15. The Birth of Halfdan - the Third Patriarch
Halfdan's birth occurs, when two epochs meet. His arrival announces the close of the peaceful epoch and the beginning of an age of strife, which ever since has reigned in the world. His significance in this respect is distinctly manifest in a poem, in which a raven, to whom the battle-field will soon be as a well-spread table, is yet suffering from hunger. But from the high tree in which it sits, it has on the day after the birth of the child, presumably through the window, seen the newcomer, and discovered that he possessed "the sharp eyes of the Hildings," and with prophetic vision it has already seen him clad in coat of mail. It proclaims its discovery to another raven in the same tree, and foretells that theirs and the age of the wolves has come: "We shall thrive!".
The parents of the child heard and understood what the raven said. Among the runes which Heimdal, Borgar's father, taught him, and which the son of the latter in time learned, are the knowledge of bird-speech. His parents are not pleased with the prophecies of the raven; on the contrary they are filled with alarm. Borgar's life constitute the transition period from a happy and peaceful golden age to an age of warfare. With all their love of strife and admiration for warlike deeds, the Teutons still were human, and shared with all other people the opinion that peace and harmony is something better and more desirable than war and bloodshed. It is considered a great honor be called to Valhalla, but it is still better to be living an honorable life than to die an honorable death.
"It is always better to be alive"
16. The Road to Hel
Urd (also known as Hel) is the one who dispenses life and death, as she is the goddess of the realm of death and of death itself. She, who with her serving sisters is the ruler of the past, the present, and the future, also governs and gathers in her kingdom all generations of the past, present, and future.
As maid-servants under Urd there are countless hamingjur and giptur.
The hamingjur are fostered among beings of giant-race (who hardly can be
others than the norns and Mimir). Three mighty rivers fall down into the
world, in which they have their origin, and they come wise in their hearts,
soaring over the waters to our upper world. There every child of man is
to have a hamingja as a companion and guardian spirit.
The hamingjur belong to that large circle of feminine beings which are called dises. What Urd is on a grand scale as the guardian of the mighty Yggdrasill, this the hamingja is on a smaller scale when she protects the separate fruit produced on the world-tree and placed in her care. She does not appear to her favourite excepting perhaps in dreams or shortly before his death. They did not usually leave their favourite before death, but he who was abandoned by his hamingja and gipta was a lost man. If the favourite became a hideous and bad man, then his hamingja and gipta might even turn her benevolence into wrath, and cause his well-deserved ruin: "Angry at you are the dises!" cries Odin to the royal nithing Geirrod, and immediately thereupon the latter stumbles and falls pierced by his own sword. It was the invisible hamingja that caused him to stumble and fall. When the favourite received an unexpected, as it were accidental, good fortune it is the giptur who carry out such of Urd's resolves.
Another division of this class of maid-servants under Urd are those who attend the entrance of the child into the world, and who have to weave the threads of the new-born babe into the web of the families and events. Like Urd and her sisters, they too are called norns. If it is a child who is to be a great and famous man, Urd herself and her sisters may be present for the above purpose.
To the other class of Urd's maid-servants belong those lower-world beings which execute her resolves of death, and conduct the souls of the dead to the lower world. Foremost among the psycho-messengers (psychopomps), the attendants of the dead, we note that group of shield-maids called valkyries. As Odin and Freyja got the right of choosing on the battlefield, the valkyries have received Asgard as their abode. There they bring the mead-horns to the Asas and einherjes, when they do not ride on Valfather's errands. Skuld, the third of the norns, is the chief one in this group. Thence the sword-slain come to Asgard, if they have deserved this destiny. The psychopomps of those fallen by the sword are stately dises, sitting high in the saddle, with helmet, shield, and spear. To those not destined to fall by the sword Urd sends other maid-servants, who, like the former, may come on horseback, and who, as it appears, are of very different appearance, varying in accordance with the manner of death of those persons whose departure they attend. She who comes to those who sink beneath the weight of years has been conceived as a very benevolent dis, who is helpful to those bowed and stooping. The burden which Elli (age) puts on men, and which gradually gets too heavy for them to bear, is removed by this kind-hearted dis.
Other psychopomps are of a terrible kind. The most of them belong to the spirits of disease dwelling in Niflhel.
We now know that humans are composed of six elements and they
1. The earthly matter from which the body is formed
2. A formative vegetative force
3. Blood and motion (La and Laeti - from Lodur)
4. Form of the gods (Litur - also from Lodur)
5. Ego/Soul (Odur - from Hoenir)
6. Spirit (Ond - from Odin)
These six elements, united into one in human nature, were of course constantly in reciprocal activity. The personal kernel ódur is on the one hand influenced by önd, the spirit, and on the other hand by the animal, vegetative, and corporal elements, and the personality being endowed with will, it is responsible for the result of this reciprocal activity. If the spirit becomes superior to the other elements then it penetrates and sanctifies not only the personal kernel, but also the animal, vegetative, and corporal elements. Then human nature becomes a being that may be called divine, and deserves divine honour. When such a person dies the lower elements (the first three) which are abandoned and consigned to the grave have been permeated by, and have become participators in, the personality which they have served, and may thereafter in a wonderful manner diffuse happiness and blessings around them.
The vegetative force in the remains of certain persons might also manifest itself in a strange manner. The elements of the dead buried in the grave continued for more or less time their reciprocal activity, and formed a sort of unity which, if permeated by his ódr and önd, preserved some of' his personality and qualities. The grave-mound might in this manner contain an alter ego of him who had descended to the realm of death. This alter ego, called after his dwelling haugbúi, hill-dweller, was characterised by his nature as a draugr, a branch which, though cut off from its life-root, still maintains its consistency, but gradually, though slowly, pays tribute to corruption and progresses toward its dissolution. The alter' ego of the deceased, his representative dwelling in the grave, retained his character: was good and kind if the deceased had been so in life; in the opposite case, evil and dangerous. As a rule he was believed to sleep in his grave, especially in the daytime, but might wake up in the night, or could be waked by the influence of prayer or the powers of conjuration.
Respect for the fathers and the idea that the men of the past were more pious and more noble than those of the present time caused the alter egos of the fathers to be regarded as beneficent and working for the good of the race, and for this reason family grave-mounds where the bones of the ancestors rested were generally near the home. If there was no grave-mound in the vicinity, but a rock or hill, the alter egos in question were believed to congregate there when something of importance to the family was impending. It might also happen that the lower elements, when abandoned by ódr and önd, became an alter ego in whom the vegetative and animal elements exclusively asserted themselves. Such an one was always tormented by animal desire of food, and did not seem to have any feeling for or memory of bonds tied in life.
So when a person dies, only the last three elements go to Hel, and the first three which make up the earthly body are left behind at death.
And all the dead must go to Hel - not only they whose destination is the realm of bliss, but also those who are to dwell in Asgard or in the regions of torture in Niflheim. Thus the dead tread at the outset the same road. One and the same route is prescribed to them all, and the same Helgate daily opens for hosts of souls destined for different lots. Women and children, men and the aged, they who have practised the arts of peace and they who have stained the weapons with blood, those who have lived in accordance with the sacred commandments of the norns and gods and they who have broken them - all have to journey the same way as Baldur went before them, down to the fields of the fountains of the world. They come on foot and on horseback guided by various psychopomps: the beautifully equipped valkyries, the sombre spirits of disease, and the gentle maid-servant of old age. Possibly the souls of children had their special psychopomps to guide them through the Hel-gate.
The Hel-gate here in question was situated below the eastern horizon of the earth. The gate has a watchman and a key. From this gate the highway of the dead went below the earth in a westerly direction through deep and dark dales, and it requires several days before they came to light regions and to the golden bridge across the river Gjoll, flowing from north to south. On the other side of the river the road forked. One road went directly north. This led to Mimir's grove, and to the sacred citadel of the ásmegir, where death and decay cannot enter. This northern road was not, therefore, the road common to all the dead. Another road went to the south. As Urd's realm is situated south of Mimir's, this second road leads to Urd's fountain and to the thingstead of the gods there.
The Asas have two thingsteads: the one in Asgard, the other in the lower world. In the former a council is held and resolutions passed in such matters as pertain more particularly to the clan of the Asas and to their relation to other divine clans and other powers. That thingstead where such questions are discussed is situated in Asgard.
The other thingstead of the Asas, of the one in the lower world, is where they go daily to sit in judgment, to act as judges. At this thingstead near Urd's fountain there daily arrive hosts of the dead. When the dead arrive their final doom is not yet sealed. They have not yet been separated into the groups which are to be divided between those who are destined for Asgard, others for the subterranean regions of bliss, and a third lot for Niflhel's regions of torture. It was done on the basis of the laws which in mythological ethics distinguish between right and wrong, innocence and guilt, that which is pardonable and that which is unpardonable, and that the happiness and unhappiness of the dead is determined by this division.
Those hosts which are conducted by their psychopomps to the Thing near Urd's fountain proceed noiselessly. It is a silent journey. The bridge over Gjöll scarcely resounds under the feet of the death-horses and of the dead. The tongues of the shades are sealed.
This thingstead has, like all others, had its judgment-seats. Here are seats for the holy powers acting as judges. There is also a rostrum and benches or chairs for the dead. Silent they must receive their doom unless they possess mál-runes.
"Speech-runes you must know,
if you do not wish that the strong one with consuming woe
shall requite you for the injury you have caused.
All those runes you must wind, weave,
and place together in that Thing
where the host of people go into the full judgments."
There are several kinds of runes, all of a magic and wonderful kind. Among them are mál-runes (speech-runes). They have their name from the fact that they are able to restore to a tongue mute or silenced in death the power to mæla (speak). Those who are able to apply these mighty runes are very few. Odin boasts that he knows them. Sigurdrifa, who also is skilled in them, is a dis, not a daughter of man. The runes which Hadding applied were risted by Hardgreip, a giantess who protected him. But within the court here in question men come in great numbers, and among them there must be but a small number who have penetrated so deeply into the secret knowledge of runes. For those who have done so it is of importance and advantage. For by them they are able to defend themselves against complaints, the purpose of which is "to requite with consuming woe the harm they have done". In the court they are able to speak in their own defence.
Thus it follows that those hosts of people who enter this thing-stead stand there with speechless tongues. They are and remain mute before their judges unless they know the mál-runes which are able to loosen the fetters of their tongues at the Thing where hosts of people go into full judgments. "Full" are those judgments against which no formal or real protests can be made - decisions which are irrevocably valid. The only kind of judgments of which the mythology speaks in this manner, that is, characterises as judgments that "never die," are those "over each one dead".
"Your cattle shall die; your kindred shall die; you yourself shall
but the fair fame of him who has earned it never dies.
Your cattle shall die; your kindred shall die; you yourself shall die;
one thing I know which never dies: the judgment on each one dead."
The dead should come well clad and ornamented. Warriors bring their weapons of attack and defence. The women and children bring ornaments that they were fond of in life. Hel-pictures of those things which kinsmen and friends placed in the grave-mounds accompany the dead as evidence to the judge that they enjoyed the devotion and respect of their survivors. All should have Hel-shoes on. The appearance presented by the shades assembled in the Thing indicates to what extent the survivors heed the law, which commands respect for the dead and care for the ashes of the departed.
Many die under circumstances which make it impossible for their kinsmen to observe these duties. Then strangers should take the place of kindred. The condition in which these shades come to the Thing shows best whether piety prevails in Midgard; for noble minds take to heart this advice: "Render the last service to the corpses you find on the ground, whether from sickness they have died, or are drowned, or are from weapons dead. Make a bath for those who are dead, wash their hands and their head, comb them and wipe them dry, ere in the coffin you lay them, and pray for their happy sleep."
It was, however, not necessary to wipe the blood off from the
byrnie of one fallen by the sword. It was not improper for the elect to
make their entrance in Valhall in a bloody coat of mail.
When the gods have arrived from Asgard, dismounted from their horses and taken their judges' seats, the proceedings begin, for the dead are then in their places, and we may be sure that their psychopomps have not been slow on their Thing-journey. Somewhere on the way the Hel-shoes must have been tried; those who ride to Valhall must then have been obliged to dismount. Those who have shown mercy to fellow-men that in this life, in a figurative sense, had to travel thorny paths, do not need to fear torn shoes and bloody feet and when they are seated on Urd's benches, their very shoes are, by their condition, a conspicuous proof in the eyes of the court that they who have exercised mercy are worthy of mercy.
Proofs and witnesses are necessary before the above-named tribunal, for Odin is far from omniscient. He is not even the one who knows the most among the beings of mythology. Urd and Mimir know more than he. With judges on the one hand who, in spite of all their loftiness, and with all their superhuman keenness, nevertheless are not infallible, and with defendants on the other hand whose tongues refuse to serve them, it might happen, if there were no proofs and witnesses, that a judgment, everlasting in its operations, not founded on exhaustive knowledge and on well-considered premises, might be proclaimed. But the judgment on human souls proclaimed by their final irrevocable fate could not in the sight of the pious and believing bear the stamp of uncertain justice. There must be no doubt that the judicial proceedings in the court of death were so managed that the wisdom and justice of the dicta were raised high above every suspicion of being mistaken.
Urd has given to every human soul, already before the hour of birth, a maid-servant, a hamingja, a norn of lower rank, to watch over and protect its earthly life. And so there was a wide-spread organisation of watching and protecting spirits, each one of whom knew the motives and deeds of a special individual. As such an organisation was at the service of the court, there was no danger that the judgment over each one dead would not be as just as it was unappealable and everlasting.
The hamingja hears of it before anyone else when her mistress Urd has announced the doom of death against her favourite. She and the gipta, leaves him then. She is gone, which can be perceived in dreams or by revelations in other ways, and this is an unmistakable sign of death. But if the death-doomed person is not a nithing, whom she in sorrow and wrath has left, then she by no means abandons him. They are like members of the same body, which can only be separated by mortal sins. The hamingja goes to the lower world, the home of her nativity, to prepare an abode there for her favourite, which also is to belong to her. It is as if a spiritual marriage was entered into between her and the human soul.
But on the dictum of the court of death it depends where the dead person is to find his haven. The judgment, although not pronounced on the hamingja, touches her most closely. When the most important of all questions, that of eternal happiness or unhappiness, is to be determined in regard to her favourite, she must be there, where her duty and inclination bid her be - with him whose guardian-spirit she is. The great question for her is whether she is to continue to share his fate or not. During his earthly life she has always defended him. It is of paramount importance that she should do so now. His lips are sealed, but she is able to speak. And she is not only a witness friendly to him, but, from the standpoint of the court, she is a more reliable one than he would be himself.
He to whom the dises (the hamingja and gipta) have become "amputated" is destined, in spite of all warnings, to go to his ruin. The person from whom his dises have been cut off has no longer any close relation with them. He is forever separated from them, and his fate is no longer theirs. Hence there are persons doomed to die and persons dead who do not have hamingjur by them. They are those whom the hamingjur in sorrow and wrath have abandoned, and with whom they are unable to dwell in the lower world, as they are nithings and are awaited in Niflhel. The fact that a dead man sat without having a hamingja to defend him is regarded by the gods as a conclusive proof that he had been a criminal.
The high court must have judged very leniently in regard to certain human faults and frailties. Sitting long by and looking diligently into the drinking-horn certainly did not lead to any punishment worth mentioning. The same was the case with fondness for female beauty, if care was taken not to meddle with the sacred ties of matrimony. With a pleasing frankness, and with much humour, the Asa-father has told to the children of men adventures which he himself has had in that line. He warns against too much drinking, but admits without reservation and hypocrisy that he himself once was drunk, nay, very drunk, at Fjalar's, and what he had to suffer, on account of his uncontrollable longing for Billing's maid, should be to men a hint not to judge each other too severely in such matters). All the less he will do so as judge. Those who are summoned to the Thing, and against whom there are no other charges, may surely count on a good judgement, if they in other respects have conducted themselves in accordance with the wishes of Odin and his associate judges: if they have lived lives free from deceit, honourable, helpful, and without fear of death. This, in connection with respect for the gods, for the temples, for their duties to kindred and to the dead, is the alpha and the omega of the heathen Teutonic moral code, and the sure way to Hel's regions of bliss and to Valhall.
If the judgment on the dead is lenient in these respects, it is inexorably severe in other matters. Lies uttered to injure others, perjury, murder (secret murder, assassination, not justified as blood-revenge), adultery, the profaning of temples, the opening of grave-mounds, treason, cannot escape their awful punishment. Unutterable terrors await those who are guilty of these sins. Those psychopomps that belong to Niflhel await the adjournment of the Thing in order to take them to the world of torture, and Urd has chains which make every escape impossible.
Before the dead leave the thingstead near Urd's fountain, something which obliterated the marks of earthly death has happened to those who are judged happy. Pale, cold, mute, and with the marks of the spirits of disease, they left Midgard and started on the Hel-way. They leave the death-Thing full of the warmth of life, with health, with speech, and more robust than they were on earth. The shades have become corporal. When those slain by the sword ride over the Gjoll to Urd's fountain, scarcely a sound is heard under the hoofs of their horses; when they ride away from the fountain over Bifrost, the bridge resounds under the trampling horses.
On the zenith of the bridge stands Valhalla, that secures those fallen in battle, and whose entrance is decorated with images of the wolf and of the eagle, animals that satisfy their hunger on the field of battle. Odin had chosen one half of those slain on the battlefield for his dwelling, and Freyja the other half for hers.
The life of bliss presupposes health, but also forgetfulness of the earthly sorrows and cares. The heroic poems and the sagas of the middle ages have known that there was a horn with a Hel-potion which brings freedom from sorrow and care, without obliterating dear memories or making one forget that which can be remembered without longing or worrying. This drink was one that produced at the same time vigour of life and the forgetfulness of sorrows.
Now as to the drink which is mixed in this Hel-horn. It consists
of three liquids:
Son is one of the names of Mimir's fountain, the well of creative power and of poetry. Urd's strength is a liquid mixed in the horn, nothing else can be meant thereby than the liquid in Urd's fountain, which gives the warmth of life to the world-tree, and gives it strength to resist the cold. There remains the well Hvergelmir, and the liquid it is, is the cool-cold sea. All those fountains whose liquids are sucked up by the roots of the world-tree, and in its stem blend into the sap which gives the tree imperishable strength of life, are accordingly mixed in the lower-world horn.
But the power of the subterranean potion to allay longing and sorrow had its limits. The survivors should mourn over departed loved ones with moderation, and not forget that they are to meet again, for too bitter tears of sorrow fall as a cold dew on the breast of the dead one and penetrate it with pain.
When a deceased who has received a good judgement leaves the Thing, he is awaited in a home which his hamingja has arranged for her favourite somewhere in "the green worlds of the gods". But what he first has to do is to visit kinsmen and friends who have gone before him to their final destination. Here he finds not only those with whom he became personally acquainted on earth, but he may also visit and converse with ancestors from the beginning of time, and he may hear the history of his race, nay, the history of all past generations, told by persons who were eye-witnesses. The ways he travels are, where the wonderful regions of Urd's and Mimir's realms lie open before his eyes.
Those doomed to unhappiness must also partake of some drink. It is "much mixed with venom, and forebodes them evil. They must, therefore, be compelled to drink it before they enter the world of misery, and accordingly, no doubt, while they sit on the very thingstead. The Icelandic sagas of the middle ages know the venom drink as a potion of misery.
This potion of unhappiness did not loosen the speechless tongues
of the damned. It is only the torturing demons that speak. The dead are
speechless, and suffer their agonies without uttering a sound; but, when
the spirits of torture so desire, and force and egg them on, they can produce
When the na-dictum (the judgment of those who have committed sins unto death) has been proclaimed, they must take their departure for their terrible destination. They cannot take flight. The locks and fetters of the norns hold them prisoners, and amid the tears of their former hamingjur they are driven along their path by heiptir, armed with rods of thorns, who without mercy beat their lazy heels. It is said that everyone who has lied about another shall long be tortured with these rods which are called limar.
Their way from Urd's well goes to the north through Mimir's domain. It is ordained that before their arrival at the home of torture they are to see the regions of bliss. Thus they know what they have forfeited. Then their course is past Mimir's Grove, the splendid dwellings of the ásmegir, the golden hall of Sindri's race, and to those regions where mother Nott rests in a hall built on the southern spur of the Nida mountains. The procession proceeds up this mountain region through valleys and gorges in which the rivers flowing from Hvergelmir find their way to the south. The damned leave Hvergelmir in their rear and cross the border river Hrönn, on the other side of which rise Niflhel's black, perpendicular mountain-walls. Ladders or stairways lead across giddying precipices to the Na-gates. Howls and barking from the monstrous Niflheim dogs watching the gates announce the arrival of the damned. Then hasten, in compact winged flocks, monsters, Niflheim's birds of prey, Nidhogg, Ari, Hræsvelgur, and their like to the south, and alight on the rocks around the Na-gates. When the latter are opened on creaking hinges, the damned have died their second death.
When the dead arrive in the underworld, they are composed of only three elements, namely: the image of the gods from Lodur, the spirit from Odin, and the human ego with consciousness and will Hoenir provided them. At the Na-gates, only the gift of Hoenir (ego) passes through to be punished, as the other parts of form and divine spirit are blameless. This separation is the second death.
Those who have thus marched to a terrible fate are sinners of various classes. Below Niflheim there are nine regions of punishment. These correspond to nine kinds of unpardonable sins. From the heathen records it is known that enemies of the gods (Loki), perjurers, murderers, adulterers, those who have violated faith and the laws, those who have slayed kinsmen and sells the dead body of his brother for rings, and those who have lied about others, are doomed to Niflhel for ever, or at least for a very long time. They are such persons as have been condemned to a punishment which is not to cease so long as they are sensitive to it. Of the unmerciful we know that they have already suffered great agony on their way to Urd's fountain. Both in reference to them and to others, it doubtless depended on the investigation at the Thing whether they could be ransomed or not.
When the damned come within the Na-gates, the winged demons rush
at the victims designated for them, press them under their wings, and fly
with them through Niflheim's foggy space to the departments of torture
appointed for them. This is the home of the frost-giants, of the subterranean
giants, and of the spirits of disease. Here live the offspring of Ymir's
feet, the primeval giants strangely born and strangely bearing, who are
waiting for the quaking of Yggdrasil and for the liberation of their chained
leader, in order that they may take revenge on the gods in Ragnarok, and
who in the meantime contrive futile plans of attack on Hvergelmir's fountain
or on the north end of the Bifrost bridge. Here the demons of restless
uneasiness, of mental agony, of convulsive weeping, and of insanity (Otholi,
Morn, Opi, and Topi) have their home; and here dwells also their queen,
Loki's daughter, Leikin, whose threshold is precipice and whose bed is
disease. The ground is a marsh with putrid water, which diffuses a horrible
stench. The river Slid flowing north out of Hvergelmir there seeks its
way in a muddy stream to the abyss which leads down to the nine places
of punishment. Over all hovers Niflheim's dismal sky.
The Voluspa gives a description of the most infamous region of punishment, Nastrand:
"A hall she saw standing far from the sun on the Nastrands;
the doors opened to the north.
Venom-drops fell through the roof-holes.
Braided is that hall of serpent-backs."
"There she saw perjurers, murderers,
and they who seduce the wife of another (adulterers) wade through heavy streams.
There Nidhogg sucked the náir of the dead.
And the wolf tore men into pieces."
17. The End of Peace
As the old giant Vafthrudnir himself said, the giants have an evil streak in them, and in the long run, their inclusion in the peace-pact that the powers made with one another during the age of innocence, meant very little. The giants grew and multiplied in Jotunheim, thus becoming numerous, and their mighty clans had such chieftains as Hymir, Geirrod, and Gymir. It was not long before they revealed their wicked disposition toward the gods and humans, who lived in Midgard under the protection of the gods.
The first sign of enmity between the gods and the giants occurred in the giant Vingnir's home. As was mentioned before, Odin had entrusted Thor's upbringing to Vingnir and his wife Hlora. At an early age, the boy showed tremendous physical strength and was already enormously strong by the age of twelve. Usually a good and faithful relationship prevailed between parents and foster child, but this relationship came to an end when Thor slew them both. The ancient song that celebrated this event and explained its cause is lost, but when one considers how benevolent Thor is, and that he never rewarded good with evil, and that numerous other giants showed an unreliable character, it is probable that Vingnir and Hlora saw in their foster son a future foe, dangerous to the giants, and treacherously plotted to kill him, and that Thor was therefore justified in killing them. As a spoil of victory from Vingnir's home, Thor surely carried away a stone hammer which he used afterwards against the giants, until he received the iron hammer that Mimir's son Sindri had forged for him, namely Mjolnir.
Since oaths had been broken, a Giant hostage burnt to death in Ásgarð, and the inviolability of foster-parents forfeited by Thór, the original covenant of peace was no longer valid. Now the Gods feared an invasion of Giants into Midgard. The age of peace was now at an end, so the Gods had to build battlements around Ásgarð, to guard them from the sworn enemies of the regulated universe. The only builder available wanted Sun, Moon and Freyja as payment, but promised to build them, in three seasons' time, a fortification so strong that it would be secure against giants. On the advice of Loki, the gods accepted on the condition that he build the entire fortification in one winter; if, on the first day of summer, anything were left unfinished, the payment would be forfeit. The builder asked if he could be permitted to have at least the help of his stallion, Svadilfaeri. Loki said that he could, as he assured the gods that he could never complete the task even with this help.
The builder set to work on the first day of winter. The stallion proved to be twice as strong as the builder, and when summer was only three days away, the job was almost finished. The worried gods, trying to think of what to do to avoid payment, directed their anger toward Loki, who grew afraid and swore he would arrange something that would cause the builder to forfeit. That evening, when the builder drove out for stone with his stallion Svadilfaeri, a strange mare (Loki in disguise) ran out of the woods. The stallion went frantic and broke free. The horses ran around all night, with the builder trying to catch them. Because the builder was not able to work, the fortification was not completed on time, and he had to forfeit his payment. Being a Giant he did not like this, so he went into a giant-tantrum, and had to be killed by Thór. Loki later gave birth to the foal Sleipnir. Sleipnir became Odin's eight-legged steed, on which he travelled swiftly through the sky and over the Earth.
Becoming more mischievous, Loki cut off the beautiful blonde hair of Thor's wife, Sif. Thor was ready to kill him, and Loki, fearful but always scheming, promised to make Sif a better head of hair out of pure gold that would root and grow just like real hair. After calming Thor's rage with this promise, Loki went to the Sons of Ivald, dwarfs of the forge. He had them make the golden hair for Sif.
18. The Sacred Mead
The mead which was brewed from the three subterranean liquids destroys the effects of death and gives new vitality to the departed, and is the same liquid is absorbed by the three roots of the world-tree. In its trunk the mead is distilled into that sap which gives the tree eternal life. From the stem the mead rises into the foliage of the crown, and the morning dew which falls from Yggdrasil down into the dales of the lower world contains the same elements. From the bridle of Hrimfaxi and from the horses of the valkyries some of the same dew also falls in the valleys of Midgard. The flowers receive it in their chalices, where the bees extract it, and thus is produced the earthly honey which man uses, and from which he brews his mead. Thus the latter too contains some of the strength of Mimir's and Urd's fountains, and thus it happens that it is able to stimulate the mind and inspire poetry and song - nay, used with prudence, it may suggest excellent expedients in important emergencies.
The sap of the world-tree and the veigar of the horn of the lower world are not, however, precisely the same mead as the pure and undefiled liquid from Mimir's fountain, that which Odin in his youth, through self-sacrifice, was permitted to taste, nor is it precisely the same as that concerning the possession of which the powers of old long contended, before it finally, through Odin's adventures at Suttung's, came to Asgard.
In time's morning we find the fire-being Surt - representative of subterranean fire - as a creative force by the side of Mimir, who is a friend of the gods, and whose kinsman he must be as a descendant of Ymir. Both work together in peace for similar purposes and under the direction of the gods. But then something occurs which interrupts the amicable relations. Mimir and Surt no longer work together. The fountain of creative force, the mead of wisdom and inspiration, is in the exclusive possession of Mimir, and he and Urd are together the ruling powers in the lower world. The fire-giant, the primeval artist, is then with his race relegated to the "deep dales," situated to the southward, difficult of access, and dangerous for the gods to visit, and presumably conceived as located deeper down than the lower world governed by Mimir and Urd. Surt tried to get possession of a part of "Óðrærir", the sacred mead.
We later find that his son, Suttung, has captured and is in possession of a supply of mead, which must originally have come from Mimir's fountain, and been chiefly composed of its liquid, for it is skaldic mead, it too, and the son is therefore called "the mead-wolf," the one who has robbed and conceals the precious drink. So the giant Suttung, also called Fjalar, has acquired possession of the precious mead for which Odin longs, and the Asa-father resolves to capture it by cunning.
There is a feast at Fjalar's. Guests belonging to the clan of rimthurses are gathered in his halls. Besides these Suttung-Fjalar's own nearest kith and kin are present. An honoured guest is expected, and a golden high-seat prepared for him awaits his arrival. The expected guest is the wooer or betrothed of Suttung-Fjalar's daughter, Gunnlod. On that night the wedding of the giant's daughter is to be celebrated.
Odin arrives, but in disguise. He is received as the guest of honour, and is conducted to the golden high-seat. It follows of necessity that the guise assumed by Odin, when he descends to the mortal foes of the gods and of himself, is that of the expected lover.
Now, a certain Svegðir was deceived, when he was outside of the door of the hall of the kinsmen of Durnir-Sokkmimir. He who deceived him was the doorkeeper of the hall. The door appeared to be already open, and the "giant-inhabited" hall "yawned" festively illuminated toward Svegdir. The hall-ward had called to him and said that Odin was inside, and Svegdir went running after the hall-ward, that is to say, toward the door in the rock, eager to get in. He did not gain the point he desired, but fell into a snare laid by the doorkeeper, and that this caused his death follows from the fact that he got into the rock, but never out of it.
The adventure undertaken by Odin is extremely dangerous, and he ran the risk of losing his head. For this reason he has, before entering Suttung-Fjalar's halls, secured an egress, through which he must be able to fly, and, if possible, with the skaldic mead as his booty. There is no admittance for everybody to the rocky abode where the mead-treasure so much desired by all powers is kept. The dwelling is situated in an abyss, and the door is watched. But Odin has let Rati bore ("gnaw") a tunnel through the mountain large enough to give him room to retire secretly.
When the pretended lover has seated himself in the golden high-seat, a conversation begins around the banquet table. It is necessary for Odin to guard well his words, for he represents another person, well known there, and if he is not cautious he may be discovered. It is also necessary to be eloquent and winning, so that he may charm Gunnlod and secure her devotion, for without her knowledge he cannot gain his end, that of carrying away the supply of inspiration-mead kept at Suttung's.
During the progress of the feast the guest had his glass filled to his honour with the precious mead he desired to obtain. "Gunnlod gave me on the golden seat the drink of the precious mead". Then the marriage ceremony was performed, and on the holy ring Gunnlod took to Odin the oath of faithfulness.
It would have been best for the Asa-father if the banquet had ended here, and the bridegroom and the bride had been permitted to betake themselves to the bridal chamber. But the jolly feast is continued and the horns are frequently filled and emptied. Gunnlod's wooer was reputed as a champion drinker and Odin became on his own confession "drunk, very drunk, at Fjalar's". "The hern of forgetfulness which steals one's wit and understanding hovers over his drink". In this condition he let drop words which were not those of caution-words which sowed the seed of suspicion in the minds of some of his hearers who were less drunk. He dropped words which were not spelt with letters of intelligence and good sense - words which did not suit the part he was playing.
At last the banquet comes to an end, and the bridegroom is permitted to be alone with the bride in that rocky hall which is their bed-chamber. There is no doubt that Odin won Gunnlod's heart, "the heart of that good woman whom I took in my embrace". With her help he sees his purpose attained and the mead in his possession. But the suspicions which his reckless words had sown bear fruit in the night, and things happen which would have prevented Odin from getting out of the giant-gard, had he not had Gunnlod's assistance. Odin was obliged to fight and rob Gunnlod of a kinsman, Suttung's son.
Taking the supply of mead with him, he takes flight by the way Rati had opened for him - a dangerous way, for "above and below me were the paths of the giants". When Odin had come safely out of Fjalar-Suttung's deep rocky halls, he, on eagle-pinions, flew with the precious mead to Asgard.
It is the custom that the wedding guests on the morning of the next day went to the door of the bridal-chamber to hear how the newly-married man was getting on in his new capacity of husband. Suttung's guests, the rimthurses, observe this custom; but the events of the night change their inquiries into the question whether Odin had succeeded in escaping to the gods or had been slain by Suttung).
After the adventure has ended happily, Odin looks back with pleasure upon the success with which he assumed the guise of the stranger and played his part: "From the well changed exterior I reaped great advantage". But the cause of Odin's joy is not that he successfully carried out a cunning trick, but that he in this way accomplished a deed of inestimable value for Asgard and for man, and he is sorry that poor Gunnlod's trust in him was betrayed.
19. Loki Causes Enmity between the Gods and the Original Artists
Halfdan's role in history is to be the personal representative of the strife-age that came with him, of an age when the inhabitants of the earth are visited by the great winter and by dire misfortunes, when the demoralisation of the world has begun along with disturbances in nature, and when the words already are applicable, "harsh is the world".
The corruption of nature and of man go hand in hand. Borgar has to contend with robbers and pirates. The moderate laws given by Heimdal had to be made more severe by Borgar. In regard to the significance of the conflicts awaiting Halfdan, and occupying his whole life, we must remember that he inherits from his father the duty of stopping the progress southward of the giant-world's wintry agents, the kinsmen of Volund, and of the Skilfing (Yngling) tribes dwelling in the north.
In connection with this moral corruption, and caused by the Frost-Giants hostile to the world, there occur in this epoch such disturbances in nature that the original home of man and culture - nay, all Midgard - is threatened with destruction on account of long, terrible winters. Ancient artists - forces at work in the growth of nature - that had before worked in harmony with the gods, become, through the influence of a cunning plan conceived by Loki, foes of Asgard, their work becoming as harmful as it before was beneficent, and seek to destroy what Odin had created. His purpose is to cause enmity between the original artists themselves and between them and the gods.
Among these artists the sons of Ivaldi constitute a separate group. Originally they enjoyed the best relations to the gods, and gave them the best products of their wonderful art, for ornament and for use. Odin's spear Gungnir, the golden locks on Sif's head, and Frey's celebrated ship Skidbladnir, which could hold all the warriors of Asgard and always had favourable wind, but which also could be folded as a napkin and be carried in one's pocket, had all come from the workshop of these artists.
Another group of original artists were Sindri and his kinsmen, who dwelt on the Nida-plains in the happy domain of the lower world. Loki meets Sindri's brother Brokk, and wagers his head that Sindri cannot make treasures as good as the above-named gifts from Ivaldi's sons to the Asas. Sindri then made in his smithy the golden boar for Frey, the ring Draupnir for Odin, from which eight gold rings of equal weight drop every ninth night, and the incomparable hammer Mjolnir for Thor.
When the treasures were finished, Loki cunningly gets the gods to assemble for the purpose of deciding whether or not he has forfeited his head. The gods cannot, of course, decide this without at the same time passing judgement on the gifts of Sindri and those of Ivaldi's sons, and showing that one group of artists is inferior to the other. And this is done. Sindri's treasures are preferred, and thus the sons of Ivaldi are declared to be inferior in comparison. But at the same time Sindri fails, through the decision of the gods, to get the prize agreed on. Both groups of artists are offended by the decision. The judgment there has the most important consequences: hatred toward the artists who were victorious, and toward the gods who were the judges, takes possession of the ancient artist who was defeated, and nature is afflicted with great suffering.
Nor is it long before it becomes apparent what the consequences are. The sons of Ivaldi regarded it as a mortal offence, born of the ingratitude of the gods. Loki, the originator of the scheme, is caught in snares laid by Volund and to regain his liberty he is obliged to assist him in carrying Idun away from Asgard. Idun, who possesses "the Asas' remedy against old age," and keeps the apples which symbolise the ever-renewing and rejuvenating force of nature, is carried away by Volund to a part of the world inaccessible to the gods.
Just as Heimdal, "the fast traveller," proceeded from house to house, forming new ties in society and giving instruction in what is good and useful, thus we soon find a messenger of evil wandering about between the houses in Midgard, practising the black art and stimulating the worst passions of the human soul. The messenger comes from the powers of frost, the enemies of creation. It is a giantess, the daughter of the giant Hrímnir , known among the gods as Gullveig and by other names, but on her wanderings on earth called Heid. Gullveig-Heid was reborn in Jötunheim, and made her way towards Midgard.
"Heid they called her when she came to the children of men,
the crafty, prophesying vala, who practised sorcery,
practised the evil art,
caused by witchcraft misfortunes, sickness, and death,
and was always sought by bad women".
Heid occupies an important position in regard to the corruption of ancient man, and the consequences of her appearance for the gods for man, and for nature, are most dire.
She taught her evil runes to men, trying to wean them away from Heimdal's sacred runology, and did whatever she could to spoil mankind with her evil tricks. But as before, she was caught in the act, and the gods deemed that she should burn at the stake. And so she did, but again Loki ate her heart, became pregnant and bore into the world the Queen of Disease, named Leikin. She would soon become very busy, with the advent of the horrifying Fimbul-Winter.
18. Freya's Betrayal
Not long later, Gulveig-Heid is once again reborn, this time as Aurboða, and makes her way back to Asgard. She once again succeeds in ingratiating herself in Freya's favour, and for some time performed the duties of a maid-servant at her home. But this she did in order to entice her in a cunning manner away from her safe home to a place where the giant lay in ambush and carried her away to the recesses of his mountain country.
With the loss of Idun and the life-renewing apples, the gods grow old, and winter extends its power more and more beyond the limits prescribed for it in Creation. Volund, a son of Ivaldi, who before was the friend of the gods, is now their irreconcilable foe. He who was the promoter of growth and the benefactor of nature - for Sif's golden locks, and Skidbladnir, belonging to the god of fertility, - is changed into "the mightiest foe of earth," and has wholly assumed the nature of a giant.
At the same time, with the approach of the great winter, a terrible earthquake takes place, the effects of which are felt even in heaven. The great earthquake in primeval time is caused by Volund's kinswomen on his mother's side - that is, by the giantesses Fenja and Menja, who turned the enormous world-mill, built on the foundations of the lower world, and working in the depths of the sea. The world-mill has a mill-handle, which sweeps the uttermost rim of the earth, with which handle not only the mill-stone but also the starry heavens are made to whirl round; and that when the mill was put in so violent a motion by the angry giantesses that it got out of order, then the starry constellations were also disturbed. The ancient terrible winter and the inclination of the axis of heaven, occur with the close of the golden age. The mill had up to this time ground gold, happiness, peace, and good-will among men; henceforth it grinds salt and dust.
The winter must of course first of all affect those people who inhabited the extensive north. Thus the emigration of the Teutons is a result of the fate experienced by Borgar and his people in their original country. And as the Swedes constituted the northernmost Teutonic branch, they were the ones who, on the approach of the fimbul-winter caused by Volund, were the first that were compelled to surrender their abodes and secure more southern habitations.
The gods themselves are seized by terror at the fate of the world, and Mimir had made arrangements to save all that is best and purest on earth for an expected regeneration of the world. At the very beginning of the great-winter Mimir opens in his subterranean grove of immortality an asylum, closed against all physical and spiritual evil, for the two children of men, Líf and Lífþrasir, who are to be the parents of a new race of men.
Lif and Leifthrasir as physically and morally undefiled at the time when they entered Mimir's grove, because the wise, foreseeing Mimir opened the grove as an asylum for them, at a time when mankind as a whole had not yet become the prey of physical and moral misery.
Mimir's Grove is the place where beings called ásmegir dwell. The ásmegir are human beings excluded from the surface of the earth, from the mankind which dwell in Midgard, and are inhabitants of the lower world, where they reside in a splendid castle kept by the elf of dawn, Delling. Thus the ásmegir are the subterranean human persons Lif and Leifthrasir and their descendants in Mimir's grove. It is of the greatest importance to shield Lif and Leifthrasir's dwelling from all ills, sickness, age, and moral evil.
21. Baldur's Dream.
Loki's most terrible deed however, was to cause, through trickery and sheer maliciousness, the death of Balder, Odin's beautiful and peaceful son, whom all the other gods loved dearly. He had no faults and harbored malice toward none. Balder was the husband of the goddess Nanna and the father of Forseti, the god of justice and conciliation. He lived in a mansion in the sky called Breidablik (Broad Gleaming), a place where no unclean or evil thing was permitted.
Balder dreamed that he was in great peril. Being alarmed in regard to the fate of his son Baldur, Odin saddled Sleipnir and entered the Underworld from the north, passing through Niflhel towards the kingdoms of Mímir and Urd. In Niflhel he sought out Hrossþjófur, Gullveig's brother, who made a prophesy that he would beget upon Rindur in the West Halls a son, who would be his brother's bane. A hellish giant dog, foaming with blood, followed Óðin all the way to the borders of Mímir's realm. Odin sought out Mímir and asked the Ruler of the subterranean Paradise to answer his burning question: Did Baldur's death mean the end of all creation?
In exchange for an answer to this riddle, Odin had to sacrifice of himself. The answer was hidden at the bottom of the Well of Wisdom. Then Odin tore out one of his eyes, and threw it into the well, whereupon his eye saw the future of the world.
Odin rode on, and soon he passed the place where Gullveig's bodily
remains had been buried. Nearby a palace stood, tall and magnificent, which
had been built by Mímir's sons. Odin looked in, and saw "benches
covered with costly rings, and beautiful beds embroidered with gold". But
the mound of Gullveig was covered with snow, even though winter never comes
to Mímir's realm. Óðin raised the witch back from the
dead, and he asks the prophetess:
"For whom are the benches strewn with rings and the gold beautifully scattered through the rooms?"
And the vala answers:
"Here stands for Baldur mead prepared, pure drink; shields are overspread, and the ásmegir are waiting impatiently."
Thus there stands in the lower world a hall splendidly decorated awaiting Baldur's arrival. As at other great feasts, the benches are strewn with costly things, and the pure wonderful mead of the lower world is already served as an offering to the god. Only the shields which cover the mead-vessel need to be lifted off and all is ready for the feast. When Baldur gets to the lower world, he is to enter the citadel of the ásmegir and there be welcomed by a sacrifice, consisting of the noblest liquid of creation, the strength-giving mead.
Still Odin rode on, until he arrived at the Norns' Well. He asked Urd to solve the riddle burdening his mind. Urd answered him, that she knew that his eye lay deep in Mímir's Well of Wisdom, so he already knew the answer to all his questions. But Odin laid all manner of treasures at her feet and begged for an answer. Then she chanted the fearsome, but somehow comforting lay, which tells of Ragnarök and the renewal of the world.
All the gods and goddesses gathered their council in Asgard to deliberate on what to do. They decided that to prevent the realization of these dreams, they would ask everything in the world not to harm him.
Frigg, Balder's mother, travelled everywhere on Earth, obtaining oaths from all creatures and all things including animals, birds, snakes, serpents, fire, water, iron, ores, trees, stones, and poisons swearing that they would not hurt Balder, since Balder had never harmed a single being. After this pledge, the gods felt safer.
Since nothing would injure Balder, the gods began to amuse themselves by throwing weapons and shooting arrows at him for sport. Everything they hurled at him was simply deflected. But Loki was not pleased that Balder was immune to injury.
In the Iron-Wood there grew a mistletoe, which had been overlooked when all the creatures swore their oath not to harm Baldur. Loki discovered this, and immediately went out, gathered a shaft of mistletoe, and goes with this shrub, which of itself was innocent and hardly fit for an arrow, to Volund, the artist who hated the gods, the artist who had smithied the sword of revenge, who with his magic skill as a smith, makes out of the mistelteinn a new gambanteinn ("the twig of revenge") dangerous to the gods, and gives the weapon to Loki in order that he might accomplish his evil purpose therewith. Loki took it back to the assembly where the gods were still entertaining themselves.
Hod had joined in the sport with his bow. Loki surreptiously put the deadly mistletoe-arrow into his quiver. Hod shot Baldur with the mistletoe, which looked exactly the same as his usual arrows. The missile flew through Balder, who fell dead on the ground.
The pyre of Baldur was made on his ship, Hringhorni. Odin carried
his son in his own arms onto the pyre. When Nanna, Baldur's wife, witnessed
this, her heart burst with sorrow, so that she was able to join her beloved
husband on the funeral pyre. Odin laid the ring Draupnir on
Baldur's chest and whispered in his son's ear. What he whispered will never be known. The pyre was lit, and the burning ship sailed out onto the ocean of the heavens.
The law demanded blood-revenge for Baldur, and Odin already knew that the avenger would be born of Rindur, the daughter of Billing the Elf of evening. Rindur rejected Óðin's advances, so he was forced to use magic runes in order to ravish her.
Rindur bore Váli to Odin. Váli forced his way out of his mother's womb before his time, and slew Höður while one day old, still irresponsible and unknowing of the grave necessity of the dire deed which was the only reason for his birth.
"But Baldur' s brother was born soon after:
Though one night old, Odhinn's Son
Took a vow to avenge that death.
His hands he washed not nor his hair combed .
Till Baldur's bane was borne to the pyre:,
Deadly the bow drawn by Vali"
Thus the Voluspa describes the death of Hod at the hands of a younger brother for the death of Baldur. Though Balder was celebrated for heroic deeds he is substantially a god of peace, and after his descent to the lower world he is no longer connected with the feuds and dissensions of the upper world. He was received in the lower world with great pomp by the ásmegir, who impatiently awaited his arrival, and that they sacrifice to him that bright mead of the lower world, whose wonderfully beneficial and bracing influence invigorate him.
19. Halfdan and Svipdag
The physical significance of Halfdan's conflicts and adventures is apparent also from the names of the women he marries. Groa (growth), whom he robs and keeps for some time, is, as her very name indicates, a goddess of vegetation. Signý-Alveig, whom he afterwards marries, is the same. Her name signifies "the nourishing drink". She is the daughter of Sumbl, which means feast, ale, or mead.
Once Hálfdan accompanied Thór to the north of Sweden, in order to fight the Giants, who now lived there. While riding through a forest, they spied Gróa and her handmaidens, who were on their way to bathe in a lake in the woods. Hálfdan forced Gróa to accompany him and made her his wife. Gróa's father was slain in battle with Hálfdan.
The wife he takes by force is the goddess of vegetation, Groa, and he does it because her husband Egil-Orvandel has made a compact with the powers of frost. Midgard's chief hero, the Teutonic patriarch, tries to reconquer for the Teutons the country of which winter has robbed them. In the same manner as Heimdal before secured favourable conditions of nature to the original country, by uniting the sun-goddess with himself through bonds of love, his grandson Halfdan now seeks to do the same for the Teutonic country, by robbing a hostile son of Ívaldi, Egil, of his wife Groa, the growth-giver. When Halfdan secured Groa, she was already pregnant with the child of Egil the brave, and the first son she bore in Halfdan's house was not his, but Egil's. The son's name is Svipdag.
Gróa could neither bear to be mother to the son of her father's slayer, nor to see Egill's son be raised in Hálfdan's palace. She knew that he would sooner or later have to avenge himself upon his foster-father. Finally Hálfdan sent Gróa and Svipdag away. They returned to the north of Sweden, where Gróa awaited Egill's return. She wasted away from longing and sorrow, and finally died. On her death-bed she asked of her son that if ever in sore need, he must visit his mother's howe and call upon her advice.
Halfdan then marries Signý-Alveig, and with her becomes the father of the son Hadding. Egil himself remarries.
It is Svipdag's duty to revenge on Halfdan the disgrace done to his mother and the murder of his mother's father Sigtrygg. But his stepmother bids Svipdag seek Menglad, "the one loving ornaments". The young Svipdag is alarmed, and considers the task imposed on him by the stepmother to find Menglad far too great for his strength. Under the weight of these tasks Svipdag goes to his mother's grave, bids her awake from her sleep of death, and from her he receives protecting incantations.
Before Svipdag enters upon the adventurous expedition to find Menglad, he undertakes, at the head of the giants, the allies of the Ívaldi sons, a war of revenge against Halfdan.
But Halfdan proceeded victoriously to the north, even to the very starting-point of the emigration to the south caused by the fimbul-winter. His penetration into the north means the restoration of the proper change of seasons, and the rendering of the original country and of Svithiod inhabitable. As far as the hero, who secured the "giver of growth" and the "giver of nourishing sap," succeeds with the aid of Thor to carry his weapons into the Teutonic lands destroyed by frost, so far spring and summer again extend the sceptre of their reign. So the purpose of Halfdan's conflicts, the object which the norns particularly gave to his life - that of reconquering from the powers of frost the northernmost regions of the Teutonic territory and of permanently securing them for culture - has been accomplished.
It is after this successful war that Halfdan performs a great sacrifice, in order that he may retain his royal power for three hundred years. But the response Halfdan gets from the powers to whom he sacrificed is that in his family there shall not for three hundred years be born a woman or a fameless man.
The host of giants is defeated, and Svipdag, who has entered into a duel with his stepfather, is overcome by the latter. Halfdan offers to spare his life and adopt him as his son. But Svipdag refuses to accept life as a gift from him, and answers a defiant no to the proffered father-hand. Then Halfdan binds him to a tree and leaves him to his fate.
Svipdag is freed from his bonds through one of the incantations sung over him by his mother and he wanders about sorrowing in the land of the giants. Mani, god of the moon, tells him how he is to find an irresistible sword, which is always attended by victory. The sword was forged by Volund, who intended to destroy the world of the gods with it; but just at the moment when the smith had finished his weapon he was surprised in his sleep by Mimir, who put him in chains and took the sword. The sword is now concealed in the lower world.
Following Mani's directions, Svipdag goes to the northernmost edge of the world, and finds there a descent to the lower world; he conquers the guard of the gates of Hel, sees the wonderful regions down there, and succeeds in securing the sword of victory.
Svipdag begins a new war with Halfdan. Thor fights on his side, but the irresistible sword cleaves the hammer Mjölnir from its handle; the Asa-god himself must yield. The war ends with Halfdan's defeat. He dies of the wounds he has received in the battle.
Svipdag, under the name of Ottar, seeks Menglad, who is Freyja who was robbed by a giant and concealed in a wild mountain district. When Ottar learned this he started out in search of the young maiden. He visited every recess in the mountains, found the maiden and slew the giant. Freya was in a strange condition when Ottar liberated her. The giant had twisted and pressed her locks together so that they formed on her head one hard mass which hardly could be combed out except with the aid of an iron tool. Her eyes stared in an apathetic manner, and she never raised them to look at her liberator. It was Ottar's determination to bring a pure virgin back to her kinsmen. But the coldness and indifference she seemed to manifest toward him was more than he could endure, and so he abandoned her on the way.
While she now wandered alone through the wilderness she came to the abode of a giantess. The latter made the maiden tend her goats. Still, Ottar must have regretted that he abandoned Freya, for he went in search of her and liberated her a second time. Ottar explained to Freya his love, and requested her, "whom he had suffered so much in seeking and finding," to give him a look from her eyes as a token that under his protection she was willing to be brought back to her father and mother. But her eyes continually stared on the ground, and apparently she remained as cold and indifferent as before. Ottar then abandoned her for the second time.
They were then not far from that which separates Jotunheim from the other realms of the world. Ottar crossed that water, called the Elivagar rivers, on the opposite side of which was his father's home. Meanwhile fate brought her to the home of Ottar's parents. Here she represented herself to be a poor traveller, born of parents who had nothing. But her refined manners contradicted her statement, and the mother of Ottar received her as a noble guest. Ottar himself had already come home. She thought she could remain unknown to him by never raising the veil with which she covered her face. But Ottar well knew who she was.
To find out whether she really had so little feeling for him as her manners seemed to indicate, a pretended wedding between Ottar and a young maiden was arranged. When Ottar went to the bridal bed, Freya was probably near him as bridesmaid, and carried the candle. The flame burnt down, so that the fire came in contact with her hand, but she felt no pain, for there was in her heart a still more burning pain. When Ottar then requested her to take care of her hand, she finally raised her gaze from the ground, and their eyes met. Therewith the spell resting on Freya was broken: it was plain that they loved each other and the pretended wedding was changed into a real one between Freya and Ottar.
Freyja must be returned intact to Ásgarð. Such was
Sif's will and Svipdag's
design, even if the Gods were his kinsmen's enemies. He therefore placed a naked sword between himself and the bride on the wedding night. On the next day Sif led Freyja into Ásgarð, whereupon Freyja again sank into a dreamy trance.
Meanwhile, Volund, who is freed from his prison at Mimir's, is now at home. Near Volund's mountain-halls is a body of water, on which he occasionally rows out to fish. Once, when he rows out for this purpose, Idun is at home alone. Loki, who seems to have studied his customs, flies in a borrowed feather guise into the mountain and steals Idun, who, changed into a nut, is carried in his claws through space to Asgard. But the robbing of Idun was not enough for Loki. He entices Volund to pursue. In his zeal, Volund dons his eagle guise and hastens after the robber to the walls of Asgard and the vaferflames, where he falls by the javelins of the gods.
Svipdag, driven by longing and armed with the sword of victory, goes to Asgard, is received joyfully by Freyja as her husband, and presents his sword of victory to Frey. We can understand why on his arrival at Asgard he is kindly received, after he has gone through the formality of giving his name, when we know that he comes not only as the feared possessor of the Volund sword, but also as the one who has restored to Asgard the most lovely and most beautiful asynja. The gate, which holds fast every uninvited guest, opens as of itself for him, and the savage wolf-dogs hick him. His words are to Freya-Menglad a sufficient answer to her question in regard to his previous journeys receives him as a husband to whom she is already married, with whom she is now to be "united for ever".
At the same time, there is reconciliation between the gods and the Ívaldi race. The fimbul-winter is over. Njord marries Volund's daughter Skaði. Orvandel's second son Ullr, Svipdag's half-brother, is adopted in Valhall. A sister of Svipdag is married to Forseti. The gods honour the memory of Volund by connecting his name with certain stars. A similar honour had already been paid to his brother Egil-Orvandel.
The end of Fimbul-Winter, the defeat of the Giants and reconciliation with Ívaldi's clan filled Frigg with hope that fate might be reversed and Baldur resurrected from Hel. Svipdag took it upon himself to carry her wish to the Norns, and her greetings to Baldur and Nanna. He rode on Sleipnir into the Underworld, and when he returned, he brought back greetings and gifts. Baldur returned the ring Draupnir to his father; Nanna sent Frigg fine clothes, and Fulla a golden ring. The Norns of fate had told Svipdag, that Baldur might indeed return with Nanna on one condition: that no creature could be found that hadn't wept or wouldn't weep over Baldur's death.
But soon it became apparent that such a creature existed: an ogress named Thökk, who chanted from her mountain-cave: "Thökk shall weep dry tears over Baldur's funeral pyre". It is more than likely that Thökk was Loki in disguise.
23. Frey's Marriage
Frey had one day ventured to sit on Odin's high throne, Hlidskjalf, from which one could see everything everywhere. In faraway northern Jotunheim, the land of giants, Frey spied a large homestead belonging to Gerd's father. Frey saw Gerd walking into a building there and was overwhelmed by her beauty. Through the secret sorcerous efforts of Gulveig, he fell deeply in love and began pining desperately for Gerd. He left Odin's throne, full of grief. When he got home he would not speak or sleep or drink. Njord asked Frey's servant Skirnir to find out what was wrong with his son. Frey confessed to Skirnir that he was so full of grief for love of Gerd that he would not live much longer if he could not have her.
Skirnir agreed to go to Jotunheim and ask for Gerd's hand on Frey's behalf, if Frey would give him the sword. Skirnir went on the errand and got Gerd to agree to marry Frey by threatening to send her to the realm of the frost-giants, where conditions would not be hospitable for her. She said she would meet Frey and marry him but she would only accept the proposal on three conditions: that her father Gymir receive Völund's sword; that Svipdag and Freya fetch her and accompany her into Ásgarð; and that she become one of the Goddesses in Ásgarð. When Skirnir took her reply back to Frey, his heart was filled with joy.
Frey gave his sword in exchange for Gerd to the father of the giantess. This bride-purchase is one where the gods most unwillingly part with the safety which the incomparable sword secured to Asgard. They yield in order to save the life of the harvest-god, who was wasting away with longing and anxiety, but not until the giants had refused to accept other Asgard treasures, among them the precious ring Draupnir.
24. Prelude to the World War.
Thus the peace of the world and the order of nature might seem secured. But it is not long before a new war breaks out, to which the former may be regarded as simply the prelude. The feud, which had its origin in the judgment passed by the gods on Volund's gifts, and which ended in the marriage of Svipdag and Freyja, was waged for the purpose of securing again for settlement and culture the ancient domain and Svithiod, where Heimdal had founded the first community. It was confined within the limits of the North Teutonic peninsula, and in it the united powers of Asgard supported the other Teutonic tribes fighting under Halfdan. But the new conflict rages at the same time in heaven and in earth, between the divine clans of the Asas and the Vans, and between all the Teutonic tribes led into war with each other by Halfdan's sons. From the standpoint of Teutonic mythology it is a world war; and Völuspá calls it the first great war in the world.
At this time a giant maiden named Aurboða was one of Freyja's hand- maidens. As soon as Gerd had entered Ásgarð, it seemed obvious that Aurboða was her mother, and furthermore it was revealed that she was none other than the resurrected Gullveig-Heid. When this became known, all the Gods were assembled in Valhalla, and Aurboða was presented. Thór in his fury killed the giantess and the Æsir pierced her with their spears and suspended her body in the fire.
25. Council and Conflict.
Council was called to hold a solemn counsel to find out "who had filled all the air with evil," or "who had delivered Freyja to the race of giants"; and that the person found guilty was at once slain by Thor, who grew most angry. Freyja came into the power of the giants through the treachery of Gulveig, and the treason was punished further.
Gullveig-Heiðr spread the evil arts of black sorcery and encouraged the evil passions of mankind, and these, along with the betrayal of Freya as Aurboða, are the reasons for the hatred of the Asas towards her, and for the treatment she receives in Odin's hall. She again suffers the punishment which from time immemorial was established among the Teutons for the practice of the black art; she was burnt. And her mysteriously terrible and magic nature is revealed by the fact that the flames, though kindled by divine hands, do not have the power over her that they have over other agents of sorcery. The gods have burned her thrice; they pierced the body of the witch with their spears, and held her over the flames of the fire. All is in vain. They cannot prevent her return and regeneration. The evil female being had been burnt, but the flames were not able to destroy the seed of life in her nature. Her heart had not been burnt through or changed to ashes. It was only half-burnt, and in this condition it had, together with the other remains of the cremated woman, been thrown away.
"Thrice burned and thrice born, she still lives."
A dispute arose among the gods assembled on and around the judgement seats and they are divided into two parties, of which the Asas constitute one, the Vans the other. In the consultation and discussion in regard to the matter it is demanded by the Vans and their supporters that compensation must be paid by the Asas for the slaying of Gullveig-Heiðr. Frey is obliged to demand satisfaction for a murder perpetrated on a kinswoman of his wife. The kinship of blood demands its sacred right, and according to Teutonic ideas of law, the Vans must act as they do regardless of the moral character of Gullveig. The duty of the Vana-deities is plain, for Gullveig-Heid is Gerd's mother. Frey, supported by the Vana-gods, demands satisfaction for the murder of his own mother-in-law.
Against this demand we have the proposition from the Asas that all the gods should all together assume the responsibility, for the Vans are also hostile to the black art and look upon it with horror.
Sorcery, the black art, plays the chief part in the chain of events. Odin and his clan had slain and burnt Gullveig-Heid because she practised sorcery and other evil arts of witchcraft. And as he refuses to make compensation for the murder and demands that all the gods take the consequences and share the blame, the Vans have replied in council, that he too once practised sorcery on the occasion when Odin, forced by extreme need, sought the favour of Rind, and gained his point by sorcery and witchcraft, as he could not gain it otherwise. Odin touched Rind with a piece of bark on which he had inscribed magic songs, and the result was that she became insane.
So, if Gullveig was justly burnt for this crime, then he ought justly to be deposed as the ruler of all the gods. Odin becomes deeply offended, and the Asa-father, distinguished for his wisdom and calmness, hurls his spear into the midst of those deliberating - a token that the contest of reason against reason is at an end, and that it is to be followed by a contest with weapons.
Hence began the Great War. When the Asas had refused to give satisfaction for the murder of Gullveig, and when Odin, by hurling his spear, had indicated that the treaty of peace between him and the Vans was broken, the latter leave the assembly hall and Asgard. They afterwards return to Asgard and attack the citadel of the Asa clan. The gods are now divided into two hostile camps: on the one side Odin and his allies, among whom are Heimdal and Skadi; on the other Njord, Frigg, Frey, Ull, and Freyja and her husband Svipdag, besides all that clan of divinities who were not adopted in Asgard, but belong to the race of Vans and dwell in Vanaheim.
The siege by the Vans was no easy task. The home of the Asas is surrounded by the atmospheric ocean, whose strong currents make it difficult for the mythic horses to swim to it. In regard to the weapons of attack we must remember that Thor at the outbreak of the conflict is deprived of the assistance of his splendid hammer: it has been broken by Svipdag's sword of victory, otherwise the Vans could hardly be conquerors. Nor do the Vans have the above-mentioned sword at their disposal: it is already in the power of Gymir and Aurboða.
In this war the Vans have particularly distinguished themselves
by wise and well calculated undertakings. The final victors conquer Asgard
through foreknowledge applied to warlike ends. The Asas, as we might
expect from Odin's brave sons, have especially distinguished themselves
by their strength and courage.
But in number they must have been far inferior to their foes. Simply the circumstance that Odin and his men had to confine themselves to the defence of Asgard shows that nearly all other divinities of various ranks had allied themselves with his enemies. The ruler of the lower world, Mimir and Hoener are the only ones of whom it can be said that they remained faithful to Odin.
Mimir attempted an effort at mediation between the contending gods, while he and Hoener were held as hostages among the Vans. Mimer lost his life in the service of Odin, and the Vans sent his head to Odin.
Asgard was at length conquered. The Völuspá relates the final catastrophe:
"Broken was the bulwark of the asaburg;
through warlike prudence were the Vans able its fields to tread."
When the citadel of the gods is captured, the Asas give up their throne of power, Odin is banished, and the Vans now assume the rule of the world.
So far as Skadi is concerned the breach between the gods seems to have furnished her an opportunity of getting a divorce from Njord, with whom she did not live on good terms. Volund's daughter and he were altogether too different in disposition to dwell in peace together. Skadi loved Þrymheim, the rocky home of her father Volund, on whose snow-clad plains she was fond of running on skis and of felling wild beasts with her arrows; but when Njord had remained nine days and nine nights among the mountains he was weary of the rocks and of the howling of wolves, and longed for the song of swans on the sea-strand. But when Skadi accompanied him thither she could not long endure to be awakened every morning by the shrieking of sea-fowls. Skadi never became devoted to the Vana-god, and there was a time when Odin dwelt together with Skadi, while he was separated from Frigg, and begat with her many sons. They lived in that part of the world which is inhabited by man; that is to say, Midgard and the lower world after his banishment from Asgard.
While Odin was absent and deposed as ruler of the world, Ull has occupied so important a position among the ruling Vans that they bestowed upon him the task and honour which until that time had belonged to Odin. This is explained by the fact that Njord and Frey, though brave warriors when they are invoked, are in their very nature gods of peace and promoters of wealth and agriculture, while Ull is by nature a warrior. He is a skilful archer and excellent in a duel.
26. The Fenris Wolf
When the half-burnt heart with the other remains of the cremated woman had been thrown away, Loki finds and swallows the heart a third time. Our ancestors looked upon the heart as the seat of the life principle, of the soul of living beings. Goodness and evil, kindness and severity, courage and cowardice, joy and sorrow, are connected with the character of the heart; sometimes we find hjarta used entirely in the sense of soul, as in the expression "soul and body". So long as the heart in a dead body had not gone into decay, it was believed that the principle of life dwelling therein still was able, under peculiar circumstances, to operate on the limbs and exercise an influence on its environment, particularly if the dead person in life had been endowed with a will at once evil and powerful. In such cases it was regarded as important to pierce the heart of the dead with a pointed spear.
Gulveig's half-burnt heart, accordingly, contains the evil woman's soul, and its influence upon Loki, after he has swallowed it, is most remarkable. Before, when he bore Sleipnir, the Midgard Serpent and Leiken, Loki had revealed his androgynous nature. So he does now. The swallowed heart redeveloped the feminine in him. It fertilised him with the evil purposes which the heart contained. Loki became the possessor of the evil woman, and became the father of the children from which the trolls are come which are found in the world. This time he spawned the Fenris-Wolf, a monster which Loki actually convinced the gods to raise as a pet in Ásgarð.
When Fenrir was still a cub, Tyr undertook the dangerous task of feeding it. It grew so large so quickly that the gods realized that it could destroy them. They attempted to chain it up on the pretext of testing its strength, but twice the wolf broke the fetters. Finally the gods commissioned the dwarfs to forge a stronger chain, and they produced a magic cord, Gleipnir. Fenrir was rightly suspicious of this cord which, unlike the other fetters, was slender as a ribbon, but rather than have his courage questioned, he said that he would let them put it on him if someone would at the same time put their hand in his mouth as a pledge of good faith. None of the gods, of course, wanted to do this. Then Tyr came forward and silently put his right hand in the wolf's mouth. Only then did the wolf allow himself to be bound. Fenrir kicked and strained at the bond and realized he could not break it, and the gods would not let him loose. He realized he had been tricked, and he closed his mouth on Tyr's hand, biting it off. This sacrificial mutilation, done for the good of the world, demonstrates Tyr's connection with the keeping of oaths.
27. Hadding's Saga
The conflict between the gods has its counterpart in, and is connected
with, a war between all the Teutonic races, and the latter is again a continuation
of the feud between Halfdan and Svipdag. The Teutonic race comes to the
front fighting under three race-representatives -
(1) Svipdag, the son of Orvandel and Groa;
(2) Gudhorm, the son of Halfdan and Groa, consequently Svipdag's half-brother;
(3) Hadding, the son of Halfdan and Alveig, consequently Gudhorm's half-brother.
The ruling Vans favour Svipdag, who is Freyja's husband and Frey's brother-in-law. The banished Asas support Hadding from their place of refuge. The conflict between the gods and the war between Halfdan's successor and heir are woven together.
When Svipdag had slain Halfdan, and when the Asas were expelled, the sons of the Teutonic patriarch were in danger of falling into the power of Svipdag. Thor interested himself in their behalf; and brought Gudhorm and Hadding to Jotunheim, where he concealed them with the giants Hafli and Vagnhofdi - Gudhorm in Hafli's rocky gard and Hadding in Vagnhofdi's.
Svipdag had offered Gudhorm and Hadding peace and friendship, and promised them kingship among the tribes subject to him. Groa's son, Gudhorm, accepts the offer, and Svipdag makes him ruler of the Danes; but Hadding sends answer that he prefers to avenge his father's death to accepting favours from an enemy.
Hadding is no longer safe in Vagnhofdi's mountain home. The lad is exposed to Loki's snares. From one of these he is saved by the Asa-father himself: There came rider to Hadding resembling a very aged man, one of whose eyes was lost. He placed Hadding in front of himself on the horse, wrapped his mantle about him, and rode away. The lad became curious and wanted to see whither they were going. Through a hole in the mantle he got an opportunity of looking down, and found to his astonishment and fright that land and sea were far below the hoofs of the steed. The rider must have noticed his fright, for he forbade him to look out any more.
The rider, the one-eyed old man, is Odin, and the horse is Sleipnir, rescued from the captured Asgard. The place to which the lad is carried by Odin is the place of refuge secured by the Asas during their exile in Midgard.
The one-eyed old man is endowed with wonderful powers. When he landed with the lad at his home, he sang over him prophetic incantations to protect him, and gave him a drink of the "most splendid sort," which produced in Hadding enormous physical strength, and particularly made him able to free himself from bonds and chains
The old man predicts that Hadding will soon have an opportunity of testing the strength with which the drink and the magic songs have endowed him. And the prophecy is fulfilled. Hadding falls into the power of Loki. He chains him and threatens to expose him as food for a wild beast. But when his guards are put to sleep by Odin's magic song, though Odin is far away, Hadding bursts his bonds, slays the beast, and eats, in obedience to Odin's instructions, its heart.
Thus Hadding has become a powerful hero, and his task to make war on Svipdag, to revenge on him his father's death, and to recover the share in the rulership of the Teutons which Halfdan had possessed, now lies before him as the goal he is to reach.
Hadding leaves Vagnhofdi's home. The latter's daughter, Hardgrep, who had fallen in love with the youth, accompanies him. When we next find Hadding he is at the head of an army that consisted of the tribes of Eastern Teutondom.
The war is one between the tribes of North Teutondom, led by Svipdag and supported by the Vans on the one side, and the tribes of East Teutondom, led by Hadding and supported by the Asas on the other. But the tribes of the western and southern Teutonic continent have also taken part in the first great war of mankind, under Gudhorm and against Hadding.
The circumstance that the different divine clans had their favourites in the different camps gives the war a peculiar character. The armies see before a battle supernatural forms contending with each other in the starlight, and recognise in them their divine friends and opponents. The elements are conjured on one and the other side for the good or harm of the contending brother-tribes. When fog and pouring rain suddenly darken the sky and fall upon Hadding's forces from that side where the fylkings of the North are arrayed, then the one-eyed old man comes to their rescue and calls forth dark masses of clouds from the other side, which force back the rain-clouds and the fog. In these cloud-masses we must recognise the presence of the thundering Thor, the son of the one-eyed old man. Giants also take part in the conflict. Vagnhofdi and Hardgrep, the latter in a man's attire, contend on the side of the foster-son and the beloved Hadding.
When Svipdag learns that Hadding has suddenly made his appearance in the East, and gathered its tribes around him for a war with Gudhorm, he descends from Asgard and reveals himself in the primeval Teutonic country on the Scandian peninsula, and requests its tribes to join the Danes and raise the banner of war against Halfdan's and Alveig's son, who, at the head of the eastern Teutons, is marching against their half-brother Gudhorm. The friends of both parties among the gods, men and giants, hasten to attach themselves to the cause which they have espoused as their own, and Vagnhofdi among the rest abandons his rocky home to fight by the side of his foster-son and daughter.
The Scandian fylkings advanced against Hadding's; and Svipdag's son Asmund, who fought at the head of his men, forced his way forward against Hadding himself, with his shield thrown on his back, and with both his hands on the hilt of a sword which felled all before it. Then Hadding invoked the gods who were the friends of himself and his race, and then Vagnhofdi is brought by some one of these gods to the battle-field and suddenly stands by Hadding's side, swinging a crooked sword (a 'foreign' sword) against Asmund, while Hadding hurls his spear against him.
The first great conflict in which the warriors of North and West Teutondom fight with the East Teutons ends with the complete victory of Groa's sons. Hadding's fylkings are so thoroughly beaten and defeated that he, after the end of the conflict, is nothing but a defenceless fugitive, wandering in deep forests with no other companion than Vagnhofdi's daughter, who survived the battle and accompanies her beloved in his wanderings in the wilderness. The victory won over Hadding is ascribed to Loki. It follows of itself that, in a war whose deepest root must be sought in Loki's and Aurboða's intrigues, and in which the clans of gods on both sides take part, Loki could not be excluded from influence upon the course of events. He already sought to ruin Hadding while the latter was still a boy. He afterwards appears in various guises as evil counsellor, as an evil intriguer, and as a skilful arranger of the fylkings on the field of battle. His purpose is to frustrate every effort to bring about reconciliation, and by means of persuasion and falsehoods to increase the chances of enmity between Halfdan's descendants, in order that they may mutually destroy each other. His activity among the heroes is the counterpart of his activity among the gods. The merry, sly, cynical, blameworthy, and profoundly evil giant is bound to bring about the ruin of the Teutonic people like that of the gods of the Teutons.
During his wanderings in the forests of the East Hadding has had wonderful adventures and passed through great trials. Saxo tells one of these adventures. He and Hardgrep, Vagnhofdi's daughter, came late one evening to a dwelling where they got lodgings for the night. The husband was dead, but not yet buried. For the purpose of learning Hadding's destiny, Hardgrep engraved speech-runes on a piece of wood, and asked Hadding to place it under the tongue of the dead one. The latter would in this wise recover the power of speech and prophecy. So it came to pass. But what the dead one sang in an awe-inspiring voice was a curse on Hardgrep, who had compelled him to return from life in the lower world to life on earth, and a prediction that an avenging Niflheim demon would inflict punishment on her for what she had done. A following night, when Hadding and Hardgrep had sought shelter in a bower of twigs and branches which they had gathered, there appeared a gigantic hand groping under the ceiling of the bower. The frightened Hadding waked Hardgrep. She then rose in all her giant strength, seized the mysterious hand, and bade Hadding cut it off with his sword. He attempted to do this, but from the wounds he inflicted on the ghost's hand there issued matter or venom more than blood, and the hand seized Hardgrep with its iron claws and tore her into pieces (Saxo, Hist., 36 ff.).
When Hadding in this manner had lost his companion, he considered himself abandoned by everybody; but the one-eyed old man had not forgotten his favourite. He sent him a faithful helper, Heimdal, who thwarts any further efforts of Loki to destroy Hadding.
In the time intervening important events have taken place in the world of the gods. The two clans of gods, the Asas and Vans, have become reconciled. Odin's exile lasted only ten years. The reconciliation must have been demanded by the dangers which their enmity caused to the administration of the world. The giants, whose purpose it is to destroy the world of man, became once more dangerous to the earth on account of the war among the gods. During this time they made a desperate effort to conquer Asgard occupied by the Vans.
The dispute which caused the conflict between him and the Vans was settled to the advantage of the Vans. They do not assume in common the responsibility for the murder of Gullveig-Heid-Angurboða. When Odin, out of consideration for the common welfare of mankind and the gods, renders the Vans, who had banished him, this service, and as the latter are in the greatest need of the assistance of the mighty Asa-father and his powerful sons in the conflict with the giant world, Odin was invited to occupy again the high-seat in Asgard, with all the prerogatives of a ruler. Gullveig is banished to the Ironwood, but remains there unharmed until Ragnarok, and when the destruction of the world approaches, then Njord shall leave the Asas threatened with the ruin they have themselves caused and return to the "wise Vans".
The "Hun war" has supplied the answer to a question, which those believing in the myths naturally would ask themselves. That question was: How did it happen that Midgard was not in historical times exposed to such attacks from the dwellers in Jotunheim as occurred in antiquity, and at that time threatened Asgard itself with destruction? The "Hun war" was in the myth characterised by the countless lives lost by the enemy. The sea was so filled with the bodies of the slain that boats could hardly be rowed through the waves. In the rivers their bodies formed bridges, and on land a person could make a three days' journey on horseback without seeing anything but dead bodies of the slain. And so the answer to the question was, that the "Hun war" of antiquity had so weakened the giants in number and strength that they could not become so dangerous as they had been to Asgard and Midgard formerly, that is, before the time immediately preceding Ragnarok, when a new fimbul-winter is to set in, and when the giant world shall rise again in all its ancient might. From the time of the "Hun war" and until then, Thor's now repaired hammer is able to keep the growth of the giants' race within certain limits.
Hadding's rising star of success must be put in connection with the reconciliation between the Asas and Vans. The reconciled gods must lay aside that seed of new feuds between them which is contained in the war between Hadding, the favourite of the Asas, and Svipdag and Gudhorm, the favourite of the Vans. The great defeat once suffered by Hadding must be balanced by a corresponding victory, and then the contending kinsmen must be reconciled. And this happens. Hadding wins a great battle and enters upon a secure reign in his part of Teutondom. Then are tied new bonds of kinship and friendship between the hostile races, so that the Teutonic dynasties of chiefs may trace their descent both from Yngvi (Svipdag) and from Borgar's son Halfdan. Hadding and a surviving grandson of Svipdag are united in so tender a devotion to one another that the latter, upon an unfounded report of the former's death, is unable to survive him and takes his own life. And when Hadding learns this, he does not care to live any longer either, but meets death voluntarily.
25. Odin's Return
The reconciliation between the Asas and Vans has been based on an admission on the part of the Asas that the Vans had a right to find fault with and demand satisfaction for the murder of Gullveig-Heid-Angurboða. Thus the dispute which caused the war between Asas and Vans was at last decided to the advantage of the latter, while they on their part, after being satisfied, reinstate Odin in his dignity as universal ruler and father of the gods. Upon reinstatement, Odin banished the agents of the black art both from heaven and from earth. Odin and the Asas do not apply the death-penalty and burning to Gullveig-Heid-Angurboða and her kith and kin, but, instead, sentence them to banishment from the domains of gods and men They do not attempt to burn her again. This punishment cannot again be inflicted on the regenerated witch. The Asas must allow her to live to the end of time; but both the clans of gods agree that she must not show her face again in Asgard or Midgard.
In regard to the significance of the change of administration in the world of gods, Saxo has preserved a tradition which is of no small interest. The circumstance that Odin and his sons had to surrender the reign of the world did not imply that mankind should abandon their faith in the old gods and accept a new religion. Hitherto the Asas and Vans had been worshipped in common. Now, when Odin was deposed, his name, honoured by the nations, was not to be obliterated. The name was given to Ull, and, as if he really were Odin, he was to receive the sacrifices and prayers that hitherto had been addressed to the banished one. The ancient faith was to be maintained, and the shift involved nothing but the person; there was no change of religion.
But with the change in the administration of Asgard, came the view that demanded more ritual, and more attention paid to sacrifices. This view seems to have gotten the upper hand after the banishment of Odin. It was claimed that sacrifices and hymns addressed at the same time to several or all of the gods, did not have the efficacy of pacifying and reconciling angry deities, but that to each one of the gods should be given a separate sacrificial service. The result of this was, of course, an increase of sacrifices and a more highly-developed ritual, which from its very nature might have produced among the Teutons the same hierarchy as resulted from an excess of sacrifices among their Aryan-Asiatic kinsmen. The Hávamál, advocates the opposite and incomparably more moderate view in regard to sacrifices. This view came from Odin's own lips. He proclaimed it to the people "after his return to his ancient power". The Vana views represented tendencies which, had they been victorious, would have resulted in hierarchy, while the Asa doctrine represented the tendencies of the believers in the time-honoured Teutonic custom of those who maintained the priestly authority of the father of the family, and who defended the efficacy of the simple hymns and sacrifices which from time out of mind had been addressed to several or all of the gods in common.
That prayers on account of their length, or sacrifices on account of their abundance, should give evidence of greater piety and fear of God, and should be able to secure a more ready hearing, is a doctrine which Odin himself rejects. He understands human nature, and knows that when a man brings abundant sacrifices he has the selfish purpose in view of prevailing on the gods to give a more abundant reward - a purpose prompted by selfishness, not by piety.
29. Loki's Punishment
With the death of Baldur, Loki had gone too far, and when the gods discovered his part in the crime, they, in their grief and anger, had to punish him. Knowing that they would come after him, Loki fled Asgard and hid in a mountain. At its summit he built a house as a lookout from which he could see in all directions. But he often turned himself into a salmon and hid in a waterfall called Franang. Odin soon spied Loki's hideout from his lofty tower throne, Hlidskjalf, and the gods came after him with a fishnet. At first Loki was able to avoid it, but Thor, with his great strength, waded along the middle of the river until the net almost reached the sea. Finally Loki, as the salmon, had no alternative but to leap up over the top of the net, and as he did, Thor got hold of his tail.
Once captured, Loki was taken to a deep cave. The gods took three stone slabs, set them on edge, and made a hole in each. Then the gods took the entrails of a wolf, Loki's son and used them to bind Loki across the stones, with one stone under his shoulders, one under his loins, and one under the backs of his knees. Once bound, these fetters turned into iron.
The giantess Skadi brought a poisonous snake to the cave and set it above Loki's head so that its poison would drip onto his face. There they left him, and there he would stay until the time of Ragnarok. His faithful wife, Sigyn, holds a basin over him to catch the poison drops. When the basin filled she would go to empty it, letting the poison drip for a brief time onto Loki's face. At these times, Loki strained at his bonds and jerked so hard in his agony that he rattled the Earth, causing earthquakes.
"Brother shall strike brother and both fall,
Sisters' sons defiled with incest;
Evil be on earth, an age of. whoredom,
Of sharp sword-play and shields clashing,
A wind-age, a wolf-age till the world ruins:
No man to another shall mercy show."
The end of this Age of Wolves is yet to come.
The lore knows two fimbul-winters: the former raged in time's morning, the other is to precede Ragnarok, time's nightfall. The last, a long and terrible winter, a fimbul-winter, visits the earth and not until after the end of this winter do giants and gods collect their forces for a decisive conflict; and when this conflict is ended, then comes the conflagration of the world.
In the Ironwood dwells the mother of the were-wolves Gulveig, now called Angurboða, together with a giant, who is the guardian and watcher of the giantess. He has charge of her remarkable herds, and also guards a sword brought to the Ironwood. This vocation has given him the name Egther, which means sword-guardian.
In Völuspá's description of the approach of Ragnarok, Egther, Angurboða's shepherd, is represented as sitting on a mound and playing a harp, happy over that which is to happen. That the giant who is hostile to the gods, and who is the guardian of the strange herds, does not play an idyl on the strings of his harp does not need to be stated. He is visited by a being in the guise of the red cock (the red cock has from time immemorial been the symbol of fire as a destructive power.) The cock, says Völuspá, is Fjalarr. He is the same giant as the one called Suttung, the giant from whom Odin robs the skaldic mead, and whose devoted daughter Gunnlod he causes bitter sorrow.
What Fjalar's errand to Angurboða's sword-guard was appears from the fact that when the last war between the gods and their enemies is fought a short time afterwards, Fjalar's father, the chief of the fire-giants, Surt, is armed with the best of the mythical weapons, the sword which had belonged to one of the gods of Asgard, and which casts the splendour of the sun upon the world. The famous sword, that which Volund finished with a purpose hostile to the gods, the sword concealed by Mimir, the sword found by Svipdag, the sword secured through him by Frey, the one given by Frey to Gymir and Aurboða in exchange for Gerd, - this sword is found again in the Ragnarok conflict, wielded by Surt, it having been secured by Surt's son, Fjalar-Suttung, in the Ironwood from Angurboða's sword-guard.
Heimdal has the horn, whose sound all the world shall hear, when Ragnarok is at hand. On a "circular path," Heimdal looks out upon the world from Bifrost.
"Loud blows Heimdal—the horn is raised;
and Odin speaks with Mimir's head."
Yggdrasil trembles at the approach of Ragnarok, causing all fetters and bonds to snap and break. This frees the monsters including the wolf Fenrir and his father, Loki. The ship of the dead, Nagelfar, lies so that the liberated Loki can go aboard it. That it has long lain moored in its harbour is evident from the fact that, according to Voluspa, it then "becomes loose". Unknown hands are its builders. The material out of which it is constructed is the nail-parings of dead men. The less regard for religion, the less respect for the dead. But from each person who is left unburied, or is put into his grave without being, when possible, washed, combed, cleaned as to hands and feet, —from each such person comes building material for the death-ship, which is to carry the hosts of world-destroyers to the great conflict. Much building material is accumulated in the last days—in the "dagger-and-axe age," when "men no longer respect each other" (Völuspa).
Nagelfar is the largest of all ships, larger than Skidbladner. This very fact shows that it is to have a large number of persons on board when it departs from Loki's rocky island. The inhabitants of Niflhel accompany the liberated Loki from his rocky isle, and are with him on board Nagelfar. Loki's first destination is the Ironwood, whither he goes to fetch Gulveig-Heid-Angurboða's children, and thence the journey proceeds "over Myrkwood" to the plain of Vigrid.
Now begins the "Twilight of the Gods":
"Surt with the bane of branches comes
From the south, on his sword the sun of the Valgods,
Crags topple, the crone falls headlong,
Men tread Hel's road, the Heavens split open.
A further woe falls upon Hlin
As Odhinn comes forth to fight the wolf;
The killer of Beli battles with Surt:
Now shall fall Frigga's beloved.
Now valiant comes Valfather's son,
Vidar, to vie with Valdyr in battle,
Plunges his sword into he son of Hvedrung,
Avenging his father with a fell thrust.
Now the son of Hlodyn and Odhinn comes
He mauls in his rage all Middle-Earth;
Men in fear all flee their homesteads;
Nine paces back steps Bur's son
Retreats from the worm of taunts unafraid.
Now death is the portion of doomed men,
Red with blood the buildings of gods,
The sun turns black in the summer after,
Winds whine. Well, would know more?
Earth sinks in the sea, the sun turns black,
Cast down from Heaven are the hot stars,
Fumes reek, into flames burst,
The sky itself is scorched with fire."
All the Giants of Jötunheim assemble under the leadership of Hrymur. The ocean erupts and overflows the lands of men, because the Midgard Serpent grows gigantically strong and thrashes about. The wolf who perpetually chased the sun will catch and swallow it, and the other sky wolf will catch the moon. Fenrir's eyes and nostrils burn with fire. Óðin has spoken to Mímir's head for the very last time. At the thing-stead of the Gods the Æsir, Vanir, Valkyries and Einherjar prepare to do battle. Óðin and his sons go forth against the Frost-Giants. The Vanir and the Einherjar of Sessrúmnir will fight Surtur and Suttungs- synir. Njörður has retired to Vanaheim, but Frey chooses to stay in order to fight Surt, in recompense for the folly that caused him to hand over the sword of revenge to the giants. The southern part of Bifröst collapses from the sheer weight of the warriors, but even if having to swim through the ocean of air the Vanir warriors finally make it to the plain of Óskópnir. The final battle will be fought along Jörmungrund's outer periphery, where Óskópnir and Vígríður unite into a single battle-field. In the North the horizon is endarkened with hosts of Frost-Giants, screaming their battle-songs from beneath the shields.
The East grows black with the appearance of the monsters which
come out of Járnviður. To the South the sky grows crimson, as
Surtur and his Fire-Giants burst forth. In Surtur's grasp the Sword of
Revenge blazes, adding a blood red colour to the twilight of the whole
world. From the four corners of the world, the multiple armies attack each
other. Týrr, the one-handed Áss, slays Hati, but falls dead
from his horse's saddle, pierced with a fatal wound. Heimdallur rushes
forth against Loki and beheads him with his sword; but Loki's head, bristling
with poisonous spikes, bounds back penetrating the pure God's breast. As
the God of sacred fire falls dead, the sun goes out and the stars fall
from the heavens. Óðin rides against Fenris, but is over- come
by the poisonous fumes from the wolf's jaws and swallowed by the monster.
Víðar, the silent Áss, avenges his father. With one of
his feet (wearing a magical shoe) he opens up the jaws of the
Fenrir monster and with his sword pierces its heart. Miðgarðsormur has just reared his head, looking for Thór. The God of Thunder wields his hammer, splitting the dragon's head, but after stepping away nine feet he falls dead from the poison spewed from the monster's jaws. Frey rushes at Surtur, and is felled by Völund's sword. Now the sky splits, and the mountains burst open with the fiery lava hitherto held in rein. Fire envelopes the field of battle, the armies are devoured and the blazing heat burns to cinders all of creation, above as below. Through the fire and smoke of Ragnarök there ride the sons of the Gods, Víðar, Váli, Móði and Magni, down unto Mímir's grove, where death and destruction can never reach.
If any humans survived the fimbul-winter, they would now perish along with the gods and all other creatures. But evil would perish also, clearing the way for a better, peaceful world.