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Title: Asgard Stories - Tales from Norse Mythology
Author: Cummings, Mabel H., Foster, Mary H.
Language: English
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[Illustration: ODIN, THE ALLFATHER.]


ASGARD STORIES

Tales From Norse Mythology

by

MARY H. FOSTER and MABEL H. CUMMINGS, A.B.

Illustrated



[Illustration]

Silver, Burdett and Company
New York      Boston      Chicago

Copyright, 1901,
By Silver, Burdett and Company.



                     =To all our Children
             who have loved the hearing of these
                        Asgard Stories=



PREFACE.


This little volume is the outcome of several years’ experience in
telling to classes of children the classic myths, both southern and
northern. The insight and interest displayed by the children encourage
the authors to hope that other teachers and pupils may enjoy the myths
here reproduced.

The interest shown at present in the teaching of myths to children seems
to call for some such simple volume, giving the Norse myths in suitable
form for use with pupils as well as for the children’s home reading.
There are various collections of the Greek tales, but the books dealing
with the Norse myths seem to be more or less cumbered with detail, and,
therefore, not adapted to very young readers.

The experience of the authors satisfies them that the teaching of myths
should begin with those of the North, and that the Greek tales should
be given later, with comparisons and references to the Norse myths.
The stories which were dear to our own northern forefathers stir our
children more deeply and are more congenial to them than those which
come down to us from the Greeks. This is perfectly reasonable. The
graphic descriptions in the Norse tales of the hard struggle with rugged
nature and the severe climate of the North naturally come home more
closely to us than the less rigorous and sturdy conditions of the
southern nations. Then, too, the moral tone of the Norse myths is
higher, purer, and more steadfast than that of the Greek tales, and is
more congenial to our Teutonic point of view.

Much depends, of course, upon the teacher’s careful study of the myths
and insight into their significance. They should be presented in such
manner as to awaken the interest of the children and lead them to make
use of their own imagination.

The value of the Norse myths has been urged by Carlyle, Dasent,
Anderson, and others. “To me there is in the Norse system something very
genuine, very great, and manlike,” wrote Carlyle. “A broad simplicity,
so very different from the light gracefulness of the old Greek paganism,
distinguishes this Norse system. It is thought, the genuine thought of
deep, rude, earnest minds, fairly opened to the things about them,—a
face-to-face and heart-to-heart inspection of things,—the first
characteristic of all good thought in all times.”

Anderson, the author of “Norse Mythology,” wrote: “In the Norse
mythology the centralizing idea is its peculiar feature; in it
lies its strength and beauty. The one myth and the one divinity is
inextricably in communion with the other; and thus also the idea of
unity, centralization, is a prominent feature and one of the chief
characteristics of the Teutonic nations.

“While the Greek mythology foreshadowed the petty states of Greece and
southern Europe, the Norse mythology foreshadowed the political and
social destinies of _United_ Scandinavia, _United_ Great Britain, and
the _United_ States of North America.…

“The poetic period of the child’s own race should be melted and moulded
into poetry, touched by a spark of Christian refinement and love, and
then poured, so to speak, into his soul. The child’s mind should feed
upon the mythological stories and the primitive folklore of his race.”

While many works have been consulted in the preparation of this volume,
the authors are especially indebted to the following: Thorpe’s
translation of Sæmund’s “Edda”; “The Younger Edda,” in translations;
Anderson’s “Norse Mythology”; Guerber’s “Myths of Northern Lands”;
William and Mary Howitt’s “Literature and Romance of Northern Europe”;
and Mallet’s “Northern Antiquities.”

  BROOKLINE, MASS.,
      September, 1901.



CONTENTS.


                                 PAGE

  THE STORY OF THE BEGINNING        1

  ODIN’S REWARD                     9

  TYR AND THE WOLF                 15

  FREYJA’S NECKLACE                25

  THE HAMMER OF THOR               33

  THOR’S WONDERFUL JOURNEY         38

  HOW THOR LOST HIS HAMMER         50

  A GIFT FROM FRIGGA               58

  THE STEALING OF IDUNA            62

  SKADI                            76

  BALDUR                           82

  ÆGIR’S FEAST                     89

  THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI           97

  THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS        103



FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                PAGE

  ODIN, THE ALLFATHER             _Frontispiece_

  THE NORNS                                        5

  THOR CHAINING FENRIR                            19

  FREYJA IN THE CAVE OF THE DWARFS                27

  THOR AND LOKI IN THE CHARIOT                    41

  THOR’S BATTLE WITH THE FROST GIANTS             53

  IDUNA GIVING LOKI THE APPLE                     69

  SKADI HUNTING IN THE MOUNTAINS                  79

  THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI                          99

  THOR FIGHTING THE SERPENT                      105



[Illustration]

THE STORY OF THE BEGINNING.


The people who lived long ago, in the far-off lands of the north,
watched the wonderful things that happened out of doors every day, just
as we do; but they did not know about the one loving God, who is the
Father of all, who made them and the world, and rules it by his wise
laws; so they thought there must be a great many unseen powers, living
in the clouds, in the wind, in the storms, and the sunshine, and doing
all those wonders that no man could do.

And so those northern people, who were our own forefathers, came to
believe in many gods—one for the sun, another for the thunder, another
for the flowers, and so on.

In the long, dark winters, when the bright sun had gone away from them,
these northmen had time to think many thoughts about the powers of
frost, and wind, and storms, which they called giants, and they used to
tell stories and sing songs about the short, bright summer, the thawing
out of the streams and lakes, the coming of the birds and flowers.

With great joy the people saw the bright sun-god, Baldur, come back to
them in the spring, after the long darkness, and knew that they owed
their lives to his friendly warmth and light.

As we read the stories, or myths, told by those people long ago, we can
see that they were meant to tell about the world around us. At first the
stories were told and sung from father to son—that is, from one
generation to another; but later, when people learned how to write,
these myths were written down, and kept with great love and care.

This is the story they told of the Beginning. At first, before living
creatures were in the world, it was all rough and without order. Far to
the north it was very cold, for ice and snow were everywhere. Toward the
south there was fire, and from the meeting of the fire and the cold a
thick vapor was formed, from which sprang a huge giant. On looking about
for some food, he saw a cow, who was also searching for something to
eat. The ice tasted salt, and when the cow began to lick it, a head
appeared, and at last the whole figure of a god stood before her.

From these two, the giant and the god, came the two great races of
giants and gods, who were always enemies to each other. The giants were
constantly trying to break into Asgard, the home of the gods, in the
sky; the gods, on the other hand, watched and planned to keep out the
giants, and to drive them back to their own stronghold, Utgard. Our
world, where men and women lived, was between Utgard and Asgard; it was
called Midgard, and around this Midgard world, under the ocean, was
coiled a monstrous serpent, who grew so long that his tail grew down his
throat. He was called the Midgard serpent.

A wonderful tree, named “Yggdrasil,” connected all the worlds. This
great ash tree had its roots in Utgard, and the tops of its branches
reached up so high as to overshadow Asgard. Its three main roots were
watered by three fountains, and near one of them sat the wise giant
Mimir, of whom we shall hear later. The Norns, three sisters, also lived
at the roots of Yggdrasil, and were careful to see that it was watered
every day.

A little gray squirrel was always running up and down the tree, jerking
his tail and hurrying to tell the news to every one along the way. He
was so anxious to be the first one to carry the news, that many times he
brought trouble to himself and to others, because he was not always
careful to tell a story just as he had heard it, and often every one
would have been happier if the squirrel had kept the story quite to
himself.

The gods and goddesses, all together, were called the Æsir, and the
chief and father of them all was Odin. His lofty throne rose high in the
midst of Asgard, the sacred city, which the gods had built for their
beautiful home.

From Asgard, arching over and down to the lower world, was a rainbow
bridge, called Bifröst—“the trembling bridge”; upon this the dwellers
in Asgard could travel every day, all except the mighty Thor. His
thunder chariot was too heavy for “the trembling bridge,” so he had to
go around a longer way.

After the gods had made men and women, and had taught them to dwell on
the earth, in the world of Midgard, Odin looked forth one morning from
his heavenly seat, to see what further work was waiting for his helping
hand.

He noticed, far away below him, a race of small beings, some of them
busy, doing mischievous deeds, while others sat idle, doing nothing.
Odin sent for all these little people to come to him, and when they had
reached Asgard, and were admitted to his palace of Gladsheim, they
entered the great judgment hall, where they found all the Æsir sitting,
with Father Odin at their head.

  [Illustration: After the painting by Ehrenberg,
  THE NORNS.]

The little people waited in a crowd near the door, wondering what was
going to happen to them, while Hermod, the messenger of the gods, ran to
his master to say that they had come.

Then the Allfather spoke to the little dwarfs about their evil deeds
among men, and he told the naughtiest ones that they must go and live
down underground, and look after the great furnace fire in the middle of
the earth, to keep it always burning. Some must get coal to feed the
fire, and others still were to have charge of the gold, and silver, and
precious stones, under the rocks. Not one of these busy dwarfs must ever
appear during the day; only by night might they venture to leave their
tasks.

“And now,” said Odin, turning to the idle ones, “what have you been
doing?”

“We were doing nothing at all, so we could not have harmed any one, and
we pray you to spare us!” cried they.

“Do you not know that those who sit idle when they should be doing good
deserve punishment, too?” said Odin. “I shall put you in charge of all
the trees and flowers, and shall send one of the Æsir to teach you, so
that you may be doing some good in the world.”

Then the little elves went to work among the flowers, and Frey, the
bright god of summer and sunshine, was a kind master to them. He taught
them how to open the folded buds in the sunshine, to fill the honey
cups, and lead the bees along the flower passages to find their food, to
hatch the birds’ eggs, and teach the little ones their songs, and then
each night to fetch the water for dewdrops, to be hung on every leaf and
blade of grass.

When their work was finished, and the moon had risen, these busy elves
and fairies enjoyed many a happy evening, dancing and frisking on the
green by moonlight. And so our world of Midgard was filled with busy
work and play.

Even now, in our time, the people in the lands of the north, and in
Germany, have many old sayings and stories that have come down to them
from the days long ago. There is a beautiful white flower in the north,
which is called Baldur’s Brow, because it is so pure and bright, like
the face of the dear sun-god, Baldur; and in some places, when the
farmers gather in their harvest of grain, they leave a little bunch of
it standing in the field, for Father Odin’s horse.

We have some English names to remind us of those old tales of our
forefathers, for we have Tuesday named for Tyr, or Tiu, the brave god
who gave his right hand to save his friends; Wednesday, or Wodensday,
named for Odin; Thursday, for Thor, the thunder-god; and Friday, for
either the goddess Frigga, or Freyja, or for Frey, the god of summer,
who ruled the fairies.



[Illustration]

ODIN’S REWARD


One night when all was quiet in Asgard and the Æsir had gone to rest,
Odin, the Allfather, sat awake on his high throne, troubled with many
thoughts. At his feet crouched his two faithful wolves, and upon his
shoulders perched the two ravens of thought and memory, who flew far
abroad every day, through the nine worlds, as Odin’s messengers.

The Allfather had need of great wisdom in ruling the worlds; after
thinking a long time on the matters which needed his care, he suddenly
started up, and went forth with long strides from his palace of
Gladsheim into the night. He soon returned, leading his beautiful,
eight-footed steed, Sleipnir, and it was plain that Odin was going on
a journey. He quickly mounted Sleipnir, and rode swiftly away toward
Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, which reached from Asgard, the city of the
gods, down through the air to the lower worlds.

When Sleipnir stepped upon the bridge it trembled, and seemed hardly
strong enough to bear the horse and his rider; but they had no fear of
its giving way, and Sleipnir galloped swiftly onward.

Soon Odin saw Heimdall, the watchman of the bridge, riding toward him on
a fine horse, with a golden mane that reflected light upon the noble
face of his rider.

“You must be bound on some important errand, Father Odin, to be riding
forth from Asgard so late at night,” said Heimdall.

“It is indeed a most important errand, and I must hasten on,” replied
Odin. “It is well for us that we have such a faithful guardian of the
‘trembling bridge’; if it were not for you, Heimdall, our enemies might
long ago have taken Asgard by storm. You are so watchful, you can hear
the grass grow in the fields, and the wool gather on the backs of the
sheep, and you need less sleep than a bird. I myself stand in great need
of wisdom, in order to take care of such faithful servants, and to drive
back such wicked enemies!”

They hurried over the bridge until they came to Heimdall’s far-shining
castle, at the farther end of it. This was a lofty tower which was
placed so as to guard the bridge, and it sent forth into the land of
the giant enemies such a wonderful, clear light, that Heimdall could
see, even in the darkest night, any one who came toward the bridge. Here
Odin stopped a few moments to drink the mead which the good Heimdall
offered him.

Then said Odin, “As I am journeying into the land of our enemies, I
shall leave my good horse with you; there are not many with whom I would
trust him, but I know that you, my faithful Heimdall, will take good
care of him. I can best hide myself from the giants by going on as a
wanderer.”

With these words the Allfather quitted Heimdall’s castle, and started
off toward the north, through the land of the fierce giants.

During all the first day there was nothing to be seen but ice and snow;
several times Odin was nearly crushed as the frost giants hurled huge
blocks of ice after him.

The second day he came to mountains and broad rivers. Often when he had
just crossed over a stream, the mountain giants would come after him to
the other bank, and when they found that Odin had escaped them, they
would send forth such a fierce yell, that the echoes sounded from hill
to hill.

At the end of the third day, Odin came to a land where trees were green
and flowers blooming. Here was one of the three fountains which watered
the world tree, Yggdrasil, and near by sat the wise giant, Mimir,
guarding the waters of this wonderful fountain, for whoever drank of it
would have the gift of great wisdom.

Mimir was a giant in size, but he was not one of the fierce giant
enemies of the gods, for he was kind, and wiser than the wisest.

Mimir’s well of wisdom was in the midst of a wonderful valley, filled
with rare plants and bright flowers, and among the groves of beautiful
trees were strange creatures, sleeping dragons, harmless serpents, and
lizards, while birds with gay plumage flew and sang among the branches.
Over all this quiet valley shone a lovely soft light, different from
sunlight, and in the center grew one of the roots of the great world
tree. Here the wise giant Mimir sat gazing down into his well.

Odin greeted the kind old giant, and said, “Oh, Mimir, I have come from
far-away Asgard to ask a great boon!”

“Gladly will I help you if it is in my power,” said Mimir.

“You know,” replied Odin, “that as father of gods and men I need great
wisdom, and I have come to beg for one drink of your precious water of
knowledge. Trouble threatens us, even from one of the Æsir, for Loki,
the fire-god, has lately been visiting the giants, and I fear he has
been learning evil ways from them. The frost giants and the storm giants
are always at work, trying to overthrow both gods and men; great is my
need of wisdom, and even though no one ever before has dared ask so
great a gift, I hope that since you know how deep is my trouble, you
will grant my request.”

Mimir sat silently, thinking for several moments, and then said, “You
ask a great thing, indeed, Father Odin; are you ready to pay the price
which I must demand?”

“Yes,” said Odin, cheerfully, “I will give you all the gold and silver
of Asgard, and all the jeweled shields and swords of the Æsir. More than
all, I will give up my eight-footed horse Sleipnir, if that is needed to
win the reward.”

“And do you suppose that these things will buy wisdom?” said Mimir.
“That can be gained only by bearing bravely, and giving up to others.
Are you willing to give me a part of yourself? Will you give up one of
your own eyes?”

At this Odin looked very sad; but after a few moments of deep thought,
he looked up with a bright smile, and answered, “Yes, I will even give
you one of my eyes, and I will suffer whatever else is asked, in order
to gain the wisdom that I need!”

We cannot know all that Odin bravely suffered in that strange, bright
valley, before he was rewarded with a drink from that wonderful
fountain; but we may be quite sure that never once was the good
Allfather sorry for anything he had given up, or any suffering he had
borne, for the sake of others.



[Illustration]

TYR AND THE WOLF.


I.

Odin, the Allfather, sat one day on his high air-throne, and looking
around him, far and wide, saw three fierce monsters. They were the
children of the mischievous fire-god Loki, and Odin began to feel
anxious, for they had grown so fast and were getting so strong that he
feared they might do harm to the sacred city of Asgard. The wise father
knew Loki had given strength to these dreadful creatures, and he saw
that all this danger had come upon the Æsir from Loki’s wickedness.

One of these monsters was a huge serpent, that Odin sent down into the
ocean, where he grew so fast that his body was coiled around the whole
world, and his tail grew into his own mouth. He was called the Midgard
serpent.

The second monster was sent to Niflheim, the home of darkness, and shut
up there.

The third, a fierce wolf, named Fenrir, was brought to Asgard, where
Odin hoped he might be tamed by living among the Æsir, and seeing their
good deeds, and hearing their kind words; but he grew more and more
fierce, until only one of all the gods dared to feed him. This was the
brave god, Tyr. He was a war-god, like Thor, and is sometimes called the
Sword-god. Tyr was loved by all because he was so true and faithful.

Each day the dreadful wolf grew larger and stronger, till all at once,
before the Æsir thought about it, he had become a very dangerous beast.

Father Odin always looked troubled when he saw Fenrir, the wolf, come to
get his evening meal of meat from Tyr’s hand, and at last one night,
after the wolf had gone growling away to his lair, Odin called a meeting
of the Æsir. He told them of his fears, saying they must find some plan
for guarding themselves and their home against this monster. They could
not slay him, for no one must ever be killed, and no blood must be shed,
within the walls of the sacred city.

Thor was the first to speak: “Do not fear, Father Odin, for by to-morrow
night we shall have Fenrir so safely bound that he cannot do us any
harm. I will make a mighty chain, with the help of my hammer, Miölnir,
and with it we will bind him fast!”

When the Æsir heard these words of Thor, they were glad, and all went
home rejoicing—all save the Allfather, who was still troubled, for he
well knew the danger, and feared that even the mighty Thor would find
this task too much for him. But Thor seized his hammer, and strode off
to his forge. There he worked the whole night long, and all through
Asgard were heard the blows of Miölnir and the roaring of the bellows.

The next night, when the Æsir were gathered together, Thor brought forth
his new-made chain, to test it. In came Fenrir, the wolf, and every one
was surprised to see how willingly he let himself be bound with the
chain. When Thor had riveted the last links together, the gods smiled,
and began to praise him for his wonderful work; but all at once the wolf
gave one bound forward, broke the great chain, and walked off to his
lair as if nothing had happened.

Thor was much disappointed, still he did not lose courage. He said to
the Æsir that he would make another chain, yet stronger. Again he set to
work, and for three nights and three days the great Thor worked at his
forge without resting.

While he worked his friends did not forget him. They came and looked on
while he was busy, and, as they watched the mighty hammer falling with
quick blows upon the metal, they talked to Thor or sang noble songs to
cheer him; sometimes they brought him food and drink. One visitor, who
was no friend, fierce Fenrir, the wolf, sometimes put his nose in at the
door for a moment, and watched Thor at work; then, as he went away, Thor
heard a strange sound like a wicked laugh.

At last the chain was finished, and Thor dragged it to the place of
meeting. It was so heavy that even the mighty Thor could hardly lift it,
or drag it as far as Odin’s palace of Gladsheim. This time Fenrir was
not so willing to be bound; but the gods coaxed him, and talked of his
great strength, and told him they were sure he would easily break this
chain also. After a while he agreed to let them put it around his neck.

This time Thor was sure the chain would hold firm, for never before had
such a strong one been made. But soon, with a great shake and a fierce
bound, the wolf broke away, and went off to his lair, snarling and
showing his wicked teeth, while the broken chain lay on the ground.

Sadly the Æsir came together that night in Odin’s palace, and this time
Thor was not the first to speak; he sat apart and was silent.

[Illustration: THOR CHAINING FENRIR.]

First spoke Frey, the god of summer and king of the fairies. “Hearken
to me, O lords of Asgard!” he said. “I have not won a brave name in
battle, like the noble Tyr, neither have I done such mighty deeds as
the great Thor and others of our heroes. Instead of fighting giants
and monsters, I have spent most of my life in the woods, among the
flowers, listening for hours to the birds. Many things have I watched,
some perhaps that my brothers thought too small to be worthy of
notice. I have learned many lessons, and the greatest of them all is
to know how much power there is in little things, and to see how often
the work, done quietly, and hidden from the eyes of men, is the finest
and the most wonderful. Since we cannot make a chain strong enough to
bind Fenrir, let us go to the little dwarfs, who work in silence and
in darkness, and ask them to make us a chain!”

The Allfather’s troubled face grew brighter as he heard Frey speak, and
he bade him send a messenger quickly to the dwarfs, to order a chain
made as soon as possible.


II.

So Frey went out, leaving the Æsir in their trouble, and came to his own
lovely home, Alfheim. There everything was bright and peaceful, and the
little elves were busy and happy. Frey found a trusty messenger, and
sent him with all speed to the dwarfs underground, to order the new
chain, and to return as soon as he could bring it. The faithful servant
found the funny little dwarf workmen all busy in their dark rock
chambers, far down inside the earth, while at one side, in a lighter
place, sat their king. The messenger bowed before him, and told him his
errand.

The dwarfs were a wicked race, but they were afraid of Odin, for they
had not forgotten the talk he once had with them, when he sent them down
to work in darkness underground, and since that time they never had
dared disobey him. The dwarf king said it would take two days and two
nights to make the chain, but it would be so strong that no one could
break it.

While the busy dwarfs were at work, the messenger looked about at the
many wonderful things: the great central fire which burns always in the
middle of the earth, watched and fed with coal by the dwarfs; above
this, the beds of coal, and bright precious diamonds, which the dwarfs
took from the ashes of the fire. In another place he watched them
putting gold and silver, tin and copper, into the cracks in the rocks,
and he drank of the pure, underground water, which gives the Midgard
people fresh springs.

After two days this messenger returned to the dwarf king. The king,
holding out in his hand a fine, small chain, said to the messenger:
“This may seem to you to be small and weak; but it is a most wonderful
piece of work, for we have used in it all the strongest stuff we could
find. It is made of six kinds of things: the noise made by the footfall
of cats, the roots of stones, the beards of women, the voice of fishes,
the spittle of birds, the sinews of bears. This chain can never be
broken; and if you can once put it on Fenrir, he will never be able to
throw it off.”

Odin’s messenger was glad to hear this, so he thanked the dwarf king,
and promising him a large reward, he went on his way back to Asgard,
where the Æsir were longing for his return, and were all rejoiced to see
him with the magic chain.

Now Father Odin feared that Fenrir would not let them bind him a third
time, so he proposed they should all take a holiday, and go out to a
beautiful lake to the north of Asgard, where they would have games and
trials of strength. The other gods were pleased with this plan, and all
set out in Frey’s wonderful ship, which was large enough to hold all the
Æsir with their horses, and yet could be folded up small enough to go in
one’s pocket.

They landed on a lovely island in the lake, and after the races and
games were over, Frey brought out the little chain, and asked them all
to try to break it. Thor and Tyr tried in vain; then Thor said, “I do
not believe any one but Fenrir can break it.”

Now the wolf did not want to be bound again; but he was very proud of
his strength, and, for fear of being called a coward, said at last he
would let them do it, if he might hold the right hand of one of the Æsir
in his mouth while they bound him, as a sign that the gods did not mean
to play any tricks.

When the gods heard this, they looked at each other, and all but one of
them drew back. Only the brave, good Tyr stepping forward, quietly put
his hand into Fenrir’s mouth. The other gods then put the chain around
the beast, and fastened it to a great rock. The fierce creature gave a
leap to free himself, but the more he struggled the tighter grew the
chain. The Æsir gathered about him in joy to see this, but their hearts
were filled with sorrow when they saw that their noble Tyr had lost his
right hand; the dreadful wolf had shut his teeth together in his rage,
when he found he could not get free.

Thus the brave Tyr dared to risk danger for the sake of saving others,
and gave up even his right hand to gain peace and happiness for Asgard.



[Illustration]

FREYJA’S NECKLACE.


“Yes, I really must have some flowers to wear to the feast to-night,”
said Freyja to her husband, Odur.

Freyja was the goddess of love and beauty; she was the most beautiful of
all the Æsir, and every one loved to look at her charming face, and to
hear her sweet voice.

“I think you look quite beautiful enough as you are, without flowers,”
Odur replied, but Freyja was not satisfied; she thought she would go and
find her brother Frey, the god of summer, for he would give her a
garland of flowers. So she wandered forth from Asgard on her way to
Frey’s bright home in Alfheim, where he lived among his happy, busy
little elves. As Freyja walked along she was thinking of the feast to
be given that night in Asgard, and knowing that all the gods and
goddesses would be there, she wished to look her very best.

On and on she wandered, not thinking how far she was getting away from
home. Finally the light began to grow fainter and fainter, and Freyja
found herself in a strange place. The sunlight had faded away, but there
was still a little light that came from lanterns carried by funny little
dwarfs, who were busily working. Some were digging gold and gems, others
were cleaning off the dirt from the precious stones, and polishing them
to make them bright, while four little fellows were seated in one
corner, putting the sparkling stones together into a wonderful necklace.

“What can that beautiful thing be?” thought Freyja. “If only I had that,
it would surely make me look more beautiful than any one else at the
feast to-night!” And the more she thought about it, the more she longed
to get it. “Oh, I really must have it!” she said to herself, and with
these words she stepped nearer to the four little men. “For what price
will you sell me your necklace?” she asked.

The dwarfs looked up from their work, and when they saw Freyja’s lovely
face and heard her sweet voice, said, “Oh, if you will only look kindly
upon us, and be our friend, you may have the necklace!”

[Illustration: FREYJA IN THE CAVE OF THE DWARFS.]

Then a mocking laugh echoed again and again through the dark cavern,
seeming to say, “How foolish you are to wish for these bright diamonds;
they will not make you happy!” But Freyja snatched the necklace and ran
out of the cavern. It did not please her to hear the teasing laugh of
the dwarfs, and she wanted to get away from them as soon as possible.

At last she was once more out in the open air; she tried to be free
and happy again, but a strange feeling of dread came over her, as if
something were going to happen. Soon she came to a still pool of water,
and, putting on the necklace, she bent over to look at her picture in
the clear water. How beautiful the diamonds were! and how they sparkled
in the sunshine! She must hasten home to show them to Odur.

The fair goddess soon reached Asgard, and hurried to the palace to find
her husband. But Odur was not there. Over and over again she searched
through all the rooms in vain; he had gone, and although Freyja had her
beautiful necklace, she cared little for it without her dear husband.

Soon it was time to go to the feast, but Freyja would not go without
Odur. She sat down and wept bitter tears; she felt no joy now for having
the necklace, and no sorrow because she could not feast with the Æsir.

If only Odur would come back, all would be well again. “I will go to the
end of the world to find him!” said Freyja, and she began to make ready
for her journey. Her chariot, drawn by two cats, was soon ready; but
before she could start, she must first ask Father Odin to allow her to
go.

“Allfather, I beg you give me leave to go to look for my Odur in every
corner of the world!”

The wise father replied, “Go, fair Freyja, and may you find whom you
seek.”

Then she started forth. First to the Midgard world the goddess of beauty
went, but no one in all the world had seen or heard of Odur. Down under
the earth, to Niflheim, and even to Utgard, the land of giants, she
wandered, but still no one had seen or even heard of her husband. Poor
Freyja wept many tears, and wherever the teardrops fell, and sank into
the ground, they turned into glistening gold.

At last the sad goddess returned to her own palace alone. She still wore
the wonderful necklace, which was called Brisingamen.

One night, when the hour was late, all the Æsir were asleep, except the
ever watchful Heimdall, who heard soft footsteps, like those of a cat,
near Freyja’s palace. He listened, and thought, “That is surely some one
bent on mischief; I must follow him.”

When Heimdall reached the palace, he found it was Loki, changed into
another form, creeping softly about. Heimdall quietly watched him, and
saw him glide in to Freyja’s bedside, where the fair goddess lay asleep,
wearing her beautiful necklace. Loki had come to steal the necklace, but
when he saw that she was lying on the clasp of the chain, so that he
could not undo it without waking her, he changed himself into a gnat,
and, crawling along on the pillow, stung her just enough to make her
turn over, but not enough to wake her. Then he unclasped the chain and
ran off with it as fast as he could.

But Heimdall was not going to let the thief get away. As soon as Loki
found that he was followed, he took his other form, a little flame of
fire; Heimdall then took _his_ other shape, and became a shower of rain,
to put out the fire; but Loki, quick and watchful, changed himself into
a bear, to catch the rain. Then Heimdall too became a bear, and a fierce
fight began. At last the rain-god conquered, and forced wicked Loki to
give back the necklace to Freyja.

The whole land seemed to feel sorry for poor, lonely Freyja; the leaves
fell from the trees, the bright flowers faded, and the singing birds
flew away.

Once more the fair goddess went forth from Asgard to seek Odur. Away,
away to the far-off sunny south she wandered, and there, where the
myrtle trees and the oranges grow, at last she found her long-lost
husband.

Then hand in hand the two turned northward again, to their home, and so
happy were they together, that they spread joy and happiness around them
as they passed along. Everywhere the ice and snow thawed before them,
green grass and sweet flowers sprang up behind their footsteps, the
birds sang their sweetest songs, the warm summer came back to the north
lands, and every one was glad and joyful, for lovely, smiling Freyja was
at home again.

      “White were the moorlands
      And frozen, before her;
      Green were the moorlands
      And blooming, behind her.
      Out of her gold locks
      Shaking the spring flowers,
      Out of her garments
      Shaking the south wind,
      Around in the birches
      Awaking the throstles,
      Beautiful Freyja came.”
                              —KINGSLEY.



[Illustration]

THE HAMMER OF THOR.


Sif was the wife of mighty Thor, the thunder-god, and she was very proud
of her beautiful golden hair, which she combed and braided with great
care. One morning when she awoke she was filled with grief and dismay
to find that her lovely hair had been cut off in the night, while she
slept. Her husband happened to be away that day, but when he came home
late at night, Sif was careful to keep out of his sight, she felt so
ashamed of her shorn head.

Thor, however, soon called for Sif, and when he saw what had been done
to her, he was very angry. Now Thor had a quick temper; every one feared
his fierce anger. “Who could have done this wicked deed?” thought he.
“There is only one among all the Æsir who would think of doing such a
thing!”

Thor lost no time in finding Loki, and that mischief-god had to admit
that he was the guilty one, but he begged Thor to give him just a few
days, and he promised to get something for Sif that would make her look
more beautiful than ever. So Thor decided to give him a chance to try,
and commanded him to give back to Sif her golden hair.

Now Loki knew a place where some wonderful workmen lived, so he went
off, as fast as he could go, to Niflheim, the home of the dwarfs, under
the earth, and asked one of them to make quickly some golden hair for
Sif. Besides this, he asked for two gifts to carry to the gods Odin and
Frey, so that they might be on his side if Thor should bring his
complaint before the Æsir.

Loki did not have to wait long before the dwarf brought him a quantity
of beautiful hair, spun from the finest golden thread. It had the
wonderful power of growing just like real hair, as soon as it touched
any one’s head. Besides this, there was a spear for Odin, which never
missed its aim, no matter how far it was thrown, and for Frey, a ship
that could sail through the air as well as the sea. Although it was
large enough to hold all the gods and their horses, yet it could be
folded so that it was small enough to put in one’s pocket.

Loki was greatly pleased with these wonderful presents, and declared
that this dwarf must be the most skillful workman of them all. Now it
happened that another dwarf, named Brock, heard him say this, and he
told Loki that he was sure he and his brother could make more wonderful
things than these.

Loki did not believe that could be done, but he told Brock to try his
skill; the Æsir should judge between them and the one who should fail in
the trial must lose his head.

Then Brock called his brother, Sindri, and they set to work at once.
They first built a great fire, and Sindri threw into it a lump of gold;
then he told Brock to blow the bellows while he went out, and be sure
not to stop blowing until he should come back.

Brock thought this an easy task, but his brother had not long been gone
when a huge fly came in and buzzed about his face, and bothered him so
that he could hardly keep on blowing; still he was able to finish his
work, so that when Sindri came back, they took out of the fire an
enormous wild boar, which gave out light, and could travel through the
air with wonderful speed.

On the second day Sindri threw another lump of gold into the fire, and
left his brother to blow the bellows. Again the buzzing, stinging fly
came, and was even more troublesome than before; but Brock tried very
hard to be patient, and was able to bear it without stopping his work
until Sindri returned. Then they took from the fire a magic ring of
gold, from which eight new rings fell off every week.

The third day a lump of iron was put into the fire, and Brock was again
left alone. In came the cruel fly,—have you guessed that it was really
that mischief-maker Loki? He bit the poor little dwarf so hard on the
forehead that the blood ran down into his eyes, and blinded him so that
he could no longer see to do his work.

Poor Brock had to stop just before Sindri came home, but not before the
hammer which they were making in the fire was nearly finished, only the
handle came out rather too short. This magic hammer was named Miölnir.
It had the power of never missing its mark, and would always return to
the hand which threw it.

When Loki appeared at last before the Æsir, with the two dwarf brothers
and their gifts, it was declared that they had made the finest things,
for the hammer, which was given to Thor, would surely be most useful in
keeping the giants out of Asgard.

When Loki found that the judgment was against him, he started to run
away; but Thor soon made him turn back by threatening to throw his
hammer after him.

Then Loki had to collect his wits, and think of some way to escape
losing his head, instead of making the dwarfs pay the forfeit, as he had
expected. At last he told Brock and Sindri that they could have his
head, according to the agreement, but as nothing had been said about his
neck, they could not, of course, touch that.

Thus the wily Loki, by his wit, saved his life.



[Illustration]

THOR’S WONDERFUL JOURNEY.


I.

One morning Thor asked Loki, the fire-god, if he would like to go forth
with him to Utgard, the stronghold of the giants, where he was going to
try, with his mighty hammer, to conquer those fierce enemies of Asgard.
Loki was glad to go with him, and the two gods started forth in Thor’s
chariot, drawn by two goats.

Thor often went on a journey, so the dwellers in Asgard did not wonder
to see him getting ready for a long drive. As Thor and Loki drove along,
the heavy chariot rattled, and made the thunder echo among the hills.
People in our world, down below in Midgard, heard the rumbling, and
said: “What a heavy thunderstorm! How the thunder crashes and rumbles!”

Toward evening the travelers stopped at a peasant’s hut, and Thor,
alighting from his chariot, went to the door of the house, to ask
shelter for the night.

“I will gladly give you a room, but I have no food in the house,” said
the man who opened the door.

“Oh, never mind that,” said Thor; “I will provide the food.” So Thor and
Loki stopped for the night at the peasant’s hut. They found the family
within, the man, his wife, and two children, a boy and a girl. All
looked on in great surprise to see Thor kill his two goats and cook them
for the evening meal. “Eat all you wish of the meat,” said Thor, “but be
careful not to break any of the bones; throw them all into the two skins
which I have spread upon the floor.”

Now the boy, whose name was Thialfe, wondered why Thor should say this,
and as he happened to have a piece of the leg-bone, he thought there
could be no harm in breaking it open, to get out the soft marrow to eat.
Thor was just then talking to Loki, and did not notice what had been
done; but next morning the boy learned a lesson that he never forgot.

When Thor was ready to start off again, next day, he held his magic
hammer over the skins in which lay the bones. All at once the goats
became whole again, and stood there just the same as before, except that
one of them limped with his hind leg.

Then the young Thialfe knew why Thor had told them not to break the
bones. At first, when he saw Thor’s angry face, and how he grasped his
hammer, the boy was frightened, and wanted to run away; but soon he
remembered it would be cowardly to do that, so he went to Thor, and
asked his forgiveness. Now the mighty thunder-god, though often angry,
was always just and kind. After scolding the boy as he deserved, he
freely forgave him, and said that he and his sister might go along with
Loki and himself on their journey.


II.

The four started off, after saying good-by to the peasant and his wife,
leaving in their charge the chariot and goats, for it seemed best to
finish the journey on foot.

At nightfall they entered a thick forest, through which they wandered
on for miles, when all at once they came upon a house, and a
strange-looking house it was. The wide front door opened into a big
room; at the left was a small room, and just opposite the front door
were four long, narrow rooms.

[Illustration: THOR AND LOKI IN THE CHARIOT.]

The travelers wondered to find a house in the depths of a forest, but
they were glad to have shelter for the night, and all lay down for a
good rest. Soon after midnight they were awakened by groans and strange
sounds, and the earth began to tremble. Thor sent his companions into
the farthest room, grasped his hammer, and stood on guard by the door.
At daybreak he started forth to find out what had caused the noise. He
had not gone far when he came upon a huge giant, lying on the ground
asleep, and Thor found that he was making the earth tremble with his
snoring, which must have been the sound they had heard in the night.

While Thor was looking at the giant, he awoke, and spoke to the god.
“Ho, ho! I think you little fellow must be Thor, of whom I have often
heard, but really, I did not think you were quite so small! Now the sun
is up, and I must be off; but where is my other glove? Oh, here it is,
on the ground!” And the giant stooped and picked up his glove, which was
the very house in which our four travelers had spent the night, with the
big front door where the hand went in, the thumb for the one side-room,
and the four narrow finger-rooms opposite the door.

“If you are going my way, you may come along with me,” said the giant.
So they journeyed together for one day, but even mighty Thor could
hardly keep up with the giant’s long strides.

When night came, the giant stopped under a large oak tree, and said, “I
am going to sleep; you may eat your supper, if you wish; here is a bag
full of things.” Saying this, he fell asleep, and was soon snoring. But
when Thor tried to open the bag of food, he could not untie the cord.
This made him angry, for the giant had tied up their food with his own.
He looked at the huge figure lying before him asleep, and when he
thought what a mean trick the giant had played upon them, Thor seized
the magic hammer, and threw it at him.

“Did a leaf fall on me?” said the giant, sleepily. “Haven’t you eaten
your supper yet? Well, I am going to sleep again.” And soon he was
snoring louder than before. Thor grasped his hammer tighter than ever,
and threw it with such strength that it seemed as though it must surely
have killed the giant; but again he rubbed his eyes, and said, “I
thought an acorn fell on my head!” He had hardly spoken when he was
asleep again.

Then a third time Thor hurled his hammer with all his strength, and it
seemed to hit his enemy in the forehead, and was buried out of sight,
but the giant only said: “I think there must be birds overhead in this
tree; I thought a feather dropped down on me. Are you awake, Thor? I
think we’d better be going on with our journey, and if you are bound to
go to Utgard, I will show you the way, but I advise you to go home
instead; you will find bigger fellows than I in Utgard!”

But Thor had made up his mind to go on, and nothing could make him
change. At noontime the four friends left their giant guide, whose path
led another way. They had not traveled far when Thor spied a large city
looming up before them, and soon they came to Utgard, the home of the
fierce giants.

Although it was surrounded by high walls, Thor and his friends were able
to creep through the bars of the great gate. When they came to the
palace and found its door open, they went in, and there sat all the
giants with their king, Utgard-Loki, at their head. A quite different
Loki was this giant king from the mischievous fire-god, the Loki from
Asgard, who now stood before him.


III.

Upon seeing the four strangers, the king of the giants said: “Why, this
must be the god Thor. I really did not suppose that you were such a
little fellow, Thor! but probably you are stronger than you look. Now,
before you sit down at our table, you must each show some proof of your
strength!”

Then Loki, who was very hungry, said he was sure he could eat more than
any one else; so the king called one of the giants to come forth, saying
to Loki, “If you can indeed eat more than one of my men, you will
perform a great feat.”

A huge trough, full of meat, was brought in, and Loki began eating at
one end, while the giant began at the other. They reached the center
together; but Loki had eaten only the meat, while the giant had devoured
meat, bones, trough, and all.

Thialfe, the peasant boy, took his turn next, and boasted that he was
the fastest runner of them all. “Oh,” said the king, “it will be a most
wonderful feat if you can win a race against one of my men!” The first
time Thialfe ran the course he kept ahead until near the end, and was
beaten by only a few yards. The second time he came off worse, and the
third time he was only halfway around when the giant had reached the
goal.

Thor, however, was not at all cast down by the failure of the others,
and he proposed to try a drinking match. So the king brought forth a
long drinking horn, saying, “My men usually empty this in one draught,
if they are very thirsty, though sometimes they have to take it in two
swallows, or even three.”

Then Thor put his lips to the drinking horn, and took one long, deep
pull, thinking he had surely emptied it, but to his surprise, the water
had lowered only a few inches. Again he lifted the horn, feeling sure he
should empty it this time, yet he did no better than before. The king
said, “You have left a great deal for your last drink!”

This made Thor try his very best; but it was of no use, he could not
empty the horn.

“So you are not as strong as you seemed, after all! Do you care to try
anything else?” said the king of the giants, in a mocking tone.

“Oh, certainly, anything you like!” replied Thor.

“Well,” said the king, “I will give you something easy this time, since
I see you are not as strong as I expected. You may try to lift this cat
from the floor; it would be mere child’s play for one of my men.”

Thor put out his hand to lift the cat, but he could raise only one paw,
though he used all his strength.

“Well, it is no more than I expected!” said the king; “you boast of your
strength, but you do not show it to us.”

By this time Thor was getting very angry, and he spoke fiercely, “I will
challenge any one of you to fight with me!”

The king looked about the hall to find some one small enough to wrestle
with Thor. Then he said, “All my men are too large, I shall have to send
for one of the women!” Soon a bent old woman came hobbling in, and Thor
thought it would be nothing to overcome her; but the longer they
wrestled, the stronger the old woman became, and at last, when it was
plain that she was going to win, and Thor had been thrown down upon the
floor, the king called to them to stop.

Thor and his friends were then invited to sit down at the feast, and the
next morning, after a good breakfast, they started on their journey
homeward. Utgard-Loki, the giant king, went with them to the city gate,
and when he was about to leave them, said, “Do you find it as easy as
you expected to overthrow the giants?”

“No,” said Thor, who was too honest to hide his shame, “I am vexed that
I have done so little, and I know that after this failure, you will all
laugh at my weakness.”

“No, indeed,” replied the king; “since you are now well outside our
stronghold I will tell you the truth about what you saw there, and I
will take good care not to let you get in again. You have greatly
surprised us all, for we did not dream that you were so strong, and I
have had to use magic to hold out against you.

“When you met the first giant in the forest you would have killed him
with your hammer, if he had not put a mountain between himself and you.
Loki was a wonderful eater, but we matched him against fire, and who can
devour more than fire? The boy was a swift runner, and I had to make him
race against thought, in order to beat him; what can be swifter than
thought? The horn, from which you drank, was the ocean, and you took
such a mighty draught, that the people in Midgard saw the tide ebb. It
was really not a cat you tried to lift, but the Midgard Serpent, and you
pulled him so far that we feared he would let go his hold. Then you
wrestled with Old Age, and who is there that can overcome Old Age?”

With these words the giant king vanished, and Thor, upon looking around,
saw the city of Utgard was also gone.

Then silently, but with many thoughts of these strange things, Thor and
Loki, with the boy and the girl, made their way back to Asgard.



[Illustration]

HOW THOR LOST HIS HAMMER.


“Come, Loki, are you ready? My goats are eager to be off!” cried Thor,
as he sprang into his chariot, and away they went, thundering over the
hills. All day long they journeyed, and at night they lay down to rest
by the side of a brook.

When Baldur, the bright sun-god, awoke them in the morning, the first
thing Thor did was to reach out for Miölnir, his magic hammer, which he
had carefully laid by his side the night before.

“Why, Loki!” cried he. “Alas, my hammer is gone! Those evil frost giants
must have stolen it from me while I slept. How shall we hold Asgard
against them without my hammer? They will surely take our stronghold!”

“We must go quickly and find it!” replied Loki. “Let us ask Freyja to
lend us her falcon garment.”

Now the goddess, Freyja, had a wonderful garment made of falcon
feathers, and whoever wore it looked just like a bird. As you may
suppose, this was sometimes a very useful thing. So Thor and Loki went
quickly back to Asgard, and drove with all speed to Freyja’s palace,
where they found her sitting among her maidens. “Asgard is in great
danger!” said Thor, “and we have come to you, fair goddess, to ask if
you will lend us your falcon garment, for my hammer has been carried
off, and we must go in search of it.”

“Surely,” answered Freyja, “I would lend you my falcon cloak, even if it
were made of gold and silver!”

Then Loki quickly dressed himself in Freyja’s garment and flew away to
the land of the frost giants, where he found their king making collars
of gold for his dogs, and combing his horses. As Loki came near, he
looked up and said, “Ah, Loki, how fare the mighty gods in Asgard?”

“The Æsir are in great trouble,” replied Loki, “and I am sent to fetch
the hammer of Thor.”

“And do you think I am going to be foolish enough to give it back to
you, after I have had all the trouble of getting it into my power?” said
the king. “I have buried it deep, deep, down in the earth, and there is
only one way by which you can get it again. You must bring me the
goddess Freyja to be my wife!”

Loki did not know what to say to this, for he felt sure that Freyja
would never be willing to go away from Asgard to live among the fierce
giants; but as he saw no chance of getting the hammer, he flew back to
Asgard, to see what could be done.

Thor was anxiously looking out for him. “What news do you bring, Loki?”
cried he. “Have you brought me my hammer again?”

“Alas, no!” said Loki. “I bring only a message from the giant king. He
will not give up your hammer until you persuade Freyja to marry him!”

Then Thor and Loki went together to Freyja’s palace, and the fair
goddess greeted them kindly, but when she heard their errand, and found
they wished her to marry the cruel giant, she was very angry, and said
to Thor, “You should not have been so careless as to lose your hammer;
it is all your own fault that it is gone, and I will never marry the
giant to help you get it again.”

Thor then went to tell Father Odin, who called a meeting of all the
Æsir, for it was a very serious matter they were to consider. If the
king of the giants only knew the power of the mighty hammer, he might
storm Asgard, and carry off the fair Freyja to be his bride.

[Illustration: THOR’S BATTLE WITH THE FROST GIANTS.]

So the Æsir met together in their great judgment hall, in the palace of
Gladsheim; long and anxiously they talked over their peril, trying to
find some plan for saving Asgard from these enemies. At last Heimdall,
the faithful watchman of the rainbow bridge, proposed a plan.

“Let us dress Thor,” said he, “in Freyja’s robes, braid his hair, and
let him wear Freyja’s wonderful necklace, and a bridal veil!”

“No, indeed!” cried Thor, angrily, “you would all laugh at me in a
woman’s dress; I will do no such thing! We must find some other way.”
But when no other way could be found, at last Thor was persuaded to try
Heimdall’s plan, and the Æsir went to work to dress the mighty
thunder-god like a bride. He was the tallest of them all, and, of
course, he looked very queer to them in his woman’s clothes, but he
would be small enough beside a giant. Then they dressed Loki to look
like the bride’s waiting-maid, and the two set off for Utgard, the
stronghold of the giants.

When the giant king saw them coming he bade his servants make ready the
wedding feast, and invited all his giant subjects to come and celebrate
his marriage with the lovely goddess Freyja.

So the wedding party sat down to the feast, and Thor, who was always a
good eater, ate one ox and eight salmon, and drank three casks of mead.
The king watched him, greatly surprised to see a woman eat so much, and
said:—

      “Where hast thou seen
      Such a hungry bride!”

But the watchful Loki, who stood near by, as the bride’s waiting-maid,
whispered in the king’s ear, “Eight nights has Freyja fasted and would
take no food, so anxious was she to be your bride!”

This pleased the giant, and he went toward Thor, saying he must kiss his
fair bride. But when he lifted the bridal veil, such a gleam of light
shot from Thor’s eyes that the king started back, and asked why Freyja’s
eyes were so sharp.

Again Loki replied, “For eight nights the fair Freyja has not slept, so
greatly did she long to reach here!” This again pleased the king, and he
said, “Now let the hammer be brought and given to the bride, for the
hour has come for our marriage!”

All this time Thor was so eager to get his treasure back that he could
hardly keep still, and if it had not been for what the wily Loki said,
he might have been found out too soon. But at last the precious hammer
was brought and handed to the bride, as was always the custom at
weddings; as soon as Thor grasped it in his hand, he threw off his
woman’s robes and stood out before the astonished giants.

Then did the mighty Thunderer sweep down his foes, and many of the cruel
frost giants were slain. Once more the sacred city of Asgard was saved
from danger, for Thor was its defender, and he was careful never again
to let his magic hammer be taken from him.

Besides the hammer, Thor had two other precious things, his belt of
strength, which doubled his power when he tightened it, and his iron
glove, which he put on when he was going to throw the hammer.

      “I am the God Thor,
      I am the War God,
      I am the Thunderer!
      Here in my Northland,
      My fastness and fortress,
      Reign I forever!

      “Here amid icebergs
      Rule I the nations;
      This is my hammer,
      Miölnir the mighty;
      Giants and sorcerers
      Cannot withstand it!

      “These are the gauntlets
      Wherewith I wield it,
      And hurl it afar off;
      This is my girdle,
      Whenever I brace it
      Strength is redoubled!”
                              —LONGFELLOW



[Illustration]

A GIFT FROM FRIGGA.


Long years ago there lived a peasant and his wife, who led a quiet, busy
life on their little farm at the foot of a mountain. While the wife was
busy indoors with her housework, her husband watched his flocks in the
fields, or sometimes wandered up the mountain-side to hunt for game,
which he would carry home for dinner.

One day he had strayed farther than usual, and found himself on the top
of the mountain, where the ground was covered with ice and snow. All at
once he came upon a high arched doorway opening into a great glacier,
and he passed through to see whither it might lead.

The passageway widened out into a wonderful cavern, like a broad hall,
sparkling with precious stones, and long, shining stalactites, that
looked like icicles of marble. In the midst stood a beautiful goddess,
surrounded by fair maidens, all dressed in silvery robes, and crowned
with flowers.

The shepherd was so overcome by the wonder of this sight that he sank
upon his knees. Then the goddess stretched forth her hands and gave him
her blessing, telling him to choose whatever he wished, to carry home
from the cavern. The man was no longer afraid when he heard her kind
voice speaking to him, so he looked about, and at last humbly asked to
have the pretty blue flowers which the fair one held in her hand.

The lovely goddess Frigga, or Holda, as the German people called her,
smiled kindly, and told the poor shepherd he had made a wise choice. She
gave him her bunch of blue flowers, with a measure of seed, saying to
him, “You will live and be prosperous so long as the flowers do not
fade.”

The peasant bowed thankfully before the goddess, and when he rose she
had vanished, and he was alone on the mountain-side, just as usual, with
no cavern, no sparkling stones, and no fair maidens to be seen. If it
had not been for the pretty blue flowers and the measure of seed in his
hand, he would have thought it all a dream.

He hurried homeward to tell his wife, who was angry when she heard the
story, for she thought he had made such a foolish choice. “How much
better it would have been,” said she, “if you had brought home some of
those precious stones you tell about, which are worth money, instead of
these good-for-nothing flowers!”

The poor man bore her angry words quietly, and made the best of what he
had. He went to work at once to sow his seeds, which he found, to his
surprise, were enough to plant several fields.

Every morning before he led his flock to pasture, and on his way home at
night, he watched the little green shoots growing in his fields. Even
his wife was pleased when she saw the lovely blue blossoms of the flax
opening; then, after they had withered and fallen, the seeds formed.
Sometimes it seemed to the good man, as he stood in the twilight looking
over his field, that he saw a misty form, like the beautiful goddess,
stretching out her hands over the field of flax, to give it her
blessing.

When at length the seeds had ripened, Frigga came again to show the
peasant how to gather his harvest of flax, and to teach his wife to spin
and weave it into fine linen, which she bleached in the sun. The people
came from far and near to buy the linen, and the peasant and his wife
found themselves busy and happy, with money enough and to spare.

When they had lived many years, and were growing old among their
children and grandchildren, the peasant noticed one day that the bunch
of blue flowers, given to him so many years before, and which had always
kept bright, were beginning to fade; then he knew he had not much longer
to stay.

He climbed slowly up the mountain-side, and found the door of the cavern
open. A second time he went in, and the kind goddess Frigga took the
peasant by the hand, and led him away to stay with her, where she always
took care of him.

Frigga was the queen of the gods, and she helped her husband, Odin,
govern the world. It was her part to look after the children, and help
the mothers take care of their families.



[Illustration]

THE STEALING OF IDUNA


I.

Odin, the wise father of the gods, started off one day on a journey
through Midgard, the world of men, to see how his people were getting
on, and to give them help. He took with him his brother Hönir, the
light-giver, and Loki, the fire-god. Loki, you know, was always ready to
go wherever he could have any fun or do any mischief.

All the morning they went about among the homes of Midgard, and whenever
Odin found busy, faithful workers, he was sure to leave behind some
little thing which would hardly be noticed, a straw in the farmer’s
barn, or a kernel of grain in the furrow by the plow, or a bit of iron
at the blacksmith’s forge; but always happiness and plenty followed his
little gift.

At noontime Loki was so hungry that he begged Odin to stop for dinner;
so when they came to a shady spot by the bank of a river, the three gods
chose it for their resting-place.

Odin threw himself down under a tree and began to read his little book
of runes, or wise sayings, but Loki began to make a fire and get ready
for the feast. Then he started off to a farmhouse near by, leaving Hönir
to cook the meat which they had brought.

As Loki came near the farmhouse, he thought to himself, “I will change
myself into a cat, and then I can have a better chance to spy about.” So
he changed himself into a black cat, and jumping upon the kitchen
window-sill, he saw the farmer’s wife taking some cakes out of the oven.
They smelled so good and looked so tempting that Loki said to himself,
“What a prize those cakes would be for our dinner!”

Just then the woman turned back to the oven to get more cakes, and Loki
snatched those which she had laid on the table. The good housewife soon
missed her cakes; she looked all about, and could not think what had
become of them, but just as she was taking the last lot from the oven,
she turned quickly around, and saw the tail of a cat whisking out of the
window.

“There!” cried she, “that wicked black cat has stolen my nice cakes. I
will go after him with my broom!” But by the time she reached the door
all she could see was a cow walking in her garden, and when she came
there to drive her away, nothing was to be seen except a big raven and
six little ones flying overhead.

Then the mischievous Loki went back to the river bank, where he had left
his two friends, and showed them the six cakes, boasting of the good
joke he had played upon the poor woman. But Odin did not think it was a
joke. He scolded Loki for stealing, and said, “It is a shame for one of
the Æsir to be a thief! Go back to the farmhouse, and put these three
black stones on the kitchen table.”

Loki knew that the stones meant something good for the poor woman, and
he did not wish to go back to the house; but he had to do as the
Allfather told him. As he went along he heard his friends the foxes, who
put their heads out of their holes and laughed at his tricks, for the
foxes thought Loki was the biggest thief of them all.

Changing himself into an owl, Loki flew in at the kitchen window, and
dropped from his beak the three stones, which, when they fell upon the
white table, seemed to be three black stains.

The next time the good woman came into her kitchen, she was surprised
to find that the dinner was all cooked. And so the wonderful stones that
Odin had sent brought good luck; the housewife always found her food
ready cooked, and all her jars and boxes filled with good things to eat,
and never again was in need.

The other women all said she was the best housekeeper in the village,
but one thing always troubled her, and that was the table with the three
black stains. She scrubbed, and scrubbed, but could never make it white
again.

And now we must go back to Loki. He was very hungry by this time, and
hoped that Hönir would have the meat nicely cooked when he came back to
the river bank, but when they took it out of the kettle, they found it
was not cooked at all. So Odin went on reading his book of runes, not
thinking about food, while Hönir and Loki watched the fire, and at the
end of an hour they looked again at the meat.

“Now, it will surely be done this time!” said Loki, but again they were
disappointed, for the meat in the kettle was still raw. Then they began
to look about to see what magic might be at work, and at last spied a
big eagle sitting on a tree near the fire. All at once the bird spoke,
and said, “If you will promise to give me all the meat I can eat, it
shall be cooked in a few minutes.”

The three friends agreed to this, and in a short time, as the bird had
promised, the meat was well done, Loki was so hungry he could hardly
wait to get it out of the kettle, but suddenly the eagle pounced down
upon it, and seized more than half, which made Loki so angry that he
took up a stick to beat the bird, and what do you think happened? Why,
the stick, as soon as it touched the bird’s back, stuck fast there, and
Loki found he could not let go his end of it. Then away flew the eagle,
carrying Loki with him, over the fields and over the tree-tops, until it
seemed as though his arms would be torn from his body. He begged for
mercy, but the bird flew on and on. At last Loki said, “I will give you
anything you ask, if you will only let me go!”

Now the eagle was really the cruel storm giant Thiassi, and he said, “I
will never let you go until you promise to get for me, from Asgard, the
lovely goddess Iduna, and her precious apples!”

When Odin and Hönir saw Loki whisked off through the air, they knew that
the eagle must be one of their giant enemies, so they hurried home to
Asgard to defend their sacred city. Just as they came to Bifröst, the
rainbow bridge, Loki joined them; but he took care not to tell them how
the eagle came to let him go.

Odin felt sure that Loki had been doing something wrong, but knowing
very well that Loki would not tell him the truth, he made up his mind
not to ask any questions.


II.

The goddess Iduna, whom Loki was to tempt away out of Asgard, was the
dearest of them all. She was the fair goddess of spring and of youth,
and all the Æsir loved her. Her garden was the loveliest spot, with all
sorts of bright, sweet flowers, birds singing by day and night, little
chattering brooks under the great trees, and everything happy and fresh.
The gods loved to go and sit with Iduna, and rest in her beautiful
garden, within the walls of Asgard.

There was another delightful thing in the garden, and that was Iduna’s
casket. This was a magic box filled with big, golden-red apples, which
she always gave her friends to taste. These wonderful apples were not
only delicious to eat, but whoever tasted them, no matter how tired or
feeble he might be, would feel young and strong again. So the dwellers
in Asgard ate often of this wonderful fruit, which kept them fresh and
young, fit to help the people in the world of Midgard. The casket in
which Iduna kept her apples was always filled, for whenever she took out
one, another came in its place; but no one knew where it came from, and
only the goddess of youth, herself, could take the apples from the box,
for if any one else tried, the fruit grew smaller and smaller, as the
hand came nearer, until at last it vanished away.

A few days after Loki’s bargain with the giant Thiassi, Iduna was in her
bright garden one morning, watering the flowers, when her husband,
Bragi, came to say good-by to her, because he must go on a journey.

Loki watched him start off, and thought, “Now, here is my chance to
tempt Iduna away from Asgard.” After a while he went to the garden, and
found the lovely goddess sitting among her flowers and birds. She looked
up at Loki with such a sweet smile, as he came near, that he felt almost
ashamed of his cruel plan; but he sat down on a grassy bank, and asked
Iduna for one of her magic apples.

After tasting it, he smacked his lips, saying, “Do you know, fair Iduna,
as I was coming home toward Asgard one day, I saw a tree full of apples
which were really larger and more beautiful than yours; I do wish you
would go with me and see them.”

“Why, how can that be?” said Iduna, “for Father Odin has often told me
that my apples were the largest and finest he ever saw. I should so like
to see those others, and I think I will go with you now, to compare them
with mine.”

“Come on, then!” said Loki; “and you’d better take along your own
apples, so that we can try them with the others.”

[Illustration: IDUNA GIVING LOKI THE APPLE.]

Now Bragi had often told Iduna that she must never wander away from
home, but, thinking it would do no harm to go such a little way, just
this once, she took the casket of apples in her hand and went with Loki.
They had hardly passed through the garden gate, when she began to wish
herself back again, but Loki, taking her by the hand, hurried along to
the rainbow bridge.

They had no sooner crossed over Bifröst than Iduna saw a big eagle
flying toward them. Nearer and nearer he came, until at last he swooped
down and seized poor Iduna with his sharp talons, and flew away with her
to his cold, barren home. There she stayed shut up for many long dreary
months, always longing to get back to Asgard, to see Bragi and her
lovely garden.

The giant Thiassi had long been planning that if he could only once get
the fair goddess of youth in his power, he would eat her magic apples,
and so get strength enough to conquer the Æsir; but now, after all, she
would not give him even one of them, and when he put his hand into the
casket, the apples grew smaller and smaller, until at last they
vanished, so that he could not get even a taste.

This cruel storm giant kept poor Iduna closely shut up in a little rock
chamber, hoping that some day he could force her to give him what he
wanted. All day long she heard the sea beating on the rocks below her
gloomy cell, but she could not look out, for the only window was a
narrow opening in the rock, high up above her head. She saw no one but
the giant, and his serving-women, who waited upon her.

When these women first came to her, Iduna was surprised to see that they
were not ugly or stern-looking, and, when she looked at their fair,
smiling faces, she hoped they would be friendly and pitiful to her in
her trouble. She begged them to help her, and, with many tears, told
them her sad story; but still they kept on smiling, and when they turned
their backs, Iduna saw that they were hollow. These were the Ellewomen,
who had no hearts, and so could never be sorry for any one. When one is
in trouble, it is very hard to be with Ellewomen.

Every day the giant came to ask Iduna, in his terrible voice, if she
had made up her mind to give him the apples. Iduna was frightened, but
she always had courage enough to say “No,” for she knew it would be
false and cowardly to give to a wicked giant these precious gifts which
were meant for the high gods. Although it was hard to be a prisoner, and
to see no one but the cold, fair Ellewomen who kept on smiling at her
tears, she knew it was far better to belong to the bright Æsir, even in
prison, than to be a giant, or an Ellewoman, no matter how free or
smiling they might be.


III.

All this while the dwellers in Asgard were sad and lonely without their
dear Iduna. At first they went to her garden, as before, but they missed
the bright goddess, and soon the garden itself grew dreary. The fresh
green leaves turned brown and fell, the flowers faded, no new buds
opened. No bird-songs were heard, and the saddest thing of all was that
now the gods had no more of the wonderful apples to keep them fresh and
strong, while two strangers, named Age and Pain, walked about the city
of Asgard, and the Æsir felt themselves growing tired and feeble.

Every day they watched for Iduna’s return; at last, when day after day
had passed, and still she did not come, a meeting of all the gods and
goddesses was called to talk over what they should do, and where they
should search for their lost sister.

Loki, you may be sure, took care not to show himself at the meeting; but
when it was found out that Iduna had last been seen walking with him,
Bragi went after him, and brought him in before all the Æsir.

Then Father Odin, who sat on his high throne, looking very tired and
sad, said: “Oh, Loki, what is this that you have done? You have broken
your promise of brotherhood, and brought sorrow upon Asgard! Fail not to
bring home again our sister, or else come not yourself within our
gates!”

Loki knew well that this command must be obeyed, and besides, even he
was beginning to wish for Iduna again; so, borrowing the cloak of falcon
feathers which belonged to the goddess Freyja, he put it on and set out
for Utgard and the castle of the giant Thiassi, which was a gloomy cave
in a high rock by the sea, and there he found poor Iduna shut up in
prison.

By good luck, the giant was away fishing when Loki arrived, so he was
able to fly in, without being seen, through the narrow opening in
Iduna’s rock cell. You would have taken him to be just a falcon bird,
but Iduna knew it was really Loki, and was filled with joy to see him.
Without stopping to talk, Loki quickly changed her into a nut, which he
held fast in his falcon claws, and flew swiftly northward, over the sea,
toward Asgard. He had not gone far when he heard a rushing noise behind
them, and he knew it must be the eagle. Faster and faster flew the
falcon with his precious nut; but the fierce eagle flew still faster
after them.

Meanwhile, for five days, the dwellers in Asgard gathered together on
the city walls, gazing southward, to watch for the coming of the birds,
while Loki and Iduna, chased by Thiassi, the eagle, flew over the wide
sea separating Utgard, the land of the giants, from Asgard. Each night
the eagle was nearer his prey, and the watchers in the city were filled
with fear lest he should overtake their friends.

At last they thought of a plan to help Iduna: gathering a great pile of
wood by the city walls, they set fire to it. When Loki reached the place
he flew safely through the thick smoke and flame, for you know he was
the god of fire, and dropped down into the city with his little nut held
fast in his falcon claws. But when the heavy eagle came rushing on after
them, he could not rise above the heat of the fire, and, smothered by
the smoke, fell down and was burned to death.

There was great joy in Asgard at having the dear Iduna back again; her
friends gathered around her, and she invited them all into her garden,
where the withered trees and flowers began to sprout and blossom; the
gay birds came back, singing and building their nests, and the happy
little brooks went dancing under the trees.

Iduna sat with Bragi among her friends, and they all feasted upon her
golden apples; she was so thankful to be free, and at home in her garden
again. Once more the Æsir became young and strong, and the two dark
strangers went away, for happiness and peace had come back to Asgard.



[Illustration]

SKADI.


While Iduna’s friends were still crowding about her, all joyful and glad
at getting her home again, they spied some one afar off, coming toward
Asgard.

As the figure drew nearer, they saw it was Skadi, the tall daughter of
the frost giant Thiassi, who had chased Iduna; she was dressed all in
white fur, and carried a shining hunting-spear and arrows. Slung over
her shoulder were snowshoes and skates, for Skadi had come from her
mountain home in the icy north. Very angry about the loss of her father,
she had come to ask the Æsir why they had been so cruel to him.

Father Odin spoke kindly to her, saying, “We will do honor to your
father by putting his eyes in the sky, where they will always shine as
two bright stars, and the people in Midgard will remember Thiassi
whenever they look up at night and see the two twinkling lights. Besides
this, we will also give you gold and silver.” But Skadi, thinking money
could never repay her for the loss of her father, was still angry.

Loki looked at her stern face, and he said to himself, “If we can only
make Skadi laugh, she will be more ready to agree to the plan,” and he
began to think of some way to amuse her. Taking a long cord he tied it
to a goat; it was an invisible cord, which no one could see, and Loki
himself held the other end of it. Then he began to dance and caper
about, and the goat had to do just what Loki did. It really was such a
funny sight, that all the gods shouted with laughter, and even poor,
sorrowful Skadi had to smile.

When the Æsir saw this, they proposed another plan: Skadi might choose
one of the gods for her husband, but she must choose, from seeing only
his bare feet. The giantess looked at them all, as they stood before
her, and when she saw the bright face of Baldur, more beautiful than all
the rest, she agreed to their plan, saying to herself, “It might be that
I should choose him, and then I should surely be happy.”

The gods then stood in a row behind a curtain, so that Skadi could see
nothing but their bare feet. She looked carefully at them all, and at
last chose the pair of feet which seemed to her the whitest, and of the
finest shape, thinking those must be Baldur’s; but when the curtain was
taken away, she was surprised and sorry to find she had chosen Niörd,
the god of the seashore.

The wedding took place at Asgard, and when the feasting was over, Skadi
and Niörd went to dwell in his home by the sea. At first they were very
happy, for Niörd was kind to his giant bride; but how could you expect
one of the Æsir to live happily very long with a frost giantess for his
wife?

Skadi did not like the roar of the waves, and hated the cries of the
sea-gulls and the murmur of gentle summer winds. She longed for her
frozen home, far away in the north, amid ice and snow.

And so they finally agreed that, for nine months of the year, Niörd
should live with Skadi among her snowy mountains, where she found
happiness in hunting over the white hills and valleys on her snowshoes,
with her hunting dogs at her side, or skating on the ice-bound rivers
and lakes. Then for the three short months of summer Skadi must live
with Niörd in his palace by the sea, while he calmed the stormy ocean
waves, and helped the busy fishermen to have good sailing for their
boats.

[Illustration: SKADI HUNTING IN THE MOUNTAINS.]

Niörd loved to wander along the shore, his jacket trimmed with a
fringe of lovely seaweeds and his belt made of the prettiest shells on
the beach, with the friendly little sandpipers running before him, and
beautiful gulls and other sea birds sailing in the air above his head.
Sometimes he loved to sit on the rocks by the shore, watching the seals
play in the sunshine, or feeding the beautiful swans, his favorite
birds.

There is a kind of sponge, which the people in the north still call
Niörd’s glove, in memory of this old Norse god.



[Illustration]

BALDUR.


I.

Baldur was the best beloved of all the gods. Odin was their father and
king; to him they turned for help and wise advice, but it was to Baldur
they went for loving words and bright smiles. The sight of his kind face
was a joy to the Æsir, and to all the people of Midgard. They sometimes
called him the god of light, a good name for him, because he truly gave
to the world light and strength.

Baldur was the son of Odin and Frigga; he was the most gentle and lovely
of all the gods. His beautiful palace in Asgard was bright and spotless;
no evil creature could enter there; no one who had wrong thoughts could
stay in that palace of love and truth.

At last, after the bright summer was over, for many days Baldur had
looked sad and troubled. Some of the Æsir saw it, but most of all, his
loving, watchful mother, Frigga. Baldur could not bear to worry his
mother, so he kept his sorrow to himself, saying nothing about it; but
at last Frigga drew his secret from him, and then his friends knew that
Baldur had had dreams which told of coming trouble, dreams of his
leaving all his friends and going away from Asgard, to dwell in another
land.

Odin and Frigga, fearing the dreams might come true and they must lose
their beloved son, began to think what they could do to prevent it.

Then the loving mother said, “I will make all things in the world
promise not to hurt our son.” And so Queen Frigga sent out for
everything in the whole world, and everything came trooping to Asgard,
to her palace. All living creatures came from the land, from the water,
and from the air. All plants and trees came; all rocks, stones, and even
the metals under the earth, where the busy dwarfs worked. Fire came, and
water, as well as all poisons, and sickness. Everything promised not to
harm the good Baldur, except one little plant called mistletoe, which
was so small that Frigga did not send for it, feeling sure it could not
do any harm.

“Now I am happy once more,” said the queen, “for our Baldur is safe!”
And she sat at peace in her beautiful palace, rejoicing that her dear
son was free from all danger.

But Odin, the wise Allfather, still felt uneasy, even after all these
promises, fearing what might happen. So he took his eight-footed steed,
Sleipnir, and rode forth from Asgard to the underworld to find Hela, the
wise woman who ruled over that far-off land. She could tell everything
that was going to happen, and she knew the names of all those who were
coming to dwell with her. Odin was the only one wise enough to speak
with Hela, for no one else knew the words that would call her forth from
her dwelling; but when Odin called, she came to answer.

“Tell me,” said he, “for whom are you making ready this costly room?”

“We make ready for Baldur, the god of light,” replied Hela.

“Who, then, will slay Baldur, and bring such darkness and sorrow to
Asgard?”

Again said the wise woman, “It is Hodur, Baldur’s twin brother, who will
slay the sun-god.” And with these words she vanished.

Sadly Father Odin returned to Asgard, and told his wife the words of
Hela; but Frigga was not troubled in her heart, for she felt sure that
nothing would hurt her dear son.


II.

One beautiful sunny day at the end of summer the gods had all gone out
to an open field beyond Asgard to have some sports. As they all knew
that nothing could hurt Baldur, they placed him at the end of the field
for a target, and then took turns throwing their darts at him, just for
the fun of seeing them fall off without hurting him. They thought this
was showing great honor to Baldur, and he was pleased to join in the
sport.

Loki happened to be away when they began to play, and when he came was
angry in his heart that nothing could hurt Baldur.

“Why should he be so favored? I hate him!” said Loki to himself, and
began at once to plan some evil.

All this while Queen Frigga sat in her palace, thinking of all her dear
sons, and of how much good they did to men. As she sat thus, thinking,
and spinning with her hands, there came a knock at the door. The queen
called, “Come in!” and an old woman stood before her.

Frigga spoke kindly to her, and soon the old woman said she had passed
by the field where the gods were playing, and throwing sharp weapons at
Baldur.

“Oh, yes,” said Frigga; “neither metal nor wood can hurt him, for all
things in the world have given me their promise.”

“What!” said the old woman; “do you mean that all things have really
vowed to spare Baldur?”

“All,” replied the queen, “except one little plant that grows on the
eastern side of Asgard; it is called mistletoe, and I thought it too
small and soft to do any harm.”

Before long the old woman went away, and when she was quite out of sight
of Frigga’s palace, threw off her woman’s clothes, and who do you
suppose it was? Why, no woman at all, but that wicked Loki, of course,
who hurried away out of Asgard, to find the poor little plant that did
not know about Baldur’s danger. When he came to the place where the
plant grew, Loki cutting off a branch, quickly made a sharp arrow, which
he carried back to the playground, where the Æsir were still at their
game, all but one, Hodur, the god of darkness, Baldur’s blind twin
brother.

Then Loki went up to Hodur, and said to him in a low voice, “Why do you
not join with the others in doing honor to Baldur?”

“I cannot see to take aim, you know, and besides, I have no weapon,”
said Hodur.

“Come, then, here is a fine new dart for you, and I will guide your
hand,” whispered wicked Loki; then he slipped the arrow of mistletoe
wood into Hodur’s hand and aimed it himself at Baldur, who stood there
so bright and smiling.

Then poor blind Hodur heard a dreadful cry from all the gods: Baldur
the Beautiful had fallen, struck by the arrow; he would now be taken
away from them, to live with Hela in the underworld.

Every heart was filled with sorrow for this dreadful loss; but no one
tried to punish him who had done the wicked deed, for they stood upon
sacred ground, and the field was named the Peace-stead, or Place of
Peace, where no one might hurt another. Besides, the gods did not know
it was the false Loki who hated Baldur, that had struck him down.

When Frigga heard the sad news, she asked who would win her love by
going to the underworld and begging Hela to let Baldur come back to
them.

Hermod, the swift messenger-god, ready to do his mother’s bidding, set
forth at once on the long journey. Nine days and nights he traveled
without resting, until he came to Hela’s underworld. There he found
Baldur, who was glad to see him, and sent messages to his friends in
Asgard. Hela said Baldur might return to them on one condition: that
every living creature, and everything in the world must weep for him.

So Hermod hastened back to Asgard, and when the Æsir heard Hela’s
answer, they sent out messengers over the world to bid all things weep
for Baldur, their bright sun-god. Then did the beasts, the birds, the
fishes, the flowers and trees, even stones and metals weep; as indeed we
can see the teardrops come to all things when they are changed from heat
to cold.

As the messengers were coming back to Asgard they met an old woman, whom
they bade weep, but she replied, “Let Hela keep Baldur down below; why
should I care?” When the Æsir heard of this, they thought it must have
been the same old woman who went before to Frigga’s palace, and we know
who that was.

And so Baldur the beautiful, Baldur the bright, did not come back, and
all the dwellers in Asgard were sad and sorrowful without him.



[Illustration]

ÆGIR’S FEAST


I.

Ægir was the ruler of the ocean, and his home was deep down below the
tossing waves, where the water is calm and still. There was his
beautiful palace, in the wonderful coral caves; its walls all hung with
bright-colored seaweeds, and the floor of white, sparkling coral sand.
Such wonderful sea-plants grew all about, and still more wonderful
creatures, some, which you could not tell from flowers, waving their
pretty fringes in the water; some sitting fastened to the rocks and
catching their food without moving, like the sponges; others darting
about and chasing each other.

      “Deep in the wave is a coral grove,
      Where the purple mullet and goldfish rove;
      Where the sea-flower spreads its leaves of blue,
      That never are wet with falling dew,
      But in bright and changeful beauty shine
      Far down in the green and glassy brine.
      The floor is of sand, like the mountain drift,
      And the pearl-shells spangle the flinty snow;
      From coral rocks the sea-plants lift
      Their boughs where the tides and billows flow.
      The water is calm and still below,
      For the winds and waves are absent there,
      And the sands are bright as the stars that glow
      In the motionless fields of upper air.”
                                                —PERCIVAL.

In that ocean home lived the lovely mermaids, who sometimes came up
above the waves to sit on the rocks and comb their long golden hair in
the sunshine. They had heads and bodies like beautiful maidens, with
fish-tails instead of feet.

One day the gods in Asgard gave a feast, and Ægir was invited. He could
not often leave home to visit Asgard, for he was always very busy with
the ocean winds and tides and storms; but calling his daughters, the
waves, he bade them keep the ocean quiet while he was away, and look
after the ships at sea.

Then Ægir went over Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, to Asgard, where they
had such a gay party and such feasting that he was sorry when the time
came to go home; but at last he said good-by to Father Odin and the rest
of the Æsir. He thanked them all for the pleasure they had given him,
saying, “If only I had a kettle that held enough mead for us all to
drink, I would invite you to visit me.”

Thor, who was always glad to hear about eating and drinking, said, “I
know of a kettle a mile wide and a mile deep; I will fetch it for you!”

Then Ægir was pleased, and set a day for them all to come to his great
feast.

So Thor took with him his brother, the brave Tyr, who knew best how to
find the kettle; and together they started off in Thor’s thunder
chariot, drawn by goats, on their way to Utgard, the home of the giants.

When they reached that land of ice and snow, they soon found the house
of Hymir, the giant who owned “Mile-deep,” as the big kettle was called.
The gods were glad to find that the giant was not at home, and his wife,
who was more gentle than most of her people, asked them to come in and
rest, advising them to be ready to run when they should hear the giant
coming, and to hide behind a row of kettles which hung from a beam at
the back end of the hall. “For,” said she, “my husband may be very angry
when he finds strangers here, and often the glance of his eye is so
fierce that it kills!”

At first the mighty Thor and brave Tyr were not willing to hide like
cowards; but at last they agreed to the plan, upon the good wife
promising to call them out as soon as she had told her husband about
them.

It was not long before they heard the heavy steps of Hymir, as he came
striding into his icy home; and very lucky it was for Thor and Tyr that
the giantess had told them to hide, for when the giant heard that two of
the Æsir from Asgard were in his home, so fierce a flash shot from his
eyes that it broke the beam from which the kettles hung, and they all
fell broken on the floor except Mile-deep.

After a while the giant grew quiet, and at last even began to be polite
to his guests. He had been unlucky at his fishing that day, so he had
to kill three of his oxen for supper. Thor being hungry, as usual, made
Hymir quite angry by eating two whole oxen, so that, when they rose from
the table the giant said, “If you keep on eating as much at every meal,
as you have to-night, Thor, you will have to find your own food.”

“Very well,” said Thor; “I will go fishing with you in the morning!”


II.

Next morning Thor set forth with the giant, and as they walked over the
fields toward the sea, Thor cut off the head of one of the finest oxen,
for bait. Of course you may know that Hymir was not pleased at this, but
Thor said he should need the very best kind of bait, for he was hoping
to catch the Midgard serpent, that dangerous monster who lived at the
bottom of the ocean, coiled around the world, with his tail in his
mouth.

When they came to the shore where the boat was ready, each one took an
oar, and they rowed out to deep water. Hymir was tired first, and called
to Thor to stop. “We are far enough out!” he cried “This is my usual
fishing-place, where I find the best whales. If we go farther the sea
will be rougher, and we may run into the Midgard serpent.”

As this was just what Thor wanted, he rowed all the harder, and did not
stop until they were far out on the ocean; then he baited his hook with
the ox’s head, and threw it overboard. Soon there came a fierce jerk on
the line; it grew heavier and heavier, but Thor pulled with all his
might. He tugged so hard that he broke through the bottom of the boat,
and had to stand on the slippery rocks beneath.

All this time the giant was looking on, wondering what was the matter,
but when he saw the horrid head of the Midgard serpent rising above the
waves, he was so frightened that he cut the line; and Thor, after trying
so hard to rid the world of that dangerous monster, saw him fall back
again under the water; even Miölnir, the magic hammer, which Thor hurled
at the creature, was too late to hit him. And so the two fishermen had
to turn back, and wade to the shore, carrying the broken boat and oars
with them.

The giant was proud to think he had been too quick for Thor, and after
they reached the house he said to the thunder-god, “Since you think you
are so strong, let us see you break this goblet; if you succeed, I will
give you the big kettle.”

This was just what Thor wanted; so he tightened his belt of strength,
and threw the goblet with all his might against the wall; but instead of
breaking the goblet he broke the wall.

A second time he tried, but did no better. Then the giant’s wife
whispered to Thor, “Throw it at his head!” And she sang in a low voice,
as she turned her spinning-wheel,—

      “Hard the pillar, hard the stone,
      Harder yet the giant’s bone!
      Stones shall break and pillars fall,
      Hymir’s forehead breaks them all!”

Yet again Thor threw the goblet, this time against the giant’s head, and
it fell, broken in pieces.

Then Tyr tried to lift the Mile-deep kettle, for he was in a hurry to
leave this land of ice and snow; but he could not stir it from its
place, and Thor had to help him, before they could get it out of the
giant’s house.

When Hymir saw the gods, whom he hated, carrying off his kettle, he
called all his giant friends, and they started out in chase of the Æsir;
but when Thor heard them coming he turned and saw their fierce, grinning
faces glaring down at him from every rocky peak and iceberg.

Then the mighty Thunderer raised Miölnir, the hammer, above his head,
and hurled it among the giants, who became stiff and cold, all turned
into giant rocks, that still stand by the shore.


III.

Ægir was very glad to get Mile-deep; so he set to work to make the mead
in it, to get ready for the great feast, at the time of the flax
harvest, when all the Æsir were coming from Asgard to visit him.

Before the day came, all light and joy had gone from the sacred city,
because the bright Baldur had been slain, and the homes of the gods were
dark and lonely without him. So they were all glad to visit Ægir, to
find cheer for their sadness.

There was Father Odin, with his golden helmet, and Queen Frigga,
wearing her crown of stars, golden-haired Sif, Freyja, with Brisingamen,
the wonderful necklace, and all the noble company of the Æsir, all
except mighty Thor, who had gone far away to the giant-land.

As they all sat in Ægir’s beautiful ocean hall, drinking the sweet mead,
and talking together, Loki came in and stood before them; but, finding
he was not welcome, and no seat saved for him, he began saying ugly
things to make them all angry, and at last he grew angry himself, and
slew Ægir’s servant because they praised him. The Æsir drove him out
from the hall, but once more he came in, and said such dreadful things
that at last Frigga said, “Oh, if my son Baldur were only here, he would
silence thy wicked tongue!”

Then Loki turned to Frigga, and told her that he himself was the very
one who had slain Baldur. He had no sooner spoken than a heavy peal of
thunder shook the hall, and angry Thor strode in, waving his magic
hammer. Seeing this, the coward Loki turned and fled, and Asgard was rid
of him forever.



[Illustration]

THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI.


When Loki was driven out by the mighty Thor from Ægir’s palace-hall he
knew that he could never again be allowed to come among the gods in
Asgard. Many times had this mischievous fire-god brought trouble and
sorrow to the Æsir, but now he had done the most cruel deed of all, he
had slain Baldur the Good, and had driven all light and joy from Asgard.

Far away he fled, among the mountains, hoping that no one would find him
there; and near a lovely mountain stream he built for himself a hut with
four doors looking north, east, south, and west, so that if the wise
Allfather, on his high air throne in Asgard, should see him, and send
messengers to punish him, the watchful Loki could see them coming and
escape by the opposite door.

He spent most of the days and nights thinking how he could get away
from the Æsir. “If I ran to the stream and turned myself into a fish,”
he thought, “I wonder if they could catch me. I could keep out of the
way of a hook; but then there are nets; Ægir’s wife has a wonderful
thing like a net, for catching fish, and that would be far worse than a
hook!”

When Loki thought of the net, he began to wonder how it was made, and
the more he thought, the more he wished he could make one so as to see
how a fish could keep from getting caught in it. He sat down by the fire
in his little hut, took a piece of cord and began to make a fish-net. He
had nearly finished it when, looking up through the open door, he saw
three of the Æsir in the distance, coming toward his hut. Loki well knew
that they were coming to catch him, and, quickly throwing his net into
the fire, he ran to the stream, changed himself into a beautiful spotted
salmon, and leaped into the water.

A moment later the three gods entered the hut, and one of them spied the
fish-net burning in the fire. “See!” cried he, “Loki must have been
making this net to catch fish; he always was a good fisherman, and now
this is just what we want for catching him!”

[Illustration: THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI.]

So they snatched the last bit of the net from the fire, and by
looking at it found out how to make another, which they took with them
to the bank of the stream.

The first time the net was put into the water, Loki hid between two
rocks, and the net was so light that it floated past him; but the next
time it had a heavy stone weight, which made it sink down, till Loki saw
he could not get away unless he could leap over the net. He did this,
but Thor, seeing him, waded out into the stream, where he threw the net
again, so that Loki must jump a second time, or else go on out into the
deep sea.

As he leaped, Thor stooped and caught him in his hand, but the fish was
so slippery that Thor could hardly hold it. In the struggle the salmon’s
tail was pinched so tightly by the thunder-god’s strong fingers that it
was drawn out to a point, and the old stories say that is why salmon
tails are so pointed ever since.

Thus was Loki caught in his own trap, and dreadful was his punishment.
The Æsir chained him to a high rock, and placed a great, poisonous
serpent, hanging over the cliff above his head.

If it had not been for Loki’s good, faithful wife, he would have died
of the poison that dropped from the snake’s mouth. She watched by her
husband, holding a cup above him to catch the poison. Only when she had
to turn aside to empty the cup did the drops fall upon Loki; then they
gave him such terrible pain that he shook the earth with his struggles,
and the people in Midgard fled from the dreadful earthquake, in Iceland
the great geysers, springs of hot water, burst through the earth, and in
the south-lands burning ashes and lava poured down the mountain-sides.

There, chained to the cliff, the cruel, mischievous Loki was to lie
until the Twilight of the gods, the dark day of Ragnarök, when all the
mighty evil monsters and beasts would get free, and the terrible battle
be fought between them and the gods of Asgard.



[Illustration]

THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS.


Loki and Fenrir, the wolf, were safely bound, each to his separate
cliff, but still happiness and peace did not return to Asgard, for
Baldur was no longer there, and light and joy had gone from the home of
the gods. The Æsir felt that the Twilight of the gods, which Odin knew
was to come, must be near.

Soon began a long cold winter; surely it must be the beginning of the
Fimbulwinter, which was to come before the last great battle. From the
north came cold blasts of freezing wind; snow and ice covered the earth;
men could not see the face of the sun or the moon. Everywhere there was
darkness; the people grew fierce and unhappy and wicked, for they seemed
no longer to love each other. So the evil deeds of men kept on, and the
fierce frost giants grew stronger and stronger. They killed the trees
and flowers, and bound the lakes and rivers with icy bands.

Even when summer time came, the cold still held on, and no one could see
the green grass or the beautiful golden sunlight. The frost giants were
pleased to see the trouble they had brought upon men, and hoped they
soon could destroy Asgard and the gods.

Three long winters passed, with no light to warm and brighten the world;
after that still three other dreary winters, and then the eagle who sat
on the top of the great world tree, Yggdrasil, gave a loud, shrill cry;
at that the earth shook, the rocks crumbled and fell, so that Loki and
the wolf were freed from their chains.

The waters of the deep ocean rose and rolled high over the land, and up
above the waves writhing out of the deep, came the monster Midgard
serpent to join in the last battle. Now the enemies of the gods were
gathering from all sides,—the frost giants, the mountain giants, with
Loki, Fenrir, and the Midgard serpent.

Heimdall, the faithful watchman, looked from his watch-tower by the
rainbow bridge, and when he saw the host of monsters appearing and
raging toward Asgard, he blew his magic horn, Giallar, which was the
signal of warning to the gods.

[Illustration: THOR FIGHTING THE SERPENT.]

When Father Odin heard the blast of Heimdall’s horn, he hastened to arm
himself for the battle; once again it is said the Allfather sought
wisdom at Mimir’s fountain, asking to know how best to lead the Æsir
against their enemies. But what Mimir said to him no one ever knew, for
a second call sounded from the Giallar horn, and the gods, with Odin at
their head, rode forth from Asgard to meet their foes.

Thor took his place beside Odin, but they were soon parted in the
struggle. The thunder-god fell upon his old enemy, the serpent, whom
twice before he had tried to slay, and after a fierce fight, he at last
conquered and slew the monster; but the poisonous breath from the
serpent’s mouth overcame the mighty Thor, and he also fell.

Heimdall and Loki came face to face, and each slew the other. Thus every
one of the gods battled each with his foe, till at last the darkness
grew deeper, and all, both gods and giants lay dead. Then fire burst
forth, raging from Utgard to Asgard—and all the worlds were destroyed
in that dreadful day of Ragnarök.

But this was not the end of all: after many months, and years, and even
centuries had passed, a new world began to appear, with the fair ocean,
and the beautiful land, with a bright, shining sun by day, and the moon
and stars by night. Then once more the light and heat from the sun made
the grass and trees grow, and the flowers bloom.

Baldur and Hodur came to this beautiful new world, and walked and talked
together. Thor’s sons were there, too, and with them, the hammer,
Miölnir, no longer for use against giants, but for helping men build
homes.

Two people, a man and a woman, who were kept safe through the raging
fire, now came to dwell on the earth, and all their children and
grandchildren lived at peace with each other in this beautiful new
world.

Baldur and Hodur talked often of the old days when the Æsir dwelt in
Asgard, before Loki, the wicked one, brought darkness and trouble to
them. With loving words they spoke of Odin and Frigga; and the brave
Tyr, who gave his right hand to save the Æsir; of mighty Thor; and
faithful Heimdall; of lovely Freyja, with her beautiful necklace; and of
fair Iduna’s garden, where they used to sit and eat her magic apples.
“But still,” they said, “we know now that this new world is fairer than
the old, and here, also, the loving Allfather watches over his
children.”



INDEX OF NAMES.


=Ægir= (āˊjir). God of the deep sea.

=Æsir= . The twelve gods of Asgard.

=Alfheim= (ălfˊhīm). Home of the elves and of Frey.

=Asgard= (asˊgärd). The home of the Æsir.

=Baldur= (ba̤lˊder). The sun-god.

=Bifröst= (bēˊfrẽst). The rainbow bridge.

=Bragi= (bräˊgē). The god of poetry. Husband of Iduna.

=Brisingamen= (brĭ singˊä men). Freyja’s necklace.

=Brock=. One of the dwarfs.

=Fenrir=. The monster wolf.

=Fimbulwinter= (fimˊbul). The last stormy winter.

=Frey= (frī). The god of summer and of the elves.

=Freyja= (frīˊyă). The goddess of love and beauty.

=Frigga= (frĭgˊä). The queen of the gods. Wife of Odin.

=Giallar-horn= (Gyälˊlar). Heimdall’s trumpet.

=Gladsheim= (glădzˊhīm). Odin’s palace.

=Heimdall= (hīmˊdäl). Guardian of the rainbow bridge.

=Hela= (hēˊlä). Queen of the underworld.

=Hermod= (hẽrˊmod). The messenger-god.

=Hodur= (hoˊder). God of darkness. Baldur’s brother.

=Hönir= (hẽˊnir). God of mind or thought.

=Hymir= (hēˊmir). The frost giant who owned the great kettle called
Mile-deep.

=Iduna= (ē doonˊä). Goddess of spring.

=Jötunheim= (yẽˊtoon hīm). Home of the giants.

=Loki= (lōˊkē). God of fire.

=Midgard=. The earth.

=Mimir= (mēˊmir). Guardian of the well of wisdom.

=Miölnir= (myẽlˊnir). Thor’s magic hammer.

=Niflheim= (nĭflˊhīm). The underground world.

=Niörd= (nyẽrd). God of the seashore.

=Norns=. The three Fates.

=Odin= (ōˊdin). The father, or chief, of the gods.

=Odur= (ōˊdûr). Freyja’s husband.

=Ragnarök= (rågˊnå rûk). The Twilight of the gods.

=Sif=. Wife of Thor.

=Sindri=. One of the dwarfs.

=Skadi= (skäˊdē). Thiassi’s daughter.

=Sleipnir= (slīpˊnir). Odin’s eight-footed steed.

=Thiassi= (tē äsˊsē). A frost giant. Skadi’s father.

=Thor= (thor or tor). God of thunder.

=Tyr= (tēr) or Tiu (tū). God of war.

=Utgard= (͝ootˊgärd). City of the giants, in Jötunheim.

=Yggdrasil= (igˊdrå sil). The world tree.


KEY TO PRONUNCIATION.

  ā as in ale.           a̤ as in all.             ẽ as in fern.
  ă as in am.            å as in ask.             ī as in ice.
  ä as in arm.           ē as in eve.             ĭ as in ill.

              ō as in old.             û as in urn.
              ͝oo as in foot.           ū as in use.



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

On page 29 a period was added (feast with the Æsir.). Otherwise
the original text was preserved.





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