View Full Version : Teutonic Myth and Legend by Donald A. MacKenzie

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008, 05:54 PM


This volume deals with the myths and legends of the Teutonic peoples--Norsemen, Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Franks, Angles, Saxons, and all the other Germanic tribes whose descendants now occupy England, Northern France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. The volume might have been called Northern European Myth and Legend. It is the body of folk tales, epics and religious beliefs which all Anglo-Saxons have inherited directly from their ancestors, and find most deeply embedded in every-day words and thoughts such as names for the days of the week, names recalling the gods and goddesses of our forefathers.

In France and Switzerland--after the Roman conquest--the folk lays were influenced by the higher and milder civilization which prevailed. Where the Roman influence extended the tribal songs were welded into detailed narratives, and each had for a central figure a popular hero like Dietrich of Bern.

A similar process subsequently prevailed in the north. Thus originated the "saga cycles," distributed over a wide area by wandering minstrels, who altered and adapted them to meet the requirements of time and locality. The highest literary development occurred when educated poets made still freer use of the subject matter of tribal lays and produced epic narratives which were not sung, but recited before cultured audiences. These were later revised and committed to manuscripts for reading. To this class belong two of outstanding merit--the German Nibelungenlied and the distinctive Anglo-Saxon Beowulf.

In the following pages our readers are afforded a comprehensive survey of the divine and heroic literature of Northern Europe. The drama of Norse myth has been reconstructed, so far as possible, in continuous narrative form, with the inclusion of the old Svipdag myth, which exercised so marked an influence on Middle Age romance. We have grouped together the various adventurous journeys made by heroes to Hela, so that our readers may be familiarized with our ancestors' conceptions of the Other World. The prose renderings of heroic narratives include the Beowulf epic, the Balder-Hother romance, the Hamlet legend, the saga of the Volsungs, and the less familiar Dietrich legends, in which the deeds of the primitive Thor are attached to the memory of the Gothic Emperor of Rome.

The folk tales and folk beliefs of Northern Europe have not a few points of contact with those of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Brittany. We have therefore dealt in our Introduction with the archaic giant lore of Scotland, which links with that of Cornwall, and drawn attention to the "Seven Sleepers" legends of the Highlands which have hitherto been overlooked. Some of the striking resemblances must be traced to remoter influences than those prevailing in the Viking Age. Both Celts and Teutons were blends of the same ancient races--the Alpine "broad heads" and the Northern "long heads." They had therefore a common heritage of beliefs. But Teutonic lore is mainly "father-kin" in character, while Celtic is mainly "mother-kin." The deities of the north are controlled by a Great Father and their elves by a King. The deities of the Celts are children of a Great Mother and their fairies are ruled over by a Queen.

In the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, the story regarding Grendel and his mother is of special interest in this connection because it is "mother-kin" lore of Celtic character. The inference is that the poet who gave the epic its final shape in England had a Celtic mother, or at any rate, came under the influence of Celtic ideas. Like Shakespeare, who utilized old plays, he may have re-fashioned an earlier Anglian poem, appropriated its geographical setting and infused the whole with the fire of his genius.

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"Teutonic Myth and Legend" applies to the ancient religious conceptions and traditional tales of the "non-Celtic" northern peoples, whom Continental scholars prefer to call "Germanic" in the widest sense of the term. The myths varied in different districts and at different periods. It is doubtful if there ever was in any particular age complete uniformity of religious belief over a wide area of separated States. In fact, there are indications that sects and creeds were at least as numerous among Teutonic peoples in early times as at the present day. Stories repeated orally were also subject to change; they were influenced by popular taste, and rendered more effective by the introduction of local colouring.

Teutonic Mythology survives in its most concrete form in Scandinavian literature. On that account it has to be considered from the northern point of view, although much of it is clearly not of northern origin. Our principal sources of knowledge of this great Pagan religious system are the two Eddas of Iceland.

These Eddas are collections of mythical and heroic poems and stories. One is called the Elder or Poetic Edda; the other, Snorri's or the Prose Edda. The latter was discovered first; it came into the possession of appreciative scholars in the seventeenth century, by whom it was studied and carefully preserved.

The Prose Edda is a synopsis of Northern Mythology, with poetic quotations from lost poems and references to an earlier work. It was partly written and partly compiled by the great Icelandic scholar, Snorri Sturlason. He was born some time between 1179 and 1181, and was the son of a chief. Adopted by the learned Jon Loptsson, grandson of Saemund the Wise, he passed his early years at Oddi, where his literary tendencies were fostered and cultivated. He married a wealthy heiress, and settled in 1206 at Reykjaholt, where he lived in comparative luxury. Nominally a Christian, he was in reality an educated Pagan. He was a poet and historian, a lawyer and a politician; he combined great ambition with want of courage, and avarice with "aversion from effort"; he was also of loose morals. In 1215 he became President of Iceland, and afterwards resided for a time in Norway, where he was a Court poet. In 1222 he was again President of his native island. He held office for about ten years, and exercised his influence at every opportunity to enrich himself. He obtained a divorce from his wife, after living with her for twenty-five years, and married an heiress. It is not surprising, therefore, to find him involved in serious quarrels with his kinsmen. There were also political complications which had a tragic sequel. He was murdered by his son-in-law in 1241, at the instigation of the King of Norway.

In addition to the Prose Edda, Snorri's works included Heimskringla, or Sagas of Norse Kings, which opens with Ynglinga Saga, and the History of Olaf.

The discovery of Snorri's Edda in the seventeenth century caused a search to be made for the older collection to which it referred. Happily the quest was fruitful, and the lost manuscript came into the hands of an Icelandic bishop, who called it for the first time the "Edda of Saemund".

Saemund was a scion of the royal house of Norway, who was born in 1056 and died in 1133. He studied in France and Germany, and was afterwards parish priest of Oddi in Iceland. According to tradition, he was the author of a prose work on mythology which unfortunately perished. It is probable, however, that Snorri was acquainted with the lost manuscript while resident at Oddi, and he may have used it when compiling the Prose Edda. At any rate, scholars are now agreed that Saemund was neither the author nor compiler of the particular Edda which was long associated with his name.

The Elder Edda is a collection of mythical and heroic poems--lays of the gods and lays of the Volsung and other heroes--by various unknown authors. They are valuable treasures of antiquity, for they throw great light on northern beliefs and manners and customs. Some survive in fragments; others are fairly complete, and are introduced by brief prose summaries. A portion of them were evidently of pre-Christian origin.

As literary productions they are of unequal merit. They are all ear-poems, composed to be sung or recited, and therefore melodious, musically vowelled, and clear, as compared with the eye-poems of many modern authors, which have more harmony than melody, and are composed for the reader. A particular group of these Eddic poems are more dramatic and imaginative than the others, and certain critics are inclined to hold that their high development was caused by Celtic influence. Iceland was peopled not only from Norway, but also from the Hebrides, where the Vikings mingled with the people and married the island maidens. Many settlers were also of mixed Irish descent. Nor was the old English element absent, as certain borrowed words show clearly. But, when these facts are given adequate consideration, it must be borne in mind that literature, and especially poetry, owes usually more to the individual than to the race. If we knew as little of Keats as we do of the author of Beowulf, it might be held that he was a son of Greek parents who settled in England.

The survival of these Pagan Eddic poems in Christian times is suggestive of the slow extinction of old beliefs. Christianity was adopted in Iceland in 1000, a century after it had spread throughout Norway, and two hundred years before the people of Sweden can be said to have abandoned their ancient religion. It must not be inferred, however, that the Icelanders were exemplary Christians in Saemund's day or even in Snorri's. The bulk of them were, no doubt, half-Pagan, like those Ross-shire Highlanders in the vicinity of Loch Maree, who, as late as the seventeenth century, offered up sacrifices of bulls and performed other heathenish rites, to the horror of the Presbytery of Dingwall. The Icelanders must have clung, long after the introduction of Christianity, to the Pagan beliefs and practices of the great sea kings. They continued, we know, to chant the lays and recite the old traditional tales about the gods and ocean heroes of the mother country. The collectors may, indeed, have had more than a literary appreciation of oral song and haunting tradition.

When Snorri was a boy, a Danish priest named Saxo was engaged writing a history of his native land. The first nine books are like the Histories of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, for they are founded on the traditional poems and tales of the time. Saxo Grammaticus ("the Lettered") writes of Odin and the other gods as if they were men, and when he refers to them as "gods" he takes occasion to scorn the hollowness of the claim, rarely failing to comment on the absurdity of the beliefs entertained by ignorant people. His history is a quarry of folklore and romance. To it we owe our Shakespeare's Hamlet, for the story which is retold in these pages from the Danish priest's immortal work, was the original source of our great poet's inspiration.

This "history" is indispensable to students of Scandinavian religion. Rydberg, the poet and folklorist of Sweden, is the author of a monumental work on Teutonic Mythology, 1 in which he made exhaustive and critical examination of the tales embedded in Saxo's works, showing their relation to the Eddas and Sagas and existing oral poems of the north, and making masterly endeavour by their aid to reconstruct the great mythological drama of the northern peoples. He has not escaped criticism, but his reputation has withstood much of it. On every point he has raised he cannot be regarded as conclusive, but no scholar before or since has shown greater aptitude for restoring form from mythological chaos. His intimate knowledge of his native lore gave him special equipment for his work. Not infrequently scholars, by a process of detached reasoning, miss the mark when dealing with folklore, because their early years, unlike Rydberg's, were not passed in its strange atmosphere. The theorist is never as reliable as he who was aforetime a faithful believer in giants and elves, spirit voices and awesome omens.

"No one," wrote Frederick York Powell, 2 "has commented upon Saxo's mythology with such brilliancy, such minute consideration, and such success as the Swedish scholar, Victor Rydberg. . . . Sometimes he stumbles badly, but he has placed the whole subject on a fresh footing, and much that is to follow will be drawn from his Teutonic Mythology."

To Rydberg the writer owns his indebtedness in the present work, a portion of which is constructed according to his conclusions.

Edda is a word of uncertain origin. In a twelfth-century poem it is used to mean "great grandmother", and it is suggested that late sceptical compilers applied it to signify "old wives' tales". The theory has a somewhat modern note, for in legends, especially those of Scotland, the "old wife" is either feared or respected. The Hag, who is the terrible mother of giants, is called Cailleach Mor, "the big old wife", and the wise witch who imparts secrets and powers to men is simply "old wife".

Edda became associated in Iceland with the technical rules of verse. "Never to have seen Edda" signified a complete ignorance of poetic art, so it may be that among a mingled people the "great grandmother" was an imported Muse of a Matriarchal tribe. Saga, we know, was individualized as a maiden, and was wooed by Odin. A recent theory 3 is that Edda is derived from "Oddi", the place where Saemund preached and Snorri studied.

The Eddas are, of course, the collected folk-songs and folk-tales of the northern peoples. In addition we have also available, for purposes of study, other old manuscripts and a considerable mass of valuable lore gleaned in recent years from oral sources, as well as the renowned surviving Sagas and minor poems of the skalds (song-smiths), which abound with mythological references.

Some folk-tales are fragments of forgotten mythologies; others are part of the floating material from which mythologies were made. The two classes should therefore be studied together for purposes of elucidation, while consideration must ever be given to folk-customs which also enshrine ancient religious beliefs. The gods evolved from beliefs, and these loomed vast and vague on man's mental horizon ere they were given definite and symbolic expression. Indeed, detached stories of gods, especially Nature-gods, must have existed for indefinite periods ere they were subjected to a unifying process and embraced in a complete philosophy of life. A Mythology, therefore, must not be regarded as a spontaneous creation of a particular Age, but rather as a growth which had of necessity a history like, for instance, the Art of a finely sculptured stone, or that of the shapely and decorated Celtic bronze shield found embedded in Thames mud.

Matthew Arnold regarded poetry as a "criticism of life". That definition may, in a restricted sense, be applied to a Mythology, especially one of highly developed and complicated construction. We can conclude that it evolved from a school of thought which made critical selection of existing material when the work was undertaken of systematizing religious beliefs to suit the needs of a particular Age. As religion and law had in ancient times most intimate association, an official religion was ever a necessity in a well-organized State, and especially in one composed of mingled peoples. A Mythology, therefore, was probably the product of a national movement, and closely connected with the process of adjusting laws and uniting tribes under a central government. In the union and classification of gods we have suggested the union of peoples and the probable political relations of one tribe with another. No deity could be overlooked, if the interests of all sections were to be embraced, because the destinies of each were controlled by a particular god or group of gods of immemorial import. The gods of subject peoples would, of course, become subject to those of their rulers.

A Mythology was therefore not only a criticism; it was also a compromise. The lesser gods were accepted by those who imposed the greater, and new tales had to be invented to adjust their relationships one to another. Contradictory elements were thus introduced. The gods differed greatly. Some had evolved from natural phenomena; others were deified heroes. A seaside tribe showed reverence to gods which had origin in their own particular experiences and ideals, which differed to a marked degree from those, for instance, of an inland, forest-dwelling people. Settled communities and nomadic peoples professed beliefs in accordance with their particular modes of life. Between the various classes of a single social organization, even, there would exist religious conceptions which were fundamentally opposed. Invaders who formed a military aristocracy would import and perpetuate their own particular beliefs and rites, while those of the conquered people continued as aforetime. Indeed, archæological remains demonstrate to the full that different burial customs were practised simultaneously in the same district, although each had origin in religious conceptions of divergent character. Two examples may be cited--(1) the crouched burial with food vessel, associated with the belief that the spirits of the dead haunted the place of interment and had to be propitiated, and (2) the cremation burial which ensured that the spirit, like that of Patroklos, would never again return from Hades when it had received its meed of fire (Iliad xxiii. 75). In our northern tales there are evidences of various burial customs. Balder is cremated in Asgard, but he is interred in a barrow in the heroic story from Saxo. Beowulf and Sigurd are burned, Helgi is given sepulture in a mound, and Sigmund and his son are enclosed in a chambered grave when buried alive.

But while peoples who were mingled together practised different religious rites, invaders ever showed reverence, as did the Romans, to local gods and local beliefs. In the process of time one section would be influenced by the other. A fusion of religions would result from a fusion of peoples, but every district and every community would not be similarly affected. The clash of ideas would also be productive of speculative thought, and each Age would contribute something new from its accumulated ideas and experiences. Yet in the midst of the mass of floating lore there would ever survive beliefs of remote conception, for a folk-religion is conservative in essence. A people's inherited superstitions are not readily eradicated. The past endures in the present. Even in our own day folk-beliefs and folk-customs of Pagan origin have tardy survival after many long centuries of Christian influence.

When, therefore, the thinkers and teachers of Scandinavia framed their great Mythological system, they had to select and compromise; they were not only critics but diplomatists as well. New tales had to be invented, and old tales adjusted, to instruct and convert and unite all sections. Social relationships were given a religious bearing; the gods of the common people were shown to be subject to those of their rulers. All outstanding popular beliefs had to be accounted for, with the result that heroic tales were mingled with Nature myths, and the whole was infused with ethical and political purpose. The Mythology was thus coloured by the thought of the times and the conditions and character of the people, while it was given, of course, appropriate setting amidst local scenery.

Northern Teutonic Mythology must have had gradual growth. It appears to have attained its highest development in the Viking Age, when a united and masterful people, stirred, no doubt by well-organized political conditions, to a great awakening, spread far and wide to impose their rule and their culture upon alien peoples. When earlier migrations took place, amidst the battle storms of violent tribal fusion, the new religious system was in process of formation. The Angles and Saxons, for instance, were not greatly influenced by the Odin cult when they reached these island shores. Their deified tribal heroes were still predominant. That has been made abundantly clear by Stopford Brooke in his masterly study, History of Early English Literature.

So far as we are able to reconstruct the Mythology--nor can we expect complete agreement among the experts in this regard--it appears to have been highly developed and adjusted to the minutest detail. The official religion, of course, may not have been accepted in its completeness by all classes; sections may have still clung to favoured deities, while they recognized others unknown to their ancestors. Odin, we know, was esteemed more highly by scholarly skalds than by fighting men, who continued to exalt and worship Thor as chief or most influential god, and to repose their trust in the magical influence exercised in battle by the shadowy but ancient war-god Tyr. No doubt the teachers remained the while serenely confident that ultimately the spirit-god would be held in greater regard by thinking men than gods of physical might. But the growth of this great Pagan mythology was arrested by the gradual advance of Christianity, and it is given popular reconstruction in these pages as it possibly existed, especially ill the north, when the influence of the new and greater religion coloured the Balder story, and the idea was interpolated of a greater All-father than Odin. The Saxo stories are drawn upon to fill gaps, although gaps may have ever existed. We may add that we call the Mythology Northern Teutonic in preference to "Germanic", because of its geographical setting, and for the pregnant reason that it has survived mainly in the form given to it by the mingled peoples of the North.

The local character of this particular mythological system is strongly emphasized in "the story of creation". Only a Northern people living in close proximity to Arctic ice-fields could have conceived of a chaos-gulf bounded on the north by a cold and darksome Nifelheim, and on the south by a warm and bright Muspelheim. Life begins to be when and where the ice-blocks are thawed. The gods and their doings are also coloured by their Scandinavian environment. "Light -battles" and fierce Nature-wars are emphasized in a land of pronounced seasonal changes. No matter whence certain deities; were imported, here in the land of long winter nights they are acclimatized and naturalized. They contend against indigenous frost-giants; they fight and then become the allies of indigenous Vana-gods; they visit a sea-folk's terrible storm-god Æger in his hall at the sea bottom; they acquire northern temperaments and become fatalists like all seafarers, ancient and modern.

Teutonic gloom overspreads Teutonic Mythology. Odin and his Asa clan live ever under the shadow of Ragnarok, "The Dusk of the gods". This gloom hangs heavily as northern storm-clouds over early "Teutonic" literature. It haunts the Eddas and Sagas; it permeates Anglo-Saxon poetry. Dr. Clark Hall says of Beowulf, "There is undoubtedly less colour about the second part than the first, and more gloom. The habit of foreboding which is noticeable in Part I is so prominent in Part II as to give a general tone of fatalistic hopelessness to it. Sunshine and shadow no longer alternate shadow is over all." The same comment might be applied with equal force to the Nibelungenlied. Although "gloomy" and "Celtic" have become synonymous terms of late years, yet Celtic (Irish) Mythology and old Gaelic literature both in Scotland and in Ireland strike, in comparison with what is termed Teutonic, a brighter and more cheerful note. It may be that the gloom is aboriginal--pre-Celtic and pre-Teutonic--a shadow of primitive but persistent mental habits.

In Teutonic Mythology, as in Greek, there are evidences of remote race-memories. The Asiatic "broad-heads" who crossed Europe in "waves", which began to arrive in the vast periods of the late Stone Age, must have imported not only new customs and new weapons, but also fragments of immemorial myths. Superstitions survive longer than stone monuments, and they pass through language to language, and from land to land, with the buoyancy of American timber which drifts across the Atlantic to Hebridean shores. An instance may be noted in the northern "Story of Creation". The body of Ymer, the chaos-giant, is cut to pieces; his flesh and bones become soil and rocks; his skull is the sky dome; his progeny is engulfed in his blood, which is the sea. Babylonian tablets relate a similar story. In the beginning Bel-Merodach slew the chaos-giantess Tiawath; he cut up her body, and with one part he framed the earth and with the other the heavens. Her blood was forced to flow southward by a strong north wind--it became the river which filled the sea.

Comparisons may also be drawn between Teutonic and Greek Mythologies. But these will be found to be of slighter character. Those elements, common to both, which are not Asiatic may be of early Mediterranean origin, for as ancient cities lie below ancient cities) so do ancient mythologies rest upon the wrecks of others of still greater antiquity. As Jubainville has shown in Le Cycle Mythologique Irlandais et la Mythologie Celtique, Greek and Celtic are closely related and mainly of common origin. They are children of one mother; but Scandinavian Mythology cannot be regarded as other than a distant relation.

In all three Mythologies there is a central Nature-myth tragedy. In Greek it is the slaying of Night by Dawn. Hermes, surnamed Argeiphontes, in his character as Dawn-god, slays Argus, the many-eyed, who is Night, with a round stone, which is the Sun. In Celtic (Irish) Mythology the Dawn-god, Lugh, kills Balor of the Evil-eye, who is Night, with the same round sun-stone. The myth also applies to the slaying of Winter by Summer and of Evil by Good. The tragedy of Scandinavian Mythology, on the other hand, is the slaying of Day (or Summer) by Night (or Winter). Blind Hoder shoots Balder (in his Edda character as Summer Sun-god) with the wintry mistletoe-arrow. He is prompted by Loke, the Scandinavian Mephistopheles, who plots to hasten the downfall of the gods. Light is thus overcome by Darkness, Summer by Winter, and Good by Evil.

Another broad and fundamental contrast is afforded by the conceptions of Night in the Northern and other European Mythologies. Instead of the tyrannical Balor of Ireland, or the monstrous Argus of Greece, we have the beneficent northern Night-goddess Nat, daughter of Mimer (Wisdom) and sister of Urd (Fate). She brings to mankind refreshment and inspiration. Her lover is Delling, the red elf of dawn, and their son is Dag (Day).

Nat is evidently of eastern origin. In the Rig-veda the goddess of night (dark daughter of day) is, like Nat, both noble of aspect and character; she "increases riches". In the tenth Mandala she is thus addressed:--

Kind goddess, be propitious to thy servants
Who at thy coming straightway seek repose.
. . . . . .
Drive thou away from us, O Night, the wolf,
Drive thou away the thief, and bear us safely
Across thy borders. . . .

In Teutonic Mythology, Evil is not necessarily associated with Darkness. The tempter and plotter is handsome Loke in his character as a fire-god; he is evidently an ally of Surtur, who burns up the world at Ragnarok. Loke is corrupted by the Hag of Ironwood, the "Mother of Evil", whose evil progeny includes the fierce wolves--one of which swallows the moon, while the other devours Odin--the great Midgard Serpent, and the repulsive, torture-loving Hel. Her Babylonian counterpart is Tiawath, among whose offspring are immense serpents, fiery dragons, raging hounds, fish-men, &c. The Northern Hag's husband, Gymer, is keeper of her flock, as is also the husband, Kingu, of Tiawath's.

The World, according to northern belief, is supported by a great tree which is ever green. This conception is not peculiar to Scandinavia, but nowhere else is an ash-tree similarly exalted in dignity. At its roots are three wells, and in one is a gnawing dragon or serpent. The gods dwell under its branches; they sit in judgment upon the dead beneath the ash in the Underworld. It trembles when Ragnarok is at hand; it is the oracle. Evidently the worship of trees and wells was so prevalent in the north, that no more popular idea could be conceived than that of a tree-supported universe. Even in our own day the superstitious reverence shown for "wishing-wells" is not uncommon, and the trees connected with them still flutter with prayer-rags. In Celtic Mythology, Dagda, the oak-god, has for wife Boann, the River Boyne. The well at the river source is one of the many celebrated in dragon-myth story. Finn Magnusen would have us regard "the world-tree" as the symbol of universal nature, but it was more probably a concession to popular belief, and dignified to accord with the general mythological scheme.

Odin would appear to have been originally an isolated tribal god--a deified martial chief, who became associated with a Nature Myth. He is a war-god and a magician; he controls battles and is the inventor of runes; he hangs on the world-ash, which bears one of his names, "Ygg's gallows" (Ygdrasil), as if he were, as he probably was, a king who was sacrificed. Yet his universal character is emphasized by his sky-dome hat and sky cloak flecked with cloud-spots. He is a one-eyed giant, a Cyclops; his lost eye sinks in Mimer's well as the sun sinks in the sea. He is also the wind-god--the Wild Huntsman in the Raging Host. As wind-god he is the "spirit-god" in accordance with the widespread association of "wind" and "breath" and "soul" (spirit, for in stance, is derived from spiro, I breathe). He gives "soul" to the logs of ash and alder which become the first man and the first woman. He is All-father, the framer of the world. Odin was probably exalted, because he was the spirit-god, by the wise men of Scandinavia, and made chief ruler in their Asgard, but his connection with the other gods is slight and arbitrary. Thor, his son, was originally an oak-god, and, like Jupiter, is wielder of the thunderbolt. It is, however, in keeping with the sublime character of Northern Teutonic Mythology that the "spirit-god" should be supreme, and the constant friend of his kinsman Mimer (Wisdom), whose daughter is Urd (Fate).

The giant stories were constructed on a lower plane of thought. A single exception is Thor's adventure in the palace of Utgard-Loki, where he wrestles in vain with the Hag, who is Old Age, and endeavours to drink up the ocean. The mythical interpretations of the others cannot be pressed too closely, lest more be read into them than was ever intended. It is evident that the reciter's imagination was allowed to run riot, and that the narratives assumed their extended form as popular wonder-tales.

When the tribal heroes of northern peoples were glorified by story-tellers, they were invariably depicted as giant-killers. In the half-mythical history of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Corineus contended successfully against the giants of Cornwall--he slew them in dozens--and after wrestling with the greatest, Goemagot, he cast him over a cliff. Siegfried, in the Nibelungenlied, and Dietrich, in his Thunor (Thor) character, are also slayers of giants. In Highland giant-lore there are several similar heroes who, like Thor, are friends of the agricultural people. The hunting-folks had their own hunting-giants, like the Highland Finn and his warrior band, who are not militiamen as in Ireland.

It has been remarked that the Northern Teutonic frost-giants are indigenous. But there is another class of giants who are as widely scattered as the drinking-cup urns of the ancient and mysterious people that settled in the fertile districts of these islands and of Scandinavia, and have been traced through mid-Europe. These are the Mountain -giants. In the neglected archaic lore of Scotland they are called Fomors 4, but they are not the Fomors of Ireland, nor have they a necessary connection with the sea or with darkness. As river-goddesses in flight are personifications of rivers, so do these Fomors personify the hills they inhabit. Scottish mountain-giants never leave their mountains. They fight continuously one against the other, tossing boulders over wide valleys or arms of the sea. To each is allowed one throw daily: A flings his boulder against B on Monday; B retaliates on Tuesday, and so on. The Holmgang duel would therefore appear to be of hallowed antiquity. These giants sleep at night and share men's terrors in darkness. Three friendly Inverness giants throw from one to the other, each morning, a stone hammer to signify that all is well. Greater than the males are their mothers, the Hags 5, who also fight with boulders, but have power to change their shapes. There are also Thunder-cloud hags who throw fireballs, tempest-hags, firebrand-hags, sea-hags, &c. They invariably wrestle with human beings like the giants of Cornwall.

Another class of Scottish giants inhabit caves, and some of them are many-headed. They hoard and guard treasure. Heroes who fight against them are invariably assisted by dogs (dogs "which have their day"), and they are instructed by indispensable wise women 6 who possess magic wands. What appears to be the oldest Thor story belongs to this class. When Thor sets out to visit Geirrod he has neither hammer nor belt of strength. The Hag Grid, like the Scottish "wise-woman", warns and instructs him, and gives him her belt and magic wand. In this story Thor flings a boulder and breaks the back of a giantess. He may have wielded thunder-boulders ere his iron hammer was invented.

Scottish giants, therefore, are more like the Scandinavian than the Irish variety. If it is held that they were imported by the Vikings, it might be asked why Thor was forgotten, and why the Asa-gods and the Vans were left behind? If they are classed as Irish, it should be noted that the Danann gods, who overcame the Fomors in Erin, are not found in Scotland. Call it be maintained that the Irish brought over their "gods of Night" and left behind their "gods of Day"? In Wales and Cornwall there are also giants of the Scottish type. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in fact, tells us that giants were the sole inhabitants of ancient Britain when Brute and the first men arrived.

Beyond the realms of Gaul, beneath the sunset
Lieth an island, girt about by ocean,
Guarded by ocean--erst the haunt of giants. 7
S. Evans's Trans.

It would appear that archaic giant-lore is pre-Celtic and pre-Teutonic, and therefore a common inheritance. In the wars of the Olympians and Titans, of the Irish Danann gods and the Fomors, and of the Asa-gods and the Jotuns, we may have echoes of ancient racial conflicts. The old tribal peoples attributed their successes to their gods, and remembered their battles as the battles of rival gods. For these giants are also gods of archaic conception. In Scotland certain of them are associated with the fortunes of families and tribes. On the other hand, gods are but exalted giants; the boisterous Olympians find their counterpart in the boisterous Scandinavian Jotuns rather than in the more refined Asa-gods and Vans.

With these giants are associated the elves. In Teutonic lore, which is not necessarily wholly of Teutonic origin, the male elves predominate. In Scotland, as in Greece, elves are mainly females, who are ruled over by a queen. There are also Scottish fairy-smiths, but they are one-eyed and Cyclopean, and not always distinguishable from giants. In fact, the Fian-giants are confused with fairies in ail Inverness mound, and Thomas the Rhymer is added in the character of one of the "Seven Sleepers". Danann gods and fairies are similarly mingled in Ireland. It should be noted in this connection that Teutonic elf-smiths are allies of the giants, and they are sometimes stronger than them. When Siegfried overcame the giant doorkeeper of Nibelung, he found that the dwarf was a still more powerful opponent. Thor is friendly with the elves, but Svipdag, son of Egil, the elf, destroys the thunder-god's hammer with the "Sword of Victory".

The other class of elves--the "Light-elves"--are vaguely defined in Northern Teutonic Mythology. Frey was their ruler in his youth, which suggests that he is himself an elf exalted to a god. The wise Vans are also elfin in character, and were probably the spirit-folk of ail early seafaring people. The story of the unhappy marriage of Njord and Skade may contain a germ of historic fact-the uncongenial association of a tribe of seafarers with a tribe of huntsmen.

The female elves of the commoner type become valkyries; they are also swan-maidens who have tragic liaisons with mankind. Brynhild is a swan-maiden and a valkyrie; she is also in the Nibelungenlied a boulder throwing hag. The Balder story, regarding which much has been written, is not, therefore, the only one that underwent radical changes in the process of Mythology-making. According to Professor Frazer in the Golden Bough, Balder was originally a tree-god whose soul was in the mistletoe. The theory is as weighty as is the reputation of that Darwin of folklore.

But perhaps the most interesting class of elves are the sons of Ivalde--Volund and his brothers. They display the attributes now of dwarfs, now of giants, and anon of star deities. It would appear that they absorbed more than one ancient personality in an older Mythology than that in which the Odin cult predominates. Rydberg shows that Volund (Wieland) and the giant Thjasse are indistinguishable. A close study of northern folklore supports that view, and an intimate acquaintance with the mental habits of fairy-and-giant-believing people assists one to appreciate it fully. Thjasse is the only giant who is winged like Volund, as Loke and Freyja are the only members of the Asa-clan who can assume bird guise. Thjasse and Volund are also symbolized as mountain wolves; they are both star deities; they are more like one another than the two Balders, and appear to be products of the same ancient welded lore of an earlier mythological system.

In the Northern "Story of Creation" these elves, or black dwarfs, are, it is evident, intentionally belittled. They have their origin, like maggots, in Ymer's flesh. Yet they provide the gods with indispensable gifts--Odin with his spear, Thor with his hammer, and Frey with his boar and wondrous ship. In Thjasse's flight to Asgard we may have a story invented purposely to account for his fall, because, like Odin, he is a spirit-god. His other names, Byrr and Gustr, signify wind and gale. It is not possible now to reconstruct what appears to be a pre-Odin-cult Mythology, in which Ivalde and his sons predominate. The "Milky Way" is "Irmin's Way", and Irmin, invoked by old Hildebrand in the Dietrich story, is "the ruling god It is also Bil's way (Bil is Ivalde's daughter), and as "Bil-rost", according to Rydberg, is the original of Bif-rost. The Anglo-Saxons called the "Milky Way" "Watling Street". 8

Volund's brother Egil, the archer, is associated with the clouds and the sea. Sleet and rain are his arrows; his arrows are also "herrings that leap from the hands of Egil", and herrings are "arrows of the sea". 9 Egil's son, the Iceland Hamlet, is the guardian of the World-Mill; his son Svipdag, with shining sword, resembles a light-hero.

In the older moon-myth Gevar, the Gewar of the Hother-Balder story, is the ward of the moon-ship, and it is attacked and burned by Ivalde. The myth is obscure but suggestive; it survives in fragments only. The swan-maids are wooed by Ivalde's three sons, and Ivalde and Gevar have quarrelled violently as rival lovers.

This group are hunters, skee-runners, and musicians. They are also connected with an early form of the Balder story. Svipdag, as Hotherus, is the wooer of Gevar's daughter Nanna, and Balder, his rival, falls a victim to his "magic sword" in the heroic story in Saxo. If Balder, as a tree-god, was associated with the tree-well, he may have wooed Nanna of the moon by reflecting her image. In this connection it may be noted that wells sprang up in the hoof marks of Balder's horse, and in Saxo's story he provides wells for his thirsting soldiers. His rival would thus be the light-hero Svipdag, with his shining summer sword, which was concealed for a season in the Underworld cave where lie the Seasonal "Seven Sleepers". In Northern Teutonic Mythology the popular Balder becomes the Summer Sun-god. instead of Svipdag, and the only husband of Nanna. If the original story was thus transformed by displacing or changing a hero, the process is a familiar one. The shadowy Hoder may be the original rival lover altered to fit into the new mythological system.

It is to this group of ancient tales of rival lovers and swan-maids and moon-maids that we owe the treasures of Middle Age popular romance. The Volsunga-saga and the Nibelungenlied and the Balder heroic story were developed from what Rydberg calls the "Ivalde myth". Svipdag, too, is the original of Siegfried and Sigurd. In his character as a wronged son he suggests Hamlet and Finn-mac-Coul. The latter has a hammer (Ord na Feinne) which links him with Thor, as Thor links with the other giant-killers-Sigurd, Siegfried, and Dietrich. A tribal hero invariably absorbs the attributes of his predecessors, and develops and changes to suit the tastes of audiences and minstrels in various ages and in various countries. In Scandinavia, when the Asa-gods were threatened by the advance of Christianity, Svipdag, as Eric, was exalted as a rival to Christ, and suffered the fate of being associated with the Devil, who was afterwards called "old Erik". Odin was similarly treated; as Nik he became "the old Nick" of Perdition. Finn-mac-Coul was also pictured by early Christian missionaries as an inhabitant of "the lower regions."

The Beowulf story is an interesting link between the heroic lore of the northern Continental peoples and that of the early Britons. Beowulf, like Dietrich, may have been a historical personage, but in the poem he is a hero of the Svipdag order, yet not necessarily a "light-hero". He slays the warrior-devouring Grendel. Dietrich, in one of the poems of his cycle, also rids the neighbourhood of Attila's court of a man-eating monster. In the next part of Beowulf, which is evidently an addition, whether by the same author or another it matters not here, the hero slays Grendel's mother. Although the poet suggests that she is less formidable than her son, she proves to be a more ferocious opponent. Only by the familiar "magic sword" can she be slain. In this respect she resembles Hilde, the wife of Grim, in the Dietrich story; but she bears a closer resemblance to the British Hag, the mother of the giants. Finn-mac-Coul, when in "The Kingdom of Big Men," had similarly, after slaying sea-giants, to contend against the terrible Sea-Hag-mother. There are several similar stories in Highland giant-lore, and no doubt they were prevalent at one time throughout Britain, especially among members or descendants of the Matriarchal tribes referred to by Cæsar.

Stopford Brooke, in his History of Early English Literature, "wonders if the Grendel tale may not be a Celtic story which in very ancient times became Teutonic," and quotes the close Icelandic parallel, the Glam story. "It is a curious question," he says, "how it came to pass that the story of Beowulf and Grendel did not, like the other Sagas of the north, become a part of the north German cycle of romance. . . . I have sometimes thought that the Angles alone threw the myths and tales of it into lays, and that when the whole body of them emigrated to our island, they left the Continent naked of the tale. . . . I conjecture that something broke the literary connection on the Continent, or that the story was developed only when the Angles got into Britain." The latter supposition, considered in the light of existing Scottish giant-lore, which was evidently at one time general in ancient Britain, is the more convincing of the two. The theory of a complete and wholesale Anglian migration is as improbable as the theory of a complete and wholesale extermination of the early Britons, which, although still surviving, has really no reliable basis. Dr. Clark Hall, the scholarly translator and editor of Beowulf, accepts the hero as "a thoroughly historical character". So was Dietrich as the Emperor Theodoric. But while, like Stopford Brooke and other rationalistic critics, he dismisses the solar-myth theory, he errs, we think, in the opposite direction. He says: "Is it not possible that besides performing many heroic deeds in war against ordinary mortals, our hero (Beowulf) had two or three mysterious encounters with wild beasts, which grew into our Grendel and dragon stories by the process of exaggeration. . . . I have myself heard, in the nineteenth century, from the lips of an ancient mariner, a passably truthful and not very imaginative man, an amazing yarn about a sea serpent which I have no doubt had some foundation in fact." 10

To the audiences who heard the Beowulf poem sung, Grendel was as real as the hero; and no doubt there were, in those ancient days, many similar tales which perished because no great poet enshrined them in enduring verse.

It is believed by scholars that Beowulf was composed in the early part of the eighth century. Whether it was the work of one man or of several is a disputed point. There appears, however, to be general agreement that it is of Pagan origin, and that the Christian references are interpolations. The only surviving manuscript, which is in the handwriting of two copyists, is preserved in the British Museum. "There are clear indications," says Dr. Clark Hall, "that the poem was originally composed in the Anglian (probably Mercian) dialect, but it has come down to us in West Saxon, with some Kentish forms, in the part copied by the second scribe."

Scattered through the poem are older stories told by the minstrels, including the myths of Scyld and Hermod and the ancient Sigmund story, which found its highest artistic development in the Volsunga-saga and Nibelungenlied. Reference has already been made to the theory that certain lays of the Elder Edda show traces of British influence. Those students who desire to have fuller knowledge of the literature, mythology, and history of our mingled ancestors may examine with profit the conjectures of the various scholars, including Schwartz, Frazer, Bugge, Stopford Brooke, York Powell, Vigfusson, and others.

The Nibelungenlied, or "Lay of the Nibelung", dates in its united form from the latter part of the twelfth century, and is supposed to be, as a poem, of Austrian or Tyrolese origin; but on this point there is no generally accepted opinion. The versification is in Middle High German. There is a large number of existing old manuscripts. The three most important were made by copyists in the thirteenth century. When the oldest of these was discovered in 1755, it was published by a Swiss scholar. Other manuscripts were subsequently brought to light, but the first complete published edition did not attract much attention. In fact, Frederick the Great, to whom it was dedicated, refused to have it in his library, and said it was hardly worth a charge of powder. To-day it is the pride of the Fatherland.

It is evident that the Sigurd and Siegfried stories had a common origin in an ancient nature myth of which the Svipdag legend is an early form. The stories developed as popular stories; their mythological significance was forgotten, and, in course of time, historical personages were identified with certain of the characters. Other legends, like those of Helgi in the Norse version, and of Dietrich in the German, were also attached to the original plot. Both great Sagas were coloured by the civilizations in which they developed.

How floating myths and legends gathered round the memory of a popular hero is clearly shown in the lays of the Dietrich cycle. Dietrich Von Bern is Theoderic the Great. 11 Although he was born two years after the death of Attila, Emperor of the Huns, he is found at his Court in the Nibelungenlied. Ermenerich (Hermanric) was Emperor of the Ostrogoths, and, when an old man, his dominions were overrun by fiery and savage Huns from Asia. He is believed to have died on the battlefield, where his power was shattered (about 374 A.D.). The Ostrogoths were subject to the Huns until Attila's death in 453 A.D. King Walamer defeated them in a great battle in 454 A.D., and once again the Ostrogoths were made independent. The king's two brothers were Theudemir, father of Theoderic (Dietrich) and Widemer, and they were subsidized from Rome for protecting the frontiers of the Eastern Empire. When payment was suddenly discontinued, Illyria was successfully invaded by Widemer, with the result that the treat), was renewed. Theoderic was taken as a peace hostage to Constantinople, where he resided for ten years and received a Roman education. Theudemir succeeded his brother, and when he died, Theoderic ruled the wandering Ostrogoths.

In 480 A.D. Odoacer, a German captain of mercenaries, deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last of the Western Emperors, who was but a boy of seventeen. Eight years later Zeno, the Eastern Emperor, commissioned Theoderic to invade Italy. Odoacer was overthrown, and our Dietrich of the legends became a great and powerful king in Rome, owing nominal allegiance to the Eastern Emperor. He died in 526, and was buried in a great marble tomb at Ravenna. A fine statue of him, clad in full armour, may be seen in the church of the Franciscans at Innsbruck.

In the Dietrich story Ermenerich is confused with Odoacer, and the hero is depicted as an exile, and thus identified with his father. A mass of floating legends attached to the memory of Dietrich, including the Hildebrand story, which originated in the ancient and world-wide father-and-son conflict theme, and the myths of Thunor (Thor) the thunder-god, the slayer of giants and dwarfs. But even Thor has his human side. He may have been originally a tribal hero who was identified both with an oak-deity and the central figure of a Nature-myth. 12 He remains "the friend of man" even when elevated to Asgard. All the heroes of the minstrels of Europe link one with another as the fictional descendants of an ancient deified personage, or a humanized deity, of a remoter and simpler mythology than that in which Odin is the chief ruler.

One of the most interesting problems associated with Teutonic Mythology refers to the story of the "Seven Sleepers". Mimer's seven sons lie in magic sleep in the Underworld, awaiting the blast of the horn at Ragnarok. This horn hangs in a cave. Thorkill, who visited Geirrod's domains with King Gorm and his company, saw the suspended horn which turned into a dragon when a man seized it greedily.

Rydberg argued that the various "Seven Sleepers" legends in Europe and North Africa originated in Scandinavia, and were distributed by the northern warriors who overran Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. His main argument rests on one very remarkable coincidence. The "Seven Sleepers" of Ephesus were Christians who were condemned to death by the Emperor Decius. They were given time to renounce their faith, but concealed themselves in a cave, where they lay wrapped in sleep "for 360 years". 13 During the reign of Theodosius, the Roman Emperor, a shepherd entered the cave, and the sleepers were awakened. Rydberg notes that Decius fell in battle with the Goths "who a few years later invaded Asia Minor and captured Ephesus among other places".

Seven men, who were attired like Romans, lay asleep in a cave in Western Germany. An eighth-century legend relates that a man who discovered them attempted to disrobe one, and his arm withered. In the vicinity dwelt a tribe of Skritobians (Skridfinns).

In Arabia a dog lies with "the sleepers". Mahomet made them foretell his coming, and the dog, named Kratim, is one of the ten animals which will enter Paradise.

If the legend originated in Scandinavia, it is a curious fact that this dog should be found also in the Highland stories, with which Rydberg and others who have dealt with the legend were unfortunately unacquainted. The sleepers are found in Craig-a-howe, Black Isle; Ossian's Cave, Glencoe; and Smith's Rock, in Skye. In each case they are Fians (Fingalians), and beside Finn-mac-Coul lies his dog Bran. 14 In Tomnahurich, Inverness, the chief steeper is Thomas the Rhymer, who also reposes under the Eildon hills.

In the Scottish caves a horn hangs from the roof When it is blown three times, the sleepers will issue forth. A shepherd found the cave (it is always a shepherd) and blew two blasts on the horn. But he was so terrified by the ferocious appearance of the warriors and by a voice which cried, "If the horn is blown once again the world will be upset altogether", that he fled, leaving the warriors resting on their elbows. The Fians cried, "Alas! you have left us worse than you found us". The shepherd locked the door and threw the key into the sea. At Inverness there is a Gaelic saying, "When the horn is blown, True Thomas shall come forth".

If this Highland story was imported by the Norsemen, why should the Arabian dog be a "sleeper" also? It is possible that in Arabia and in the Highlands the tale is found in its most archaic form, and that it is part of the floating material from which Teutonic Mythology was constructed. 15

What appears to be a very old version of the legend is found in South Uist. It was taken down from a minister thirty years ago by an Inspector of Schools, who related it to the writer as follows:--

The Fians (Féinne) were lying in a cave, each resting on his elbow, chin upon hand, self-absorbed, not asleep.

They heard the falling waters, and the storms went over them unheeded. . . . Thousands of years went past.

They were still resting there, musing, when one of them moved his elbow and said:--

"Och! och! 's mi tha sgith." (Och! och! it's me that's tired.)

Thousands of years went past. . . . They heard the falling waters, and the storms went over them unheeded.

Then a great Fian said sharply, "Mur a' sguir sibh dhe 'n chonnspoid seo, theid mi mach 's fagaidh mi an uaimh agaibh fhein." (If you do not stop this wrangling I'll go out, and leave the cave to yourselves.)

Thousands of years went past. . . . They heard the falling waters, and the storms went over them unheeded.

In various legends the movements of the "sleepers" (who do not sleep in Uist) were associated with sorrow and disaster or seasonal changes. Edward the Confessor had a vision, while sitting at a banquet in his palace at Westminster, in which he saw the Ephesian sleepers turning round. A messenger was sent to Ephesus, and it was found that they had turned from their right sides to their left. This was taken as a sign of approaching disaster, and was, in fact, associated with the miseries that Christendom endured from the Saracens. The seasonal reference survives in the St. Swithin's day belief.

Various heroes lie asleep, including Charlemagne, Frederick of Barbarossa, William Tell in Switzerland, Brian Boroimhe in Ireland, and Arthur in Wales. The warning that when the sleepers leave the cave "the world will be upset" was transformed into the popular belief that certain heroes would issue forth in the hour of their country's direst need. The French peasants believed in the coming of Napoleon, as the Swiss did in the return of William Tell. During the Russo-Japanese war the peasantry of Russia were confident that General Skobeleff would hasten to Manchuria to lead the armies to victory. To this day there are many Highlanders who remain convinced that General Sir Hector Macdonald is not dead, but is waiting his hour of return. A similar belief attached to James IV, who fell at Flodden. So do "immemorial modes of thought" survive in the twentieth century from, perhaps, that remote Stone Age period when the fair-haired and blue-eyed "long-heads" spread from North Africa over the undivided lands of ancient Europe to mingle with earlier inhabitants and later "broad-heads" from Asia.

1 An English translation by R. B. Anderson was published in London in 1889, but is out of print.

2 Introduction to English translation of Saxo Grammaticus.--Nutt.

3 Eirikr Magnusson's.

4 In Scottish Gaelic, Fomhair and Famhair, pronounced "foo-ar" and "faa-har". The Fomorib (men of the sea) theory has long been abandoned by Prof. Rhys.

5 In Gaelic, Cailleach Mor.

6 In pre-Christian times witches were the friends of man, and helped him to combat against hags and giants.

7 In Old English the giants are "eotens".

8 In Ireland the "Milky Way" is "Lugh's chain". Lugh is the dawn-god, and grandson of the night-god.

9 Saga Library, Morris and Magnusson, Vol. I, 339.

10 Beowulf, Clark Hall, Introduction, lix-lx.

11 Dietrich is the High German equivalent of Theoderic. Bern is Verona.

12 The western Hittites had a storm-god, named Tarku, at the head of their pantheon. The eastern Hittites called him Teshup. This god is a warrior who holds in one hand a hammer, and in the other three wriggling flashes of lightning. The hammer is the symbol of fertility. Thor brings his goats back to life by waving his hammer over them.

13 This calculation is according to the legends.

14 See Finn and His Warrior Band.

15 The dog also figures in a "Seven Sleepers" legend in North Afghanistan.

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Story of Creation

The Beginning--Ginnunga-gap--All-father--Nifel-heim and Muspel-heim--How Life began--Ymer, the Clay Giant--Audhumla, the Cow--Vana-gods, Giants, and Asa-gods--War in Space--Ymer--deluge.--The Great World-mill--How the Earth was made--Moon-god and Sun-goddess--Hyuki and Bil--The Pail of Song Mead--Wolf Giants pursue Sun and Moon--Mimer and Nat, "Mother of Gods"--The Day-god--The Eagle of Winds--First Man and Woman.

IN the Ages, when naught else was, there yawned in space a vast and empty gulf called Ginnunga-gap. Length it had, and breadth immeasurable, and there was depth beyond comprehension. No shore was there, nor cooling wave; for there was yet no sea, and the earth was not made nor the heavens above.

There in the gulf was the beginning of things. There time first dawned. And in the perpetual twilight was All-father, who governs every realm and sways all things both great and small.

First of all there was formed, northward of the gulf, Nifel-heim, the immense home of misty darkness and freezing cold, and to the south, Muspel-heim, the luminous home of warmth and of light.

In the midst of Nifel-heim burst forth the great fountain from whence all waters flow, and to which all waters return. It is named Hvergelmer, "the roaring cauldron", and from it surged, at the beginning, twelve tremendous rivers called Elivagar, that washed southward towards the gulf. A vast distance they traversed from their source, and then the venom that was swept with them began to harden, as does dross pouring from a surface, until they congealed and became ice. Whereupon the rivers grew silent and ceased to move, and gigantic blocks of ice stood still. Vapour arose from the ice-venom and was frozen to rime; layer upon layer heaped up in fantastic forms one above another.

That part of the gulf which lay northward was a region of horror and of strife. Heavy masses of black vapour enveloped the ice, and within were screaming whirlwinds that never ceased, and dismal banks of fleeting mist. But southward, Muspel-heim glowed with intense radiance, and sprayed forth beauteous flakes and sparks of shining fire. The intervening space between the region of tempest and gloom and the region of warmth and light was a peaceful twilight, serene and still as is windless air.

Now when the sparks from Muspel-heim fell through the frozen vapour, and the heat was sent thither by the might of the All-father, drops of moisture began to fall from the ice. It was then and there that life began to be. The drops were quickened and a formless mass took human shape. Thus came into being the great lumbering clay-giant who was named Ymer.

Rough and ungainly was Ymer, and as he stretched himself and began to move about he was tortured by the pangs of immense hunger. So he went forth ravenously to search for food; but there was yet no substance of which he could partake. The whirlwinds went past him and over, and the dark mists enveloped him like a shroud.

More drops fell through the gloomy vapours, and next there was formed a gigantic cow, which was named Audhumla, "void darkness". Ymer beheld it standing in the gloom beside blocks of ice, and groped weakly towards it. Wondering, he found that milk ran from its teats in four white streams, and greedily he drank and drank until he was filled with the seeds of life and was satisfied.

Then a great heaviness came over Ymer, and he lay down and fell into deep and dreamless slumber. Warmth and strength possessed him, and sweat gathered in the pit of his left arm, from which, by the might of All-father, were formed a son named Mimer and a daughter named Bestla. From Mimer were descended the Vana-gods. Under the feet of Ymer arose a monstrous six-headed son, who was the ancestor of the evil frost giants, the dreaded Hrimthursar. Then Ymer awoke.

For Audhumla, the great cow, there was no verdure upon which to feed. She stood on the verge of gloom, and found sustenance by licking constantly the huge boulders that were encrusted by salt and rime. For the space of a day she fed in this manner, until the hair of a great head appeared. On the second day the cow returned to the boulder, and ere she had ceased to lick, a head of human semblance was laid bare. On the third day a noble form leapt forth. He was endowed with great beauty, and was nimble and powerful. The name he received was Bure, and he was the first of the Asa-gods.

There followed in time more beings--noble giants and wicked giants, and gods. Mimer, who is Mind and Memory, had daughters, the chief of whom was Urd, Goddess of Fate and Queen of Life and Death. Bure had a son named Bor, who took for his wife Bestla, the sister of wise Mimer. Three sons were born to them, and the first was called Odin (spirit), the second Ve whose other name is Honer, and the third Vile, whose other names are Lodur and Loke. Odin became the chief ruler of the Asa-gods, and Honer was chief of the Vans until Loke, the usurper, became their ruler.

Now Ymer and his evil sons were moved with wrath and enmity against the family of gods, and soon warfare broke out between them. To neither side was there early victory, and the fierce conflicts were waged through the long ages ere yet the earth was formed. But, at length, the sons of Bor prevailed over their enemies and drove them back. In time there followed great slaughter, which diminished the army of evil giants until one alone remained.

It was thus that the gods achieved their triumph. Ymer was stricken down, and the victors leapt upon him and then slit open the bulging veins of his neck. A great deluge of blood gushed forth, and the whole race of giants was drowned save Bergelmer, "The Mountain-old", who with his wife took refuge on the timbers of the great World-mill, and remained there. From these are descended the Jotuns, who for ever harboured enmity against the gods.

The great World-mill of the gods was under care of Mundilfore (Lodur-Loke). Nine giant maids turned it with much violence, and the grinding of the stones made such fearsome clamour that the loudest tempests could not be heard. The great mill is larger than is the whole world, for out of it the mould of earth was ground.

When Ymer was dead, the gods took counsel among themselves, and set forth to frame the world. They laid the body of the clay-giant on the mill, and the maids ground it. The stones were smeared with blood, and the dark flesh came out as mould. Thus was earth produced, and the gods shaped it to their desire. From Ymer's bones were made the rocks and the mountains; his teeth and jaws were broken asunder, and as they went round at their labour the giant maids flung the fragments hither and thither, and these are the pebbles and boulders. The ice-cold blood of the giant became the waters of the vast engulfing sea.

Nor did the giant maids cease their labours when the body of Ymer was completely ground, and the earth was framed and set in order by the gods. The body of giant after giant was laid upon the mill, which stands beneath the floor of Ocean, and the flesh-grist is the sand which is ever washed up round the shores of the world. Where the waters are sucked through the whirling eye of the millstone is a fearsome maelstrom, and the sea ebbs and flows as it is drawn down to Hvergelmer, "the roaring cauldron", in Nifel-heim and thrown forth again. The very heavens are made to swing by the great World-mill, round Veraldar Nagli, "the world spike", which is the Polar Star.

Now when the gods had shaped the earth they set Ymer's skull over it to be the heavens. At each of the four corners they put as sentinels the strong dwarfs East and West and North and South. The skull of Ymer rests upon their broad shoulders.

As yet the sun knew not her home, nor the moon her power, and the stars had no fixed dwelling place.

Now the stars are bright fire-sparks sprayed from Muspel-heim over the great gulf, and these the gods fixed in the heavens to give light to the world and to shine over the sea. To these and to every wandering fire-flake they assigned due order and motion, so that each has its set place and time and season.

The sun and the moon were also regulated in their courses, for these are the greater fire-disks that were sprayed from Muspel-heim, and to bear them over the paths of the heavens the gods caused the elf-smiths, the sons of Ivalde and the kinsmen of Sindre, to fashion chariots of fine gold.

Mundilfore, who has care of the World-mill, aspired to rival Odin. He had two beautiful children, and one he called Mani (moon), and the other Sol (sun). The gods were filled with anger because of Mundilfore's presumption, and to punish him they took from him his two children, of whom he was exceedingly boastful, to drive the heavenly chariots and count the Years for men. Fair Sol they set to drive the sun-chariot. Her steeds are Arvak, which is "Early Dawn", and Alsvid, which signifies "scorching heat". Under their withers were placed skins of ice-chilled air for coolness and refreshment. They enter the eastern heaven at Hela-gate, through which the souls of dead men pass to the world beneath.

Then the gods set Mani, the handsome youth, to drive the chariot of the moon. With him are two fair children whom he carried away from earth--a boy who was called Hyuki, and a girl whose name is Bil. 1 They had been sent out in the darkness of night by Vidfinner, their father, to draw song-mead from the mountain spring Byrger, "the hidden", which broke forth from the source of Mimer's fount; and they filled their pail Saegr to the brink, so that the precious mead spilled over as they raised it on the pole Simul. When they began to descend the mountain, Mani seized them and took them away. The spots that are ever seen by night on the fair-faced moon are Hyuki and Bil, and beauteous Bil do skalds invoke, so that hearing them she may sprinkle from the moon the magic song-mead upon their lips.

In Mani's keeping is a bundle of thorns from which evildoers among met, must needs suffer the punishment of piercing pains.

The sun is ever in flight, and so also is the moon. They are pursued by bloodthirsty enemies, who seek to compass their destruction ere they reach the sheltering forest of the Varns, behind the western horizon. These are two fierce and gigantic wolves. The one whose name is Skoll, "the adherer", chases the sun, whom one day it will devour; the other is Hati, "the hater", who races in front of "the bright maiden of heaven", in ceaseless pursuit of the moon.

Skoll and Hati are giants in wolf-guise. They were sent forth by the Mother of Evil, the dark and fearsome Hag, Gulveig-Hoder, whose children they are. She dwells in the Iarnvid, the black forest of iron trees, on the world's edge, which is the habitation of a witch family dreaded both by gods and by men. Of the Hag's wolf-sons the most terrible is Hati, who is also called Managarm, "the moon devourer". He feeds on the blood of dying men. The seers have foretold that when he comes to swallow the moon, the heavens and the earth shall turn red with blood. Then, too, must the seats of the mighty gods be reddened with gore, and the sunshine of summer made dim, while great storms burst in fury to rage across the world.

Again and again, at dreaded eclipse, would these giant wolves have swallowed now the sun and now the moon, had not their evil designs been thwarted by spells which were wrought against them, and the clamour of affrighted men.

Now Nat, which is Night, is the swarthy daughter of the Vana-giant Narve, "the Binder", whose other name is Mimer. Dark is her hair like all her race, and her eyes are soft and benevolent. She brings rest to the toiler, and refreshment to the weary, and sleep and dreams unto all. To the warrior she gives strength so that he may win victory, and care and sorrow she loves to take away. Nat is the beneficent mother of gods. Three times was she wed. Her first husband was Nagelfare of the stars, and their son was Aud of bounteous riches. Her second husband was Annar, "Water", and their daughter, Jörd, the earth-goddess, was Odin's wife and the mother of Thor. Her third husband was Delling, the red elf of dawn, and their son was Dagr, which is Day.

To mother Nat and her son Dagr were given jewelled chariots to drive across the world, one after the other, in the space of twelve hours. Nat is first to set forth. Her steed is called Hrim Faxi, "frosted mane". Swiftly it gallops over the heavens, and every morn the sweet foam from its bit falls as dewdrops upon the earth beneath. Dagr's fair steed is called Skin Faxi, "shining mane". From its golden neck is shed radiance and beauty upon the heavens and over all the world. Of all coursers that are, he is praised most by faring men.

There are two seasons, and these are Winter and Summer. Vindsval, son of gloomy Vasud, "the ice wind", was father of grim Winter, and the mild and beneficent Svasud was the sire of fair Summer, beloved by all.


The wonder of men is whence comes the wind that shakes the ocean with fear, that fans the low spark into bright flame, and that no eye can behold. At the northern summit of heaven there sits in eagle-guise a great giant called Hraesvelgur, "the swallower of dead men's flesh". When his wide pinions are spread for flight the winds are stirred beneath them and rush down upon the earth. When coming or going, or travelling hither and thither across the heavens, the winds are driven from his wings.

As yet there were no men who had their dwelling upon the earth, although the sun and moon were set in their courses, and the days and seasons were marked out in due order. There came a time, however, when the sons of Bor were walking on the world's shores, and they beheld two logs of wood. They were grown from Ymer's hair, which sprang up as thick forests and verdure abundant from the mould of his -body, which is the earth. One log was of an ash tree, and from it the gods shaped a man; and the other, which was an alder tree, they made into a fair woman. They had but life like a tree which grows until the gods gave them mind and will and desire. Then was the man named Ask and the woman Embla, and from them are descended the entire human race, whose habitation is called Midgard, "middle ward", and Mana-heim, "home of men".

Round Midgard is the embracing sea, and beyond, on the outward shores, is Jotun-heim, the home of giants. Against these the gods raised an ice bulwark shaped from the eyebrows of turbulent Ymer, whose brains they cast high in heaven, where they became heavy masses of scattered cloud, tossing hither and thither.

Address to Odin

In the beginning, ere the gods were born,
Before the Heavens were builded, thou didst slay
The giant Ymir, whom the abyss brought forth,
Thou and thy brethren fierce, the sons of Bor,
And cast his trunk to choke the abysmal void.
But of his flesh and members thou didst build
The earth and Ocean, and above them Heaven.
And from the flaming world, where Muspel reigns,
Thou sent'st and fetched'st fire, and madest lights,
Sun, moon, and stars, which thou hast hung in Heaven,
Dividing clear the paths of night and day.
And Asgard thou didst build, and Midgard fort;
Then me thou mad'st; of us the Gods were born.
Last, walking by the sea, thou foundest spars
Of wood, and framed'st men, who till the earth,
Or on the sea, the field of pirates, sail.
And all the race of Ymir thou didst drown,
Save one, Bergelmer;--he on shipboard fled
Thy deluge, and from him the giants sprang.
But all that brood thou hast removed far off,
And set by Ocean's utmost marge to dwell;
But Hela into Nifelheim thou threw'st,
And gav'st her nine unlighted worlds to rule,
A queen, and empire over all the dead.

From "Balder Dead", by Matthew Arnold.

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The Nine Worlds

Asgard--River and Vafer-Flame--High Thing-stead of the Gods--Odin's Throne--"Abode of Friends"--The Golden Age--Dwarfs--Ygdrasil, "the Tree of Existence"--Roots in the Underworld--The Three Fountains--Eagle and Hawk--"The Cock of the North"--The Biting Deer--The Dragon Nidhog--The Squirrel Gossip--Norns, Hamingjes, and Giptes--Lower Thing-stead of the Gods--Bif-rost--The Sentinel Heimdal--Judgment of the Dead--The Last journey--Bliss of the Just--Doom of the Condemned--Regions of Torture--Valhal--Divisions of the Universe--Night Path of Day and Day Path of Night.

THE Asa-gods built for themselves Asgard, the celestial city, which is set high above the heavens. It stands there in beauty and in glory upon a holy island in the midst of a dark broad river flowing from the thunder-vapours that rise through the great World-tree from Hvergelmer, "the roaring cauldron", the mother of waters. The river is ever troubled with eddies and fierce currents, and above it hover darkly thick banks of kindling mist called "Black Terror Gleam", from which leap everlastingly tongues of vafer-flame, (lightning) filling the air and darting like white froth from whirling billows.

Round Asgard is a dark and lofty wall, and the great boiling river breaks angrily at its base. There is no entry-way save by Odin's mighty gate. And if anyone who is unworthy, be he god or giant or mortal, should cross the river unscathed by the vafer-flames, and seek to open the gate of Asgard, he would be caught suddenly by a chain which springs from the lock of strange mechanism, and crushed and utterly destroyed.

In the middle of Asgard was built stately Idavoll, the Court of Judgment, the High Thingstead of the Gods, in which their own divine affairs are discussed and arranged. The beauty of the great hall is unequalled in the nine worlds, for its roof is of shining silver and it is resplendent without and within with burnished and graven gold. Therein was set the great golden throne of Odin, the chief ruler of Asgard, and around it were placed twelve golden seats for the gods who sit with him in judgment, and to whom the All-father gave power to rule and to issue decrees.

When Odin sits on his high golden throne he looks over the homes of giants and elves and mortals and sees all things. He is silent and he listens.

Another fair and stately structure did the gods cause to be made as a sanctuary for the goddesses, and by singers of skalds who echo its praises it is called Vingolf, "the abode of friends".

In Asgard was shaped a smithy which was furnished with anvils and hammers and tongs. With these the gods had made for them, by the cunning elf-smiths, Ivalde's sons and Sindre's kinsmen, every instrument they had need of. They worked in fine metals, and so great was the treasure of gold that all movables were made of it.

On a green place in the celestial city were found the golden tablets with which was played the Game of the Gods. This was in the Golden Age, which lasted until there came from Jotun-heim three giant maids, who brought corruption.

To the gods in ages past it became known that there dwelt in Midgard a race of dwarfs. In the deep, dark mould of Ymer's body they swarmed as do maggots in rotted flesh, and they went hither and thither with no purpose or knowledge. All the gods assembled in their high Thingstead, with Odin seated on his golden throne, and there took counsel one with another. To the dwarfs they gave human shape, but their hue was the blackness of earth in which they had being. Over them the gods set Modsognir, who is Mimer, to be king. In the mounds of the earth dwell one tribe of these earth-black elves, within rocks another, and a third have their habitation inside high and precipitous mountains. Besides these are the Trolls, who fly hither and thither carrying bundles of sticks, and have power to change their shape. Now the wonder of the Universe, which was set in order by the will of All-father, is the great ash tree, Ygdrasil, the Tree of Existence, which nourishes and sustains all spiritual and physical life. Its roots are spread through the divisions of the worlds that fill the yawning gulf, and its boughs are above the high celestial city of the gods. It grows out of the past, it lives in the present, and it reaches towards the future.

The World-ash has three great roots. In the realms below Midgard is one root, which receives warmth and life in Hela's glittering plains from the deep fountain of Urd, the goddess of fate and of death; another root reaches the egg-white well of Mimer, who is Wisdom and Memory; and the last root is in gloomy Nifel-heim, where it finds hardening sustenance in Hvergelmer, "the roaring cauldron", the fount of primeval waters, ice-cold and everlasting, which springs up on Hvergelmer mountain.

In the realm of Urd, which is Hela, the souls of good men be. Nigh to it, in the underworld, is Mimer's well in Mimer's grove, where dwells the race which will regenerate the world of men. Below cold and darksome Nifel-heim are the nine divisions of torture in which the souls of the wicked are punished. At Hvergelmer the watchman of the root of Ygdrasil is Ivalde, who with his sons contend against the storm-giants who threaten Hela.

The roots of the great World-tree suck up the waters of the three eternal fountains, and these mixed together give imperishable life. In the well of wise Mimer the fibres are made white with the holy mead which gives wisdom to men, and poetry also, and is the very elixir of life eternal.

On the high branches of Ygdrasil, which overshadow Asgard, sits a wise eagle, and between its eyes is perched a hawk named Vedfolner. On the topmost bough is Goldcomb, the "cock of the north", which awakens the gods from sleep and puts the demons to flight. From Hela answers the red cock, whose fire purifies what is good and destroys what is evil.

But the great World-tree bears a more painful burden than mortals can conceive. In the well of Hvergelmer, in the black realm of Nifel-heim, is the corpse-eating dragon Nidhog, "the lower one", which chews constantly at the root; above, four giant harts are ever biting its buds and its leaves; on its side, Age rots it; and many serpents gnaw its tender fibres in the dark underworld. For there never was good to which evil came not, nor growth which has known not decay and the wasting of time.

The Norns of Hela sprinkle the great ash-tree each morning with precious mead from Urd's fount of life, so that its leaves may ever be green. Thence comes the honey-dew, which drips upon the world and is stored by the bees. And in Urd's fountain are the two mystic swans which are the ancestors of the swan race in Midgard.

Up and down the World-tree runs constantly the squirrel Ratatosk, which bears gossip between the eagle on the highest branches and the dragon Nidhog at the root, and is thus ever the cause of strife. Greatly dreaded is Nidhog, who flies to the rocks and cliffs of the lower world with the bodies of dead men beneath its wings.

The three Fates, who are called Norns, are Urd and her two sisters--Urd, "present"; Verdande, "past"; and Skuld, "future". By them are spun at will the fates of men and women. There are also Dises, who are maids of Urd, unto whom various duties are assigned. The Hamingjes are those Dises who are guardians of men through their lives, and appear to them in dreams to give warnings and noble counsel, and he whom the holy elf deserts for wrongdoing is indeed lost. The decrees of Urd are executed by the Giptes, and men who are favoured are suddenly awarded good fortune and treasure; other Dises attend upon families and even upon tribes. There are also the sweet elf-maids who have care of babes unborn in the fair realms of Urd, and find them kindly mothers in the world of men; and there are maids who conduct the souls of the dead to Hela's glittering plain.

Now in Hela is the lower-world Thingstead of the gods, where the souls of the dead are judged, and rewards and punishments are meted out by Odin. There is but one road thither from Asgard for all the gods save Thor, and that is over the curved bridge Bif-rost, "the rainbow", which has its foundation beyond the edge of the world of men. The southern span reaches to the fount of Urd in the realms of green verdure that never. know decay.

Bif-rost is built of air and water, and is protected by red fire flaming on its edge. Frost giants and mountain giants ever seek to capture the bridge, so that they may ascend to Asgard and overcome the gods; but its sentinel, Heimdal, is constantly on guard against them.

The gods set Heimdal, son of the waves, to protect the bridge forever against the enemy. He is clad in silvern armour, and on his head is a burnished helmet with ram's horns. Horsed on his swift steed, Gull-top, he now watches at the highest point of Bif-rost from his fortified citadel, Himinbjorg, "the ward of heaven", where his hall is supplied with precious mead. Anon he crosses over from side to side of the bridge. His sight is so keen that he can see by night as well as by day the length of a hundred leagues, and he listens so keenly that he can hear the grass growing. He sleeps as little and as lightly as a bird. When the giants and monsters come to assail the gods at Ragnarok, Heimdal shall blow a thunderblast on Gjallar-horn which is hidden in the deepest shade of the World-tree. With his great sword he shall combat with the Evil One in the Last Battle.

Heimdal is loved both by gods and by men, and he is also called Gullintani because his teeth are of gold. There was a time when he went unto Midgard as a child; he grew up to be a teacher among men, and was named Scef.

Every day the horses of the gods thunder over Bif-rost as they descend to and return from the lower-world Thingstead. Thor, the thunder god, cannot travel thus because the fire of his thunder chariot might set the bridge aflame and destroy it. He must needs wade across the four great girdling rivers in the underworld to reach Hela's glittering plains.


When the gods come unto Hela they leap from their horses and take their seats in the Thingstead. The dead are then brought before them.

A weary way and long these dead men and women have travelled. Down the valley of thorns they came, and those who were given hel-shoes in their graves, because they had shown mercy to others while they lived, suffered indeed little; but the feet of the wicked were torn and bleeding. Then they crossed a river full of weapons. The just walked over on boards, but the unjust waded, and were sorely wounded and covered with scars, so that their bodies dripped blood.

To the Thingstead come men and women in full attire, with the jewels and ornaments which those who loved them placed on their bodies ere they were laid in grave-chambers. Warriors carry their weapons, and all are clad so that they may be recommended to the gods as the well-beloved among men. But silent are the dead, save the happy ones under whose tongues were placed, ere yet they were laid in their graves, magic runes, so that they might make answer when accused, and give reasons to justify their deeds. But the Hamingjes can also speak for the dead, and those who have not Hamingjes to speak for them are known to have done evil and to be deserted by their Dises in sorrow and wrath. Those who are justified pass to the eternal realms of Hela, where joy prevails, because they have lived upright lives, and have been honourable and full of pity and have helped others; because they were brave and feared not to die; and also because they worshipped the gods and gave offerings in the temples.

But those who are condemned are sent to Nifel-hel, the region of torture. They are judged to be unworthy if they injured others by falsehoods or wicked deeds, if they were adulterers, or murderers, or despoilers of graves, or cowards, or were traitors, and profaners of the temples.

Those who are to share eternal joy are given to drink from the horn of Urd, which imparts to them enduring strength. In it are mixed the three meads from the wells which sustain Ygdrasil, the World-ash. But the doomed are given a draught of burning venom which changes them to monsters. Their tongues are then for ever bereft of speech and they can moan only.

The happy dead disport themselves on the green plains of Hela, where they meet lost friends and ancestors from the earliest years of the world. And many beauteous ways they travel, and wonderful tales they hear. The children are cared for in the realm of Mimer, "memory", where joy is theirs forever and their food is honey-dew.

The doomed are fettered and are driven towards Nifel-hel by black elves, who carry thorny rods with which they lash those who falter or seek to turn back. Their first punishment is received when they must needs pass through the regions of eternal bliss, and behold with grief unutterable the joy of the blessed. Then they cross the rivers which girdle Hela, and climb towards the dark mountains of Nifel-hel. The wolf dog barks at them in the shadowy valley where it guards the borders of Hela, and there is blood on its breast. And as they climb tortuous paths and tread the narrow path on the edge of dizzy precipices they hear the barking of the terrible watchdogs at Nifel-hel's gates. The dreaded dragon, Nidhog, hovers near them, and ferocious birds of prey sit on the rocks.

Then they enter the Na-gates and die the second death. Punishment is given in the nine realms of torture according to the sins that were committed. Some are seized by the dragon and some by the birds of prey, according to their deserts. Others are tempted for ever by illusions of sinful things they sought in life, and there are those who are torn to pieces by the great wolf.

In the Venom-dale is a river called Slid, and it is full of daggers and sharp spears. Through it must wade the perjurers and murderers and adulterers, who are continually suffering new and fierce wounds. Others sit together on benches of iron, while venom drips on them, within a hall which is full of stench unbearable. Traitors are hung on trees, and cowards are drowned in pools of foulness. Eternal night broods over all.

Naglefar, the "ship of death", lies in the Gulf of Black Grief, in the outer regions of Nifel-hel, made fast to a dark island with chains that shall not sever until Ragnarok, "the dusk of the gods". It is constructed of the parings of dead men's nails--the wicked men, hated by their kind because of their evil deeds, whose bodies were cleansed not at life's end, and whose nails were not pared ere they were laid in grave-chambers. When Naglefar breaks loose the avenging hosts shall sail in it to battle against the gods.

The warriors who are slain in battle, or drowned at sea, are borne to Valhal in Asgard by the maids of Urd, who are called Valkyries. They are horsed on swift steeds, and first they pass to Hela, where the gods give judgment and reject the unworthy. Then they are carried by the Valkyries over Bif-rost, and the hoofs of their steeds resound in Asgard. In great Valhal the heroes feast with Odin in eternal triumph and happiness.

Now these are the divisions of the Universe. In the midst is the earth, Midgard, which is encircled by the ocean. On high, and above all else, is Asgard, and below it is the realm of white elves, who flit between the branches of the great World-tree. Then Vana-heim, the home of the Vana-gods, is in the air and in the sea; and in the depths of the western sea is the hall of Æger, god of Ocean. Alf-heim, the home of elves, is to the east. In the lower world, below Nifel-heim, are the Nifel-hel regions of torture, and under Midgard are the Hela realms of Mimer and of Urd. Far below the path of the gods towards Hela's fields of bliss are Surtur's deep dales on the borders of Muspel-heim, where the great giant Surtur, the swarthy sentinel, keeps watch with his flaming sword. Jotun-heim is to the north and the east, beyond the world's edge.

Billing is the elf-guardian of the western heaven, and when the cars of Day and of Night and of the Sun and of the Moon enter the forest of the Varns, "the protectors", they pass through the lower-world realms of Mimer and of Urd towards the gates of Delling, the elf of dawn, in the east. When Nat reaches Hela, where she must rest, darkness falls around her, and the blessed are given sleep, and light comes again with Dagr, as Nat covers the earth above with shadow and deep slumber.

The Descent of the Gods

. . . the Gods arose,
And took their horses, and set forth to ride
O'er the bridge Bifrost, where is Heimdall's watch,
To the ash Ygdrasil, and Ida's plain;
Thor came on foot, the rest on horseback rode.
And they found Mimir sitting by his fount
Of wisdom, which beneath the ash-tree springs;
And saw the Nornies watering the roots
Of that world-shadowing tree with honey-dew.
There came the Gods, and sate them down on stones.

From "Balder Dead", by Matthew Arnold.

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The Deeds of Odin

The Brooding God--Mimer's Well--Draught of Wisdom--The Eye Sacrifice--Revolt of Ivalde--Murder of Moon--god--Combat with Hyuki--The Stolen Song--Mead--Odin seeks to Recapture it--Descent to Surtur's Deep Dales--The Giant Suttung--Odin's Bridegroom--Guise--"The Champion Drinker"--Marriage with Gunlad--Ivalde's Fate--Odin's Escape--"The Man in the Moon"--Hyuki is Slagfin and Hengest--Odin's Apparel--His Ravens and Wolf Dogs--Odin the First Poet--Saga--Secret Runes--Thor and other Gods--Odin's Wives.

ODIN was the chief ruler of the gods. He was tall and old, and his aspect was wise and reverend. White was his beard and long, and he seemed ever to brood deeply over the mysteries of life and death. He had but one eye, because the other he sacrificed so that he might be dowered with great wisdom. Indeed he had In his youth drunk deeply of the magic mead of Mimer's well.

Every morning grave Mimer drank a draught with the Gjallar-horn, and Odin when he was yet young had deep desire to receive the wisdom and strength which the egg-white mead alone can give. He entreated Mimer to give him a draught, and the price he paid was an eye, which was cast into the well. From that hour when he drained Gjallar-horn he became worthy to rule over gods and men. 'Twas thus he sang in after-time of the powers which the mead imparted to him:

Then began I to bloom,
To be wise,
To grow and to thrive;
Word came to me
From word,
Deed came to me
From deed.

Thus Odin taught to all men that in youth there must needs be self-sacrifice of great account so that wisdom and power may be obtained.

From the moon-car in heaven did Odin also drink of the song-mead which was in the pitcher that Hyuki and Bil had carried from the secret well on the mountain, and Mani, the moon-god, captured. But wroth was Vidfinner at his loss, and he mourned more for the mead than for his children. Vidfinner is also called Ivalde, the sworn watchman of Hvergelmer and the Rivers Elivagar, and another of his names is Svigdur, "the champion drinker". There came a day when he broke his oath of fealty to the gods and fled from his post. Then raging heavenwards he attacked the moon-god, whom he slew and burned. His son Hyuki fought against him without avail, and suffered a fierce wound--as a maker of poems has sung--"clean to the thigh bone". For this dread crime Ivalde-Svigdur was condemned, but he fled towards Surtur's deep dales and unto the dwelling of Suttung, son of Surtur, the giant sentinel of Muspelheim. For Surtur and his clan were at enmity with Mimer and the Vana-gods, and also with the gods of Asgard since the creation of Asgard and the dividing of the worlds. To Suttung Ivalde gave the previous skaldic mead, and for reward he was promised for wife Gunlad, the giant's daughter.

Odin, seeing all that happened as he sat in his high throne, resolved to recapture the mead by cunning. So he set out to visit the hall of Suttung, "the mead wolf".

Now the realm of Surtur is difficult to reach, and full of peril for the gods. It lies in the dark underworld which is lower than and beyond Hela. Suttung's hall is within a mountain to which, in a deep abyss, there is but one entry, and it is guarded by a fierce dwarf sentinel.

But Odin secured the confidence of the dwarf, who promised to aid him so that his enterprise might be crowned with success. Heimdal, the sentinel of Bif-rost, also gave his service. His other name is Rati, "the traveller", and he bored through the mountain a narrow tunnel through which Odin might escape in eagle-guise. Thus, having completed his designs, Odin went towards the door of the dwelling of the great fire-giant Suttung, who is also called Fjalar.

A great feast was held within, and the evil frost-giants were as guests there to welcome Svigdur, the wooer of the giant--maid Gunlad. Odin assumed the form of Svigdur, and like him he spoke also, lest he should by uttering words of wisdom and weight be suspected and put to death. Thus he prevailed against the sons of Surtur with their own methods, for they were given to creating illusions and travelling forth in disguise to work evil and destruction.

A high seat of gold awaited the expected wedding-guest, and when Odin entered in the form of Svigdur, "the champion drinker", he was welcomed with ardour. And well he played the part, for he was given to drink of the nectar of the giants, and partook to the full, so that he was made drunk. Yet he observed great caution, that he might not be discovered.

As he sat at the feast, Gunlad came forward and gave him a draught of the stolen mead. Then was the marriage celebrated with solemnity and in state. The holy ring was placed upon the finger of the giant-maid, and she swore to be faithful to him who wooed her.

Meantime Ivalde-Svigdur, the real lover, reached the door of Suttung's hall, and came to know that Odin was within. He was filled with wrath, and he sought to denounce the high god so that he might be slain by the giants. But the dwarf sentinel accomplished Ivalde-Svigdur's destruction. He created an illusion, and opened a door on the side of the mountain which showed a lighted hall within and the wedding guests as they sat round Suttung's board. Gunlad was at Odin's side. Ivalde-Svigdur leapt towards the vision of the high god of Asgard, and thus dashed himself against the rock. The door was shut behind, and the mountain swallowed him.

Ere the wedding feast was ended Odin had spoken words which caused the giants to suspect him. But he retired with Gunlad to the bridal chamber, and there he found the precious mead which Ivalde-Svigdur had robbed from the moon-god. Then Gunlad came to know that her lover was Odin, but she helped him to make his escape in eagle-guise. So Odin flew through the tunnel which Heimdal-Rati had made, and reached Asgard in safety with the precious mead.

In the morning the giants went towards the bridal chamber, remembering the words that their guest had spoken, and when they found he had escaped they called him Bolverkin, "the evildoer".

But although Odin conferred great good upon gods and men by capturing the mead, the consequences of the evil he wrought towards that end were doomed to bring disaster in after-time, when Surtur, issuing forth to avenge the wrong done to Gunlad, set the world aflame. For good cannot follow evil, even although it is accomplished for the sake of good.


Odin's joy was great when he returned in triumph to Asgard, but he spoke words of pity for the giant-maid whom he had betrayed, and who wept because he left her.

Ivalde-Svigdur, who perished in the mountain, was refused an abode among the blessed dead in Hela's glittering plains. Him the gods condemned to dwell forever in the moon. There he suffers eternal punishment for his evildoings, for he is ever drunk with the stolen mead, which is venom to him, and is ever beaten with the rod of thorns by the god he slew and to whom life was again given. Ivalde's son, Hyuki, is revered among men. Another name he bears is Slagfin, and by Saxon warriors he is called Hengest. He is also Gelder, and his symbol is the gelding. Among skee-runners he is the chief upon land and on the sea.

Many names have the gods, and for Odin there are nine-and-forty. And the reason is, as skalds have told, that people speaking different tongues must needs call the gods by different names, while the gods have also been given names according to their various attributes and the great deeds they have done.

Thus Odin was called All-father, like the Mighty One who was at "time's first dawn", because he was father of the gods; and Val-father, the father of the brave who dwell in Valhal in high Asgard.

When Odin sat in his high golden throne, he wore a cloak which was striped with many colours of sunset splendour and summer radiance. Its hood was blue as is the sky, and speckled with grey like clouds. His hat was blue also, and its broad brims curved downward like the heavens. When he left Asgard to travel over the worlds he wore a burnished helmet, and sometimes he went among men wearing a hat which was tilted to conceal the hollow of his lost eye.

As Odin sat brooding and listening in Asgard two ravens perched on his shoulder. Their names are Hugin, which is "reflection", and Munin, which means "memory". When day dawned Odin sent them forth, and they returned at eve to whisper in his ears all the doings of men. Thus was he called Rafnagud, the "raven-god". He had also two wolf dogs, and they are named Gere, "the greedy", and Freke, "the voracious". These Odin fed with the food which was placed before him at the feast of heroes, for he ate not and for nourishment drank nectar.

When Odin drank of the song-mead he composed poems which for sweetness and grandeur have never been surpassed. He was the first poet, and knew well the magic of the mead. For the source of it was secret, and was discovered only by Ivalde, the watchman of the primeval fount from which life first came and by which life is ever sustained. Then was it carried to the beauteous car of the moon, and from thence to the regions of fire. There it was won by love mixed with wrong, and when the high god who descended to the deeps drank of it, he soared as an eagle to heaven, which he filled with song. From heaven has song descended upon earth, and in song are all the sufferings which were begotten over the mead.

Odin is also the friend and companion of the goddess Saga, whose dwelling in Asgard is Sokvabek, "the deep stream". Precious thoughts well up from the fountain source and flow along as words of gold. They tell of things that were, and Odin ponders. Day after day and night after night the high god sits with the goddess listening to the flowing stream, which grows deeper and wider as it wends its way onward, and their minds are refreshed by the glories of the past.

Secret runes, which have magical influence, did Odin also invent. For nine whole nights he hung on the high branches of Ygdrasil, pondering and searching out the secrets of the mind and of the Universe. For the power of runes was before the beginning of man. They are mixed with fate, and their potency did Odin discover when he drank from Mimer's well. They have also power over death and the world beyond. Runes there are to ward off strife and care, to charm away sickness and disease, to blunt the foeman's sword, to break fetters that bind, to still the storms, to ward off the attacks of demons, to make the dead to speak, to win the love of a maid, and to turn away love that is not desired. And many more there be also.

When runes are carved in mystic symbols the powers they convey are given to the weapons, or to the men that bear them, for they govern all things and impart power to conquer and power to subdue. He who has a certain desire shall achieve it if he but knows the rune which can compel its fulfilment, for the runes come from Odin, the chief ruler of the Universe, the god most wise. His power and great knowledge are enshrined in them.

Next to Odin the mightiest of the gods was his son Thor, whose mother was Jord, "the earth". In Asgard was built for him a great mansion called Bilskirnir, with five hundred and forty halls and a roof of shining silver. He drave forth in a car which was drawn by two goats. Three precious things were his possessions: the great hammer Mjolnir, which struck fire from the mountains and has slain many frost giants; the belt of prowess, which gave him threefold strength; and his mighty iron gauntlets, which he put on ere he could wield his hammer.

Another of Odin's sons was Balder the Beautiful, whose mother was Frigg, queen of goddesses, daughter of Nat and sister of Njord. Fair and comely was Balder, with silver hair that shone like sunshine. He was full of wisdom and was exceedingly mild and had great eloquence. In Asgard and Midgard there was no god more greatly loved than Balder.

Njord of the Vans was in Asgard as hostage to the Asa-gods. He was father of the god Frey and the beautiful Freyja, who was next to Frigg among the goddesses. Honer, Odin's brother, was sent to Vanaheim, where he was made ruler over the Vana-gods. He chose not his part and his judgments were weak.

Great was Tyr, the war-god, who gave valour to warriors and by whom he was invoked.

Brage, god of music and poetry, had for wife Idun, Ivalde's daughter, who was keeper of the apples of immortal youth.

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How Evil entered Asgard

Odin and his Brothers--Gifts to First Man and Woman--Loke's Fall--"The Mother of Evil"--Plot to capture Freyja--How Asgard's Wall was built--Loke's Evil Counsel--World-disaster averted--Odin's Horse--Rape of Sif's Locks--Loke threatened--Visits to Elf--Smiths--Wonder Works--The Gods appeased--Rivalry of Elf-Smiths--Loke's Wager lost--Demand for his Head--Elf-Smith outwitted--Loke's Plot causes Winter War--Children of Ivalde--Idun and the Swan Maids--Thjasse--Volund and his Brothers--The Giantess Greip--Fenja and Menja--Freyja lured from Asgard.

IF Odin sought after wisdom and loved justice his brother Loke had the desire to do evil and work wrong, and he became the instrument of dissension among gods and men. In the Golden Age, when there was peace and concord in Asgard, he was yet innocent and of good repute. He was fair o countenance and his form was stately, and pleasant indeed were his converse and his ways.

With Odin and Honer, his brethren, he endowed with their various attributes the first man and the first woman. But the gifts of the gods were of unequal account. Odin gave Spirit which yearns for what is good and inspires courage and veracity, and the love of mercy and justice. Honer imparted understanding and memory and will, and by Loke, who is also called Loder, the man and the woman were given the semblance of the gods, and endowed with passions and desires and longings which ever tend to work evil and bring weakness and distress. Thus the gifts of Loke are continually at strife with those of Odin and Honer.

But not until the Golden Age was ended did Loke fail and man turn to evil ways. The innocence of gods and men passed from them when from Jotun-heim, as the Skalds have told, came three giant maids, who brought corruption. These three were combined in one form, which was outwardly fair and seemingly good. For the giants had plotted to accomplish the downfall of the gods, and one, whose name was Grep, desired to possess beauteous Freyja, the goddess of Fertility, who sat with her maids beneath the fruitful bough of the World-tree Ygdrasil.

The thrice-born maid whom the giants sent from Jotun-heim was Gulveig-Hoder, whose other name is Aurboda, Hag of Iarnvid and "The Mother of Evil", who assumed the guise of one both fair and young. A maid attendant was she among others to Freyja in the fairest grove of Asgard. She was loved by Loke and became his bride. She fostered his ambition to be chief ruler of the gods, and imparted to him her evil nature and her cunning, while she herself constantly sought to lure Freyja from her secure abode. There came a day when her desire was fulfilled, and war followed war because of her evil doings.

Loke was the chief instrument of her designs. She spread unrest throughout Asgard and set Asa-gods and Vana-gods at enmity, while Loke also plotted with the evil giants to bring ruin to his kindred.

The great wall of Asgard was not yet constructed, and by Loke's secret desire there came before the gods in the guise of a dwarf a Frost-giant who was a cunning artificer. He offered to build a residence so well fortified that it would be ever secure against the attacks of the Frost-giants and the giants of the mountains. This vast work he undertook to complete in the space of a single winter.

The gods were willing that the fortification should be made, and enquired of the artificer what reward he sought for his service. His answer was that his demand would be possession of the goddess Freyja, together with the sun and moon. But if the work were not completed in the time allowed him, he would receive no reward whatsoever.

His words were not pleasant to the gods, and they took counsel among themselves. There were those among them who desired to reject his offer, and others who were in sore doubt. Yet all of them desired that the fortification should be built.

Then Loke counselled that the offer which the artificer made should be accepted, provided that he would do the work alone and within the time allotted to him. "For," said Loke, "the dwarf can finish not the building in time, and we shall have it for ourselves without payment of any reward."

So the gods agreed as Loke counselled them, but when their will was made known to the artificer he stipulated that he should be allowed to use his horse, named Svadilfare, in performing the work. By the advice of Loke this condition was granted to the cunning artificer. The bargain was sealed and confirmed by solemn oaths.

The work was then begun without further delay. On the first day of winter the giant in dwarf-guise prepared for the laying of the foundations, and during the night his horse drew the stones towards Asgard. When day broke the gods were amazed at the prodigious size of the boulders which were gathered together, and they perceived that the greater part of the work was performed by the great steed Svadilfare. All winter did the heavy work proceed, and rapidly did the great and vast walls rise around the habitation of the gods.

When the summer drew nigh, the work was far advanced, and the gods perceived that the artificer was certain to finish it before his allotted time was completed. The buildings were already so strong and so high as to be impregnable, and when only three days had to pass, before summer came, the gateway alone remained to be completed.

Wroth were the gods because of the disaster which threatened them, and they sat in council together and asked one of another who had given advice that the terms of the artificer should be accepted and that Freyja should be given away to Jotun-heim, and the sun and moon taken out of the heavens. They agreed that it was Loke and no other who had brought this danger with his evil designs. Him they condemned as the worker of evil, and they said they would put him to death if he did not contrive some means to prevent the artificer from finishing the work and receiving the reward which he had demanded.

The gods immediately seized Loke, who was stricken with great fear. He saw that he would be put to death if he did not cause hindrance to the giant, so he swore a solemn oath that, no matter what disaster might befall him, he would prevent the giant from accomplishing the disaster which was threatened.

In the darkness of night Loke went forth to outwit the artificer. When the great steed Svadilfare was being driven towards the last boulders which were to complete the gateway, a mare ran forth from a deep forest and neighed loudly. Svadilfare leapt with excitement and turned to follow, and the artificer sought in vain to hold him in restraint. But the steed broke free and ran after the mare, which took flight through the forest, and the great builder made search for him in vain. Thus a whole night was lost, and in the morning the artificer perceived that the work could not be completed in time. He was filled with exceeding great anger, knowing well that a plot had been laid against him. In his wrath he was moved to be revenged, and he assumed his giant form again and rose against the gods. Then it was perceived that he was a fierce and terrible Frost-giant.

Finding themselves deceived, the gods no longer observed their oaths, which had been sworn with one so treacherous. Odin called upon Thor, who seized his great stone hammer and went forth to combat. For him the giant was no match, and the great thunder-god paid him his wages, not with Freyja and the sun and moon, but with death, for the first blow he struck shattered to pieces the great giant's skull. Then the gods seized the body and flung it into the lowest depths of Nifel-hel, the place of sorrow and eternal torture.

The mare which Svadilfare followed brought forth a cloud-grey foal with eight legs. It grew up to be the swiftest steed in the nine worlds, and the name it bore was Sleipner.

To Odin was Sleipner given for his own especial use. On its teeth were graven sacred runes, and it was on the back of Sleipner that Odin ever went forth on his great hunt across the heavens and over the "Milky Way" when the winds were loud and the stars burned in splendour. The great steed he also rode daily to the lower Thingstead of the gods on the bridge which is called Bif-rost.

Thus among men was the riddle propounded: Who are these two who ride forth to the Thingstead? They have in all ten feet, three eyes, and but one tail.

The answer is Odin and Sleipner, for Odin has but one eye; the horse has eight feet and Odin two; and the horse alone has a tall.

Sleipner is not only Odin's steed of war and of the hunt, he is also the steed on which poets rise to divine heights, as Odin, who is the first and greatest of poets, was raised also.

Now Loke and his wife, although frustrated in their desire to work evil against the gods, were still filled with resolve to achieve their wicked ends. There came a season when a new disaster befel. the dwellers in Asgard, and caused great dissension throughout the worlds. Sif, the harvest goddess, who was Thor's ward, was beauteous to behold, and her beauty and her power were in her rich and plenteous growth of shining golden hair.

Her harvest locks did the fierce Hag in maid's guise desire to possess, and while Sif slept Loke seized a sharp sword and cut them off and took them away.

Then was Thor filled with wrath, as were also Odin and the rest of the gods, for in Sif's locks there was abundance and prosperity.

Loke was again seized, and, fearing he would be put to death, he promised to restore Sif's harvest hair and bring gifts of appeasement to the greater gods. Oaths were laid upon him to fulfil his promise, and Loke departed from Asgard to visit the underworld, where gold and treasures were concealed in abundance. But even while he feared punishment, the desire to work evil did not leave his heart, and he sought, while he fulfilled his promise, to work great and lasting dissension.

To the elf-smiths, who are subject to wise Mimer, did Loke proceed, and their services he besought with cunning and evil intent.

Now there were two families of elves who were accomplished artificers and workers in fine metals, and these were the sons of Ivalde and the sons of Sindre, in whose golden halls in Mimer's realm there were great treasures. They lived at peace with the gods, whom they rendered ofttimes great service by providing ornaments and embellishing the palaces of Asgard with their beauteous work.

Loke plotted to work enmity not only between the families of elf-smiths, but also to estrange them against the gods.

First he went to the sons of Ivalde and besought them to make golden locks for the goddess Sif which would grow like other hair. They set to work and accomplished his desire, and they also made at his request a great spear for Odin, which was named Gungner. There was made for Frey, the god of golden sunshine, a wondrous ship, named Skidbladner, which could hold all the warriors of Asgard, and was ever accompanied by soft and favourable winds. Yet, great as the vessel was, it could be folded into small space like a napkin.

The gods were reconciled to Loke when the golden hair of Sif was restored. The spear was given to Odin and the great ship to Frey.

Then Loke went with evil in his heart to the kinsmen of Sindre, and them he challenged to produce works as wondrous and finely executed as those of the sons of Ivalde. Brok, who was Sindre's brother, protested the greater skill of his fellows, and Loke wagered his own head that such treasures as were already made could not be surpassed. The wager was readily accepted. Sindre made a great smithy, and he and his kinsmen set to work. Loke assumed the guise of a great blood-drinking fly, to harass them while at work.

Sindre first put a pigskin into the smithy fire. Then he bade Brok to blow the bellows without ceasing until the work was finished. That he did with great activity. But a great fly set itself upon his hand, stinging him sorely and drinking blood. He would have fain ceased his labours because of the fly, but if he did so the charm would be broken and the work rendered utterly without avail. So, suffering as he did, he persisted at the bellows handle, and at length Sindre drew out a wondrous boar with golden bristles, which was a thing to marvel at.

Then Sindre put much precious gold into the furnace, and Brok again blew the bellows. But the great fly attacked his neck, and drew more blood, nor could he smite it or drive it away. At times it seemed as if he must cease to labour, but he prevailed over his sufferings until Sindre drew out a magic ring, which was named Draupner, "the dropper".

A mass of iron did Sindre next place in the furnace, and when Brok began to blow the bellows the great fly became more ferocious than ever, and it stung him between the eyes, so that blood flowed down and nearly blinded him. Brok laboured heavily, and only once did he pause to drive the fly away. Then Sindre drew from the furnace a great hammer, which none save Thor could wield.

"These works, said Sindre, no son of Ivalde can equal."

Brok carried the gifts to Asgard, and Loke went with him.

Then sat the high gods in council to decide whose treasures were of greatest account. They appointed, as judges, Odin and Thor and Frey, and the various works they considered together.

Between the sons of Ivalde and Sindre's kinsmen there was ever keen rivalry, and Loke knew well that the clan which was given the award would win the hatred of the other, and that the gods would be despised by those who were not favoured.

Each of the gifts received the praises of the gods. But those of Sindre were to them of greatest account. The ring Daupner was a charm for fruitfulness and fertility; every ninth night eight gold rings of equal size dropped from it. It was a ring that grew to a chain without end. To Odin was it given, and the high god had it with the spear Gungner, which the sons of Ivalde had made. Oaths were sworn on the point of the great spear, which, when Odin throws it, gleams brightly as it falls through the stars. Upon great warriors is conferred the power of Odin's spear.

To Frey was given the golden boar on which to ride over the heavens or over the sea. Faster it could run than any steed save Sleipner, and in thick darkness it shone in splendour. When Frey went forth at morning or evening the rays of the golden bristles gleamed high in the heavens.

But the greatest gift of all was the mighty iron hammer, Mjolner, which was given to Thor. It had but one defect, and that was the shortness of the handle, for Brok had ceased to blow when the fly blinded him momentarily. So with the great gift came the defect which Loke had caused. The hammer had power to return to Thor each time it was thrown.

The sons of Ivalde were deeply incensed against the gods because they awarded chief praise to the kinsmen of Sindre, and they departed vowing fierce vengeance. Thus was the end of Loke achieved.

Brok, who thirsted for revenge, demanded his prize for the hammer, and that was Loke's head, which he had wagered. Loke offered to redeem it, but the elf-smith would have naught else.

Now Loke had shoes of swiftness, and could speed swiftly through the air and over the sea. Crying to Brok: "Then take me," he vanished from sight.

But the angered elf-smith appealed to Thor to seize Loke, and that great irresistible god set forth and returned with him.

"Thy head is mine," exclaimed Brok, who prepared to cut it off.

"Thine indeed is the head, answered Loke, "but not the neck." 1

Brok appealed to the gods, and they gave judgment that favoured Loke. They told Brok that he might take the head, but the neck he must not injure.

Then was Brok possessed with great wrath, and he demanded to sew the lips from which evil counsel came. Loke's head being his by right of wager, none could gainsay him. He took his knife to pierce the evil god's lips, but it was not of sufficient sharpness. So he cried: "Would I had my brother's awl." When he said that, the awl was immediately beside him, and he took it and sewed up the mouth of Loke, and left him there confused with silence.

In great wrath did Brok leave Asgard. Thus was Loke's end doubly achieved, for Sindre's kinsmen were also incensed against the gods because of the judgment they had given when the wager was claimed.

The sons of Ivalde rose in revolt and leagued themselves with the Frost-giants to wage war against the Asa-gods and bring disaster to Asgard.

Let it be told that twice wedded was Ivalde, the rebel watchman of Hvergelmer and the rivers Elivagar. His first wife was Sol, the sun-goddess, and their daughters were Idun, who became wife to Brage, and also the swan maids who sang on the borders of the western realm of Njord. Then had Ivalde for wife the giantess Greip, and they had three sons who were elf-smiths--Thjasse-Volund, Orvandel-Egil, the great archer, and Ide, whose other names are Hyuki, Hengest, and Gelder, "the Gelding".

Greip, the mother of these sons of Ivalde, had afterwards, with marriage to a giant, two sons whose daughters were Fenja and Menja.

So, as has been told, it came about that through Loke's evil workings a winter war was proclaimed against the gods by the sons of Ivalde and the Frost-giants.

At this time too was the goddess Freyja lured secretly from Asgard by Gulveig-Hoder, the Hag in maiden guise, and was caught in ambush by the great giant Beli, father of Grep, who fled with the goddess to Jotun-heim and concealed her in his strong castle. A double disaster thus fell upon the gods.

The Dwarfs

Loke sat and thought, till his dark eyes gleam
With joy at the deed he'd done;
When Sif looked into the crystal stream,
Her courage was wellnigh gone.

For never again her soft amber hair
Shall she braid with her hands of snow;
From the hateful image she turned in despair,
And hot tears began to flow.

In a cavern's mouth, like a crafty fox,
Loke sat 'neath the tall pine's shade,
When sudden a thundering was heard in the rocks,
And fearfully trembled the glade.

Then he knew that the noise good boded him naught,
He knew that 't was Thor who was coming;
He changed himself straight to a salmon trout,
And leaped in a fright in the Glommen.

But Thor changed too, to a huge seagull,
And the salmon trout seized in his beak;
He cried: Thou, traitor, I know thee well,
And dear shalt thou pay thy freak!

Thy caitiff's bones to a meal I'll pound,
As a millstone crusheth the grain.
When Loke that naught booted his magic found,
He took straight his own form again.

And what if thou scatter'st my limbs in air?
He spake, will it mend thy case?
Will it gain back for Sif a single hair?
Thou 'lt still a bald spouse embrace.

But if now thou 'lt pardon my heedless joke,
For malice sure meant I none,
I swear to thee here, by root, billow and rock,
By the moss on the Beata-stone,

By Mimer's well, and by Odin's eye,
And by Mjolmer, greatest of all,
That straight to the secret caves I'll hie,
To the dwarfs, my kinsmen small;

And thence for Sif new tresses I'll bring
Of gold ere the daylight's gone,
So that she will liken a field in spring,
With its yellow-flowered garment on.

. . . . . .

Loke promised so well with his glozing tongue
That the Asas at length let him go,
And he sank in the earth, the dark rocks among,
Near the cold-fountain, far below.

He crept on his belly, as supple as eel,
The cracks in the hard granite through,
Till he came where the dwarfs stood hammering steel,
By the light of a furnace blue.

I trow 't was a goodly sight to see
The dwarfs, with their aprons on,
A-hammering and smelting so busily
Pure gold from the rough brown stone.

Rock crystals from sand and hard flint they made,
Which, tinged with the rosebud's dye,
They cast into rubies and carbuncles red,
And hid them in cracks hard by.

They took them fresh violets all dripping with dew,
Dwarf women had plucked them, the morn,
And stained with their juice the clear sapphires blue,
King Dan in his crown since hath worn.

Then for emeralds they searched out the brightest green
Which the young spring meadow wears,
And dropped round pearls, without flaw or stain,
From widows' and maidens' tears.

. . . . . .

When Loke to the dwarfs had his errand made known,
In a trice for the work they were ready;
Quoth Dvalin: O Lopter, it now shall be shown
That dwarfs in their friendship are steady.

We both trace our line from the selfsame stock;
What you ask shall be furnished with speed,
For it ne'er shall be said that the sons of the rock
Turned their backs on a kinsman in need.

They took them the skin of a large wild-boar,
The largest that they could find,
And the bellows they blew till the furnace 'gan roar,
And the fire flamed on high for the wind.

And they struck with their sledge-hammers stroke on stroke,
That the sparks from the skin flew on high,
But never a word good or bad spoke Loke,
Though foul malice lurked in his eye.

The thunderer far distant, with sorrow he thought
On all he'd engaged to obtain,
And, as summer-breeze fickle, now anxiously sought
To render the dwarf's labour vain.

Whilst the bellows plied Brok, and Sindre the hammer,
And Thor, that the sparks flew on high,
And the slides of the vaulted cave rang with the clamour,
Loke changed to a huge forest-fly.

And he sat him all swelling with venom and spite,
On Brok, the wrist just below;
But the dwarf's skin was thick, and he recked not the bite,
Nor once ceased the bellows to blow.

And now, strange to say, from the roaring fire
Came the golden-haired Gullinburste,
To serve as a charger the sun-god Frey,
Sure, of all wild-boars this the first.

They took them pure gold from their secret store.
The piece 't was but small in size,
But ere 't had been long n the furnace roar,
'T was a jewel beyond all prize.

A broad red ring all of wroughten gold,
As a snake with its tail in its head,
And a garland of gems did the rim enfold,
Together with rare art laid.

'T was solid and heavy, and wrought with care,
Thrice it passed through the white flames' glow;
A ring to produce, fit for Odin to wear,
No labour they spared, I trow.

They worked it and turned it with wondrous skill,
Till they gave it the virtue rare,
That each thrice third night from its rim there fell
Eight rings, as their parent fair.

. . . . . .

Next they laid on the anvil a steel-bar cold,
They needed nor fire nor file;
But their sledge-hammers, following, like thunder rolled,
And Sindre sang runes the while.

When Loke now marked how the steel gat power,
And how warily out 't was beat
'T was to make a new hammer for Ake-Thor,
He'd recourse once more to deceit.

In a trice, of a hornet the semblance he took,
Whilst in cadence fell blow on blow,
In the leading dwarf's forehead his barbed sting he stuck,
That the blood in a stream down did flow.

Then the dwarf raised his hand to his brow for the smart,
Ere the iron well out was beat,
And they found that the haft by an inch was too short,
But to alter it then 't was too late.

. . . . . .

His object attained, Loke no longer remained
'Neath the earth, but straight hied him to Thor,
Who owned than the hair ne'er, sure, aught more fair
His eyes had e'er looked on before.

The boar Frey bestrode, and away proudly rode,
And Thor took the ringlets and hammer;
To Valhal they hied, where the Asas reside,
'Mid of tilting and wassail the clamour.

At a full solemn ting, Thor gave Odin the ring,
And Loke his foul treachery pardoned;
But the pardon was vain, for his crimes soon again
Must do penance the arch-sinner hardened.



1 In like manner was Shylock thwarted when he demanded his pound of flesh.

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The Winter War

The Great Earthquake--Frost--giants swarm South ward--Njord intervenes--Frey in Power of Giants--Asgard's Archer put to Shame--Peacemakers baffled--Vengeance of Thjasse--Volund--"Sword of Victory" forged --Mimer intervenes--Sword captured and Thjasse bound--Coming of Halfdan--Omens at his Birth--The Swords Accursed--Marriage, and Hadding's Birth--Conflicts with Giants--Groa taken Captive--Orvandel--Egil's Trial--The Mythical "William Tell"--Birth of Gudhorm--Groa's Promise to Svipdag--Her Incantations--Ull's Boyhood--Svipdag overcome by Halfdan--Visit to Hela--"Sword of Victory" recaptured--Svipdag's Great Victory--Thor put to Flight--Halfdan's Death.

A GREAT earthquake shook the nine worlds when the winter war was proclaimed. Midgar trembled and the heavens were disturbed. In Asgard the gods heard the dread clamour and the strong walls shivered as with fear. And it was thus that the earthquake was caused. When the sons of Ivalde withdrew their services from the gods, and made compact with their enemies, the terrible Frost-giants, the two giant-maids, Fenja and Menja, seized the handle of the great World-mill and turned it so violently that it went out of order, and disaster was threatened to the Universe. Then southward swarmed the Frost-giants to make war with the gods and their allies.

Now the Vana-god Njord sought to make peace between the gods and the sons of Ivalde, because at that time his son, the sunshine-god, Frey, was with them in northern Alf-heim, where he reigned as a king. He was still but a youth, and the sons of Ivalde had power to do him harm.

With Njord went Bjorno-Hoder, the fair god Balder's brother, the famous archer, who had not yet grown blind. Forsete, Balder's son, was also an envoy, for, like his father, he was a just judge and settler of disputes. Gifted he was with persuasive speech and manners which could subdue the most stubborn disputants. But they discovered that Frey had been given to Beli, "the howler", the great giant with enormous body who held him in thrall.

Bjorno-Hoder waxed wroth, and he drew his bow to slay Volund-Thjasse and Egil-Orvandel, Ivalde's sons. But Egil-Orvandel was also a great archer, for which he was named Avo. Ere Hoder could shoot, Orvandel's arrow severed his bowstring. Then the god tied the string, and Orvandel's second arrow passed through his fingers without hurting them. Ignoring this dread warning, Balder's brother still persisted, and his third arrow was struck from the bowstring by Orvandel just as he was pulling the string. Thus was Hoder put to shame.

Then the peacemakers turned to take their departure, and Ivalde's sons continued their journey to the north.

Thjasse-Volund, son of Ivalde, was filled with boundless vengeance against the gods, and went to his smithy, where he forged the great Sword of Victory. Never was there such a weapon since the beginning of time. It shone like the sun in heaven, and there was no substance that it would not cleave. More terrible was it than Thor's hammer, which the sons of Sindre had made, for he who wielded the sword could prevail over the Thunder-god. Thjasse-Volund was resolved to subdue the gods and conquer Asgard. He also made a ring which multiplied till it became a chain to bind the wind.

But grave Mimer-Nidhad, who is also called Narve, "the binder", came to know of the dread sword which his rebellious subject had constructed, and he still remained the faithful friend of the gods. He knew well the power possessed by the sword, and feared the disaster which it would cause. So he went to Wolfdales, in Nifel-heim, where Thjasse-Volund had built his, great smithy, and seized the elf-smith, whom he bound with chains. Then The Binder took with him the sword, and also the magic ring from among seven hundred other rings, which it had produced. These he bore unto river-girdled Hela, where he concealed them in his deep cave, heaped with treasure, over which his son was guard. There the sword and the ring were kept until they were recaptured by The Shining One, who prevailed over Thor and became a god in Asgard--Svipdag the Brave, the hero of heroes. But ere that day came many great battles were fought, and mighty warriors perished in their pride.

The great hero who fought against the giants and Ivalde's sons in the winter war was Halfdan, son of Thor, who by tellers of old tales has also been called Mannus.

At his birth there were dread omens which foretold his glory and his doom. Eagles screeched, the clamour of thunder was heard, and the shadow of Thor fell over the house. Norns came and twisted the threads of fate. Of gold they made the warp of the web and fastened it under the moon; the ends were hid in the east and the west. One fateful thread was drawn northward towards Jotun-heim, the giants' home, and Urd decreed that it should hold there forever.

Hungry ravens cawed one to another, and welcomed the wolf-eyed child who would cause them to thrive with blood and the flesh of slaughtered men. They rejoiced that the battle-feast would soon be spread for them.

Halfdan's mother heard the ravens' song and dreaded his fate. Two swords there were in her home and they were accursed. She buried them deep in the earth, so that the child, when he grew strong, would not find them. But Halfdan soon displayed his warrior strength. When yet a youth he wrestled with a giant-bear and slew it.

Then came a day when Halfdan found a hidden sword, and in a conflict he slew with it his half-brother, nor did he know it was he. Thus was the sword accursed indeed.

Halfdan had knowledge from his father of sacred runes, and he knew the speech of birds, which gave him advantage over his enemies, for he was warned when danger was at hand.

When he grew years of knowledge and strength, he went forth to seek his fortunes. One day he met Signe-Alveig, which means "nourishing drink", and her he loved and married. She was the fair swan-maiden whose sister Groa was wed to Egil-Orvandel, son of Ivalde, and their son was Hadding. But although Halfdan lived for long at peace with Ivalde's clan, he fought against them when they leagued themselves with the Frost-giants to combat with the gods and their allies.

A strenuous campaign did Thor's son wage against the Frost-giants on the borders of Midgard, which they sought to possess and put under thrall. The giant Froste was their leader, and with him was Fjalar-Suttung, the fire-giant from Surtur's deep dales. Their march southward Halfdan stayed, and to the bleak north he drave them in confusion. A great battle he fought at Svarin's mound, where he slew Sigbrygg, the sire of his wife and Groa, her sister. Groa he took captive, and he put shame upon her, and with her he took her son Svipdag.

With Halfdan on his triumphant march northward went Odin's victorious Valkyries, and nightly the heavens flamed with their splendour, by men called "The Northern Lights".

On the borders of Jotun-heim Halfdan overcame Orvandel-Egil, the great archer, whose house he surrounded in the night.

Then it came about that Halfdan caused Orvandel to make trial of his skill, for hearing he had boasted that he could with the first arrow from his bow hit a small apple placed upon a stick at a great distance, he ordered Svipdag to stand with an apple upon his head. 1 Then he commanded Orvandel to perform the deed of which he had boasted on penalty of his life, but promised him his freedom if he achieved success.

Svipdag was led forth. To him his sire spoke words of encouragement and good counsel, so that he might bear the trial with courage and unflinchingly, and also lest he should move and thus cause the arrow to miss its mark. Svipdag he made to stand with his back turned so that he might not behold the drawing of the bow.

Three arrows did Orvandel take from his quiver. Then one he aimed at the apple upon his son's head. Careful aim he took and shot it from the bow, and he clove the apple in twain nor harmed his son.

Then did Halfdan ask him why he had taken three arrows from his quiver, and Orvandel-Egil bade him know that it was his purpose, had his son fallen, to slay the man who had compelled the sore trial of skill.

But the risk was not avenged upon Halfdan until the, day of Svipdag's triumph


In sorrow did Groa pass weary days with Halfdan, to whom she bore a son who was named Gudhorm. Then was Groa rejected with deeper shame. When she, with her son, Svipdag, returned to Orvandel, she was heartbroken and had come nigh to life's end. Svipdag she called to her side and told him she must soon die with the sorrow she bore for the death of her sire and the shame that Halfdan had put upon her. Then she told him that he must needs endure great troubles and much strife, and be ofttimes in death-shadowing peril. "If mine aid you need at any time," she said, "come to my grave chamber and invoke my spirit, and I shall rise to help you." Soon after she spake thus Groa died, and Svipdag wept for her.

Then Orvandel took for wife the beauteous Sith. Their son was Ull, and he grew up to be a strong young warrior like his half-brother.

Svipdag was overcome with desire to be avenged upon Halfdan, and sought to wage war against him. But Sith prevailed upon him to promise that he would go towards the mountains of Jotun-heim, and rescue the goddess Freyja and the god Frey from the giant who kept them imprisoned in his strong castle.

But Svipdag deemed Sith to be moved with cunning intentions, and he feared that if he went forth upon such an enterprise he would never return. He had need of counsel and of help, and in the darkness of night he went to the stone grave-chamber of his mother and called upon her.

"Awake," he cried, "as thou didst promise me, and come to me, O mother, in my sore straits!"

The spirit of Groa rose out of Hela, where she heard her son's voice calling upon her, and from the grave-chamber she spoke. She told him that he must indeed go on a long journey and meet many perils ere yet he would find Freyja, but she bade him remember that his Norn of fate would be his guide.

Then sang she incantations over Svipdag to protect him from danger and to heal his wounds, to give him courage and set him free from prisons. She also sang incantations to protect him against raging rivers he must needs cross, and against ocean's perils and the perils of vast and high mountains over which he must climb.

Nine incantations did Groa utter, and the last gave him security to traverse Nifel-hel and enter Mimer's grove.

Whereupon Groa's voice was silent, and her spirit returned to the Underworld.

Satisfied he would be indeed safe from all danger, Svipdag went northward towards the battleground of the giants. It was his desire to first avenge his grandsire's death and his mother's shame ere yet he would search to find Freyja. So he set himself to lead a giant host against the army of Halfdan, and a dread conflict was fought.

Svipdag was in the midst of the battle, and with Halfdan he waged a duel, but he was overcome and taken prisoner. Then made the giants hurried flight towards the north.

Deep was Halfdan's admiration for the prowess of the young hero, and he offered him his friendship if he would become his ally and help him to continue the campaign against the giants with whom Ivalde's sons were in league. But Svipdag scorned his friendship with defiance, and Halfdan in his wrath caused him to be bound to a tree in the midst of a thick forest, so that he might become the prey of wild beasts.

Groa's son, when he was alone, bethought him of the incantations which his mother had uttered, and one he repeated till the chains that bound him flew away and he was set free. Hither and thither he wandered disconsolately, nor giant nor foeman could he see, nor could he discover which way he should go.

Then came he to the moon-god ere he rose on his path through the heavens, and by him was Svipdag told where he would find the Sword of Victory which Thjasse-Volund had forged.

"In Mimer's cave," the moon-god said, "it is concealed, and thou must needs overcome the Keeper of Hela's gate to obtain it."

Towards the trackless regions that lead by Hvergelmer's mountain did Svipdag then journey, and over the caves in which giants guard their accursed hoards of treasure. Intense and bitter cold prevailed as he traversed over frostbound ways and wreaths of blocking snow. Now he had need to climb great precipices, and ofttimes he found himself on dizzy mountain ridges, while dread chasms yawned below him. Through many places of horror and peril did Svipdag traverse until he reached the borders of Hela. There he beheld a fair land that gleamed before him, full of flowers of rich fragrance.

He crossed a dark valley, and a hel-hound pursued him, barking loudly. Then came he to the River of Blades, which was spanned by a bridge of gold, and beyond there was a stone door in Hela's wall, guarded by a strong watchman. With him Svipdag fought and was victorious, and he entered the land of spirits where dwells Mimer and the regenerating race unborn.

Protected by the enchantment of Groa, Svipdag went towards the cave in which the treasures of Mimer are concealed, nor did he let his shadow fall upon it lest Mimer's son Mimingus, who kept watch, should take fear and shrink back into the mountain.

Mimingus lay asleep, and Svipdag overcame him and bound him where he lay. He took from the wall the glittering Sword of Victory and the great Arm-ring which Thjasse-Volund had forged, and then hastened to return by the way he had come. So traversing again the mountains of snow and misty blackness, and escaping the dread perils about him, Svipdag returned with his treasures from the Underworld.

Then without delay did the vengeance-seeking son of Groa open a new campaign against Halfdan. In Asgard it was known that he had secured the dreaded sword which Thjasse-Volund had made so that he might overcome the gods. Mighty Thor seized his iron hammer and went forth to help his son.

Great was the battle which was waged. Svipdag mowed down his enemies before him, and Halfdan was sorely wounded by an arrow shot from the bow of Orvandel-Egil. Then did Thor press into the midst of the fray, fighting fiercely against the giants, who fell before him until he came against Svipdag. But the hammer which Sindre had made was of no avail against, the young hero, for with the Sword of Victory it was struck by The Shining One and severed from the handle.

When Thor was repulsed he fled from the field, and Halfdan went with him.

Thus did victory come to Svipdag, and thus was the judgment of the gods defied, for they had placed the workmanship of Sindre's kinsman above that of the sons of Ivalde.

Halfdan died of his wounds, and Thor made haste to Asgard, where the gods awaited the coming of Svipdag with the Sword of Victory, which had been forged so that they might be utterly overcome and Asgard laid waste.


1 Saga version of William Tell myth.

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Triumph of Love

Freyja and Frey in Captivity--Svipdag's Promise--Food of Wisdom--Voyage to Jotun-heim--Beli, "The Howler"--The Brothers Grep--God and Goddess under Enchantments--Svipdag and Ull in Giant's Castle--Freyja Rescued--The Shame of Frey--Freyja deserted--Her Wanderings--How the Spell was broken--Return to Asgard--Idun is lost--Loke and the Eagle--His Promise--The Angered Gods--Idun rescued--Thjasse--Volund slain--Svipdag climbs Bif-rost--The Wolf Dogs on Watch--Odin's Warnings--Glimpse of Asgard's Beauties--Lovers meet--The Sword of Victory--Gods and Elves reconciled.

WHEN Svipdag had triumphed over Halfdan he returned to Sith, remembering the promise he had made to rescue Freyja and Frey from the castle of the giant who held them in captivity. Then he prepared to set out with Ull, his stepbrother, towards the giants' country--cold and darksome Jotun-heim. But ere he went, Sith made for the twain the food of wisdom with the fat of three serpents, so that they might be rendered able to perform their long and perilous journey. Of the magic food did Svipdag secure the better portion for himself.

They had need to cross a great magic sea on which dread tempests roared and whirlpools and treacherous currents were an ever-present danger. When far from shore the storm-giant came against him, but Svipdag overcame him in combat. Protected by the incantations of Groa did Svipdag with Ull make the voyage in safety, until they reached a harbour nigh to the bleak castle of Beli, "the howler", in which Freyja and Frey were imprisoned.

Three sons of the giant met them on the strand. Each of them had Grep for name, and one, who was a skald, desired to have Freyja for his bride. With Svipdag and Ull he entered into angry dispute, and sought to prevail upon them to return from whence they came. But this they scorned to do, and in the end the giants retreated from the strand.

Then went Svipdag and Ull towards the castle to seek for Freyja and Frey. The giants were filled with anger, and sought to affright the young heroes by howling like beasts and bellowing like the storm-god. The clamour they made was indeed fearsome, and none but brave hearts could have ventured to make entry to that place of horror.

Within the court Frey and Freyja came to meet them. and they were surrounded by giant attendants. Svipdag greeted Freyja with a kiss, and she knew that she would become his bride.

But enchantments had been put upon her and upon Frey by the giants. They had been given to drink the potion of forgetfulness, so that they had but vague memory of the past, while deep discontent and haunting misery were their dower. Frey had deep shame upon him, and he sought nor flight nor expected happiness any more. In dark despair he lived within the strong castle of Beli.

Freyja was pale and sorrow stricken. In her heart was keen loathing, which tortured her, against the Grep who would fain be her favoured suitor. Her golden locks were twisted hard above her forehead, for Beli had thus punished her when he took her captive. In vain she had endeavoured to comb them and win back her extreme beauty, but the spell that was put upon her she could not break. Her eyes were vacant and sad. She rejoiced not that Svipdag and Ull had come to rescue her, for her heart was cold and passionless.

Svipdag and Ull entered the wide hall of the castle amidst the bestial howlings of the dread giants. A great fire burned there because of the bitter cold that prevailed.

With the giants they sat at feast, and Frey was on a high seat with pale, unhappy face, while the giants sang loudly and drank deeply about him.

Now deeply were these fierce furies incensed against Svipdag and Ull, whom they sought to overcome and put to death. In sharp dispute they engaged. At length, the Grep who wooed Freyja flung himself upon Svipdag, but Ull cut him down with his sword and slew him. Then many fought against Egil's sons, but they were driven back.

In the end the heroes prevailed upon Freyja to flee with them, but on Frey they could not prevail, for so deeply did he feel his shame that he could not again appear, he said, before the gods in Asgard.

To Svipdag was Freyja cold and indifferent, nor did she ever raise her eyes to look at him or open her lips to speak. When they had crossed the magic sea, they set out to climb the great mountains towards Orvandel's home, where Sith awaited them; but Freyja showed neither joy nor gratitude at her escape from the giants.

Then was the heart of Svipdag filled with anger, and he left Freyja to wander alone. She went towards a desolate land which was the abode of giantesses, and was found by one, who took her for a slave to tend her goats. But Svipdag repented, and when his anger passed away he went again in search of Freyja, for his heart was moved with deep tenderness towards her.

From the giantess he rescued her, and they went together on their way. But that great Hag followed quickly, and swift was the flight of the lovers, running on skees. Nearer and more near came the monster, but suddenly the sun rose over the mountains, and she was turned into a great boulder at the sea's edge.

In Freyja's heart there was yet no gratitude, because of the spells that were upon her. Nor answer would she make when Svipdag spoke, nor would she gaze in his eyes to reward him. One brief look was all he desired, and yet she stared upon the ground disconsolate and silent.

Again did Svipdag wax wroth and leave her to wander alone; and she went down among the rocks. Then took she the guise of a bird and flew over the mountains and over the river that separates that wild country from the land in which Svipdag had his dwelling. She reached the house of Orvandel. To Sith, who recognized her not, she said that she was a poor woman who had no home, and she was received with welcome.

But Svipdag knew her and claimed her for his bride, and a wedding feast was set, and the marriage oath sworn in solemnity and state. Yet was Freyja cold and passionless. To the bridal chamber they went, and in her hand Freyja held a candle. She stood motionless before Svipdag until the candle burned low; and when the flame stung her hand, Svipdag spoke words of warning. But Freyja felt not the pain because of the greater pain within her heart.

Then was the spell broken by fire, and she raised her face and looked with eyes of love upon him who had rescued her. Thus had Svipdag his exceeding great reward.


But Freyja vanished from before him, and in falcon-guise she soared to Asgard, undefiled and pure, and was received with rejoicing by the gods. Then did Svipdag take his Sword of Victory and set forth towards Asgard to win Freyja.

But a sorrow no greater than when Freyja was lured away had fallen upon Asgard because the goddess Idun was lost. For it was she who had in her keeping the golden apples of eternal youth. In her fast-shut casket she kept them, and for each one she drew forth another took its place. From the apples did the gods receive immortality, and when Idun was taken away they began to grow old. Well they knew that both giants and trolls had much desire to rob the golden apples from Asgard. So they were sore troubled, fearing that disaster would fall speedily upon them. On evil Loke did suspicion fall, and when Odin challenged him, for Idun had last been seen in company with him, he confessed that he had delivered her to Thjasse-Volund, her brother, who had forged the Sword of Victory so that the gods might be overcome.

'Twas thus it fell that Idun was taken from Asgard. One day there went forth together on a journey Odin and Honer and Loke. It was their desire to visit the country of Ivalde and his sons, beside Hvergelmer and the rivers Evilagar, so as to cause the conflict to have end. Thjasse-Volund, who had escaped from the bonds of Mimer in the guise of an eagle, had knowledge of their coming and waited for them. In a valley of oaks the gods rested. There they saw grazing a herd of bears, and one they caught on which to feast, for they hungered and were weary. The bear they slew, and when a fire was kindled they roasted it for their feast. Near by lay a magic rod which Thjasse-Volund had forged with intent to wreak his vengeance upon the gods, and especially Loke.

Then a great eagle came towards them, and the gods knew it was Thjasse-Volund who had dominion there.

Hard was the bear to carve, for Ivalde's son had put enchantments upon it, and of this had Odin full knowledge. So he addressed Thjasse and said: "Why hast thou done this, thou maker of ornaments in eagle guise?"

Thjasse said that he desired his share. Odin had not, however, any knowledge of the evil intent of the eagle, and consented that he should divide the meal with them. Whereupon Thjasse flew down and sought to take so large a share that Loke, in his wrath, seized the magic rod to strike at him. When he did that he was in the eagle's power. He could not unclasp his hands from the rod, and the other end was fixed in the claws of the eagle, which flew high, carrying Loke with him. In vain did he seek to be released, and over the oak trees was he dragged and sorely beaten until he was near to being torn to pieces. Loke was heavy and the eagle sank to the ground. Then Loke offered Thjasse any ransom he would demand if he would but let him escape, for he was compelled to plead for his life.

Thjasse demanded his sister Idun, who had been taken away by Loke when the sons of Ivalde were the willing servants of the gods. Loke promised to deliver her to him secretly, and was then released by his dread captor. The gods returned to Asgard together, and evil Loke fulfilled his promise, nor gave Odin knowledge of his doings.

Thus it came that when he made confession of his deed the gods were moved to anger against him, and threatened to put him to death. But Loke made vows to restore Idun to Asgard, and flew forth towards the dominion of Thjasse-Volund in the bird-guise of Freyja.


The loss of Idun had dread effect in Midgard as in Asgard. Cold winds blew from the north. The power of the Frost-giants increased, and they swarmed southward in great hosts. Halfdan, they knew, was slain, and that the gods had loss of power because that Idun had been taken away. Icy arrows were shot over the earth, killing man and beast and each thing that grew. The heavens were disturbed. Nearer sun and moon crept the giant wolves. From Urd's fountain was slowly departing the power to give warmth to the World-tree Ygdrasil. Out of Jotun-heim. rose songs of rejoicing and vengeance that were heard in Asgard, and the gods, growing old, feared that the end of all things was drawing very nigh. To Mimer's grove were sent swift messengers, so that from the Norris might be received knowledge of the world's fate and that of the gods.

So did gods and men suffer because Idun, the goddess of regeneration, was taken away. The death-cold storm-spears were turned against gods and men. The murder-frost held Midgard with iron grasp.

Idun was found by Loke in Thjasse's dwelling, and he put enchantments upon her and she became a nut. Then he flew with her in his claws towards Asgard. But ere he set off, Loke, the tempter, made known to Thjasse what he had done, and challenged him to follow. In eagle-guise angry Thjasse pursued the god. So swiftly did he fly that he came very nigh to Loke ere yet he had reached the safety of Asgard. Then he flew midst the vafer-flames in the kindling vapour cloud, and fell scorched within the walls. Thor seized his hammer, which Sindre had again forged, and slew him. Thus did Thjasse-Volund, who had shaped the Sword of Victory, fall in his shame and perish because of Loke's evil doings.

Meanwhile in Asgard did Freyja await the coming of Svipdag, whom she loved; and him the gods awaited also, because he carried the Sword of Victory.

Svipdag's heart was filled with longing for Freyja, nor could he sleep or rest until he found her. The protection of Groa's incantations was still upon him, and it was Urd's will that he should reach Asgard. So he went again on a perilous journey. Unto Hela he went, over bleak tremendous mountains and through storms and blinding mist, until he reached the foundations of Bif-rost. Heimdal, the shining sentinel, beheld him as he stepped upon the Bridge of the Gods with the gleaming Sword of Victory girdled by his side. But no warning did he sound, for it was the will of Odin that Freyja's lover should stand before the gate of Asgard. So Svipdag ascended until he beheld the ramparts of the celestial city. There he perceived Odin nor knew who he was.

Roughly did the god receive his greetings. "This", he said, "is no place for beggars; return by the moist ways whence you came."

But Svipdag remonstrated, and claimed hospitality, being a weary traveller, and Odin made answer again that he could not enter, although less harshly, for the noble bearing of the youth gave pleasure to his eyes.

"From here, cried Svipdag, "I cannot turn my eyes away because of its exceeding great beauty. Here would I find happiness and peace."

"Who art thou?" Odin asked.

"My name," said Svipdag, "is Windcold, and I am the son of Springcold, whose sire was Very-cold."

Now Svipdag had caught a radiant glimpse of Asgard's beauties. He saw its halls of glittering gold, and especially the Hall of Gladness, which is the dwelling of Freyja, and is nigh to the gate. He also beheld Freyja, whom he loved, sitting on the flower-decked Rock of Joy, which gives health to those who seek it with prayer. She was surrounded by her maids--Eil, the healer; Hlif, the protectress; Bjort, the shining; Blid, the blithe; and Frid, the fair--they had power to give healing to men and women who called upon them from Midgard and offered up sacrifices. Freyja was silent and in deep thought. Like a graven statue she sat in virgin beauty, blue-eyed with golden hair--she who has care of lovelorn maidens and mothers and their babes. She wore her gleaming necklace which the elf-smiths had made with sparkling jewels of the sky and bright spring-flowers, for the fair goddess was "The Lover of Ornaments".

Freyja sat beneath the branches of Ygdrasil, and these Svipdag beheld with wonder. He saw its magical fruit, and in the branches sat the cock Goldcomb, with feathers of gleaming gold.

Svipdag turned his eyes upon Asgard's wondrous gate, and saw before it the two great wolf-dogs which kept watch by night and by day, for when one slept the other was awake. They had power to kill giants and put to flight through the air the flying trolls that came against Asgard in the darkness.

"Can a stranger enter?" the young hero asked of Odin.

"No stranger can come within," the god made answer, "unless he brings with him the Sword of Victory."

"How can the dogs be passed?" asked Svipdag.

Odin made reply that no one could pass the dogs unless he could give them to eat of the flesh upon the legs of Goldcomb.

When Svipdag asked how the cock which sat on the World-tree could be killed, Odin said that there was but one sword with which it could be slain, and it had been kept in Hela's cave, nor could it be obtained from the watchman unless he were given the ankle bones of Goldcomb.

"Can no man enter the city and go unto Freyja?" the hero asked.

"No man can enter," was Odin's answer, "save Svipdag."

"Then open the gates," the hero cried, "for I am he. Svipdag has come to seek for Freyja."

Then he crossed the river unscathed by vafer-flame, for the gates of Asgard flew open. The dogs fawned to him and bayed joyous welcome.

From the rock on which she sat hastened Freyja, and when she knew that it was indeed Svipdag who had come, she cried: "Welcome, my lover! Now is my great desire fulfilled. Long have I waited, sitting on the rock, looking for you by day and by night. All my desires are indeed fulfilled because you are once again by my side."

'Twas thus that Svipdag entered Asgard, bearing with him the Sword of Victory which had been forged to bring ruin to the gods. Love had triumphed over hate, and the designs of Loke were thwarted, for Svipdag had Freyja for his wife and the sons of Ivalde were reconciled to the gods.

Then was Ull brought to Asgard, and Sith also. The eyes of Thjasse-Volund were placed in heaven to shine as stars, and Orvandel, who was dead, was also raised among the star-heroes.

Meanwhile Njord had journeyed to Jotun-heim, where he rescued from the giant's castle his son Frey. In his wrath did Frey kill Beli, "the howler", with a stag's horn which he plucked from the wall when the spells that bound him were taken off.

To Frey was given by Svipdag the Sword of Victory, and the joy of peace fell upon Asgard when he returned.

But still the Hag abode among the gods in the guise of a maid who sat at Freyja's feet. It was fated that she would cause yet another and greater war in Asgard and in Midgard ere her power would be overcome.

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The Lost Sword of Victory

The Wrath of Skade--The Demand for Vengeance--Challenge to the Gods--Loke's Cunning Device--Thjasse--Volund a Star--Hero--Skade chooses a Husband--Marriage with Njord--The Vision of Gerd--Frey's Love--Madness--Skirner's Mission--Visit to Gymer's Castle--Gerd's Disdain--Bridal Gifts scorned--Threats of Torture--Horrors of Nifel--hel--Frey accepted--The Price of Gerd--Gymer receives the Sword of Victory--How Surtur will be avenged.

WHEN Skade, the proud and powerful daughter of Thjasse-Volund, came to know that her father had been slain by the gods, she put on her armour of chain mail and her shining helmet, and she seized her great spear and poisoned arrows to avenge his death. Then, hastening to Asgard, she stood without, challenging a god to combat. Bold was she and beautiful, and serenely fearless in her wrath.

The gods took counsel together, and deemed that her cause was just. Thus it came that they spoke words of peace unto her, and, indeed, they desired not to slay one so fair. But she scorned their entreaties, and, raising her spear, demanded the life of him who had slain her father.

Then went cunning Loke without and set to dancing before her, while a goat danced with him, whereat she was amused. He danced long, and, when he had ceased, he bowed before her and besought her for his bride, the while the goat did bleat mournfully. Skade was moved to laughter, and her wrath passed away.


Nat rode forth, and shadows fell upon the heavens and the stars came forth. Then was Skade besought to enter Asgard. To her came Odin, and, pointing to the sky, he said:

"Behold! thy father's eyes are made bright stars, 1 which shall ever look down upon thee. . . . Amidst the gods thou mayest now dwell, and one thou canst choose to be thy husband. But, when this thou shalt do, thine eyes must be blindfolded, so that his feet only may be beheld by thee."

On the assembled gods she gazed with wonder and delight. Her eyes fell on Balder the Beautiful, and him she loved. In her heart she vowed he would be her choice.

When her eyes were veiled, she beheld a foot that was beautiful, and she deemed it was Balder's. Her arms went out, and, crying: "Thee I wed," she snatched aside the veil, and lo! it was Njord who stood before her.

Stately and fair was Njord, the summer sea-god, who stilled the tempests of Æger and the blast of Gymer, the storm-giant of the bitter east. But the heart of Skade took no delight in Njord.

Yet was the Vana-god her choice, and with him was she wed in pomp and state in Asgard. Together they departed to Noatun, where Skade wearied of the sea and the cries of birds on the cliffs, which bereft her of sleep. Deep was her sorrow that she dwelt no longer in the forest of Thrym-heim, and she yearned for the thundering waterfall, the high mountains, and the wide plains where she was wont to follow the chase. And the love she bore to Balder was ever gnawing her heart.

Then sought Frey a bride, and with love of her he was possessed to madness.

One day he ascended the golden throne of Odin and looked over the worlds, seeing all things, and that was the day of his sorrow. Wondering, he gazed east and west, and to the south he gazed. Then northward towards the land of giants he turned his eyes, and there shone before him a light of great radiance that filled with beauty the heavens and the air and the sea. A maiden, fairer than ever he beheld before, had opened the door of her dwelling. Divinely tall was she, and her arms gleamed like silver. For a moment he saw her, his heart leaping with love, and then she vanished, whereat his soul was stricken with deep sadness. So was he punished for sitting in Odin's throne.

Homeward went Frey, nor speak would he, nor would he eat, or drink, so great was his love for the giant-maid, whose name was Gerd, the daughter of Gymer. Much did the gods marvel because of his silence and his deep sighs. But none could find reason for the madness of Frey. To him came his father Njord, and Skade also, and as they found him so they left him, in melancholy and possessed with secret sorrow. Then spake Njord to Svipdag, who, in Asgard, was named Skirner, "the shining one", and entreated him to discover what caused his son to suffer, and to find a remedy whereby he would be restored to gladness.

As reluctant was Skirner to go unto Frey as he was when Sith besought him to rescue Freyja from the giant Beli. Yet when he found Frey sitting alone in silence, and stricken with keen longing for her whom he loved, he spoke to him boldly and with confidence.

"Together", he said, "we have had adventures in other days, and faithful should we now be one to another. Nor should there be any secret between us. Speak, O Frey, and tell me why you grieve alone and refuse to eat and to drink."

Frey answered him: "How can I disclose, fond friend, the secret of my sorrow. Bright shines the sun-goddess over heaven, but cheerless to me are her rays."

But Skirner pressed him to confide his sorrow, and Frey told of his love for beautiful Gerd, the giant-maid. But his love, he said, was foredoomed to sorrow, for neither god nor elf would permit that they should dwell together.

Then went Skirner to the gods and revealed the secret of Frey's silence and despair. Well they knew that if Gerd were not taken to him the god of sunshine would pine and die, so to Skirner they made known their will that he should haste to Gymer's abode and win his fair daughter for Frey.

Then was Frey less sad, and he gave Skirner the Sword of Victory to be his defence, and from Odin he received Sleipner to ride through fire and over the heavens. The bridal gifts he bore when he set forth were the magic ring Draupner and eleven apples of immortal youth from Idun's precious casket. A magic rod which subdues took he also with him.

Over raging sea and bleak mountains rode Skirner, over chasms and the mountain caves of fierce giants, until he came to Gymer's Castle, which was protected by a moat of fire. Fierce bloodhounds guarded the entrance gate.

On a mound sat a shepherd alone, and him Skirner addressed, beseeching how he could lull the fearsome hounds that kept constant watch, so that he might reach the giant-maid.

"Whence come ye?" asked the shepherd; "for surely you are doomed to die. You may ride by night or by day, but never can you win nigh to Gerd."

Skirner had no fear. "Our fates," he said, "are spun when we are born. Our doom we can never escape."

Now was the voice of Skirner heard by Gerd, who was within, and she besought her maid-servant to discover who it was that spoke so boldly before the castle.

Then Skirner spurred his horse, which rode over the hounds and the fiery moat, and the castle was shaken to the foundations when the door was reached.

The maid-servant told Gerd that a warrior stood without and demanded to be admitted to her.

"Then haste, cried Gerd, and take him within, and mix for him the sweet and ancient mead, for I fear that he who murdered Bell, my brother, is come at length."

Skirner entered and stood before the giant-maid whom Frey loved so well, and she spake to him and said: "Who art thou-an elf, or the son of an Asa-god, or one of the wise Vans? Daring, indeed, art thou, to come alone unto this our strong abode."

"Neither elf, nor god, nor Van am I," Skirner made answer. "I am a messenger from the god Frey, who loves thee. From him I bring the ring Draupner as a gift, for he seeks thee for his bride."

Then was Gerd's heart filled with disdain, and the bridal gift she refused to take. "While life remains in me," she said, "Frey I shall not wed."

Skirner next made offer of the golden ring Draupner, but that she disdained also.

"Of thy ring I have no need," she told him, "because my sire hath great treasure of jewels and of gold."

When she spake thus the heart of Skirner was filled with anger, and he drew forth the shining Sword of Victory.

"Behold this blade!" he cried; "with it I can slay thee if Frey is rejected."

Proudly did Gerd arise. "By force nor threat," said she, "will I ever be led. My strong sire Gymer is armed and ready to punish thee for thy boldness."

Then Skirner said wrathfully: "With this blade I shall slay thy sire, the old giant Gymer, if he should dare to oppose me. And thee I can conquer with this magic wand, which shall subdue thy heart. If I must needs do so, no happiness will ever again come nigh thee. For thee it will remove to the regions of Nifel-hel, where nor god nor man can ever behold thee in beauty again."

Silent and pale sat Gerd as Skirner told her of the fate which would be hers if she continued to refuse to become the bride of Frey.

The place in Nifel-hel to which she must go, he said, was a region of torture where dwell the spirits of the giants who were ground in the World-mill. Power to love she would not have, nor tenderness or sympathy. Alone she must live, or else as the fruitless bride of a monstrous three-headed giant. Gladness and enjoyment would be banished from her heart. Staring eyes would ever watch her coldly and with more hatred than do the Frost-giants regard Heimdal, the sentinel of Bif-rost, or do the Trolls the wolf-dogs of Odin. Nor would the demons ever leave her at peace. Evil witches would bow her to the rocks. Morn, who gives "agony of soul", would fill her being. There in the place of torment prepared for her dwell the demons of sickness, who would increase her sorrow. Never would she be free from the torture of Tope (madness) and Ope (hysteria), and no rest would she know by night or by day. For food she would have loathsome meat, and venom for drink. Each morning would she crawl painfully to the mountain top and behold Hela in glory and in beauty, and ever would she seek in vain to reach its glittering plains of bliss and delight.

"Such, O Gerd, must be thy fate," cried Skirner, "if Frey by thee is disdained."

Then prepared he to strike her with the magic rod which subdues; but Gerd besought him to hear her.

"Fulfil not thy threat," she pleaded, "and drink of this sweet and ancient mead. Never dreamed I that I should love a god of the Vans."

But Skirner would not be appeased until she gave to him a message to Frey. Whereat she promised that after the space of nine nights she would consent to become the bride of the Vana-god if the Sword of Victory were given to her sire.

Pleasant were her words to Skirner, and hastening without he leapt upon his horse and returned with all speed to Asgard. There did Frey await him with impatience, but the lovelorn Vana-god was filled with sadness when he came to know that he must needs wait the space of nine nights ere he would be by Gerd received.

"Long is one night without her," he cried; "longer are two nights--how can I endure to wait for nine? Longer has this half night of waiting seemed to me than a month of greatest bliss."

Slowly for Frey passed the days and nights that followed. Then at the appointed time he went to Gerd, who became his bride.

Unto Gymer he gave for his daughter the Sword of Victory, which had been forged to bring disaster upon the gods. And in this manner was Asgard deprived of the fruit of the triumph which Freyja had brought thither when Svipdag's wrath was turned aside and his love for her caused peace to be made between gods and elves.

Long had the giants sought to possess the Sword of Victory, and especially the wife of Gymer, Gulveig-Hoder, the dreaded Hag of Iarnvid, who had still her dwelling in Asgard, where she ever strove to work evil.

For with the Sword of Victory will Surtur be armed when he issues forth to avenge the wrong done to Gunlad by Odin.

Thus did Loke taunt Frey. "Treasure gave you to Gymer with which to buy his daughter, and the Sword of Victory also. Lo! when the sons of Surtur come over Ironwood, in sore distress you shall indeed be, for then you shall know not, O unhappy one, with what weapon to fight."


1 The Ivalde family is associated with star worship. Ivalde is Vate, or Wate, of "Watling Street", the old English name of the Milky Way. Thjasse is connected with Sirius, and Orvandel with Orion. "Watling Street" was also applied to one of the Roman military roads extending from near Dover by London to North Wales.

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Fall of Asgard

Vengeance of the Gods--Burning of the Hag--War of the Gods--Skade leaves Njord--Mimer is slain--The Vans before Asgard--The Strategy of Njord--How Sleipner was captured--A Spy in Asgard--Odin's Gate burst Open--Invaders Victorious--Flight of Asa--Gods--The War in Midgard--The Sons of Halfdan--Odin rescues Hadding--Loke's Evil Designs--Giants in Conflict--Defeat of Hadding--How the Dead spoke--A Dread Curse--Forest Peril--The Great Hand--Death of Giant Maid--Heimdal protects Hadding.

THE gods marvelled greatly at the disasters which had befallen them, and they sat in council together to discover how Freyja had been lured from Asgard, and who had plotted to work this evil.

Suspicion fell upon Loke's wife, Aurboda-Gulveig-Hoder, the Hag of Ironwood, who dwelt among the gods in the guise of a maid-attendant to Freyja. Wife she was also to Gymer, who had become possessed of the Sword of Victory, and her son was Beli, "the howler", whom Frey had slain. So well did she act her part, while she schemed to work evil, that among the maids none seemed fairer or more faithful. Many missions did she perform for Freyja. Once, indeed, she was sent to confer divine favour upon mortals. A king and queen had long been married, and they had no children.

Prayers they offered up to Freyja, and sacrifices made they that an heir to the kingdom might be theirs. In compassion were they heard, and Aurboda was sent earthwards by Freyja in the guise of a crow, bearing with her the fruit of fertility from the branches of Ygdrasil. When the queen partook of it, her desire was fulfilled, and in due season an heir was born, whereat there was great rejoicing in the kingdom.

Thus Aurboda 1 had fair repute in Asgard despite her evil character--she who was mother of the wolves that pursue sun and moon; she who was Hag of Eastern Winds which bear the burden of her fearsome song and drive fair vessels into the very jaws of Ægir, the storm-god of western ocean.

When the gods came to know she was indeed the Mother of Evil, and had lured Freyja from her secure abode, they were moved with great wrath and with horror against her. They found, too, that it was dread Aurboda who had filled the air with witchcraft and wrought evil spells that enchanted both gods and men. Black sorcery did she practise to stir up the evil passions with which Loke had endowed human kind.

Thor sprang up in the High Thingstead of the gods and went forth hastily to find her. By him was she seized and struck down. Then the gods burned her as punishment for her witchcraft. A great pyre they reared in Valhal, and they spitted her body with their spears, holding it over the flames until it was consumed. But she came to life again. Thrice they burned her and thrice was she restored, for evil is hard to destroy. The third time they flung her ashes away, but her heart, which is the seat of life, was but half-burned, and Loke found it and swallowed it. Thereafter he partook in still greater measure of the evil character of the Hag, who, however, came to life the third time in Ironwood, where she must ever dwell despite the vengeance of the gods and their wrathful desire to destroy her. But Asgard she could never again enter.

Now the Hag was the mother of Gerd, the giant maid whom Frey the Vana-god had married. As kinswoman of one of their clan she was under the protection of the Vana-gods, although, like the Asa-gods, they had fear and hatred of her witchcraft. They therefore began to dispute with the Asa-clan because the Hag had been burned. Long and loud the quarrel waged, but suddenly it was brought to an end by Odin, who flung his spear into their midst to signify that the war of words must end and the war of arms ensue.

Thus was the breach between the gods accomplished by the fearsome Hag.

On earth, too, was a conflict begun between the tribes of men. Thus came to be waged, as skalds have sung, "the first great war in the world". Whereat the primeval cold heart of "the old one in the Ironwood" was made glad. With her rejoiced Egther, "the sword-guardian", who is also named Gymer, and is shepherd of her foul herds. On the Day of Vengeance, when Surtur prepares to issue forth, Egther shall be visited by Fjalar-Suttung, in the guise of the red cock of Hela, to obtain from him the Sword of Victory with which to slay the gods.

Now when the Vans became hostile to the Asa-gods, they issued forth from Asgard. With them went Njord. Skade, his wife, refused to dwell any more with him when she found she had no longer need to fear the Asa-gods. She wearied of the western seashore, for she loved Thrym-heim, the domain of Thjasse-Volund, her father, with its serene mountains and wide plains and forests of oak. For nine days and nine nights would Njord go with her to the mountains, and then for a time would she dwell with him beside the loud-voiced sea. Njord hated Thrym-heim as she did Noatun, and with heavy heart he sang:

I am weary of the mountains,
The barren plains and lone,
And dismal chasms of the winds
Where fettered demons groan;
I am weary of the forests
And the wolves that howl by night,
For I love the singing of the swans
Upon the ocean bright,
The flash of oars on boundless seas
And billows plunging white.

In the kingdom of Njord did Skade sing:

O never mine eyes are closed in sleep
On my lonesome couch by the sea,
For the clamour the restless seagulls keep
Is weary and strange to me.
I pine for my mountains free, and the woods,
For the snow-clad plains and the chase;
And I hate the cold-lipped shore that broods
In the shifting sea's embrace.

So Skade parted with Njord and went towards her ancient home, from which she never returned. When the star-eyes of Thjasse-Volund are gleaming bright in heaven, and winds are abroad, she runs on her skees adown steep mountain slopes; and with her arrows and her spear she hunts the bear and the wolf in dim forests and over snow-white plains.

Mighty Njord was leader of the Vans in their war against the Asa-gods. And to the Vans was it given to triumph. In sore plight were Odin and his strong warriors, for the Sword of Victory was no longer theirs, and the hammer of Thor had been broken. Yet with indomitable courage did Thor and brave Tyr and all the gods of Odin's clan defend Asgard. Loke usurped Honer, for he desired to rule over the Vana-gods.

Mimer, in the Underworld, was ever faithful unto Odin. So the Vana-gods slew him, and to Odin they sent his head, and the great Asa-god embalmed it. Then sang he sacred runes, so that in after time Odin spake with Mimer's head, and heard words of wisdom from it, and received guidance as of old. Honer was sent unto Mimer's realm, where he spoke without confidence or clear knowledge, but he had not chosen his part.

Asgard fell, and by cunning strategy was it taken. Unscathed by the vafer-flames did the Vans cross its fearsome river, for Njord burst open the mighty gate with his great battleaxe and caused it to fall. So did the Vans achieve gigantic triumph.

It was thus that the gods were overcome. Before Asgard their foes assembled, and skirmishings there were when Odin's warriors issued forth. On a silent evening the gate was lowered, so that it bridged the river, and a god rode forth upon Sleipner. But in ambush was he taken by Njord, and he leapt from his horse and hastened back to Asgard, crossing the bridge, which was hastily raised again. But Sleipner was captured, whereat there was sorrow and deep foreboding in Asgard.

Next morning the gods found Odin's horse outside the gate, and they rejoiced and took it within. The robes of Njord they saw also in the river, and what they thought to be his dead body, so they deemed themselves secure.

But Njord was already in Asgard. He had gone to the river, horsed on Sleipner, in the darkness of night. There he slew his attendant and wrapped his own kingly robes about him, throwing the body into the dread waters.

Whereupon he crossed over on Sleipner, unscathed by the vafer-flames, scaled the great wall, and concealed himself within the High Thingstead of the gods.

When he came to know of the gods' plans, and perceived that he had naught to fear, he crept forth and struck the gate with his battleaxe. Across the river it fell like a bridge, and over it surged the conquering Vana-gods. Thus did they become possessed of Asgard, the celestial city.

Njord was chief of heroes, and with him fought Frey and Ull, the warlike son of Sith, and Svipdag, Freyja's husband. Frigg espoused the cause of the Vana-gods, her kinsmen, and remained in Asgard. 2

Odin made swift escape on the back of Sleipner, and Thor yoked his goats, and in his thundering car departed with those who remained faithful to his sire. Thus were the Asa-gods bereft of their power, and thus became the Vana-gods the world-rulers in Asgard. Ull was chosen as the chief, and to him did mortals offer up prayers and sacrifices.

Then did wicked men, by reason of great offerings which they made, seek to win Hela's secure abode.

While the war was waged about Asgard there were mighty conflicts in Midgard, for Halfdan's tribe sought to be avenged on the tribe of Svipdag. But ere the tale of the battles be told it must needs be known how the war upon earth came to be.

When Halfdan was wounded unto death, in the great fight in which Svipdag overcame Thor with the Sword of Victory, his forces were driven hither and thither. He had two sons Hadding, whose mother was Signe-Alveig, and Gudhorm, whose mother was Groa. They were in great peril when Halfdan died, and Thor carried them unto Jotun-heim. Gudhorm he gave to the giant Halfe, and Hadding to the giant Vagnhofde, so that they might be cared for until they became great warriors.

When the Vans conquered Asgard, Loke sought to win their favour. He perceived that they were scorned by Hadding's tribe, whom Saxons called "the Heardings", and he laid snares against Hadding. But there came to Hadding one day a tall old man with one eye, who rode a great horse. He lifted Halfdan's son into his saddle, and round the lad he wrapped his cloak. Then he set off with him. So swiftly did the horse travel, and yet so smoothly, that the lad was curious to know whither they were going. There was a small hole in the horseman's mantle, and when Hadding peered through he saw the wide ocean far beneath and the clouds about him. Fear filled his heart and he trembled, and the rider bade him to look not forth again, For it was Odin who had rescued Hadding, and he bore him to the place of refuge which the gods had selected when they were driven out of Asgard.

Odin trained Halfdan's soil to become a great leader of men. Over him he sang magical incantations which had power to free him from fetters and chains. He also gave him to drink of the Splendid Draught, which was called "Leifner's Flames". Its virtue was such that it imparted to Hadding strength beyond that of all men, and bravery that was unequalled. Then did Odin warn him that he would soon have need to use his powers against his enemies.

Hadding returned on Odin's horse, as he had come, to the home of the giant Vagnhofde. But soon he fell into Loke's snare. The evil god seized him and chained him in a forest, as Svipdag had been chained by Halfdan, so that he might become the prey of wild beasts. Guards were set over him to prevent his escape. But when these allies of Loke kept watch, Halfdan sang an incantation which Odin had taught him, and they fell into a magic sleep. A great wolf came towards him to tear his body to pieces, and he sang the incantation which makes free, and his chains and fetters fell from him. Then he attacked the wolf and killed it, and its heart he did eat. With the might and ferocity of the wolf was Hadding then endowed, and the guards he slew, and went upon his way.

He returned to the giants' home, and prepared to depart so that he might raise his tribe to battle against the tribe of Svipdag. Now Hardgrep, the giant's daughter, loved him and besought him not to leave her. She had power to change her shape. Now she had stature which reached to the stars, and anon she was of human size. In vain did she remonstrate with Hadding because he scorned her love and sought to follow arms, thirsting for throats.

But although at length she gained his love as a comely maid, he had still resolve to be gone. So she attired herself as a male warrior and went with him.

Then did Svipdag come from Asgard, and he sought to make peace with the sons of Halfdan. To both he offered kingdoms, and his half-brother Gudhorm, son of Groa, he made ruler over the Danes. But Hadding refused his favours, and with anger and fierce scorn he vowed that he would avenge his father's death and take no favour from the hands of his enemy. Until his life's purpose was fulfilled he vowed to cut neither hair nor beard, and long were both and very fair. It was thus that he was called Hadding, "the hairy"

His eastern tribe of Swedes did the young warrior raise to battle against Svipdag's tribe and their allies, and war he declared against his brother Gudhorm, King of the Danes. Between the two brothers did Loke work much evil. As a blind man he went to Hadding with words his brother uttered, and with Gudhorm he was Bikke, a leader of his army.

So the brothers fought one against another. To Gudhorm's aid went Halfe, the giant who had nourished him, and to Hadding's went Vagnhofde. Svipdag's Scandian tribe fought with the Danes.

On the night before the battle the opposing armies beheld the great hairless giants contending in mid-air, the starlight gleaming on their bald, horrible heads. Monstrous were the efforts of these foul gigantic warriors. When the dread conflict was ended, victory was with Halfe.

On the morrow did Loke set in cunning battle array the forces of Gudhorm, which triumphed on the field as Halfe had in mid-air.

The eastern Swedes were scattered, and Hadding became a fugitive in the woods. With him was Hardgrep, the giant's daughter, who was a constant protection to him. Great hardships did they endure together, and they were ofttimes in peril.

But her aid he was doomed to lose. One night they entered a lonely dwelling to seek hospitality, and there they found that the master of the house was lying dead. His funeral rites were being performed. Now, it was Hardgrep's desire to peer into the future, and she took a piece of wood and on it engraved magic runes, which she caused Hadding to place under the dead man's tongue, so that he might speak.

Angry, indeed, was the spirit thus compelled to make utterance. Nor did it reveal what was sought, but cursed the worker of the spell. Terrible was the voice that spoke and said: "Cursed be the one who dragged me back from the Underworld! Let her perish by the demon who called a spirit out of bale!"

Then fled from the house Hadding and Hardgrep and sought refuge in the deep forest. Over the narrow path of a grove they made a shelter with branches of trees and concealed themselves there. In the middle of the night a rustling was heard in their secret dwelling, and a Great Black Hand was perceived to move about, groping with iron fingers for its prey.

Hadding was stricken with terror, and he awakened Hardgrep and besought her to rescue him. Swiftly rose the giant-maid, and she assumed great stature to defend her lover. With strength of her kind she clutched the Great Hand round the wrist, and bade Hadding strike it with his sword. Many blows did he give, seeking to hew it off, and his blade rang noisily against the hard flesh.

Blood flowed from the wounds he made, but more venom than blood came forth.

Then suddenly was Hardgrep caught by the Hand, which clutched her in terrible embrace. Into her flesh sank the sharp claws, and her bones were crushed, and she sank in death in the sheltered dwelling. Whereat the Great Hand vanished.

Hadding was now alone and in great peril, for demons compassed him about in the dark forest.

But Odin, in his compassion, sent forth Lyfir, "the shining one", who was Heimdal in human guise, to protect the warrior in his loneliness. Him did Hadding meet as a rover, and a bond of friendship they made together by sprinkling one another's feet with their blood.

Soon again did Hadding appear in the east, leading his hosts to battle.


1 Also Angerboda.

2 Hence the Heimskringla story of Odin going a long journey, and the wooing of Frigg by his brothers, who thought he would never return.

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The Gods Reconciled

Svipdag leaves Asgard--Hadding's Strategy--Fleet sunk by Odin--Fate of Svipdag--Freyja's Sorrowful Quest--The Sea-Dragon--Slain by Hadding--The Curse of Freyja--Loke and Heimdal's Ocean Fight--Hadding's Peril--The Gods and the Last Battle--Death of Svipdag's Son--His Faithful Queen--Giants threaten Asgard--Odin's Warning--Thor wins Ull's Favour--Asa-Gods return to Asgard--The Decrees of Odin--The Seven Sleepers--St. Swithin's-Day Myth.

SVIPDAG descended out of Asgard and urged his tribe to help the Danes in their campaign against Hadding. Ing was he called by his people. They were ruled over by his son, Asmund, who had chosen to live among men.

The fame of Hadding had already gone forth because of mighty deeds he had done. He had conquered King Hadvanus, although the city in which he was besieged was protected by strong battlements. The cunning warrior desired the speedy surrender of his foemen. He caused birds that nested within to be caught, and to their feathers slow-burning lights were attached, so that when they flew over the battlements they set the roofs aflame. The people hastened to quench the great fires that raged about them; soldiers left the fortresses, and the guards ran from the gates. Then did Hadding make sudden and fierce assault and capture the town. Not until he gave payment of much gold was the stricken king ransomed and saved from death.

A great fleet sailed eastward with Svipdag's warriors.

In one ship, the name of which was Gnod, went three thousand men. But Odin sank it, and all on board perished in the waves.

'There are some who tell that Svipdag was drowned with his warriors, and there are others who hold that he was punished by enchantments, for by reason of Groa's incantations the sea could not harm him, and none there were who had power over him save the Asa-gods. Indeed he had reason to fear them greatly, for they were stirred with wrath against him because he would not permit the war to have end. He was Odur, the one "endowed with spirit".

It is told that enchantments were put upon Svipdag by the Asa-gods, and that he was transformed into a great sea-dragon which dwelt beneath a grey rock guarding much treasure.

The heart of Freyja was sad because that Svipdag came not nigh to her with loving words and shining face. Deeply she yearned for him in Asgard, wondering what evil had befallen The Shining One.

Then came she to know that he had suffered because of Odin's wrath, and forth she went to search for him. Tears fell from her eyes, and they became drops of pure gold, and those that showered into the sea were changed to amber.

Through Midgard she went searching for Svipdag, and she roamed over hills and plains and over rivers and lakes enquiring of whom she met if her lost one had gone this way or that. And without ceasing she wept, so that her tears of gold may be found in all lands, and her tears of amber on the shores of wide seas. Faithful was she to Svipdag, and ever did she sorrow as she went because she found him not.

At length she came to the shore of the sea where her husband sorrowed also in dragon-guise. Horrible was he to behold and of haggard seeming.

She was neither repulsed nor was her love turned cold, for the eyes of the dragon were still the eyes of Svipdag, without change or lack of beauty.

Then endeavoured she to comfort him, and wept more tears of gold. Great indeed did the dragon's treasure become, for great was the sorrow of Freyja. But break the spell she could not, for who can remove the curse of Odin?

Long she stayed nigh to Svipdag, nor sought to return unto Asgard. And when she entered the sea to comfort him her great necklace glittered through the waves, and in darkness fire flashed from it. Beneath the grey stone she left the necklace on the day when lasting sorrow was her dower.

There came on that day to bathe in the sea Hadding, the vengeful son of Halfdan. But he wondered because his body was scorched with great heat and the waves boiled all around. Then suddenly he beheld the dragon coming against him. With haste he seized his sword and made fierce attack. Great was the might of Hadding, and by Odin was he given power to prevail. With many strong blows he slew the monster, and he bade his men to carry it to his camp.

Now, as he went thither, a lady came towards him. She was of such great beauty that he was made silent before her. Golden was her hair, and gleaming and blue were her eyes as the radiant, sun-kissed sea. But Hadding knew not that it was the goddess Freyja who stood before him.

When she beheld the dragon she was stirred to divine wrath. Hadding she cursed upon sea and upon land. "Suffer shalt thou," she cried, "the vengeance of the gods in Asgard.


On battlefield and empty plain shall their wrath attend thee. On seas eternal tempests shall thee follow. Wherever thou dost wander thou shalt be accursed. Bitter cold shall follow thee to thy dwelling; at its fire thou shalt be oppressed. Thy flocks shall die. All men shall shun thee, for through the world thou shalt go as foul and as hated as is the plague. Such is the wrath of the gods against thee, for with sacrilegious hands thou hast slain a dweller in Asgard who was enchanted in a form that was not his own. O slayer of the god I loved! when thou art cast into the deep the wrath of demons shall fall upon thee. Ever will you be under our curse until with prayers and sacrifice to the Vana-gods our wrath is appeased."

All things that Freyja said came to pass. Stricken was Hadding by a tempest and cast into the raging sea. Despised was he by strangers when he was washed ashore, and shunned was he as if he were plague-smitten and foul. Many disasters, indeed, fell upon him, until he offered up dusky men in sacrifice to the god Frey. Then was the wrath of the Vana-gods melted and the curse removed.

Each year did Hadding ever afterwards give Frey great offerings, as did also his sons and their sons for generations.

Now Loke had watched the conflict between Hadding and the dragon while yet afar off. When he perceived that Svipdag was slain, he hastened to secure the treasure, and especially the necklace of Freyja, from below the grey rock. In seal guise did he enter the sea, and he saw gleaming through the dark waters the jewels of the divine Lover of Ornaments. But Heimdal, the keen-eyed, followed him, and in seal guise was he also. Thus did Loke and he meet in the sea's dim depths. By their eyes did each know the other, and fiercely they fought on the grey rock to be possessed of the jewels.

Heimdal, son of the waves, was victorious. He drave off Loke, and possessed himself of Freyja's necklace, which he kept secure until he returned to Asgard with the Asa-gods.

Then came the day of great battle between Hadding and the tribes that were combined against him. Ere it began, he slew Henry, son of Asmund, son of Svipdag. Then was Asmund filled with great wrath, and he vowed to slay the warrior who had killed his sire and his son also.

But Odin was with Hadding, and the great god caused his favoured warrior to marshal his army in wedge shape, so as to pierce and scatter the foe. For long years after did the descendants of Hadding enter battle in this manner.

Now when the conflict was at its height, Hadding was sore pressed because of the strength of Asmund's arm which was made greater by his exceeding great wrath and desire for vengeance. Odin perceived his peril, and hastened from the battle to bring him aid.

The Vana-gods gave help to Asmund, and over Hadding's army there passed a fierce rainstorm and wreaths of mist that caused confusion. Then came Thor on a black thundercloud which drave back the rain-clouds over the hills, and the sun broke forth in clear splendour.

Hadding's wedge-shaped army pressed forward, until Asmund was nigh to his enemy, whose death he sought above all else. Then did Hadding call upon the Asa-gods in his sore need. Asmund had flung his shield over his back, and with both hands grasping the hilt, he wielded his great sword so fiercely that he mowed down his enemies before him. Nigh to Hadding came he indeed, when Odin returned on his horse Sleipner, bearing with him the giant Vagnhofde. By Hadding's side was the giant placed in the guise of a warrior bearing a crooked sword.

When Asmund saw the weapon which the giant wielded he cried: "Thou mayest fight with a crooked sword, but my short sword and my javelin shall be thy doom this day. And thou, Hadding, holding thy shield against me, art foul with crimes. Thy bold lance shall I bear down, and thee shall I cover with shame."

But the giant engaged Asmund, and Hadding flung his lance, which pierced Asmund's body so that he fell dying of his fierce wound. Yet was he not without strength to strike a last blow, for he grasped his javelin and flung it at Hadding, whose foot he pierced. Then died Asmund unrevenged, but ever afterwards did the slayer of his sire and his son limp with the wound he gave him in his last hour.

When Asmund fell, Hadding became victorious, and his foemen he drave in confusion from the field.

The body of Asmund was buried with pomp and state. Bitter was the grief of his queen Gunnhild, who desired not to live after him. With Asmund's sword she slew herself, and with him was she laid in the tomb. She loved him more than life, and with her arms around his body was she laid to rest in his tomb. The whole tribe mourned them, sorrowing greatly for many days.

Now the Frost-giants and the giants of the mountains plotted together to conquer Asgard, and in Surtur's deep dales and in Iarnvid there was promise and offer of help. Weak were the Vana-gods to resist the disaster which impended, nor did they know a-tight of the evil plans of their dread foes. But to Odin came full knowledge in his exile. Well he knew that disaster irretrievable would befall both gods and mortals if the high celestial city fell before the giants.

Sleipner he mounted, and towards Asgard sped he, bearing the tidings of dread import. Then it was that the Vana-gods knew they had exceeding great need of his wise and constant counsel. Deeply moved were they towards the leader they had dethroned and driven into exile, because he had forewarned them of the giants' plans.

To Thor went Ull, who sat in Odin's throne, and together they conferred. With eloquent words did the Thunder-god fill the heart of Ull with friendship towards the Asa-gods, so that he returned to Asgard to plead their cause. Nor long did he speak when the Vana-gods sent speedily unto Odin to beseech him to become once again their great chief ruler.

So were the Asas and Vans reconciled, but on the day of Ragnarok, when Suttung comes forth to wreak vengeance, the wise Vans shall depart from Asgard.

Soon after Odin had returned to sit supreme again upon his throne, the giants made vain attempt to overcome the gods, but great punishment was meted out to them for their presumption. Many were slain, and those that survived were driven back to Jotun-heim. Then peace unbroken reigned in Asgard. In Midgard, too, was peace restored, and men laid down their arms, weary with fighting.

Odin then, remembering the evil wrought by the Hag of Iarnvid, issued decrees which condemned magic and the practice of black sorcery. The great sacrifices made by evil men did he also condemn, and he made known that not only by the quantity of offerings would the gods be appeased or the wicked recommended before the Thingstead of the Lower World. Those of his chosen warriors who were borne by the Valkyries to his place of exile were brought unto Asgard to share the joys of Valhal.

So ended the first great war in the world. But the dread effects of Loke's evil had not yet their end.

When Mimer was slain, the fount of wisdom was without a watchman, and Ygdrasil, the World-tree, ceased to draw sustenance therefrom so that it began to wither. Many leaves faded, and its branches knew swift decay.

The seven sons of Mimer, who were guardians of the seven months of change, 1 fell into deep stupor in their golden hall, which was heaped with great treasure. Clad in splendid robes, they lay upon the floor wrapped in magic sleep. Sindre-Dvalin was there in the midst; his brothers were about him. Mortals who have penetrated Hela and reached Mimer's realm have beheld them lying asleep beside their treasure, but they feared to enter; for if anyone touched the robes, or sought to be possessed of the gold, his hand and his arm would wither.

The Seven Sleepers shall awake not, as mortals have been told, until Ragnarok, "the Dusk of the Gods". When Heimdal blows a thunder blast from Gjallarhorn on the day of the Last Battle, the sons of Mimer shall start from sleep. They shall then arm themselves and issue forth. On the wall have mortals beheld suspended and bright, seven long swords which none save the sons of Mimer can wield.


1 These are St. Swithin's mythical predecessors. The ancient belief was that if it rained on "the day of the Seven Sleepers" there would be rain for seven weeks thereafter.

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Loke's Evil Progeny

Ironwood Brood--The Midgard-Serpent, Hel, and the Wolf--Odin's Acts of Vengeance--The Binding of Fenrer--Its Silk-like Chain--The Gulf of Black Grief--Its Island--How Tyr lost his Hand--Wolf-River Von--The Great Watchdog--Loke's Taunts--His Doom foretold--Human Sacrifices--The Runes of Tyr--Warriors' Sword Charm--Commander of the Valkyries.

Now by divination did Odin come to know that in Ironwood the Hag, Angerboda (Gulveig-Hoder) was rearing the dread progeny of Loke with purpose to bring disaster to the gods. Three monster children there were-Fenrer, the wolf; Jormungand, the Midgard serpent; and Hel. From these the Trolls are sprung.

Together the gods took counsel, and a Vala revealed dimly the fate that would be theirs if these monsters were not overcome, for the wolf, it was foretold, would slay Odin, Thor would fall in combat with the serpent, and Hel would come with the hosts of destruction against the gods and men.

So it was deemed of great import that the foul children of Loke and Angerboda should be brought to Asgard, and by Odin was Hermod sent to Ironwood to take them captive. That he did right speedily, bringing them one by one.

When Odin beheld the foul serpent, which was yet young, but of great length and very fierce, he seized it in his wrath and flung it far over the walls of Asgard.

Yet by reason of its terrible weight it did not pass beyond the world's edge, but fell into the depths of Ocean, where in after-days it grew and grew until it encircled the world of men. There on the sea bottom it lies, holding its tail in its mouth. When it shakes itself the waves rise in great fury and surge high upon the world's shores.

Next came Hel, and foul was she of aspect, for one-half of her body was of hue like to raw flesh, while the other was livid and horrible. In wrath did Odin seize her also, and he flung her afar. Beyond the edge of Ocean she went, falling through space, until she reached the black depths of Nifel-hel. There in the realms of torture became she a queen.

High are the walls and strongly barred the gates of her habitation, which is named Hel-heim and also Elvidner, the Place of Storm. The doomed have terror of her fearsome countenance, and of the place where she sits. About her are her servants, who do her will. Delay is her man servant and Slowness her maid servant; Hunger waits at her table, and her knife is Starvation. The threshold of Hel's home is Precipice, her bed is Care, while Burning Anguish forms the hangings of her apartment.

Unto Elvidner, as it hath been told, went the doomed ere they were committed to the realms of torture. By Hel were their punishments ordered according to the judgments passed upon them. And especially to her came trembling, warmen who died without valour and were unworthy, as did also those who were traitors in the hour of trial.

Now when the wolf Fenrer was brought to Odin, he sought not to destroy it. Indeed it was reared by the gods in Asgard; but when it grew large, it became so fierce that none save brave Tyr had courage to feed it. The day fell when Odin perceived that the wolf must needs be overcome, or else it would devour him. So prodigiously did it increase that there was terror in Asgard.

Then the gods caused to be made an iron chain which was named Leding. Tyr bore it to Fenrer, who knew well its purpose. Without resistance was it bound, and when that was done the gods were well pleased. Then rose Fenrer to struggle with the chain, which it snapped right speedily. So the wolf again went free, and grew more ferocious than ever.

Another chain, which was named Dromi, was thereafterwards made by the artisans of the gods. It had double the strength of Leding. Then went Tyr to the fierce wolf, and constrained it to be bound.

"If this chain by thee is burst," Tyr said, "then will thy mighty strength be proved indeed."

Well did the wolf know that the second chain was more powerful than the first, and that it could not easily be snapped. But much had Fenrer grown in bulk and in strength after Leding was broken. So the monster lay down, and, although somewhat afraid, allowed Tyr to fetter its legs. . . . The gods stood nigh and deemed the wolf secure forever. . . . They saw it rise and struggle fiercely without avail. Then it rolled upon the ground in monstrous strife, until at length the chain burst asunder and Fenrer was again free. More fierce than ever, and more terrible did the wolf become.

Thus had origin the proverb that men use in dire straits when they know that wondrous efforts must needs be made: "I must now get loose from Leding, and burst free out of Dromi".

In despair were the gods when they saw Fenrer again at liberty, and they feared he would never be bound.

Then did Odin give to Hermod his horse Sleipner, and him did the wise god send unto the Underworld, so that he might prevail upon the dark artisans of the gods to fashion the cord Gleipner, "the devourer".

Readily indeed did the cunning workers give Odin their service. Soft as silk was the cord they made, and light as air. When it was cast down it made no noise. Of six things was it made:

A mountain's root,
A bear's sinews,
The breath of fish,
A cat's footfall,
A woman's beard,
The spittle of birds.

"Of all these things thou mayest not have heard before," a skald has said, "yet a mountain hath no roots, fish breathe not, and cats make no noise when they run. Women have no beards, as thou hast seen.

Soft and smooth was the cord indeed but yet of exceeding great strength. Hermod bore it to Asgard with great speed, and by Odin was he thanked for his service.

Then did the gods challenge Fenrer to a supreme trial of strength. To the depths of Nifel-hel they went, and to the Gulf Amsvartner, which means "black grief". In the gulf is an island, and on the island a misty grove, with trees shaped from jets of water sent forth by boiling springs.

To the island did the gods take Fenrer, and they showed him there the cord Gleipner. Each of them in turn tried its strength but could not snap it.

"None but thee, O Fenrer, can break cord," Odin said.

The wolf answered: "Methinks no great fame can come to me from breaking such a cord, so light and slender does it seem."

Then with fierce eyes it spake thus: "If the cord is made with magic cunning, although it seems slender, never shall I permit it to bind my feet."

The gods answered, and said: "Surely Fenrer can burst asunder a cord both silken and light, when it hath already severed chains of iron."

The wolf made no answer, watching them sullenly with fiery eyes.

"If thou canst break this cord," Odin said, "then shall the gods know that they have no cause to fear thee, and then may well set thee at liberty."

The wolf answered sullenly, and said: "Much I fear that if I am fettered, and cannot free myself, thou shalt not haste to unloose me. Loath indeed am I to be bound with this cord. But I am not without courage. Know now that I shall give consent to be bound if a god but place his hand in my mouth, as a sure undertaking that ye practise no deceit towards me."

At one another the gods looked in silence. No choice had they between two evils, and they knew that the wolf must needs be bound.

Then stepped forth brave Tyr, the valiant god without fear, and between the fierce jaws of the monster wolf he placed his strong right hand. Thereupon the gods bound Fenrer with the soft silk-like cord of magic power. Securely they tied him; his legs they fettered so that he could not rise.

Holding Tyr's right hand in its jaws, the wolf then began to struggle with purpose to break free from the magic bonds. Great wrath possessed its heart because its efforts were vain. No loop could be displaced, nor knot unloosed. On its back and on its side it struggled in vain, for the more it sought to be free, the tighter became the cords. Blood streamed from Tyr's hand, and in the end Fenrer gnawed it off at the wrist.

When the gods perceived that the wolf was bound indeed, all of them save Tyr shook with great laughter.

A gallow-chain, named Gelgja, was then fixed to the cord, and the gods drew it through a black rock named Gjoll, which was sunk deep in the earth. The other end of the cord they tied to Thviti, a great boulder, which was buried still deeper. The wolf was then so well secured that it could not move. Yet it snapped its jaws, endeavouring to sever chains and cord; and, perceiving this, the gods thrust in its evil mouth a great sword. It pierced the under jaw up to the very hilt, and the point touched the monster's palate.

Then did the wolf's struggles come to an end, and horribly did it howl. Foam streamed from its mouth, and a roaring cascade began to fall, which ever after fed the great and turbulent River Von.

To guard the island of the Gulf of Black Grief the gods bound there, nigh to Loke's monster son, the great watchdog Garm, which is greater than Hate-Managarm, the moon devourer, so that it might bark with loud alarm if Fenrer broke free. There, too, beside the fettered wolf, was Loke bound in after days.

Now when Loke fell to dispute with Tyr he said: "Thy two hands thou canst not use, since thy right one was taken from thee by the wolf."

To him did Tyr make answer: "A hand I lack, but thou, O Loke, dost lack a good reputation. That is indeed a great defect. But the wolf fares not well.

On the island of the Gulf of Black Grief it shall pine, in fetters until the world's end."

Loke was angered and spoke bitterly. "Thy wife", he said, "loves me."

Frey cried: "Silence, thou mischief maker! I see Fenrer, thy offspring, lying fettered at the source of Von, where it shall remain until the gods perish and all things have end. If thy tongue is not silent, then shalt thou be bound also."

It was then that Loke taunted Frey for giving unto the giant Gymer the Sword of Victory as a gift for Gerd.

Wroth was Bygver, who served Frey, when he heard the words that Loke uttered. He it was who ground the barley for those who give honour to his master, the god of harvests.

"Were I the honoured Frey," he said unto Loke, "I would grind thee finer than sand, thou evil crow! I would crush thee limb by limb."

But Loke turned, with wrinkling lips and cold disdain, and said: "What child is this? What parasite starts up before me? Ever in Frey's hearing he clatters from under the millstone."

"My name is Bygver," the servant answered, "and by gods and men am I called nimble."

Loke answered: "Be silent, Bygver! never couldst thou divide fairly food between men. Ugly indeed is thy slave wife Beyla, who is ever filthy with dust and dirt."

Valiant was Tyr, whose sire was Odin and whose mother was a beauteous giantess of the deep. Brave men honoured him, and by Saxons was he called Saxnot. With Odin did heroes name him ere they entered battle, and when they were victorious they offered up to Tyr burnt sacrifices of war prisoners. On earth his temple symbol was the sun-flashing sword which he wielded, and on the swords of warriors were his runes graven. Thus hath a skald sung:

The runes of Tyr give victory
And these we needs must lilt
When on the guard a sword we rist,
Or on the blazing hilt.
When we the magic words engrave,
Twice name we Tyr, the wise, the brave.

Tyr was commander of Odin's wish maidens, the Valkyries, who bore to Valhal the sword-slain battle warriors.

With great Thor did Tyr go forth when he contended against the giant Hymer and the Midgard serpent. Of that great enterprise the story must now be told.

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Thor's Great Fishing

The Ocean Storm-god--His Hall--The Brewing Kettle--Ran and her Net--Her Nine Daughters--Thor and Tyr seek Hymer's Kettle--The Friendly Giantess--The Fisher of Whales--A Great Feast--Giant marvels at Thor--The Midgard Serpent--A Dread Conflict--Hymer's Terror--How Thor was baffled--The Broken Goblet--Hymer's Kettle captured--Flight of Thor and Tyr--A Running Battle--Mead for the Feast.

ÆGIR, the Ocean Storm-god, had long heard of the fame and wisdom of Odin and his Asa clan, and there fell a day when he went to visit them. Thus it came that vows of lasting friendship were sworn between them. The gods were in due season invited to a harvest-end feast in the dwelling of the storm-god in the midst of the Western Sea, and thither they journeyed together. It was from Ægir's hall that Thor and Tyr set forth to do valiant deeds in the realm of the giant Hymer.

The kingdom of Ægir is beyond Noatun, the safe ship haven of the god Njord, which ever had peace save when it was visited by Skade, "the stormy one". A fierce and aged giant is Ægir, with long and foam-white beard, and black is his helmet. When he rises in the midst of Ocean, cold-hearted and turbulent, he shatters fair vessels in his wrath. Many ships has Angerboda, Hag of Ironwood, driven by her wild easterly winds into the very jaws of Ægir.

In Ægir's hall gold is used for fire, and his brewing kettles seethe and boll like stormy seas. His wife is Ran, the fair traitress. She is possessed of a great net, in which she catches seafarers when their ships are broken. So are men "drowned to Ran". At the sea bottom is her home, which gleams phosphorescent and golden; its roof is of silver and sun-gemmed azure. Nigh is it unto the House of Death. Eager is Ran to make captives, and those who would win her favour must needs, when they are drawn down to her, take with them offerings of gold, for she loves treasure, and her hoard is great. To those whom she receives without anger she offers a seat and a bed.

Nine giant maids are the chief daughters of Ran, and these are the mothers of Heimdal, the shining sentinel of beauteous Bif-rost. In gowns of blue they go forth. They have foam-white veils, and their locks are pale as sea froth. The sea maidens are ever at Ægir's command, and by him are they sent abroad to be ship-tossing billows. Great rocks they love to scatter and throw down, and the shoreland they devour.

These giant maids at the beginning ground Ymer's body on the World-mill. And ever do they turn the great mill at the sea bottom. Angeyja and Eyrgjafa grind mould; Jarnsaxa is the crusher of the iron which comes from clay and the sea; Imder, Gjalp, and Greip are fire maids, for from the World-mill is fire sparked forth, and there is fire in the sea; Eistla, Eyrgjafa, and Ulfrun are also at work like the others. The sire of Gjalp and Greip was Geirrod, the fire-giant.

Now when Ægir went to Asgard he was received by Odin and the other gods with pomp and in state. Together they drank mead, ancient and sweet, in spacious Valhal, which was adorned with burnished shields and made bright by shining swords. High sat the gods in their doom seats, and in full grandeur. By Bragi's side was Ægir, and the sweet-voiced divine poet sang of Idun and her apples of immortal youth, and of Thjasse's death, and of how Odin took from Suttung's dwelling the skaldic-mead which Ivalde had stolen. Pleasant were the tales to Ægir, and the gods, as we have told, he besought to visit him in his Ocean kingdom.

Thither at autumn equinox went Odin and his Asa clan to drink mead and hear ancient tales and the singing of skalds. But of mead there was not sufficient, because Ægir was in need of a brewing kettle large enough to give due hospitality to the gods. He besought Thor to fetch the greatest kettle in the nine worlds; but nor Asa nor Vana-gods knew where it could be found until Tyr spake and said:

"Hymer, the dog-headed, my foster-father, hath the great kettle, which is exceedingly strong and a mile in depth. His dwelling is beyond the Rivers Elivagar, nigh to the borders of Nifel-heim."

"Thinkest thou that the kettle can be captured?" asked Thor.

"Yes," Tyr answered, "by stratagem it may be procured."

Then took Thor and Tyr the guise of young men, and they set forth in the thunder-god's chariot drawn by the two goats Tanngnjoster and Tanngrisner over ocean and through air. Nearly all day did they travel thus until they came unto the dwelling of Orvandel-Egil. There did Thor leave the horn-strong goats and his sublime car.

Across Elivagar they went, and past the vast fishing ground of Hymer, where he is wont to catch whales on great hooks. Then a great distance journeyed the gods on foot towards Hymer's dwelling through dense mountain woods and past dismal rocky caverns where dwell the fierce giants and monsters of Hymer's clan.

When they came to their journey's end, they entered the king giant's great stronghold, and there Tyr saw his grandmother--a giantess with numerous heads, who was fierce and awesome to behold. But his mother, who had great beauty, brought them mead to drink. When they were refreshed and strong again, she bade them hide behind a great post at the gable end, and beneath the Kettles of Hymer; because, as she warned them, the giant was wont to give ill treatment to strangers who came nigh to his dwelling.

At nightfall Thor and Tyr heard a mighty shout which was raised by the giant's servants. Whereat Hymer entered, carrying the whales he had caught. His long beard was white with hoar frost.

"Welcome art thou, indeed, O Hymer," his wife said. "My son, for whom I have long waited, has come to thy hall, and with him is one who is. an enemy of the giants and a friend of men. Behind yonder gable post have they with cunning concealed themselves."

Hymer was ill-pleased, and he turned fiercely towards the post, which suddenly went to pieces before his piercing gaze. Thereat the beam above it broke, and the Kettles fell down. Seven of them were thus broken, but one was so large and so strong that it was left whole, although it sank deep in the floor.

Forth then came Tyr and Thor. The giant had no pleasure in receiving them, but he bade them be seated at his table.

A great feast did he cause to be prepared. Three oxen were slain and roasted, and placed before the giant and the gods. Two of these did Thor eat, for he sought great strength. If the giant was angry before, he was still more angry when the meal was ended, for it was his purpose to slay his guests, as was his wont, if they failed to eat an equal share with him; but in this he was indeed thwarted.

Extravagant is our fare," Hymer growled n his displeasure; "on the morrow we must eat of fish."

Then to bed went they all, and sound was their sleep throughout the night.

At dawn Thor rose, and from the window he perceived that the giant was making ready his boat to go fishing. Hastily did the Asa-god dress himself. He placed his great hammer in his belt. He went towards the shore, and then he besought the giant to allow him to row with him in the great boat.

Hymer looked down upon him with contempt, and said: "Too small and frail art thou to be of help to me; besides, I row so far and stay at sea so long, that thou wouldst be chilled to death."

Thor answered: "I shall row as far as thou hast need of me, as far from land as is thy desire. Nor am I certain which of us twain would wish to return first."

The thunder-god was filled with wrath against the ice-giant because of his presumption, and was minded to strike him down with his hammer; but he remembered that he had need of all his strength elsewhere, and must not do aught to lessen it.

"What bait hast thou for me?" asked Thor.

Hymer answered with surly voice: "If thou wouldst fish, find thine own bait."

That Thor did with impatience. He hastened towards the giant's herd of great cattle, and seizing the largest bull, named Himinbrjoter, which signified "sky-cleaver", he snatched off its head and carried it towards the shore. Hymer watched him and received him in silence, and together they entered the boat and put to sea.

Both then seized the great billow-raising oars. At the bow rowed Hymer, and Thor was aft. So strongly did the Asa-god pull that the boat went through the water with great swiftness, whereat the giant was amazed. Endeavour as he might, putting forth his utmost strength, Hymer could not pull with half the strength of the Asa-god, who was still in youthful guise.

The giant at length grew weary, and when they reached the grounds where he was wont to catch flat fish, he bade his companion cease rowing. But that Thor refused to do.

"We have not yet," he said, "gone far enough to sea.

Soon they came to the grounds where whales are caught, and again the giant bade Thor to take rest, but he would not consent to do so.

"We must needs, Thor said, go much farther yet."

Farther and farther out to sea they rowed with exceeding great speed. Then was the cold heart of Hymer filled with sharp alarm.

"If we stop not now," he cried, "we shall be in danger of the dread Midgard serpent."

But Thor refused to pause, and rowed stronger and faster than before. Not once nor twice did Hymer, resting wearily on his oars, remonstrate with him, but in vain. Far out to sea the boat still sped, and rapid and strong were the oarsweeps of Thor. Nor did he pause until they were a great distance from land.

Then began the fishing. Hymer baited his hooks, and cast his line in the deep waters. Ere long he caught two great whales, and hauled them aboard. His eyes were bright with pleasure, and he turned towards Thor and challenged him to do as well.

Then did the great thunder-god get ready his fishing tackle, which was of great strength. An immense hook he baited with the head of Hymer's bull. Into the deep waters he flung his line, which, as it splashed, raised big billows, and he ran it out until the bait was dragged along the floor of the ocean.

Now right below the giant's boat lay the Midgard serpent, all slimy and horrible, on the sea bottom, with its mouth clutching the tail of its world-encircling body. When that great monster beheld the bait it was deceived, not perceiving that Thor's hook was within. Greedily it seized the bull's head and sought to devour it. Then did the great hook sink deep into its throat and stick there. Tortured was the serpent with terrible agony, and it began to writhe violently to be free; but its struggle was without avail. So the line it tugged fiercely to draw angler and boat beneath the waves.

But greater than the serpent's was the strength of Thor. With both hands the god grasped the line, and against the side of the boat he placed his feet and began to pull, twisting the line round the oar pins as he did so, and now and again making it fast. Violently rocked the boat, and the waves rose high, as the great Midgard serpent struggled with the thunder-god.

But Thor put forth his entire divine strength and he grew in stature as he pulled the line. At length his feet went through the boat's side, as it tilted over, and they reached to the ocean floor. Harder and harder he pulled, and unwillingly the serpent, stung with fierce pain, was hauled through the deep, until its monstrous head came in sight.

Awesome was the spectacle to Hymer, nor can words picture it. With fierce wrath did the thunder-god dart fiery looks at the serpent, while the great monster tossed on high its terrible head and spouted floods of venom upon him.


Hymer trembled with fear; his face was white as mountain snow. Scarce could he look upon the ferocious serpent, for ghastly it was, and bearded and venom-spotted. Great waves washed over the gunwale, and the giant feared that the boat would be swamped.

Still Thor struggled with the fierce monster until he dragged its head close to the edge of the boat. Then, twisting the line round the oar pin, he seized his great hammer and struck a mighty blow on the serpent's head.

The mountains shook with thunder, the caves howled loud, the ocean trembled with violence, and the whole world shrank together, but the Midgard serpent was not yet killed.

Thor prepared to strike another great blow, but Hymer in his fear cut the line, whereat the writhing monster sank back into the deep. The waves tossed high and the boat plunged with them.

Angrily Thor turned upon Hymer, and with his great right fist struck him a resounding blow. Headlong plunged the giant into the sea, but speedily and in great fear he scrambled back again into the boat. Yet if his fear of the serpent was great, no less was his fear of Thor.

Then set they to row back, and the boat went speedily. Thor spake not; he sat in sullen silence. Deep indeed was his wrath because he had slain not the serpent which ever threatened the gods in Asgard.

When the shore was reached the giant leapt out. Proudly he flung the two whales over his shoulder. But Thor carried the great boat, and went with it to the giant's stronghold.

They entered the castle. They sat down with Tyr beside them. Ill at ease was the giant because of Thor's great deeds, and him did he challenge to perform another feat of strength. He brought forth a goblet, and asked him to break it. Without rising from his seat, Thor flung it violently against a post, which was shattered in pieces; but the goblet remained whole, and it was brought back to the giant, who smiled well content.

Then Tyr's mother, whispering to Thor, bade him fling the goblet at Hymer's forehead, which was harder than aught else there. Thor did that right speedily. He seized the goblet, and struck the giant with it midway between his eyes. Nor broken was the giant's head, although the goblet fell shivered into small pieces on the table before him.

"A great treasure have I lost," Hymer cried. "Hot was the drink that came from my strong goblet."

The giant's heart was filled with anger against Thor, and him he would fain put to shame. So he challenged the Asa-god once again.

"One feat of strength remains for thee yet to do, thou boastful one," cried Hymer. "Seize yonder great kettle and carry it forth from my dwelling."

Tyr rose eagerly and ran to lift the kettle, which the gods waited for in Ægir's hall; but in vain did he try to lift it. Twice he made endeavour without avail.

Then did Thor seize the kettle. He grasped it at the edge and shook it violently. Then he began to lift it. So heavy was it, and so great was the strength of Thor, that his feet went through the floor.

Hymer watched him with angry eyes, fearing he would take with him the great treasure. That was what Thor did, for he lifted the kettle first upon his shoulder and then upon his head, while the rings fell round his feet.

Then he darted outside, and Tyr went with him.

Nor did they stay to await the giant, but right speedily they hastened on their way. Thor took also with him Hymer's great boat.

A great distance did the gods journey through the wooded mountain recesses, and then behind them there rose a great clamour. Hymer was hastening in pursuit. From the rocky caverns his foul and strange-headed clan were issuing forth, and following fast as well. They bellowed like winter tempests, and from hill to hill cliff their voices rang. Trees groaned and were bowed down, and the earth shook.

Thor looked back, and when he beheld the host pursuing him he put down the boat and the kettle, and seized his hammer, Mjolner. That murderous weapon did he fling against the giants, and they were mowed down by it as oat straw is by a scythe. Not until he had slain all those who fled not did Thor swing high the boat and the kettle upon his shoulders, and with Tyr again pursue his way.

Elivagar they could not have crossed in safety had they not had Hymer's boat, for the waves ran high because of the violent writhings of the Midgard serpent as it lay wounded by hook and hammer on the rumbling floor of Ocean.

In due time did Thor reach the hall of Ægir with the great kettle of Hymer. Then was brewed sufficient ale for the feast of harvest-end, and host and guests were made merry.

But Thor rejoiced most because of the blow he had struck the great Midgard serpent. For thus was he avenged upon it for causing his shame in the dwelling of the giant Utgard-Loke, who had so cunningly deceived him. Of that, his most strange adventure, the tale must next be told.

Thor's Fishing

On the dark bottom of the great salt lake
Imprisoned lay the giant snake,
With naught his sullen sleep to break.

Huge whales disported amorous o'er his neck;
Little their sports the worm did reck,
Nor his dark, vengeful thoughts would check.

To move his iron fins he has no power,
Nor yet to harm the trembling shore,
With scaly rings he is covered o'er.

His head he seeks 'mid coral rocks to hide,
Nor e'er hath man his eye espied,
Nor could its deadly glare abide.

His eyelids half in drowsy stupor close,
But short and troubled his repose,
As his quick heavy breathing shows.

Muscles and crabs, and all the shelly race,
In spacious banks still crowd for place,
A grisly beard, around his face.

When Midgard's worm his fetters strives to break,
Riseth the sea, the mountains quake;
The fiends in Naastrand merry make.

Rejoicing flames from Hecla's caldron flash,
Huge molten stones with deafening crash
Fly out,--its scathed sides fire-streams wash.

The affrighted sons of Ask do feel the shock,
As the worm doth lie and rock,
And sullen waiteth Ragnarok.

To his foul craving maw naught e'er came ill;
It never he doth cease to fill;
Nath' more his hungry pain can still.

Upward by chance he turns his sleepy eye,
And, over him suspended nigh,
The gory head he doth espy.

The serpent taken with his own deceit,
Suspecting naught the daring cheat,
Ravenous gulps down the bait.

His leathern jaws the barbed steel compress,
His ponderous head must leave the abyss;
Dire was Jormungander's hiss.

In giant coils he writhes his length about,
Poisonous streams he speweth out,
But his struggles help him naught.

The mighty Thor knoweth no peer in fight,
The loathsome worm, his strength despite,
Now o'ermatched must yield the fight.

His grisly head Thor heaveth o'er the tide,
No mortal eye the sight may bide,
The scared waves haste i' th' sands to hide.

As when accursed Naastrand yawns and burns,
His impious throat 'gainst heaven he turns
And with his tail the ocean spurns.

The parched sky droops, darkness enwraps the sun;
Now the matchless strength is shown
Of the god whom warriors own.

Around his loins he draws his girdle tight,
His eye with triumph flashes bright,
The frail boat splits aneath his weight;

The frail boat splits,--but on the ocean's ground
Thor again hath footing found;
Within his arms the worm is bound.

Hymer, who in the strife no part had took,
But like a trembling aspen shook,
Rouseth him to avert the stroke.

In the last night, the vala hath decreed
Thor, in Odin's utmost need,
To the worm shall bow the head.

Thus, in sunk voice, the craven giant spoke,
Whilst from his belt a knife he took,
Forged by dwarfs aneath the rock.

Upon the magic belt straight 'gan to file;
Thor in bitter scorn to smile;
Mjolner swang in air the while.

In the worm's front full two-score leagues it fell;
From Gimle to the realms of hell
Echoed Jormungander's yell.

The ocean yawned; Thor's lightnings rent the sky;
Through the storm, the great sun's eye
Looked out on the fight from high.

Bif-rost i' th' east shone forth in brightest green
On its top, in snow-white sheen,
Heimdal at his post was seen.

On the charmed belt the dagger hath no power;
The star of Jotun-heim 'gan to lour;
But now, in Asgard's evil hour,

When all his efforts foiled tall Hymer saw,
Wading to the serpent's maw,
On the kedge he 'gan to saw.

The sun dismayed, hastened in clouds to hide,
Heimdal turned his head aside;
Thor was humbled in his pride.

The knife prevails, far down beneath the main,
The serpent, spent with toil and pain,
To the bottom sank again.

The giant fled, his head 'mid rocks to save,
Fearfully the god did rave,
With his lightnings tore the wave.

To madness stung, to think his conquest vain,
His ire no longer could contain,
Dared the worm to rise again.

His radiant form to its full height he drew,
And Mjolner through the billows blue
Swifter than the fire-bolt flew.

Hoped, yet, the worm had fallen beneath the stroke,
But the wily child of Loke
Waits her turn of Ragnarok.

======================================== =================


The City of Enchantments

Loke flatters the Thunder-god--The Feast of Goats--Loke's Evil Design--Journey in Jotun-heim--Terror of the Night--The Great Giant Skrymer--How Thor was thwarted--The Three Blows with Mjolner--Utgard-Loke's Castle--The Giant's Challenge--Loke and Thjalfe are beaten--Thor and the Drinking Horn--The Great Cat--Thor wrestles with the Hag--He is put to Shame--Utgard--Loke's Revelation--The Ocean, the Midgard Serpent, and Old Age--Wrath of the Thunder-god.

THE Frost-giants were sending forth from Jotun-heim ice-cold blasts which blighted Midgard's fields and arrested all growth. Thor, the friend of man, was made Wroth thereat, and he caused his swift goats to be yoked to his sublime chariot, for he was resolved to punish the Jotuns for their presumption and evil workings. To him came Loke and made flattering address, praising the thunder-god for his valour and good intentions. Thor took Loke with him because he had knowledge of the northern wastes they must needs traverse.

All day they journeyed from Asgard, and at nightfall they came to the dwelling of Orvandel-Egil on the batiks of Elivagar, and fronting the mountains that fortalice icebound Jotun-heim. The fare which Orvandel set before them was meagre because of the plunder accomplished by the giants, so Thor slew his two goats, and when they were skinned he placed their flesh in a kettle.

The feast that was thus prepared was abundant, and Thor invited Orvandel and his family to eat with Loke and himself, requesting them to throw each flesh-stripped bone into the skins of the goats.

It was Loke's desire to stir up enmity between Thor and Orvandel, who were fast friends, because at the house of the skilful archer did the thunder-god ever rest on his journeyings to and from Jotun-heim. The Evil One made Orvandel's son, Thjalfe, the instrument of his designs. To him Loke whispered at the feast that the marrow of the bones was of exceeding sweetness, and he constrained upon the lad to break open the thigh bone of a goat's hind leg.

Next morning Thor arose and took his hammer, Mjolner, which he waved over the skins filled with loose bones. Then did the great animals spring to life again, but one limped because a hind leg was broken. Thor was moved to immense wrath, and with black brows, and with knuckles that grew white as he clutched the handle of his hammer, he turned upon Orvandel, who was stricken with much fear. The house shook because of Thor's anger. But the evil designs of Loke were put to naught, for Thor consented to take for ransom-servants, Orvandel's son, Thjalfe, the swift runner, and his beauteous daughter, Roskva, the vivacious, and his love for them made stronger the bond of friendship between the thunder-god and Orvandel.

Leaving his chariot and goats behind, Thor went on his journey with Loke and Thjalfe and Roskva. Soon they came to a great mountain forest, and through its immense depths they wandered until night came on. Fleet-footed Thjalfe carried Thor's meat sack, but it was wellnigh empty because it was difficult to hunt the deer in that confusing forest.

In the darkness they all sought a dwelling in which to rest, and ere long they found one, The door was exceedingly large, for it opened up the whole side of the house. Within there was a vast hall. Beyond were five long rooms like to mountain caves; but they entered them not. In the outer hall they prepared their couches and lay down to sleep.

In the middle of the night a great earthquake made the forest tremble, so that the house shook with much violence.

Then Thor arose and sought for his affrighted servants a place of greater safety. So they entered together the widest of the cave chambers in the vast house. Thor stood at the door on guard, with his great hammer in his hand, ready to strike down any fierce giant who would dare to enter. The others crept to the farthest end of the chamber, and, trembling greatly, again sought their couches.

Then was heard a rumbling and a roaring that continued long and then ceased awhile, but began again, It was a night of blackness and great terror.

At early dawn Thor went forth, for the clamour had not yet ended. He walked through the forest and found that a great giant lay sleeping on the ground. He snored as loudly as roars the outer sea, and his breath burst forth like wild gusts of tempest. Then did the Asa-gods realize from whence came the clamour which had filled the night with terror.

Around his waist Thor tightened his magic belt so that his great strength was increased, but as he grasped his hammer to strike, the mighty giant awoke, and rose hastily to his feet. High above Thor he towered, so that the thunder-god was filled with amaze at his great bulk and forgot to wield his hammer.

"What is thy name, O giant?" Thor asked.

"My name is Skrymer," was his answer, and he said: "Thine I need not ask, for I perceive thou art Asa-Thor."

Then the giant looked about him, and sneered: "But what hast thou done with my glove?"

Skrymer stretched forth his hand, and in the midst of the trees he found his glove and picked it up. Then with amazement did Thor perceive that it was the great dwelling in which, with his companions, he had found shelter for the night. The broad cave chamber into which they had crept was the thumb of the giant's glove.

Skrymer besought Thor to take him for his travelling companion through that vast country, and when the Asa-god gave his consent, the giant opened his meat sack and began to munch his morning feast. Thor and his companions did likewise in a place apart.

Now when they had finished their meals and were satisfied, Skrymer said they should put their food together. Thor was willing that such should be done, and the giant thrust all the provisions into his own meat sack, which he threw over his back.

All day long they travelled eastward with great speed, because of the rapid pace of the giant, and when darkness began to fall they rested under the branches of a vast and lofty oak tree. Skrymer said he was weary and must needs sleep, so he flung his meat sack to Thor, and bade him feast with his companions. But Thor found that the sack was bound so securely that he could not untie it. Each knot defied him; not one could he unloose; and struggle as he might, he was unable to slacken any portion of the cord.

Great wrath possessed the Asa-god because of the deceit which had been practised upon him; so, casting the sack from him, he sprang up and seized his hammer. He went swiftly towards the giant as he lay snoring heavily, and on his skull struck a mighty blow.

Skrymer awoke, and, rubbing his eyes, asked if a leaf had fallen down from the great oak. On Thor he gazed, and asked him if he had eaten his supper, and was ready for sleep.

Thor made answer gruffly that he was about to lie down, and went towards another tree. But there be found that it was not possible to get sleep, for Skrymer snored so loudly that the woods were shaken with tempest clamour.

Angrily rose the Asa-god, and hastening towards the giant he swung his great hammer and struck him flat on the forehead. So great was the blow that Mjolner sank down to the heft.

Skrymer awoke suddenly and growled: "What hath happened now to disturb my slumber? Did an acorn fall down from the branches? Is that thee, Thor, standing nigh me? How fares it with thee?"

"I have just awakened," was Thor's answer, as he turned, wondering greatly, and again lay down beneath his oak. But he sought not to sleep. He was resolved to be avenged on the giant for his deceit, and because his own rest was broken. As Thor lay there he was convinced that if he dealt but one more blow on the giant's skull he would kill him. So he remained watching and waiting until Skrymer would again fall to sleep. Ere dawn broke his opportunity came, for the giant's loud snoring once more made fearsome clamour in the forest.

Thor arose and tightened his strength-giving belt. His iron gloves he put upon his hands, and seized his mighty hammer. Then he went towards the giant and struck so great a blow that Mjolner was buried in one of his temples.

Skrymer sat up, rubbing his eyes. Then he stroked his chin in vacant wonder, and, seeing Thor beside him, said--"Do birds sit above me in the oak branches? Methinks that some moss from a bird's nest fell upon my forehead as I awoke. . . . So thou art also awake, O Thor. . . . The dawn has broken, and it is time to set forth upon your way, for a long journey lies before thee ere thou shalt reach the castle which is called Utgard (outer-ward). Whispers I have heard between thee and thy companions that ye regard me as one of no mean stature, but larger men shalt thou find when thou dost reach Utgard. . . . Wilt thou take from me good advice? When thou comest to Utgard, do not boast overmuch. The courtiers of Utgard-Loke, will not permit of boasting from such insignificant beings as are thou and thy companions. . . . If my advice is not pleasant to thee, O Thor, thou hadst better turn back; and, indeed, that is what thou shouldst do. . . . But if thou wouldst go farther, thy way lies eastward; mine is to the north, towards yonder high mountains. Fare thee well!"

When he had spoken thus, Skrymer flung his meat sack over his shoulder and vanished amidst the trees. Nor was it ever known whether or not Thor desired to meet with him again.

Thor and Loke went eastward upon their way, and with them went Thjalfe and Roskva. They journeyed until midday, when they came to a city in the midst of which was a great ice castle. So lofty were its towers that Thor and those with him had need to bend back their heads to survey it aright. They saw no one nigh to the castle, and its ponderous gate was shut and securely locked. In vain did Thor attempt to open it; but being anxious to gain admittance he crept between the bars. The others followed him. They then perceived that the palace door was wide open, and they entered together.

Round the hall many giants of immense stature were seated upon benches. No word was spoken nor greeting given, but Thor and his companions went past, and entering a wide room they stood before King Utgard-Loke in his high throne, and to him they made obeisance. A cold look gave the monarch, nor did he return their salutations. After a long pause he spake with a voice of keen scorn, saying:

"It would be wearisome to have tidings of your long journey. If I be not mistaken the greatest of the striplings who stand before me is the Asa-god Thor."

Upon Thor he gazed intently, and then addressing him, said: "It may be that thou art stronger than thou dost seem. What feats art thou able to perform? Thou must know that no one can remain here who cannot perform deeds which excel those of all other living beings."

Wroth was Thor and made no answer. But Loke spoke and said: "I know a great feat, and am ready to perform it. I can eat quicker than anyone else, and I am now an-hungered and ready to give proof of that against him who may be chosen to contend with me."

"If thou shalt do as thou sayest," Utgard-Loke said, "thou shalt perform a great feat indeed. Let us have trial of it without delay."

The king ordered Loge, one of his men, to come forward to compete with Asa-Loke.

A great trough of meat was prepared, and the two were seated-Loke at one end and Loge at the other.

Then they began to eat with great speed, nor did they falter until they met at the middle. To neither seemed the victory, until it was found that Loge had consumed the bones as well as the flesh, and the trough also, while Loke had eaten but the flesh. So the Asa-god was accounted beaten.

Utgard-Loke then addressed Thjalfe, and asked him what feat he was able to perform, and the young man answered that he was a swift runner. He offered to run a race with anyone whom the monarch would select.

"If thou dost win," Utgard-Loke said, "thou shalt indeed perform a wondrous feat. But come without, for thine opponent awaiteth thee."

The king left his throne, and together they all went to a fine racecourse that lay nigh to the castle walls.

A dwarf named Huge was called forth by Utgard-Loke. Thrice did he run with Thjalfe. At the first contest the dwarf ran so fast that he met the other as he turned back.

"Thou canst run well," the king said to Thjalfe, "but thou must needs be more nimble-legged if thou art to win this contest, for there is no swifter runner than Huge."

At the second trial Thjalfe went speedier, but he was a bowshot space behind the dwarf when that swift runner made pause.

"Indeed thou must needs have greater speed if thou wouldst win the race," said the king to Orvandel's son; "but another chance awaiteth thee. The third trial shall decide the contest."

Again the race was started; but if Thjalfe went swiftly there was more speed in the dwarf, for he reached the goal ere yet his opponent was halfway.

So was Thjalfe vanquished and put to shame.

Together they all returned to the hall, and the king, turning to Thor, asked him if he could perform any wonderful feats that day. The Asa-god made prompt answer and said: "I shall hold a drinking contest with anyone thou mayest select."

"First," said the king, "thy power must be tested."

To this condition Thor gave his ready consent.

Then came a cupbearer carrying an immense drinking horn, which he gave unto the Asa-god.

"He who trespasseth the laws of this place when at feast," the king said, "must needs drink from that horn. He who is a good drinker can empty it at a single draught. Some men, however, must make two attempts, but it is only the weakest who cannot exhaust it at the third trial."

Now Thor was tortured with exceeding great thirst after his long journey, and at first he deemed the horn not to be too large, although it had great length indeed. To his mouth he raised it, and drank deep, until his thirst was quenched; and he continued drinking until he was forced to cease and lower the horn. With great wonder he then perceived that the liquor seemed not to have diminished at all.

"Thou hast drunken well," the king said, "yet there is naught of which boast can be made. Had I been told that Thor would drink no more when in thirst I would not have believed it. But perhaps it is thy resolve to surpass thyself when thou shalt take the second draught."

Again did the Asa-god raise the horn with firm resolve to empty it. Ill-pleased was he with himself because he deemed he had drunk less than before. But that was not so, for when he had done his utmost the horn could be carried without spilling.

"Thou dost spare thyself indeed," the king exclaimed; "but if thou art resolved to empty the horn thou must pull with greater strength at thy third trial. If more skill at this feat is not shown by thee, methinks," the king added with scorn, "thou shalt be accounted a lesser man here than thou seemest to be among the gods in Asgard."

Angry was Thor because of the words which Utgard-Loke spake, and a third time he seized the horn and put forth all his power to empty it; but long and deep as he drank, be seemed not to exhaust it any.

He laid it down, and then he perceived that the liquor was slightly lower than before.

"No further trial shall I make," he said, as he thrust the horn back to the cupbearer.

"Ha! thou'rt of less strength than we deemed thee to be," exclaimed Utgard-Loke, smiling grimly at the thwarted Asa-god. "Yet, mayhap, thou wouldst try another feat to prove thy power, although I am assured that thou shalt have no better success."

But Thor was ready for any other trial. "I shall contend with whom thou wilt," he said. "Although I have failed with the horn, yet can I assure thee that the draughts which I have taken would not be counted meagre in Asgard."

"There is a trivial game which we play betimes," the king said, "but I would not have asked thee to perform it, because among us here it is only an exercise for children. Yet as thou art, it seems, not of so great power as we deemed heretofore, thou hadst better try it. The game is merely to lift my cat from the floor."

As he spake, a big grey cat leapt forward and sat before the throne. Thor at once went towards it, and grasped it firmly, placing his hands under its body. Then he attempted to lift the cat, but it bent its great back, and although he put forth all his strength Thor could lift but one paw from the floor.

Knowing well that he could not do better, he made no farther attempt.

"Thou hast failed, as I foresaw thou wouldst," the king said. "The cat is too large for Thor, who is weakly and small compared with the men of my race.

"Say what thou wilt," cried Thor, whose wrath was great because of the shame put upon him, "but I now challenge anyone here to wrestle with me whom ye call weakly and small."

Utgard-Loke looked calmly about him, and answered with chilling voice: "I see no one nigh me who would not deem it an unworthy thing to wrestle with Thor. . . . But let the old woman, my nurse, whose name is Elle, be called, and if Thor would perforce wrestle, let him try his strength against hers. Many a stronger man than he hath Elle thrown down."

Then came into the hall an aged woman, who was toothless and heavily wrinkled. Her back was bent, and she walked slowly. Utgard-Loke bade her wrestle with Thor.

There is little to tell. The firmer Thor clutched her the mightier she became; the stronger his grip, the more securely did she stand. The struggle was long and violent, and although Thor realized ere long that he could. not overcome the Hag, his endeavour was to prevent her from casting him down. Yet was he at length unable to keep his footing, and he was brought to his knee.

Then did Utgard-Loke bid the wrestlers to cease, and walking forward he placed himself between them. To Thor he said: "Thou canst not ask now to wrestle with anyone else in the hall, for the hour is late and darkness is falling."

Nor did he seem to be eager that Thor should have further trial of skill.

At dawn of next day Thor and his companions arose and prepared to take their departure from the castle. Food and drink in plenty were placed before them, and they made hearty feast. Then went they to take leave of the king, and Utgard-Loke walked with them until they were without the gate of the city. Ere they bade one another farewell, the king asked Thor if he was satisfied with his journey and the results thereof, and whether there were any others among the Asa-gods who were stronger than he.

"I cannot deny," Thor said, "that great shame has been put upon me. But what pains me most is that thou shouldst call me a man of little account."

"Be not mistaken," the king said, "for we hold thee in greater account than thou dost deem. Now must the truth be told, seeing thou art no longer in the city which, if my will shall prevail, thou must never enter again. This I swear: if I had known that thy strength was so mighty thou shouldst never have been allowed to come through the castle gate. Nigh, indeed, didst thou bring me unto a great disaster.

"Thou mayest now know," the king continued, "that I have all along deceived thee greatly with my illusions."

Thor stared with much amaze at Utgard-Loke, who spake thus:

"First, it was I whom thou didst meet with in the forest. My meat sack thou couldst not unloose because I had bound it securely with a rope of iron, and thou couldst not discover how the cunning knots were devised.

"Thrice thou didst strike me with thy great hammer.

From any of these blows of thine I would have received speedy death, but thee I deceived by creating an illusion and placing betwixt thee and me a great rocky mountain, which thou didst cleave with thy blows. On thy way back thou shalt see it, and the three broad valleys thou didst make, for thrice thou didst cut it asunder.

"In my palace I did also deceive thee with illusions. Asa-Loke, like hunger, devoured speedily all that was placed before him; but his opponent Loge, who is Fire, consumed not only the food, but the bones also, and the trough.

"Huge the dwarf, with whom Thjalfe ran, is Thought. Swift indeed must the runner be who is more speedy than Thought.

"Then came thine own feats, O mighty Thor. When thou didst attempt to drain the horn, thou didst perform a feat so wonderful, that if I had not beheld it with mine own eyes I should ne'er have believed it to be possible. For the horn was long, and one end reached out to the sea, which thou didst not perceive, and the sea filled it. When thou dost come to the shore thou shalt realize how much thou hast made the sea to shrink, for thy great draughts have caused what men shall henceforward call the ebb.

"No less marvellous was thy struggle with the great cat. Much fear possessed us when we saw thee lift but a single paw from the floor, because the cat was no other than the Midgard serpent, which encircles the earth. So high didst thou lift him that his head reached unto heaven.

"Great indeed was thy feat also when thou didst contend against the old woman, my nurse. No man ever before prevailed so wrestling, nor shall any man ever again do as thou hast done, for Elle is Old Age, and sooner or later she lays low all who await her coming.

Still was Thor silent, for he was filled with great wonder by reason of the things of which Utgard-Loke spake to him.

"Now, O Thor," the king said, "we are about to part. This must I say unto you. It were better that we two should never again meet; but if thou shouldst come against me any more I must needs defend myself with illusions as I have already done, so that thou shalt never seem to thyself to prevail."

When the king spake thus he vanished from before the eyes of Thor and his companions.

Then was the thunder-god moved to great wrath, because he had been deceived, and seizing his mighty hammer he turned towards the city again to wreak his vengeance upon Utgard-Loke and his people. But he found that city and castle had vanished, and he beheld nothing save a broad level plain.

So with his companions Thor then went gloomily on his way, and pondering over what had happened he resolved to combat with the Midgard serpent from Hymer's boat. And of this adventure the tale has been told, but of how Thor lost his great hammer and the strange adventure that ensued, the story follows.

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Thor in Peril

The Theft of Mjolner--Loke's Mission--Thrym demands Freyja--The Wrath of the Goddess--Thor disguised--Giant Bridegroom's Amaze--A Hungry Bride--The Hammer recovered --Vengeance of Thor--Loke in Geirrod's Castle--Plot to capture Thor--Grid intervenes--Vidar the Silent--Crossing Elivagar--The High Flood--Giant Maid is punished--Geirrod's Flaming Javelin--Thunder-god's Victory

Now there was a king of giants whose name was Thrym, and he desired to have Freyja, the beauteous Asa-goddess, for his bride. A deep plot he laid, nor did the gods become aware of it until a grievous misfortune befell Thor. He was returning with Loke from Jotun-heim, and together they lay down to sleep. In great wrath was the thunder-god when he awoke because he could find not his hammer, Mjolner. He grasped his red beard and shook it, and fear crept over him as he searched around and about, because without his hammer he was powerless to contend against the giants.

When the other awoke, Thor spoke to him, saying: "Listen to me, and I shall tell thee what is known not in heaven nor upon earth--Mjolner is stolen!"

Speedily they took flight towards high Asgard, and to the dwelling of Freyja went they. Thor spake abruptly, and said: "Wilt thou lend thy falcon-guise to me, for my hammer hath been stolen, and I would fain find it."'

"Gladly shall I give it thee, O Thor," Freyja answered, "even although it were made of silver; yea, if it were of fine gold thou wouldst have it without delay."

To Loke gave Thor the falcon-guise, and he flew speedily from Asgard to the northern coasts of distant Jotun-heim. Nor did he pause or stay until he reached a high mountain on which sat Thrym, king of giants, twisting bands of gold for his dogs, and anon smoothing the gold mane of his horse.

When he beheld Loke in falcon-guise he said: "How fare the gods, and how fare the elves? Why dost thou come alone unto these shores?"

Loke answered: "Ill fares it with gods and ill fares it with the elves. Hast thou hidden the hammer of Thor? "'

Thrym. answered boldly and with gladness: "I have indeed done so. Nine miles below the ground have I buried Mjolner. Nor shall it ever be recovered or returned unto Thor until I am given the goddess Freyja for my bride."

Having spoken thus he smoothed leisurely the golden mane of his fleet-footed steed, and Loke flew back towards Asgard.

Thor awaited him on the battlements, and when the falcon drew nigh he cried: "Hast thou indeed performed thy mission, O Loke? Tell me what thou knowest ere thou dost descend. What is spoken by one who sits is often of small worth. He who reclines is prone to utter what is untrue."

Loke answered and said: "I have discovered all that needs be known. Thy hammer hath been stolen by Thrym, King of Jotuns, and he hath buried it nine miles down below the mountains. Nor will he deliver it to thee again until Freyja is given him to be his bride."

Then Thor and Loke went unto Freyja and told her what the giant had said. Impatient, indeed, was the thunder-god, for he feared that if it became known to the Frost-giants that his hammer was lost they would fall upon Asgard and overcome the gods.

"Right speedily thou must don thy bridal attire, O Freyja," Thor exclaimed, "and together shall we hasten unto Jotun-heim."

Freyja was filled with anger, and as she raged she broke her flashing necklace that gave her great beauty. "A love-sick maid, indeed, I would be," she exclaimed, "ere I would hasten to King Thrym."

To the high Thingstead of Asgard went Thor, and the gods assembled there to hold counsel one with another and decide how the hammer should be recovered. To the hall Vingolf went the goddesses, to consult regarding the fate of Freyja.

In the Thingstead, Heimdal, the wise Van, the shining god, spake with foreknowledge and cunning, and thus he advised: "Let Thor be dressed in the bridal robes of Freyja, and let him also don her sparkling necklace, which gives its wearer great beauty. In a woman's dress let Thor go forth, with keys jingling at his waist. His hair must be pleated, and on his breast must be fixed great brooches."

But Thor made protest, and declared that the gods would mock him if he were attired in woman's dress. Ill-pleased was he with Heimdal's words. "Be silent, Thor," Loke exclaimed; "thou knowest well that if thy hammer is found not the Frost-giants will come speedily hither and build over Asgard a dome of ice."

The other gods spake likewise, and Thor consented to be attired as a bride. When this was done, Loke was dressed, at his own desire, as a maid attendant, and together they went forth from Asgard in Thor's sublime car. The mountains thundered and fire swept from the heavens over Midgard as Thor journeyed to Jotun-heim.

Thrym was sitting on the mountain top, and to the Jotuns about him he spoke, when he beheld Thor in female-guise coming nigh, saying: "Arise, O giants! let the feast be spread, for Freyja comes hither to be my bride."

Then were driven before him into his yard his red cows with golden horns, and his great black oxen.

"I have great wealth indeed," the king exclaimed; "all that I desire is mine. I lack naught save Freyja."

The feast was made ready, and at the board sat Thor, whom Thrym deemed to be Freyja, and Loke, who was "maid attendant".

Thor had great hunger, and he ate an ox, eight salmon, and all the sweets which had been made ready for the giantesses. Then he drank three great barrels of ancient mead.

Wondering, Thrym sat and watched him. Then he cried: "Hath anyone ever beheld a bride so hungry? Never have I known a maid who ate as Freyja hath eaten, or a woman who ever drank so great a quantity of mead."

Loke, the cunning one, fearing that Thor would be discovered, said: "For eight days hath Freyja fasted, so greatly did she long to come unto Jotun-heim."

Thrym was well pleased to hear what Loke said, and he rose and went towards Thor. He lifted the veil he wore and sought to kiss, but he shrank back suddenly. Indeed he retreated to the hall end, where he cried: "Why are the eyes of Freyja so bright and so fierce? They seem to glow like hot embers."

Then spake cunning Loke again, and said: "Alas! O Thrym, for eight nights Freyja hath slept not, for she longed to be here with thee in Jotun-heim. Thus are her eyes a-fire."

Thrym's sister then entered, and she went towards Thor humbly and with due respect, and asked to be given golden bridal rings from his fingers.

"Thou shalt gift them to me," she said, "if thou desirest to have my friendship and my love."

But naught did she receive from the angry and impatient god of thunder.

Thrym then desired that the wedding ceremony should be held, but Loke asked that as proof of his friendship, and to complete the bargain the giant had made, Thor's hammer should be laid upon the maiden's lap.

Then did Thrym order that Mjolner be lifted from its hiding place deep in the bowels of the earth.

In Thor's heart there was great laughter when Thrym spoke thus, yet was his mind solemn, and he waited anxiously until Mjolner was laid upon his knees.

A servant came forward with it, and Thor clutched the handle right eagerly. Then he tore off the bridal veil from his face and the woman's dress from about his knees, and sprang upon King Thrym, whom he killed with a single blow. Around the feasting board he went, slaying the guests, nor one would he permit to escape from the hall, so fierce was he with long-restrained wrath.

Thrym's sister, who had begged from Thor the bridal rings, he slew with the others. A blow she received from the hammer instead of golden treasure.

Cunning Loke watched with pleasure the devastation accomplished by the fierce thunder-god as he raged round the hall and through the castle, wreaking his fierce vengeance on the whole clan of Thrym.

Then together hastened they to where the goats were bound at the home of Orvandel, nor did they pause to rest. Across the heavens was speedily driven the black sublime car. Swiftly o'er mountain and sea it went, blotting out the sparkling stars. Mountains thundered and the wide ocean trembled with fear as the car rolled on. The earth was filled with fire.

Thus did Thor return in triumph unto Asgard, because Mjolner was recovered and the King of Mountain Giants was slain.

But although Loke had served Thor well when his hammer was stolen by Thrym, there came a time when he brought the god of thunder nigh to great misfortune. It was in the days ere the winter war was waged between the Asa-gods and the sons of Ivalde, and the cunning artisans were yet friendly with the dwellers in Asgard.

Loke had gone forth in the falcon-guise of Freyja to pry round Jotun-heim, and especially the castle of King Geirrod, whose daughter he desired for a bride. He flew towards a window, and sat in it while he listened to the words that were being spoken, and surveyed the guests who were there. A servant beheld him with curious eyes, and perceived that he was not a real falcon. So, making cautious approach, he seized Loke and brought him before the king. The eyes of the falcon were still the cunning eyes of Loke, and he was recognized by Geirrod, who demanded ransom ere he would release him. In vain did Loke endeavour to escape. He flapped his wings, he pecked with his beak, but the servant held his claws securely.

Silent was he before Geirrod, and no answer would he make when he was addressed. So to punish him the giant locked him in a chest, in which he was kept for three months. Then was Loke taken forth, and ready indeed was he to speak. To Geirrod he confessed who he was, and the giant constrained him to promise, by swearing a binding oath, that he would bring Thor to Jotun-heim and unto that strong castle without his hammer or his belt or his iron gloves. For greatly sought the giant to have the thunder-god in his power.

Loke then flew back to Asgard, and with great cunning he addressed Thor, so that he secured his consent to visit the castle of Geirrod without taking with him his hammer and gloves and his strong belt. For Loke assured Thor that the castle stood on a green and level plain, and that they were invited to attend together a feast of friends.

Thor set forth, and Loke went with him. All day they travelled on their way until they came to the borders of Elivagar in Alf-heim, where dwelt the sons of Ivalde.

There dwelt also in that realm and in the midst of a deep wood a giantess who was friendly towards the gods. Her name was Grid. She was the mother of Odin's son Vidar, the Silent One, whose strength was so mighty that none save Thor was his equal. A great shoe he had; its sole was hard as iron, for it was formed of the cast-off leather scraps of every shoe that was ever made. This son of Grid was born to avenge his father's death. When Odin is slain at Ragnarok, then shall Vidar combat with the wolf Fenrer and tear its jaws asunder. Nor shall Surtur destroy him with his firebrands, for the wood-god perishes never in Nature's deep solitudes.

Now Grid, mother of Vidar, had power to work magic spells, and she possessed a magic rowan wand which was named Gridarvold. When she beheld Thor going unarmed towards Geirrod's castle, she warned him that the giant was as cunning and treacherous as a wolf-dog, and dangerous to meet without weapons. So to Thor she gave her magic staff, her belt of strength, and her iron gloves, and when he set out he took with him the sons of Ivalde. Together they travelled in safety until they came to Vimur, which is the greatest of the rivers Elivagar. The clouds drove heavily above them, and hailstones fell around. Wild and mountainous was the country which Loke had said was green and level. There were swift and treacherous eddies in the swollen waters.

But Thor put on the belt of strength which Grid had given him, and in his hand he took her magic staff. Rapidly did the river rise as he entered it with his men. From the mountains icy torrents poured down with increasing strength, and the sons of Ivalde were soon in great peril. They thrust their spears into the shingle as they tried to ford the river, and the clinking of the steel mingled with the sharp screams of the waters. When they were but halfway across a high wave burst out from a great mountain torrent, and the waters rose to Thor's shoulder. The others were swept down towards him; for, perceiving their peril and desiring to be a protection to them, he had chosen the deepest part through which to wade. Orvandel leapt upon Thor's shoulder, and there stood, bending his bow. Loke and the others clung to the belt of Grid, which was about Thor's body. Towards the bank the thunder-god laboured, and when he came nigh to it he beheld, at the torrent's source a daughter of Geirrod, whose name was Gjalp. It was she who, standing high on the hillside, caused the river to increase so that Thor and his followers might be drowned. The angry god seized a boulder and flung it towards her. Sure was his aim, for it struck her heavily, so that her back was broken. Thus was the Hag overcome and the torrent stayed.

Then did Thor seize a rowan-tree branch which overhung the river, and with its aid he pulled himself up the bank. Thus had its origin the ancient proverb: "Thor's salvation, the rowan".

Up the steep mountain did the thunder-god climb with all his men. Against them came the giants who sought to destroy Ygdrasil, "the World-tree". Bravely fought Thor, and the arrows of Orvandel sped fast until the horde of giants were put to flight. Speedily did the heroes follow them. They pressed onward and reached Geirrod's castle amidst the clamour and the howling of the storm-giants and the giants that dwell within the caves of the mountains.

When Thor entered Geirrod's hall the giant king cast at him a red-hot flaming javelin from behind a great pillar of wood. But with Grid's iron gloves Thor caught it, and past Orvandel's head he flung it back, so that it went through the pillar and through Geirrod, who was slain; and it passed through the wall of his castle ere it sank deep into the earth.

Then loudly thundered the din of battle in Geirrod's hall, which was shaken to its foundations. With slings and boulders did the giants contend, but from Thor and his men they received their deathblows.

Thus was Geirrod and his clan overcome in dread conflict; but no less terrible was the battle which Thor waged against Hrungner, the stone-giant, the tale of which now follows.


I am the god Thor,
I am the war god,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!

Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Mjolner, the mighty
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!

These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle,
Whenever I brace it
Strength is redoubled!

The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations.

Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!

Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant;
Over the whole earth
Still is Thor's-day!


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The Great Stone Giant

Odin in Jotunheim--Two Swift Steeds--Race to Asgard--The Boastful Giant--His Challenge to Thor--An Island Duel--The Clay Giant--A Lightning Conflict--Thor is wounded--His Son Magni rescues Him--Groa's Incantation--Story of Orvandel's Rescue--The Spell is broken--Odin as the Ferryman--How he taunted Thor--A Divine Comedy.

THOR was in the east battling against the Trolls when Odin went forth from Asgard towards the dwelling of Hrungner, the great Stone giant of Jotun-heim.

Hrungner watched him coming through the air in splendour and beauty, and he cried: "Who cometh towards me? On his head is a helmet of gleaming gold. He rides over ocean and high upon the air. Swift indeed is his mighty steed."

Ere the giant was silent the ruler of Asgard was nigh to him, and he spake proudly. "In all Jotun-heim," Odin said, "there is not a horse that is Sleipner's equal."

Then twitching the reins, he turned Sleipner back towards Asgard, and he rode swifter than the wind.

"Thy steed is fast indeed," the giant bellowed, but my nimble-footed Goldfax (gold mane) hath greater stride."

As he spake, Hrungner leapt upon his horse's back and set out in swift pursuit of the Asa-god. But although he urged Goldfax to hasten, he could not win nigh unto Odin. Yet would the giant pause not in his speedy flight, for his heart was afire with ambition to prevail over the rider of Sleipner. Swiftly indeed he rode, and ere he was aware he found himself entering the gates of Asgard over the gate-bridge which had been set down for Odin.

By the gods was he received with hospitality as he demanded. They took him to the great feasting hall, and there he drank ancient mead and sweet. The bowls from which Thor was wont to refresh himself were placed before him, and Freyja filled them. Each of the bowls the giant emptied in turn at a single draught. Indeed, so much did he drink that the mead surged in his veins and his eyes rolled with redness, for he was made drunk. Then was his tongue unloosened, and he gave forth loud boastings.

"Valhal," he cried, "shall be mine. . . . The warrior's hall must I carry away with me to Jotun-heim."

More mead did Freyja pour out to him, filling the bowls of Thor.

Then Hrungner boasted that he would bring utter ruin to Asgard, and cast down its wall and palaces.

"The gods," he cried, "and all that are within the city shall I slay save Freyja and Sif."

As Freyja filled the bowls he said: "Ha! all the mead in Asgard I must consume this day. None shall I leave for the gods."

Weary grew the gods of the braggart giant and his vain boastings, and Thor they named. . . . Immediately Thor was in their midst. Black were the brows of the thunder-god when he beheld Hrungner; white were his knuckles as he clutched his great hammer.

"Who hath permitted this Jotun," Thor roared, "to drink the mead of Asgard? Why doth Freyja pour it forth to him as if she were honouring a feast of gods?"

Evil was in Hrungner's eyes as he scowled at Thor, "By Odin's wish am I here," he sneered, "and under his protection I remain."

"When thou dost seek to go forth," Thor growled sullenly, "thou mayest regret the invitation."

"Unarmed have I come," Hrungner protested with sudden alarm, "and of little honour would it be to thee, O Asa-Thor, if thou didst slay me now. If thou wouldst fain put thy valour to proof, thee I dare to contend against me on the borders of my kingdom."

Thor cast at him defiant eyes, and the giant was troubled. "Alas!" he cried; "I have done foolishly to come hither, leaving my stone shield and my flint weapon in Jotun-heim. Were I armed, we might well fight. This shall I say unto thee, O Asa-Thor: I would brand thee as a coward if thou didst seek to slay me undefended. . . . I challenge thee to contend with me in an island duel."

Now never before had Thor been challenged thus. For the island duel (Holmgang) which Hrungner desired was fought by dealing blow for blow, and the Asa-god would have the right to strike first because he was challenged by the other. In the contest each would have a shieldbearer. His consent did Thor give to the giant's terms, and in silence they parted.

Through Jotun-heim the duel challenge was gravely debated by the giants, and keen was their desire that Thor should be worsted, because Hrungner was their strongest and greatest warrior, and they feared that if he fell the thunder-god would do them more injury than heretofore.

On an island on the borders of rocky Grjottungard, where Hrungner had his dwelling, the Jotuns made a giant of clay who was in height nine miles, and three in breadth between the shoulders. Him they called Mokker-kalfi (Mist-wader), and they gave him a mare's heart. He was shieldbearer to Thor's enemy.

Now Hrungner had a heart of stone; his head was of stone also. Broad and thick was his stone shield, and in his right hand he grasped his great flint weapon, which he swung over his shoulder. A terrible combatant was Hrungner.

To the island duel did Thor set forth. His shieldbearer was his faithful Thjalfe, son of Orvandel, who ran swiftly to the place of combat. To Hrungner he cried:

"Although thy shield is held in front, thou dost stand unprotected, for Thor cometh to attack thee from the earth beneath."

Then did Hrungner cause his shield to be cast down, Defiantly he stood upon it, while with both hands he grasped his great flint weapon.

In fear and trembling was Mokker-kalfi. His mare's heart quaked within him because Thor was coming, and sweat ran from his body in torrents.

Thunder broke forth and lightning flashed before Hrungner. Then he beheld rushing swiftly towards him the black-browed thunder-god, who swung his hammer to strike. Nor did Hrungner wait till he was nigh. He raised his great flint weapon and flung it with might against Mjolner, which Thor, divining his purpose, hurtled simultaneously. In mid-air the weapons met and flashed forking fire that rent the heavens and covered the ocean with flame. The flint was utterly shattered. On the ground fell a portion, and there to this day are the flint hills, and a great splinter pierced the forehead of the Asa-god, so that he was thrown down.

Meanwhile the sublime hammer smote Hrungner and crushed his skull, and he fell also. The giant's foot struck Thor and lay heavily upon his neck, so that he could not rise to his feet.

On the affrighted Mokker-kalfi had Thjalfe flung himself, and him he overcame right speedily. Then ran he to help Thor, but in vain he strove to lift Hrungner's foot from his neck. . . . He named the Asa-gods, and they hastened from Asgard to the place of combat. When they found that Thor was cast down, they put forth their strength to free him, but unable were they to lift the giant's foot.

Then came Thor's son, Magni, whose mother was Jarnsaxa, the iron-crusher of the World-mill. He was but three nights old, but had already exceeding great strength. The giant's foot he seized and flung it from his sire's neck, saying:

"Alas! I should have come sooner. Hrungner's head would I have broken with my fist!"

Thor leapt up, and his arms he threw about his son, embracing him with great love.

"To thee, O Magni," he said, "I shall give Goldfax, Hrungner's great steed."

But Odin was ill-pleased with Thor, and to him he said: "Thou hast done wrong to give unto a Hag's son the speedy horse of the giant. 'Twere better if thou hadst gifted it to thy sire."

In wrath he turned away with the gods of his clan, and went towards Asgard.

Now the day of the great island duel was long ere the time when the sons of Ivalde waged the winter war against the Asa-gods. As Thor returned towards Orvandel's dwelling, his resting place on the borders of Jotun-heim, where he was wont to leave his swift, strong goats and his sublime car, he met with Orvandel, who was in great peril, The elfin archer had gone forth to fight against the Frost-giants, but with ill success as it proved, for they pressed nigh to him and sought to take him captive.

Thor rescued his friend speedily, and placed him in the meat basket, which he carried on his shoulders, as he waded through deep Elivagar. Orvandel thrust a toe through a hole, and a spell was put upon it by the giants, so that it was frozen. Then did Thor snap it off and fling it high in the heavens, where it became a bright star, which unto this day is called "Orvandel's Toe". Thus it was that the elfin archer (Avo) became a star hero.

When he parted with Orvandel, Thor yoked his goats, and in his sublime car he hastened towards his dwelling in Thrud-Varg. In grievous pain was he because of the wound which Hrungner had given him. Deep in his forehead was the flint flake embedded. In vain did Sith seek to alleviate his sufferings.

Now gentle Groa, Orvandel's wife, was dwelling in Thor's stronghold, as was her wont when her husband went forth against the Frost-giants. She had the power to work magic spells. She who was the "elf of growth" could make rocks to move, and she had power to arrest the turbulent floods. It was Groa who restored to strength those whom the Frost-giants had wounded, and it was she who gave beauty again to the places which they laid waste.

Unto Thor she came to heal his wound, and take from his forehead the splintered flint which stuck fast there. Incantations she sang over him. First she charmed away the pain which afflicted the god. Then the stone quivered and grew loose.

The heart of Thor leapt within him when he perceived that Groa would give him healing, and he was consumed with desire to reward her, and to gladden her heart without delay. So ere she sang further, he spake and she was silenced,

Of Orvandel's peril Thor gave Groa tidings, and of how he had rescued the elf from the power of the Frost-giants who encompassed him about. With joy was Groa's heart filled, but the spell she wrought was broken, and the memory of the magic song passed away. Thus was she unable to take from Thor's forehead the splintered flint, and there it ever remained because of his impatience to give premature reward.

So there was ever after weakness in Thor. Nor must mortal fling across his dwelling a flint weapon, lest the stone in the Asa-god's forehead be shaken, for then he would have suffering, and be moved to wrath against an offender.

Great were the deeds of Thor, which brought security to gods and men, for by him were the giants driven back and their power suppressed. Unto him, therefore, was willing service at all times rendered.

But there fell a day when Odin went forth from Asgard and towards the east. He saw Thor coming out of Jotun-heim, and sought to mock him so that he might have mirth.

Elivagar ran deep, and Odin waited on the opposite shore in the guise of Greybeard, the ferryman. Thor called upon him, but Odin refused to cross, whereat there rose a dispute between them. The valour of Thor did Odin question, and his feats belittle. With scornful laughter, too, did he receive the angry threatenings of the thunder-god.

"Nimble is thy tongue," cried Thor, "but it would help thee little if I waded across to thee. Louder than the wolf thou wouldst howl if I struck at thee with Mjolner."

"Better wouldst thou be engaged," Odin answered, "if thou didst hasten home; because there is one there whom Sif loves better than thee."

Thor was wroth. "Well dost thou know," he cried, "that thy cruel words sting me. A coward art thou who speakest what is untrue."

Odin answered: "Truly I speak indeed. . . . Thou art tardy in returning. Why art thou lingering on thy way? 'Twere better if thou hadst set forth on thy journey at early morn."

"'Tis thou who delayest me, villain," Thor answered wrothfully.

Odin smiled. "Can one of so little account as I am", he said, "delay the journey of the great Asa-god Thor?"

"Cease thy bantering," cried Thor; "hasten hither with thy boat, and thou shalt have the friendship of the sire of Magni."

"Begone!" cried Odin. "I shall not cross thee."

Then said Thor, with pleading voice: "Show me the ford then, since thou wilt not come over."

Odin wagged his head. "That is easy to refuse," he said. "The way is long. Thou canst go a little way this direction, and a little way in that; then thou canst turn to thy left till thou dost reach No-man's-land. There wilt thou meet thy mother, who shall guide thee unto Odin's land."

"Can I go thither to-day?" Thor asked.

Odin answered: "By sunrise, if thou dost travel quickly, thou mayest get there."

"Mocker," exclaimed Thor, "our talk is ended! Thou hast denied me crossing this day, but by the holy waters of Leipter, I swear that I shall reward thee indeed when next we meet."

Odin smiled: "Begone!" he cried; "and may demons seize thee."

Then took Thor his departure in great wrath, nor did he ever discover again the ferryman Greybeard who had mocked him and put him to shame.

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Balder the Beautiful

The Summer Sun-god--Blind Hodur--Nanna the Brave--The Light Battles--A Dread Omen--Balder's Dreams--Frigg's Alarm--World Vows taken--Odin descends to Hela--The Vala invoked--Her Prophecies--Loke's Evil Design--The Mistletoe Arrow of Pain--Balder is killed--Hermod's Mission--The Funeral of the God--Odin whispers--Hermod in Hela--Urd's Decree--World Tears--Hag seals Balder's Fate.

BALDER THE BEAUTIFUL was the most noble and pious of the gods in Asgard. The whitest flower upon earth is called Balder's brow, because the countenance of the god was snow-white and shining. Like fine gold was his hair, and his eyes were radiant and blue. He was well loved by all the gods, save evil Loke, who cunningly devised his death.

Balder, the summer sun-god, was Odin's fairest son; his mother was Frigg, goddess of fruitful earth and sister of Njord. His brother was blind Hodur. On Balder's tongue were runes graven, so that he had great eloquence. He rode a brightly shining horse, and his ships, which men called "billow falcons", were the sunbeams that sailed through the drifting cloudways. For wife he was given Nanna, the moon maid, the brave one who fought with him the light battles. On a bright horse she rode also, and tender was she and very fair.

There came a time when Odin and Balder went forth to journey through a wood. A dread omen forewarned them of disaster, because the leg was sprained of Balder's horse, the horse from whose hoofmarks bubbled forth clear wells. Charms were sung over the sun-god by Nanna and by her fair sister Sunna, the sun maid. Frigg also sang, and then Fulla her sister. Odin uttered magic runes to protect him from evil.

But soon after Balder began to languish. The light went from his eyes, care sat on his forehead, and melancholy were his lips. To him came the gods beseeching to know what ailed him, and he told that nightly he dreamed fearsome dreams which boded ill, and revealed to him, alas! that his life was in dire peril.

Now Frigg, who had fore-knowledge of all things save Balder's fate, sent forth her maid-servants to take oaths from all creatures living, from plants and metals, and from stones, not to do any hurt unto the god Balder. To her, in due time, the maidens returned, and she received from them the compacts and vows that were given. All things promised to spare him, save the mistletoe, slender and harmless, from which no vow was asked, for it clung, as was its need, to a strong tree for protection. Then was Frigg's heart filled with comfort, and no longer did she fear the fate of her noble son.

But the heart of Odin was filled with foreboding. He mounted his horse Sleipner, and went over Bif-rost towards the north, and descended unto darksome Nifelhel, where dwelt the spirits of the great giants who were crushed in the World-mill. On the borders of Hela, as he rode speedily, a great and fierce hel-dog came after him. There was blood on its breast, and in the darkness it barked loudly. When it could go no farther, it howled long with gaping jaws.

Over a long green plain went Odin, while the hoofs of Sleipner rang fast and cleat-, until he came to a high dwelling, the name of which is Heljar-ran, of which the keeper is Delling, the Red Elf of Dawn. Therein have their Hela-home the fair Asmegir--Lif and Lifthraser and their descendants who shall come at Time's new dawn that shall follow Ragnarok to regenerate the world of men.

To the eastern gate went Odin, where he knew there was the grave of a Vala (prophetess). Dismounting from Sleipner, he chanted over her death chamber strange magic songs. He looked towards the north; he uttered runes; he pronounced a spell, and demanded sure response. Then rose the Vala, and from the grave chamber her ghostly voice spake forth and said:

"What unknown man cometh to disturb my rest? Snow has covered me in its deeps; by cold rains have I been beaten and by many dews made wet. . . . Long indeed have I lain dead."

Odin answered: "My name is Vegtam and my sire was Valtam. Tell me, O Vala," he cried, "for whom are the benches of Delling's hall strewn with rings, and for whom are the rooms decked with fine gold?"

The Vala answered and said: "Here stands for Balder mead prepared, pure drink indeed. Over the cup shields are laid. Impatiently do the Asmegir await him and to make merry . . . . Alas! by compulsion hast thou made me to speak . . . . Now must I be silent."

Odin said: "Silent thou must not be until I know who shall slay Balder--who shall bereave Odin's son of life."

The Vala answered: "Hodur shall send his brother hither, for Balder shall he slay, and Odin's son bereave of life. . . . Alas! by compulsion hast thou made me speak. . . . Now must I be silent."

Odin said: "Silent thou must not be until I know who shall avenge the deed on Hodur, who shall raise Balder's slayer on the funeral pyre."

The Vala answered: "A son, Vale, shall Rhind bear in the halls of Winter. He shall not wash his hands nor comb his hair until to the funeral pyre he beareth Balder's foe. Alas! by compulsion hast thou made me to speak. Now must I be silent."

Odin said: "Silent thou shalt not be until I know who are the maidens that sorrow and throw high their veils with grief. Sleep not until thou dost answer."

The Vala spake and said: "Thou art not Vegtam, as I deemed, but Odin, ruler of all."

Odin said: "No Vala art thou, but the mother of three giants."

Then cried the Vala: "Return, O Odin, unto Asgard. Never again shall I be called upon until Loke escapes from bonds and the world-devastating Dusk of the Gods is at hand."

To Asgard did Odin return; but there was no sorrow there nor foreboding, because of the vows which Frigg had taken from all creatures and all things that are, so that no harm might be done unto her fair son. And of this had the gods full proof. Balder they made to stand amidst a rain of javelins that harmed him not. Some flung at him stones, others smote him with their swords; yet was he not injured. Of Balder were they all proud because he was charmed against wounds. To honour him did they make fruitless attack on his fair body.

Evil there war, in the heart of Loke, and in woman's guise he went unto Frigg, who spake and said: "Why do the gods thus assail my fair son Balder?"

Loke answered: "It is in sport they fling at him javelins and stones and strike him with swords, because they know full well that they can do him no hurt."

Frigg said: "By neither metal, nor wood, nor stone, can he be injured because of the world-vows which I have received."

"Have all things indeed sworn to protect Balder?" Loke asked with downcast eyes.

"All things save the mistletoe," answered Frigg, "and so slender and weak is the mistletoe that from it no vow was demanded."

Then Loke went from Frigg and plucked a mistletoe sprig, which he carried to a cunning elf-smith named Hlebard, whom he robbed of his understanding. With the mistletoe twig the smith shaped a magic arrow--a deadly arrow of pain. . . . Loke made haste with it to Asgard, and he went to the green place where the gods assailed Balder and made merry. He saw blind Hodur standing apart, and to him he went and spake thus:

"Why, O Hodur, dost thou not join the game and cast a missile at Balder also?"

"Alas!" cried Hodur; "am I not blind? I can see not my fair brother, nor have I aught which I can throw."

"Come and do honour unto Balder like the others '

Loke urged him. "I shall give thee an arrow for thy bow, and hold thine arm so that thou mayest know where he stands."

Hodur then took from Loke the magic arrow which the elf-smith had made and placed it in his bow. Then raised he his left arm, while evil Loke took certain aim.

"Thou canst now share in the sport," said the Evil One unto the blind god, and went to a place apart.

The gods beheld Hodur standing with bent bow, and paused in their game. . . . Then did the arrow dart forth. . . . It struck Balder; it pierced his fair body, and he fell dead upon the sward.

In horror, and frozen with silence, the gods stood around. . . . Where there had been joy and merrymaking, dumb grief prevailed. . . . Alone stood Hodur wondering and in mute amaze.

But ere long angry cries broke forth, and the gods sought to slay Death's blind archer; but the sward on which they stood was consecrated to peace, and unwillingly were their hands withheld.

Then a loud voice cried through Asgard: "Balder is dead! . . . . Balder the Beautiful is dead! . . . ."

Every voice was hushed and every face turned pale because of the disaster which had befallen the gods in that black hour.

Thereafter arose the sound of loud lamentations, and a tempest of grief swept over the Celestial City. Frigg wept in silence and alone. Odin grieved inwardly, and more than the rest he realized the great disaster which Balder's death would bring unto the Asa-gods.

The spirit of Balder descended to the Lower World and crossed the golden bridge over the River Gjoll.

The Asmegir in their gold-decked hall awaited him, for they desired that he should be their ruler until the dawn of the world's new age.

But Frigg would not suffer that Balder should remain in Hela. She went forth when the gods ceased to cry aloud in their sorrow and said:

"Who among thee hath longing to win my gratitude and my love? For such shall be given unto him who rideth to Hela to find Balder. It is my heart's desire, in this my hour of grief, that a great ransom be offered unto Urd, Queen of Death, so that she may permit my fair son to return unto me again."

Forth stepped Heimdal the Young. He was a messenger of the gods and a son of Odin. He spake forth and said: "Unto Hela shall I go, O Queen of Asgard, as thou desirest, to find Balder and to offer great ransom unto Urd, so that she may permit him to return unto thee once again."

Then was Sleipner taken forth for Hermod, who leapt nimbly into the saddle. Swift as the wind he went over the gate bridge, and through the air and across the seas he sped and descended unto Nifel-hel towards the north to search for Balder.

The gods bore Balder's body unto the bleak shore of Ocean, where lay his great ship, Hringhorn. On its deck they built a pyre covered with much treasure, and then they sought to launch it.

But that they were unable to do, because the keel stuck fast in the sand and would not be moved seaward. So they sent unto Jotun-heim for the storm-giantess, Hyrrokin, who was Angerboda, that ancient-cold Vala of the east, who sweeps wind-tossed ships into the very jaws of Æger. On a great wolf she came and the bridle was a writhing snake. She leapt on the beach and with disdain regarded the gods. To four giants were given the keeping of the wolf. Then went she to the ship and thrust it speedily into the sea. Fire blazed from the rollers and the earth shook.

Angry was Thor when he beheld the Hag, and he swung his hammer to strike her down; but him did the gods restrain, for they sought not bloodshed in that hour.

Then was Balder's body carried to the ship and laid upon the pyre, and his steed beside him. Beautiful was he in death. In white robes was Balder clad, and round his head lay a wreath of radiant flowers.

On the shore were gathered the gods and goddesses of Asgard. Odin was there, and he went first.


His ravens hovered over the ship, and his wolf-dogs wailed. Beside him was wise Frigg, who was wont to spin golden cloud-threads from her jewelled wheel. Queen of Asgard was she and goddess of Maternal Love. She was robed in black who was erstwhile attired in cloudy whiteness; on her golden head were the heron plumes of silence; a golden girdle clasped her waist and on her feet were golden shoes. Tall was she and stately and surpassing fair.

Dark-browed Thor was nigh to Odin, and Brage and Tyr also. Njord, black-bearded, and clad in green, strode his stately way. With his golden-bristled boar came Frey, and Heimdal, horsed on Gulltop, shone fair as sunshine. Beauteous Freyja, veiled in tears, rode her chariot drawn by great cats, and fair Idun was there also, and Sith with harvest hair. Loke stood apart with tearless eyes.

The valkyries leaned on their spears. Frigg's maids were nigh the Queen of Asgard, and these were Fulla, her sister, Hlin, who carries to Frigg the prayers of mortals; Gna, the speedy messenger who passes to and fro over the earth, beholding and remembering: Lofn, guardian of lovers, in whose name vows are made; Vjofr, the peacemaker, who unites lovers, and husbands and wives who have quarrelled; Syn, the wise doorkeeper; and Gefjon, guardian of maids who shall never wed.

White elves were assembled on that sad shore to sorrow, and even black elves were there. Many Frost-giants and Mountain-giants gathered around, for there was sadness everywhere because Balder was dead.

But none mourned more than Nanna, Balder's wife. Silent was she; her heart wept, and fire burned in her eyes.

Then Odin mounted the pyre. On Balder's breast

he laid the gold ring Draupner, and bending low he whispered in Balder's ear. . . .

From that hour have gods and men wondered what said Odin in his son's ear.

When Odin whispered
In Balder's ear,
Nor god nor man
Was nigh to hear.

What Odin whispered,
Bending low,
No man knoweth
Or e'er shall know.

In silence Odin returned to the shore, and then Thor consecrated the pyre with his hammer. A dwarf named Littur, who ran past him, he kicked into the boat, where he was burned with Balder.

So ended the ceremony of grief, and the torch was placed to the pyre. High as heaven leapt the flames, and the faces of the gods were made ruddy in the glow. . . . Nanna cried aloud in grief, and her heart burst within her, and she fell dead upon the cold sea strand.

Seaward swept the burning ship. . . . The whole world sorrowed for Balder. . . .

Meanwhile Hermod made his darksome way through Nifel-hel towards Hela's glittering plains. Nine days and nine nights he rode on Sleipner through misty blackness and in bitter cold over high mountains and along ridges where chasms yawn vast and bottomless. On Hela's borders the terrible wolf dog of the giant Offotes followed him, barking in the black mist. . . . Then Hermod reached the rivers. Over Slid, full of daggers, he went, and over Kormet and Ormet, and the two rivers Kerlogar, through which Thor wades when he goes to the Lower Thingstead of the gods. He crossed shining Leipter, by whose holy waters men swear oaths that bind. At length he came to the River Gjoll and its golden bridge.

Modgud, the elf maid who watches the bridge, cried aloud: "Whence cometh thou who hath not yet died?"

Of her did Hermod ask who had crossed before him. Impatient was he to brook delay.

"But five days since," she said, "there passed five troops of warriors who rode over with valkyries, yet made they less noise than thee alone. . . . Whom seekest thou?"

Hermod answered and said: "Balder, my brother, son of Odin and Frigg, do I seek. If thou hast seen him, speak forth and tell me whither he hath gone."

In silence did Modgud point towards the north, whereat Hermod spurred Sleipner and went on. . . . Soon he came to Hela's great stone gate. Strongly barred it was and very high, and guarded by a great armed sentinel. To none was given entry save the dead who are brought to judgment.

Hermod leapt to the ground. He tightened the girths of Sleipner. He remounted again. Then he spurred Odin's horse towards the gate, and with a great bound it leapt over, nor ceased to go onward when it came down. . . . Swiftly rode Hermod until he came to the palace in which Balder dwelt with the Asmegir.

From the saddle he leapt and went within. . . . There in a golden hall he saw Balder seated on a throne of gold. Wan was his face and careworn, for the gloom of death had not yet passed from him. On his brow was a wreath of faded flowers, and on his breast the ring Draupner. He sat listening, as if he still heard the voice of Odin whispering in his ear. Before him stood a goblet of mead, which he had touched not. Nanna sat by his side, and her cheeks were pale.

Hermod beheld nigh unto them Urd, the queen of Hela. In cold grandeur she stood, silent and alone. Deathly white was her face, and hard and stern, and she looked downward. On her dark robe gleamed great diamonds and ornaments of fine gold. . . .

To Balder spoke Hermod, and said: "For thee have I been sent hither, O my brother. In Asgard there is deep mourning for thee, and thy queen mother beseecheth thy speedy return."

Sadly did Balder shake his head, and to Nanna he pointed. But she leaned towards him and whispered: "Love is stronger than death, nor can the grave destroy it. . . . With thee, O Balder, shall I ever remain . . . ...

They would have wept, but in Hela there are no tears.

Throughout the night did Hermod hold converse with the twain, and when morning came he besought Urd to release Balder from death's bonds.

With eyes still looking downwards she heard him speak.

"In Asgard," Hermod said, "the gods sorrow for Balder, and on earth is he also mourned. All who have being and all things with life weep for Balder, and beseech thee that he may return again."

Urd made answer coldly: "If all who have being and all things with life weep for Balder and beseech his return, then must he be restored again. . . . But if one eye is without tears, then must he remain in Hela forever."

Hermod bowed himself before Urd in silence, and turned again to Balder and to Nanna, who went with him to the door. . . . Ere their sad farewells were spoken, Balder gave Hermod the ring Draupner to carry back unto Odin, for in Hela the ring was without fertility. Her veil Nanna did send unto Frigg, and a bride's gold ring she gave for Fulla.

To Asgard did Hermod make speedy return, bearing the gifts of Balder and of Nanna, and unto gods and goddesses assembled together he made known the stern decree of Hela's queen.

Over all the world did Frigg then send messengers to beseech all who have being and all things with life to weep for Balder, so that he might be restored again. Then did sorrow indeed prevail. The frost of grief was broken, and the sound of weeping was heard like to falling streams. Men wept, as did also every animal, peaceful and wild. Stones had tears, and metals were made wet. On trees and plants and on every grass blade were dewdrops of mourning for Balder.

But as the messengers of Frigg were returning to Asgard, they came to a deep dark cavern in which sat Gulveig-Hoder, the Hag of Ironwood, in the guise of Thok (darkness). Her they besought to weep, so that Balder might return. She spake coldly and said:

"Thok shall weep tears of fire only because Balder is dead. No joy hath he ever given unto me living or dead. . . . Let Hela's queen hold what is her own."

Great was the sorrow in Asgard because that the Hag would weep not and free Balder from death's bonds. Upon Loke was laid the blame, because he never ceased to work evil among the gods. But not afar off was the day of his doom.

The Passing of Balder

I heard a voice, that cried,
"Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!"
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward-sailing cranes.

I saw the pallid corpse
Of the dead sun
Borne through the Northern sky.
Blasts from Nifel-heim
Lifted the sheeted mists
Around him as he passed.

And the voice for ever cried,
"Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!"
And died away
Through the dreary night,
In accents of despair.

Balder the Beautiful,
God of the summer sun,
Fairest of all the Gods!
Light from his forehead beamed,
Runes were upon his tongue,
As on the warrior's sword.

All things in earth and air
Bound were by magic spell
Never to do him harm,
Even the plants and stones:
All save the mistletoe,
The sacred mistletoe!

Hoder, the blind old god,
Whose feet are shod with silence,
Pierced through that gentle breast
With his sharp spear, by fraud
Made of the mistletoe,
The accursed mistletoe!

They laid him in his ship,
With horse and harness,
As on a funeral pyre.
Odin placed
A ring upon his finger,
And whispered in his ear.

They launched the burning ship!
It floated far away
Over the misty sea,
Till like the sun it seemed,
Sinking beneath the waves.
Balder returned no more!


The Descent of Odin

Uprose the King of men with speed,
And saddled strait his coal-black steed;
Down the yawning steep he rode,
That leads to Hela's drear abode.
Him the Dog of Darkness spied,
His shaggy throat he opened wide,
While from his jaws, with carnage filled,
Foam and human gore distilled;

Hoarse he bays with hideous din,
Eyes that glow, and fangs that grin;
And long pursues, with fruitless yell,
The father of the powerful spell.
Onward still his way he takes,
(The groaning earth beneath him shakes,)
Till full before his fearless eyes
The portals nine of hell arise.

Right against the eastern gate,
By the moss-grown pile he sate;
Where long of yore to sleep was laid
The dust of the prophetic Maid.
Facing to the northern clime,
Thrice he traced the runic rhyme;
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
The thrilling verse that wakes the dead;
Till from out the hollow ground
Slowly breathed a sullen sound.


What call unknown, what charms presume,
To break the quiet of the tomb?
Who thus afflicts my troubled sprite
And drags me from the realms of night?
Long on these mould'ring bones have beat
The winter's snow, the summer's heat,
The drenching dews, and driving rain!
Let me, let me sleep again.
Who is he, with voice unblest,
That calls me from the bed of rest?


A Traveller, to the unknown,
Is he that calls, a Warrior's son.
Thou the deeds of light shalt know;
Tell me what is done below,
For whom yon glitt'ring board is spread,
Drest for whom yon golden bed.


Mantling in the goblet see
The pure beverage of the bee,
O'er it hangs the shield of gold;
'T is the drink of Balder bold;
Balder's head to death is given.
Pain can reach the sons of Heaven!
Unwilling I my lips unclose;
Leave me, leave me to repose.


Once again my call obey.
Prophetess, arise and say,
What dangers Odin's child await,
Who the Author of his fate.


In Hoder's hand the Hero's doom;
His brother sends him to the tomb.
Now my weary lips I close;
Leave me, leave me to repose.


Prophetess, my spell obey,
Once again arise, and say,
Who th' Avenger of his guilt.
By whom shall Hoder's blood be spilt.


In the caverns of the west,
By Odin's fierce embrace comprest,
A wondrous Boy shall Rinda bear,
Who ne'er shall comb his raven hair,
Nor wash his visage in the stream,
Nor see the sun's departing beam,
Till he on Hoder's corpse shall smile
Flaming on the fun'ral pile.
Now my weary lips I close;
Leave me, leave me to repose.


Yet a while my call obey.
Prophetess, awake, and say,
What Virgins these in speechless woe,
That bend to earth their solemn brow,
That their flaxen tresses tear,
And snowy veils, that float in air.
Tell me whence their sorrows rose;
Then I leave thee to repose.


Ha! no Traveller art thou,
King of Men, I know thee now
Mightiest of a mighty line


No boding Maid of skill divine
Art thou, nor Prophetess of good;
But mother of the giant brood!


Hie thee hence, and boast at home,
That never shall enquirer come
To break my iron sleep again;
Till Lok has burst his tenfold chain.
Never, till substantial Night
Has reassumed her ancient right;
Till wrapped in flames, in ruin hurled,
Sinks the fabric of the world.


The World's Tears

Odin . . . thus addressed the Gods:
"Go quickly forth through all the world, and pray
All living and unliving things to weep
Balder, if haply he may thus be won."
When the Gods heard, they straight arose, and took
Their horses, and rode forth through all the world;
North, south, east, west, they struck, and roam'd the world,
Entreating all things to weep Balder's death.
And all that lived, and all without life, wept.
And as in winter, when the frost breaks up,
At winter's end, before the spring begins,
And a warm west-wind blows, and thaw sets in
After an hour a dripping sound is heard
In all the forests, and the soft-strewn snow
Under the trees is dibbled thick with holes,
And from the boughs the snowloads shuffle down;
And, in fields sloping to the south, dark plots
Of grass peep out amid surrounding snow,
And widen, and the peasant's heart is glad--
So through the world was heard a dripping noise
Of all things weeping to bring Balder back;
And there fell joy upon the Gods to hear.
But Hermod rode with Niord, whom he took
To show him spits and beaches of the sea
Far off, where some unwarri'd might fail to weep
Niord, the God of storms, whom fishers know;
Not born in Heaven; he was in Vanheim rear'd,
With men, but lives a hostage with the Gods;
He knows each frith, and every rocky creek
Fringed with dark pines, and sands where seafowl scream
They two scour'd every coast, and all things wept.
And they rode home together, through the wood
Of Jarnvid, which to east of Midgard lies
Bordering the giants, where the trees are iron
There in the wood before a cave they came,
Where sate, in the cave's mouth, a skinny hag,
Toothless and old; she gibes the passers by.
Thok is she called, but now Loke wore her shape;
She greeted them the first, and laugh'd, and said
"Ye Gods, good lack, is it so dull in Heaven,
That ye come pleasuring to Thok's iron wood?
Lovers of change ye are, fastidious sprites.
Look, as in some boor's yard a sweet-breath'd cow,
Whose manger is stuffed full of good fresh hay,
Snuffs at it daintily, and stoops her head
To chew the straw, her litter, at her feet--
So ye grow squeamish, Gods, and sniff at Heaven!"
She spake; but Hermod answer'd her and said
Thok, not for gibes we come, we come for tears.
Balder is dead, and Hela holds her prey,
But will restore, if all things give him tears.
Begrudge not thine! to all was Balder dear."
Then, with a louder laugh, the hag replied
"Is Balder dead? and do ye come for tears?
Thok with dry eyes will weep o'er Balder's pyre.
Weep him all other things, if weep they will
I weep him not! let Hela keep her prey."

From "Balder Dead", by Matthew Arnold.

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The Binding of Loke

Balder's Avenger--Odin woos Rhind--Winter's Cold-hearted Queen--The Coming of Vale--At Valhal's Feast--The Sword-slain Warriors--Hodur is killed--Odin and the Riddle-Giant--The Unanswered Question--Æger's Feast--Loke reviles the Gods--His Confession and Flight--His Salmon Guise--Caught in his Net--The Evil One is bound--Skade's Revenge--Faithful Sigyn.

As the Vala had foretold, a son was born to Odin, who took vengeance upon Hodur because that he slew Balder. His mother was Rhind, Earth's Winter Queen, whom Odin wooed in the time of ice. Cold-hearted was she, although of great beauty, and long she withheld her love. Her sire was Billing, the Elf of Twilight, whose dwelling was in the west. Guardian was he of the forest of the Varns) whither fled the deities of sun and moon to find safety from the pursuing wolves of Ironwood. Strong-armed were the Varns, and when Sol sank into her golden bed, their chosen warriors, who guarded her, kept watch with burning brands. By day they slept, but when Sol again drave her chariot towards Billing's gate 1 they lit their torches, which flamed with red fire and gold.

When Odin went unto Billing he revealed his love for Rhind, but the stern maid spurned with scorn the Ruler of Asgard. Displeased with himself was Odin.

Nor, as the skald hath sung, is there "a worse disease to afflict a wise man". Among the reeds sat Odin all alone, awaiting Rhind, yet she would favour him not. Her heart was frozen and cold.

A second time Odin went towards Billing's dwelling. He bore with him a bracelet and rings of fine gold and radiant flower-gems, and these gifts of golden summer he offered to Rhind. But she refused them with bitterness, for her heart was indeed cold. Her lover she despised.

A third time did Odin seek to woo the stern daughter of Billing. He went unto her attired as a young warrior, his helmet on his head and his sword by his side. Stately was he as is a viking who plunders on summer seas. But the warriors of Varn stood nigh unto Rhind. Their torches were in their hands, and she slept. Sun-bright she lay upon her golden couch. . . . At morn when all the household slumbered a hungry wolf-dog guarded her. Odin she again rejected. Contumely she heaped upon him, nor could he hope to gain her love.

At length Odin went unto Rhind in Hag guise. Earth's Winter Queen languished in sickness, and he promised to cure her. Over her then Odin muttered spells, so that she was moved to tempest madness. Then was she bound with ice chains. Thereafter did Odin reveal himself to her. He took off the spell. He released her from ice bonds. Whereupon her heart melted towards him and she became his bride.

Meanwhile in Asgard the gods sought to be avenged on silent-footed Hodur for slaying Balder. But him they could not discover. All day he hid in a deep forest, and in nighttime only was he abroad. A magic shield he bore, and a magic sword, and none would dare go nigh to him when darkness fell. Ever did he move restlessly and without sound through the forest, fearing that the avenger would come; ever did he seek to make escape, for of his fate he had full foreknowledge.

There came a day of brightness, and it was the May day of Vale's coming. In the night was he born in full strength, and towards Asgard he went speedily and entered therein. He had the face of a child and a warrior's body. Straight to Valhal strode Vale, and the watchman sought to hold him back, because his hands were unwashed and his hair uncombed. A strong bow he carried and three arrows.

Vale spurned the watchman and entered the warrior's hall. At feast sat Odin and the rest of the gods, and about them were the fearless heroes, the sword-slain warmen whom the valkyries had chosen.

Odin received Vale with pride, and to gods and heroes he announced: "Behold it is Vale, son of Rhind, who shall avenge the death of Balder."

The gods spake one to another and said: "How can this tender youth overcome night-haunting Hodur and escape his magic sword?"

Vale answered them saying: "But one night old am I, yet shall I avenge Balder, my brother."

Then sat Odin's new-born son at the feast. With the sword-slain warriors he shared the joys of Valhal, and ate of the boar Saehrimnir which was devoured daily and became whole again each night.

Odin sate in his high chair. But he partook not of the food, for he had no need of it. His portion he flung to his dogs Gere and Freke, and drank only of the mead which nourished him forever.

For drink the heroes had the mead milk of the goat Heidrun, which ate the leaves of Laerath, the tree which overshadows Valhal.

When the warriors had feasted with Vale in their midst, they issued forth in vast numbers from Valhal's doors, which numbered five hundred and forty. From each door eight hundred warriors came out, as they shall do at Ragnarok, to combat against the hordes of Surtur.

Thus daily do the warriors go forth as on the morn of Vale's coming. On a great field they fight battles, and one another they cut to pieces. On steeds they ride and the steeds fall. On foot they rush into battle to be slain. 2 Yet are they ever restored again.

Vale beheld the heroes in conflict. He saw them slay one another. He saw them rising to return unto Valhal.

When night fell, and Sol was laid on her golden couch in Billing's hall, Vale went forth to seek silent-footed Hodur. Through the wood of blackness he went, for he had knowledge of where the blind god was hidden. Then heard he a voice which cried:

"The avenger cometh, O slayer of Balder."

Hodur held high his magic shield. His sword he drew, and went in silence towards the sound of Vale's footsteps.

The bow of Vale was bent. He shot an arrow towards Hodur and it went past him. A second he cast and it struck the magic shield. The third arrow pierced the heart of Hodur and he fell dead.

Thus was the death of Balder avenged by Vale, son of Odin and Rhind, the young May-god with a child's face and the body of a strong warrior.

A pyre was built and the body of Hodur was burned thereon. The gods rejoiced that he was dead, but Balder awaited him in Hela. Loke was yet unpunished; his day of doom was drawing nigh.

Ere that time came, Odin went forth from Asgard and journeyed unto Jotun-heim. There he sought the dwelling of the ancient giant, Vafthrudner, to hear from him the secrets of the past. He was the strongest of the giants and the most cunning. He was also a maker of riddles, and those who could answer them not he put to death. His head he wagered that none equalled him in wisdom.

Odin went towards the giant's dwelling in the guise of a mortal named Gangraad.

"Why comest thou hither?" Vafthrudner asked. His sword was in his hand.

Odin answered: "I come hither to know whether thou art so wise and all-remembering as men say."

The giant was wroth, and to Odin he said: "If thou art not wiser than I am, and if thy knowledge is less than mine, thy head shall speedily be struck from thy shoulders. If thou art proved the wiser, mine own head is forfeit."

First the giant asked Odin if he had knowledge of who drave the chariots of night and of day, and if he could name the world-dividing rivers. Odin answered him.

Then the giant asked where the last battle would be fought, and Odin gave ready response. "On Virgrid Plain," he said.

Much did the giant marvel. He besought Odin to sit by his side. When Odin was seated, he in turn put questions to Vafthrudner. He asked of the old giant how far back he remembered, and Vafthrudner said that he had beheld Ymer's son, Bergelmer, who escaped the blood deluge, when he was laid on the World-mill to be ground.

Of the beginning of things Odin did ask him, and of the end. The giant made answer with great wisdom. There was naught of which he could not speak with full knowledge.

Then did Odin rise from his seat and say: "One last question shall I put thee, O Vafthrudner, and if thou canst not answer it, thy head is forfeit."

The giant was without fear. He listened, fully assured that he could make ready response.

But Odin spake and said: "Tell me if thou canst, O maker of riddles, what did Odin whisper into Balder's ear?"

Then was the giant stricken with great fear, because he perceived that the stranger was none other than Odin himself. With trembling voice he confessed that he was vanquished. So he who sought to slay the stranger was himself slain. By Odin was his head struck off.

By the gods was Odin called Jalk 3 when he slew the great giant.

But although Odin brought judgment upon the tyrant Vafthrudner, as he was wont to do unto all evildoers, it was long ere he meted out just punishment to him who had in secret devised the death of Balder. But his hour was very nigh. His place beside Fenrer awaited him.

Shunned was Loke in Asgard, and rarely he went thither; for Balder he mourned not nor shared the grief of the gods, by whom he was suspect.

The time came when Æger sent messengers to the high Celestial city to invite the dwellers there to the harvest-end feast of the autumnal equinox. Thither they journeyed, robed in state, to drink of Æger's mead.

Now, while they sat round the board, Loke, who was not bidden to the feast, entered with stealthy steps. Funafeng, the guardian of the door, sought to hold him back.

"No seat awaits thee here," he said. "Thou hadst better haste to Ironwood and feast with Angerboda, mother of the Fenrer wolf."

Wroth was Loke with Æger's servant, and more wroth was he when he heard the gods praising Funafeng because of the words he had spoken. So he turned on the bold guardian of the door and slew him.

The gods rose in anger, and seized their weapons to be avenged, but Loke fled forth in the darkness and concealed himself in a deep forest at the sea bottom.

Then was the feast resumed. Mead flowed plenteously from Æger's vessels, for, like the horn of Utgard-Loki, they could never be emptied, and they were ever full.

Again Loke returned. Eldir guarded the door. The Evil One spake freely to him and said: "Of what do the gods speak as they drink their mead?"

"They speak of thee," Eldir answered, "and the evil deeds thou hast done."

"Then shall I enter," said Loke. "I shall revile them one after another until they are covered with shame."

Silent in their anger were the gods when they beheld Loke in their midst once again. But he demanded a seat at the board.

"Am I not an Asa-god?" he cried. "The golden mead I claim as my due."

Brage, god of music and song, spake fiercely and said: "Thou shalt never again be an equal of the gods. For thy villainy art thou become an outcast. For thee is now prepared a drink of revenge."

To Odin did Loke make stern appeal, saying: "Promised we not each to the other in olden days, when our blood we mixed together, never to drink mead that was offered not unto both?"

When Loke spake thus, Odin consented that he should sit at the board, for indeed he had spoken truly. His claim was just according to ancient vows.

A goblet of mead did Loke receive, and he cried: "Hail to all who are here save Brage, who refused me hospitality."

When he drank from the goblet he taunted Brage with scorn, and the Song-god challenged him to combat; but Loke heeded him not. He heard him with silent scorn.

To Njord then turned Loke and flouted him because that he was but a hostage of the Vans.

Njord answered and said that he was father of Frey, who was hated by none, whereat the Evil One heaped abuse upon the harvest-god. But Tyr said that Njord's fair son was the best of all chiefs among the gods, and that his doings were ever benevolent, so that by mortals was he well loved.

Loke cried: "Silence, O Tyr. Thou hast but one hand since the Fenrer wolf seized thee."

Tyr answered: "Better to lose a hand than a good reputation, for that thou hast not, Loke."

Frey in wrath then said: "If thou art not silent, with thy wolf son shalt thou be bound."

Then did Loke taunt Frey because he had given to Gymer the Sword of Victory with which to buy Gerd.

Shame fell upon Frey and on all the gods whom Loke reviled in that hour. Then Frigg spoke angrily to the Evil One and said:


"If I had here in Æger's hall a son like to Balder, who is dead, thou wouldst never go from hither, for in wrath thou wouldst be slain."

"Ha!" cried Loke, leaping to his feet; "is it thy will, O Frigg, that I should speak further? Now hear and know that I am the cause of Balder's death. To Hela was he sent by me, for to Hodur did I give the mistletoe arrow that struck thy son down."

The gods seized their weapons to attack their evil reviler, when suddenly thunder pealed in the hall, and Thor stood there in their midst.

Now Loke knew well that the gods sought not to defile the dwelling of Æger by shedding blood. So he went and stood before Thor, whom he addressed, saying: "Dost thou remember, O Asa-Thor, when thou didst hide with fear in the thumb space of Skrymer's glove?"

"Silence, thou evil one," roared Thor, "or else with my hammer shall I strike thy head off and end thy life!

Then did Loke answer humbly. "Silent indeed I shall be now, O Thor, for I know well thou shalt strike."

So saying he left the hall. But the gods rose to pursue him, so greatly angered were they because that he had caused Balder's death. But Loke assumed the guise of a salmon and escaped through the sea, and in vain they sought him. Never again could he enter Asgard.

The gods took counsel together and decreed that Loke should be bound because of the many evils he had done, and especially because he devised the death of Balder. They searched for him in Midgard and in Jotun-heim, but found him not, for a cunning retreat had Loke discovered. In a cliff he dwelt behind a great waterfall. Four doors there were in his cavern, and they were ever kept open, so that he might make quick and sure escape. There he devised plots to overcome the Asa-gods.

But wearily passed the days of his solitude. One morning he took flax and yarn and fashioned a net with which to capture fish, and in the manner which he made it have fishermen ever since fashioned theirs. He took pride in his cunning work, but for what end he devised it no man knoweth.

Meanwhile the gods sought greatly after him. Then Odin mounted his golden throne and looked over the nine worlds, searching for the place in which Loke was hidden. He saw the cavern behind the waterfall. He perceived Loke sitting within. Then he called the gods and told them where the Evil One could be found.

Then set they forth and made cunning approach to the cavern. They divided to enter all the four doors.

Loke perceived them, but not until they were very nigh to him. Then he flung his net upon the fire, and in salmon guise leapt into the pool which was below the waterfall. There he concealed himself betwixt two stones.

When the gods entered the cavern they knew that the Evil-worker whom they sought was not far distant, for the fire still smouldered. Kvasir, son of Njord, who was keen-eyed as Heimdal, at once beheld on the white embers the ashes of the net which Loke had made. So the gods sat down and speedily they wove another of like kind. When it was finished they threw it into the stream, knowing that he whom they sought was there. But the net went over Loke.

Then did the gods take the net a second time, and weighted it with stones so that it could be dragged along the stream's bed. Loke divined their purpose and leapt over the net into the waterfall.

But the gods espied him, and Thor went into midstream so that he might not escape. On either bank did the avengers drag the net towards the pool.

Loke perceived that there were but two means of escape left to him. One was to again leap over the net; the other was to swim out to the sea and brave the perils that are there. He chose to leap. But he escaped not, for Thor grasped him in his hand. In vain Loke sought to wriggle free, but Thor closed his strong fingers over his tail. That is why the salmon's tail has been narrow since that day.

When Loke found he could not escape, he assumed his wonted shape. Then did the gods do as Frey had threatened at Æger's feast. Him they bore unto the place where his son the wolf Fenrer was already bound on the geyser-sprayed island in the gulf of Black Grief.

Loke's two sons, Vali and Narvi, followed him, as did also gentle Sigyn, his wife, whom he had despised and wronged. Incantations were sung over Vali, and he became a fierce wolf. Upon his brother Narvi he sprang and tore him to pieces.

Then did the gods lay Loke on three sharp-edged rocks next to the Fenrer wolf. With the sinews of Narvi (the binder) they made chains which were like iron, and with these they bound the Evil One securely.

Skade came from her mountain home rejoicing because that he who had caused the death of her father, Thjasse, was at length overcome. She bore with her a poisonous snake, and bound it on the rock above Loke's head. From its jaws dropped burning venom, which tortured the Evil One with great agony.

Then took the avengers their departure, leaving Loke in torment.... His faithful wife Sigyn remained behind. Over Loke's head she is ever holding a goblet to receive the dripping venom. So does she constantly guard her evil husband. But when the vessel is filled to the brim she must needs bring it down, so that it may be emptied. Then do venom drops fall upon Loke's face, burning him fiercely. . . . When that happens he struggles madly with his bonds, and the rocks shake and Midgard trembles to its foundations. . . . It is thus that earthquakes are caused.

On the island of the Gulf of Black Grief must Loke and the Fenrer wolf remain until Ragnarok. The wolf dog Garm shall bark aloud when they escape from their bonds.


1 According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the mythical Belinus, King of Britain, made in London a gate of marvellous workmanship "which the citizens do still in these! days call Billingsgate".

2 "They went forth to the war, but they always fell."--Macpherson's Ossian. The reference is to Scandinavian invaders. Matthew Arnold applied the quotation to the Celts.

3 Jack the Giant-killer.

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The Dusk of the Gods

The Vala's Song--Signs of Ragnarok--Evil among Men--Fimbul Winter--Goldcomb's Warning--Giants assail Bif-rost--Heimdal's Horn is blown--The Quaking of Ygdrasil--Loke and the Monsters freed--Ship of Death--Fear in Hela--Harper of Ironwood--The Midgard Serpent rises--Coming of Monsters--The Last Scene--Gods in Battle: their Doom--Odin avenged--Sun and Moon devoured--The End of All--World's New Age--Balder's Return--The Regenerating Race--All-father's Decrees.

THERE was a Vala who sang of the end of all things, of the doom of gods and men, of the last dread battle and Odin's death, and of the coming of Surtur, whose flames shall consume the world. In mid-air she sang, and at high noon. Odin, sitting in his throne of gold, was silent, and listening he understood, for from the beginning he had foreknowledge of the end. Yet was he not afraid. He awaited Ragnarok, "the Dusk of the Gods", as in youth he had waited, and now he was grown old.

. . . . . .

It was thus the Vala sang:

"The Age of Evil hath come upon earth--the Knife Age, the Axe Age, and the Age of Cloven Shields. The violent fall upon the peaceful; brothers slay brothers, and the children of sisters are shedding one another's blood. Great luxuries do men seek, and sensual sin prevails. The world is doomed, yet is it hard and cruel and full of sin. Thick-pressed in Hela's heavy streams doth Urd behold wading confusedly perjurers and murderers and evildoers without number. . . .

"Follows the Age of Northern Winds. Sword blasts are cleaving the darkened skies. Fierce beasts from forests and mountains and barren wilds seek their prey among men. None spares his neighbour, nor lifts a hand to save. . . .

"Fimbul Winter is now come. Heavy snows are driven and fall from the world's four corners; the murder frost prevails. The sun is darkened at noon; it sheds no gladness; devouring tempests bellow and never end. In vain do men await the coming of summer. Thrice winter follows winter over a world which is snow-smitten, frost-fettered, and chained in ice. . . . Yet wars are waged, blood is shed, and evil grows greater. . . .

"Suddenly Goldcomb crows loud in Asgard; from Hela's depths the Red Fire-Cock makes answer. On a hilltop in Ironwood the Storm-Eagle flaps heavily its wings, and tempests bellow over ocean and land. . . .

"The giants have gathered to assail Asgard. To Bif-rost they hasten: at the north end are Frost-giants and Mountain-giants; at the south end are the dread sons of Suttung. Heimdal beholds them. In his hand is the Gjallar-horn, which has long been hidden in the deepest shade of Ygdrasil, and from it he blows a thunder blast which awakens the nine worlds. . . . Mimer's seven sons start from sleep in Hela's golden hall, and arm themselves for conflict. . . . Odin talks with Mimer's head; he divines the end of all things, and unafraid he plans his battle array in the last conflict.

"With clamour and speed the giants ascend Bif-rost, and the sublime bridge breaks with the weight of riders, whereat Ygdrasil quakes--the old ash, deep-rooted and strong-rooted, trembles standing, so that the worlds are shaken and the bonds of fettered giants are broken. Loud barks Garm on the rocky isle of the Gulf of Black Grief, for the wolf Fenrer escapes and Loke is set free, Snapped are the cords that bind Naglefar, the great Ship of Death; it breaks loose. . . .

"The gods are unafraid; they sit in counsel in their High Thingstead. But Njord leaves Asgard and returns to the wise Vans, for the war is waged against the Asa-gods, and Suttung seeks to be avenged upon Odin. . . .

"The elves tremble, and the dwarfs shudder in dim-discovered caverns; they hide behind their rocky walls. In Jotun-heim there is loud bellowing and defiance, and terror spreads among men in Midgard. White fear passes over Hela, for the uncertain conflict is at hand. The sons of Mimer guard the gate: their long swords are in their hands. . . .

"In gloomy Ironwood the ice-cold heart of Angerboda is made glad. Gymer sits upon a mound alone, playing a harp; he is merry because of what is at hand. Long hath he awaited the hour of doom. To him comes Fjalar-Suttung, creator of illusions, in the guise of Hela's red cock, and he seeks the Sword of Victory which Gymer hath guarded--the sword which Thjasse-Volund forged with spells to wreak vengeance upon the gods, which Mimer captured and Svipdag found, the sword which Frey should wield in the last battle, and he yet gave to Angerboda for love of Gerd. To Fjalar-Suttung is the Sword of Victory given up, and he hastens to Surtur. . . .

"Now from the east drives Hrym; a buckler covers him, and his hordes follow. The Midgard serpent is shaken with giant rage, for its hour hath come; it writhes and wallows on Ocean's slimy floor, so that billows are raised and driven over Midgard high as the mountains; it rears its shaggy head out of the sea; venom-spotted is its body, and fire fumes it sends forth.

In Ironwood the storm eagle rises with beating wings. It snaps its sharp beak; it hungers for dead men's flesh. . . .

"The Ship of Death is sailing over the sea. On board are the sons of Muspel, who were bound; the stricken Jotuns, freed from bonds; Garm, the watch-dog; and the unfettered wolf Fenrer. Monsters gaunt and grim are in the ship, and Hel is there also. Loke is the pilot and holds the rudder. To Ironwood he steers over it his host he shall lead to the plain of Vigrid. . . .

"From the south comes black Surtur. In his hand flames the Sword of Victory, which he hath received from Suttung. Seething fire gleams from the sunbright blade, and his bleak avengers follow him. . . .

Mountains are shaken and the rocks tremble. The giant maids are stricken with fear. Mortals n Midgard are strewn in death, and their shades crowd the path to Hela. Heaven yawns; it is rent in twain because that Surtur issues forth. . . .

"On the plains of Vigrid is the last battle fought, A hundred miles it stretches in length, and a hundred miles in width, enclosing the wood of Vidar the Silent, where Odin is doomed to die. . . . The hosts of evil come against the hosts of Asgard. Frey leads the heroes of Valhal in the fray. He goes against black Surtur, unarmed and without fear, and by the Sword of Victory he is slain.

"Against strong Tyr leaps Garm, the fierce wolf-dog, and in dread conflict they engage; and one by the other is wounded, so that both fall dead.

"Loke battles with Heimdal, but against the shining hero the Evil One cannot prevail. Terrible is Loke's aspect after long torture, for his beard and hair have grown like horns. With his bright sword the watchman of Bif-rost takes his head. But even after death is the Evil One avenged, for his head strikes the body of Heimdal, who is grievously wounded thereby and brought to life's end.

"There is no longer fear in Hela; the sons of Mimer rejoice because that Loke is dead.

"Thor is engaged in fierce combat with the Midgard serpent. Long is the strife and uncertain. The serpent is coiled and uncoiled; it writhes before Thor; it avoids his hammer blows, and over him it pours floods of venom. Terrible is the wrath of the thunder-god, and fain would he smite his enemy, dreading that he will be overcome. But at length he prevails. Thunder bellows loud and Mjolner flashes fire as Thor smites the deathblow, and the monster is stretched dying upon the plain. Great renown, indeed, hath the God of Thunder gained, yet pays he life's cost for the victory. With its last fierce breath the serpent sends forth suffocating venom fumes, and Thor staggers back nine paces. Then with a thunder groan the victor falls dead. . . .

"How fares Odin in this dread hour? He combats with the ravenous wolf Fenrer, the avenging monster which broke free from its bonds. From earth to heaven its jaws gape. Fiery flames dart from its nostrils and from its eyes. Odin fights with his spear Gungner, and violent are his blows. He rides on Sleipner; on his head gleams his helmet of gold; his blue robe streams behind. Fearless is Odin and proud, and his form is stately in this his hour of doom. Naught can avail him in the great combat. He is stricken down in his splendour, and by the wolf is he devoured.

"Yet short-lived is the triumph of Fenrer. Strong Vidar the Silent advances speedily to avenge his sire's death. His iron-shod foot is stamped on the monster's under jaw. He struggles fiercely with the terrible wolf, for he is stronger and must prevail. In the end he tears asunder the great jaws, and plunges his spear in Fenrer's heart through that throat of fire. Thus Odin is avenged. . . .

"How fares the Asa-hosts when Odin and Thor fall, and Tyr and Frey lie dead? The heroes of Valhal are scattered, hordes of giants are killed, and the field is wet with blood. The black dragon Nidhog is soaring through the air with rustling wings. It flies towards the plain of battle and swallows the bodies of the dead. . . . Surtur alone prevails.

"In Heaven there is disaster. Closer and closer hath the giant wolf Skoll crept towards the sun, and now he swallows it. By Hati-Managarm is the moon devoured.

"So is the sun darkened at high noon, the heavens and the earth are turned red with blood, the seats of the mighty gods drip gore. So is the moon lost in blackness, while the stars vanish from the skies.

"Now Surtur completes creation's doom. He casts his firebrands against the scattered Asa-hosts, and those who remain are burned up, save Vale and Vidar, sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, sons of Thor. Midgard is swept by flame; the smoke curls round mountain tops; all things are burned up; nothing with life remains. Asgard is scorched, and fire envelops the withering trunk of Ygdrasil. Even Nidhog is destroyed in its flight. . . . Earth, smouldering and black, sinks into Ocean; the billows cover it. . . .

"Now there is naught but thick blackness and silence unbroken. The end hath come-Ragnarok, 'the Dusk of the Gods'!"

. . . . . .

Silent was then the voice of the Vala in mid-air and at high noon. Odin sat in his throne of gold listening through the stillness, unafraid, waiting for Ragnarok and his own doom. Waited he also for the song's end and the promise of Time's new morning, when evil would cease to be and Balder would come back.

The skylark soars till its song falls weakly; at morn is its singing fresh and sweet. Sweet, too, and fresh was the song of the Vala when Odin heard, sitting in his throne, her voice falling through the stillness, afar off but clear.

. . . . . .

"In Hela's realms there is sure defence. None goeth thither to conquer, and the long swords are unstained with blood. The fire hath reached not the Underworld. Mimer's seven sons, who have awakened, sleep not again. The roots of Ygdrasil are watered once more from Mimer's well; fire has destroyed not the tree save those branches which had withered; it grows green again.

"The World's New Age hath dawned. The sun is bright in heaven, for Balder hath returned. Earth rises a second time, from the deep sea; it rises clad with green verdure. The sound of falling waters fills the morning air. High soars the eagle; from the mountain ridge he espies the fish. . . .

"Asgard is again made fair. The young gods arrive. Balder is there, and Hodur, his brother; Vale and Vidar are there also, and Mode and Magne, who bear with them Mjolner, the hammer of Thor. Honer, who reads the future, is in their midst; he is able to choose his part.

"Of the evils and perils of past time do the gods converse. Midgard's serpent they call to mind and the wolf Fenrer. They forget not the judgments of the gods and the antique mysteries. They remember the sacred runes of mighty Odin. On the grass they find the tablets of gold with which in the Golden Age was played the game of the gods. So did the Asa clan find them on Time's fair morning ere yet by the Hag was Asgard corrupted.

"The world is decked in beauty. Fields yield produce without being sown. Evil is ended and every ill hath ceased. Balder hath indeed returned, and with Hodur he dwells in the holy halls of Odin.

"The sons of the two brothers are in the vast abode of the winds, the wide free hall of the cloud drift. In the sun chariot is Sol's daughter, who is more beautiful than was Sol, and she drives in brightness over a heaven of blue.

"Lifthraser and Lif and their descendants, who are the regenerating race, have come from Mimer's realm to inhabit Midgard. Pure are they and without stain. Honey-dew is their food in Time's new morning: their children shall overspread the earth.

"The new race shall dwell, when life ends, in their hall which is named Gimle. Brighter it shines than the sun, and its roof is of gold, and it stands in high heaven. There indeed shall the holy ones dwell in peace and eternal joy for evermore.

"Northward on Nida mountains is a golden hall. The sons of Mimer and Sindre's race have dwelling within it. In heaven there is also the hall Brimer, where mead drinkers sit round the board amidst plenty and in peace.

"The evil ones who have fallen from their high state dwell in Naastrand. A vast hall it is, and of great height. Its doors are open to the north. With serpents was it built; they are entwined so that their backs are outward and their heads are within. Venom drops from their jaws; it burns the sinners on the benches beneath; they wade through venom floods in the hall. . .


"Odin returns not again, nor Heimdal. Another comes who is more mighty. Him I dare not name, for he is All-father. He comes to the great judgment; he utters decrees. He governeth all realms, by him are all things swayed. He settles strife; he makes war to cease. He ordains sacred laws which are inviolable and shall flourish for ever."

. . . . . .

The Vala's song was ended, and Odin sat in his golden throne, pondering in silence.


Far to the south, beyond the blue, there spreads
Another Heaven, the boundless--no one yet
Hath reach'd it; there hereafter shall arise
The second Asgard, with another name.
Thither, when o'er this present earth and Heavens
The tempest of the latter days hath swept,
And they from sight have disappear'd, and sunk,
Shall a small remnant of the Gods repair;
Hoder and I shall join them from the grave.
There re-assembling we shall see emerge
From the bright Ocean at our feet an earth
More fresh, more verdant than the last, with fruits
Self-springing, and a seed of man preserved,
Who then shall live in 'peace, as now in war.
But we in Heaven shall find again with joy
The ruin'd palaces of Odin, seats
Familiar, halls where we have supp'd of old;
Re-enter them with wonder, never fill
Our eyes with gazing, and rebuild with tears.
And we shall tread once more the well-known plain
Of Ida, and among the grass shall find
The golden dice wherewith we play'd of yore;
And that will bring to mind the former life
And pastime of the Gods, the wise discourse
Of Odin, the delights of other days.

From "Balder Dead", by Matthew Arnold.

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The Coming of Beowulf

The First Parents--Heimdal's Mission--A Wise Ruler--Passing of Scyld--Hrothgar builds Heorot--The Demon Grendel--Warriors devoured by Night--Reign of Terror--Beowulf of the Geats--He sets forth to fight the Demon--The Voyage--Challenged by the Shore Guardian--The King's Welcome--Beowulf asks a Boon--Waiting for Grendel--Beowulf keeps Watch.

To Ask and Embla, the first man and the first woman, did the gods impart divine attributes when they had but tree life, and were of little might and without destiny. Naked they stood before Odin at the seaway end. Perceiving their conscious shame, he gave unto them divine garments, and in these they took pride. In Midgard they dwelt, on the shore edge of Western waters, and their children multiplied, and their children's children. The lives of mortals were long in those days; they were yet innocent, and dwelt together in peace. The Golden Age prevailed in Asgard, nor had the Evil One of Ironwood corrupted the gods.

In after days Heimdal, son of Odin and of the nine Vana-mothers who were daughters of sea-dwelling Ran, was given from out of Gjallarhorn a wisdom draught of Mimer's mead. Then became he a child in human guise. In a fair ring-stemmed ship was he laid, wrapped in soft slumber and his pillow was a golden grain sheaf, the gift of Frey, god of harvest. Around him were heaped great treasures war glaives and full armour, weapons and tools, which the gods had made in Asgard. The sacred fire-borer took Heimdal also with him--he who was called Stigande, the journey-maker.

There came a sunbright morn when men, looking westward from Scedeland's high shore, saw drifting towards them over the blue sea a fair ship, and on the stem shone golden rings. Nigh it came, and it found a safe harbour and lay therein. With wonder the people beheld on the deck a man-child wrapped in soft slumber; his pillow was a golden grain sheaf, and they named him Scyld 1 of the Sheaf. Him they took unto their chief's home, and there he was nourished and fostered tenderly. The treasures that were in the ship gave great riches and power unto the tribe, and they received knowledge to grow grain and to use the sacred fire. When the child reached to wise manhood, he became a ruler among men, and long were his years.

Of Heimdal have skalds sung that thrice were sons born to him of earth mothers. The first was Thrall, from whom thralls are descended; the second was Churl, sire of freemen; and the third Jarl, from whom all nobles have sprung.

So when warriors assembled to feast together and drink mead, and ere the song was raised, have skalds spoken thus:--

"Give ear all ye divine races, great and small, sons of Heimdal".

Scyld of the Sheaf achieved great renown. He who was received as a helpless child became a great and good king. He drove invaders from the shores, he scattered ravaging bands, and among the tribes he was regarded with awe, Indeed he waxed so powerful that tribute was paid to him by the people who dwell beyond the seaway of whales.

A man-child was born unto Scyld. He was named Beowulf 2, and when he came to years of strength and knowledge he won fair repute. Among the followers of his sire he distributed many money gifts, so that he won their favour; ready were they indeed to serve him in wartime.

When Scyld was of great age, he departed at his fateful hour to go into the keeping of the Lord. According to his dying request his faithful subjects carried him down to the seabeach. There in the small harbour lay the ship in which as a child he had come over the waves. Ready to go seaward, the vessel waited him in wondrous wintry beauty, glistening with hoar frost and ice. By the mast, on the broad bosom of the ship, the mourners laid down their well-beloved lord, the generous giver of golden money rings. Great treasures they heaped around him-graven ornaments from distant lands, armour and weapons of war and bright swords--and on his breast they put many gems. As rich and numerous were the gifts they gave as were those they had received with the child in other years.

Over the dead king they hoisted a banner of gold. . . . Then was the boat let loose . . . . The tide bore it away to the heaving ocean . . . . Thus in deep sadness was the king given unto the sea, while his people sorrowed for him, watching from the shore. . . . No man can tell who received that fair ship's burden

Beowulf then reigned over the Scyldings, and was honoured and well loved. His son Healfdene 3, who followed him, was famed afar as a warrior, and when he waxed old he was yet fierce in battle. Four children he had--Herogar, a captain of war men; Hrothgar, who became king; Halga the Good; and Elan, the queen of a Swedish chieftain.

Hrothgar was a strong leader, and won many great battles. He received willing service, and under him the young war-men increased in numbers, until he commanded a mighty army. Then bethought he to have a great Hall built, with a larger feasting room than was ever heard of among men. For that purpose were workers from many tribes put in service, and in due season was erected the high, horn-gabled building which was called Heorot, and it awaited the devouring flames.

There was much feasting and merriment in the great Hall. A fierce man-eating monster, which dwelt in darkness, was made angry by the revelry, the music of harps, and the cheerful songs of skalds. One 4 was in the hall, too, who told how the Almighty did create man and the earth in the midst of the encircling sea, and did set the sun and moon in the heavens to give light and cover the land with branches and leaves.

Thus did war-men live happily indeed in the Hall, until the Hell-fiend began to work evil. Grendel was his name, and he hovered by night on the marches and held moorland and fen. By the Creator were he and his kind banished to their dark lairs, because they were the kindred of Cain, the slayer of Abel, whose evil progeny were monsters and elves and sea-demons, as well as the giants who fought with God, for which he paid them their reward.

Now it happened that in the midst of the night the demon Grendel entered the silenced hall to discover who were lodged there after beer-drinking. He beheld a band of high war-men who had feasted, and were wrapped in deep slumber; they had forgotten sorrow, that woeful heritage of men.

With fury was the demon possessed, and thirty of the war-men he carried off while they slept, hastening with exulting heart to his lair with that fill of slaughter.

At daybreak there was grief and loud wailing in the Hall. The great and honoured prince sat moodily, stricken with great sorrow, and gazed at the blood track of the fierce demon. His distress was long-lasting, and deep.

On the next night the demon Grendel returned, and did more murderous deeds. Nor had he any regret thereat, so much was he steeped in crime. Then was it easy indeed to find men who sought inner chambers by night. He alone who found farthest retreat escaped the fierce fiend. 5

Then became Grendel the master indeed. For the space of twelve long winters Hrothgar endured because of the demon great sorrow and deep loss. Minstrels went abroad making known in song the ceaseless outrages and fierce strife. No offering would Grendel take, nor could the greatest war-man who was seized expect to escape his doom. He entrapped young and old; on the mist-dark moorlands he seized his victims night after night. In vain did Hrothgar lament and make offerings unto idols, and pray that the soul destroyer would give them release from the demon. So did the heathen, as was their custom, remember hell, for they knew not the Creator, the Judge of Deeds, the Lord God, nor could they praise the Lord of Glory.

Then did Beowulf, a thane among the Geats, come to hear in his fatherland of the deeds of Grendel. In his time he was the strongest among living men, and he was noble as he was indeed mighty.

"Get ready my good wave-traverser," he said. "I shall go unto Hrothgar over the swan-way; he hath need of men."

The prudent, who depended on his aid, sought not to hold Beowulf back; they urged on the stout-hearted hero, and looked eagerly for favourable omens.

Beowulf selected fourteen of the finest war men to go with him, and took also a sea-skilled mariner, who knew the landmarks along the path of Ocean. Then to the ship they all went together: it lay beached below a sheltering headland. The warriors, bearing their arms, walked on to the stem. while the sea waves were washed against the sand. The armour and ornaments were placed on board, and then the willing heroes pushed into deep water the strong timber-braced ship. Like to a bird was that swift floater, necked with white foam, driven by favourable winds over the sea waves. All night they sailed on, and next day they beheld high and shining cliffs, steep mountains, and bold sea-nesses. So came they to the seaway end; the voyage was over and past.

The heroes leapt speedily from the ship and made it fast to the shore. Their armour clinked as they turned inland, while they thanked God that the seaway had been made easy to them.

Then there came towards them the Coast Guardian of the Scyldings, riding upon his horse along the shore. He shook his strong spear shaft as he drew nigh, and he spake, saying:

"Who are ye who in a high ship have come over the seaway, well -armed and bearing weapons? Know ye that I keep watch over the shore so that sea plunderers may not do harm to Denmark.


Never have I beheld armed men landing more openly; nor know ye the password of friends. Nor ever have I beheld a greater earl than this one among you. Unless his looks belle him, he is no home-stayer. Noble is his air. . . . Ere you advance farther to spy out the land, I must know who ye are. Now, listen to me, sea travellers from afar, my frank advice is that ye reveal at once from whence ye come."

That shore guardian did Beowulf answer thus: "We are Geats, the hearth friends of Hygelac. My sire Ecgtheow, the noble leader, was renowned among the people; he is remembered by every wise man. Now know that we come seeking thy king, the son of Healfdene, protector of the people. Be thou our guide. A great mission is ours, nor need its purpose be concealed. To us; hath it been told, and thou knowest if it is true, that a malignant foeman works evil by night among the Scyldings. I can council Hrothgar how the fiend may be overcome and his misery have end."

On his horse sitting, the fearless shore guardian spake in answer, saying: "A shield war man shall judge well between your words and deeds. Friendly are you, I hear, to the ruler of the Scyldings. Then pass onward in armour carrying your weapons. I shall guide ye. My comrades shall guard thy ship, so that the well-loved man, thy leader, may return over the sea tides to the borders of the Weders. To him it is assured that he shall come unscathed through the battle crush."

Together they went on their way until they came to the high and gold-decked Hall of Hrothgar. The shore-guardian pointed towards it and said: "Now must I take my departure. May the Almighty protect you all in your adventure. To the seashore I must hasten to keep watch against hostile bands."

Beowulf and his heroes reached the Hall. Sea-weary they all were, and they placed their shields and armour against the wall; they put their spears together and rested on benches.

A warrior, who was Hrothgar's messenger, asked them whence they came. "Never," said he, "have I seen bolder strangers. It would seem that ye have come to seek Hrothgar, not because of exile, but because of your bravery and noblemindedness."

Then did Beowulf reveal who he was and seek audience with the king, and his message did Wulfgar bear unto Hrothgar, who sat, grey-headed and old, among his peers.

"As a youth I knew Beowulf," the aged ruler said. "He comes to a sure friend. Of him have I heard that his hand hath the strength of thirty men. The holy God hath sent him hither as a help against the dreaded Grendel."

So he bade the messenger welcome Beowulf and his men and usher them to his presence.

When Beowulf entered he hailed Hrothgar, the kinsman of Hygelac, standing before him in shining armour.

"In my youth," he said, "I have undertaken great exploits. In my fatherland heard I of the evil deeds of Grendel, and my people counselled me, knowing my great strength, that I should come hither. For they know well that I avenged the sorrow of the Weders, bound five of their foes, slew a brood of giants, and killed sea monsters by night. . . . Alone shall I go now against this demon, this giant Grendel!"

Then asked Beowulf as a boon that he alone with his warriors should be left to cleanse the hall of the monster. Having heard that Grendel had no fear of weapons, he also made known his desire to contend with him unarmed.

"With the fiend," he said, "I shall wrestle for life, foe against foe."

Hrothgar accepted Beowulf's offer with gladness, and granted him the boon he sought. Then was a bench cleared for the noble heroes. They sat there in pride and drank of bright liquor. Songs were sung by a clear-voiced minstrel. There was much joy in the hall among the Danes and the Weders, who were no small company.

When they had feasted, and the queen bore the cup round the heroes, young and old, she greeted Beowulf, who, when he had drunk, said he had vowed to slay Grendel or perish in his clutches.

The old queen was much pleased to hear the words which the great hero spake.

Loud revelry was heard in the hall once more until Hrothgar desired to go to his couch. Well he knew that the night-haunting monster would attack the hall when the sun's radiance was dimmed and shadows fell, and dusky shapes were stalking under the clouds.

Then the whole company arose and greeted the heroes. Hrothgar greeted Beowulf and wished him success and power in the hall.

"Be mindful of thy renown," the king said, "make known thy great might, be watchful against the foe. . . . Thou shalt lack naught that thou dost desire if thou shalt survive this conflict."

Whereupon Hrothgar went forth with all his warriors, leaving the hall to Beowulf and his men.

When he was thus left alone with his heroes, the chief of Geats took off his armour, and gave his decorated sword to his thane. Ere he lay down in bed he said

"No less in fighting strength than Grendel do I account myself. I shall not slay him with my sword as I well might. He knows not the noble art to strike back, splitting my shield, although he hath courage and strength in evildoing. No weapons shall we use if he dares combat without them. . . . May the wise God, the holy Lord, give victory to the side which may seem meet to Him.

On his pillow Beowulf then laid his head. Around him on beds lay his warriors, nor did one of them expect ever again to return to his home; for each of them had heard how, in times past, the Danish warriors were taken from the Hall in bloody death.

In the blackness of night Grendel, the shadow-goer, came striding towards the Hall. . . . The warriors, sea-weary and spent, lay wrapt in deep slumber, nor kept watch--all save one. He alone was defiantly awake, awaiting the issue of the conflict with increasing wrath.


1 As in Beowulf. Elsewhere Scyld is called son of Sheaf.

2 The elder Beowulf; not the hero of the poem.

3 Halfdan.

4 Evidently an interpolation by a Christian copyist. Further on offerings are made to idols.

5 Grendel could enter the hall only: other dwellings were "taboo".

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Conflict with Demons

Grendel enters the Hall--A Warrior devoured--Struggle with Beowulf--Terror-stricken Danes--The Hero Triumphant--Flight of the Demon--The Great Feast--Beowulf honoured--Grendel's Mother takes her Revenge--The Hero follows her--His Great Dive--Fight in the Cave--The Ancient Giant-sword--The She Demon slain--How Beowulf became a Prince.

OVER the moor in the black mist Grendel came stalking. The wrath of God was upon him. He saw the high hall and hungered for human flesh. . . . Stealthily he strode below the dark clouds, so that he might peer into the feasting chamber, which was decorated with gold and shining with ornaments. . . . It was not the first time he had entered it, but never before did he meet therein with a mightier warrior and braver watchmen.

So came that accursed fiend towards the Hall. The door was shut and strongly barred with iron bands; but he smote it with his great hands and it flew open. The demon was bent upon evil and swollen with fury as he tore through the entrance. With swift footsteps he strode his silent way over the finely paved floor. . . . He raged inwardly, and in the darkness awesome lights, like to fire, burned in his eyes. . . . He surveyed the hall; he saw warriors asleep on the benches and his heart exulted as he resolved to devour each one separately ere the night was spent. . . . But he had come to his last feast of human flesh.

Beowulf lay watching Grendel. Soon the hero beheld how suddenly the fiend snatched up his prey. Without delay that grim monster clutched a sleeping warrior, tore him asunder, chewed his flesh, and drank his blood, swallowing great mouthfuls quickly, until he completely devoured the man, and even his hands and feet.

Then Grendel came nearer; his claws darted out to wards Beowulf as he lay in bed. But the hero divined the demon's purpose, and he clutched the monstrous arm and threw his weight upon it. . . . Never before did Grendel feel a stronger hand-grip, and he was suddenly stricken with terror and sought to escape. . . . In vain he struggled to break free, so that he might take flight into the blackness of night-back again to the demons of his gang.

But Beowulf was mindful of his evening boast; he leapt from bed; he stood erect; tightly he grasped the monster; his fingers burst. . . . Grendel twisted and swayed; backward he sprawled towards the door, but the hero went with him, nor relaxed his grip. The wily fiend sought to slip without, if it were possible, and then flee to the darksome fen. He realized what strength there was in Beowulf's hands. . . . A luckless visit indeed had the monster made to Heorot.

Loud rang the clamour in the hall. Terror seized upon the Danes in their safe dwellings without; there was panic among them. . . . Beowulf and Grendel raged with fury; the building resounded as they struggled and crashed round and about. . . . It was a wonder that the feasting-hall was not shattered, and that it ever survived the savage conflict; it might well have fallen to the ground, but the timbers were bound together by well-forged iron bands. . . . Never could it be destroyed by hands, although the flames might devour it.

Then arose a loud and awesome scream. . . . The Danes were stricken with terrible dread, because they heard the demon's cries of despair--his screeching song lamenting for his wound.

Beowulf held fast; he would not suffer the man-eating fiend to escape alive. . . . Of little account was Grendel's life to the world of men. . . .

The battle heroes in the hall sought to help their lord. They fell upon the monster without fear, and smote him with their war swords, but without avail, for Grendel's body was charmed against weapon wounds, and they could do him no hurt.

But miserable was to be the life ending of the fiend; his alien spirit was fated to travel afar to be bound by devils. The crime worker, the devourer of men, the enemy of God, realized that his body would endure not or give him help and sure defence. Brave Beowulf had him in his power; each loathed the other with fierce hate.

In agony was Grendel. . . . A wound gaped on his shoulder; it was torn wider and wider; the sinews snapped; the flesh burst . . . . The glory of battle was given to great Beowulf . . . . Sick unto death Grendel must indeed escape to his joyless lair below the darksome fen: he knew that his life days were spun to an end. . . . So tearing away, he left his arm and shoulder in Beowulf's hands.

Thus was the desire of the Danes achieved, and the boast of the great hero fulfilled. The high hall was cleansed of Grendel. That indeed did the people who were stricken and put to shame realize when they entered Heorot, for from the great roof had Beowulf suspended the arm of the night demon with its iron-strong hand and clutching claws.

In the safety of morning the warriors hastened to the Hall from far and near the people gathered to gaze with wonder on the traces of the conflict. The blood tracks of the monster were on the ground. The warriors followed his trail on horseback until they came to the water of sea demons, which they beheld weltering with blood; the waves surged red and hot with gore. The death-doomed Grendel had laid his life down in his lair--his heathen soul. There Hela 1 snatched him away.

Then the mounted warriors rode back and proclaimed the tidings and the glory of Beowulf, of whom they said that no other warrior between the seas and the world ever was his equal or worthier of a kingdom.

Then was great rejoicing. Warriors held races on horses, one with another, and a minstrel thane sang of Beowulf's deed, and of Sigemund, the Volsung, who slew the dragon. To the Hall went many retainers to behold the arm of Grendel. The king went to view it with his nobles, and the queen went with her maidens.

Hrothgar gave thanksgiving to God because that the dread of Grendel was ended, and, addressing Beowulf, whom he called "the valiant hero", he vowed that henceforth he would love him as a son. "Thy fame," he said, "shall endure for ever."

Beowulf spake in answer, and said he had done the deed with great goodwill. "Would", he said, "that thou hadst witnessed the conflict. I thought to hold down the fiend on his deathbed until he died, but I could not prevent his going away."

The warriors were silent about him: they looked on the arm suspended from the roof; they saw the finger-claws which were like steel. Then they said that no weapon could have cut off that bloody battlehand of the demon.


A great feast was given in Heorot in Beowulf's honour. Hrothgar gave unto the hero as gifts a golden banner, a helm and war armour and richly jewelled sward. Eight battle steeds gave he also, and on one was the king's war saddle, adorned with embroidery and gems. To each of the hero's followers was given a sword, and blood money was paid for the warrior whom Grendel had devoured.

At the feast a minstrel sang of the deeds of King Finn 2 and of Hengest, Hnaef, and Hildeburgh--how Finn married Hildeburgh, the sister of Hnaef, who was afterwards slain and burned at the king's hall, and how Hengest went against Finn and slew him, returning to the fatherland with Hildeburgh.

When the song was ended, Hrothgar's queen, Wealtitheow, gave the golden cup to the king, and then bore it to Beowulf, to whom she also gave two golden armlets, a mantle, and a jewelled collar which was as precious as the collar of the Brisings, 3 which Hama took from Eormanric. The wondrous collar did Beowulf afterwards gift to his king, Hygelac, who wore it when, in after days, he fell fighting against the Frisians, when to them it passed.

The feast was then spread; men drank wine. They knew not stem Wyrd 4 Destiny as had many of the nobles before them there. And when evening came, Hrothgar rose and left the hall, and Beowulf went also to sleep in an outer dwelling. The benches were cleared and laid out as sleeping couches. . . . One among the revellers was doomed that night to die. . . . Each of the warriors hung his armour and weapons on the wall at his head, ready for sudden alarm and night attack. Brave men were they!

Now demon vengeance was brooding against the warriors because that Grendel was slain. His mother, a female demon, was filled with woe in her dwelling amidst awesome waters and cold streams. Ravenous and wrathful she resolved to go forth to avenge her son's death.

In the darkness she made her sorrowful way, and came to Heorot while the warriors slept on the benches. When she broke in there was again terror in the hall, which was just as much less than before as is a woman's strength unto a man's on the battlefield.

Swords were drawn hastily: there was no time to don armour. The she demon, perceiving that she was discovered, made haste to depart, but she had seized in her grim claws a sleeping noble, and she carried him off towards the fen. He was Hrothgar's comrade warrior and shield bearer, Æschere, who was famed between the two seas and well beloved. . . . A wailing arose in Heorot; the demon had taken life for life.

The old king was sorrow-stricken when he knew that his chief warrior was slain. He summoned Beowulf to a council, and the hero went with his followers. Along the floor strode the war-famed hero, while the timbers resounded his steps. He asked of the king if he had passed, according to his desire, an easeful night.

"Ask not of my welfare!" the king cried. "Sorrow has again fallen upon the Danes. Æschere is dead--my right-hand man, my councillor, my teacher. The death demon is his murderer. By her is her son's death avenged. My comrade she hath slain because thou didst kill Grendel, who for long slaughtered my people. So is the feud continued against us ... . . .

Then did the king tell Beowulf that ofttimes he heard that two dread stalkers held the moors by night. One of them had a woman's seeming; the other was Grendel. None knew if there was a sire in times past. Their lair was under the cliffs where a stream fell downward--in an underworld flood below a tree-girt mere. Nightly was a wonder beheld there--fire in the flood! No man knew how deep was the mere. The hart when close pursued will die rather than enter the water. An awesome place it is!

Thence do the waves surge to the clouds when the wind stirs up fearsome storms, the air is filled with mist, and the heavens weep. 5

Then said the king unto Beowulf: "Once more do we look to thee for aid. Thou knowest not yet the demon lair, the perilous retreat, where the monster may be found. Seek it if thou art unafraid! Then shall I reward as heretofore with gifts of gold if thou shalt survive."

Beowulf was, indeed, without fear. He besought the king to sorrow not. "Better it is," he said, "to avenge a comrade than to grieve without end." So he counselled that they should go forth quickly and follow the demon's blood trail to her den. Bravely he spoke thus:--

"Not in earth's bosom, in mountain wood, or in the sea depths, go where she may, shall the kin of Grendel escape me! . . . Be patient in thy grief this day, O king, as I expect of thee."

With joy the king leapt up, hearing the words that Beowulf spake. He called for his horse, and, followed by his men, went forth with Beowulf and his warriors.

They followed the track of the demon over the moor, and came to the stony places and the cliffs and the homes of sea-monsters. They reached the grey rock 6 overhung by trees, and below they beheld the mere surging and red with blood. On a cliff top they found Æschere's head.

In the water they beheld serpents and awesome sea dragons. On a ledge were sea monsters that go down the ocean paths. When the horn gave out a battle-lay they rushed seaward, and one did Beowulf wound unto death with an arrow so that he swam slowly in the water. The war-men thrust barbed boar spears at it and dragged it ashore. With wonder they gazed on their awesome guest.

Beowulf then girded on his armour, and on his head put his battle helmet. Then gave Hrothgar's spokesman, Unferth, unto him the strong blade which was named Hrunting. Of iron was it made, and tempered with blood of battle; it had been forged with twig venom and never had it failed in battle.

Then Beowulf addressed Hrothgar and besought him to be guardian of his comrades should he himself survive not, and to send unto Hygelac the treasures he had received.

"I shall achieve fame with Hrunting," Beowulf cried, "or death shall take me."

He awaited no answer and plunged; the surging waters received him. Downward he sank a day's space ere he found the bottom. . . . Soon the demon discovered that an alien being came against her, and she clutched Beowulf in her finger claws, but by reason of his strong armour she could do him no hurt. Sea monsters attacked him with sharp tusks, 7 so that he could not use his sword, and they followed as the demon drew him into her lair. Then did Beowulf perceive that he was dragged into a hall beyond the sea's reach. The glow of fire-like light was shining bright, and Beowulf perceived that the mere wife had taken him. He smote her with his sword--a great free blow he gave, and the blade rang on her head. But no wound could he inflict. Never before had the sword failed in conflict! Then did the hero fling down the blade. He would have his strength of arm for sure defence. So, desperate-minded, does a battle man fight when he hopes for fame and recks not of life. . . . The shoulder of Grendel's mother he seized and in great fury wrestled and flung the demon down. . . .

But fiercely she clutched at him. In her claws she held him securely. They struggled together thus until the battle hero, heart-weary, at length was overthrown. On the ground he fell and the she demon sat upon him. ... She drew swiftly her broad and bloodstained dagger to avenge her only son. . . . Then would the hero have died there, but over his shoulder lay his chain armour and that saved him. . . . To his feet he leapt again.

Beowulf suddenly beheld among the armour in the demon's lair an ancient giant-sword. It was a blade without an equal. No other living man could wield it, for it was the choice of splendid weapons, and giants had made it. The hero seized it and wielded it.

Strong was Beowulf, and in battle fury he swung the giant-sword and smote the demon a fierce blow, cleaving her at the neck and shattering her bone-rings. Right through her body went the blade, and she sank in death.... Blood-wet indeed was the sword, and Beowulf gloried in his deed.

Then light flashed through the hall, as when heaven's candle gleams from on high. . . . The hero gazed about him. . . . He saw Grendel lying maimed and dead on his resting place, and in vengeance for the evil that monster had done, Beowulf smote his body so that it was split open. Then the head he struck off.

On the cliff top the warriors waited, watching the angry waters. . . . In time, Hrothgar beheld the waves rising red with blood. Old and grey-haired war men spoke one to another about the brave one; nor did they expect to see him return again in triumph, for they deemed that the wolf demon had torn him asunder. . . . So they spoke and waited, until in the ninth hour the Scylding heroes turned away. Hrothgar went with them to his home. . . . Nor did the Geats expect ever to behold Beowulf again; yet they waited, gazing at the blood-red waters.

Meanwhile, in the demon's wave-protected hall, the giant sword which the hero had wielded began to waste away in the bloodstream. A strange thing was that! Like ice it melted, as when the Father unties the frost chains and the flood flows free.

Beowulf took not any of the other arms that were on the wall, but he kept the gold and graven swordhilt of which the blade was burnt up by reason of the fiend's hot and poisonous blood. Then, seizing the monstrous head of Grendel, he entered the waters and soon again he was swimming--he who survived fearsome strife, for by this time were the waters purged of blood and he rose quickly. He came to shore, and his war men rejoiced, as did also the brave hero, for he was proud of his mighty load of sea spoil.

Quickly did his men unloose his armour, and with glad hearts they went inland with him. Heavy was the burden of Grendel's head, which was carried to the hall on a spear shaft, the warriors marching in triumph.

Into the feasting-chamber they strode, where people sat drinking, and dragged Grendel's head along the floor. . . . An awesome sight was that to the nobles and the queen who sat with them. In silence the warriors gazed upon the monstrous head, wondering greatly.

Then did Beowulf address the king, telling him of the dread peril he endured ere yet he slew the demon. "But now," the hero said, "thou canst sleep in Heorot among thy warriors as heretofore, nor fear murderous attacks in the darkness."

To Hrothgar gave Beowulf the sword-hilt rich in victory, the work of a wonder-smith. It was a heritage of the past, and upon it was engraved that primeval war when the surging sea engulfed the race of giants 8. Terribly were they punished--that people who were alien to the Eternal Lord; the Supreme Ruler gave them their final deserts in the flood. A gold plate upon the hilt had engraved in runes the name of him for whom that choicest of weapons was first made with decorated hilt and serpent ornament. 9

There was silence in the hall when Hrothgar, son of Halfdane, spoke of Beowulf's deed. Well may he say, an aged guardian who promotes truth and right among the people and remembers all from the far past, "that this nobleman is of high birth. Beowulf, my friend, thy renown is raised above all people, far and wide. With modesty and prudence thou dost bear thyself. My friendship thou shalt have, as I promised thee. Thou shalt ever be a strength to thy people and an aid to war men.

Not so was Heremod 10 to the children of Ecgwela, the renowned Scyldings. Not for their happiness did he flourish, but to bring cruelty and slaughter to the Danes. God had given him power and strength greater than any other man, but he had a fierce heart; he gave not money rings; he was without joy, and he endured grief because of his savagery and never-ending enmity with his people. Follow not that example. Have manly virtue. Many winters have made me wise, and for thee I have told this tale."

Further did the king give wise counsel to Beowulf, advising him to distribute gifts to his people, so that he might ever have their support, and to avoid vaunting pride, because the day would come when his strength would depart, and in the end death would take him.

A great feast was held in the Hall, and there was much rejoicing, and Beowulf slept there until the raven, with blithe heart, proclaimed the joy of dawn.

Then did the hero bid Hrothgar farewell. An alliance of peace was formed between the Scyldings and the Geats. The old king kissed the hero and shed tears.

To the coast guardian Beowulf gifted a gold-hilted sword. Then with his followers he went aboard the ship in which were the treasures and armour and horses which Hrothgar had given.


The good ship clove the sea waters; the sail swallowed the wind; the timbers creaked; necked with white foam the ocean traverser, with curved stem, sailed away. Favourable were the winds until they saw the Geatish headlands and the keel grated on the shore.

To King Hygelac did Beowulf relate his adventures, and then he distributed the gifts he had received, giving that monarch a coat of mail and four horses, and to the queen, Hygd, the beauteous collar and three horses. Hygelac awarded the hero a gold-headed sword, much money, a country seat, and the rank of a prince.


1 Urd, Queen of Hela.

2 One of several heroic poems founded on the Ivalde moon-myth.

3 Probably a legend founded on the fight between Heimdal and Loke, when the latter tries to steal Brisingamen, Freyja's necklace. Hama is Heimdal.

4 Urd, Queen of Fate (as chief Norn) and of Death.

5 Ironwood and the Hag are suggested. Hati-managarm, Angerboda's son, is also a maneater like Grendel.

6 The Svipdag-dragon is also under a grey rock. The treasures he guards, and especially Freyja's necklace, also shine like fire in the water.

7 Walruses?

8 The sons of Ymer.

9 The traditional Sword of Victory, made by Thjasse-Volund, which was in the keeping of the Hag of Ironwood and her shepherd, Gymer. The runes, the smith's name, and the serpent charm suggest its magical qualities. It was evidently intended to achieve as great a disaster as did the Ymer deluge.

10 A reference to an older heroic tale. Hermod, the son of Odin, who visited Balder in Hades, has some connection with the Svipdag myth. Indeed, Rydberg identifies him with Svipdag. Beowulf is a hero of similar cast. Each has the attributes of the age in which their deeds were sung, and reflect the ideals of the people who celebrated them. Older savage conceptions, preserved by tradition, were condemned when compared with the new and nobler.

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Beowulf and the Dragon

Beowulf in Battle--He becomes King of the Geats--A Slave's Discovery --Theft of Treasure--The Dragon devastates the Kingdom --Beowulf is angered--He sets forth to slay the Monster--Address to his Followers--The Dragon comes forth--The Great Conflict--Flight of Followers--The single Faithful Knight--He helps the King--Dragon slain--The Treasure--Beowulf's Death--Wiglaf reproaches the Battle Laggards--How the People sorrowed.

BEOWULF gave faithful service to Hygelac. In peace he was his wise counsellor, and in war his right-hand battle man. Then did the king fall fighting against the Frisians and Hugs. His death was avenged by Beowulf on the field, for he seized Dœghrefn, the hero of the Hugs, and slew him, not with his sword. "I grasped him," the hero could boast; "his beating heart I stilled. I crushed his bones." Then swam Beowulf away towards home, escaping unscathed, and bearing with him the armour of thirty warriors.

Queen Hygd mourned the king's death, and to Beowulf made offer of the kingdom, but he chose to be faithful to Hygelac, and protected his young son, Heardred, until he grew to years of wisdom and strength. But the young king was slain by Eanmund, and Beowulf was given the throne. He avenged the death of Heardred by slaying his murderer's brother, Eadgils.

For fifty winters did Beowulf reign wisely and well. Then a great dragon began to ravage his country with fire. Alone did the monarch combat against it, and in the end was the victor. But he paid life's cost for his triumph.

Now the dragon had its dwelling in a secret cavern beneath a grey rock, on the shoreland of a lonely, upland moor. No man knew the path thither. It chanced then that a slave who had been sorely beaten by his master fled towards the untrodden solitudes, and he came to the dragon's lair while yet the monster slept. Quaking with fear, he beheld it there guarding rich treasure which had been hidden in ancient days by a prince, the last of his race. All his people had fallen in a great war, and he wandered about alone mourning for his friends. Then he hid the treasures of the tribe where the slave found them. Armour and great swords were there, a banner of gold that lit up the cavern, golden cups, and many gems and. ornaments, collars and brooches, the work of giants in ancient times.

The ancient dragon which went forth by night wrapped in fiery flame found the treasure unprotected, and from that hour became the guardian of it.

Now the slave who discovered the monster's lair had more greed than fear in his heart as he gazed upon the hoard. So he went lightly past the dragon's head and seized a rich golden cup, and fled away over the rocks. To his master he carried the treasure, and thus secured his pardon and goodwill.

The dragon soon afterwards awoke. He smelt along the rocks; he saw the footprints of the man on the ground, and searched for him angrily. Round about the monster went, but saw no one in that dismal solitude. Hot was the dragon's heart with desire for conflict. Then he returned to the cavern and found that the treasure had been rifled. Great was his wrath thereat, and he panted to be avenged. So waited he for nightfall, when he could go forth against mankind.

In the thick darkness the great dragon flew over the land. He vomited coals of fire over many a fair home. The flames made lurid blaze against the sky, and men were terror-stricken. It seemed that the night flyer was resolved not to leave aught alive, for far and near the countryside blazed before him. Great harm, indeed, did he accomplish in his fierce hate for the people of Geatland.

All night long the raging flames swept the land, and far and near they wrought disaster. Not until it was very nigh unto dawn did the dragon cease his vengeful work and take swift departure to its lair. Great faith had he in the security of his hiding place, but his faith proved to be futile.

To Beowulf the grievous tidings of the night horrors were sent quickly. His own country dwelling, the gift of the Geats, was smouldering in fire. Sorrow-stricken, indeed was the brave old king; no greater grief could have befallen him. In deep gloom he sat alone, who was wont to be cheerful, wondering by what offence he had made angry the Almighty, the Everlasting Lord.

The fire drake had burned up the people's stronghold; the sea-skirting land was devastated. Waves washed inland. . . . Beowulf was filled with anger against the monster, and resolved to be avenged. So he began to make ready for the combat. He bade that a shield of iron be made for him, for a wooden shield would be of no avail against raging fire. . . . Alas! the valiant hero was doomed to come ere long to life's sad end, as was also the serpent fiend who had for so long kept guard over the secret hoard. . . .

Beowulf scorned to attack the flying monster with a host of war men; he had no fear of going forth alone, no dread of single combat, nor did he hold the battle powers of the dragon as of high account. Many conflicts and many war-fights he had survived unscathed since he, the hero of many frays, had cleansed Heorot and wrestled in combat with Grendel, the hated fiend.

Twelve valiant and true war men he selected to go with him against the fire drake. And as he had come to know how its dread vengeance had been stirred up against his people, he took with him also the slave who had rifled the treasure, so that he might be a guide to lead them unto the monster's den. A sorrowful heart was in that poor man; abject and trembling he showed the way, much against his will, to the mound in which was the treasure, while underneath the dragon kept guard. It was on a rocky shoreland where the waves bellowed in unceasing strife.

Beowulf sat on the grey cliff looking over the sea. His hearth comrades were about him, and he spoke to them words of farewell, for he knew that Wyrd had tied fast the life thread of his web. His soul was sad and restless, and he was ready to go hence. Not long after that his spirit departed the flesh.

Of his whole life the king spake, recounting the long service he had accomplished since that he was but seven years old, when King Hrethel took him from his father and gave him, food and pay, mindful of his kinship. Of his deeds of valour he spoke, and life's afflictions, and touchingly he told of a father's sorrow when his son was taken from him. Such an one in his old age remembered every morn the lost lad. For another he had no desire. With sorrow he beheld his son's empty home, with deserted wine hall that heard but the moaning winds, for the horseman and hero slept in the grave, and no longer was heard the harp's music and the voices of men making merry.

'Twas thus he spake of Hrethel, the king who sorrowed when his son was slain and avenged not; abandoning the world the stricken monarch sought a solitary place in which to end his days.

Then spake Beowulf of Hygelac, whom he served and did avenge, and his son whom he avenged also.

"When yet young," the hero said, "I fought many battles, and now when I am old I seek fame in combat with the dragon, if he but come from his underground dwelling."

He must needs, Beowulf told his followers, wear his armour in that last fray. Naked he fought with Grendel, but now he must stand against consuming flame.

"I shall draw not back a foot's space," he said boldly and with calm demeanour, "nor shall I flee before the watcher of treasure; before the rock it shall be as Wyrd 1 decrees--Wyrd who measures out a man's life. . . . Ready am I, and I boast not before the dragon. . . . Ye warriors in armour, watch ye from the mound, so that ye may perceive which of us is best able to survive the strife after deadly attack. . . It is not for one of you to fight as I must fight; the adventure is for me only. . . . Gold shall I win for triumph, and death is my due if I fail. . . ."

Then fully armoured under his strong helmet, his shield on his left arm, his sword by his side, the valorous hero of the Geats went down the cliff path towards the dragon's cavern. . . . He saw the stream which flowed from the stone ramparts steaming hot with deadly fire; nigh to the hoard he could not endure long the flame of the dragon.

But filled was his great heart with battle fury. A storm-like shout he gave--a strong battlecry that went under the grey stone. . . . In wrath the monster heard him; he knew the voice of man. . . . Nor was there time then to seek peace. Fiery flame issued forth first: it was the dragon's battle breath. . . . The earth shook. . . . Beowulf stood waiting, his iron shield upraised. . . . The monster curled itself to spring; Beowulf waited in his armour. . . .

Then forth came the wriggling monster--swiftly to his fate he came. The shield gave that strong hero good defence against the flame. His sword was drawn, and it was an ancient heritage, keen-edged and sure. . . . Both the king and the dragon were bent on slaughter; each feared the other.

Beowulf swung his great sword, and smote the dragon's head, but the blade glanced from the bone, for Wyrd did not decree otherwise. Then the hero was enveloped in fire, for in wrath at the blow the monster spouted flame far and wide. Greatly did the brave one suffer. . . . His followers standing on the mound were terror-stricken; to the wood they fled, fearing for their lives.

But one remained; he alone sorrowed and sought to help the king. He was named Wiglaf, a shield warrior, a well-loved lord of Scyldings. He remembered the honours and the gifts which Beowulf had bestowed upon him. . . . He could not hold back; he grasped his wooden shield and drew his ancient sword--a giant's sword which Onela gave him. To his comrades he cried: "Promised we not to help our lord in time of need when with him we drank in the mead-hall? Rather would I perish in fire with our gold-giver than that we should return again with shields unscathed. . . . Advance then.

Give help to our lord. . . Together shall we stand side by side behind the same defence."

So speaking, that young hero plunged through the death smoke, hastening to Beowulf's aid. Never before had Wiglaf fought at his chief's side.

"Beloved hero," Wiglaf spake, "do thy utmost as of yore. Let not thy honour fail. Put forth thy full strength and I shall help thee."

Then came the dragon to attack a second time. Brightly flamed the fire against his hated human foes. The young hero's wooden shield was burnt up, and behind Beowulf's he shielded himself.

Again Beowulf smote the dragon, but his grey sword, Naegling, snapped in twain, whereat the monster leapt on the lord of the Geats, and took that hero's neck in his horrible jaws, so that the king's life blood streamed over his armour. But Wiglaf smote low, and his sword pierced the dragon, so that the fire abated.

Beowulf drew his death dagger, and striking fiercely he cut the monster in twain. So was the dragon slain; so did the heroes achieve great victory and renown.

But the king was wounded unto death. The dragon's venom boiled in his blood, and he knew well that his end was nigh. Faint and heart-weary he went and sat down, gazing on the rocky arches of the dragon's lair, which giants had made. . . . Wiglaf came and washed the bloodstained king, who was weary after the conflict, and unloosed his helmet and took it off. Tenderly he ministered unto Beowulf in his last hour. Well knew the king that he was nigh unto death.

"It is now my desire," Beowulf said faintly, "to give unto my son, if it had been granted to me to have one, this my war armour. . . . For fifty winters I have ruled over my people, nor was there a king who dared come against me in battle.


At home I waited my fateful hour, never seeking to make strife, nor ever breaking a pledged oath; so now when I am sick unto death I have comfort because the Ruler of all mankind can charge me not with murderous doings when I die."

Then he bade Wiglaf to bring forth the treasure from the dragon's lair, so that he might behold the riches he had won ere life was spent. The young hero did as was asked of him. He brought forth ancient armour, and vases of gold, rich ornaments and gems and many an armlet of rare design. A banner of gold which lit up the cavern he also bore to the king, in haste lest the last breath should be drawn ere he returned. . . . He found Beowulf gasping faintly, so once again he laved the king's face with cold water until he spake, gazing on the treasure, with thankfulness.

"To the Lord of glory I give thanks," he said, "because that he hath permitted me, ere I died, to win such great treasure for my own folk. . . . Give thou the gifts unto my people according to their needs. . . . I have paid life's cost for them. . . . No longer can I remain."

Then the king made request that on the cliff top overlooking the sea there should be raised his burial mound, and that it should be made bright with fire. He desired also that it should be built on Hronesness, as a memorial, so that seafarers, whose ships are driven through spray mist, might call it "Beowulf's Grave".

To Wiglaf the dying hero then gave his golden neck ring, his helmet adorned with gold, and his strong armour, which Weland had fashioned, bidding him to make ever good use of the gifts.

"The last of our race, the Wægmundings, art thou, O Wiglaf," Beowulf said faintly, as life ebbed low. "Wyrd took one by one away, each at his appointed hour; the nobles in their strength went to their doom. . . . Now must I follow them . . . ...

These were Beowulf's last words. His soul went forth from his body, to the doom of good men. . . . Wiglaf sat alone, mourning him.

Then came the battle laggards from the wood and approached Wiglaf, who spoke angrily to them, because that they had fled their lord in his hour of need. Nevermore, he vowed, would they receive gifts or lands; each one would, when the lords were told of their cowardice, be deprived of their possessions.

"For a noble warrior, Wiglaf cried, "death is better than a life of shame."

When the people heard that Beowulf was dead, they feared that their enemies would renew the blood feuds and come against them. The messenger whom Wiglaf sent to bear the sad tidings spake of wars to be, when many a maiden would be taken away to exile and many a warrior slain. Then would their ghosts lift up their spears; the harp would be heard not as it awakened warriors, but instead the blood-fed raven would ask how fared it with the eagle as it fought with the wolf to devour the slain.

In sadness and sharp grief the people went towards the dragon's lair, and they saw the dread monster that had been slain. In length it measured fifty feet; horrible it was and blackened with its own fire. Round the dead king they gathered, weeping sorrowfully, and Wiglaf spake, telling them of Beowulf's last words, and his desire that he should be buried in a high barrow at the place of the bale fire.

Then, while the bier was being made ready, Wiglaf led seven men into the cave, and what treasure remained they brought forth. The dragon was thrown into the sea, and the body of grey old Beowulf was borne to the headland which is called Hronesness.

A great pyre was built, and it was hung with armour and battle shields and bright helms. Reverently they laid the great king thereon--the well-loved lord for whom they mourned. . . . Never before was so large a pyre seen by men. Torches set it aflame, and soon the smoke rose thick and black above it; the roaring of flames mingled with the wailing of the mourners while the body of Beowulf was consumed. . . .

A doleful dirge sang the old queen, and again and again she said that oft had she dreaded the coming of conflict and much slaughter. She feared for her own shame and captivity.

Heaven swallowed the smoke. . . . The people then raised a grave mound of great height. For ten days they laboured constructing a wall which encircled the ashes. Much treasure did they lay in the mound--all that was in the hoard--and there the riches lie now of as little use to men as ever they were.

Twelve horsemen rode round the great mound on Hronesness 2 lamenting for their lord. All the people sorrowed together, and they said that Beowulf was of all the world's kings and of men the mildest and most gracious, the kindest unto his people and the keenest for their praise.

The Curse of Gold

The antique world, in his first flow'ring youth,
Found no defect in his Creator's grace;
But with glad thanks, and unreproved truth,
The gifts of sovran bounty did embrace:
Like angel's life was then men's happy case;
But later ages Pride, like corn-fed steed,
Abused her plenty and fat-swoll'n increase
To all licentious lust, and gan exceed
The measure of her mean and natural first need.
Then gan a cursed hand the quiet womb
Of his great grandmother with steel to wound,
And the hid treasures in her sacred tomb
With sacrilege to dig; therein he found
Fountains of gold and silver to abound,
Of which the matter of his huge desire
And pompous pride eftsoons he did compound;
Then Avarice gan through his veins inspire
His greedy flames, and kindled life-devouring fire.
"Son," said he 3 then, "let be thy bitter scorn,
And leave the rudeness of that antique age
To them, that lived therein in state forlorn.
Thou, that doest live in later times must wage
Thy works for wealth, and life for gold engage."

From Spenser's "Faerie Queene"


1 Urd.

2 Hronesness is translated "Whales' Ness" by some: others incline to the mythological rendering, Ran's Ness. Rydberg in this connection shows that Rhind's son, Vale, the wolf slayer, is called, by Saxo, Bous, the Latinized form for Beowulf. Stopford Brooke shows that Hronesness is next to Earnaness, Eagle's Ness, and considers that "the unmythological explanation is plainly right"."

3 Mammon (Mimer) to the knight Guyon.

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I'll put the other chapters on later on.