually north; picking up little known tales and making notes of the variations found in different localities until he was well up in the northern part of Nordland,. He had purposely avoided all the larger towns, for of course these stories are preserved in far greater purity among the farm folk and fishermen, he had picked up a young man in one of the southern towns, Henrik Aasen by name, who had spent several years in America and who spoke the sort of dialect that passes for English among the immigrants of the North Central States, and this fellow acted as guide, porter and general factotum, as well as supplying a good many valuable hints as to where the right sort of information might be forth-coming. They were approaching a little village one evening about sun-down (Thorne says he never did rightly learn the name of the village—he heard it mentioned several times, but it never registered on his conscious mind), and Aasen as usual was pointing out occasional objects of interest, as was his custom.
“Dat hill, Mister T’horne,” he announced, pointing to a huge elevation a mile or so beyond the little town. “Dat ban called ‘Jotunheim.”
In spite of Thorne’s proficiency in the Scandinavian tongues, Aasen always addressed him in his execrable English, while Thorne insisted on answering him in Norwegian. And so:
“Jotunheim!” Thorne said a little puzzled. “You mean ‘Jotunberg’, don’t you Henrik?”
“No, sir. Jotunheim, Ay mean. Home of de yiants, Mister T’horne. Yoost de same name as de ole frost yiants in de old stories.”
“Well! And why do they call it that, Henrik?”
“Ay don’t rightly know. Ay don’t come from round har, y’ know. But Ay t’ink mebbe de ol’sters use to believe dat de frost yiants live on de top of das hill.”
Thorne was interested. He knew that the Mount Olympus of Greek mythology, the imaginary Mt. Olympus where the gods dwelt, had an actual, a true counterpart; but never before had there been a suggestion that there was any place in these parts named for any of the places of Norse mythology. This, in a manner of speaking, was right down his alley, and so it was with an increasing interest that he hastened toward the town and arranged to put up for the night at the one small inn that the town boasted.
He waited no longer than was necessary to finish a hurried supper before mingling with the townsfolk about the square and striving to strike up an acquaintance with the oldest and grayest one in sight. Thorne knew by experience that such a one would be most likely to have the old legends of the place stowed away in his mind, and when he entered a town he almost invariably followed the same procedure. And he was not amiss in doing so this time, for not long after the sun had set, he and Aasen and old Jan Tonessen were seated in the inn, and over the hot glasses the old fellow was answering question after question. Thorne found him an exceedingly interesting talker, for he was by no means ignorant, having made a study of the old mythology himself.
“The berg of Jotunheim,” he was saying, in answer to Thorne’s request for knowledge of the legends of the place. “All the legends hereabout deal with it. Ja, plenty are the old stories about it. Once some of the more ignorant oldsters really thought that the home of the frost giants lay on the top of that hill, I think. The more common story as it is told now tells of a bridge that leads to Jotunheim. Of course, nobody today believes such a story, but it is told, like the other legends.”
“But is there any basis for the origin of such a story?” queried Thorne.
“In the superstitions of the people, ja,” answered Tonessen. “And also—I do not know, but sometimes, I think there might be more. For we do not climb Jotunheim Berg. Men, they say, have tried to climb it often, in the past. And they do not come back.”
“Have many people climbed it?”
“No. Not in recent years. We are far removed from the paths of the tourists, and our folk sometimes take the stories a little more seriously than they pretend. They scoff at the idea that there is anything that could hurt them on top of the berg. But—they do not climb Jotunheim.”
Thorne smiled. Such legends were familiar to him, and such taboos, too. But it was not often that he found such taboos still existing in a civilized country, and he was glad to make a note of this one. He questioned Tonassen further.
“Did you ever hear of anyone climbing it?”
“The legends tell of many. Mostly the stories are of foolhardy youths who are in love, and who climb the hill to show their maidens how brave they are. Sometimes they fail to return and the maiden weeps her life away, mourning for her lover. And sometimes she follows him and disappears, too. The stories are typical. There is nothing unusual about them.”
“But, I mean, has anyone ever tried to climb the hill that you remember?”
Tonessen looked at him queerly.
“Ja,” he said hesitantly. “One tried it. My father told me about it. It was back in the 1840’s and he was the town drunkard. He staggered out of this very inn, one night and wandered off from the town in the direction of the hill. He was found at the foot of the hill, a couple of days later, babbling of giants and of monster rats, and jungles of grass—but of course, there are nothing in the babblings of a drunken man that could interest you. Though his story has been added to the legends of the place, he could not, at the time, even stir the interest of the people of the town.”
“But how do you suppose the legend of the hill got started? And how do you account for the name? Hasn’t any reliable investigator ever attempted to go up there and find out what’s there?”
“I think not, friend Thorne. We are out of the way, here. Nobody comes here to study our tales. And we of the town— well; we are not all superstitious and ignorant. But—we just do not climb Jotunheim. After all, why should we? If there is nothing there—best to leave it alone.
“And so, we do not climb Jotunheim.”
“Well, by George,” stated Thorne firmly, smacking his palm on the table. “I’m going to climb it, and I’m going to start first thing tomorrow morning.”
And start he did, as the sun was peeping over the hills in the east. He went alone, for neither Aasen nor old Jan Tonessen expressed the slightest desire to accompany him; but he went well equipped, for he carried a loaded revolver, a flashlight, some dinner and a stout stick to help him in his climb. And by ten o’clock he was well on his way up the hill.
I say the “hill”, for as near as I can make out this Jotunheim could hardly be called a mountain. It was just a big, sprawling hill, eight or nine hundred feet high, with but little vegetation on its sides and none on its rough and jagged top. But Thorne paid little attention to the terrain; he strode along through the rubble and rough grass, even whistling a tune as he went. And presently, when he had ascended about two thirds of the way, he began to notice the haze.
“It was a pinkish sort of a mist,” Thorne told me when I questioned him for details concerning this. “It was—wispy at first, writhing streamers of haze that squirmed and twisted about among the rocks and through the branches of the occasional trees, and that grew and spread until presently it covered everything. And then it began to thicken.
“It really was most strange, you know. Who ever heard of a pink fog? And from pinkish it turned to a decided red. After a while, I could hardly see my hand before me. I was worried, a little; but , what the deuce, I couldn’t give up and go back to the village with the story that I had been scared out by a silly fog.”
And so he had pushed on, and at last, the fog began to lift a bit. Before it lifted, it grew so thick that he really couldn’t see his hand before him, he says, and for a while he kept his bearings only by the grade of the ground beneath his feet. But it did clear at last, some little bit, and Thorne could begin to notice things about him. The rubble through which he had been striding had disappeared, had given way to coarse gravel and huge boulders, boulders that ranged from the size of a pumpkin to a few great fellows as big as a barn. Thorne thought little of this at the time, he says, for glacial till is common in Norway; and indeed he failed, at first, to notice the peculiar vegetation—huge, broad leaved weeds whose height was at times great than his own.
“The first thing that attracted my attention was a bird of some kind. At first I thought it was an aero plane—some new type of glider, maybe. The haze was pretty thick, and it was hard to see well. It swept down out of that red confusion above me, I saw for a brief moment huge dark-brown wings above me, vast and sinister, and almost before I could tell whether they were real or not the thing had swung into the air again and was gone. I caught one flash of a beak, and of staring eyes, too, and I knew that it was no glider I had seen.
“I breathed a sign of relief and a gasp of amazement in one breath. Relief that I had escaped the tremendous creature, whatever it was, and amazement that a bird so large existed hereabout. I have seen South American condors, old man, and they’re commonly supposed to be the largest birds that exist today. But I don’t think the largest of them would be any bigger than the thing that had swooped past me.”
He was a little upset by this phenomenon, coming as it did upon the heels of the legends of Johunheim, but it didn’t detract from his determination to explore the hill. He went on up, and as he went the fog cleared. But the redness that covered everything didn’t. I have questioned him very closely about this, as it is important to my theory, but his is very plain and clear.
“The fog cleared up,” he told me. “Positively, old man. There wasn’t a trace of it after a while. But it left a redness over everything. As though I were colorblind and could only distinguish red. The rocks were red, bricky red, of course, I don’t mean crimson or scarlet, and the sprawling, big leaved plants were red, a reddish brown, you know, and even the sky, I’ll swear, had a reddish-yellow cast about it. Looking back on it, I can’t remember that there was any color to the scene but reds and browns and dark, somber saffron’s. Still, that didn’t seem queer at the time, somehow.”
And then he came upon a scrub pine, one of those little pine trees that grow in colder climates and that add so much beauty to our parks and lawns. It looked like a scrub pine, it grew like a scrub pine—and it was sixty feet tall if it was an inch!
Then, at last, Thorne realized that something remarkable was happening. The huge boulders, the huge leaves on the plants—Thorne recognized the species of several of the plants now, and knew them for common weeds and wildflowers grown out of all proportion—and then that huge bird and this pine. Thorne became absorbed in his surroundings.
“I had reached the top of the hill by this time,” he said in his narration to me. “And I turned around to look back into the valley. The red haze was gone, and, of course, I expected to see the village lying below me. I wasn’t in the least expecting to see the sight that did meet my eyes. For I stood on the top of a vast mountain and looked off over a wide bleak terrain that stretched into the distance across far-off peaks where snow lay—not the white snow that I have always known, but snow that, like everything else, had that infernal dusty red shade. And way off, beyond everything else, laid a horizon of ice, a boundless glacier that stretched fingers down into the valleys and surrounded the hills about it—
“I really became frightened then for the first time, and when I shivered, I thought it was with fear. But then I realized that I was cold. Yes, though it was August, and even in this latitude it gets pretty hot in August, nevertheless, I was cold. And with the coming of that knowledge, it seemed that I could almost notice the temperature drop. I drew my jacket tighter about me and turned up my collar and pushed on. I was beginning to think I had come to the land of the frost giants in very truth.”
“But this disappearance of the village,” I asked him. “Didn’t it make any profounder impression on you than that?”
“Well, yes, it did,” he admitted. “I got a pretty sharp shock when I first noticed it. But almost immediately came the thought that it was nothing, that it could be nothing, but a mirage. I’ve read up on mirages since then, and I know now that a mirage couldn’t have had the very definiteness and detail that that scene had, but I didn’t know that then. And so I went on, and presently I came across the lemming.”
“Yes, you know, you’ve heard of those little prairie-dog-like animals, haven’t you? The ones that are famous for their migration that leads them into the sea? Well, it was one of them. I only caught a glimpse of it, for it saw me first and I suppose I frightened it. Though why I should have frightened it, I don’t know, for it was as big as a horse!”
“I assure you, old man, it was. And it was gone in a moment. But it left me cold with amazed fear, and I came to the realization that I was standing there muttering over and over: “Jotunhiem! Jotunheim, indeed!”
And still, when he recovered from his astonishment, he went on. For here was a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be probed, and Thorne is made of such stuff as makes for greatness in the world of science. He went down into the valley on the other side of the hill and did not even turn back in fear when he came across a wind-blown snow drift in a sheltered place on the north side of the hill, and noticed that all the snow flakes were as big as the palm of a man’s hand. So, at last, he rounded a huge crag that jutted out of the hill’s side and noted a lesser peak just beyond. He approached this and was climbing up, was almost to the top, when suddenly the giant rose up and faced him.
“The creature must have been lying on his belly, just beyond this little height,” said Thorne. “He rose to his elbows and then on his knees, just as I looked across the hill. He saw me almost as soon as I saw him. He kept on rising until he was on his feet, and it seemed to that he would never stop looming higher and higher. Even on his knees, he was well over a hundred and fifty feet tall. And when he stood up— well, truly, old man, not an inch under two hundred and fifty. I know you’ll think it’s the old fish story instinct, but—not an inch under two hundred and fifty feet.”
“Go on,” I said dazedly. “It really doesn’t make much difference after you get over ten feet.”
Thorne frowned and, remembering his sensitiveness, I doubted for a moment that he would continue. He did go on however, at last.
“He saw me, as I say, almost as soon as I saw him, and he gave a deep bellow and thrust a hand out toward me. A hairy, pudgy hand, it was, with stubby fingers and broken dirty nails, a hand that—Lord, the fingers alone were twice as big as I was. I was frightened then, I tell you. It was almost instinct alone that made me snatch the revolver I had brought and fire at those grasping fingers.
“The giant snatched back his hand with a low grumble of pained surprise. He had a very deep voice, so low that at times I actually felt, rather than heard, his growls, and now his voice beat down upon me like the lowest notes of some great organ. But I can assure you, old man, that I wasn’t paying any attention to the quality of his voice just then. I turned as soon as he snatched his hand back, and ran for the nearest shelter, a thicket of huge grass-like bamboos that grew from fifty to a hundred feet away. By the time the giant had recovered from his surprise and pain—I imagine it must have been something like a bee sting to him—I was well concealed among the huge grasses, and he was rumbling and grumbling about, seeking in vain to find me.
“Now while he searched, I had a good chance to observe him without danger, and I tell you, he was a queer specimen, indeed. In the first place, he was naked, and he was hairy. And in the second place, he was stooped. He slouched, that is, something like an ape. He had a big sharpened stick in his hand, and he sort of leaned on it as he walked. And he had slanting brows and huge brow ridges, and jaws like no man ever had. Have I made myself clear, old man?”
“Sounds like you’re describing an ogre out of Grimm’s fairy tales,” I told him. “Or maybe a Neanderthal man.”
“There you’ve hit it! He was, in fact, an enormous specimen of Homo Neanderthalensis. That in itself would be incredible, had he been of normal size, but—a Neanderthal two hundred and fifty feet high! It dawned on me, hidden there and studying him, that this simply could not be. This was either a nightmare or a hallucination, for what I looked on was utterly impossible.
“But if I looked upon this huge creature as a hallucination, he certainly didn’t pay me the same compliment. To him, I was real, and he had found me interesting and was determined to find me again. He had been looking all about, and luckily for me, looking the wrong way; but now he turned and pretty soon he was getting a little too close for comfort. I moved cautiously, moved to a thicker clump of vegetation, and tried to bury myself under the huge tangled roots. Presently he moved off a step or two and while he was looking in another direction, I took advantage of it and began to speed through the ‘jungle’, determined to put as much distance as possible between us. I managed to get about a quarter of a mile away, I guess, when he turned and by the sheerest accident, spied me.
“I knew it was hopeless to flee, for a fellow that size could pace off a mile in about fifty or sixty steps, so I did what most other small creatures do and froze into immobility. It worked, too, – it deceived him; he came close to where I was and those immense hands of his came fumbling around on the ground, while he grumbled and growled in that thunder voice, but by the greatest good chance, I remained unseen.
“It was all I could do to remain motionless, for the cold was now biting into my very bones, but I knew I didn’t dare to move. Presently he lost his temper and began tearing at the bamboos or grasses or whatever they were, yanking them up by the roots and hurling them over his head—it was inevitable that his hand should at last reach out for the particular clump that I was hiding under.
“And then there was nothing that I could do but use my revolver again. I managed to put three more bullets into his thumb, but it was a close thing this time. His hand was closing on the plants before he let out a growl like distant thunder and jerked the hand back again. He clapped his thumb to his mouth in the most natural manner in the world, and while his attention was attracted, I was off again. This time I managed to get out of his line of vision by rounding that same crag that I had passed an hour or two before. It dawned on me then that I was going back the way I had come, and, believe me, old man, I didn’t make any attempt to change my direction. To get back to the village was my one object in life just then.”
And so he hastened on, back to the summit of the hill, and after he had gone a little way, he could look back and see the giant, looming up against the reddish sky, a great impossible thing, still stooping and searching—
“You’ve no idea how I felt,” Thorne exclaimed, when he told me his story for the first time. “You see, I am no ignorant peasant. I have knowledge enough to know that the muscular power required to move a creature about increases in geometric ratio with its size. Why, a creature that size, with muscles not much greater than a man’s, in comparison, wouldn’t have been able to so much as lift himself to his feet. But there he was, and I knew he was nothing but a hallucination.”
And so the fear of the giant began to die out, to be replaced by the greater fear that something was wrong with his mind. He grew more careless now, and no longer tried to conceal himself, for he felt that if this creature was merely a figment of his mind, he couldn’t hurt him very much. And he tried to focus his eyes on the huge boulders and grasses and things, tried to get them in their proper perspective. But try as he might, they insisted on remaining as vast as ever. So, presently, he came to the spot where the red haze began. He had not noticed it as he wended his way along; looking ahead, he says, he could not see it at all. Yet presently he was wandering about in the fog which kept growing thicker and thicker. And then came the familiar bass bellow and towering over him, his head almost lost in the mists was the giant!
And it saw him! Saw him and with a gurgle of glee, stooped and clapped a hollowed hand over him.
“I cried out, in fact, I think I screamed,” says Thorne. “The minute that hand clapped over me, all thought of the possibility of the giant’s being a hallucination left me. I screamed and rushed at his great thumb, kicking and pounding in the hope that I might hurt him and cause him to lift his hand. It was solid enough that thumb, solid and real as a stone wall, no hallucination about it— then. After a bit I calmed my panic, and then I noticed a crevasse between his thumb and forefinger, and instantly slipped through it into the light. Breathless with fear, I began to run across the rubble, and just as he saw me and stared to clap a hand down again, I slipped over a small cliff that I hadn’t been able to see, in the fog, and end over end I tumbled, over rocks and stones, tearing my clothes and bruising myself in a dozen places and finally fetching up against a huge boulder at the foot of the declivity. The fog was even denser here, but I could still see the giant above me, and—he could still see me.
“He hadn’t given up his attempts to capture me, either, for he stepped forward and his hand came down again, and then—well, then occurred the thing that convinced me that this was certainly naught but the hallucination of a deranged mind. For his thumb, which a moment before had so easily resisted my futile kicking and pounding, came down directly upon me, passed through me, and I stood directly inside it. I leaped fearfully to one side,– turned and fled, and heard, dimly and distantly, the querulous, puzzled rumblings of the giant as I sped on down the hill. In a moment his form was lost in the increasing fog, but I hesitated not for a single breath. Though my chest was soon pounding in agony, I kept on fleeing, on and on through the red fog, until presently it began to clear and I saw a tree—a spruce tree, and Oh, thank God, a small spruce tree. I looked about me, and the huge boulders had disappeared, there were little plants and flowers growing beneath my feet; and, a mile or so away down the valley, was the little village from which I had come. . .”
He staggered into the village, a few minutes later, in the last stages of exhaustion. He stammered out the story of his adventure to the first people he met, not even thinking, at the time, of the effect it might have on them. They were surprised at first, their superstition got the better of them and many were the fearful looks that were cast in the direction of Jotunheim. But presently more reasonable explanations came, and then the looks became dubious, and were cast toward Thorne. They brought him to the village inn, and Aasen took charge of him and called in the village doctor.
He was in bed for a week before his strength returned, and then old Jan Tonessen, who had shown a great interest in him and who had heard his entire story, took him for a ride around the mountain and showed him another village, on the other side of the hill, on almost the exact spot where his adventure had seemingly occurred. He knew then that it must have been hallucination, and the worry and fear settled down on him that had made him the sorry specimen whom I had seen in the offices of Seabright Carroll.
“But have you ever experienced any return of that hallucination?” I asked him, one night not long ago.
“Not the slightest,” he answered. “But I live in constant fear, old man. For all I know, I may at any moment note that red haze again and—“he covered his eyes and shuddered.
“But—you haven’t even dreamed, or anything?” I persisted.
“Dreamed? Of course I’ve dreamed,” he replied, vehemently. “My God, such dreams! But that doesn’t prove anything. If that experience had been real, I’d have dreamed about it just the same, you know.”
I think it was a night or two after this that I awoke, in the middle of the night, with my inspiration. You’ve heard of people doing that, I suppose. I awoke with a vague idea that relativity had something to do with Thorne’s experience, and then, suddenly, I was wide awake and the full significance of the whole thing was right before me. I hurried to the phone and called Thorne, not hesitation to waken him out of one of the few sound slumbers that he had managed to attain. He was testy but I was enthusiastic.
“I’ve got it, Thorne, old fellow,” I cried. “Got the whole thing, as sure as shooting. It’s wonderful, but I believe it’s true. You’re not crazy, your experience was real, and I’ll bet anything it’s happened to others. I’ve got a theory that fits all the facts, that proves you’re of sound mind and that’ll give you half a dozen chapters for your new book!”
He sung out for me to come right over, and in an hour or so, I was ensconced in his favorite easy chair, while Thorne leaned eagerly toward me as I expounded my theory.
“To begin with,” I was saying. “You saw that vast bleak valley where, a few hours before, you had left a little village nestling between the hills. And when you came back from your adventure, Tonessen showed you another village, almost exactly where you had had your adventure. Right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Well, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, unless– Unless what, Thorne?
He looked at me uncertainly for a moment, and then his face cleared. “You mean unless there are four dimensions?”
“That’s it, unless there are four dimensions.”
“Oh but that’s nonsense, you know. This fourth dimension stuff is just a mathematical dream. Surely you don’t believe that a man can cross to another plane—all that story writer’s nonsense—do you?”
“Wait and see,” I replied. “You know, Einstein has showed us a lot we didn’t know about dimensions.”
“But I thought he merely postulated a fourth dimension to account for the phenomenon of time.”
“Now you’re getting it,” I cried, excitedly. “Now listen to this—If it were possible to move from this plane to another, along the line of a fourth dimension, we would, almost certainly, find ourselves in another age, that is, in another plane of the time dimension. For it’s almost a dead certainly that the fourth dimension is time.”
“But I wasn’t in another age. I was right here all the time.”
“How do you know you were? That red fog—was that a normal phenomenon? I’d say it was something—some strange gas or natural phenomenon—that transported you through the fourth dimension. And think about the place you found yourself in. Remember the cold? And that vast, bleak scene over which you looked from the top of the hill? The snow? And last and most important of all—the Neanderthaler? Thorne, if you weren’t back in the ice age, I don’t know my geological history.”
Thorne’s dubious look increased.
“You’re overlooking the most important thing of all,” he complained. “You know as well as I do that the Neanderthalers were, if anything, smaller than human beings. Who could even imagine, in his right mind, a creature two hundred and fifty feet tall?”
I chuckled. “That’s the most wonderful part of it all,” I said. “Get this, now. It explains your whole Jotunheim adventure, and, I think, the Norse legends, and lots of other things. Have you read anything lately about this apparent expansion of space?”
“Not much,” he confessed. “I believe I’ve read that astronomers have noted that all the distant nebulae are receding from our universe at more or less remarkable speeds.”
“Right. And there’s more to it than that. Physicists and mathematicians claim that, according to parts of the relativity theory, the universe of space ought to be expanding. According to astronomers, all the nebulae, and most of the more distant stars, are receding from us. Therefore, it’s reasonable enough to admit that it is expanding. But remember, Thorne, it’s empty space that’s expanding, not matter. For if matter and space were all expanding equally, we would have no way of telling it. Everything would grow equally and preserve the same relative size. Get it?”
“I think I do. The fact that we note the expansion of space shows that it is the distance between bodies, that is, the empty space, that is increasing in size, and not matter.”
“That’s right. Only, note this: We would observe exactly the same phenomena, if space remained the same size, and matter constantly contracted or shrank.”
“I say—if all matter was constantly shrinking in on itself, occupying less and less space, the phenomena would seem the same to us as if space were expanding.”
“I get it! I’m beginning to see it!”
“Exactly! If matter and space are constantly altering their relative proportions so that matter takes up less and less of the total available space, then, thousands of years ago, things took up far more space than they do today.
When you were transported across the ages, you naturally preserved your same relative size. That is, the comparative ratio between you and Absolute Space remained the same. The result was that you found yourself in a giant world where everything was literally enormous. See?”
A cloud fell across Thorne’s face.
“But—if things ere so huge in those days, if men were hundreds of feet tall, how is it that we don’t find enormous remains—”
“Oh, be yourself, Thorne. Remember, they were only huge in relation to the matter of this age. Since that day, the earth has contracted, the sun has contracted—the very atoms that compose the matter of which they are made up have contracted. And so have the bones and the fossils, the relics that they left behind. And so have their descendants.”
“I believe I understand.”
“Of course, you do. And get this—remember the redness of everything? Well it’s evident that the very light waves themselves were longer and you were looking at greens and blues that registered red to you because red is a color of longer wave length than those others.”
“And that explains the low tones of the giant’s voice, too, don’t it? I see. Yes it all sounds plausible. And it explains much, doesn’t it. The Norse legends of Jotunheim, the cold frost-land where the giants live. And the disappearance of the many people who climbed the hill and never came back. And,” his face lights up, “And the stores of the wise little dwarfs, too, old man. For if I can go into the past, and see Neanderthal men, people might come out to f the future and see us of the present. And they would be smaller than us, and very clever and wise. It’s possible, isn’t it?”
“So possible,” I answered, “that in the spring I am going to Norway and ascend the hill of Jotunheim.”
And I really think I will.