ODIN THE WANDERER
ODIN GOES TO MIMIR’S WELL: HIS SACRIFICE FOR WISDOM
And so Odin, no longer riding on Sleipner, his eight-legged steed; no longer wearing his golden armor and his eagle-helmet, and without even his spear in his hand, traveled through Midgard, the World of Men, and made his way toward Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants.
No longer was he called Odin All-Father, but Vegtam the Wanderer. He wore a cloak of dark blue and he carried a traveler’s staff in his hands. And now, as he went toward Mimir’s Well, which was near to Jötunheim, he came upon a Giant riding on a great Stag.
Odin seemed a man to men and a giant to giants. He went beside the Giant on the great Stag and the two talked together. “Who art thou, O brother?” Odin asked the Giant.
“I am Vafthrudner, the wisest of the Giants,” said the one who was riding on the Stag. Odin knew him then. Vafthrudner was indeed the wisest of the Giants, and many went to strive to gain wisdom from him. But those who went to him had to answer the riddles Vafthrudner asked, and if they failed to answer the Giant took their heads off.
“I am Vegtam the Wanderer,” Odin said, “and I know who thou art, O Vafthrudner. I would strive to learn something from thee.”
The Giant laughed, showing his teeth. “Ho, ho,” he said, “I am ready for a game with thee. Dost thou know the stakes? My head to thee if I cannot answer any question thou wilt ask. And if thou canst not answer any question that I may ask, then thy head goes to me. Ho, ho, ho. And now let us begin.”
“I am ready,” Odin said.
“Then tell me,” said Vafthrudner, “tell me the name of the river that divides Asgard from Jötunheim?”
“Ifling is the name of that river,” said Odin. “Ifling that is dead cold, yet never frozen.”
“Thou hast answered rightly, O Wanderer,” said the Giant. “But thou hast still to answer other questions. What are the names of the horses that Day and Night drive across the sky?”
“Skinfaxe and Hrimfaxe,” Odin answered. Vafthrudner was startled to hear one say the names that were known only to the Gods and to the wisest of the Giants. There was only one question now that he might ask before it came to the stranger’s turn to ask him questions.
“Tell me,” said Vafthrudner, “what is the name of the plain on which the last battle will be fought?”
“The Plain of Vigard,” said Odin, “the plain that is a hundred miles long and a hundred miles across.”
It was now Odin’s turn to ask Vafthrudner questions. “What will be the last words that Odin will whisper into the ear of Baldur, his dear son?” he asked.
Very startled was the Giant Vafthrudner at that question. He sprang to the ground and looked at the stranger keenly.
“Only Odin knows what his last words to Baldur will be,” he said, “and only Odin would have asked that question. Thou art Odin, O Wanderer, and thy question I cannot answer.”
“Then,” said Odin, “if thou wouldst keep thy head, answer me this: what price will Mimir ask for a draught from the Well of Wisdom that he guards?”
“He will ask thy right eye as a price, O Odin,” said Vafthrudner.
“Will he ask no less a price than that?” said Odin.
“He will ask no less a price. Many have come to him for a draught from the Well of Wisdom, but no one yet has given the price Mimir asks. I have answered thy question, O Odin. Now give up thy claim to my head and let me go on my way.”
“I give up my claim to thy head,” said Odin. Then Vafthrudner, the wisest of the Giants, went on his way, riding on his great Stag.
It was a terrible price that Mimir would ask for a draught from the Well of Wisdom, and very troubled was Odin All-Father when it was revealed to him. His right eye! For all time to be without the sight of his right eye! Almost he would have turned back to Asgard, giving up his quest for wisdom.
He went on, turning neither to Asgard nor to Mimir’s Well. And when he went toward the South, he saw Muspelheim, where stood Surtur with the Flaming Sword, a terrible figure, who would one day join the Giants in their war against the Gods. And when he turned North, he heard the
roaring of the cauldron Hvergelmer as it poured itself out of Niflheim, the place of darkness and dread. And Odin knew that the world must not be left between Surtur, who would destroy it with fire, and Niflheim, that would gather it back to Darkness and Nothingness. He, the eldest of the Gods, would have to win the wisdom that would help to save the world.
And so, with his face stern in front of his loss and pain, Odin All-Father turned and went toward Mimir’s Well. It was under the great root of Ygdrassil–the root that grew out of Jötunheim. And there sat Mimir, the Guardian of the Well of Wisdom, with his deep eyes bent upon the deep water. And Mimir, who had drunk every day from the Well of Wisdom, knew who it was that stood before him.
“Hail, Odin, Eldest of the Gods,” he said.
Then Odin made reverence to Mimir, the wisest of the world’s beings. “I would drink from your well, Mimir,” he said.
“There is a price to be paid. All who have come here to drink have shrunk from paying that price. Will you, Eldest of the Gods, pay it?”
“I will not shrink from the price that has to be paid, Mimir,” said Odin All-Father.
“Then drink,” said Mimir. He filled up a great horn with water from the well and gave it to Odin.
Odin took the horn in both his hands and drank and drank. And as he drank all the future became clear to him. He saw all the sorrows and troubles that would fall upon Men and Gods. But he saw, too, why the sorrows and troubles had to fall, and he saw how they might be borne so that Gods and Men, by being noble in the days of sorrow and trouble, would leave in the world a force that one day, a day that was far off indeed, would destroy the evil that brought terror and sorrow and despair into the world.
Then when he had drunk out of the great horn that Mimir had given him, he put his hand to his face and he plucked out his right eye. Terrible was the pain that Odin All-Father endured. But he made no groan nor moan. He bowed his head and put his cloak before his face, as Mimir took the eye and let it sink deep, deep into the water of the Well of Wisdom. And there the Eye of Odin stayed, shining up through the water, a sign to all who came to that place of the price that the Father of the Gods had paid for his wisdom.
ODIN FACES AN EVIL MAN
Once, when his wisdom was less great, Odin had lived in the world of men. Frigga, his Queen, was with him then; they had lived on a bleak island, and they were known as Grimner the Fisherman and his wife.
Always Odin and Frigga were watching over the sons of men, watching to know which ones they would foster and train so that they might have the strength and spirit to save the world from the power of the Giants. And while they were staying on the bleak island, Odin and Frigga saw the sons of King Hrauding, and both thought that in them the spirit of heroes could be fostered. Odin and Frigga made plans to bring the children to them, so that they might be under their care and training. One day the boys went fishing. A storm came and drove their boat on the rocks of the island where Odin and Frigga lived.
They brought them to their hut, Odin and Frigga, and they told them they would care for them and train them through the winter and that in the spring they would build a boat that would carry them back to their father’s country. “We shall see,” said Odin to Frigga that night, “we shall see which of the two can be formed into the noblest hero.”
He said that because Frigga favored one of the boys and he favored the other. Frigga thought well of the elder boy, Agnar, who had a gentle voice and quiet and kindly ways. But Odin thought more of the younger boy. Geirrod, his name was, and he was strong and passionate, with a high and a loud voice.
Odin took Geirrod into his charge, and he showed him how to fish and hunt. He made the boy even bolder than he was by making him leap from rock to rock, and by letting him climb the highest cliffs and jump across the widest chasms. He would bring him to the den of the bear and make him fight for his life with the spear he had made for him. Agnar went to the chase, too, and showed his skill and boldness. But Geirrod overcame him in nearly every trial. “What a hero Geirrod will be,” Odin would often say.
Agnar stayed often with Frigga. He would stay beside her while she spun, listening to the tales she told, and asking such questions as brought him more and more wisdom. And Agnar heard of Asgard and of the Dwellers in Asgard and of how they protected Midgard, the World of Men, from the Giants of Jötunheim. Agnar, though he did not speak out, said in his own mind that he would give all his life and all his strength and all his thought to helping the work of the Gods.
Spring came and Odin built a boat for Geirrod and Agnar. They could go back now to their own country. And before they set out Odin told Geirrod that one day he would come to visit him. “And do not be too proud to receive a Fisherman in your hall, Geirrod,” said Odin. “A King should give welcome to the poorest who comes to his hall.”
“I will be a hero, no doubt of that,” Geirrod answered. “And I would be a King, too, only Agnar Little-good was born before me.”
Agnar bade goodbye to Frigga and to Odin, thanking them for the care they had taken of Geirrod and himself. He looked into Frigga’s eyes, and he told her that he would strive to learn how he might fight the battle for the Gods.
The two went into the boat and they rowed away. They came near to King Hrauding’s realm. They saw the castle overlooking the sea. Then Geirrod did a terrible thing. He turned the boat back toward the sea, and he cast the oars away. Then, for he was well fit to swim the roughest sea and climb the highest cliffs, he plunged into the water and struck out toward the shore. And Agnar, left without oars, went drifting out to sea.
Geirrod climbed the high cliffs and came to his father’s castle.
King Hrauding, who had given up both of his sons for lost, was rejoiced to see him. Geirrod told of Agnar that he had fallen out of the boat on their way back and that he had been drowned. King Hrauding, who had thought both of his sons were gone from him, was glad enough that one had come safe. He put Geirrod beside him on the throne, and when he died Geirrod was made King over the people.
And now Odin, having drunk from Mimir’s Well, went through the kingdoms of men, judging Kings and simple people according to the wisdom he had gained. He came at last to the kingdom that Geirrod ruled over. Odin thought that of all the Kings he had judged to be noble, Geirrod would assuredly be the noblest.
He went to the King’s house as a Wanderer, blind of one eye, wearing a cloak of dark blue and with a wanderer’s staff in his hands. As he drew near the King’s house men on dark horses came riding behind him. The first of the men did not turn his horse as he came near the Wanderer, but rode on, nearly trampling him to the ground.
As they came before the King’s house the men on the dark horses shouted for servants. Only one servant was in the stable. He came out and took the horse of the first man. Then the others called upon the Wanderer to tend their horses. He had to hold the stirrups for some of them to dismount.
Odin knew who the first man was. He was Geirrod the King. And he knew who the man who served in the stable was. He was Agnar, Geirrod’s brother. By the wisdom he had gained he knew that Agnar had come back to his father’s kingdom in the guise of a servant, and he knew that Geirrod did not know who this servant was.
They went into the stable together. Agnar took bread and broke it and gave some to the Wanderer. He gave him, too, straw to seat himself on. But in a while Odin said, “I would seat myself at the fire in the King’s hall and eat my supper of meat.”
“Nay, stay here,” Agnar said. “I will give you more bread and a wrap to cover yourself with. Do not go to the door of the King’s house, for the King is angry today and he might repulse you.”
“How?” said Odin. “A King turn away a Wanderer who comes to his door! It cannot be that he would do it!”
“Today he is angry,” Agnar said. Again he begged him not to go to the door of the King’s house. But Odin rose up from the straw on which he was seated and went to the door.
A porter, hunchbacked and with long arms, stood at the door. “I am a Wanderer, and I would have rest and food in the King’s hall,” Odin said.
“Not in this King’s hall,” said the hunchbacked porter. He would have barred the door to Odin, but the voice of the King called him away. Odin then strode into the hall and saw the King at table with his friends, all dark-bearded, and cruel-looking men. And when Odin looked on them, he knew that the boy whom he had trained in nobility had become a King over robbers.
“Since you have come into the hall where we eat, sing to us, Wanderer,” shouted one of the dark men. “Aye, I will sing to you,” said Odin. Then he stood between two of the stone pillars in the hall and he sang a song reproaching the King for having fallen into an evil way of life, and denouncing all for following the cruel ways of robbers.
“Seize him,” said the King when Odin’s song was finished. The dark men threw themselves upon Odin and put chains around him and bound him between the stone pillars of the hall. “He came into this hall for warmth, and warmth he shall have,” said Geirrod. He called upon his servants to heap up wood around him. They did this. Then the King, with his own hand, put a blazing torch to the wood and the fagots blazed up around the Wanderer.
The fagots burned round and round him. But the fire did not burn the flesh of Odin All-Father. The King and the King’s friends stood round, watching with delight the fires blaze round a living man. The fagots all burned away, and Odin was left standing there with his terrible gaze fixed upon the men who were so hard and cruel.
They went to sleep, leaving him chained to the pillars of the hall. Odin could have broken the chains and pulled down the pillars, but he wanted to see what else would happen in this King’s house. The servants were ordered not to bring food or drink to him, but at dawn, when there was no one near, Agnar came to him with a horn of ale and gave it to him to drink.
The next evening when the King came back from his robberies, and when he and his friends, sitting down at the tables, had eaten like wolves, he ordered the fagots to be placed around Odin. And again they stood around, watching in delight the fire playing around a living man. And as before Odin stood there, unhurt by the fire, and his steady and terrible gaze made the King hate him more and more. And all day he was kept in chains, and the servants were forbidden to bring him food or drink. None knew that a horn of ale was brought to him at dawn.
And night after night, for eight nights, this went on. Then, on the ninth night, when the fires around him had been lighted, Odin lifted up his voice and began to sing a song.
His song became louder and louder, and the King and the King’s friends and the servants of the thing’s house had to stand still and harken to it. Odin sang about Geirrod, the King; how the Gods had protected him, giving him strength and skill, and how instead of making a noble use of that strength and skill he had made himself like one of the wild beasts. Then he sang of how the vengeance of the Gods was about to fall on this ignoble King.
The flames died down and Geirrod and his friends saw before them, not a friendless Wanderer, but one who looked more kingly than any King of the earth. The chains fell down from his body and he advanced toward the evil company. Then Geirrod rushed upon him with his sword in hand to kill him. The sword struck him, but Odin remained unhurt.
Thy life runs out,
The Gods they are wroth with thee;
Draw near if thou canst;
Odin thou shalt see.
So Odin sang, and, in fear of his terrible gaze, Geirrod and his company shrank away. And as they shrank away, they were changed into beasts, into the wolves that range the forests.
And Agnar came forward, and him Odin declared to be King. All the folk were glad when Agnar came to rule over them, for they had been oppressed by Geirrod in his cruel reign. And Agnar was not only kind, but he was strong and victorious in his rule.
ODIN WINS FOR MEN THE MAGIC MEAD
It was the Dwarfs who brewed the Magic Mead, and it was the Giants who hid it away. But it was Odin who brought it from the place where it was hidden and gave it to the sons of men. Those who drank of the Magic Mead became very wise, and not only that but they could put their wisdom into such beautiful words that everyone who heard would love and remember it.
The Dwarfs brewed the Magic Mead through cruelty and villainy. They made it out of the blood of a man. The man was Kvasir the Poet. He had wisdom, and he had such beautiful words with it, that what he said was loved and remembered by all. The Dwarfs brought Kvasir down into their caverns and they killed him there. “Now,” they said, “we have Kvasir’s blood and Kvasir’s wisdom. No one else will have his wisdom but us.” They poured the blood into three jars and they mixed it with honey, and from it they brewed the Magic Mead.
Having killed a man the Dwarfs became more and more bold. They came out of their caverns and went up and down through Midgard, the World of Men. They went into Jötunheim, and began to play their evil tricks on the most harmless of the Giants.
They came upon one Giant who was very simple. Gilling was his name. They persuaded Gilling to row them out to sea in a boat. Then the two most cunning of the Dwarfs, Galar and Fialar, steered the boat on to a rock. The boat split. Gilling, who could not swim, was drowned. The Dwarfs clambered up on pieces of the boat and came safely ashore. They were so delighted with their evil tricks that they wanted to play some more of them.
Galar and Fialar then thought of a new piece of mischief they might do. They led their band of Dwarfs to Gilling’s house and screamed out to his wife that Gilling was dead. The Giant’s wife began to weep and lament. At last she rushed out of the house weeping and clapping her hands. Now Galar and Fialar had clambered up on the lintel of the house, and as she came running out, they cast a millstone on her head. It struck her and Gilling’s wife fell down dead. More and more the Dwarfs were delighted at the destruction they were making.
They were so insolent now that they made up songs and sang them, songs that were all a boast of how they had killed Kvasir the Poet, and Gilling the Giant, and Gilling’s wife. They stayed around Jötunheim, tormenting all whom they were able to torment, and flattering themselves that they were great and strong. They stayed too long, however. Suttung, Gilling’s brother, tracked them down and captured them.
Suttung was not harmless and simple like Gilling, his brother. He was cunning and he was covetous. Once they were in his hands the Dwarfs had no chance of making an escape. He took them and left them on a rock in the sea, a rock that the tide would cover.
The Giant stood up in the water taller than the rock, and the tide as it came in did not rise above his knees. He stood there watching the Dwarfs as the water rose up round them and they became more and more terrified. “Oh, take us off the rock, good Suttung,” they cried out to him. “Take us off the rock and we will give you gold and jewels. Take us off the rock and we will give you a necklace as beautiful as Brisingamen.” So they cried out to him, but the Giant Suttung only laughed at them. He had no need of gold or jewels.
Then Fialar and Galar cried out: “Take us off the rock and we will give you the jars of the Magic Mead we have brewed.”
“The Magic Mead,” said Suttung. “This is something that no one else has. It would be well to get it, for it might help us in the battle against the Gods. Yes, I will get the Magic Mead from them.”
He took the band of Dwarfs off the rock, but he held Galar and Fialar, their chiefs, while the others went into their caverns and brought up the jars of the Magic Mead. Suttung took the Mead and brought it to a cavern in a mountain near his dwelling. And thus it happened that the Magic Mead, brewed by the Dwarfs through cruelty and villainy, came into the hands of the Giants. And the story now tells how Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, at that time in the world as Vegtam the Wanderer, took the Magic Mead out of Suttung’s possession and brought it into the world of men.
Now, Suttung had a daughter named Gunnlöd, and she by her goodness and her beauty was like Gerda and Skadi, the Giant maids whom the Dwellers in Asgard favored. Suttung, that he might have a guardian for the Magic Mead, enchanted Gunnlöd, turning her from a beautiful Giant maiden into a witch with long teeth and sharp nails. He shut her into the cavern where the jars of the Magic Mead were hidden.
Odin heard of the death of Kvasir whom he honored above all men. The Dwarfs who slew him he had closed up in their caverns so that they were never again able to come out into the World of Men. And then he set out to get the Magic Mead that he might give it to men, so that, tasting it, they would have wisdom, and words would be at their command that would make wisdom loved and remembered.
How Odin won the Magic Mead out of the rock-covered cavern where Suttung had hidden it, and how he broke the enchantment that lay upon Gunnlöd, Suttung’s daughter, is a story often told around the hearths of men.
Nine strong thralls were mowing in a field as a Wanderer went by clad in a dark blue cloak and carrying a wanderer’s staff in his hand. One of the thralls spoke to the Wanderer: “Tell them in the house of Baugi up yonder that I can mow no more until a whetstone to sharpen my scythe is sent to me.” “Here is a whetstone,” said the Wanderer, and he took one from his belt. The thrall who had spoken whetted his scythe with it and began to mow. The grass went down before his scythe as if the wind had cut it. “Give us the whetstone, give us the whetstone,” cried the other thralls. The Wanderer threw the whetstone amongst them, leaving them quarreling over it, and went on his way.
The Wanderer came to the house of Baugi, the brother of Suttung. He rested in Baugi’s house, and at supper time he was given food at the great table. And while he was eating with the Giant a Messenger from the field came in.
“Baugi,” said the Messenger, “your nine thralls are all dead. They killed each other with their scythes, fighting in the field about a whetstone. There are no thralls now to do your work.”
“What shall I do, what shall I do?” said Baugi the Giant. “My fields will not be mown now, and I shall have no hay to feed my cattle and my horses in the winter.”
“I might work for you,” said the Wanderer.
“One man’s work is no use to me,” said the Giant, “I must have the work of nine men.”
“I shall do the work of nine men,” said the Wanderer, “give me a trial, and see.”
The next day Vegtam the Wanderer went into Baugi’s field. He did as much work as the nine thralls had done in a day.
“Stay with me for the season,” said Baugi, “and I shall give you a full reward.”
So Vegtam stayed at the Giant’s house and worked in the Giant’s fields, and when all the work of the season was done Baugi said to him:
“Speak now and tell me what reward I am to give you.”
“The only reward I shall ask of you,” said Vegtam, “is a draught of the Magic Mead.”
“The Magic Mead?” said Baugi. “I do not know where it is nor how to get it.”
“Your brother Suttung has it. Go to him and claim a draught of the Magic Mead for me.”
Baugi went to Suttung. But when he heard what he had come for, the Giant Suttung turned on his brother in a rage.
“A draught of the Magic Mead?” he said. “To no one will I give a draught of the Magic Mead. Have I not enchanted my daughter Gunnlöd, so that she may watch over it? And you tell me that a Wanderer who has done the work of nine men for you asks a draught of the Magic Mead for his fee! O Giant as foolish as Gilling! O oaf of a Giant! Who could have done such work for you, and who would demand such a fee from you, but one of our enemies, the Æsir? Go from me now and never come to me again with talk of the Magic Mead.”
Baugi went back to his house and told the Wanderer that Suttung would yield none of the Magic Mead. “I hold you to your bargain,” said Vegtam the Wanderer, “and you will have to get me the fee I asked. Come with me now and help me to get it.”
He made Baugi bring him to the place where the Magic Mead was hidden. The place was a cavern in the mountain. In front of that cavern was a great mass of stone.
“We cannot move that stone nor get through it,” said Baugi. “I cannot help you to your fee.”
The Wanderer drew an auger from his belt. “This will bore through the rock if there is strength behind it. You have the strength, Giant. Begin now and bore.”
Baugi took the auger in his hands and bored with all his strength, and the Wanderer stood by leaning on his staff, calm and majestic in his cloak of blue.
“I have made a deep, deep hole. It goes through the rock,” Baugi said, at last.
The Wanderer went to the hole and blew into it. The dust of the rock flew back into their faces.
“So that is your boasted strength, Giant,” he said. “You have not bored half-way through the rock. Work again.”
Then Baugi took the auger again and he bored deeper and deeper into the rock. And he blew into it, and lo! His breath went through. Then he looked at the Wanderer to see what he would do; his eyes had become fierce and he held the auger in his hand as if it were a stabbing knife.
“Look up to the head of the rock,” said the Wanderer. As Baugi looked up the Wanderer changed himself into a snake and glided into the hole in the rock. And Baugi struck at him with the auger, hoping to kill him, but the snake slipped through.
Behind the mighty rock there was a hollow place all lighted up by the shining crystals in the rock. And within the hollow place there was an ill-looking witch, with long teeth and sharp nails. But she sat there rocking herself and letting tears fall from her eyes. “O youth and beauty,” she sang, “O sight of men and women, sad, sad for me it is that you are shut away, and that I have only this closed-in cavern and this horrible form.”
A snake glided across the floor. “Oh, that you were deadly and that you might slay me,” cried the witch. The snake glided past her. Then she heard a voice speak softly: “Gunnlöd, Gunnlöd!” She looked round, and there standing behind her was a majestic man, clad in a cloak of dark blue, Odin, the Eldest of the Gods.
“You have come to take the Magic Mead that my father has set me here to guard,” she cried. “You shall not have it. Rather shall I spill it out on the thirsty earth of the cavern.”
“Gunnlöd,” he said, and he came to her. She looked at him and she felt the red blood of youth come back into her cheeks. She put her hands with their sharp nails over her breast, and she felt the nails drive into her flesh. “Save me from all this ugliness,” she cried.
“I will save you,” Odin said. He went to her. He took her hands and held them. He kissed her on the mouth. All the marks of ill favor went from her. She was no longer bent, but tall and shapely. Her eyes became wide and deep blue. Her mouth became red and her hands soft and beautiful. She became as fair as Gerda, the Giant maid whom Frey had wed.
They stayed looking at each other, then they sat down side by side and talked softly to each other, Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, and Gunnlöd, the beautiful Giant maiden.
She gave him the three jars of the Magic Mead and she told him she would go out of the cavern with him. Three days passed and still they were together. Then Odin by his wisdom found hidden paths and passages that led out of the cavern and he brought Gunnlöd out into the light of the day.
And he brought with him the jars of the Magic Mead, the Mead whose taste gives wisdom, and wisdom in such beautiful words that all love and remember it. And Gunnlöd, who had tasted a little of the Magic Mead, wandered through the world singing of the beauty and the might of Odin, and of her love for him.
ODIN TELLS TO VIDAR, HIS SILENT SON, THE SECRET OF HIS DOINGS
It was not only to Giants and Men that Odin showed himself in the days when he went through Jötunheim and Midgard as Vegtam the Wanderer. He met and he spoke with the Gods also, with one who lived far away from Asgard and with others who came to Midgard and to Jötunheim.
The one who lived far away from Asgard was Vidar, Odin’s silent son. Far within a wilderness, with branches and tall grass growing around him, Vidar sat. And nearby him a horse grazed with a saddle upon it, a horse that was ever ready for the speedy journey.
And Odin, now Vegtam the Wanderer, came into that silent place and spoke to Vidar, the Silent God.
“O Vidar,” he said, “strangest of all my sons; God who will live when all of us have passed away; God who will bring the memory of the Dwellers of Asgard into a world that will know not their power; O Vidar, well do I know why there grazes nearby thee the horse ever ready for the speedy journey: it is that thou mayst spring upon it and ride unchecked, a son speeding to avenge his father.
“To you only, O Vidar the Silent One, will I speak of the secrets of my doings. Who but you can know why I, Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, hung on the tree Ygdrassil nine days and nine nights, mine own spear transfixing me? I hung upon that windy tree that I might learn the wisdom that would give me power in the nine worlds. On the ninth night the Runes of Wisdom appeared before mine eyes, and slipping down from the tree I took them to myself.
“And I shall tell why my ravens fly to thee, carrying in their beaks scraps of leather. It is that thou mayst make for thyself a sandal; with that sandal on thou mayst put thy foot on the lower jaw of a mighty wolf and rend him. All the shoemakers of the earth throw on the ground scraps of the leather they use so that thou mayst be able to make the sandal for thy wolf-rending foot.
“And I have counseled the dwellers on earth to cut off the fingernails and the toenails of their dead, lest from those fingernails and toenails the Giants make for themselves the ship Naglfar in which they will sail from the North on the day of Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
“More, Vidar, I will tell to thee. I, living amongst men, have wed the daughter of a hero. My son shall live as a mortal amongst mortals. Sigi his name shall be. From him shall spring heroes who will fill Valhalla, my own hall in Asgard, with heroes against the day of our strife with the Giants and with Surtur of the Flaming Sword.”
For long Odin stayed in that silent place communing with his silent son, with Vidar, who with his brother would live beyond the lives of the Dwellers of Asgard and who would bring into another day and another world the memory of the Æsir and the Vanir. For long Odin spoke with him, and then he went across the wilderness where the grass and the bushes grew and where that horse grazed in readiness for the sudden journey. He went toward the seashore where the Æsir and the Vanir were now gathered for the feast that old Ægir, the Giant King of the Sea, had offered them.
THOR AND LOKI IN THE GIANTS’ CITY
All but a few of the Dwellers of Asgard had come to the feast offered by Ægir the Old, the Giant King of the Sea. Frigga, the queenly wife of Odin, was there, and Frey and Freya; Iduna, who guarded the Apples of Youth, and Bragi, her husband; Tyr, the great swordsman, and Niörd, the God of the Sea, Skadi, who wedded Niörd and whose hatred for Loki was fierce, and Sif, whose golden hair was once shorn off by Loki the mischievous. Thor and Loki were there. The Dwellers of Asgard, gathered together in the hall of Ægir, waited for Odin.
Before Odin came Loki made the company merry by the tales that he told in mockery of Thor. Loki long since had his lips unloosed from the thong that the Dwarf Brock had sewn them with. And Thor had forgotten the wrong that he had done to Sif. Loki had been with Thor in his
wanderings through Jötunheim, and about these wanderings he now told mocking tales.
He told how he had seen Thor in his chariot of brass drawn by two goats go across Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge. None of the Æsir or the Vanir knew on what adventure Thor was bent. But Loki followed him and Thor kept him in his company.
As they traveled on in the brass chariot drawn by the two goats, Thor told Loki of the adventure on which he was bent. He would go into Jötunheim, even into Utgard, the Giants’ City, and he would try his strength against the Giants. He was not afraid of aught that might happen, for he carried Miölnir, his hammer, with him.
Their way was through Midgard, the World of Men. Once, as they were traveling on, night came upon them as they were hungry and in need of shelter. They saw a peasant’s hut and they drove the chariot toward it. Unyoking the goats and leaving them standing in a hollow beside the chariot, the two, looking not like Dwellers in Asgard, but like men traveling through the country, knocked at the door of the hut and asked for food and shelter.
They could have shelter, the peasant and his wife told them, but they could not have food. There was little in that place, and what little there had been they had eaten for supper. The peasant showed them the inside of the hut: it was poor and bare, and there was nothing there to give anyone. In the morning, the peasant said, he would go down to the river and catch some fish for a meal.
“We can’t wait until morning, we must eat now,” said Thor, “and I think I can provide a good meal for us all.” He went over to where his goats stood in the hollow beside the chariot of brass, and, striking them with his hammer, he left them lifeless on the ground. He skinned the goats then, and taking up the bones very carefully, he left them down on the skins. Skins and bones, he lifted up and bringing them into the house he left them in a hole above the peasant’s fireplace. “No one,” said he in a commanding voice, “must touch the bones that I leave here.”
Then he brought the meat into the house. Soon it was cooked and laid smoking on the table. The peasant and his wife and his son sat round the board with Thor and Loki. They had not eaten plentifully for many days, and now the man and the woman fed themselves well.
Thialfi was the name of the peasant’s son. He was a growing lad and had an appetite that had not been satisfied for long. While the meat was on the table his father and mother had kept him going here and there, carrying water, putting fagots on the fire, and holding a blazing stick so that those at the table might see to eat. There was not much left for him when he was able to sit down, for Thor and Loki had great appetites,
and the lad’s father and mother had eaten to make up for days of want. So Thialfi got little out of that plentiful feast.
When the meal was finished, they lay down on the benches. Thor, because he had made a long journey that day, slept very soundly. Thialfi lay down on a bench, too, but his thoughts were still upon the food. When all were asleep, he thought, he would take one of the bones that were in the skins above him, and break and gnaw it.
So in the dead of the night the lad stood up on the bench and took down the goatskins that Thor had left so carefully there. He took out a bone, broke it, and gnawed it for the marrow. Loki was awake and saw him do this, but he, relishing mischief as much as ever, did nothing to stay the lad.
He put the bone he had broken back in the skins and he left the skins back in the hole above the fireplace. Then he went to sleep on the bench.
In the morning, as soon as they were up, the first thing Thor did was to take the skins out of the hole. He carried them carefully out to the hollow where he had left the goats standing. He put each goatskin down with the bones in it. He struck each with his hammer, and the goats sprang up alive, horns and hoofs and all.
But one was not as he had been before. He limped badly. Thor examined the leg and found out that one bone was broken. In terrible anger he turned on the peasant, his wife, and his son. “A bone of this goat has been broken under your roof,” he shouted. “For that I shall destroy your house and leave you all dead under it.” Thialfi wept. Then he came forward and touched the knees of Thor. “I did not know what harm I did,” he said. “I broke the bone.”
Thor had his hammer lifted up to crush him into the earth. But he could not bring it down on the weeping boy. He let his hammer rest on the ground again. “You will have to do much service for me for having lamed my goat,” he said. “Come with me.”
And so the lad Thialfi went off with Thor and Loki. Thor took in his powerful hands the shafts of the chariot of brass and he dragged it into a lonely mountain hollow where neither men nor Giants came. And they left the goats in a great, empty forest to stay resting there until Thor called to them again.
Thor and Loki and the lad Thialfi went across from Midgard into Jötunheim. Because of Miölnir, the great hammer that he carried, Thor felt safe in the Realm of the Giants. And Loki, who trusted in his own cunning, felt safe, too. The lad Thialfi trusted in Thor so much that he had no fear. They were long in making the journey, and while they were traveling Thor and Loki trained Thialfi to be a quick and a strong lad.
One day they came out on a moor. All day they crossed it, and at night it still stretched far before them. A great wind was blowing, night was falling, and they saw no shelter near. In the dusk they saw a shape that looked to be a mountain and they went toward it, hoping to find some shelter in a cave.
Then Loki saw a lower shape that looked as if it might be a shelter. They walked around it, Loki and Thor and the lad Thialfi. It was a house, but a house most oddly shaped. The entrance was a long, wide hall that had no doorway. When they entered this hall, they found five long and narrow chambers running off it. “It is an odd place, but it is the best shelter we can get,” Loki said. “You and I, Thor, will take the two longest rooms, and the lad Thialfi can take one of the little rooms.”
They entered their chambers and they lay down to sleep. But from the mountain outside there came a noise that was like moaning forests and falling cataracts. The chamber where each one slept was shaken by the noise. Neither Thor nor Loki nor the lad Thialfi slept that night.
In the morning they left the five-chambered house and turned their faces toward the mountain. It was not a mountain at all, but a Giant. He was lying on the ground when they saw him, but just then he rolled over and sat up. “Little men, little men,” he shouted to them, “have you passed by a glove of mine on your way?” He stood up and looked all around him. “Ho, I see my glove now,” he said. Thor and Loki and the lad Thialfi stood still as the Giant came toward them. He leaned over and picked up the five-roomed shelter they had slept in. He put it on his hand. It was really his glove!
Thor gripped his hammer, and Loki and the lad Thialfi stood behind him. But the Giant seemed good-humored enough. “Where might ye be bound for, little men?” said he.
“To Utgard in Jötunheim,” Thor replied boldly.
“Oh, to that place,” said the Giant. “Come, then, I shall be with ye so far. You can call me Skyrmir.”
“Can you give us breakfast?” said Thor. He spoke crossly, for he did not want it to appear that there was any reason to be afraid of the Giant.
“I can give you breakfast,” said Skyrmir, “but I don’t want to stop to eat now. We’ll sit down as soon as I have an appetite. Come along now. Here is my wallet to carry. It has my provisions in it.”
He gave Thor his wallet. Thor put it on his back and put Thialfi sitting upon it. On and on the Giant strode and Thor and Loki were barely able to keep up with him. It was midday before he showed any signs of halting to take breakfast.
They came to an enormous tree. Under it Skyrmir sat down. “I’ll sleep before I eat,” he said, “but you can open my wallet, my little men, and make your meal out of it.” Saying this, he stretched himself out, and in a few minutes Thor and Loki and the lad Thialfi heard the same sounds as kept them awake the night before, sounds that were like forests moaning and cataracts falling. It was Skyrmir’s snoring.
Thor and Loki and the lad Thialfi were too hungry now to be disturbed by these tremendous noises. Thor tried to open the wallet, but he found it was not easy to undo the knots. Then Loki tried to open it. In spite of all Loki’s cunning he could not undo the knots. Then Thor took the wallet from him and tried to break the knots by main strength. Not even Thor’s strength could break them. He threw the wallet down in his rage.
The snoring of Skyrmir became louder and louder. Thor stood up in his rage. He grasped Miölnir and flung it at the head of the sleeping Giant.
The hammer struck him on the head. But Skyrmir only stirred in his sleep. “Did a leaf fall on my head?” he said.
He turned round on the other side and went to sleep again. The hammer came back to Thor’s hand. As soon as Skyrmir snored he flung it again, aiming at the Giant’s forehead. It struck there. The Giant opened his eyes. “Has an acorn fallen on my forehead?” he said.
Again he went to sleep. But now Thor, terribly roused, stood over his head with the hammer held in his hands. He struck him on the forehead. It was the greatest blow that Thor had ever dealt.
“A bird is pecking at my forehead–there is no chance to sleep here,” said Skyrmir, sitting up. “And you, little men, did you have breakfast yet? Toss over my wallet to me and I shall give you some provision.” The lad Thialfi brought him the wallet. Skyrmir opened it, took out his provisions, and gave a share to Thor and Loki and the lad Thialfi. Thor would not take provision from him, but Loki and the lad Thialfi took it and ate. When the meal was finished Skyrmir rose up and said, “Time for us to be going toward Utgard.”
As they went on their way Skyrmir talked to Loki. “I always feel very small when I go into Utgard,” he said. “You see, I’m such a small and a weak fellow and the folk who live there are so big and powerful. But you and your friends will be welcomed in Utgard. They will be sure to make little pets of you.”
And then he left them and they went into Utgard, the City of the Giants. Giants were going up and down in the streets. They were not so huge as Skyrmir would have them believe, Loki noticed.
Utgard was the Asgard of the Giants. But in its buildings, there was not a line of the beauty that there was in the palaces of the Gods, Gladsheim and Breidablik or Fensalir. Huge but shapeless the buildings arose, like mountains or icebergs. O beautiful Asgard with the dome above it of the deepest blue! Asgard with the clouds around it heaped up like mountains of diamonds! Asgard with its Rainbow Bridge and its glittering gates! O beautiful Asgard, could it be indeed that these Giants would one day overthrow you?
Thor and Loki with the lad Thialfi went to the palace of the King. The hammer that Thor gripped would, they knew, make them safe even there. They passed between rows of Giant guards and came to the King’s seat. “We know you, Thor and Loki,” said the Giant King, “and we know that Thor has come to Utgard to try his strength against the Giants. We shall have a contest tomorrow. Today there are sports for our boys. If your young servant should like to try his swiftness against our youths, let him enter the race today.”
Now Thialfi was the best runner in Midgard and all the time he had been with them Loki and Thor had trained him in quickness. And so Thialfi was not fearful of racing against the Giants’ youths.
The King called on one named Hugi and placed him against Thialfi. The pair started together. Thialfi sped off. Loki and Thor watched the race anxiously, for they thought it would be well for them if they had a triumph over the dwellers in Utgard in the first contest. But they saw Hugi leave Thialfi behind. They saw the Giant youth reach the winning post, circle round it, and come back to the starting place before Thialfi had reached the end of the course.
Thialfi, who did not know how it was that he had been beaten, asked that he be let run the race with Hugi again. The pair started off once more, and this time it did not seem to Thor and Loki that Hugi had left the starting place at all–he was back there almost as soon as the race had started.
They came back from the racing ground to the palace. The Giant King and his friends with Thor and Loki sat down to the supper table. “Tomorrow,” said the King, “we shall have our great contest when Asa Thor will show us his power. Have you of Asgard ever heard of one who would enter a contest in eating? We might have a contest in eating at this supper board if we could get one who would match himself with Logi here. He can eat more than anyone in Jötunheim.”
“And I,” said Loki, “can eat more than any two in Jötunheim. I will match myself against your Logi.”
“Good!” said the Giant King. And all the Giants present said, “Good! This will be a sight worth seeing.”
Then they put scores of plates along one side of the table, each plate filled with meat. Loki began at one end and Logi began at the other. They started to eat, moving toward each other as each cleared a plate. Plate after plate was emptied, and Thor standing by with the Giants was amazed to see how much Loki ate. But Logi on the other side was leaving plate after plate emptied. At last the two stood together with scores of plates on each side of them. “He has not defeated me,” cried Loki. “I have cleared as many plates as your champion, O King of the Giants.”
“But you have not cleared them so well,” said the King.
“Loki has eaten all the meat that was upon them,” said Thor.
“But Logi has eaten the bones with the meat,” said the Giant King. “Look and see if it be not so.”
Thor went to the plates. Where Loki had eaten, the bones were left on the plates. Where Logi had eaten, nothing was left: bones as well as meat were consumed, and all the plates were left bare.
“We are beaten,” said Thor to Loki.
“Tomorrow, Thor,” said Loki, “you must show all your strength or the Giants will cease to dread the might of the Dwellers in Asgard.”
“Be not afraid,” said Thor. “No one in Jötunheim will triumph over me.”
The next day Thor and Loki came into the great hall of Utgard. The Giant King was there with a throng of his friends. Thor marched into the hall with Miölnir, his great hammer, in his hands. “Our young men have been drinking out of this horn,” said the King, “and they want to know if you, Asa Thor, would drink out of it a morning draught. But I must tell you that they think that no one of the Æsir could empty the horn at one draught.”
“Give it to me,” said Thor. “There is no horn you can hand me that I cannot empty at a draught.”
A great horn, brimmed and flowing, was brought over to him. Handing Miölnir to Loki and bidding him stand so that he might keep the hammer in sight, Thor raised the horn to his mouth. He drank and drank. He felt sure there was not a drop left in the horn as he laid it on the ground. “There,” he gasped, “your Giant horn is drained.”
The Giants looked within the horn and laughed. “Drained, Asa Thor!” said the Giant King. “Look into the horn again. You have hardly drunk below the brim.”
And Thor looked into it and saw that the horn was not half emptied. In a mighty rage he lifted it to his lips again. He drank and drank and drank. Then, satisfied that he had emptied it to the bottom, he left the horn on the ground and walked over to the other side of the hall.
“Thor thinks he has drained the horn,” said one of the Giants, lifting it up. “But see, friends, what remains in it.”
Thor strode back and looked again into the horn. It was still half filled. He turned round to see that all the Giants were laughing at him.
“Asa Thor, Asa Thor,” said the Giant King, “we know not how you are going to deal with us in the next feat, but you certainly are not able to drink against the Giants.”
Said Thor: “I can lift up and set down any being in your hall.”
As he said this a great iron-colored cat bounded into the hall and stood before Thor, her back arched and her fur bristling.
“Then lift the cat off the ground,” said the Giant King.
Thor strode to the cat, determined to lift her up and fling her amongst the mocking Giants. He put his hands to the cat, but he could not raise her. Up, up went Thor’s arms, up, up, as high as they could go. The cat’s arched back went up to the roof, but her feet were never taken off the ground. And as he heaved and heaved with all his might he heard the laughter of the Giants all round him.
He turned away, his eyes flaming with anger. “I am not wont to try to lift cats,” he said. “Bring me one to wrestle with, and I swear you shall see me overthrow him.”
“Here is one for you to wrestle with, Asa Thor,” said the King. Thor looked round and saw an old woman hobbling toward him. She was blear-eyed and toothless. “This is Ellie, my ancient nurse,” said the Giant King. “She is the one we would have you wrestle with.”
“Thor does not wrestle with old women. I will lay my hands on your tallest Giants instead.”
“Ellie has come where you are,” said the Giant King. “Now it is she who will lay hands upon you.”
The old woman hobbled toward Thor, her eyes gleaming under her falling fringes of gray hair. Thor stood, unable to move as the hag came toward him. She laid her hands upon his arms. Her feet began to trip at his. He tried to cast her from him. Then he found that her feet and her hands were as strong against his as bands and stakes of iron.
Then began a wrestling match in earnest between Thor and the ancient crone Ellie. Round and round the hall they wrestled, and Thor was not able to bend the old woman backward nor sideways. Instead he became less and less able under her terrible grasp. She forced him down, down, and at last he could only save himself from being left prone on the ground by throwing himself down on one knee and holding the hag by the shoulders. She tried to force him down on the ground, but she could not do that. Then she broke from him, hobbled to the door and went out of the hall.
Thor rose up and took the hammer from Loki’s hands. Without a word he went out of the hall and along the ways and toward the gate of the Giants’ City. He spoke no word to Loki nor to the lad Thialfi who went with him for the seven weeks that they journeyed through Jötunheim.
HOW THOR AND LOKI BEFOOLED THRYM THE GIANT
Loki told another tale about Thor–about Thor and Thrym, a stupid Giant who had cunning streaks in him. Loki and Thor had been in this Giant’s house. He had made a feast for them and Thor had been unwatchful.
Then when they were far from Jötunheim Thor missed Miölnir, missed the hammer that was the defence of Asgard and the help of the Gods. He could not remember how or where he had mislaid it. Loki’s thoughts went toward Thrym, that stupid Giant who yet had cunning streaks in him. Thor, who had lost the hammer that he had sworn never to let out of his sight, did not know what to do.
But Loki thought it would be worthwhile to see if Thrym knew anything about it. He went first to Asgard. He hurried across the Rainbow Bridge and passed Heimdall without speaking to him. To none of the Dwellers in Asgard whom he met did he dare relate the tidings of Thor’s loss. He spoke to none until he came to Frigga’s palace.
To Frigga he said, “You must lend me your falcon dress until I fly to Thrym’s dwelling and find out if he knows where Miölnir is.”
“If every feather was silver, I would give it to you to go on such an errand,” Frigga said.
So Loki put on the falcon dress and flew to Jötunheim and came near Thrym’s dwelling. He found the Giant upon a hillside putting golden and silver collars upon the necks of his hounds. Loki in the plumage of a falcon perched on the rock above him, watching the Giant with falcon eyes.
And while he was there, he heard the Giant speak boastful words. “I put collars of silver and gold on you now, my hounds,” said he, “but soon we Giants will have the gold of Asgard to deck our hounds and our steeds, yea, even the necklace of Freya to put upon you, the best of my hounds. For Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, is in Thrym’s holding.”
Then Loki spoke to him. “Yea, we know that Miölnir is in thy possession, O Thrym,” said he, “but know thou that the eyes of the watchful Gods are upon thee.”
“Ha, Loki, Shape-changer,” said Thrym, “you are there! But all your watching will not help you to find Miölnir. I have buried Thor’s hammer eight miles deep in the earth. Find it if you can. It is below the caves of the Dwarfs.”
“It is useless for us to search for Thor’s hammer,” said Loki; “eh Thrym?”
“It is useless for you to search for it,” said the Giant sulkily.
“But what a recompense you would gain if you restored Thor’s hammer to the Dwellers in Asgard,” Loki said.
“No, cunning Loki, I will never restore it, not for any recompense,” said Thrym.
“Yet bethink thee, Thrym,” said Loki. “Is there nought in Asgard you would like to own? No treasure, no possession? Odin’s ring or Frey’s ship, Skidbladnir?”
“No, no,” said Thrym. “Only one thing could the Dwellers in Asgard offer me that I would take in exchange for Miölnir, Thor’s hammer.”
“And what would that be, Thrym?” said Loki, flying toward him.
“She whom many Giants have striven to gain–Freya, for my wife,” said Thrym.
Loki watched Thrym for long with his falcon eyes. He saw that the Giant would not alter his demand. “I will tell the Dwellers in Asgard of your demand,” he said at last, and he flew away.
Loki knew that the Dwellers in Asgard would never let Freya be taken from them to become the wife of Thrym, the stupidest of the Giants. He flew back.
By this time all the Dwellers in Asgard had heard of the loss of Miölnir, the help of the Gods. Heimdall shouted to him as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge to ask what tidings he brought back. But Loki did not stop to speak to the Warden of the Bridge but went straight to the hall where the Gods sat in Council.
To the Æsir and the Vanir he told Thrym’s demand. None would agree to let the beautiful Freya go live in Jötunheim as a wife to the stupidest of the Giants. All in the Council were cast down. The Gods would never again be able to help mortal men, for now that Miölnir was in the Giants’ hands all their strength would have to be used in the defence of Asgard.
So they sat in the Council with looks downcast. But cunning Loki said, “I have thought of a trick that may win back the hammer from stupid Thrym. Let us pretend to send Freya to Jötunheim as a bride for him. But let one of the Gods go in Freya’s veil and dress.”
“Which of the Gods would bring himself to do so shameful a thing?” said those in the Council.
“Oh, he who lost the hammer, Thor, should be prepared to do as much to win it back,” said Loki.
“Thor, Thor! Let Thor win back the hammer from Thrym by Loki’s trick,” said the Æsir and the Vanir. They left it to Loki to arrange how Thor should go to Jötunheim as a bride for Thrym.
Loki left the Council of the Gods and came to where he had left Thor. “There is but one way to win the hammer back, Thor,” he said, “and the Gods in Council have decreed that you shall take it.”
“What is the way?” said Thor. “But no matter what it is, tell me of it and I shall do as thou dost say.”
“Then,” said laughing Loki, “I am to take you to Jötunheim as a bride for Thrym. Thou art to go in bridal dress and veil, in Freya’s veil and bridal dress.”
“What! I dress in woman’s garb?” shouted Thor.
“Yea, Thor, and wear a veil over your head and a garland of flowers upon it.”
“I…I wear a garland of flowers?”
“And rings upon thy fingers. And a bunch of housekeeper’s keys in thy girdle.”
“Cease thy mockery, Loki,” said Thor roughly, “or I shall shake thee.”
“It is no mockery. Thou wilt have to do this to win Miölnir back for the defence of Asgard. Thrym will take no other recompense than Freya. I would mock him by bringing thee to him in Freya’s veil and dress. When thou art in his hall and he asks thee to join hands with him, say thou wilt not until he puts Miölnir into thy hands. Then when thy mighty hammer is in thy holding, thou canst deal with him and with all in his hall. And I shall be with thee as thy bridesmaid! O sweet, sweet maiden Thor!”
“Loki,” said Thor, “thou didst devise all this to mock me. I in a bridal dress! I with a bride’s veil upon me! The Dwellers in Asgard will never cease to laugh at me.”
“Yea,” said Loki, “but there will never be laughter again in Asgard unless thou art able to bring back the hammer that thine unwatchfulness lost.”
“True,” said Thor unhappily, “and is this, thinkst thou, Loki, the only way to win back Miölnir from Thrym?”
“It is the only way, O Thor,” said the cunning Loki.
So Thor and Loki set out for Jötunheim and the dwelling of Thrym. A messenger had gone before them to tell Thrym that Freya was coming with her bridesmaid; that the wedding-feast was to be prepared and the guests gathered and that Miölnir was to be at hand so that it might be given over to the Dwellers in Asgard. Thrym and his Giant mother hastened to have everything in readiness.
Thor and Loki came to the Giant’s house in the dress of a bride and a bridesmaid. A veil was over Thor’s head hiding his beard and his fierce eyes. A red-embroidered robe he wore and at his side hung a girdle of housekeeper’s keys. Loki was veiled, too. The hall of Thrym’s great house was swept and garnished and great tables were laid for the feast. And Thrym’s mother was going from one guest to another, vaunting that her son was getting one of the beauteous Dwellers in Asgard for his bride, Freya, whom so many of the Giants had tried to win.
When Thor and Loki stepped across the threshold Thrym went to welcome them. He wanted to raise the veil of his bride and give her a kiss. Loki quickly laid his hand on the Giant’s shoulder.
“Forbear,” he whispered. “Do not raise her veil. We Dwellers in Asgard are reserved and bashful. Freya would be much offended to be kissed before this company.”
“Aye, aye,” said Thrym’s old mother. “Do not raise thy bride’s veil, son. These Dwellers in Asgard are more refined in their ways than we, the Giants.” Then the old woman took Thor by the hand and led him to the table.
The size and the girth of the bride did not surprise the huge Giants who were in the wedding company. They stared at Thor and Loki, but they could see nothing of their faces and little of their forms because of their veils.
Thor sat at the table with Thrym on one side of him and Loki on the other. Then the feast began. Thor, not noticing that what he did was unbecoming to a refined maiden, ate eight salmon right away. Loki nudged him and pressed his foot, but he did not heed Loki. After the salmon he ate a whole ox.
“These maids of Asgard,” said the Giants to each other, “they may be refined, as Thrym’s mother says, but their appetites are lusty enough.”
“No wonder she eats, poor thing,” said Loki to Thrym. “It is eight days since we left Asgard. And Freya never ate upon the way, so anxious was she to see Thrym and to come to his house.”
“Poor darling, poor darling,” said the Giant. “What she has eaten is little after all.”
Thor nodded his head toward the mead vat. Thrym ordered his servants to bring a measure to his bride. The servants were kept coming with measures to Thor. While the Giants watched, and while Loki nudged and nodded, he drank three barrels of mead.
“Oh,” said the Giants to Thrym’s mother, “we are not so sorry that we failed to win a bride from Asgard.”
And now a piece of the veil slipped aside and Thor’s eyes were seen for an instant. “Oh, how does it come that Freya has such glaring eyes?” said Thrym.
“Poor thing, poor thing,” said Loki, “no wonder her eyes are glaring and staring. She has not slept for eight nights, so anxious was she to come to you and to your house, Thrym. But now the time has come for you to join hands with your bride. First, put into her hands the hammer Miölnir that she may know the great recompense that the Giants have given for her coming.”
Then Thrym, the stupidest of the Giants, rose up and brought Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, into the feasting hall. Thor could hardly restrain himself from springing up and seizing it from the Giant. But Loki was able to keep him still. Thrym brought over the hammer and put the handle into the hands of her whom he thought was his bride. Thor’s hands closed on his hammer. Instantly he stood up. The veil fell off him. His countenance and his blazing eyes were seen by all. He struck one blow on the wall of the house. Down it crashed. Then Thor went striding out of the ruin with Loki beside him, while within the Giants bellowed as the roof and walls fell down on them. And so was Miölnir, the defence of Asgard, lost and won back.
ÆGIR’S FEAST: HOW THOR TRIUMPHED
The time between midday and evening wore on while the Æsir and the Vanir gathered for the feast in old Ægir’s hall listened to the stories that Loki told in mockery of Thor. The night came, but no banquet was made ready for the Dwellers in Asgard. They called to Ægir’s two underservants, Fimaffenger and Elder, and they bade them bring them a supper. Slight was what they got, but they went to bed saying, “Great must be the preparations that old Ægir is making to feast us tomorrow.”
The morrow came and the midday of the morrow, and still the Dwellers in Asgard saw no preparations being made for the banquet. Then Frey rose up and went to seek old Ægir, the Giant King of the Sea. He found him sitting with bowed head in his inner hall. “Ho, Ægir,” he said, “what of the banquet that you have offered to the Dwellers in Asgard?”
Old Ægir mumbled and pulled at his beard. At last he looked his guest in the face and told why the banquet was not being made ready. The mead for the feast was not yet brewed. And there was little chance of being able to brew mead that would do for all, for Ægir’s hall was lacking a mead kettle that would contain enough.
When the Æsir and the Vanir heard this they were sorely disappointed. Who now, outside of Asgard, would give them a feast? Ægir was the only one of the Giants who was friendly to them, and Ægir could not give them full entertainment.
Then a Giant youth who was there spoke up and said, “My kinsman, the Giant Hrymer, has a mead kettle that is a mile wide. If we could bring Hrymer’s kettle here, what a feast we might have!”
“One of us can go for that kettle,” Frey said.
“Ah, but Hrymer’s dwelling is beyond the deepest forest and behind the highest mountain,” the Giant youth said, “and Hrymer himself is a rough and a churlish one to call on.”
“Still, one of us should go,” Frey said.
“I will go to Hrymer’s dwelling,” said Thor, standing up. “I will go to Hrymer’s dwelling and get the mile-wide kettle from him by force or cunning.” He had been sitting subdued under the mocking tales that Loki told of him and he was pleased with this chance to make his prowess
plain to the Æsir and the Vanir. He buckled on the belt that doubled his strength. He drew on the iron gloves that enabled him to grasp Miölnir. He took his hammer in his hands, and he signed to the Giant youth to come with him and be his guide.
The Æsir and the Vanir applauded Thor as he stepped out of old Ægir’s hall. But Loki, mischievous Loki, threw a gibe after him. “Do not let the hammer out of your hands this time, bride of Thrym,” he shouted.
Thor, with the Giant youth to guide him, went through the deepest forest and over the highest mountain. He came at last to the Giant’s dwelling. On a hillock before Hrymer’s house was a dreadful warden; a Giant crone she was, with heads a-many growing out of her shoulders. She was squatting down on her ankles, and her heads, growing in bunches, were looking in different directions. As Thor and the Giant youth came near screams and yelps came from all her heads. Thor grasped his hammer and would have flung it at her if a Giant woman, making a sign of peace, had not come to the door of the dwelling. The youthful Giant, who was with Thor, greeted her as his mother.
“Son, come within,” said she, “and you may bring your fellow farer with you.”
The Giant crone–she was Hrymer’s grandmother–kept up her screaming and yelping. But Thor went past her and into the Giant’s dwelling.
When she saw that it was one of the Dwellers in Asgard who had come with her son the Giant woman grew fearful for them both. “Hrymer,” she said, “will be in a rage to find one of the Æsir under his roof. He will strive to slay you.”
“It is not likely he will succeed,” Thor said, grasping Miölnir, the hammer that all the Giant race knew of and dreaded.
“Hide from him,” said the Giant woman. “He may injure my son in his rage to find you here.”
“I am not wont to hide from the Giants,” Thor said.
“Hide only for a little while! Hide until Hrymer has eaten,” the Giant woman pleaded. “He comes back from the chase in a stormy temper. After he has eaten, he is easier to deal with. Hide until he has finished supper.”
Thor at last agreed to do this. He and the Giant youth hid behind a pillar in the hall. They were barely hidden when they heard the clatter of the Giant’s steps as he came through the courtyard. He came to the door. His beard was like a frozen forest around his mouth. And he dragged along with him a wild bull that he had captured in the chase. So proud was he of his capture that he dragged it into the hall.
“I have taken alive,” he shouted, “the bull with the mightiest head and horns. ‘Heaven-breaking’ this bull is called. No Giant but me could capture it.” He tied the bull to the post of the door and then his eyes went toward the pillar behind which Thor and the Giant youth were hiding. The pillar split up its whole length at that look from Hrymer’s eyes. He came nearer. The pillar of stone broke across. It fell with the crossbeam it supported and all the kettles and cauldrons that were hanging on the beam came down with a terrible rattle.
Then Thor stepped out and faced the wrathful Giant. “It is I who am here, friend Hrymer,” he said, his hands resting on his hammer.
Then Hrymer, who knew Thor and knew the force of Thor’s hammer, drew back. “Now that you are in my house, Asa Thor,” he said, “I will not quarrel with you. Make supper ready for Asa Thor and your son and myself,” said he to the Giant woman.
A plentiful supper was spread and Hrymer and Thor and the Giant youth sat down to three whole roast oxen. Thor ate the whole of one ox. Hrymer, who had eaten nearly two himself, leaving only small cuts for his wife and his youthful kinsman, grumbled at Thor’s appetite. “You’ll clear my fields, Asa Thor,” he said, “if you stay long with me.”
“Do not grumble, Hrymer,” Thor said. “Tomorrow I’ll go fishing and I’ll bring you back the weight of what I ate.”
“Then instead of hunting I’ll go fishing with you tomorrow, Asa Thor,” said Hrymer. “And don’t be frightened if I take you out on a rough sea.”
Hrymer was first out of bed the next morning. He came with the pole and the ropes in his hand to where Thor was sleeping. “Time to start earning your meal, Asa Thor,” said he.
Thor got out of bed, and when they were both in the courtyard the Giant said, “You’ll have to provide a bait for yourself. Mind that you take a bait large enough. It is not where the little fishes are, the place where I’m going to take you. If you never saw monsters before you’ll see them now. I’m glad, Asa Thor, that you spoke of going fishing.”
“Will this bait be big enough?” said Thor, laying his hands on the horns of the bull that Hrymer had captured and brought home, the bull with the mighty head of horns that was called “Heaven-breaking.” “Will this bait be big enough, do you think?”
“Yes, if you’re big enough to handle it,” said the Giant.
Thor said nothing, but he struck the bull full in the middle of the forehead with his fist. The great creature fell down dead. Thor then twisted the bull’s head off. “I have my bait and I’m ready to go with you, Hrymer,” he said.
Hrymer had turned away to hide the rage he was in at seeing Thor do such a feat. He walked down to the boat without speaking. “You may row for the first few strokes,” said Hrymer, when they were in the boat, “but when we come to where the ocean is rough, why I’ll take the oars from you.”
Without saying a word Thor made a few strokes that took the boat out into the middle of the ocean. Hrymer was in a rage to think that he could not show himself greater than Thor. He let out his line and began to fish. Soon he felt something huge on his hook. The boat rocked and rocked till Thor steadied it. Then Hrymer drew into the boat the largest whale that was in these seas.
“Good fishing,” said Thor, as he put his own bait on the line.
“It’s something for you to tell the Æsir,” said Hrymer.
“I thought as you were here, I’d show you something bigger than salmon-fishing.”
“I’ll try my luck now,” said Thor.
He threw out a line that had at the end of it the mighty-horned head of the great bull. Down, down the head went. It passed where the whales swim, and the whales were afraid to gulp at the mighty horns. Down, down it went till it came near where the monster serpent that coils itself round the world abides. It reared its head up from its serpent coils as Thor’s bait came down through the depths of the ocean. It gulped at the head and drew it into its gullet. There the great hook stuck. Terribly surprised was the serpent monster. It lashed the ocean into a fury. But still the hook stayed. Then it strove to draw down to the depths of the ocean the boat of those who had hooked it. Thor put his legs across the boat and stretched them till they touched the bottom bed of the ocean. On the bottom bed of the ocean Thor stood and he pulled and he pulled on his line. The serpent monster lashed the ocean into fiercer and fiercer storms and all the world’s ships were hurled against each other and wrecked and tossed. But it had to loosen coil after coil of the coils it makes around the world. Thor pulled and pulled. Then the terrible head of the serpent monster appeared above the waters. It reared over the boat that Hrymer sat in and that Thor straddled across. Thor dropped the line and took up Miölnir, his mighty hammer. He raised it to strike the head of the serpent monster whose coils go round the world. But Hrymer would not have that happen. Rather than have Thor pass him by such a feat he cut the line, and the head of the serpent monster sank back into the sea. Thor’s hammer was raised. He hurled it, hurled that hammer that always came back to his hand. It followed the sinking head through fathom after fathom of the ocean depth. It struck the serpent monster a blow, but not such a deadly blow as would have been struck if the water had not come between. A bellow of pain came up from the depths of the ocean, such a bellow of pain that all in Jötunheim were affrighted.
“This surely is something to tell the Æsir of,” said Thor, “something to make them forget Loki’s mockeries.”
Without speaking Hrymer turned the boat and rowed toward the shore, dragging the whale in the wake. He was in such a rage to think that one of the Æsir had done a feat surpassing his that he would not speak. At supper, too, he remained silent, but Thor talked for two, boasting loudly of his triumph over the monster serpent.
“No doubt you think yourself very powerful, Asa Thor,” Hrymer said at last. “Well, do you think you are powerful enough to break the cup that is before you?”
Thor took up the cup and with a laugh he hurled it against the stone pillar of the house. The cup fell down on the floor without a crack or a dint in it. But the pillar was shattered with the blow.
The Giant laughed. “So feeble are the folk of Asgard!” he said.
Thor took up the cup again and flung it with greater force against the stone pillar. And again the cup fell to the ground without a crack or a dint.
Then he heard the woman who was the mother of the Giant youth sing softly, as she plied her wheel behind him:
Not at the pillar of the stead,
But at Hrymer’s massy head:
When you next the goblet throw,
Let his head receive the blow.
Thor took the cup up again. He flung it, not at the pillar this time, but at Hrymer’s head. It struck the Giant full on the forehead and fell down on the floor in pieces. And Hrymer’s head was left without a dint or a crack.
“Ha, so you can break a cup, but can you lift up my mile-wide kettle?” cried the Giant.
“Show me where your mile-wide kettle is and I shall try to lift it,” cried Thor.
The Giant took up the flooring and showed him the mile-wide kettle down in the cellar. Thor stooped down and took the kettle by the brim. He lifted it slowly as if with a mighty effort.
“You can lift, but can you carry it?” said the Giant.
“I will try to do that,” said Thor. He lifted the kettle up and placed it on his head. He strode to the door and out of the house before the Giant could lay hands on him. Then when he was outside, he started to run. He was across the mountain before he looked behind him. He heard a yelping and a screaming and he saw the Giant crone with the bunch of heads running, running after him. Uphill and down dale Thor raced, the mile-wide kettle on his head and the Giant crone in chase of him. Through the deep forest he ran and over the high mountain, but still Bunch-of-Heads kept him in chase. But at last, jumping over a lake, she fell in and Thor was free of his pursuer.
And so back to the Æsir and the Vanir Thor came in triumph, carrying on his head the mile-wide kettle. And those of the Æsir and the Vanir who had laughed most at Loki’s mockeries rose up and cheered for him as he came in. The mead was brewed, the feast was spread, and the greatest banquet that ever the Kings of the Giants gave to the Dwellers in Asgard was eaten in gladness.
A strange and silent figure sat at the banquet. It was the figure of a Giant and no one knew who he was nor where he had come from. But when the banquet was ended Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, turned toward this figure and said, “O Skyrmir, Giant King of Utgard, rise up now and tell Thor of all you practiced upon him when he and Loki came to your City.”
Then the stranger at the banquet stood up, and Thor and Loki saw he was the Giant King in whose halls they had had the contests. Skyrmir turned toward them and said:
“O Thor and O Loki, I will reveal to you now the deceits I practiced on you both. It was I whom ye met on the moorland on the day before ye came into Utgard. I gave you my name as Skyrmir and I did all I might do to prevent your entering our City, for the Giants dreaded a contest of strength with Asa Thor. Now hear me, O Thor. The wallet I gave for you to take provisions out of was tied with magic knots. No one could undo them by strength or cleverness. And while you were striving to undo them, I placed a mountain of rock between myself and you. The hammer blows, which as you thought struck me, struck the mountain and made great clefts and gaps in it. When I knew the strength of your tremendous blows I was more and more in dread of your coming into our City.
“I saw you would have to be deceived by magic. Your lad Thialfi was the one whom I first deceived. For it was not a Giant youth who raced against him, but Thought itself. And even you, O Loki, I deceived. For when you tried to make yourself out the greatest of eaters, I pitted against you, not a Giant, but Fire that devours everything.
“You, Thor, were deceived in all the contests. After you had taken the drinking horn in your hands, we were all affrighted to see how much you were able to gulp down. For the end of that horn was in the sea, and Ægir, who is here, can tell you that after you had drunk from it, the level of the sea went down.
“The cat whom you strove to lift was Nidhögg, the dragon that gnaws at the roots of Ygdrassil, the Tree of Trees. Truly we were terrified when we saw that you made Nidhögg budge. When you made the back of the cat reach the roof of our palace, we said to ourselves, ‘Thor is the mightiest of all the beings we have known.’
“Lastly you strove with the hag Ellie. Her strength seemed marvelous to you, and you thought yourself disgraced because you could not throw her. But know, Thor, that Ellie whom you wrestled with was Old Age herself. We were terrified again to see that she who can overthrow all was not able to force you prone upon the ground.”
So Skyrmir spoke and then left the hall. And once more the Æsir and the Vanir stood up and cheered for Thor, the strongest of all who guarded Asgard.
THE DWARF’S HOARD, AND THE CURSE THAT IT BROUGHT
Now old Ægir’s feast was over and all the Æsir and the Vanir made ready for their return to Asgard. Two only went on another way–Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, and Loki the Mischievous.
Loki and Odin laid aside all that they had kept of the divine power and the divine strength. They were going into the World of Men, and they would be as men merely. Together they went through Midgard, mingling with men of all sorts, kings and farmers, outlaws and true men, warriors and householders, thralls and councilors, courteous men and men who were ill-mannered. One day they came to the bank of a mighty river and there they rested, listening to the beat of iron upon iron in a place nearby.
Presently, on a rock in the middle of the river, they saw an otter come. The otter went into the water and came back to the rock with a catch of salmon. He devoured it there. Then Odin saw Loki do a senseless and an evil thing. Taking up a great stone he flung it at the otter. The stone struck the beast on the skull and knocked him over dead.
“Loki, Loki, why hast thou done a thing so senseless and so evil?” Odin said. Loki only laughed. He swam across the water and came back with the creature of the river. “Why didst thou take the life of the beast?” Odin said.
“The mischief in me made me do it,” said Loki. He drew out his knife and ripping the otter up he began to flay him. When the skin was off the beast, he folded it up and stuck it in his belt. Then Odin and he left that place by the river.
They came to a house with two smithies beside it, and from the smithies came the sound of iron beating upon iron. They went within the house and they asked that they might eat there and rest themselves.
An old man who was cooking fish over a fire pointed out a bench to them. “Rest there,” said he, “and when the fish is cooked, I will give you something good to eat. My son is a fine fisher and he brings me salmon of the best.”
Odin and Loki sat on the bench and the old man went on with his cooking. “My name is Hreidmar,” he said, “and I have two sons who work in the smithies without. I have a third son also. It is he who does the fishing for us. And who may ye be, O wayfaring men?”
Loki and Odin gave names to Hreidmar that were not the names by which they were known in Asgard or on Midgard. Hreidmar served fish to them and they ate. “And what adventures have ye met upon your travels?” Hreidmar asked. “Few folk come this way to tell me of happenings.”
“I killed an otter with a cast of a stone,” Loki said with a laugh.
“You killed an otter!” Hreidmar cried. “Where did you kill one?”
“Where I killed him is of no import to you, old man,” said Loki. “His skin is a good one, however. I have it at my belt.”
Hreidmar snatched the skin out of Loki’s belt. As soon as he held the skin before his eyes he shrieked out, “Fafnir, Regin, my sons, come here and bring the thralls of your smithies. Come, come, come!”
“Why dost thou make such an outcry, old man?” said Odin.
“Ye have slain my son Otter,” shrieked the old man. “This in my hands is the skin of my son.”
As Hreidmar said this two young men bearing the forehammers of the smithies came in followed by the thralls. “Strike these men dead with your forehammers, O Fafnir, O Regin,” their father cried. “Otter, who used to stay in the river, and whom I changed by enchantment into a river beast that he might fish for me, has been slain by these men.”
“Peace,” said Odin. “We have slain thy son, it would seem, but it was unwittingly that we did the deed. We will give a recompense for the death of thy son.”
“What recompense will ye give?” said Hreidmar, looking at Odin with eyes that were small and sharp.
Then did Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, say a word that was unworthy of his wisdom and his power. He might have said, “I will bring thee a draught of Mimir’s well water as a recompense for thy son’s death.” But instead of thinking of wisdom, Odin All-Father thought of gold. “Set a price on the life of thy son and we will pay that price in gold,” he said.
“Maybe ye are great kings traveling through the world,” Hreidmar said. “If ye are ye will have to find gold that will cover every hair upon the skin of him whom ye have killed.”
Then did Odin, his mind being fixed upon the gold, think upon a certain treasure, a treasure that was guarded by a Dwarf. No other treasure in the nine worlds would be great enough to make the recompense that Hreidmar claimed. He thought upon this treasure and he thought on how it might be taken and yet he was ashamed of his thought.
“Dost thou, Loki, know of Andvari’s hoard?” he said.
“I know of it,” said Loki sharply, “and I know where it is hidden. Wilt thou, Odin, win leave for me to fetch Andvari’s hoard?”
Odin spoke to Hreidmar. “I will stay with thee as a hostage,” he said, “if thou wilt let this one go to fetch a treasure that will cover the otter’s skin hair by hair.”
“I will let this be done,” said old Hreidmar with the sharp and cunning eyes. “Go now,” said he to Loki. Then Loki went from the house.
Andvari was a Dwarf who, in the early days, had gained for himself the greatest treasure in the nine worlds. So that he might guard this treasure unceasingly he changed himself into a fish–into a pike–and he swam in the water before the cave where the hoard was hidden.
All in Asgard knew of the Dwarf and of the hoard he guarded. And there was a thought amongst all that this hoard was not to be meddled with and that some evil was joined to it. But now Odin had given the word that it was to be taken from the Dwarf. Loki set out for Andvari’s cave rejoicingly. He came to the pool before the cave and he watched for a sight of Andvari. Soon he saw the pike swimming cautiously before the cave.
He would have to catch the pike and hold him till the treasure was given for ransom. As he watched the pike became aware of him. Suddenly he flung himself forward in the water and went with speed down the stream.
Not with his hands and not with any hook and line could Loki catch that pike. How, then, could he take him? Only with a net that was woven by magic. Then Loki thought of where he might get such a net.
Ran, the wife of old Ægir, the Giant King of the Sea, had a net that was woven by magic. In it she took all that was wrecked on the sea. Loki thought of Ran’s net and he turned and went back to Ægir’s hall to ask for the Queen. But Ran was seldom in her husband’s dwelling. She was now down by the rocks of the sea.
He found Ran, the cold Queen, standing in the flow of the sea, drawing out of the depths with the net that she held in her hands every piece of treasure that was washed that way. She had made a heap of the things she had drawn out of the sea, corals and amber, and bits of gold and silver, but still she was plying her net greedily.
“Thou knowst me, Ægir’s wife,” said Loki to her.
“I know thee, Loki,” said Queen Ran.
“Lend me thy net,” said Loki.
“That I will not do,” said Queen Ran.
“Lend me thy net that I may catch Andvari the Dwarf who boasts that he has a greater treasure than ever thou wilt take out of the sea,” said Loki.
The cold Queen of the sea ceased plying her net. She looked at Loki steadily. Yes, if he were going to catch Andvari she would lend her net to him. She hated all the Dwarfs because this one and that one had told her they had greater treasures than ever she would be mistress of. But especially she hated Andvari, the Dwarf who had the greatest treasure in the nine worlds.
“There is nothing more to gather here,” she said, “and if thou wilt swear to bring me back my net by tomorrow, I shall lend it to you.”
“I swear by the sparks of Muspelheim that I will bring thy net back to thee by tomorrow, O Queen of Ægir,” Loki cried. Then Ran put into his hands the Magic Net. Back then he went to where the Dwarf, transformed, was guarding his wondrous hoard.
Dark was the pool in which Andvari floated as a pike; dark it was, but to him it was all golden with the light of his wondrous treasure. For the sake of this hoard he had given up his companionship with the Dwarfs and his delight in making and shaping the things of their workmanship. For the sake of his hoard he had taken on himself the dumbness and deafness of a fish.
Now as he swam about before the cave, he was aware again of a shadow above him. He slipped toward the shadow of the bank. Then as he turned round, he saw a net sweeping toward him. He sank down in the water. But the Magic Net had spread out and he sank into its meshes.
Suddenly he was out of the water and was left gasping on the bank. He would have died had he not undone his transformation.
Soon he appeared as a Dwarf. “Andvari, you are caught; it is one of the Æsir who has taken you,” he heard his captor say.
“Loki,” he gasped.
“Thou art caught and thou shalt be held,” Loki said to him. “It is the will of the Æsir that thou give up thy hoard to me.”
“My hoard, my hoard!” the Dwarf shouted. “Never will I give up my hoard.”
“I hold thee till thou givest it to me,” said Loki.
“Unjust, unjust,” shouted Andvari. “It is only thou, Loki, who art unjust. I will go to the throne of Odin and I will have Odin punish thee for striving to rob me of my treasure.”
“Odin has sent me to fetch thy hoard to him,” said Loki.
“Can it be that all the Æsir are unjust? Ah, yes. In the beginning of things they cheated the Giant who built the wall round their City. The Æsir are unjust.”
Loki had Andvari in his power. And after the Dwarf had raged against him and defied him, he tormented him; at last, trembling with rage and with his face covered with tears, Andvari took Loki into his cavern, and, turning a rock aside, showed him the mass of gold and gems that was his hoard.
At once Loki began to gather into the Magic Net lumps and ingots and circlets of gold with gems that were rubies and sapphires and emeralds. He saw Andvari snatch at something on the heap, but he made no sign of marking it. At last all was gathered into the net, and Loki stood there ready to bear the Dwarf’s hoard away.
“There is one thing more to be given,” said Loki, “the ring that you, Andvari, snatched from the heap.”
“I snatched nothing,” said the Dwarf. But he shook with anger and his teeth gnashed together and froth came on his lips. “I snatched nothing from the heap.”
But Loki pulled up his arm and there fell to the ground the ring that Andvari had hidden under his armpit.
It was the most precious thing in all the hoard. Had it been left with him Andvari would have thought that he still possessed a treasure, for this ring of itself could make gold. It was made out of gold that was refined of all impurities and it was engraven with a rune of power.
Loki took up this most precious ring and put it on his finger. Then the Dwarf screamed at him, turning his thumbs toward him in a curse:
The ring with the rune
Of power upon it:
May it weigh down your fortune,
And load you with evil,
You, Loki, and all
Who lust to possess
The ring I have cherished.
As Andvari uttered this curse Loki saw a figure rise up in the cave and move toward him. As this figure came near, he knew who it was: Gulveig, a Giant woman who had once been in Asgard.
Far back in the early days, when the Gods had come to their holy hill and before Asgard was built, three women of the Giants had come amongst the Æsir. After the Three had been with them for a time, the lives of the Æsir changed. Then did they begin to value and to hoard the gold that they had played with. Then did they think of war. Odin hurled his spear amongst the messengers that came from the Vanir, and war came into the world.
The Three were driven out of Asgard. Peace was made with the Vanir. The Apples of Lasting Youth were grown in Asgard. The eagerness for gold was curbed. But never again were the Æsir as happy as they were before the women came to them from the Giants.
Gulveig was one of the Three who had blighted the early happiness of the Gods. And, behold, she was in the cave where Andvari had hoarded his treasure and with a smile upon her face she was advancing toward Loki.
“So, Loki,” she said, “thou seest me again. And Odin who sent thee to this cave will see me again. Lo, Loki! I go to Odin to be thy messenger and to tell him that thou comest with Andvari’s hoard.”
And speaking so, and smiling into his face, Gulveig went out of the cave with swift and light steps. Loki drew the ends of the Magic Net together and gathering all the treasures in its meshes he, too, went out.
Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, stood leaning on his spear and looking at the skin of the otter that was spread out before him. One came into the dwelling swiftly. Odin looked and saw that she who had come in on such swift, glad feet was Gulveig who, once with her two companions, had troubled the happiness of the Gods. Odin raised his spear to cast it at her.
“Lay thy spear down, Odin,” she said. “I dwelt for long in the Dwarf’s cave. But thy word unloosed me, and the curse said over Andvari’s ring has sent me here. Lay thy spear down, and look on me, O Eldest of the Gods.
“Thou didst cast me out of Asgard, but thy word has brought me to come back to thee. And if ye two, Odin and Loki, have bought yourselves free with gold and may enter Asgard, surely, I, Gulveig, am free to enter Asgard also.”
Odin lowered his spear, sighing deeply. “Surely it is so, Gulveig,” he said. “I may not forbid thee to enter Asgard. Would I had thought of giving the man Kvasir’s Mead or Mimir’s well water rather than this gold as a recompense.”
As they spoke Loki came into Hreidmar’s dwelling. He laid on the floor the Magic Net. Old Hreidmar with his sharp eyes, and huge Fafnir, and lean and hungry-looking Regin came in to gaze on the gold and gems that shone through the meshes. They began to push each other away from gazing at the gold. Then Hreidmar cried out, “No one may be here but these two kings and I while we measure out the gold and gems and see whether the recompense be sufficient. Go without, go without, sons of mine.”
Then Fafnir and Regin were forced to go out of the dwelling. They went out slowly, and Gulveig went with them, whispering to both.
With shaking hands old Hreidmar spread out the skin that once covered his son. He drew out the ears and the tail and the paws so that every single hair could be shown. For long he was on his hands and knees, his sharp eyes searching, searching over every line of the skin. And still on his knees he said, “Begin now, O kings, and cover with a gem or a piece of gold every hair on the skin that was my son’s.”
Odin stood leaning on his spear, watching the gold and gems being paid out. Loki took the gold–the ingots, and the lumps and the circlets; he took the gems–the rubies, and the emeralds and the sapphires, and he began to place them over each hair. Soon the middle of the skin was all covered. Then he put the gems and the gold over the paws and the tail. Soon the otter-skin was so glittering that one would think it could light up the world. And still Loki went on finding a place where a gem or a piece of gold might be put.
At last he stood up. Every gem and every piece of gold had been taken out of the net. And every hair on the otter’s skin had been covered with a gem or a piece of gold.
And still old Hreidmar on his hands and knees was peering over the skin, searching, searching for a hair that was not covered. At last he lifted himself up on his knees. His mouth was open, but he was speechless. He touched Odin on the knees, and when Odin bent down, he showed him a hair upon the lip that was left uncovered.
“What meanest thou?” Loki cried, turning upon the crouching man.
“Your ransom is not paid yet–look, here is still a hair uncovered. You may not go until every hair is covered with gold or a gem.”
“Peace, old man,” said Loki roughly. “All the Dwarf’s hoard has been given thee.”
“Ye may not go until every hair has been covered,” Hreidmar said again.
“There is no more gold or gems,” Loki answered.
“Then ye may not go,” cried Hreidmar, springing up.
It was true. Odin and Loki might not leave that dwelling until the recompense they had agreed to was paid in full. Where now would the Æsir go for gold?
And then Odin saw the gleam of gold on Loki’s finger: it was the ring he had forced from Andvari. “Thy finger ring,” said Odin. “Put thy finger ring over the hair on the otter’s skin.”
Loki took off the ring that was engraved with the rune of power, and he put it on the lip-hair of the otter’s skin. Then Hreidmar clapped his hands and screamed aloud. Huge Fafnir and lean and hungry-looking Regin came within, and Gulveig came behind them. They stood around the skin of the son and the brother that was all glittering with gold and gems. But they looked at each other more than they looked on the glittering mass, and very deadly were the looks that Fafnir and Regin cast upon their father and cast upon each other.
Over Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge, went all of the Æsir and the Vanir that had been at old Ægir’s feast–Frey and Freya, Frigga, Iduna, and Sif; Tyr with his sword and Thor in his chariot drawn by the goats. Loki came behind them, and behind them all came Odin, the Father of the Gods. He went slowly with his head bent, for he knew that an unwelcome one was following–Gulveig, who once had been cast out of Asgard and whose return now the Gods might not gainsay.