The mythological tale depicted in this painting comes from the Icelandic sagas of the Edda, which were known in England from P. H. Mallet’s 1770 book Northern Antiquities. Here, Fuseli depicts Thor rowing out in a boat with the giant Hymir (shown crouching at the back of the boat), watched by the elderly god Odin in the top left corner. Using an ox’s head as bait, Thor manages to fish up the Serpent of Midgard and challenges the creature to a fight.
Parallels have been drawn between this epic struggle and the contemporaneous revolution in France, which Fuseli enthusiastically supported. Thor’s battle with the serpent could be seen to mirror the French people’s struggle against the ancien régime