PART I THE CHILDREN OF ODIN
THE DWELLERS IN ASGARD
FAR AWAY AND LONG AGO
Once there was another Sun and another Moon; a different Sun and a different Moon from the ones we see now. Sol was the name of that Sun and Mani was the name of that Moon. But always behind Sol and Mani wolves went, a wolf behind each. The wolves caught on them at last and they devoured Sol and Mani. And then the world was in darkness and cold.
In those times the Gods lived, Odin and Thor, Hödur and Baldur, Tyr and Heimdall, Vidar and Vali, as well as Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil. And the beautiful Goddesses were living then, Frigga, Freya, Nanna, Iduna, and Sif. But in the days when the Sun and Moon were destroyed the Gods were destroyed too–all the Gods except Baldur who had died before that time, Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor.
At that time, too, there were men and women in the world. But before the Sun and the Moon were devoured and before the Gods were destroyed, terrible things happened in the world. Snow fell on the four corners of the earth and kept on falling for three seasons. Winds came and blew everything away. And the people of the world who had lived on in spite of the snow and the cold and the winds fought each other, brother killing brother, until all the people were destroyed.
Also there was another earth at that time, an earth green and beautiful. But the terrible winds that blew leveled down forests and hills and dwellings. Then fire came and burnt the earth. There was darkness, for the Sun and the Moon were devoured. The Gods had met with their doom. And the time in which all these things happened was called Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Then a new Sun and a new Moon appeared and went traveling through the heavens; they were more lovely than Sol and Mani, and no wolves followed behind them in chase. The earth became green and beautiful again, and in a deep forest that the fire had not burnt a woman and a man wakened up. They had been hidden there by Odin and left to sleep during Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Lif was the woman’s name, and Lifthrasir was the man’s. They moved through the world, and their children and their children’s children made people for the new earth. And of the Gods were left Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor; on the new earth Vidar and Vali found tablets that the older Gods had written on and had left there for them, tablets telling of all that had happened before Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
And the people who lived after Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, were not troubled, as the people in the older days were troubled, by the terrible beings who had brought destruction upon the world and upon men and women, and who from the beginning had waged war upon the Gods.
THE BUILDING OF THE WALL
Always there had been war between the Giants and the Gods–between the Giants who would have destroyed the world and the race of men, and the Gods who would have protected the race of men and would have made the world more beautiful.
There are many stories to be told about the Gods, but the first one that should be told to you is the one about the building of their City.
The Gods had made their way up to the top of a high mountain and there they decided to build a great City for themselves that the Giants could never overthrow. The City they would call “Asgard,” which means the Place of the Gods. They would build it on a beautiful plain that was on the top of that high mountain. And they wanted to raise round their City the highest and strongest wall that had ever been built.
Now one day when they were beginning to build their halls and their palaces a strange being came to them. Odin, the Father of the Gods, went and spoke to him. “What dost thou want on the Mountain of the Gods?” he asked the Stranger.
“I know what is in the mind of the Gods,” the Stranger said. “They would build a City here. I cannot build palaces, but I can build great walls that can never be overthrown. Let me build the wall round your City.”
“How long will it take you to build a wall that will go round our City?” said the Father of the Gods.
“A year, O Odin,” said the Stranger.
Now Odin knew that if a great wall could be built around it the Gods would not have to spend all their time defending their City, Asgard, from the Giants, and he knew that if Asgard were protected, he himself could go amongst men and teach them and help them. He thought that no payment the Stranger could ask would be too much for the building of that wall.
That day the Stranger came to the Council of the Gods, and he swore that in a year he would have the great wall built. Then Odin made oath that the Gods would give him what he asked in payment if the wall was finished to the last stone in a year from that day.
The Stranger went away and came back on the morrow. It was the first day of Summer when he started work. He brought no one to help him except a great horse.
Now the Gods thought that this horse would do no more than drag blocks of stone for the building of the wall. But the horse did more than this. He set the stones in their places and mortared them together. And day and night and by light and dark the horse worked, and soon a great wall was rising round the palaces that the Gods themselves were building.
“What reward will the Stranger ask for the work he is doing for us?” the Gods asked one another.
Odin went to the Stranger. “We marvel at the work you and your horse are doing for us,” he said. “No one can doubt that the great wall of Asgard will be built up by the first day of Summer. What reward do you claim? We would have it ready for you.”
The Stranger turned from the work he was doing, leaving the great horse to pile up the blocks of stone. “O Father of the Gods,” he said, “O Odin, the reward I shall ask for my work is the Sun and the Moon, and Freya, who watches over the flowers and grasses, for my wife.”
Now when Odin heard this, he was terribly angered, for the price the Stranger asked for his work was beyond all prices. He went amongst the other Gods who were then building their shining palaces within the great wall and he told them what reward the Stranger had asked. The Gods said, “Without the Sun and the Moon the world will wither away.” And the Goddesses said, “Without Freya all will be gloom in Asgard.”
They would have let the wall remain unbuilt rather than let the Stranger have the reward he claimed for building it. But one who was in the company of the Gods spoke. He was Loki, a being who only half belonged to the Gods; his father was the Wind Giant. “Let the Stranger build the wall round Asgard,” Loki said, “and I will find a way to make him give up the hard bargain he has made with the Gods. Go to him and tell him that the wall must be finished by the first day of Summer, and that if it is not finished to the last stone on that day the price, he asks will not be given to him.”
The Gods went to the Stranger and they told him that if the last stone was not laid on the wall on the first day of the Summer not Sol or Mani, the Sun and the Moon, nor Freya would be given him. And now they knew that the Stranger was one of the Giants.
The Giant and his great horse piled up the wall more quickly than before. At night, while the Giant slept, the horse worked on and on, hauling up stones and laying them on the wall with his great forefeet. And day by day the wall around Asgard grew higher and higher.
But the Gods had no joy in seeing that great wall rising higher and higher around their palaces. The Giant and his horse would finish the work by the first day of Summer, and then he would take the Sun and the Moon, Sol and Mani, and Freya away with him.
But Loki was not disturbed. He kept telling the Gods that he would find a way to prevent him from finishing his work, and thus he would make the Giant forfeit the terrible price he had led Odin to promise him.
It was three days to Summertime. All the wall was finished except the gateway. Over the gateway a stone was still to be placed. And the Giant, before he went to sleep, bade his horse haul up a great block of stone so that they might put it above the gateway in the morning, and so finish the work two full days before Summer.
It happened to be a beautiful moonlit night. Svadilfare, the Giant’s great horse, was hauling the largest stone he ever hauled when he saw a little mare come galloping toward him. The great horse had never seen so pretty a little mare and he looked at her with surprise.
“Svadilfare, slave,” said the little mare to him and went frisking past.
Svadilfare put down the stone he was hauling and called to the little mare. She came back to him. “Why do you call me ‘Svadilfare, slave’?” said the great horse.
“Because you have to work night and day for your master,” said the little mare. “He keeps you working, working, working, and never lets you enjoy yourself. You dare not leave that stone down and come and play with me.”
“Who told you I dare not do it?” said Svadilfare.
“I know you daren’t do it,” said the little mare, and she kicked up her heels and ran across the moonlit meadow.
Now the truth is that Svadilfare was tired of working day and night. When he saw the little mare go galloping off, he became suddenly discontented. He left the stone he was hauling on the ground. He looked round and he saw the little mare looking back at him. He galloped after her.
He did not catch up on the little mare. She went on swiftly before him. On she went over the moonlit meadow, turning and looking back now and again at the great Svadilfare, who came heavily after her. Down the mountainside the mare went, and Svadilfare, who now rejoiced in his liberty and in the freshness of the wind and in the smell of the flowers, still followed her. With the morning’s light they came near a cave and the little mare went into it. They went through the cave. Then Svadilfare caught up on the little mare and the two went wandering together, the little mare telling Svadilfare stories of the Dwarfs and the Elves.
They came to a grove and they stayed together in it, the little mare playing so nicely with him that the great horse forgot all about time passing. And while they were in the grove the Giant was going up and down, searching for his great horse.
He had come to the wall in the morning, expecting to put the stone over the gateway and so finish his work. But the stone that was to be lifted up was not near him. He called for Svadilfare, but his great horse did not come. He went to search for him, and he searched all down the mountainside and he searched as far across the earth as the realm of the Giants. But he did not find Svadilfare.
The Gods saw the first day of Summer come and the gateway of the wall stand unfinished. They said to each other that if it were not finished by the evening, they need not give Sol and Mani to the Giant, nor the maiden Freya to be his wife. The hours of the summer day went past and the Giant did not raise the stone over the gateway. In the evening he came before them.
“Your work is not finished,” Odin said. “You forced us to a hard bargain and now we need not keep it with you. You shall not be given Sol and Mani nor the maiden Freya.”
“Only the wall I have built is so strong I would tear it down,” said the Giant. He tried to throw down one of the palaces, but the Gods laid hands on him and thrust him outside the wall he had built. “Go, and trouble Asgard no more,” Odin commanded.
Then Loki returned to Asgard. He told the Gods how he had transformed himself into a little mare and had led away Svadilfare, the Giant’s great horse. And the Gods sat in their golden palaces behind the great wall and rejoiced that their City was now secure, and that no enemy could ever enter it or overthrow it. But Odin, the Father of the Gods, as he sat upon his throne was sad in his heart, sad that the Gods had got their wall built by a trick; that oaths had been broken, and that a blow had been struck in injustice in Asgard.
IDUNA AND HER APPLES: HOW LOKI PUT THE GODS IN DANGER
In Asgard there was a garden, and in that garden, there grew a tree, and on that tree, there grew shining apples. Thou knowest, O well-loved one, that every day that passes makes us older and brings us to that day when we will be bent and feeble, gray-headed and weak-eyed. But those shining apples that grew in Asgard–they who ate of them every day grew never a day older, for the eating of the apples kept old age away.
Iduna, the Goddess, tended the tree on which the shining apples grew. None would grow on the tree unless she was there to tend it. No one but Iduna might pluck the shining apples. Each morning she plucked them and left them in her basket and every day the Gods and Goddesses came to her garden that they might eat the shining apples and so stay forever young.
Iduna never went from her garden. All day and every day she stayed in the garden or in her golden house beside it, and all day and every day she listened to Bragi, her husband, tell a story that never had an end. Ah, but a time came when Iduna and her apples were lost to Asgard, and the Gods and Goddesses felt old age approach them. How all that happened shall be told thee, O well beloved.
Odin, the Father of the Gods, often went into the land of men to watch over their doings. Once he took Loki with him, Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil. For a long time they went traveling through the world of men. At last they came near Jötunheim, the realm of the Giants.
It was a bleak and empty region. There were no growing things there, not even trees with berries. There were no birds, there were no animals. As Odin, the Father of the Gods, and Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil, went through this region hunger came upon them. But in all the land around they saw nothing that they could eat.
Loki, running here and running there, came at last upon a herd of wild cattle. Creeping up on them, he caught hold of a young bull and killed him. Then he cut up the flesh into strips of meat. He lighted a fire and put the meat on spits to roast. While the meat was being cooked, Odin, the Father of the Gods, a little way off, sat thinking on the things he had seen in the world of men.
Loki made himself busy putting more and more logs on the fire. At last he called to Odin, and the Father of the Gods came and sat down near the fire to eat the meal.
But when the meat was taken off the cooking-spits and when Odin went to cut it, he found that it was still raw. He smiled at Loki for thinking the meat was cooked, and Loki, troubled that he had made a mistake, put the meat back, and put more logs upon the fire. Again Loki took the meat off the cooking-spits and called Odin to the meal.
Odin, when he took the meat that Loki brought him, found that it was as raw as if it had never been put upon the fire. “Is this a trick of yours, Loki?” he said.
Loki was so angry at the meat being uncooked that Odin saw he was playing no tricks. In his hunger he raged at the meat and he raged at the fire. Again he put the meat on the cooking-spits and put more logs on the fire. Every hour he would take up the meat, sure that it was now cooked, and every time he took it off Odin would find that the meat was as raw as the first time, they took it off the fire.
Now Odin knew that the meat must be under some enchantment by the Giants. He stood up and went on his way, hungry but strong. Loki, however, would not leave the meat that he had put back on the fire. He would make it be cooked, he declared, and he would not leave that place hungry.
The dawn came and he took up the meat again. As he was lifting it off the fire, he heard a whirr of wings above his head. Looking up, he saw a mighty eagle, the largest eagle that ever appeared in the sky. The eagle circled round and round and came above Loki’s head. “Canst thou not cook thy food?” the eagle screamed to him.
“I cannot cook it,” said Loki.
“I will cook it for thee, if thou wilt give me a share,” screamed the eagle.
“Come, then, and cook it for me,” said Loki.
The eagle circled round until he was above the fire. Then flapping his great wings over it, he made the fire blaze and blaze. A heat that Loki had never felt before came from the burning logs. In a minute he drew the meat from the spits and found it was well cooked.
“My share, my share, give me my share,” the eagle screamed at him. He flew down, and seizing on a large piece of meat instantly devoured it. He seized on another piece. Piece after piece he devoured until it looked as if Loki would be left with no meat for his meal.
As the eagle seized on the last piece Loki became angry indeed. Taking up the spit on which the meat had been cooked, he struck at the eagle. There was a clang as if he had struck some metal. The wood of the spit did not come away. It stuck to the breast of the eagle. But Loki did not let go his hold on the spit. Suddenly the eagle rose up in the air. Loki, who held to the spit that was fastened to the eagle’s breast, was drawn up with him.
Before he knew what had happened Loki was miles and miles up in the air and the eagle was flying with him toward Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants. And the eagle was screaming out, “Loki, friend Loki, I have thee at last. It was thou who didst cheat my brother of his reward for building the wall round Asgard. But, Loki, I have thee at last. Know now that Thiassi the Giant has captured thee, O Loki, most cunning of the dwellers in Asgard.”
Thus the eagle screamed as he went flying with Loki toward Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants. They passed over the river that divides Jötunheim from Midgard, the World of Men. And now Loki saw a terrible place beneath him, a land of ice and rock. Great mountains were there: they were lighted by neither sun nor moon, but by columns of fire thrown up now and again through cracks in the earth or out of the peaks of the mountains.
Over a great iceberg the eagle hovered. Suddenly he shook the spit from his breast and Loki fell down on the ice. The eagle screamed out to him, “Thou art in my power at last, O thou most cunning of all the Dwellers in Asgard.” The eagle left Loki there and flew within a crack in the mountain.
Miserable indeed was Loki upon that iceberg. The cold was deadly. He could not die there, for he was one of the Dwellers in Asgard and death might not come to him that way. He might not die, but he felt bound to that iceberg with chains of cold.
After a day his captor came to him, not as an eagle this time, but in his own form, Thiassi the Giant.
“Wouldst thou leave thine iceberg, Loki,” he said, “and return to thy pleasant place in Asgard? Thou dost delight in Asgard, although only by one-half dost thou belong to the Gods. Thy father, Loki, was the Wind Giant.”
“O that I might leave this iceberg,” Loki said, with the tears freezing on his face.
“Thou mayst leave it when thou showest thyself ready to pay thy ransom to me,” said Thiassi. “Thou wilt have to get me the shining apples that Iduna keeps in her basket.”
“I cannot get Iduna’s apples for thee, Thiassi,” said Loki.
“Then stay upon the iceberg,” said Thiassi the Giant. He went away and left Loki there with the terrible winds buffeting him as with blows of a hammer.
When Thiassi came again and spoke to him about his ransom, Loki said, “There is no way of getting the shining apples from Iduna.”
“There must be some way, O cunning Loki,” said the Giant.
“Iduna, although she guards well the shining apples, is simple-minded,” said Loki. “It may be that I shall be able to get her to go outside the wall of Asgard. If she goes, she will bring her shining apples with her, for she never lets them go out of her hand except when she gives them to the Gods and Goddesses to eat.”
“Make it so that she will go beyond the wall of Asgard,” said the Giant. “If she goes outside of the wall, I shall get the apples from her. Swear by the World-Tree that thou wilt lure Iduna beyond the wall of Asgard. Swear it, Loki, and I shall let thee go.”
“I swear it by Ygdrassil, the World-Tree, that I will lure Iduna beyond the wall of Asgard if thou wilt take me off this iceberg,” said Loki.
Then Thiassi changed himself into a mighty eagle, and taking Loki in his talons, he flew with him over the stream that divides Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants, from Midgard, the World of Men. He left Loki on the ground of Midgard, and Loki then went on his way to Asgard.
Now Odin had already returned and he had told the Dwellers in Asgard of Loki’s attempt to cook the enchanted meat. All laughed to think that Loki had been left hungry for all his cunning. Then when he came into Asgard looking so famished, they thought it was because Loki had had nothing to eat. They laughed at him more and more. But they brought him into the Feast Hall and they gave him the best of food with wine out of Odin’s wine cup. When the feast was over the Dwellers in Asgard went to Iduna’s garden as was their wont.
There sat Iduna in the golden house that opened on her garden. Had she been in the world of men, everyone who saw her would have remembered their own innocence, seeing one who was so fair and good. She had eyes blue as the blue sky, and she smiled as if she were remembering lovely things she had seen or heard. The basket of shining apples was beside her.
To each God and Goddess Iduna gave a shining apple. Each one ate the apple given, rejoicing to think that they would never become a day older. Then Odin, the Father of the Gods, said the runes that were always said in praise of Iduna, and the Dwellers in Asgard went out of Iduna’s garden, each one going to his or her own shining house.
All went except Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil. Loki sat in the garden, watching fair and simple Iduna. After a while she spoke to him and said, “Why dost thou still stay here, wise Loki?”
“To look well on thine apples,” Loki said. “I am wondering if the apples I saw yesterday are really as shining as the apples that are in thy basket.”
“There are no apples in the world as shining as mine,” said Iduna.
“The apples I saw were more shining,” said Loki. “Aye, and they smelled better, Iduna.”
Iduna was troubled at what Loki, whom she deemed so wise, told her. Her eyes filled with tears that there might be more shining apples in the world than hers. “O Loki,” she said, “it cannot be. No apples are more shining, and none smell so sweet, as the apples I pluck off the tree in my garden.”
“Go, then, and see,” said Loki. “Just outside Asgard is the tree that has the apples I saw. Thou, Iduna, dost never leave thy garden, and so thou dost not know what grows in the world. Go outside of Asgard and see.”
“I will go, Loki,” said Iduna, the fair and simple.
Iduna went outside the wall of Asgard. She went to the place Loki had told her that the apples grew in. But as she looked this way and that way, Iduna heard a whirr of wings above her. Looking up, she saw a mighty eagle, the largest eagle that had ever appeared in the sky.
She drew back toward the gate of Asgard. Then the great eagle swooped down; Iduna felt herself lifted up, and then she was being carried away from Asgard, away, away; away over Midgard where men lived, away toward the rocks and snows of Jötunheim. Across the river that flows between the World of Men and the Realm of the Giants Iduna was borne. Then the eagle flew into a cleft in a mountain and Iduna was left in a cavernous hall lighted up by columns of fire that burst up from the earth.
The eagle loosened his grip on Iduna and she sank down on the ground of the cavern. The wings and the feathers fell from him and she saw her captor as a terrible Giant.
“Oh, why have you carried me off from Asgard and brought me to this place?” Iduna cried.
“That I might eat your shining apples, Iduna,” said Thiassi the Giant.
“That will never be, for I will not give them to you,” said Iduna.
“Give me the apples to eat, and I shall carry you back to Asgard.”
“No, no, that cannot be. I have been trusted with the shining apples that I might give them to the Gods only.”
“Then I shall take the apples from you,” said Thiassi the Giant.
He took the basket out of her hands and opened it. But when he touched the apples they shriveled under his hands. He left them in the basket and he set the basket down, for he knew now that the apples would be no good to him unless Iduna gave them to him with her own hands.
“You must stay with me here until you give me the shining apples,” he said to her.
Then was poor Iduna frightened: she was frightened of the strange cave and frightened of the fire that kept bursting up out of the earth and she was frightened of the terrible Giant. But above all she was frightened to think of the evil that would fall upon the Dwellers in Asgard if she were not there to give them the shining apples to eat.
The Giant came to her again. But still Iduna would not give him the shining apples. And there in the cave she stayed, the Giant troubling her every day. And she grew more and more fearful as she saw in her dreams the Dwellers in Asgard go to her garden–go there, and not being given the shining apples, feel and see a change coming over themselves and over each other.
It was as Iduna saw it in her dreams. Every day the Dwellers in Asgard went to her garden–Odin and Thor, Hödur and Baldur, Tyr and Heimdall, Vidar and Vali, with Frigga, Freya, Nanna, and Sif. There was no one to pluck the apples of their tree. And a change began to come over the Gods and Goddesses.
They no longer walked lightly; their shoulders became bent; their eyes no longer were as bright as dewdrops. And when they looked upon one another they saw the change. Age was coming upon the Dwellers in Asgard.
They knew that the time would come when Frigga would be gray and old; when Sif’s golden hair would fade; when Odin would no longer have his clear wisdom, and when Thor would not have strength enough to raise and fling his thunderbolts. And the Dwellers in Asgard were saddened by this knowledge, and it seemed to them that all brightness had gone from their shining City.
Where was Iduna whose apples would give back youth and strength and beauty to the Dwellers in Asgard? The Gods had searched for her through the World of Men. No trace of her did they find. But now Odin, searching through his wisdom, saw a means to get knowledge of where Iduna was hidden.
He summoned his two ravens, Hugin and Munin, his two ravens that flew through the earth and through the Realm of the Giants and that knew all things that were past and all things that were to come. He summoned Hugin and Munin and they came, and one sat on his right shoulder and one sat on his left shoulder and they told him deep secrets: they told him of Thiassi and of his desire for the shining apples that the Dwellers in Asgard ate, and of Loki’s deception of Iduna, the fair and simple.
What Odin learnt from his ravens was told in the Council of the Gods. Then Thor the Strong went to Loki and laid hands upon him. When Loki found himself in the grip of the strong God, he said, “What wouldst thou with me, O Thor?”
“I would hurl thee into a chasm in the ground and strike thee with my thunder,” said the strong God. “It was thou who didst bring it about that Iduna went from Asgard.”
“O Thor,” said Loki, “do not crush me with thy thunder. Let me stay in Asgard. I will strive to win Iduna back.”
“The judgment of the Gods,” said Thor, “is that thou, the cunning one, shouldst go to Jötunheim, and by thy craft win Iduna back from the Giants. Go or else I shall hurl thee into a chasm and crush thee with my thunder.”
“I will go,” said Loki.
From Frigga, the wife of Odin, Loki borrowed the dress of falcon feathers that she owned. He clad himself in it, and flew to Jötunheim in the form of a falcon.
He searched through Jötunheim until he found Thiassi’s daughter, Skadi. He flew before Skadi and he let the Giant maid catch him and hold him as a pet. One day the Giant maid carried him into the cave where Iduna, the fair and simple, was held.
When Loki saw Iduna there he knew that part of his quest was ended. Now he had to get Iduna out of Jötunheim and away to Asgard. He stayed no more with the Giant maid, but flew up into the high rocks of the cave. Skadi wept for the flight of her pet, but she ceased to search and to call and went away from the cave.
Then Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil, flew to where Iduna was sitting and spoke to her. Iduna, when she knew that one of the Dwellers in Asgard was near, wept with joy.
Loki told her what she was to do. By the power of a spell that was given him he was able to change her into the form of a sparrow. But before she did this, she took the shining apples out of her basket and flung them into places where the Giant would never find them.
Skadi, coming back to the cave, saw the falcon fly out with the sparrow beside him. She cried out to her father and the Giant knew that the falcon was Loki and the sparrow was Iduna. He changed himself into the form of a mighty eagle. By this time sparrow and falcon were out of sight, but Thiassi, knowing that he could make better flight than they, flew toward Asgard.
Soon he saw them. They flew with all the power they had, but the great wings of the eagle brought him nearer and nearer to them. The Dwellers in Asgard, standing on the wall, saw the falcon and the sparrow with the great eagle pursuing them. They knew who they were–Loki and Iduna with Thiassi in pursuit.
As they watched the eagle winging nearer and nearer, the Dwellers in Asgard were fearful that the falcon and the sparrow would be caught upon and that Iduna would be taken again by Thiassi. They lighted great fires upon the wall, knowing that Loki would find a way through the fires, bringing Iduna with him, but that Thiassi would not find a way.
The falcon and the sparrow flew toward the fires. Loki went between the flames and brought Iduna with him. And Thiassi, coming up to the fires and finding no way through, beat his wings against the flames. He fell down from the wall and the death that came to him afterwards was laid to Loki.
Thus Iduna was brought back to Asgard. Once again, she sat in the golden house that opened to her garden, once again she plucked the shining apples off the tree she tended, and once again she gave them to the Dwellers in Asgard. And the Dwellers in Asgard walked lightly again, and brightness came into their eyes and into their cheeks; age no more approached them; youth came back; light and joy were again in Asgard.
SIF’S GOLDEN HAIR: HOW LOKI WROUGHT MISCHIEF IN ASGARD
All who dwelt in Asgard, the Æsir and the Asyniur, who were the Gods and the Goddesses, and the Vanir, who were the friends of the Gods and the Goddesses, were wroth with Loki. It was no wonder they were wroth with him, for he had let the Giant Thiassi carry off Iduna and her golden apples. Still, it must be told that the show they made of their wrath made Loki ready to do more mischief in Asgard.
One day he saw a chance to do mischief that made his heart rejoice. Sif, the wife of Thor, was lying asleep outside her house. Her beautiful golden hair flowed all round her. Loki knew how much Thor loved that shining hair, and how greatly Sif prized it because of Thor’s love. Here was his chance to do a great mischief. Smilingly, he took out his shears and he cut off the shining hair, every strand and every tress. She did not waken while her treasure was being taken from her. But Loki left Sif’s head cropped and bare.
Thor was away from Asgard. Coming back to the City of the Gods, he went into his house. Sif, his wife, was not there to welcome him. He called to Sif, but no glad answer came from her. To the palaces of all the Gods and Goddesses Thor went, but in none of them did he find Sif, his golden-haired wife.
When he was coming back to his house, he heard his name whispered. He stopped, and then a figure stole out from behind a stone. A veil covered her head, and Thor scarce knew that this was Sif, his wife. As he went to her she sobbed and sobbed. “O Thor, my husband,” she said, “do not look upon me. I am ashamed that you should see me. I shall go from Asgard and from the company of the Gods and Goddesses, and I shall go down to Svartheim and live amongst the Dwarfs. I cannot bear that any of the Dwellers in Asgard should look upon me now.”
“O Sif,” cried Thor, “what has happened to change you?”
“I have lost the hair of my head,” said Sif, “I have lost the beautiful golden hair that you, Thor, loved. You will not love me anymore, and so I must go away, down to Svartheim and to the company of the Dwarfs. They are as ugly as I am now.”
Then she took the veil off her head and Thor saw that all her beautiful hair was gone. She stood before him, shamed and sorrowful, and he grew into a mighty rage. “Who was it did this to you, Sif?” he said. “I am Thor, the strongest of all the Dwellers in Asgard, and I shall see to it
that all the powers the Gods possess will be used to get your fairness back. Come with me, Sif.” And taking his wife’s hand in his, Thor went off to the Council House where the Gods and the Goddesses were.
Sif covered her head with her veil, for she would not have the Gods and Goddesses look upon her shorn head. But from the anger in Thor’s eyes all saw that the wrong done to Sif was great indeed. Then Thor told of the cutting of her beautiful hair. A whisper went round the Council House. “It was Loki did this–no one else in Asgard would have done a deed so shameful,” one said to the other.
“Loki it was who did it,” said Thor. “He has hidden himself, but I shall find him and I will slay him.”
“Nay, not so, Thor,” said Odin, the Father of the Gods. “Nay, no Dweller in Asgard may slay another. I shall summon Loki to come before us here. It is for you to make him (and remember that Loki is cunning and able to do many things) bring back to Sif the beauty of her golden hair.”
Then the call of Odin, the call that all in Asgard have to harken to, went through the City of the Gods. Loki heard it, and he had to come from his hiding-place and enter the house where the Gods held their Council. And when he looked on Thor and saw the rage that was in his eyes, and when he looked on Odin and saw the sternness in the face of the Father of the Gods, he knew that he would have to make amends for the shameful wrong he had done to Sif.
Said Odin, “There is a thing that you, Loki, have to do: Restore to Sif the beauty of her hair.”
Loki looked at Odin, Loki looked at Thor, and he saw that what was said would have to be done. His quick mind searched to find a way of restoring to Sif the beauty of her golden hair.
“I shall do as you command, Odin All-Father,” he said.
But before we tell you of what Loki did to restore the beauty of Sif’s golden hair, we must tell you of the other beings besides the Gods and the Goddesses who were in the world at the time. First, there was the Vanir. When the Gods who were called the Æsir came to the mountain on which they built Asgard, they found other beings there. These were not wicked and ugly like the Giants; they were beautiful and friendly; the Vanir they were named.
Although they were beautiful and friendly the Vanir had no thought of making the world more beautiful or more happy. In that way they differed from the Æsir who had such a thought. The Æsir made peace with them, and they lived together in friendship, and the Vanir came to do things that helped the Æsir to make the world more beautiful and more happy. Freya, whom the Giant wanted to take away with the Sun and the Moon as a reward for the building of the wall round Asgard, was of the Vanir. The other beings of the Vanir were Frey, who was the brother of Freya, and Niörd, who was their father.
On the earth below there were other beings–the dainty Elves, who danced and fluttered about, attending to the trees and flowers and grasses. The Vanir were permitted to rule over the Elves. Then below the earth, in caves and hollows, there was another race, the Dwarfs or Gnomes, little, twisted creatures, who were both wicked and ugly, but who were the best craftsmen in the world.
In the days when neither the Æsir nor the Vanir were friendly to him Loki used to go down to Svartheim, the Dwarfs’ dwelling below the earth. And now that he was commanded to restore to Sif the beauty of her hair, Loki thought of help he might get from the Dwarfs.
Down, down, through the winding passages in the earth he went, and he came at last to where the Dwarfs who were most friendly to him were working in their forges. All the Dwarfs were master-smiths, and when he came upon his friends, he found them working hammer and tongs, beating metals into many shapes. He watched them for a while and took note of the things they were making. One was a spear, so well balanced and made that it would hit whatever mark it was thrown at no matter how bad the aim the thrower had. The other was a boat that could sail on any sea, but that could be folded up so that it would go into one’s pocket. The spear was called Gungnir and the boat was called Skidbladnir.
Loki made himself very agreeable to the Dwarfs, praising their work and promising them things that only the Dwellers in Asgard could give, things that the Dwarfs longed to possess. He talked to them till the little, ugly folk thought that they would come to own Asgard and all that was in it.
At last Loki said to them, “Have you got a bar of fine gold that you can hammer into threads–into threads so fine that they will be like the hair of Sif, Thor’s wife? Only the Dwarfs could make a thing so wonderful. Ah, there is the bar of gold. Hammer it into those fine threads, and the Gods themselves will be jealous of your work.”
Flattered by Loki’s speeches, the Dwarfs who were in the forge took up the bar of fine gold and flung it into the fire. Then taking it out and putting it upon their anvil they worked on the bar with their tiny hammers until they beat it into threads that were as fine as the hairs of one’s head. But that was not enough. They had to be as fine as the hairs on Sif’s head, and these were finer than anything else. They worked on the threads, over and over again, until they were as fine as the hairs on Sif’s head. The threads were as bright as sunlight, and when Loki took up the mass of worked gold it flowed from his raised hand down on the ground. It was so fine that it could be put into his palm, and it was so light that a bird might not feel its weight.
Then Loki praised the Dwarfs more and more, and he made more and more promises to them. He charmed them all, although they were an unfriendly and a suspicious folk. And before he left them, he asked them for the spear and the boat he had seen them make, the spear Gungnir and the boat Skidbladnir. The Dwarfs gave him these things, though in a while after they wondered at themselves for giving them.
Back to Asgard Loki went. He walked into the Council House where the Dwellers in Asgard were gathered. He met the stern look in Odin’s eyes and the rageful look in Thor’s eyes with smiling good humor. “Off with thy veil, O Sif,” he said. And when poor Sif took off her veil, he put upon her shorn head the wonderful mass of gold he held in his palm. Over her shoulders the gold fell, fine, soft, and shining as her own hair. And the Æsir and the Asyniur, the Gods and the Goddesses, and the Van and Vana, when they saw Sif’s head covered again with the shining web, laughed and clapped their hands in gladness. And the shining web held to Sif’s head as if indeed it had roots and was growing there.
HOW BROCK BROUGHT JUDGMENT ON LOKI
It was then that Loki, with the wish of making the Æsir and the Vanir friendly to him once more, brought out the wonderful things he had gained from the Dwarfs–the spear Gungnir and the boat Skidbladnir. The Æsir and the Vanir marveled at things so wonderful. Loki gave the spear as a gift to Odin, and to Frey, who was chief of the Vanir, he gave the boat Skidbladnir.
All Asgard rejoiced that things so wonderful and so helpful had been brought to them. And Loki, who had made a great show in giving these gifts, said boastingly:
“None but the Dwarfs who work for me could make such things. There are other Dwarfs, but they are as unhandy as they are misshapen. The Dwarfs who are my servants are the only ones who can make such wonders.”
Now Loki in his boastfulness had said a foolish thing. There were other Dwarfs besides those who had worked for him, and one of these was there in Asgard. All unknown to Loki he stood in the shadow of Odin’s seat, listening to what was being said. Now he went over to Loki, his little, unshapely form trembling with rage–Brock, the most spiteful of all the Dwarfs.
“Ha, Loki, you boaster,” he roared, “you lie in your words. Sindri, my brother, who would scorn to serve you, is the best smith in Svartheim.”
The Æsir and the Vanir laughed to see Loki outfaced by Brock the Dwarf in the middle of his boastfulness. As they laughed Loki grew angry.
“Be silent, Dwarf,” he said, “your brother will know about smith’s work when he goes to the Dwarfs who are my friends, and learns something from them.”
“He learn from the Dwarfs who are your friends! My brother Sindri learn from the Dwarfs who are your friends!” Brock roared, in a greater rage than before. “The things you have brought out of Svartheim would not be noticed by the Æsir and the Vanir if they were put beside the things that my brother Sindri can make.”
“Sometime we will try your brother Sindri and see what he can do,” said Loki.
“Try now, try now,” Brock shouted. “I’ll wager my head against yours, Loki, that his work will make the Dwellers in Asgard laugh at your boasting.”
“I will take your wager,” said Loki. “My head against yours. And glad will I be to see that ugly head of yours off your misshapen shoulders.”
“The Æsir will judge whether my brother’s work is not the best that ever came out of Svartheim. And they will see to it that you will pay your wager, Loki, the head off your shoulders. Will ye not sit in judgment, O Dwellers in Asgard?”
“We will sit in judgment,” said the Æsir. Then, still full of rage, Brock the Dwarf went down to Svartheim, and to the place where his brother Sindri worked.
There was Sindri in his glowing forge, working with bellows and anvil and hammers beside him, and around him masses of metal–gold and silver, copper and iron. Brock told his tale, how he had wagered his head against Loki’s that Sindri could make things more wonderful than the spear and the boat that Loki had brought into Asgard.
“You were right in what you said, my brother,” said Sindri, “and you shall not lose your head to Loki. But the two of us must work at what I am going to forge. It will be your work to keep the fire so that it will neither blaze up nor die down for a single instant. If you can keep the
fire as I tell you, we will forge a wonder. Now, brother, keep your hands upon the bellows, and keep the fire under your control.”
Then into the fire Sindri threw, not a piece of metal, but a pig’s skin. Brock kept his hands on the bellows, working it so that the fire neither died down nor blazed up for a single instant. And in the glowing fire the pigskin swelled itself into a strange shape.
But Brock was not left to work the bellows in peace. In to the forge flew a gadfly. It lighted on Brock’s hands and stung them. The Dwarf screamed with pain, but his hands still held the bellows, working it to keep the fire steady, for he knew that the gadfly was Loki, and that Loki was striving to spoil Sindri’s work. Again the gadfly stung his hands, but Brock, although his hands felt as if they were pierced with hot irons, still worked the bellows so that the fire did not blaze up or die down for a single instant.
Sindri came and looked into the fire. Over the shape that was rising there he said words of magic. The gadfly had flown away, and Sindri bade his brother cease working. He took out the thing that had been shaped in the fire, and he worked over it with his hammer. It was a wonder indeed–a boar, all golden, that could fly through the air, and that shed light from its bristles as it flew. Brock forgot the pain in his hands and screamed with joy. “This is the greatest of wonders,” he said. “The Dwellers in Asgard will have to give the judgment against Loki. I shall have Loki’s head!”
But Sindri said, “The boar Golden Bristle may not be judged as great a wonder as the spear Gungnir or the boat Skidbladnir. We must make something more wonderful still. Work the bellows as before, brother, and do not let the fire die down or blaze up for a single instant.”
Then Sindri took up a piece of gold that was so bright it lightened up the dark cavern that the Dwarfs worked in. He threw the piece of gold into the fire. Then he went to make ready something else and left Brock to work the bellows.
The gadfly flew in again. Brock did not know it was there until it lighted on the back of his neck. It stung him till Brock felt the pain was wrenching him apart. But still he kept his hands on the bellows, working it so that the fire neither blazed up nor died down for a single instant. When Sindri came to look into the fire, Brock was not able to speak for pain.
Again Sindri said magic words over the gold that was being smelted in the fire. He took it out of the glow and worked it over on the main-anvil. Then in a while he showed Brock something that looked like the circle of their sun. “A splendid armring, my brother,” he said. “An armring for a God’s right arm. And this ring has hidden wonders. Every ninth night eight rings like itself will drop from this armring, for this is Draupnir, the Ring of Increase.”
“To Odin, the Father of the Gods, the ring shall be given,” said Brock. “And Odin will have to declare that nothing so wonderful or so profitable to the Gods was ever brought into Asgard. O Loki, cunning Loki, I shall have thy head in spite of thy tricks.”
“Be not too hasty, brother,” said Sindri. “What we have done so far is good. But better still must be the thing that will make the Dwellers in Asgard give the judgment that delivers Loki’s head to thee. Work as before, brother, and do not let the fire blaze up or die down for a single instant.”
This time Sindri threw into the fire a bar of iron. Then he went away to fetch the hammer that would shape it. Brock worked the bellows as before, but only his hands were steady, for every other part of him was trembling with expectation of the gadfly’s sting.
He saw the gadfly dart into the forge. He screamed as it flew round and round him, searching out a place where it might sting him most fearfully. It lighted down on his forehead, just between his eyes. The first sting it gave took the sight from his eyes. It stung again and Brock felt the blood flowing down. Darkness filled the cave. Brock tried to keep his hands steady on the bellows, but he did not know whether the fire was blazing up or dying down. He shouted and Sindri hurried up.
Sindri said the magic words over the thing that was in the fire. Then he drew it out. “An instant more,” he said, “and the work would have been perfect. But because you let the fire die down for an instant the work is not as good as it might have been made.” He took what was shaped in the fire to the main-anvil and worked over it. Then when Brock’s eyesight came back to him, he saw a great hammer, a hammer all of iron. The handle did not seem to be long enough to balance the head. This was because the fire had died down for an instant while it was being formed.
“The hammer is Miölnir,” said Sindri, “and it is the greatest of the things that I am able to make. All in Asgard must rejoice to see this hammer. Thor only will be able to wield it. Now I am not afraid of the judgment that the Dwellers in Asgard will give.”
“The Dwellers in Asgard will have to give judgment for us,” Brock cried out. “They will have to give judgment for us, and the head of Loki, my tormentor, will be given me.”
“No more wonderful or more profitable gifts than these have ever been brought into Asgard,” Sindri said. “Thy head is saved, and thou wilt be able to take the head of Loki who was insolent to us. Bring it here, and we will throw it into the fire in the forge.”
The Æsir and the Vanir were seated in the Council House of Asgard when a train of Dwarfs appeared before them. Brock came at the head of the train, and he was followed by a band of Dwarfs carrying things of great weight. Brock and his attendants stood round the throne of Odin, and hearkened to the words of the Father of the Gods.
“We know why you have come into Asgard from out of Svartheim,” Odin said. “You have brought things wonderful and profitable to the Dwellers in Asgard. Let what you have brought be seen, Brock. If they are more wonderful and more useful than the things Loki has brought out of Svartheim, the spear Gungnir and the boat Skidbladnir, we will give judgment for you.”
Then Brock commanded the Dwarfs who waited on him to show the Dwellers in Asgard the first of the wonders that Sindri had made. They brought out the boar, Golden Bristle. Round and round the Council House the boar flew, leaving a track of brightness. The Dwellers in Asgard said one to the other that this was a wonder indeed. But none would say that the boar was a better thing to have in Asgard than the spear that would hit the mark no matter how badly it was flung, or the boat Skidbladnir that would sail on any sea, and that could be folded up so small that it would fit in any one’s pocket: none would say that Golden Bristle was better than these wonders.
To Frey, who was Chief of the Vanir, Brock gave the wondrous boar.
Then the attending Dwarfs showed the armring that was as bright as the circle of the Sun. All admired the noble ring. And when it was told how every ninth night this ring dropped eight rings of gold that were like itself, the Dwellers in Asgard spoke aloud, all saying that Draupnir, the Ring of Increase, was a wonder indeed. Hearing their voices raised, Brock looked triumphantly at Loki who was standing there with his lips drawn closely together.
To Odin, the Father of the Gods, Brock gave the noble armring.
Then he commanded the attending Dwarfs to lay before Thor the hammer Miölnir. Thor took the hammer up and swung it around his head. As he did so he uttered a great cry. And the eyes of the Dwellers in Asgard lightened up when they saw Thor with the hammer Miölnir in his hands; their eyes lightened up and from their lips came the cry, “This is a wonder, a wonder indeed! With this hammer in his hand none can withstand Thor, our Champion. No greater thing has ever come into Asgard than the hammer Miölnir.”
Then Odin, the Father of the Gods, spoke from his throne, giving judgment. “The hammer Miölnir that the Dwarf Brock has brought into Asgard is a thing wonderful indeed and profitable to the Gods. In Thor’s hands it can crush mountains, and hurl the Giant race from the ramparts of Asgard. Sindri the Dwarf has forged a greater thing than the spear Gungnir and the boat Skidbladnir. There can be no other judgment.”
Brock looked at Loki, showing his gnarled teeth. “Now, Loki, yield your head, yield your head,” he cried.
“Do not ask such a thing,” said Odin. “Put any other penalty on Loki for mocking you and tormenting you. Make him yield to you the greatest thing that it is in his power to give.”
“Not so, not so,” screamed Brock. “You Dwellers in Asgard would shield one another. But what of me? Loki would have taken my head had I lost the wager. Loki has lost his head to me. Let him kneel down now till I cut it off.”
Loki came forward, smiling with closed lips. “I kneel before you, Dwarf,” he said. “Take off my head. But be careful. Do not touch my neck. I did not bargain that you should touch my neck. If you do, I shall call upon the Dwellers in Asgard to punish you.”
Brock drew back with a snarl. “Is this the judgment of the Gods?” he asked.
“The bargain you made, Brock,” said Odin, “was an evil one, and all its evil consequences you must bear.”
Brock, in a rage, looked upon Loki, and he saw that his lips were smiling. He stamped his feet and raged. Then he went up to Loki and said, “I may not take your head, but I can do something with your lips that mock me.”
“What would you do, Dwarf?” asked Thor.
“Sew Loki’s lips together,” said Brock, “so that he can do no more mischief with his talk. You Dwellers in Asgard cannot forbid me to do this. Down, Loki, on your knees before me.”
Loki looked round on the Dwellers in Asgard and he saw that their judgment was that he must kneel before the Dwarf. He knelt down with a frown upon his brow. “Draw your lips together, Loki,” said Brock. Loki drew his lips together while his eyes flashed fire. With an awl that he took from his belt Brock pierced Loki’s lips. He took out a thong and tightened them together. Then in triumph the Dwarf looked on Loki.
“O Loki,” he said, “you boasted that the Dwarfs who worked for you were better craftsmen than Sindri, my brother. Your words have been shown to be lies. And now you cannot boast for a while.”
Then Brock the Dwarf, with great majesty, walked out of the Council House of Asgard, and the attending Dwarfs marched behind him in procession. Down the passages in the earth the Dwarfs went, singing the song of Brock’s triumph over Loki. And in Svartheim it was told forever after how Sindri and Brock had prevailed.
In Asgard, now that Loki’s lips were closed, there was peace and a respite from mischief. No one amongst the Æsir or the Vanir were sorry when Loki had to walk about in silence with his head bent low.
HOW FREYA GAINED HER NECKLACE AND HOW HER LOVED ONE WAS LOST TO HER
Yes, Loki went through Asgard silent and with head bent, and the Dwellers in Asgard said one unto the other, “This will teach Loki to work no more mischief.” They did not know that what Loki had done had sown the seeds of mischief and that these seeds were to sprout up and bring sorrow to the beautiful Vana Freya, to Freya whom the Giant wanted to carry off with the Sun and the Moon as payment for his building the wall around Asgard.
Freya had looked upon the wonders that Loki had brought into Asgard—the golden threads that were Sif’s hair, and Frey’s boar that shed light from its bristles as it flew. The gleam of these golden things dazzled her, and made her dream in the daytime and the nighttime of the wonders that she herself might possess. And often she thought, “What wonderful things the Three Giant Women would give me if I could bring myself to go to them on their mountaintop.”
Long ere this, when the wall around their City was not yet built, and when the Gods had set up only the court with their twelve seats and the Hall that was for Odin and the Hall that was for the Goddesses, there had come into Asgard Three Giant Women.
They came after the Gods had set up a forge and had begun to work metal for their buildings. The metal they worked was pure gold. With gold they built Gladsheim, the Hall of Odin, and with gold they made all their dishes and household ware. Then was the Age of Gold, and the Gods did not grudge gold to anyone. Happy were the Gods then, and no shadow nor foreboding lay on Asgard.
But after the Three Giant Women came the Gods began to value gold and to hoard it. They played with it no more. And the happy innocence of their first days departed from them.
At last the Three were banished from Asgard. The Gods turned their thoughts from the hoarding of gold, and they built up their City, and they made themselves strong.
And now Freya, the lovely Vanir bride, thought upon the Giant Women and on the wonderful things of gold they had flashed through their hands. But not to Odur, her husband, did she speak her thoughts; for Odur, more than any of the other dwellers in Asgard, was wont to think on the days of happy innocence before gold came to be hoarded and valued. Odur would not have Freya go near the mountaintop where the Three had their high seat.
But Freya did not cease to think upon them and upon the things of gold they had. “Why should Odur know I went to them?” she said to herself. “No one will tell him. And what difference will it make if I go to them and gain some lovely thing for myself? I shall not love Odur the less because I go my own way for once.”
Then one day she left their palace, leaving Odur, her husband, playing with their little child Hnossa. She left the palace and went down to the Earth. There she stayed for a while, tending the flowers that were her charge. After a while she asked the Elves to tell her where the mountain was on which the Three Giant Women stayed.
The Elves were frightened and would not tell her, although she was queen over them. She left them and stole down into the caves of the Dwarfs. It was they who showed her the way to the seat of the Giant Women, but before they showed her the way they made her feel shame and misery.
“We will show you the way if you stay with us here,” said one of the Dwarfs.
“For how long would you have me stay?” said Freya.
“Until the cocks in Svartheim crow,” said the Dwarfs, closing round her. “We want to know what the company of one of the Vanir is like.” “I will stay,” Freya said.
Then one of the Dwarfs reached up and put his arms round her neck and kissed her with his ugly mouth. Freya tried to break away from them, but the Dwarfs held her. “You cannot go away from us now until the cocks of Svartheim crow,” they said.
Then one and then another of the Dwarfs pressed up to her and kissed her. They made her sit down beside them on the heaps of skins they had. When she wept, they screamed at her and beat her. One, when she would not kiss him on the mouth, bit her hands. So Freya stayed with the Dwarfs until the cocks of Svartheim crew.
They showed her the mountain on the top of which the Three banished from Asgard had their abode. The Giant Women sat overlooking the World of Men. “What would you have from us, wife of Odur?” one who was called Gulveig said to her.
“Alas! Now that I have found you, I know that I should ask you for nought,” Freya said.
“Speak, Vana,” said the second of the Giant Women.
The third said nothing, but she held up in her hands a necklace of gold most curiously fashioned. “How bright it is!” Freya said. “There is shadow where you sit, women, but the necklace you hold makes brightness now. Oh, how I should joy to wear it!”
“It is the necklace Brisingamen,” said the one who was called Gulveig.
“It is yours to wear, wife of Odur,” said the one who held it in her hands.
Freya took the shining necklace and clasped it round her throat. She could not bring herself to thank the Giant Women, for she saw that there was evil in their eyes. She made reverence to them, however, and she went from the mountain on which they sat overlooking the World of Men.
In a while she looked down and saw Brisingamen and her misery went from her. It was the most beautiful thing ever made by hands. None of the Asyniur and none other of the Vanir possessed a thing so beautiful. It made her more and more lovely, and Odur, she thought, would forgive her when he saw how beautiful and how happy Brisingamen made her.
She rose up from amongst the flowers and took leave of the slight Elves and she made her way into Asgard. All who greeted her looked long and with wonder upon the necklace that she wore. And into the eyes of the Goddesses there came a look of longing when they saw Brisingamen.
But Freya hardly stopped to speak to anyone. As swiftly as she could she made her way to her own palace. She would show herself to Odur and win his forgiveness. She entered her shining palace and called to him. No answer came. Her child, the little Hnossa, was on the floor, playing. Her mother took her in her arms, but the child, when she looked on Brisingamen, turned away crying.
Freya left Hnossa down and searched again for Odur. He was not in any part of their palace. She went into the houses of all who dwelt in Asgard, asking for tidings of him. None knew where he had gone to. At last Freya went back to their palace and waited and waited for Odur to return. But Odur did not come.
One came to her. It was a Goddess, Odin’s wife, the queenly Frigga. “You are waiting for Odur, your husband,” Frigga said. “Ah, let me tell you Odur will not come to you here. He went, when for the sake of a shining thing you did what would make him unhappy. Odur has gone from Asgard and no one knows where to search for him.”
“I will seek him outside of Asgard,” Freya said. She wept no more, but she took the little child Hnossa and put her in Frigga’s arms. Then she mounted her car that was drawn by two cats, and journeyed down from Asgard to Midgard, the Earth, to search for Odur her husband.
Year in and year out, and over all the Earth, Freya went searching and calling for the lost Odur. She went as far as the bounds of the Earth, where she could look over to Jötunheim, where dwelt the Giant who would have carried her off with the Sun and the Moon as payment for the building of the wall around Asgard. But in no place, from the end of the Rainbow Bifröst, that stretched from Asgard to the Earth, to the boundary of Jötunheim, did she find a trace of her husband Odur.
At last she turned her car toward Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge that stretched from Midgard, the Earth, to Asgard, the Dwelling of the Gods. Heimdall, the Watcher for the Gods, guarded the Rainbow Bridge. To him Freya went with a half hope fluttering in her heart.
“O Heimdall,” she cried, “O Heimdall, Watcher for the Gods, speak and tell me if you know where Odur is.”
“Odur is in every place where the searcher has not come; Odur is in every place that the searcher has left; those who seek him will never find Odur,” said Heimdall, the Watcher for the Gods.
Then Freya stood on Bifröst and wept. Frigga, the queenly Goddess, heard the sound of her weeping, and came out of Asgard to comfort her.
“Ah, what comfort can you give me, Frigga?” cried Freya. “What comfort can you give me when Odur will never be found by one who searches for him?”
“Behold how your daughter, the child Hnossa, has grown,” said Frigga. Freya looked up and saw a beautiful maiden standing on Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge. She was young, more youthful than any of the Vanir or the Asyniur, and her face and her form were so lovely that all hearts became melted when they looked upon her.
And Freya was comforted in her loss. She followed Frigga across Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge, and came once again into the City of the Gods. In her own palace in Asgard Freya dwelt with Hnossa, her child.
Still she wore round her neck Brisingamen, the necklace that lost her Odur. But now she wore it, not for its splendor, but as a sign of the wrong she had done. She weeps, and her tears become golden drops as they fall on the earth. And by poets who know her story she is called The Beautiful Lady in Tears.
HOW FREY WON GERDA, THE GIANT MAIDEN, AND HOW HE LOST HIS MAGIC SWORD
Frey, chief of the Vanir, longed to have sight of his sister who had been from Asgard for so long. (You must know that this happened during the time when Freya was wandering through the world, seeking her husband, the lost Odur.) Now there was in Asgard a place from which one could overlook the world and have a glimpse of all who wandered there. That place was Hlidskjalf, Odin’s lofty Watch-Tower.
High up into the blue of the air that Tower went. Frey came to it and he knew that Odin All-Father was not upon Hlidskjalf. Only the two wolves, Geri and Freki, that crouched beside Odin’s seat at the banquet, were there, and they stood in the way of Frey’s entrance to the Tower. But Frey spoke to Geri and Freki in the language of the Gods, and Odin’s wolves had to let him pass.
But, as he went up the steps within the Tower, Frey, chief of the Vanir, knew that he was doing a fateful thing. For none of the High Gods, not even Thor, the Defender of Asgard, nor Baldur, the Best-Beloved of the Gods, had ever climbed to the top of that Tower and seated themselves upon the All-Father’s seat. “But if I could see my sister once I should be contented,” said Frey to himself, “and no harm can come to me if I look out on the world.”
He came to the top of Hlidskjalf. He seated himself on Odin’s lofty seat. He looked out on the world. He saw Midgard, the World of Men, with its houses and towns, its farms and people. Beyond Midgard he saw Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants, terrible with its dark mountains and its masses of snow and ice. He saw Freya as she went upon her wanderings, and he marked that her face was turned toward Asgard and that her steps were leading toward the City of the Gods. “I have contented myself by looking from Hlidskjalf,” said Frey to himself, “and no harm has come to me.”
But even as he spoke his gaze was drawn to a dwelling that stood in the middle of the ice and snow of Jötunheim. Long he gazed upon that dwelling without knowing why he looked that way. Then the door of the house was opened and a Giant maiden stood within the doorway. Frey gazed and gazed on her. So great was the beauty of her face that it was like starlight in that dark land. She looked from the doorway of the house, and then turned and went within, shutting the door.
Frey sat on Odin’s high seat for long. Then he went down the steps of the Tower and passed by the two wolves, Geri and Freki, that looked threateningly upon him. He went through Asgard, but he found no one to please him in the City of the Gods. That night sleep did not come to him, for his thoughts were fixed upon the loveliness of the Giant maid he had looked upon. And when morning came, he was filled with loneliness because he thought himself so far from her. He went to Hlidskjalf again, thinking to climb the Tower and have sight of her once more. But now the two wolves, Geri and Freki, bared their teeth at him and would not let him pass, although he spoke to them again in the language of the Gods.
He went and spoke to wise Niörd, his father. “She whom you have seen, my son,” said Niörd, “is Gerda, the daughter of the Giant Gymer. You must give over thinking of her. Your love for her would be an ill thing for you.”
“Why should it be an ill thing for me?” Frey asked.
“Because you would have to give that which you prize most for the sake of coming to her.”
“That which I prize most,” said Frey, “is my magic sword.”
“You will have to give your magic sword,” said his father, the wise Niörd.
“I will give it,” said Frey, loosening his magic sword from his belt.
“Bethink thee, my son,” said Niörd. “If thou givest thy sword, what weapon wilt thou have on the day of Ragnarök, when the Giants will make war upon the Gods?”
Frey did not speak, but he thought the day of Ragnarök was far off. “I cannot live without Gerda,” he said, as he turned away.
There was one in Asgard who was called Skirnir. He was a venturesome being who never cared what he said or did. To no one else but Skirnir could Frey bring himself to tell of the trouble that had fallen on him–the trouble that was the punishment for his placing himself on the seat of the All-Father.
Skirnir laughed when he heard Frey’s tale. “Thou, a Van, in love with a maid of Jötunheim! This is fun indeed! Will ye make a marriage of it?”
“Would that I might even speak to her or send a message of love to her,” said Frey. “But I may not leave my watch over the Elves.”
“And if I should take a message to Gerda,” said Skirnir the Venturesome, “what would my reward be?”
“My boat Skidbladnir or my boar Golden Bristle,” said Frey.
“No, no,” said Skirnir. “I want something to go by my side. I want something to use in my hand. Give me the magic sword you own.”
Frey thought upon what his father said, that he would be left weaponless on the day of Ragnarök, when the Giants would make war upon the Gods and when Asgard would be endangered. He thought upon this, and drew back from Skirnir, and for a while he remained in thought. And all the time thick-set Skirnir was laughing at him out of his wide mouth and his blue eyes. Then Frey said to himself, “The day of Ragnarök is far off, and I cannot live without Gerda.”
He drew the magic sword from his belt and he placed it in Skirnir’s hand. “I give you my sword, Skirnir,” he said. “Take my message to Gerda, Gymer’s daughter. Show her this gold and these precious jewels, and say I love her, and that I claim her love.”
“I shall bring the maid to you,” said Skirnir the Venturesome.
“But how wilt thou get to Jötunheim?” said Frey, suddenly remembering how dark the Giants’ land was and how terrible were the approaches to it.
“Oh, with a good horse and a good sword one can get anywhere,” said Skirnir. “My horse is a mighty horse, and you have given me your sword of magic. Tomorrow I shall make the journey.”
Skirnir rode across Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge, laughing out of his wide mouth and his blue eyes at Heimdall, the Warder of the Bridge to Asgard. His mighty horse trod the earth of Midgard, and swam the river that divides Midgard, the World of Men, from Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants. He rode on heedlessly and recklessly, as he did all things. Then out of the iron forests came the monstrous wolves of Jötunheim, to tear and devour him and his mighty horse. It was well for Skirnir that he had in his belt Frey’s magic sword. Its edge slew and its gleam frighted the monstrous beasts. On and on Skirnir rode on his mighty horse. Then he came to a wall of fire. No other horse but his mighty horse could go through it. Skirnir rode through the fire and came to the dale in which was Gymer’s dwelling.
And now he was before the house that Frey had seen Gerda enter on the day when he had climbed Hlidskjalf, Odin’s Watch-Tower. The mighty hounds that guarded Gymer’s dwelling came and bayed around him. But the gleam of the magic sword kept them away. Skirnir backed his horse to the door, and made his horse’s hooves strike against it.
Gymer was in the feast hall drinking with his Giant friends, and he did not hear the baying of the hounds nor the clatter that Skirnir made before the door. But Gerda sat spinning with her maidens in the hall. “Who comes to Gymer’s door?” she said.
“A warrior upon a mighty horse,” said one of the maidens.
“Even though he be an enemy and one who slew my brother, yet shall we open the door to him and give him a cup of Gymer’s mead,” said Gerda.
One of the maidens opened the door and Skirnir entered Gymer’s dwelling. He knew Gerda amongst her maidens. He went to her and showed her the rich gold and the precious jewels that he had brought from Frey. “These are for you, fairest Gerda,” he said, “if you will give your love to Frey, the Chief of the Vanir.”
“Show your gold and jewels to other maidens,” said Gerda. “Gold and jewels will never bring me to give my love.”
Then Skirnir the Venturesome, the heedless of his words, drew the magic sword from his belt and held it above her. “Give your love to Frey, who has given me this sword,” he said, “or meet your death by the edge of it.”
Gerda, Gymer’s daughter, only laughed at the reckless Skirnir, “Make the daughters of men fearful by the sharpness of Frey’s sword,” she said, “but do not try to frighten a Giant’s daughter with it.”
Then Skirnir the Reckless, the heedless of his words, made the magic sword flash before her eyes, while he cried out in a terrible voice, saying a spell over her:
Gerda, I will curse thee;
Yes, with this magic
Blade I shall touch thee;
Such is its power
That, like a thistle,
Withered ’twill leave thee,
Like a thistle the wind
Strips from the roof.
Hearing these terrible words and the strange hissings of the magic sword, Gerda threw herself on the ground, crying out for pity. But Skirnir stood above her, and the magic sword flashed and hissed over her. Skirnir sang:
More ugly I’ll leave thee
Than maid ever was;
Thou wilt be mocked at
By men and by Giants;
A Dwarf only will wed thee;
Now on this instant
With this blade I shall touch thee,
And leave thee bespelled.
She lifted herself on her knees and cried out to Skirnir to spare her from the spell of the magic sword.
“Only if thou wilt give thy love to Frey,” said Skirnir.
“I will give my love to him,” said Gerda. “Now put up thy magic sword and drink a cup of mead and depart from Gymer’s dwelling.”
“I will not drink a cup of your mead nor shall I depart from Gymer’s dwelling until you yourself say that you will meet and speak with Frey.”
“I will meet and speak with him,” said Gerda.
“When will you meet and speak with him?” asked Skirnir.
“In the wood of Barri nine nights from this. Let him come and meet me there.”
Then Skirnir put up his magic sword and drank the cup of mead that Gerda gave him. He rode from Gymer’s house, laughing aloud at having won Gerda for Frey, and so making the magic sword his own forever.
Skirnir the Venturesome, the heedless of his words, riding across Bifröst on his mighty horse, found Frey standing waiting for him beside Heimdall, the Warder of the Bridge to Asgard.
“What news dost thou bring me?” cried Frey. “Speak, Skirnir, before thou dost dismount from thine horse.”
“In nine nights from this thou mayst meet Gerda in Barri Wood,” said Skirnir. He looked at him, laughing out of his wide mouth and his blue eyes. But Frey turned away, saying to himself:
Long is one day;
Long, long two.
Can I live through
Nine long days?
Long indeed were these days for Frey. But the ninth day came, and in the evening, Frey went to Barri Wood. And there he met Gerda, the Giant maid. She was as fair as when he had seen her before the door of Gymer’s house. And when she saw Frey, so tall and noble looking, the Giant’s daughter was glad that Skirnir the Venturesome had made her promise to come to Barri Wood. They gave each other rings of gold. It was settled that the Giant maid should come as a bride to Asgard.
Gerda came, but another Giant maid came also. This is how that came to be:
All the Dwellers in Asgard were standing before the great gate, waiting to welcome the bride of Frey. There appeared a Giant maid who was not Gerda; all in armor was she.
“I am Skadi,” she said, “the daughter of Thiassi. My father met his death at the hands of the Dwellers in Asgard. I claim a recompense.”
“What recompense would you have, maiden?” asked Odin, smiling to see a Giant maid standing so boldly in Asgard.
“A husband from amongst you, even as Gerda. And I myself must be let choose him.”
All laughed aloud at the words of Skadi. Then said Odin, laughing, “We will let you choose a husband from amongst us, but you must choose him by his feet.”
“I will choose him whatever way you will,” said Skadi fixing her eyes on Baldur, the most beautiful of all the Dwellers in Asgard.
They put a bandage round her eyes, and the Æsir and the Vanir seat in a half circle around. As she went by, she stooped over each and laid hands upon their feet. At last she came to one whose feet were so finely formed that she felt sure it was Baldur. She stood up and said:
“This is the one that Skadi chooses for her husband.”
Then the Æsir and the Vanir laughed more and more. They took the bandage off her eyes and she saw, not Baldur the Beautiful, but Niörd, the father of Frey. But as Skadi looked more and more on Niörd she became more and more contented with her choice; for Niörd was strong, and he was noble looking.
These two, Niörd and Skadi, went first to live in Niörd’s palace by the sea; but the coming of the sea mew would waken Skadi too early in the morning, and she drew her husband to the mountaintop where she was more at home. He would not live long away from the sound of the sea. Back and forward, between the mountain and the sea, Skadi and Niörd went. But Gerda stayed in Asgard with Frey, her husband, and the Æsir and the Vanir came to love greatly Gerda, the Giant maid.
HEIMDALL AND LITTLE HNOSSA: HOW ALL THINGS CAME TO BE
Hnossa, the child of Freya and the lost Odur, was the youngest of all the Dwellers in Asgard. And because it had been prophesied that the child would bring her father and her mother together, little Hnossa was often taken without the City of the Gods to stand by Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge, so that she might greet Odur if his steps turned toward Asgard.
In all the palaces of the City of the Gods little Hnossa was made welcome: in Fensalir, the Halls of Mists, where Frigga, the wife of Odin All-Father, sat spinning with golden threads; in Breidablik, where Baldur, the Well Beloved, lived with his fair wife, the young Nanna; in Bilskirnir, the Winding House, where Thor and Sif lived; and in Odin’s own palace Valaskjalf, that was all roofed over with silver shields.
The greatest of all the palaces was Gladsheim, that was built by the golden-leaved wood, Glasir. Here the banquets of the Gods were held. Often little Hnossa looked within and saw Odin All-Father seated at the banquet table, with a mantle of blue over him and a shining helmet shaped like an eagle upon his head. Odin would sit there, not eating at all, but drinking the wine of the Gods, and taking the food off the table and giving it to Geri and Freki, the two wolves that crouched beside his seat.
She loved to go outside the great gate and stay beside Heimdall, the Warder of the Rainbow Bridge. There, when there was no one crossing that she might watch, she would sit beside Heimdall and listen to the wonders that he spoke of.
Heimdall held in his hands the horn that was called the Gialarhorn. He would sound it to let the Dwellers in Asgard know that one was crossing the Rainbow Bridge. And Heimdall told little Hnossa how he had trained himself to hear the grasses grow, and how he could see all around him for a hundred miles. He could see in the night as well as the day. He never slept. He had nine mothers, he told Hnossa, and he fed on the strength of the earth and the cold sea.
As she sat beside him day after day, Heimdall would tell little Hnossa how all things began. He had lived from the beginning of time and he knew all things. “Before Asgard was built,” he said, “and before Odin lived, earth and sea and sky were all mixed together: what was then was the Chasm of Chasms. In the North there was Niflheim, the Place of Deadly Cold. In the South there was Muspelheim, the Land of Fire. In Niflheim there was a cauldron called Hveigelmer that poured out twelve rivers that flowed into the Chasm of Chasms.
“Ginnungagap, the Chasm of Chasms, filled up with ice, for the waters of the rivers froze as they poured into it. From Muspelheim came clouds of fire that turned the ice into thick mists. The mists fell down again in drops of dew, and from these drops were formed Ymir, the Ancient Giant.
“Ymir, the Ancient Giant, traveled along by the twelve rivers until he came to where another living form was standing in the mists. This was a Giant Cow. Audhumla was the name of that cow. Ymir lay down beside her and drank her milk, and on the milk she gave him he lived. Other beings were formed out of the dew that fell to the ground. They were the Daughters of the Frost, and Ymir, the Ancient Giant, married one, and their children were the Giants.
“One day Ymir saw Audhumla breathe upon a cliff of ice and lick with her tongue the place she breathed on. As her tongue went over and over the place, he saw that a figure was being formed. It was not like a Giant’s form; it was more shapely and more beautiful. A head appeared in the cliff and golden hair fell over the ice. As Ymir looked upon the being that was being formed, he hated him for his beauty.
“Audhumla, the Giant Cow, went on licking the place where she had breathed. At last a man completely formed stepped from the cliff. Ymir, the Ancient Giant, hated him so much that he would have slain him then and there. But he knew that if he did this, Audhumla would feed him no more with her milk.
“Bur was the name of the man who was formed in the ice cliff, Bur, the first of the heroes. He, too, lived on the milk of Audhumla. He married a daughter of the Ancient Giant and he had a son. But Ymir and Ymir’s sons hated Bur, and the time came at last when they were able to kill him.
“And now there was war between Ymir and Ymir’s sons and the son and son’s sons of Bur. Odin was the son of Bur’s son. Odin brought all his brothers together, and they were able to destroy Ymir and all his brood–all except one. So huge was Ymir that when he was slain his blood poured out in such a mighty flood that his sons were all drowned in it, all except Bergelmir, who was in a boat with his wife when the flood came, and who floated away on the flood to the place that we now call Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants.
“Now Odin and his sons took the body of Ymir–the vastest body that ever was–and they flung it into the Chasm of Chasms, filling up all the hollow places with it. They dug the bones out of the body and they piled them up as the mountains. They took the teeth out and they made them into the rocks. They took the hair of Ymir and they made it into the forests of trees. They took his eyebrows and formed them into the place where Men now dwell, Midgard. And out of Ymir’s hollow skull they made the sky.
“And Odin and his sons and brothers did more than this. They took the sparks and the clouds of flame that blew from Muspelheim, and they made them into the sun and the moon and all the stars that are in the sky. Odin found a dusky Giantess named Night whose son was called Day, and he gave both of them horses to drive across the sky. Night drove a horse that is named Hrimfaxe, Frosty Mane, and Day drove a horse that is named Skinfaxe, Shining Mane. From Hrimfaxe’s bit fall the drops that make the dew upon the earth.
“Then Odin and his sons made a race of men and women and gave them Midgard to live in. Ugly Dwarfs had grown up and had spread themselves over the earth. These Odin made go live in the hollow places beneath the earth. The Elves he let stay on the earth, but he gave them the tasks of tending the streams and the grasses and the flowers. And with the Vanir he made peace after a war had been waged, taking Niörd from them for a hostage.
“Bergelmir, the Giant who escaped drowning in Ymir’s blood, had sons and daughters in Jötunheim. They hated Odin and his sons and strove against them. When Odin lighted up the world with the sun and the moon they were very wroth, and they found two of the fiercest of the mighty wolves of Jötunheim and set them to follow them. And still the sun and the moon, Sol and Mani, are followed by the wolves of Jötunheim.”
Such wonders did Heimdall with the Golden Teeth tell Hnossa, the youngest of the Dwellers in Asgard. Often the child stayed with him by the Rainbow Bridge, and saw the Gods pass to and from Midgard: Thor, with his crown of stars, with the great hammer Miölnir in his hands, with the gloves of iron that he used when he grasped Miölnir; Thor in his chariot drawn by two goats and wearing the belt that doubled his strength; Frigga, with her dress of falcon feathers, flying swiftly as a bird; Odin All-Father himself, riding upon Sleipner, his eight-legged steed, clad all in golden armor, with his golden helmet, shaped like an eagle, upon his head, and with his spear Gungnir in his hand.
Heimdall kept his horn in the branch of a great tree. This tree was called Ygdrassil, he told little Hnossa, and it was a wonder to Gods and Men. “No one knows of a time when Ygdrassil was not growing, and all are afraid to speak of the time when it will be destroyed.
“Ygdrassil has three roots. One goes deep under Midgard, another goes deep under Jötunheim, and the third grows above Asgard. Over Odin’s hall a branch of Ygdrassil grows, and it is called the Peace Bough.
“You see Ygdrassil, little Hnossa, but you do not know all the wonders of it. Far up in its branches four stags graze; they shake from their horns the water that falls as rain upon the earth. On the topmost branch of Ygdrassil, the branch that is so high that the Gods themselves can hardly see it, there is an eagle that knows all things. Upon the beak of this eagle a hawk is perched, a hawk that sees what the eyes of the eagle may not see.
“The root of Ygdrassil that is in Midgard goes deep down to the place of the dead. Here there is an evil dragon named Nidhögg that gnaws constantly at the root, striving to destroy Ygdrassil, the Tree of trees. And Ratatösk, the Squirrel of Mischief–behold him now!–runs up and down Ygdrassil, making trouble between the eagle above and the dragon below. He goes to tell the dragon how the eagle is bent upon tearing him to pieces and he goes back to tell the eagle how the dragon plans to devour him. The stories that he brings to Nidhögg make that evil dragon more fierce to destroy Ygdrassil, the Tree of trees, so that he may come upon the eagle and devour him.
“There are two wells by the roots of Ygdrassil, and one is above and one is below. One is beside the root that grows in Jötunheim. This is a Well of Knowledge, and it is guarded by old Mimir the Wise. Whoever drinks out of this well knows of all the things that will come to be. The other well is by the root that grows above Asgard. No one may drink out of this well. The three sisters that are the holy Norns guard it, and they take the white water from it to water Ygdrassil, that the Tree of Life may keep green and strong. This well, little Hnossa, is called Urda’s Well.”
And little Hnossa heard that by Urda’s Well there were two beautiful white swans. They made a music that the Dwellers in Asgard often heard. But Hnossa was too young to hear the music that was made by the swans of Urda’s Well.
THE ALL-FATHER’S FOREBODINGS: HOW HE LEAVES ASGARD
Two ravens had Odin All-Father; Hugin and Munin were their names; they flew through all the worlds every day, and coming back to Asgard they would light on Odin’s shoulders and tell him of all the things they had seen and heard. And once a day passed without the ravens coming back. Then Odin, standing on the Watch-Tower Hlidskjalf, said to himself:
I fear me for Hugin,
Lest he come not back,
But I watch more for Munin.
A day passed and the ravens flew back. They sat, one on each of his shoulders. Then did the All-Father go into the Council Hall that was beside Glasir, the wood that had leaves of gold, and harken to what Hugin and Munin had to tell him.
They told him only of shadows and forebodings. Odin All-Father did not speak to the Dwellers in Asgard of the things they told him. But Frigga, his Queen, saw in his eyes the shadows and forebodings of things to come. And when he spoke to her about these things she said, “Do not strive against what must take place. Let us go to the holy Norns who sit by Urda’s Well and see if the shadows and the forebodings will remain when you have looked into their eyes.”
And so it came that Odin and the Gods left Asgard and came to Urda’s Well, where, under the great root of Ygdrassil, the three Norns sat, with the two fair swans below them. Odin went, and Tyr, the great swordsman, and Baldur, the most beautiful and the Best-Beloved of the Gods, and Thor, with his Hammer.
A Rainbow Bridge went from Asgard, the City of the Gods, to Midgard, the World of Men. But another Rainbow Bridge, more beautiful and more tremulous still, went from Asgard to that root of Ygdrassil under which was Urda’s Well. This Rainbow Bridge was seldom seen by men. And where the ends of the two rainbows came together Heimdall stood, Heimdall with the Golden Teeth, the Watcher for the Gods, and the Keeper of the Way to Urda’s Well.
“Open the gate, Heimdall,” said the All-Father, “open the gate, for today the Gods would visit the holy Norns.”
Without a word Heimdall opened wide the gate that led to that bridge more colored and more tremulous than any rainbow seen from earth. Then did Odin and Tyr and Baldur step out on the bridge. Thor followed, but before his foot was placed on the bridge, Heimdall laid his hand upon him.
“The others may go, but you may not go that way, Thor,” said Heimdall.
“What? Would you, Heimdall, hold me back?” said Thor.
“Yes, for I am Keeper of the Way to the Norns,” said Heimdall. “You with the mighty hammer you carry are too weighty for this way. The bridge I guard would break under you, Thor with the hammer.”
“Nevertheless I will go visit the Norns with Odin and my comrades,” said Thor.
“But not this way, Thor,” said Heimdall. “I will not let the bridge be broken under the weight of you and your hammer. Leave your hammer here with me if you would go this way.”
“No, no,” said Thor. “I will not leave in any one’s charge the hammer that defends Asgard. And I may not be turned back from going with Odin and my comrades.”
“There is another way to Urda’s Well,” said Heimdall. “Behold these two great Cloud Rivers, Körmt and Ermt. Canst thou wade through them? They are cold and suffocating, but they will bring thee to Urda’s Well, where sit the three holy Norns.”
Thor looked out on the two great rolling rivers of cloud. It was a bad way for one to go, cold and suffocating. Yet if he went that way, he could keep on his shoulder the hammer which he would not leave in another’s charge. He stepped out into the Cloud River that flowed by the Rainbow Bridge, and with his hammer upon his shoulder he went struggling on to the other river.
Odin, Tyr, and Baldur were beside Urda’s Well when Thor came struggling out of the Cloud River, wet and choking, but with his hammer still upon his shoulder. There stood Tyr, upright and handsome, leaning on his sword that was inscribed all over with magic runes; there stood Baldur, smiling, with his head bent as he listened to the murmur of the two fair swans; and there stood Odin All-Father, clad in his blue cloak fringed with golden stars, without the eagle-helmet upon his head, and with no spear in his hands.
The three Norns, Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda, sat beside the well that was in the hollow of the great root of Ygdrassil. Urda was ancient and with white hair, and Verdandi was beautiful, while Skulda could hardly be seen, for she sat far back, and her hair fell over her face and eyes. Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda; they knew the whole of the Past, the whole of the Present, and the whole of the Future. Odin, looking on them, saw into the eyes of Skulda even. Long, long he stood looking on the Norns with the eyes of a God, while the others listened to the murmur of the swans and the falling of the leaves of Ygdrassil into Urda’s Well.
Looking into their eyes, Odin saw the shadows and forebodings that Hugin and Munin told him of take shape and substance. And now others came across the Rainbow Bridge. They were Frigga and Sif and Nanna, the wives of Odin and Thor and Baldur. Frigga looked upon the Norns. As she did, she turned a glance of love and sadness upon Baldur, her son, and then she drew back and placed her hand upon Nanna’s head.
Odin turned from gazing on the Norns, and looked upon Frigga, his queenly wife. “I would leave Asgard for a while, wife of Odin,” he said.
“Yea,” said Frigga. “Much has to be done in Midgard, the World of Men.”
“I would change what knowledge I have into wisdom,” said Odin, “so that the things that are to happen will be changed into the best that may be.”
“You would go to Mimir’s Well,” said Frigga.
“I would go to Mimir’s Well,” said Odin.
“My husband, go,” said Frigga.
Then they went back over that Rainbow Bridge that is more beautiful and more tremulous than the one that men see from the earth; they went back over the Rainbow Bridge, the Æsir and the Asyniur, Odin and Frigga, Baldur and Nanna, Tyr, with his sword, and Sif beside Tyr. As for Thor, he went struggling through the Cloud Rivers Körmt and Ermt, his hammer Miölnir upon his shoulder.
Little Hnossa, the youngest of the Dwellers in Asgard, was there, standing beside Heimdall, the Watcher for the Gods and the Keeper of the Bridge to Urda’s Well, when Odin All-Father and Frigga, his Queen, went through the great gate with heads bent. “Tomorrow,” Hnossa heard Odin say, “tomorrow I shall be Vegtam the Wanderer upon the ways of Midgard and Jötunheim.”