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Title: In The Day of Giants - A Book of Norse Tales
Author: Brown, Abbie Farwell, 1871-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In The Day of Giants - A Book of Norse Tales" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

    By Abbie Farwell Brown

  SONGS OF SIXPENCE. Illustrated.



  JOHN OF THE WOODS. Illustrated.

  FRESH POSIES. Illustrated.







  IN THE DAYS OF GIANTS. Illustrated.





[Illustration: "I AM THE GIANT SKRYMIR" (page 150)]





_Published April, 1902_





       I. The Beginning of Things                                1
      II. How Odin Lost His Eye                                 11
     III. Kvasir's Blood                                        21
      IV. The Giant Builder                                     35
       V. The Magic Apples                                      50
      VI. Skadi's Choice                                        70
     VII. The Dwarf's Gifts                                     80
    VIII. Loki's Children                                       98
      IX. The Quest of the Hammer                              110
       X. The Giantess Who Would Not                           132
      XI. Thor's Visit to the Giants                           146
     XII. Thor's Fishing                                       172
    XIII. Thor's Duel                                          192
     XIV. In the Giant's House                                 208
      XV. Balder and the Mistletoe                             226
     XVI. The Punishment of Loki                               243

_Six of these Tales, namely, The Magic Apples, The Dwarf's Gifts, The
Quest of the Hammer, In the Giant's House, Balder and the Mistletoe,
and The Punishment of Loki are, by the courteous permission of the
publishers of_ The Churchman, _reprinted from that magazine._



    "I am the giant Skrymir" (page 150)             _Frontispiece_

    He flapped away with her, magic apples and all              62

    The third gift--an enormous hammer                          88

    "Ah, what a lovely maid it is!"                            122

    Each arrow overshot his head                               232

    "Kill him! Kill him!"                                      256



The oldest stories of every race of people tell about the Beginning
of Things. But the various folk who first told them were so very
different, the tales are so very old, and have changed so greatly in
the telling from one generation to another, that there are almost as
many accounts of the way in which the world began as there are nations
upon the earth. So it is not strange that the people of the North have
a legend of the Beginning quite different from that of the Southern,
Eastern, and Western folk.

This book is made of the stories told by the Northern folk,--the
people who live in the land of the midnight sun, where summer is green
and pleasant, but winter is a terrible time of cold and gloom; where
rocky mountains tower like huge giants, over whose heads the thunder
rolls and crashes, and under whose feet are mines of precious metals.
Therefore you will find the tales full of giants and dwarfs,--spirits
of the cold mountains and dark caverns.

You will find the hero to be Thor, with his thunderbolt hammer, who
dwells in the happy heaven of Asgard, where All-Father Odin is king,
and where Balder the beautiful makes springtime with his smile. In the
north countries, winter, cold, and frost are very real and terrible
enemies; while spring, sunshine, and warmth are near and dear friends.
So the story of the Beginning of Things is a story of cold and heat, of
the wicked giants who loved the cold, and of the good Æsir, who basked
in pleasant warmth.

In the very beginning of things, the stories say, there were two
worlds, one of burning heat and one of icy cold. The cold world was
in the north, and from it flowed Elivâgar, a river of poisonous water
which hardened into ice and piled up into great mountains, filling the
space which had no bottom. The other world in the south was on fire
with bright flame, a place of heat most terrible. And in those days
through all space there was nothing beside these two worlds of heat
and cold.

But then began a fierce combat. Heat and cold met and strove to destroy
each other, as they have tried to do ever since. Flaming sparks from
the hot world fell upon the ice river which flowed from the place of
cold. And though the bright sparks were quenched, in dying they wrought
mischief, as they do to-day; for they melted the ice, which dripped
and dripped, like tears from the suffering world of cold. And then,
wonderful to say, these chilly drops became alive; became a huge,
breathing mass, a Frost-Giant with a wicked heart of ice. And he was
the ancestor of all the giants who came afterwards, a bad and cruel

At that time there was no earth nor sea nor heaven, nothing but the icy
abyss without bottom, whence Ymir the giant had sprung. And there he
lived, nourished by the milk of a cow which the heat had formed. Now
the cow had nothing for her food but the snow and ice of Elivâgar, and
that was cold victuals indeed! One day she was licking the icy rocks,
which tasted salty to her, when Ymir noticed that the mass was taking
a strange shape. The more the cow licked it, the plainer became the
outline of the shape. And when evening came Ymir saw thrusting itself
through the icy rock a head of hair. The next day the cow went on with
her meal, and at night-time a man's head appeared above the rock. On
the third day the cow licked away the ice until forth stepped a man,
tall and powerful and handsome. This was no evil giant, for he was
good; and, strangely, though he came from the ice his heart was warm.
He was the ancestor of the kind Æsir; for All-Father Odin and his
brothers Vili and Ve, the first of the gods, were his grandsons, and as
soon as they were born they became the enemies of the race of giants.

Now after a few giant years,--ages and ages of time as we reckon
it,--there was a great battle, for Odin and his brothers wished to
destroy all the evil in the world and to leave only good. They attacked
the wicked giant Ymir, first of all his race, and after hard fighting
slew him. Ymir was so huge that when he died a mighty river of blood
flowed from the wounds which Odin had given him; a stream so large
that it flooded all space, and the frost-giants, his children and
grandchildren, were drowned, except one who escaped with his wife in a
chest. And but for the saving of these two, that would have been the
end of the race of giants.

All-Father and his brothers now had work to do. Painfully they dragged
the great bulk of Ymir into the bottomless space of ice, and from it
they built the earth, the sea, and the heavens. Not an atom of his
body went to waste. His blood made the great ocean, the rivers, lakes,
and springs. His mighty bones became mountains. His teeth and broken
bones made sand and pebbles. From his skull they fashioned the arching
heaven, which they set up over the earth and sea. His brain became the
heavy clouds. His hair sprouted into trees, grass, plants, and flowers.
And last of all, the Æsir set his bristling eyebrows as a high fence
around the earth, to keep the giants away from the race of men whom
they had planned to create for this pleasant globe.

So the earth was made. And next the gods brought light for the heavens.
They caught the sparks and cinders blown from the world of heat, and
set them here and there, above and below, as sun and moon and stars. To
each they gave its name and told what its duties were to be, and how
it must perform them, day after day, and year after year, and century
after century, till the ending of all things; so that the children of
men might reckon time without mistake.

Sôl and Mâni, who drove the bright chariots of the sun and moon across
the sky, were a fair sister and brother whose father named them Sun
and Moon because they were so beautiful. So Odin gave them each a pair
of swift, bright horses to drive, and set them in the sky forever.
Once upon a time,--but that was many, many years later,--Mâni, the
Man in the Moon, stole two children from the earth. Hiuki and Bil
were going to a well to draw a pail of water. The little boy and girl
carried a pole and a bucket across their shoulders, and looked so
pretty that Mâni thrust down a long arm and snatched them up to his
moon. And there they are to this day, as you can see on any moonlight
night,--two little black shadows on the moon's bright face, the boy and
the girl, with the bucket between them.

The gods also made Day and Night. Day was fair, bright, and beautiful,
for he was of the warm-hearted Æsir race. But Night was dark and
gloomy, because she was one of the cold giant-folk. Day and Night had
each a chariot drawn by a swift horse, and each in turn drove about
the world in a twenty-four hours' journey. Night rode first behind her
dark horse, Hrîmfaxi, who scattered dew from his bit upon the sleeping
earth. After her came Day with his beautiful horse, Glad, whose shining
mane shot rays of light through the sky.

All these wonders the kind gods wrought that they might make a pleasant
world for men to call their home. And now the gods, or Æsir as they
were called, must choose a place for their own dwelling, for there
were many of them, a glorious family. Outside of everything, beyond
the great ocean which surrounded the world, was Jotunheim, the cold
country where the giants lived. The green earth was made for men. The
gods therefore decided to build their city above men in the heavens,
where they could watch the doings of their favorites and protect them
from the wicked giants. Asgard was to be their city, and from Asgard
to Midgard, the home of men, stretched a wonderful bridge, a bridge of
many colors. For it was the rainbow that we know and love. Up and down
the rainbow bridge the Æsir could travel to the earth, and thus keep
close to the doings of men.

Next, from the remnants of Ymir's body the gods made the race of little
dwarfs, a wise folk and skillful, but in nature more like the giants
than like the good Æsir; for they were spiteful and often wicked, and
they loved the dark and the cold better than light and warmth. They
lived deep down below the ground in caves and rocky dens, and it was
their business to dig the precious metals and glittering gems that were
hidden in the rocks, and to make wonderful things from the treasures
of the under-world. Pouf! pouf! went their little bellows. Tink-tank!
went their little hammers on their little anvils all day and all
night. Sometimes they were friendly to the giants, and sometimes they
did kindly deeds for the Æsir. But always after men came upon the earth
they hated these new folk who eagerly sought for the gold and the
jewels which the dwarfs kept hidden in the ground. The dwarfs lost no
chance of doing evil to the race of men.

Now the gods were ready for the making of men. They longed to have a
race of creatures whom they could love and protect and bless with all
kinds of pleasures. So Odin, with his brothers Hœnir and Loki, crossed
the rainbow bridge and came down to the earth. They were walking along
the seashore when they found two trees, an ash and an elm. These would
do as well as anything for their purpose. Odin took the two trees and
warmly breathed upon them; and lo! they were alive, a man and a woman.
Hœnir then gently touched their foreheads, and they became wise. Lastly
Loki softly stroked their faces; their skin grew pink with ruddy color,
and they received the gifts of speech, hearing, and sight. Ask and
Embla were their names, and the ash and the elm became the father and
mother of the whole human race whose dwelling was Midgard, under the
eyes of the Æsir who had made them.

This is the story of the Beginning of Things.


In the beginning of things, before there was any world or sun, moon,
and stars, there were the giants; for these were the oldest creatures
that ever breathed. They lived in Jotunheim, the land of frost and
darkness, and their hearts were evil. Next came the gods, the good
Æsir, who made earth and sky and sea, and who dwelt in Asgard, above
the heavens. Then were created the queer little dwarfs, who lived
underground in the caverns of the mountains, working at their mines of
metal and precious stones. Last of all, the gods made men to dwell in
Midgard, the good world that we know, between which and the glorious
home of the Æsir stretched Bifröst, the bridge of rainbows.

In those days, folk say, there was a mighty ash-tree named Yggdrasil,
so vast that its branches shaded the whole earth and stretched up
into heaven where the Æsir dwelt, while its roots sank far down below
the lowest depth. In the branches of the big ash-tree lived a queer
family of creatures. First, there was a great eagle, who was wiser
than any bird that ever lived--except the two ravens, Thought and
Memory, who sat upon Father Odin's shoulders and told him the secrets
which they learned in their flight over the wide world. Near the great
eagle perched a hawk, and four antlered deer browsed among the buds
of Yggdrasil. At the foot of the tree coiled a huge serpent, who was
always gnawing hungrily at its roots, with a whole colony of little
snakes to keep him company,--so many that they could never be counted.
The eagle at the top of the tree and the serpent at its foot were
enemies, always saying hard things of each other. Between the two
skipped up and down a little squirrel, a tale-bearer and a gossip, who
repeated each unkind remark and, like the malicious neighbor that he
was, kept their quarrel ever fresh and green.

In one place at the roots of Yggdrasil was a fair fountain called the
Urdar-well, where the three Norn-maidens, who knew the past, present,
and future, dwelt with their pets, the two white swans. This was magic
water in the fountain, which the Norns sprinkled every day upon the
giant tree to keep it green,--water so sacred that everything which
entered it became white as the film of an eggshell. Close beside this
sacred well the Æsir had their council hall, to which they galloped
every morning over the rainbow bridge.

But Father Odin, the king of all the Æsir, knew of another fountain
more wonderful still; the two ravens whom he sent forth to bring him
news had told him. This also was below the roots of Yggdrasil, in the
spot where the sky and ocean met. Here for centuries and centuries the
giant Mimer had sat keeping guard over his hidden well, in the bottom
of which lay such a treasure of wisdom as was to be found nowhere else
in the world. Every morning Mimer dipped his glittering horn Giöll into
the fountain and drew out a draught of the wondrous water, which he
drank to make him wise. Every day he grew wiser and wiser; and as this
had been going on ever since the beginning of things, you can scarcely
imagine how wise Mimer was.

Now it did not seem right to Father Odin that a giant should have all
this wisdom to himself; for the giants were the enemies of the Æsir,
and the wisdom which they had been hoarding for ages before the gods
were made was generally used for evil purposes. Moreover, Odin longed
and longed to become the wisest being in the world. So he resolved to
win a draught from Mimer's well, if in any way that could be done.

One night, when the sun had set behind the mountains of Midgard, Odin
put on his broad-brimmed hat and his striped cloak, and taking his
famous staff in his hand, trudged down the long bridge to where it
ended by Mimer's secret grotto.

"Good-day, Mimer," said Odin, entering; "I have come for a drink from
your well."

The giant was sitting with his knees drawn up to his chin, his long
white beard falling over his folded arms, and his head nodding; for
Mimer was very old, and he often fell asleep while watching over his
precious spring. He woke with a frown at Odin's words. "You want a
drink from my well, do you?" he growled. "Hey! I let no one drink from
my well."

"Nevertheless, you must let me have a draught from your glittering
horn," insisted Odin, "and I will pay you for it."

"Oho, you will pay me for it, will you?" echoed Mimer, eyeing his
visitor keenly. For now that he was wide awake, his wisdom taught him
that this was no ordinary stranger. "What will you pay for a drink from
my well, and why do you wish it so much?"

"I can see with my eyes all that goes on in heaven and upon earth,"
said Odin, "but I cannot see into the depths of ocean. I lack the
hidden wisdom of the deep,--the wit that lies at the bottom of your
fountain. My ravens tell me many secrets; but I would know all. And as
for payment, ask what you will, and I will pledge anything in return
for the draught of wisdom."

Then Mimer's keen glance grew keener. "You are Odin, of the race of
gods," he cried. "We giants are centuries older than you, and our
wisdom which we have treasured during these ages, when we were the only
creatures in all space, is a precious thing. If I grant you a draught
from my well, you will become as one of us, a wise and dangerous
enemy. It is a goodly price, Odin, which I shall demand for a boon so

Now Odin was growing impatient for the sparkling water. "Ask your
price," he frowned. "I have promised that I will pay."

"What say you, then, to leaving one of those far-seeing eyes of yours
at the bottom of my well?" asked Mimer, hoping that he would refuse the
bargain. "This is the only payment I will take."

Odin hesitated. It was indeed a heavy price, and one that he could ill
afford, for he was proud of his noble beauty. But he glanced at the
magic fountain bubbling mysteriously in the shadow, and he knew that he
must have the draught.

"Give me the glittering horn," he answered. "I pledge you my eye for a
draught to the brim."

Very unwillingly Mimer filled the horn from the fountain of wisdom and
handed it to Odin. "Drink, then," he said; "drink and grow wise. This
hour is the beginning of trouble between your race and mine." And wise
Mimer foretold the truth.

Odin thought merely of the wisdom which was to be his. He seized the
horn eagerly, and emptied it without delay. From that moment he became
wiser than any one else in the world except Mimer himself.

Now he had the price to pay, which was not so pleasant. When he went
away from the grotto, he left at the bottom of the dark pool one of
his fiery eyes, which twinkled and winked up through the magic depths
like the reflection of a star. This is how Odin lost his eye, and why
from that day he was careful to pull his gray hat low over his face
when he wanted to pass unnoticed. For by this oddity folk could easily
recognize the wise lord of Asgard.

In the bright morning, when the sun rose over the mountains of Midgard,
old Mimer drank from his bubbly well a draught of the wise water that
flowed over Odin's pledge. Doing so, from his underground grotto he saw
all that befell in heaven and on earth. So that he also was wiser by
the bargain. Mimer seemed to have secured rather the best of it; for he
lost nothing that he could not spare, while Odin lost what no man can
well part with,--one of the good windows wherethrough his heart looks
out upon the world. But there was a sequel to these doings which made
the balance swing down in Odin's favor.

Not long after this, the Æsir quarreled with the Vanir, wild enemies of
theirs, and there was a terrible battle. But in the end the two sides
made peace; and to prove that they meant never to quarrel again, they
exchanged hostages. The Vanir gave to the Æsir old Niörd the rich,
the lord of the sea and the ocean wind, with his two children, Frey
and Freia. This was indeed a gracious gift; for Freia was the most
beautiful maid in the world, and her twin brother was almost as fair.
To the Vanir in return Father Odin gave his own brother Hœnir. And with
Hœnir he sent Mimer the wise, whom he took from his lonely well.

Now the Vanir made Hœnir their chief, thinking that he must be very
wise because he was the brother of great Odin, who had lately become
famous for his wisdom. They did not know the secret of Mimer's well,
how the hoary old giant was far more wise than any one who had not
quaffed of the magic water. It is true that in the assemblies of
the Vanir Hœnir gave excellent counsel. But this was because Mimer
whispered in Hœnir's ear all the wisdom that he uttered. Witless Hœnir
was quite helpless without his aid, and did not know what to do or say.
Whenever Mimer was absent he would look nervous and frightened, and if
folk questioned him he always answered:--

"Yes, ah yes! Now go and consult some one else."

Of course the Vanir soon grew very angry at such silly answers from
their chief, and presently they began to suspect the truth. "Odin has
deceived us," they said. "He has sent us his foolish brother with a
witch to tell him what to say. Ha! We will show him that we understand
the trick." So they cut off poor old Mimer's head and sent it to Odin
as a present.

The tales do not say what Odin thought of the gift. Perhaps he was glad
that now there was no one in the whole world who could be called so
wise as himself. Perhaps he was sorry for the danger into which he had
thrust a poor old giant who had never done him any wrong, except to
be a giant of the race which the Æsir hated. Perhaps he was a little
ashamed of the trick which he had played the Vanir. Odin's new wisdom
showed him how to prepare Mimer's head with herbs and charms, so that
it stood up by itself quite naturally and seemed not dead. Thenceforth
Odin kept it near him, and learned from it many useful secrets which it
had not forgotten.

So in the end Odin fared better than the unhappy Mimer, whose worst
fault was that he knew more than most folk. That is a dangerous fault,
as others have found; though it is not one for which many of us need
fear being punished.


Once upon a time there lived a man named Kvasir, who was so wise that
no one could ask him a question to which he did not know the answer,
and who was so eloquent that his words dripped from his lips like notes
of music from a lute. For Kvasir was the first poet who ever lived, the
first of those wise makers of songs whom the Norse folk named _skalds_.
This Kvasir received his precious gifts wonderfully; for he was made by
the gods and the Vanir, those two mighty races, to celebrate the peace
which was evermore to be between them.

Up and down the world Kvasir traveled, lending his wisdom to the use of
men, his brothers; and wherever he went he brought smiles and joy and
comfort, for with his wisdom he found the cause of all men's troubles,
and with his songs he healed them. This is what the poets have been
doing in all the ages ever since. Folk declare that every skald has a
drop of Kvasir's blood in him. This is the tale which is told to show
how it happened that Kvasir's blessed skill has never been lost to the

There were two wicked dwarfs named Fialar and Galar who envied Kvasir
his power over the hearts of men, and who plotted to destroy him. So
one day they invited him to dine, and while he was there, they begged
him to come aside with them, for they had a very secret question to
ask, which only he could answer. Kvasir never refused to turn his
wisdom to another's help; so, nothing suspecting, he went with them to
hear their trouble.

Thereupon this sly pair of wicked dwarfs led him into a lonely corner.
Treacherously they slew Kvasir; and because their cunning taught them
that his blood must be precious, they saved it in three huge kettles,
and mixing it with honey, made thereof a magic drink. Truly, a magic
drink it was; for whoever tasted of Kvasir's blood was straightway
filled with Kvasir's spirit, so that his heart taught wisdom and
his lips uttered the sweetest poesy. Thus the wicked dwarfs became
possessed of a wonderful treasure.

When the gods missed the silver voice of Kvasir echoing up from the
world below, they were alarmed, for Kvasir was very dear to them. They
inquired what had become of him, and finally the wily dwarfs answered
that the good poet had been drowned in his own wisdom. But Father Odin,
who had tasted another wise draught from Mimer's well, knew that this
was not the truth, and kept his watchful eye upon the dark doings of
Fialar and Galar.

Not long after this the dwarfs committed another wicked deed. They
invited the giant Gilling to row out to sea with them, and when they
were a long distance from shore, the wicked fellows upset the boat and
drowned the giant, who could not swim. They rowed back to land, and
told the giant's wife how the "accident" had happened. Then there were
giant shrieks and howls enough to deafen all the world, for the poor
giantess was heartbroken, and her grief was a giant grief. Her sobs
annoyed the cruel-hearted dwarfs. So Fialar, pretending to sympathize,
offered to take her where she could look upon the spot where her dear
husband had last been seen. As she passed through the gateway, the
other dwarf, to whom his brother had made a sign, let a huge millstone
fall upon her head. That was the ending of her, poor thing, and of her
sorrow, which had so disturbed the little people, crooked in heart as
in body.

But punishment was in store for them. Suttung, the huge son of Gilling,
learned the story of his parents' death, and presently, in a dreadful
rage, he came roaring to the home of the dwarfs. He seized one of them
in each big fist, and wading far out to sea, set the wretched little
fellows on a rock which at high tide would be covered with water.

"Stay there," he cried, "and drown as my father drowned!" The dwarfs
screamed thereat for mercy so loudly that he had to listen before he
went away.

"Only let us off, Suttung," they begged, "and you shall have the
precious mead made from Kvasir's blood."

Now Suttung was very anxious to own this same mead, so at last he
agreed to the bargain. He carried them back to land, and they gave him
the kettles in which they had mixed the magic fluid. Suttung took them
away to his cave in the mountains, and gave them in charge of his fair
daughter Gunnlöd. All day and all night she watched by the precious
kettles, to see that no one came to steal or taste of the mead; for
Suttung thought of it as his greatest treasure, and no wonder.

Father Odin had seen all these deeds from his seat above the heavens,
and his eye had followed longingly the passage of the wondrous mead,
for Odin longed to have a draught of it. Odin had wisdom, he had
drained that draught from the bottom of Mimer's mystic fountain; but
he lacked the skill of speech which comes of drinking Kvasir's blood.
He wanted the mead for himself and for his children in Asgard, and it
seemed a shame that this precious treasure should be wasted upon the
wicked giants who were their enemies. So he resolved to try if it might
not be won in some sly way.

One day he put on his favorite disguise as a wandering old man, and set
out for Giant Land, where Suttung dwelt. By and by he came to a field
where nine workmen were cutting hay. Now these were the servants of
Baugi, the brother of Suttung, and this Odin knew. He walked up to the
men and watched them working for a little while.

"Ho!" he exclaimed at last, "your scythes are dull. Shall I whet
them for you?" The men were glad enough to accept his offer, so Odin
took a whetstone from his pocket and sharpened all the scythes most
wonderfully. Then the men wanted to buy the stone; each man would have
it for his own, and they fell to quarreling over it. To make matters
more exciting, Odin tossed the whetstone into their midst, saying:--

"Let him have it who catches it!" Then indeed there was trouble! The
men fought with one another for the stone, slashing right and left with
their sharp scythes until every one was killed. Odin hastened away,
and went up to the house where Baugi lived. Presently home came Baugi,
complaining loudly and bitterly because his quarrelsome servants had
killed one another, so that there was not one left to do his work.

"What am I going to do?" he cried. "Here it is mowing time, and I have
not a single man to help me in the field!"

Then Odin spoke up. "I will help you," he said. "I am a stout fellow,
and I can do the work of nine men if I am paid the price I ask."

"What is the price which you ask?" queried Baugi eagerly, for he saw
that this stranger was a mighty man, and he thought that perhaps he
could do as he boasted.

"I ask that you get for me a drink of Suttung's mead," Odin answered.

Then Baugi eyed him sharply. "You are one of the gods," he said, "or
you would not know about the precious mead. Therefore I know that you
can do my work, the work of nine men. I cannot give you the mead. It
is my brother's, and he is very jealous of it, for he wishes it all
himself. But if you will work for me all the summer, when winter comes
I will go with you to Suttung's home and try what I can do to get a
draught for you."

So they made the bargain, and all summer Father Odin worked in the
fields of Baugi, doing the work of nine men. When the winter came, he
demanded his pay. So then they set out for Suttung's home, which was
a cave deep down in the mountains, where it seems not hard to hide
one's treasures. First Baugi went to his brother and told him of the
agreement between him and the stranger, begging for a gift of the magic
mead wherewith to pay the stout laborer who had done the work of nine.
But Suttung refused to spare even a taste of the precious liquor.

"This laborer of yours is one of the gods, our enemies," he said.
"Indeed, I will not give him of the precious mead. What are you
thinking of, brother!" Then he talked to Baugi till the giant was ready
to forget his promise to Odin, and to desire only the death of the
stranger who had come forward to help him.

Baugi returned to Odin with the news that the mead was not to be had
with Suttung's consent. "Then we must get it without his consent,"
declared Odin. "We must use our wits to steal it from under his nose.
You must help me, Baugi, for you have promised."

Baugi agreed to this; but in his heart he meant to entrap Odin to his
death. Odin now took from his pocket an auger such as one uses to bore
holes. "Look, now," he said. "You shall bore a hole into the roof of
Suttung's cave, and when the hole is large enough, I will crawl through
and get the mead."

"Very well," nodded Baugi, and he began to bore into the mountain with
all his might and main. At last he cried, "There, it is done; the
mountain is pierced through!" But when Odin blew into the hole to see
whether it did indeed go through into the cave, the dust made by the
auger flew into his face. Thus he knew that Baugi was deceiving him,
and thenceforth he was on his guard, which was fortunate.

"Try again," said Odin sternly. "Bore a little deeper, friend Baugi."
So Baugi went at the work once more, and this time when he said the
hole was finished, Odin found that his word was true, for the dust blew
through the hole and disappeared in the cave. Now Odin was ready to try
the plan which he had been forming.

Odin's wisdom taught him many tricks, and among them he knew the secret
of changing his form into that of any creature he chose. He turned
himself into a worm,--a long, slender, wiggly worm, just small enough
to be able to enter the hole that Baugi had pierced. In a moment he
had thrust his head into the opening, and was wriggling out of sight
before Baugi had even guessed what he meant to do. Baugi jumped forward
and made a stab at him with the pointed auger, but it was too late.
The worm's striped tail quivered in out of sight, and Baugi's wicked
attempt was spoiled.

When Odin had crept through the hole, he found himself in a dark,
damp cavern, where at first he could see nothing. He changed himself
back into his own noble form, and then he began to hunt about for the
kettles of magic mead. Presently he came to a little chamber, carefully
hidden in a secret corner of this secret grotto,--a chamber locked and
barred and bolted on the inside, so that no one could enter by the
door. Suttung had never thought of such a thing as that a stranger
might enter by a hole in the roof!

At the back of this tiny room stood three kettles upon the floor; and
beside them, with her head resting on her elbow, sat a beautiful
maiden, sound asleep. It was Gunnlöd, Suttung's daughter, the guardian
of the mead. Odin stepped up to her very softly, and bending over,
kissed her gently upon the forehead. Gunnlöd awoke with a start, and at
first she was horrified to find a stranger in the cave where it seemed
impossible that a stranger could enter. But when she saw the beauty of
Odin's face and the kind look of his eye, she was no longer afraid, but
glad that he had come. For poor Gunnlöd often grew lonesome in this
gloomy cellar-home, where Suttung kept her prisoner day and night to
watch over the three kettles.

"Dear maiden," said Odin, "I have come a long, long distance to see
you. Will you not bid me stay a little while?"

Gunnlöd looked at him kindly. "Who are you, and whence do you come so
far to see me?" she asked.

"I am Odin, from Asgard. The way is long and I am thirsty. Shall I not
taste the liquor which you have there?"

Gunnlöd hesitated. "My father bade me never let soul taste of the
mead," she said "I am sorry for you, however, poor fellow. You look
very tired and thirsty. You may have one little sip." Then Odin kissed
her and thanked her, and tarried there with such pleasant words for
the maiden that before he was ready to go she granted him what he
asked,--three draughts, only three draughts of the mead.

Now Odin took up the first kettle to drink, and with one draught he
drained the whole. He did the same by the next, and the next, till
before she knew it, Gunnlöd found herself guarding three empty kettles.
Odin had gained what he came for, and it was time for him to be gone
before Suttung should come to seek him in the cave. He kissed fair
Gunnlöd once again, with a sigh to think that he must treat her so
unfairly. Then he changed himself into an eagle, and away he flew to
carry the precious mead home to Asgard.

Meanwhile Baugi had told the giant Suttung how Odin the worm had
pierced through into his treasure-cave; and when Suttung, who was
watching, saw the great eagle fly forth, he guessed who this eagle must
be. Suttung also put on an eagle's plumage, and a wonderful chase
began. Whirr, whirr! The two enormous birds winged their way toward
Asgard, Suttung close upon the other's flight. Over the mountains
they flew, and the world was darkened as if by the passage of heavy
storm-clouds, while the trees, blown by the breeze from their wings,
swayed, and bent almost to the ground.

It was a close race; but Odin was the swifter of the two, and at last
he had the mead safe in Asgard, where the gods were waiting with huge
dishes to receive it from his mouth. Suttung was so close upon him,
however, that he jostled Odin even as he was filling the last dish, and
some of the mead was spilled about in every direction over the world.
Men rushed from far and near to taste of these wasted drops of Kvasir's
blood, and many had just enough to make them dizzy, but not enough
to make them wise. These folk are the poor poets, the makers of bad
verses, whom one finds to this day satisfied with their meagre, stolen
portion, scattered drops of the sacred draught.

The mead that Odin had captured he gave to the gods, a wondrous gift;
and they in turn cherished it as their most precious treasure. It was
given into the special charge of old Bragi of the white beard, because
his taste of the magic mead had made him wise and eloquent above all
others. He was the sweetest singer of all the Æsir, and his speech
was poetry. Sometimes Bragi gave a draught of Kvasir's blood to some
favored mortal, and then he also became a great poet. He did not do
this often,--only once or twice in the memory of an old man; for the
precious mead must be made to last a long, long time, until the world
be ready to drop to pieces, because this world without its poets would
be too dreadful a place to imagine.


Ages and ages ago, when the world was first made, the gods decided to
build a beautiful city high above the heavens, the most glorious and
wonderful city that ever was known. Asgard was to be its name, and it
was to stand on Ida Plain under the shade of Yggdrasil, the great tree
whose roots were underneath the earth.

First of all they built a house with a silver roof, where there were
seats for all the twelve chiefs. In the midst, and high above the
rest, was the wonder-throne of Odin the All-Father, whence he could
see everything that happened in the sky or on the earth or in the sea.
Next they made a fair house for Queen Frigg and her lovely daughters.
Then they built a smithy, with its great hammers, tongs, anvils, and
bellows, where the gods could work at their favorite trade, the making
of beautiful things out of gold; which they did so well that folk name
that time the Golden Age. Afterwards, as they had more leisure, they
built separate houses for all the Æsir, each more beautiful than the
preceding, for of course they were continually growing more skillful.
They saved Father Odin's palace until the last, for they meant this to
be the largest and the most splendid of all.

Gladsheim, the home of joy, was the name of Odin's house, and it was
built all of gold, set in the midst of a wood whereof the trees had
leaves of ruddy gold,--like an autumn-gilded forest. For the safety of
All-Father it was surrounded by a roaring river and by a high picket
fence; and there was a great courtyard within.

The glory of Gladsheim was its wondrous hall, radiant with gold, the
most lovely room that time has ever seen. Valhalla, the Hall of Heroes,
was the name of it, and it was roofed with the mighty shields of
warriors. The ceiling was made of interlacing spears, and there was a
portal at the west end before which hung a great gray wolf, while over
him a fierce eagle hovered. The hall was so huge that it had 540 gates,
through each of which 800 men could march abreast. Indeed, there needed
to be room, for this was the hall where every morning Odin received
all the brave warriors who had died in battle on the earth below; and
there were many heroes in those days.

This was the reward which the gods gave to courage. When a hero had
gloriously lost his life, the Valkyries, the nine warrior daughters
of Odin, brought his body up to Valhalla on their white horses that
gallop the clouds. There they lived forever after in happiness,
enjoying the things that they had most loved upon earth. Every morning
they armed themselves and went out to fight with one another in the
great courtyard. It was a wondrous game, wondrously played. No matter
how often a hero was killed, he became alive again in time to return
perfectly well to Valhalla, where he ate a delicious breakfast with the
Æsir; while the beautiful Valkyries who had first brought him thither
waited at table and poured the blessed mead, which only the immortal
taste. A happy life it was for the heroes, and a happy life for all who
dwelt in Asgard; for this was before trouble had come among the gods,
following the mischief of Loki.

This is how the trouble began. From the beginning of time, the giants
had been unfriendly to the Æsir, because the giants were older and
huger and more wicked; besides, they were jealous because the good Æsir
were fast gaining more wisdom and power than the giants had ever known.
It was the Æsir who set the fair brother and sister, Sun and Moon, in
the sky to give light to men; and it was they also who made the jeweled
stars out of sparks from the place of fire. The giants hated the Æsir,
and tried all in their power to injure them and the men of the earth
below, whom the Æsir loved and cared for. The gods had already built a
wall around Midgard, the world of men, to keep the giants out; built it
of the bushy eyebrows of Ymir, the oldest and hugest of giants. Between
Asgard and the giants flowed Ifing, the great river on which ice never
formed, and which the gods crossed on the rainbow bridge. But this was
not protection enough. Their beautiful new city needed a fortress.

So the word went forth in Asgard,--"We must build us a fortress against
the giants; the hugest, strongest, finest fortress that ever was

Now one day, soon after they had announced this decision, there came a
mighty man stalking up the rainbow bridge that led to Asgard city.

"Who goes there!" cried Heimdal the watchman, whose eyes were so keen
that he could see for a hundred miles around, and whose ears were so
sharp that he could hear the grass growing in the meadow and the wool
on the backs of the sheep. "Who goes there! No one can enter Asgard if
I say no."

"I am a builder," said the stranger, who was a huge fellow with sleeves
rolled up to show the iron muscles of his arms. "I am a builder of
strong towers, and I have heard that the folk of Asgard need one to
help them raise a fair fortress in their city."

Heimdal looked at the stranger narrowly, for there was that about him
which his sharp eyes did not like. But he made no answer, only blew
on his golden horn, which was so loud that it sounded through all the
world. At this signal all the Æsir came running to the rainbow bridge,
from wherever they happened to be, to find out who was coming to
Asgard. For it was Heimdal's duty ever to warn them of the approach of
the unknown.

"This fellow says he is a builder," quoth Heimdal. "And he would fain
build us a fortress in the city."

"Ay, that I would," nodded the stranger. "Look at my iron arm; look at
my broad back; look at my shoulders. Am I not the workman you need?"

"Truly, he is a mighty figure," vowed Odin, looking at him approvingly.
"How long will it take you alone to build our fortress? We can allow
but one stranger at a time within our city, for safety's sake."

"In three half-years," replied the stranger, "I will undertake to build
for you a castle so strong that not even the giants, should they swarm
hither over Midgard,--not even they could enter without your leave."

"Aha!" cried Father Odin, well pleased at this offer. "And what reward
do you ask, friend, for help so timely?"

The stranger hummed and hawed and pulled his long beard while he
thought. Then he spoke suddenly, as if the idea had just come into his
mind. "I will name my price, friends," he said; "a small price for so
great a deed. I ask you to give me Freia for my wife, and those two
sparkling jewels, the Sun and Moon."

At this demand the gods looked grave; for Freia was their dearest
treasure. She was the most beautiful maid who ever lived, the light and
life of heaven, and if she should leave Asgard, joy would go with her;
while the Sun and Moon were the light and life of the Æsir's children,
men, who lived in the little world below. But Loki the sly whispered
that they would be safe enough if they made another condition on their
part, so hard that the builder could not fulfill it. After thinking
cautiously, he spoke for them all.

"Mighty man," quoth he, "we are willing to agree to your price--upon
one condition. It is too long a time that you ask; we cannot wait three
half-years for our castle; that is equal to three centuries when one is
in a hurry. See that you finish the fort without help in one winter,
one short winter, and you shall have fair Freia with the Sun and Moon.
But if, on the first day of summer, one stone is wanting to the walls,
or if any one has given you aid in the building, then your reward is
lost, and you shall depart without payment." So spoke Loki, in the name
of all the gods; but the plan was his own.

At first the stranger shook his head and frowned, saying that in so
short a time no one unaided could complete the undertaking. At last
he made another offer. "Let me have but my good horse to help me, and
I will try," he urged. "Let me bring the useful Svadilföri with me to
the task, and I will finish the work in one winter of short days, or
lose my reward. Surely, you will not deny me this little help, from one
four-footed friend."

Then again the Æsir consulted, and the wiser of them were doubtful
whether it were best to accept the stranger's offer so strangely made.
But again Loki urged them to accept. "Surely, there is no harm," he
said. "Even with his old horse to help him, he cannot build the castle
in the promised time. We shall gain a fortress without trouble and with
never a price to pay."

Loki was so eager that, although the other Æsir did not like this
crafty way of making bargains, they finally consented. Then in the
presence of the heroes, with the Valkyries and Mimer's head for
witnesses, the stranger and the Æsir gave solemn promise that the
bargain should be kept.

On the first day of winter the strange builder began his work, and
wondrous was the way he set about it. His strength seemed as the
strength of a hundred men. As for his horse Svadilföri, he did more
work by half than even the mighty builder. In the night he dragged
the enormous rocks that were to be used in building the castle, rocks
as big as mountains of the earth; while in the daytime the stranger
piled them into place with his iron arms. The Æsir watched him with
amazement; never was seen such strength in Asgard. Neither Tŷr the
stout nor Thor the strong could match the power of the stranger. The
gods began to look at one another uneasily. Who was this mighty one who
had come among them, and what if after all he should win his reward?
Freia trembled in her palace, and the Sun and Moon grew dim with fear.

Still the work went on, and the fort was piling higher and higher,
by day and by night. There were but three days left before the end of
winter, and already the building was so tall and so strong that it was
safe from the attacks of any giant. The Æsir were delighted with their
fine new castle; but their pride was dimmed by the fear that it must be
paid for at all too costly a price. For only the gateway remained to be
completed, and unless the stranger should fail to finish that in the
next three days, they must give him Freia with the Sun and Moon.

The Æsir held a meeting upon Ida Plain, a meeting full of fear and
anger. At last they realized what they had done; they had made a
bargain with one of the giants, their enemies; and if he won the prize,
it would mean sorrow and darkness in heaven and upon earth. "How did
we happen to agree to so mad a bargain?" they asked one another. "Who
suggested the wicked plan which bids fair to cost us all that we most
cherish?" Then they remembered that it was Loki who had made the plan;
it was he who had insisted that it be carried out and they blamed him
for all the trouble.

"It is your counsels, Loki, that have brought this danger upon us,"
quoth Father Odin, frowning. "You chose the way of guile, which is not
our way. It now remains for you to help us by guile, if you can. But if
you cannot save for us Freia and the Sun and Moon, you shall die. This
is my word." All the other Æsir agreed that this was just. Thor alone
was away hunting evil demons at the other end of the world, so he did
not know what was going on, and what dangers were threatening Asgard.

Loki was much frightened at the word of All-Father. "It was my fault,"
he cried, "but how was I to know that he was a giant? He had disguised
himself so that he seemed but a strong man. And as for his horse,--it
looks much like that of other folk. If it were not for the horse, he
could not finish the work. Ha! I have a thought! The builder shall not
finish the gate; the giant shall not receive his payment. I will cheat
the fellow."

Now it was the last night of winter, and there remained but a few
stones to put in place on the top of the wondrous gateway. The giant
was sure of his prize, and chuckled to himself as he went out with his
horse to drag the remaining stones; for he did not know that the Æsir
had guessed at last who he was, and that Loki was plotting to outwit
him. Hardly had he gone to work when out of the wood came running a
pretty little mare, who neighed to Svadilföri as if inviting the tired
horse to leave his work and come to the green fields for a holiday.

Svadilföri, you must remember, had been working hard all winter, with
never a sight of four-footed creature of his kind, and he was very
lonesome and tired of dragging stones. Giving a snort of disobedience,
off he ran after this new friend towards the grassy meadows. Off went
the giant after him, howling with rage, and running for dear life, as
he saw not only his horse but his chance of success slipping out of
reach. It was a mad chase, and all Asgard thundered with the noise of
galloping hoofs and the giant's mighty tread. The mare who raced ahead
was Loki in disguise, and he led Svadilföri far out of reach, to a
hidden meadow that he knew; so that the giant howled and panted up and
down all night long, without catching even a sight of his horse.

Now when the morning came the gateway was still unfinished, and night
and winter had ended at the same hour. The giant's time was over, and
he had forfeited his reward. The Æsir came flocking to the gateway, and
how they laughed and triumphed when they found three stones wanting to
complete the gate!

"You have failed, fellow," judged Father Odin sternly, "and no price
shall we pay for work that is still undone. You have failed. Leave
Asgard quickly; we have seen all we want of you and of your race."

Then the giant knew that he was discovered, and he was mad with rage.
"It was a trick!" he bellowed, assuming his own proper form, which
was huge as a mountain, and towered high beside the fortress that he
had built. "It was a wicked trick. You shall pay for this in one way
or another. I cannot tear down the castle which, ungrateful ones, I
have built you, stronger than the strength of any giant. But I will
demolish the rest of your shining city!" Indeed, he would have done so
in his mighty rage; but at this moment Thor, whom Heimdal had called
from the end of the earth by one blast of the golden horn, came rushing
to the rescue, drawn in his chariot of goats. Thor jumped to the ground
close beside the giant, and before that huge fellow knew what had
happened, his head was rolling upon the ground at Father Odin's feet;
for with one blow Thor had put an end to the giant's wickedness and had
saved Asgard.

"This is the reward you deserve!" Thor cried. "Not Freia nor the Sun
and Moon, but the death that I have in store for all the enemies of the

In this extraordinary way the noble city of Asgard was made safe and
complete by the addition of a fortress which no one, not even the giant
who built it, could injure, it was so wonder-strong. But always at the
top of the gate were lacking three great stones that no one was mighty
enough to lift. This was a reminder to the Æsir that now they had the
race of giants for their everlasting enemies. And though Loki's trick
had saved them Freia, and for the world the Sun and Moon, it was the
beginning of trouble in Asgard which lasted as long as Loki lived to
make mischief with his guile.


It is not very amusing to be a king. Father Odin often grew tired of
sitting all day long upon his golden throne in Valhalla above the
heavens. He wearied of welcoming the new heroes whom the Valkyries
brought him from wars upon the earth, and of watching the old heroes
fight their daily deathless battles. He wearied of his wise ravens, and
the constant gossip which they brought him from the four corners of
the world; and he longed to escape from every one who knew him to some
place where he could pass for a mere stranger, instead of the great
king of the Æsir, the mightiest being in the whole universe, of whom
every one was afraid.

Sometimes he longed so much that he could not bear it. Then--he would
run away. He disguised himself as a tall old man, with white hair and a
long gray beard. Around his shoulders he threw a huge blue cloak, that
covered him from top to toe, and over his face he pulled a big slouch
hat, to hide his eyes. For his eyes Odin could not change--no magician
has ever learned how to do that. One was empty; he had given the eye to
the giant Mimer in exchange for wisdom.

Usually Odin loved to go upon these wanderings alone; for an adventure
is a double adventure when one meets it single-handed. It was a fine
game for Odin to see how near he could come to danger without feeling
the grip of its teeth. But sometimes, when he wanted company, he would
whisper to his two brothers, Hœnir and red Loki. They three would creep
out of the palace by the back way; and, with a finger on the lip to
Heimdal, the watchman, would silently steal over the rainbow bridge
which led from Asgard into the places of men and dwarfs and giants.

Wonderful adventures they had, these three, with Loki to help make
things happen. Loki was a sly, mischievous fellow, full of his pranks
and his capers, not always kindly ones. But he was clever, as well as
malicious; and when he had pushed folk into trouble, he could often
help them out again, as safe as ever. He could be the jolliest of
companions when he chose, and Odin liked his merriment and his witty

One day Loki did something which was no mere jest nor easily forgiven,
for it brought all Asgard into danger. And after that Father Odin and
his children thought twice before inviting Loki to join them in any
journey or undertaking. This which I am about to tell was the first
really wicked deed of which Loki was found guilty, though I am sure his
red beard had dabbled in secret wrongs before.

One night the three high gods, Odin, Hœnir, and Loki, stole away from
Asgard in search of adventure. Over mountains and deserts, great rivers
and stony places, they wandered until they grew very hungry. But there
was no food to be found--not even a berry or a nut.

Oh, how footsore and tired they were! And oh, how faint! The worst of
it ever is that--as you must often have noticed--the heavier one's feet
grow, the lighter and more hollow becomes one's stomach; which seems a
strange thing, when you think of it. If only one's feet became as light
as the rest of one feels, folk could fairly fly with hunger. Alas!
this is not so.

The three Æsir drooped and drooped, and seemed on the point of
starving, when they came to the edge of a valley. Here, looking down,
they saw a herd of oxen feeding on the grass.

"Hola!" shouted Loki. "Behold our supper!" Going down into the valley,
they caught and killed one of the oxen, and, building a great bonfire,
hung up the meat to roast. Then the three sat around the fire and
smacked their lips, waiting for the meat to cook. They waited for a
long time.

"Surely, it is done now," said Loki, at last; and he took the meat
from the fire. Strange to say, however, it was raw as ere the fire was
lighted. What could it mean? Never before had meat required so long a
time to roast. They made the fire brighter and re-hung the beef for a
thorough basting, cooking it even longer than they had done at first.
When again they came to carve the meat, they found it still uneatable.
Then, indeed, they looked at one another in surprise.

"What can this mean?" cried Loki, with round eyes.

"There is some trick!" whispered Hœnir, looking around as if he
expected to see a fairy or a witch meddling with the food.

"We must find out what this mystery betokens," said Odin thoughtfully.
Just then there was a strange sound in the oak-tree under which they
had built their fire.

"What is that?" Loki shouted, springing to his feet. They looked up
into the tree, and far above in the branches, near the top, they spied
an enormous eagle, who was staring down at them, and making a queer
sound, as if he were laughing.

"Ho-ho!" croaked the eagle. "I know why your meat will not cook. It is
all my doing, masters."

The three Æsir stared in surprise. Then Odin said sternly: "Who are
you, Master Eagle? And what do you mean by those rude words?"

"Give me my share of the ox, and you shall see," rasped the eagle, in
his harsh voice. "Give me my share, and you will find that your meat
will cook as fast as you please."

Now the three on the ground were nearly famished. So, although it
seemed very strange to be arguing with an eagle, they cried, as if in
one voice: "Come down, then, and take your share." They thought that,
being a mere bird, he would want but a small piece.

The eagle flapped down from the top of the tree. Dear me! What a mighty
bird he was! Eight feet across the wings was the smallest measure,
and his claws were as long and strong as ice-hooks. He fanned the air
like a whirlwind as he flew down to perch beside the bonfire. Then in
his beak and claws he seized a leg and both shoulders of the ox, and
started to fly away.

"Hold, thief!" roared Loki angrily, when he saw how much the eagle was
taking. "That is not your share; you are no lion, but you are taking
the lion's share of our feast. Begone, Scarecrow, and leave the meat as
you found it!" Thereat, seizing a pole, he struck at the eagle with all
his might.

Then a strange thing happened. As the great bird flapped upward with
his prey, giving a scream of malicious laughter, the pole which Loki
still held stuck fast to the eagle's back, and Loki was unable to let
go of the other end.

"Help, help!" he shouted to Odin and to Hœnir, as he felt himself
lifted off his feet. But they could not help him. "Help, help!" he
screamed, as the eagle flew with him, now high, now low, through brush
and bog and briar, over treetops and the peaks of mountains. On and on
they went, until Loki thought his arm would be pulled out, like a weed
torn up by the roots. The eagle would not listen to his cries nor pause
in his flight, until Loki was almost dead with pain and fatigue.

"Hark you, Loki," screamed the eagle, going a little more slowly; "no
one can help you except me. You are bewitched, and you cannot pull away
from this pole, nor loose the pole from me, until I choose. But if you
will promise what I ask, you shall go free."

Then Loki groaned: "O eagle, only let me go, and tell me who you really
are, and I will promise whatever you wish."

The eagle answered: "I am the giant Thiasse, the enemy of the Æsir. But
you ought to love me, Loki, for you yourself married a giantess."

Loki moaned: "Oh, yes! I dearly love all my wife's family, great
Thiasse. Tell me what you want of me?"

"I want this," quoth Thiasse gruffly. "I am growing old, and I want the
apples which Idun keeps in her golden casket, to make me young again.
You must get them for me."

Now these apples were the fruit of a magic tree, and were more
beautiful to look at and more delicious to taste than any fruit that
ever grew. The best thing about them was that whoever tasted one, be
he ever so old, grew young and strong again. The apples belonged to
a beautiful lady named Idun, who kept them in a golden casket. Every
morning the Æsir came to her to be refreshed and made over by a bite
of her precious fruit. That is why in Asgard no one ever waxed old or
ugly. Even Father Odin, Hœnir, and Loki, the three travelers who had
seen the very beginning of everything, when the world was made, were
still sturdy and young. And so long as Idun kept her apples safe, the
faces of the family who sat about the table of Valhalla would be rosy
and fair like the faces of children.

"O friend giant!" cried Loki. "You know not what you ask! The apples
are the most precious treasure of Asgard, and Idun keeps watch over
them as if they were dearer to her than life itself. I never could
steal them from her, Thiasse; for at her call all Asgard would rush to
the rescue, and trouble would buzz about my ears like a hive of bees
let loose."

"Then you must steal Idun herself, apples and all. For the apples I
must have, and you have promised, Loki, to do my bidding."

Loki sniffed and thought, thought and sniffed again. Already his
mischievous heart was planning how he might steal Idun away. He could
hardly help laughing to think how angry the Æsir would be when they
found their beauty-medicine gone forever. But he hoped that, when he
had done this trick for Thiasse, now and then the giant would let him
have a nibble of the magic apples; so that Loki himself would remain
young long after the other Æsir were grown old and feeble. This thought
suited Loki's malicious nature well.

"I think I can manage it for you, Thiasse," he said craftily. "In a
week I promise to bring Idun and her apples to you. But you must not
forget the great risk which I am running, nor that I am your relative
by marriage. I may have a favor to ask in return, Thiasse."

Then the eagle gently dropped Loki from his claws. Falling on a soft
bed of moss, Loki jumped up and ran back to his traveling companions,
who were glad and surprised to see him again. They had feared that the
eagle was carrying him away to feed his young eaglets in some far-off
nest. Ah, you may be sure that Loki did not tell them who the eagle
really was, nor confess the wicked promise which he had made about Idun
and her apples.

After that the three went back to Asgard, for they had had adventure
enough for one day.

The days flew by, and the time came when Loki must fulfill his promise
to Thiasse. So one morning he strolled out into the meadow where Idun
loved to roam among the flowers. There he found her, sitting by a tiny
spring, and holding her precious casket of apples on her lap. She was
combing her long golden hair, which fell from under a wreath of spring
flowers, and she was very beautiful. Her green robe was embroidered
with buds and blossoms of silk in many colors, and she wore a golden
girdle about her waist. She smiled as Loki came, and tossed him a posy,
saying: "Good-morrow, red Loki. Have you come for a bite of my apples?
I see a wrinkle over each of your eyes which I can smooth away."

"Nay, fair lady," answered Loki politely, "I have just nibbled of
another apple, which I found this morning. Verily, I think it is
sweeter and more magical than yours."

Idun was hurt and surprised.

"That cannot be, Loki," she cried. "There are no apples anywhere like
mine. Where found you this fine fruit?" and she wrinkled up her little
nose scornfully.

"Oho! I will not tell any one the place," chuckled Loki, "except that
it is not far, in a little wood. There is a gnarled old apple-tree, and
on its branches grow the most beautiful red-cheeked apples you ever
saw. But you could never find it."

"I should like to see these apples, Loki, if only to prove how far
less good they are than mine. Will you bring me some?"

"That I will not," said Loki teasingly. "Oh, no! I have my own magic
apples now, and folk will be coming to me for help instead of to you."

Idun began to coax him, as he had guessed that she would: "Please,
please, Loki, show me the place!"

At first he would not, for he was a sly fellow, and knew how to lead
her on. At last, he pretended to yield.

"Well, then, because I love you, Idun, better than all the rest, I
will show you the place, if you will come with me. But it must be a
secret--no one must ever know."

All girls like secrets.

"Yes--yes!" cried Idun eagerly. "Let us steal away now, while no one is

This was just what Loki hoped for.

"Bring your own apples," he said, "that we may compare them with mine.
But I know mine are better."

"I know mine are the best in all the world," returned Idun, pouting. "I
will bring them, to show you the difference."

Off they started together, she with the golden casket under her arm;
and Loki chuckled wickedly as they went. He led her for some distance,
further than she had ever strayed before, and at last she grew

"Where are you taking me, Loki?" she cried. "You said it was not far. I
see no little wood, no old apple-tree."

"It is just beyond, just a little step beyond," he answered. So on
they went. But that little step took them beyond the boundary of
Asgard--just a little step beyond, into the space where the giants
lurked and waited for mischief.

Then there was a rustling of wings, and _whirr-rr-rr_! Down came
Thiasse in his eagle dress. Before Idun suspected what was happening,
he fastened his claws into her girdle and flapped away with her, magic
apples and all, to his palace in Jotunheim, the Land of Giants.


Loki stole back to Asgard, thinking that he was quite safe, and that
no one would discover his villainy. At first Idun was not missed.
But after a little the gods began to feel signs of age, and went
for their usual bite of her apples. Then they found that she had
disappeared, and a great terror fell upon them. Where had she gone?
Suppose she should not come back!

The hours and days went by, and still she did not return. Their fright
became almost a panic. Their hair began to turn gray, and their limbs
grew stiff and gouty so that they hobbled down Asgard streets. Even
Freia, the loveliest, was afraid to look in her mirror, and Balder the
beautiful grew pale and haggard. The happy land of Asgard was like a
garden over which a burning wind had blown,--all the flower-faces were
faded and withered, and springtime was turned into yellow fall.

If Idun and her apples were not quickly found, the gods seemed likely
to shrivel and blow away like autumn leaves. They held a council to
inquire into the matter, endeavoring to learn who had seen Idun last,
and whither she had gone. It turned out that one morning Heimdal had
seen her strolling out of Asgard with Loki, and no one had seen her
since. Then the gods understood; Loki was the last person who had been
with her--this must be one of Loki's tricks. They were filled with
anger. They seized and bound Loki and brought him before the council.
They threatened him with torture and with death unless he should tell
the truth. And Loki was so frightened that finally he confessed what he
had done.

Then indeed there was horror in Asgard. Idun stolen away by a wicked
giant! Idun and her apples lost, and Asgard growing older every minute!
What was to be done? Big Thor seized Loki and threw him up in the air
again and again, so that his heels touched first the moon and then the
sea; you can still see the marks upon the moon's white face. "If you do
not bring Idun back from the land of your wicked wife, you shall have
worse than this!" he roared. "Go and bring her _now_."

"How can I do that?" asked Loki, trembling.

"That is for you to find," growled Thor. "Bring her you must. Go!"

Loki thought for a moment. Then he said:--

"I will bring her back if Freia will loan me her falcon dress. The
giant dresses as an eagle. I, too, must guise me as a bird, or we
cannot outwit him."

Then Freia hemmed and hawed. She did not wish to loan her feather
dress, for it was very precious. But all the Æsir begged; and finally
she consented.

It was a beautiful great dress of brown feathers and gray, and in it
Freia loved to skim like a falcon among the clouds and stars. Loki put
it on, and when he had done so he looked exactly like a great brown
hawk. Only his bright black eyes remained the same, glancing here and
there, so that they lost sight of nothing.

With a whirr of his wings Loki flew off to the north, across mountains
and valleys and the great river Ifing, which lay between Asgard and
Giant Land. And at last he came to the palace of Thiasse the giant.

It happened, fortunately, that Thiasse had gone fishing in the sea, and
Idun was left alone, weeping and broken-hearted. Presently she heard a
little tap on her window, and, looking up, she saw a great brown bird
perching on the ledge. He was so big that Idun was frightened and gave
a scream. But the bird nodded pleasantly and croaked: "Don't be afraid,
Idun. I am a friend. I am Loki, come to set you free."

"Loki! Loki is no friend of mine. He brought me here," she sobbed. "I
don't believe you came to save me."

"That is indeed why I am here," he replied, "and a dangerous business
it is, if Thiasse should come back before we start for home."

"How will you get me out?" asked Idun doubtfully. "The door is locked,
and the window is barred."

"I will change you into a nut," said he, "and carry you in my claws."

"What of the casket of apples?" queried Idun. "Can you carry that also?"

Then Loki laughed long and loudly.

"What welcome to Asgard do you think I should receive without the
apples?" he cried. "Yes, we must take them, indeed."

Idun came to the window, and Loki, who was a skillful magician, turned
her into a nut and took her in one claw, while in the other he seized
the casket of apples. Then off he whirred out of the palace grounds and
away toward Asgard's safety.

In a little while Thiasse returned home, and when he found Idun and
her apples gone, there was a hubbub, you may be sure! However, he lost
little time by smashing mountains and breaking trees in his giant rage;
that fit was soon over. He put on his eagle plumage and started in
pursuit of the falcon.

Now an eagle is bigger and stronger than any other bird, and usually in
a long race he can beat even the swift hawk who has an hour's start.
Presently Loki heard behind him the shrill scream of a giant eagle, and
his heart turned sick. But he had crossed the great river, and already
was in sight of Asgard. The aged Æsir were gathered on the rainbow
bridge watching eagerly for Loki's return; and when they spied the
falcon with the nut and the casket in his talons, they knew who it was.
A great cheer went up, but it was hushed in a moment, for they saw the
eagle close after the falcon; and they guessed that this must be the
giant Thiasse, the stealer of Idun.

Then there was a great shouting of commands, and a rushing to and fro.
All the gods, even Father Odin and his two wise ravens, were busy
gathering chips into great heaps on the walls of Asgard. As soon as
Loki, with his precious burden, had fluttered weakly over the wall,
dropping to the ground beyond, the gods lighted the heaps of chips
which they had piled, and soon there was a wall of fire, over which
the eagle must fly. He was going too fast to stop. The flames roared
and crackled, but Thiasse flew straight into them, with a scream of
fear and rage. His feathers caught fire and burned, so that he could
no longer fly, but fell headlong to the ground inside the walls. Then
Thor, the thunder-lord, and Tŷr, the mighty war-king, fell upon him and
slew him, so that he could never trouble the Æsir any more.

There was great rejoicing in Asgard that night, for Loki changed Idun
again to a fair lady; whereupon she gave each of the eager gods a bite
of her life-giving fruit, so that they grew young and happy once more,
as if all these horrors had never happened.

Not one of them, however, forgot the evil part which Loki had played
in these doings. They hid the memory, like a buried seed, deep in their
hearts. Thenceforward the word of Loki and the honor of his name were
poor coin in Asgard; which is no wonder.


The giant Thiasse, whom Thor slew for the theft of Idun and the magic
apples, had a daughter, Skadi, who was a very good sort of girl, as
giantesses go. Most of them were evil-tempered, spiteful, and cruel
creatures, who desired only to do harm to the gods and to all who
were good. But Skadi was different. Stronger than the hatred of her
race for the Æsir, stronger even than her wish to be revenged for her
father's death, was her love for Balder the beautiful, the pride of all
the gods. If she had not been a giantess, she might have hoped that
he would love her also; but she knew that no one who lived in Asgard
would ever think kindly of her race, which had caused so much trouble
to Balder and his brothers. After her father was killed by the Æsir,
however, Skadi had a wise idea.

Skadi put on her helm and corselet and set out for Asgard, meaning
to ask a noble price to pay for the sorrow of Thiasse's death. The
gods, who had all grown young and boyish once again, were sitting in
Valhalla merrily enjoying a banquet in honor of Idun's safe return,
when Skadi, clattering with steel, strode into their midst. Heimdal the
watchman, astonished at the sight, had let this maiden warrior pass him
upon the rainbow bridge. The Æsir set down their cups hastily, and the
laughter died upon their lips; for though she looked handsome, Skadi
was a terrible figure in her silver armor and with her spear as long as
a ship's mast brandished in her giant hand.

The nine Valkyries, Odin's maiden warriors, hurried away to put on
their own helmets and shields; for they would not have this other
maiden, ten times as huge, see them meekly waiting at table, while they
had battle-dresses as fine as hers to show the stranger.

"Who are you, maiden, and what seek you here?" asked Father Odin.

"I am Skadi, the daughter of Thiasse, whom your folk have slain,"
answered she, "and I come here for redress."

At these words the coward Loki, who had been at the killing of Thiasse,
skulked low behind the table; but Thor, who had done the killing,
straightened himself and clenched his fists tightly. He was not afraid
of any giant, however fierce, and this maiden with her shield and spear
only angered him.

"Well, Skadi," quoth Odin gravely, "your father was a thief, and died
for his sins. He stole fair Idun and her magic apples, and for that
crime he died, which was only just. Yet because our righteous deed has
left you an orphan, Skadi, we will grant you a recompense, so you shall
be at peace with us; for it is not fitting that the Æsir should quarrel
with women. What is it you ask, O Skadi, as solace for the death of

Skadi looked like an orphan who was well able to take care of herself;
and this indeed her next words showed her to be. "I ask two things,"
she said, without a moment's hesitation: "I ask the husband whom I
shall select from among you; and I ask that you shall make me laugh,
for it is many days since grief has let me enjoy a smile."

At this strange request the Æsir looked astonished, and some of them
seemed rather startled; for you can fancy that none of them wanted a
giantess, however handsome, for his wife. They put their heads together
and consulted long whether or not they should allow Skadi her two

"I will agree to make her laugh," grinned Loki; "but suppose she should
choose me for her husband! I am married to one giantess already."

"No fear of that, Loki," said Thor; "you were too near being the cause
of her father's death for her to love you overmuch. Nor do I think that
she will choose me; so I am safe."

Loki chuckled and stole away to think up a means of making Skadi laugh.

Finally, the gods agreed that Skadi should choose one of them for her
husband; but in order that all might have a fair chance of missing this
honor which no one coveted, she was to choose in a curious way. All the
Æsir were to stand in a row behind the curtain which was drawn across
the end of the hall, so that only their feet were seen by Skadi; and by
their feet alone Skadi was to select him who was to be her husband.

Now Skadi was very ready to agree to this, for she said to herself,
"Surely, I shall know the feet of Balder, for they will be the most
beautiful of any."

Amid nervous laughter at this new game, the Æsir ranged themselves in
a row behind the purple curtain, with only their line of feet showing
below the golden border. There were Father Odin, Thor the Thunderer,
and Balder his brother; there was old Niörd the rich, with his fair son
Frey; there were Tŷr the bold, Bragi the poet, blind Höd, and Vidar the
silent; Vali and Ull the archers, Forseti the wise judge, and Heimdal
the gold-toothed watchman. Loki alone, of all the Æsir, was not there;
and Loki was the only one who did not shiver as Skadi walked up and
down the hall looking at the row of feet.

Up and down, back and forth, went Skadi, looking carefully; and among
all those sandaled feet there was one pair more white and fair and
beautiful than the rest.

"Surely, these are Balder's feet!" she thought, while her heart thumped
with eagerness under her silver corselet. "Oh, if I guess aright, dear
Balder will be my husband!"

She paused confidently before the handsomest pair of feet, and,
pointing to them with her spear, she cried, "I choose here! Few
blemishes are to be found in Balder the beautiful."

A shout of laughter arose behind the curtain, and forth slunk--not
young Balder, but old Niörd the rich, king of the ocean wind, the
father of those fair twins, Frey and Freia. Skadi had chosen the
handsome feet of old Niörd, and thenceforth he must be her husband.

Niörd was little pleased; but Skadi was heart-broken. Her face grew
longer and sadder than before when he stepped up and took her hand
sulkily, saying, "Well, I am to be your husband, then, and all my
riches stored in Noatûn, the home of ships, are to be yours. You would
have chosen Balder, and I wish that this luck had been his! However, it
cannot be helped now."

"Nay," answered Skadi, frowning, "the bargain is not yet complete. No
one of you has made me laugh. I am so sad now, that it will be a merry
jest indeed which can wring laughter from my heavy heart." She sighed,
looking at Balder. But Balder loved only Nanna in all the world.

Just then, out came Loki, riding on one of Thor's goat steeds; and the
red-bearded fellow cut up such ridiculous capers with the gray-bearded
goat that soon not only Skadi, but all the Æsir and Niörd himself were
holding their sides with laughter.

"Fairly won, fairly won!" cried Skadi, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"I am beaten. I shall not forget that it is Loki to whom I owe this
last joke. Some day I shall be quits with you, red joker!" And this
threat she carried out in the end, on the day of Loki's punishment.

Skadi was married to old Niörd, both unwilling; and they went to live
among the mountains in Skadi's home, which had once been Thiasse's
palace, where he had shut Idun in a prison cell. As you can imagine,
Niörd and Skadi did not live happily ever after, like the good prince
and princess in the story-book. For, in the first place, Skadi was a
giantess; and there are few folk, I fancy, who could live happily with
a giantess. In the second place, she did not love Niörd, nor did he
love Skadi, and neither forgot that Skadi's choosing had been sorrow
to them both. But the third reason was the most important of all; and
this was because Skadi and Niörd could not agree upon the place which
should be their home. For Niörd did not like the mountain palace of
Skadi's people,--the place where roaring winds rushed down upon the sea
and its ships. The sea with its ships was his friend, and he wanted to
dwell in Noatûn, where he had greater wealth than any one else in the
world,--where he could rule the fresh sea-wind and tame the wild ocean,
granting the prayers of fisher-folk and the seafarers, who loved his

Finally, they agreed to dwell first in one place, then in the other,
so that each might be happy in turn. For nine days they tarried
in Thrymheim, and then they spent three in Noatûn. But even this
arrangement could not bring peace. One day they had a terrible quarrel.
It was just after they had come down from Skadi's mountain home for
their three days in Niörd's sea palace, and he was so glad to be back
that he cried,--

"Ah, how I hate your hills! How long the nine nights seemed, with the
wolves howling until dawn among the dark mountains of Giant Land! What
a discord compared to the songs of the swans who sail upon my dear,
dear ocean!" Thus rudely he taunted his wife; but Skadi answered him
with spirit.

"And I--I cannot sleep by your rolling sea-waves, where the birds are
ever calling, calling, as they come from the woods on the shore. Each
morning the sea-gull's scream wakes me at some unseemly hour. I will
not stay here even for three nights! I will not stay!"

"And I will have no more of your windy mountain-tops," roared Niörd,
beside himself with rage. "Go, if you wish! Go back to Thrymheim! I
shall not follow you, be sure!"

So Skadi went back to her mountains alone, and dwelt in the empty
house of Thiasse, her father. She became a mighty huntress, swift on
the skees and ice-runners which she strapped to her feet. Day after
day she skimmed over the snow-crusted mountains, bow in hand, to hunt
the wild beasts which roamed there. "Skee-goddess," she was called;
and never again did she come to Asgard halls. Quite alone in the cold
country, she hunted hardily, keeping ever in her heart the image of
Balder the beautiful, whom she loved, but whom she had lost forever by
her unlucky choice.


Red Loki had been up to mischief again! Loki, who made quarrels and
brought trouble wherever he went. He had a wicked heart, and he loved
no one. He envied Father Odin his wisdom and his throne above the
world. He envied Balder his beauty, and Tŷr his courage, and Thor his
strength. He envied all the good Æsir who were happy; but he would
not take the trouble to be good himself. So he was always unhappy,
spiteful, and sour. And if anything went wrong in Asgard, the kingdom
of the gods, one was almost sure to find Loki at the bottom of the

Now Thor, the strongest of all the gods, was very proud of his wife's
beautiful hair, which fell in golden waves to her feet, and covered
her like a veil. He loved it better than anything, except Sif herself.
One day, while Thor was away from home, Loki stole into Thrudheim,
the realm of clouds, and cut off all Sif's golden hair, till her head
was as round and fuzzy as a yellow dandelion. Fancy how angry Thor
was when he came rattling home that night in his thunder-chariot and
found Sif so ugly to look at! He stamped up and down till the five
hundred and forty floors of his cloud palace shook like an earthquake,
and lightning flashed from his blue eyes. The people down in the world
below cried: "Dear, dear! What a terrible thunderstorm! Thor must
be very angry about something. Loki has been up to mischief, it is
likely." You see, they also knew Loki and his tricks.

At last Thor calmed himself a little. "Sif, my love," he said, "you
shall be beautiful again. Red Loki shall make you so, since his was the
unmaking. The villain! He shall pay for this!"

Then, without more ado, off set Thor to find red Loki. He went in his
thunder-chariot, drawn by two goats, and the clouds rumbled and the
lightning flashed wherever he went; for Thor was the mighty god of
thunder. At last he came upon the sly rascal, who was trying to hide.
Big Thor seized him by the throat.

"You scoundrel!" he cried, "I will break every bone in your body if you
do not put back Sif's beautiful hair upon her head."

"Ow--ow! You hurt me!" howled Loki. "Take off your big hand, Thor. What
is done, is done. I cannot put back Sif's hair. You know that very

"Then you must get her another head of hair," growled Thor. "That you
can do. You must find for her hair of real gold, and it must grow upon
her head as if it were her own. Do this, or you shall die."

"Where shall I get this famous hair?" whined Loki, though he knew well

"Get it of the black elves," said Thor; "they are cunning jewelers, and
they are your friends. Go, Loki, and go quickly, for I long to see Sif
as beautiful as ever."

Then Loki of the burning beard slunk away to the hills where, far under
ground, the dwarfs have their furnaces and their workshops. Among great
heaps of gold and silver and shining jewels, which they have dug up out
of the earth, the little crooked men in brown blink and chatter and
scold one another; for they are ugly fellows--the dwarfs. _Tink-tank!_
_tink-tank!_ go their little hammers all day long and all night long,
while they make wonderful things such as no man has ever seen, though
you shall hear about them.

They had no trouble to make a head of hair for Sif. It was for them
a simple matter, indeed. The dwarfs work fast for such a customer as
Loki, and in a little while the golden wires were beaten out, and drawn
out, made smooth and soft and curly, and braided into a thick golden
braid. But when Loki came away, he carried with him also two other
treasures which the clever dwarfs had made. One was a golden spear, and
the other was a ship.

Now these do not sound so very wonderful. But wait until you hear!
The spear, which was named Gungnir, was bewitched, so that it made
no difference if the person who held it was clumsy and careless. For
it had this amazing quality, that no matter how badly it was aimed,
or how unskillfully it was thrown, it was sure to go straight to the
mark--which is a very obliging and convenient thing in one's weapon, as
you will readily see.

And Skidbladnir--this was the harsh name of the ship--was even more
wonderful. It could be taken to pieces and folded up so small that it
would go into one's pocket. But when it was unfolded and put together,
it would hold all the gods of Asgard for a sea-journey. Besides all
this, when the sails were set, the ship was sure always to have a fair
wind, which would make it skim along like a great bird, which was the
best part of the charm, as any sailor will tell you.

Now Loki felt very proud of these three treasures, and left the hill
cave stretching his neck and strutting like a great red turkey cock.
Outside the gate, however, he met Brock, the black dwarf, who was the
brother of Sindri, the best workman in all the underworld.

"Hello! what have you there?" asked Brock of the big head, pointing at
the bundles which Loki was carrying.

"The three finest gifts in the world," boasted Loki, hugging his
treasures tight.

"Pooh!" said Brock, "I don't believe it. Did my brother Sindri make

"No," answered Loki; "they were made by the black elves, the sons of
Ivaldi. And they are the most precious gifts that ever were seen."

"Pooh!" again puffed Brock, wagging his long beard crossly. "Nonsense!
Whatever they be, my brother Sindri can make three other gifts more
precious; that I know."

"Can he, though?" laughed Loki. "I will give him my head if he can."

"Done!" shouted the dwarf. "Let me see your famous gifts." So Loki
showed him the three wonders: the gold hair for Sif, the spear, and the
ship. But again the dwarf said: "Pooh! These are nothing. I will show
you what the master-smith can do, and you shall lose your bragging red
head, my Loki."

Now Loki began to be a little uneasy. He followed Brock back to the
smithy in the mountain, where they found Sindri at his forge. Oh, yes!
He could beat the poor gifts of which Loki was so proud. But he would
not tell what his own three gifts were to be.

First Sindri took a pig's skin and laid it on the fire. Then he went
away for a little time; but he set Brock at the bellows and bade him
blow--blow--blow the fire until Sindri should return. Now when Sindri
was gone, Loki also stole away; for, as usual, he was up to mischief.
He had the power of changing his shape and of becoming any creature he
chose, which was often very convenient. Thus he turned himself into
a huge biting fly. Then he flew back into the smithy where Brock was
blow--blow--blowing. Loki buzzed about the dwarf's head, and finally
lighted on his hand and stung him, hoping to make him let go the
bellows. But no! Brock only cried out, "Oh-ee!" and kept on blowing for
dear life. Now soon back came Sindri to the forge and took the pigskin
from the fire. Wonder of wonders! It had turned into a hog with golden
bristles; a live hog that shone like the sun. Brock was not satisfied,

"Well! I don't think much of that," he grumbled.

"Wait a little," said Sindri mysteriously. "Wait and see." Then he went
on to make the second gift.

This time he put a lump of gold into the fire. And when he went away,
as before, he bade Brock stand at the bellows to blow--blow--blow
without stopping. Again, as before, in buzzed Loki the gadfly as soon
as the master-smith had gone out. This time he settled on Brock's
swarthy neck, and stung him so sorely that the blood came and the dwarf
roared till the mountain trembled. Still Brock did not let go the
handle of the bellows, but blew and howled--blew and howled with pain
till Sindri returned. And this time the dwarf took from the fire a fine
gold ring, round as roundness.

"Um! I don't think so much of that," said Brock, again disappointed,
for he had expected some wonderful jewel. But Sindri wagged his head

"Wait a little," he said. "We shall see what we shall see." He heaved
a great lump of iron into the fire to make the third gift. But this
time when he went away, leaving Brock at the bellows, he charged him
to blow--blow--blow without a minute's rest, or everything would be
spoiled. For this was to be the best gift of all.

Brock planted himself wide-legged at the forge and blew--blew--blew.
But for the third time Loki, winged as a fly, came buzzing into the
smithy. This time he fastened viciously below Brock's bushy eyebrow,
and stung him so cruelly that the blood trickled down, a red river,
into his eyes and the poor dwarf was blinded. With a howl Brock raised
his hand to wipe away the blood, and of course in that minute the
bellows stood still. Then Loki buzzed away with a sound that seemed
like a mocking laugh. At the same moment in rushed Sindri, panting with
fright, for he had heard that sound and guessed what it meant.

"What have you done?" he cried. "You have let the bellows rest! You
have spoiled everything!"

"Only a little moment, but one little moment," pleaded Brock, in a
panic. "It has done no harm, has it?"

Sindri leaned anxiously over the fire, and out of the flames he drew
the third gift--an enormous hammer.

"Oh!" said Brock, much disappointed, "only an old iron hammer! I don't
think anything of _that_. Look how short the handle is, too."


"That is your fault, brother," returned the smith crossly. "If you
had not let the bellows stand still, the handle would have been
long enough. Yet as it is--we shall see, we shall see. I think it will
at least win for you red Loki's head. Take the three gifts, brother,
such as they are, and bear them to Asgard. Let all the gods be judges
between you and Loki, which gifts are best, his or yours. But stay--I
may as well tell you the secrets of your three treasures, or you will
not know how to make them work. Your toy that is not wound up is of no
use at all." Which is very true, as we all know. Then he bent over and
whispered in Brock's ear. And what he said pleased Brock so much that
he jumped straight up into the air and capered like one of Thor's goats.

"What a clever brother you are, to be sure!" he cried.

At that moment Loki, who had ceased to be a gadfly, came in grinning,
with his three gifts. "Well, are you ready?" he asked. Then he caught
sight of the three gifts which Brock was putting into his sack.

"Ho! A pig, a ring, and a stub-handled hammer!" he shouted. "Is that
all you have? Fine gifts, indeed! I was really growing uneasy, but
now I see that my head is safe. Let us start for Asgard immediately,
where I promise you that I with my three treasures shall be thrice
more welcome than you with your stupid pig, your ugly ring, and your
half-made hammer."

So together they climbed to Asgard, and there they found the Æsir
sitting in the great judgment hall on Ida Plain. There was Father Odin
on his high throne, with his two ravens at his head and his two wolves
at his feet. There was Queen Frigg by his side; and about them were
Balder the beautiful, Frey and Freia, the fair brother and sister; the
mighty Thor, with Sif, his crop-haired wife, and all the rest of the
great Æsir who lived in the upper world above the homes of men.

"Brother Æsir," said Loki, bowing politely, for he was a smooth rascal,
"we have come each with three gifts, the dwarf and I; and you shall
judge which be the most worthy of praise. But if I lose,--I, your
brother,--I lose my head to this crooked little dwarf." So he spoke,
hoping to put the Æsir on his side from the first. For his head was a
very handsome one, and the dwarf was indeed an ill-looking fellow. The
gods, however, nodded gravely, and bade the two show what their gifts
might be.

Then Loki stepped forward to the foot of Odin's throne. And first he
pulled from his great wallet the spear Gungnir, which could not miss
aim. This he gave to Odin, the all-wise. And Odin was vastly pleased,
as you may imagine, to find himself thenceforth an unequaled marksman.
So he smiled upon Loki kindly and said: "Well done, brother."

Next Loki took out the promised hair for Sif, which he handed Thor with
a grimace. Now when the golden locks were set upon her head, they grew
there like real hair, long and soft and curling--but still real gold.
So that Sif was more beautiful than ever before, and more precious,
too. You can fancy how pleased Thor was with Loki's gift. He kissed
lovely Sif before all the gods and goddesses, and vowed that he forgave
Loki for the mischief which he had done in the first place, since he
had so nobly made reparation.

Then Loki took out the third gift, all folded up like a paper boat;
and it was the ship Skidbladnir,--I am sorry they did not give it a
prettier name. This he presented to Frey the peaceful. And you can
guess whether or not Frey's blue eyes laughed with pleasure at such a

Now when Loki stepped back, all the Æsir clapped their hands and vowed
that he had done wondrous well.

"You will have to show us fine things, you dwarf," quoth Father Odin,
"to better the gifts of red Loki. Come, what have you in the sack you
bear upon your shoulders?"

Then the crooked little Brock hobbled forward, bent almost double under
the great load which he carried. "I have what I have," he said.

First, out he pulled the ring Draupnir, round as roundness and shining
of gold. This the dwarf gave to Odin, and though it seemed but little,
yet it was much. For every ninth night out of this ring, he said, would
drop eight other rings of gold, as large and as fair. Then Odin clapped
his hands and cried: "Oh, wondrous gift! I like it even better than the
magic spear which Loki gave." And all the other Æsir agreed with him.

Then out of the sack came grunting Goldbristle, the hog, all of
gold. Brock gave him to Frey, to match the magic ship of Loki. This
Goldbristle was so marvelously forged that he could run more swiftly
than any horse, on air or water. Moreover, he was a living lantern.
For on the darkest night he bristled with light like a million-pointed
star, so that one riding on his back would light the air and the sea
like a firefly, wherever he went. This idea pleased Frey mightily, for
he was the merriest of the gods, and he laughed aloud.

"'Tis a wondrous fine gift," he said. "I like old Goldbristle even
better than the compressible boat. For on this lusty steed I can ride
about the world when I am tending the crops and the cattle of men and
scattering the rain upon them. Master dwarf, I give my vote to you."
And all the other Æsir agreed with him.

Then out of the sack Brock drew the third gift. It was the
short-handled hammer named Miölnir. And this was the gift which Sindri
had made for Thor, the mightiest of the gods; and it was the best gift
of all. For with it Thor could burst the hardest metal and shatter
the thickest mountain, and nothing could withstand its power. But it
never could hurt Thor himself; and no matter how far or how hard it was
thrown, it would always fly back into Thor's own hand. Last of all,
whenever he so wished, the great hammer would become so small that he
could put it in his pocket, quite out of sight. But Brock was sorry
that the handle was so short--all owing to his fault, because he had
let the bellows rest for that one moment.

When Thor had this gift in his hand, he jumped up with a shout of
joy. "'Tis a wondrous fine gift," he cried, "with short handle or
with long. And I prize it even more than I prize the golden hair of
Sif which Loki gave. For with it I shall fight our enemies, the Frost
Giants and the mischievous Trolls and the other monsters--Loki's
friends. And all the Æsir will be glad of my gift when they see what
deeds I shall do therewith. Now, if I may have my say, I judge that the
three gifts made by Sindri the dwarf are the most precious that may be.
So Brock has gained the prize of Loki's red head,--a sorry recompense
indeed for gifts so masterly." Then Thor sat down. And all the other
Æsir shouted that he had spoken well, and that they agreed with him.

So Loki was like to lose his head. He offered to pay instead a huge
price, if Brock would let him go. But Brock refused. "The red head of
Loki for my gift," he insisted, and the gods nodded that it must be so,
since he had earned his wish.

But when Loki saw that the count was all against him, his eyes grew
crafty. "Well, take me, then--if you can!" he shouted. And off he shot
like an arrow from a bow. For Loki had on magic shoes, with which he
could run over sea or land or sky; and the dwarf could never catch him
in the world. Then Brock was furious. He stood stamping and chattering,
tearing his long beard with rage.

"I am cheated!" he cried. "I have won--but I have lost." Then he turned
to Thor, who was playing with his hammer, bursting a mountain or two
and splitting a tree here and there. "Mighty Thor," begged the dwarf,
"catch me the fellow who has broken his word. I have given you the best
gift,--your wonderful hammer. Catch me, then, the boasting red head
which I have fairly bought."

Then Thor stopped his game and set out in pursuit of Loki, for he was
ever on the side of fairness. No one, however fleet, can escape when
Thor follows, for his is the swiftness of a lightning flash. So he soon
brought Loki back to Ida Plain, and gave him up a prisoner to the dwarf.

"I have you now, boaster," said Brock fiercely, "and I will cut off
your red head in the twinkling of an eye." But just as he was about to
do as he said, Loki had another sly idea.

"Hold, sirrah dwarf," he said. "It is true that you have won my head,
but not the neck, not an inch of the neck." And all the gods agreed
that this was so. Then Brock was puzzled indeed, for how could he cut
off Loki's head without an inch of the neck, too? But this he must not
do, or he knew the just Æsir would punish him with death. So he was
forced to be content with stopping Loki's boasting in another way. He
would sew up the bragging lips.

He brought a stout, strong thread and an awl to bore the holes. And
in a twinkling he had stitched up the lips of the sly one, firm and
fast. So for a time, at least, he put an end to Loki's boasting and his
taunts and his lies.

It is a pity that those mischief-making lips were not fastened up
forever; for that would have saved much of the trouble and sorrow which
came after. But at last, after a long time, Loki got his lips free, and
they made great sorrow in Asgard for the gods and on earth for men, as
you shall hear.

Now this is the end of the tale which tells of the dwarf's gifts, and
especially of Thor's hammer, which was afterwards to be of such service
to him and such bane to the enemies of the Æsir. And that also you
shall hear before all is done.


Red Loki, the wickedest of all the Æsir, had done something of which
he was very much ashamed. He had married a giantess, the ugliest,
fiercest, most dreadful giantess that ever lived; and of course he
wanted no one to find out what he had done, for he knew that Father
Odin would be indignant with him for having wedded one of the enemies
of the Æsir, and that none of his brothers would be grateful to him for
giving them a sister-in-law so hideous.

But at last All-Father found out the secret that Loki had been hiding
for years. Worst of all, he found that Loki and the giantess had three
ugly children hidden away in the dark places of the earth,--three
children of whom Loki was even more ashamed than of their mother,
though he loved them too. For two of them were the most terrible
monsters which time had ever seen. Hela his daughter was the least ugly
of the three, though one could scarcely call her attractive. She was
half black and half white, which must have looked very strange; and
she was not easily mistaken by any one who chanced to see her, you can
well understand. She was fierce and grim to see, and the very sight of
her caused terror and death to him who gazed upon her.

But the other two! One was an enormous wolf, with long fierce teeth
and flashing red eyes. And the other was a scaly, slimy, horrible
serpent, huger than any serpent that ever lived, and a hundred times
more ferocious. Can you wonder that Loki was ashamed of such children
as these? The wonder is, how he could find anything about them to love.
But Loki's heart loved evil in secret, and it was the evil in these
three children of his which made them so ugly.

Now when Odin discovered that three such monsters had been living
in the world without his knowledge, he was both angry and anxious,
for he knew that these children of mischievous Loki and his wicked
giantess-wife were dangerous to the peace of Asgard. He consulted the
Norns, the three wise maidens who lived beside the Urdar-well, and who
could see into the future to tell what things were to happen in coming
years. And they bade him beware of Loki's children; they told him
that the three monsters would bring great sorrow upon Asgard, for the
giantess their mother would teach them all her hatred of Odin's race,
while they would have their father's sly wisdom to help them in all
mischief. So Odin knew that his fears had warned him truly. Something
must be done to prevent the dangers which threatened Asgard. Something
must be done to keep the three out of mischief.

Father Odin sent for all the gods, and bade them go forth over the
world, find the children of Loki in the secret places where they were
hidden, and bring them to him. Then the Æsir mounted their horses and
set out on their difficult errand. They scoured Asgard, Midgard the
world of men, Utgard and Jotunheim where the giants lived. And at last
they found the three horrible creatures hiding in their mother's cave.
They dragged them forth and took them up to Asgard, before Odin's high

Now All-Father had been considering what should be done with the
three monsters, and when they came, his mind was made up. Hela, the
daughter, was less evil than the other two, but her face was dark and
gloomy, and she brought death to those who looked upon her. She must be
prisoned out of sight in some far place, where her sad eyes could not
look sorrow into men's lives and death into their hearts. So he sent
her down, down into the dark, cold land of Niflheim, which lay below
one root of the great tree Yggdrasil. Here she must live forever and
ever. And, because she was not wholly bad, Odin made her queen of that
land, and for her subjects she was to have all the folk who died upon
the earth,--except the heroes who perished in battle; for these the
Valkyries carried straight to Valhalla in Asgard. But all who died of
sickness or of old age, all who met their deaths through accident or
men's cruelty, were sent to Queen Hela, who gave them lodgings in her
gloomy palace. Vast was her kingdom, huge as nine worlds, and it was
surrounded by a high wall, so that no one who had once gone thither
could ever return. And here thenceforth Loki's daughter reigned among
the shadows, herself half shadow and half light, half good and half

But the Midgard serpent was a more dangerous beast even than Death.
Odin frowned when he looked upon this monster writhing before his
throne. He seized the scaly length in his mighty arms and hurled it
forth over the wall of Asgard. Down, down went the great serpent,
twisting and twirling as he fell, while all the sky was black with
the smoke from his nostrils, and the sound of his hissing made every
creature tremble. Down, down he fell with a great splash into the
deep ocean which surrounded the world. There he lay writhing and
squirming, growing always larger and larger, until he was so huge that
he stretched like a ring about the whole earth, with his tail in his
mouth, and his wicked eyes glaring up through the water towards Asgard
which he hated. Sometimes he heaved himself up, great body and all,
trying to escape from the ocean which was his prison. At those times
there were great waves in the sea, snow and stormy winds and rain upon
the earth, and every one would be filled with fear lest he escape and
bring horrors to pass. But he was never able to drag out his whole
hideous length. For the evil in him had grown with his growth; and a
weight of evil is the heaviest of all things to lift.

The third monster was the Fenris wolf, and this was the most dreadful
of the three. He was so terrible that at first Father Odin decided not
to let him out of his sight. He lived in Asgard then, among the Æsir.
Only Tŷr the brave had courage enough to give him food. Day by day he
grew huger and huger, fiercer and fiercer, and finally, when All-Father
saw how mighty he had become, and how he bid fair to bring destruction
upon all Asgard if he were allowed to prowl and growl about as he saw
fit, Odin resolved to have the beast chained up. The Æsir then went
to their smithies and forged a long, strong chain which they thought
no living creature could break. They took it to the wolf to try its
strength, and he, looking sidewise, chuckled to himself and let them
do what they would with him. But as soon as he stretched himself, the
chain burst into a thousand pieces, as if it were made of twine. Then
the Æsir hurried away and made another chain, far, far stronger than
the first.

"If you can break this, O Fenrir," they said, "you will be famous

Again the wolf blinked at his chain; again he chuckled and let them
fasten him without a struggle, for he knew that his own strength had
been increased since he broke the other; but as soon as the chain
was fastened, he shook his great shoulders, kicked his mighty legs,
and--snap!--the links of the chain went whirling far and wide, and once
more the fierce beast was free.

Then the Æsir were alarmed for fear that they would never be able to
make a chain mighty enough to hold the wolf, who was growing stronger
every minute; but they sent Skirnir, Frey's trusty messenger, to the
land of the dwarfs for help. "Make us a chain," was the message he bore
from the Æsir,--"make us a chain stronger than any chain that was ever
forged; for the Fenris wolf must be captured and bound, or all the
world must pay the penalty."

The dwarfs were the finest workmen in the world, as the Æsir knew; for
it was they who made Thor's hammer, and Odin's spear, and Balder's
famous ship, besides many other wondrous things that you remember. So
when Skirnir gave them the message, they set to work with their little
hammers and anvils, and before long they had welded a wonderful chain,
such as no man had ever before seen. Strange things went to the making
of it,--the sound of a cat's footsteps, the roots of a mountain, a
bear's sinews, a fish's breath, and other magic materials that only the
dwarfs knew how to put together; and the result was a chain as soft and
twistable as a silken cord, but stronger than an iron cable. With this
chain Skirnir galloped back to Asgard, and with it the gods were sure
of chaining Fenrir; but they meant to go about the business slyly, so
that the wolf should not suspect the danger which was so near.

"Ho, Fenrir!" they cried. "Here is a new chain for you. Do you think
you can snap this as easily as you did the last? We warn you that it
is stronger than it looks." They handed it about from one to another,
each trying to break the links, but in vain. The wolf watched them

"Pooh! There is little honor in breaking a thread so slender!" he said.
"I know that I could snap it with one bite of my big teeth. But there
may be some trick about it; I will not let it bind my feet,--not I."

"Oho!" cried the Æsir. "He is afraid! He fears that we shall bind
him in cords that he cannot loose. But see how slender the chain is.
Surely, if you could burst the chain of iron, O Fenrir, you could break
this far more easily." Still the wolf shook his head, and refused to
let them fasten him, suspecting some trick. "But even if you find that
you cannot break our chain," they said, "you need not be afraid. We
shall set you free again."

"Set me free!" growled the wolf. "Yes, you will set me free at the end
of the world,--not before! I know your ways, O Æsir; and if you are
able to bind me so fast that I cannot free myself, I shall wait long to
have the chain made loose. But no one shall call me coward. If one of
you will place his hand in my mouth and hold it there while the others
bind me, I will let the chain be fastened."

The gods looked at one another, their mouths drooping. Who would do
this thing and bear the fury of the angry wolf when he should find
himself tricked and captured? Yet this was their only chance to bind
the monster and protect Asgard from danger. At last bold Tŷr stepped
forward, the bravest of all the Æsir. "Open your mouth, Fenrir," he
cried, with a laugh. "I will pledge my hand to the trial."

Then the wolf yawned his great jaws, and Tŷr thrust in his good right
hand, knowing full well that he was to lose it in the game. The Æsir
stepped up with the dwarfs' magic chain, and Fenrir let them fasten
it about his feet. But when the bonds were drawn tight, he began to
struggle; and the more he tugged, the tighter drew the chain, so that
he soon saw himself to be entrapped. Then how he writhed and kicked,
howled and growled, in his terrible rage! How the heavens trembled
and the earth shook below! The Æsir set up a laugh to see him so
helpless--all except Tŷr; for at the first sound of laughter the wolf
shut his great mouth with a click, and poor brave Tŷr had lost the
right hand which had done so many heroic deeds in battle, and which
would never again wave sword before the warriors whom he loved and
would help to win the victory. But great was the honor which he won
that day, for without his generous deed the Fenris wolf could never
have been captured.

And now the monster was safely secured by the strong chain which the
dwarfs had made, and all his struggles to be free were in vain, for
they only bound the silken rope all the tighter. The Æsir took one end
of the chain and fastened it through a big rock which they planted far
down in the earth, as far as they could drive it with a huge hammer
of stone. Into the wolf's great mouth they thrust a sword crosswise,
so that the hilt pierced his lower jaw while the point stuck through
the upper one; and there in the heart of the world he lay howling and
growling, but quite unable to move. Only the foam which dripped from
his angry jaws trickled away and over the earth until it formed a
mighty river; from his wicked mouth also came smoke and fire, and the
sound of his horrible growls. And when men hear this and see this they
run away as fast as they can, for they know that danger still lurks
near where the Fenris wolf lies chained in the depths of the earth; and
here he will lie until Ragnarök,--until the end of all things.


One morning Thor the Thunderer awoke with a yawn, and stretching out
his knotted arm, felt for his precious hammer, which he kept always
under his pillow of clouds. But he started up with a roar of rage, so
that all the palace trembled. The hammer was gone!

Now this was a very serious matter, for Thor was the protector of
Asgard, and Miölnir, the magic hammer which the dwarf had made, was his
mighty weapon, of which the enemies of the Æsir stood so much in dread
that they dared not venture near. But if they should learn that Miölnir
was gone, who could tell what danger might not threaten the palaces of

Thor darted his flashing eye into every corner of Cloud Land in search
of the hammer. He called his fair wife, Sif of the golden hair, to aid
in the search, and his two lovely daughters, Thrude and Lora. They
hunted and they hunted; they turned Thrudheim upside down, and set the
clouds to rolling wonderfully, as they peeped and pried behind and
around and under each billowy mass. But Miölnir was not to be found.
Certainly, some one had stolen it.

Thor's yellow beard quivered with rage, and his hair bristled on end
like the golden rays of a star, while all his household trembled.

"It is Loki again!" he cried. "I am sure Loki is at the bottom of this
mischief!" For since the time when Thor had captured Loki for the dwarf
Brock and had given him over to have his bragging lips sewed up, Loki
had looked at him with evil eyes; and Thor knew that the red rascal
hated him most of all the gods.

But this time Thor was mistaken. It was not Loki who had stolen the
hammer,--he was too great a coward for that. And though he meant,
before the end, to be revenged upon Thor, he was waiting until a safe
chance should come, when Thor himself might stumble into danger, and
Loki need only to help the evil by a malicious word or two; and this
chance came later, as you shall hear in another tale.

Meanwhile Loki was on his best behavior, trying to appear very kind and
obliging; so when Thor came rumbling and roaring up to him, demanding,
"What have you done with my hammer, you thief?" Loki looked surprised,
but did not lose his temper nor answer rudely.

"Have you indeed missed your hammer, brother Thor?" he said, mumbling,
for his mouth was still sore where Brock had sewed the stitches. "That
is a pity; for if the giants hear of this, they will be coming to try
their might against Asgard."

"Hush!" muttered Thor, grasping him by the shoulder with his iron
fingers. "That is what I fear. But look you, Loki: I suspect your hand
in the mischief. Come, confess."

Then Loki protested that he had nothing to do with so wicked a deed.
"But," he added wheedlingly, "I think I can guess the thief; and
because I love you, Thor, I will help you to find him."

"Humph!" growled Thor. "Much love you bear to me! However, you are a
wise rascal, the nimblest wit of all the Æsir, and it is better to
have you on my side than on the other, when giants are in the game.
Tell me, then: who has robbed the Thunder-Lord of his bolt of power?"

Loki drew near and whispered in Thor's ear. "Look, how the storms
rage and the winds howl in the world below! Some one is wielding your
thunder-hammer all unskillfully. Can you not guess the thief? Who but
Thrym, the mighty giant who has ever been your enemy and your imitator,
and whose fingers have long itched to grasp the short handle of mighty
Miölnir, that the world may name him Thunder-Lord instead of you. But
look! What a tempest! The world will be shattered into fragments unless
we soon get the hammer back."

Then Thor roared with rage. "I will seek this impudent Thrym!" he
cried. "I will crush him into bits, and teach him to meddle with the
weapon of the Æsir!"

"Softly, softly," said Loki, smiling maliciously. "He is a shrewd
giant, and a mighty. Even you, great Thor, cannot go to him and pluck
the hammer from his hand as one would slip the rattle from a baby's
pink fist. Nay, you must use craft, Thor; and it is I who will teach
you, if you will be patient."

Thor was a brave, blunt fellow, and he hated the ways of Loki, his lies
and his deceit. He liked best the way of warriors,--the thundering
charge, the flash of weapons, and the heavy blow; but without the
hammer he could not fight the giants hand to hand. Loki's advice seemed
wise, and he decided to leave the matter to the Red One.

Loki was now all eagerness, for he loved difficulties which would set
his wit in play and bring other folk into danger. "Look, now," he said.
"We must go to Freia and borrow her falcon dress. But you must ask; for
she loves me so little that she would scarce listen to me."

So first they made their way to Folkvang, the house of maidens, where
Freia dwelt, the loveliest of all in Asgard. She was fairer than fair,
and sweeter than sweet, and the tears from her flower-eyes made the
dew which blessed the earth-flowers night and morning. Of her Thor
borrowed the magic dress of feathers in which Freia was wont to clothe
herself and flit like a great beautiful bird all about the world. She
was willing enough to lend it to Thor when he told her that by its aid
he hoped to win back the hammer which he had lost; for she well knew
the danger threatening herself and all the Æsir until Miölnir should be

"Now will I fetch the hammer for you," said Loki. So he put on the
falcon plumage, and, spreading his brown wings, flapped away up, up,
over the world, down, down, across the great ocean which lies beyond
all things that men know. And he came to the dark country where there
was no sunshine nor spring, but it was always dreary winter; where
mountains were piled up like blocks of ice, and where great caverns
yawned hungrily in blackness. And this was Jotunheim, the land of the
Frost Giants.

And lo! when Loki came thereto he found Thrym the Giant King sitting
outside his palace cave, playing with his dogs and horses. The dogs
were as big as elephants, and the horses were as big as houses, but
Thrym himself was as huge as a mountain; and Loki trembled, but he
tried to seem brave.

"Good-day, Loki," said Thrym, with the terrible voice of which he was
so proud, for he fancied it was as loud as Thor's. "How fares it,
feathered one, with your little brothers, the Æsir, in Asgard halls?
And how dare you venture alone in this guise to Giant Land?"

"It is an ill day in Asgard," sighed Loki, keeping his eye warily upon
the giant, "and a stormy one in the world of men. I heard the winds
howling and the storms rushing on the earth as I passed by. Some mighty
one has stolen the hammer of our Thor. Is it you, Thrym, greatest of
all giants,--greater than Thor himself?"

This the crafty one said to flatter Thrym, for Loki well knew the
weakness of those who love to be thought greater than they are.

Then Thrym bridled and swelled with pride, and tried to put on the
majesty and awe of noble Thor; but he only succeeded in becoming an
ugly, puffy monster.

"Well, yes," he admitted. "I have the hammer that belonged to your
little Thor; and now how much of a lord is he?"

"Alack!" sighed Loki again, "weak enough he is without his magic
weapon. But you, O Thrym,--surely your mightiness needs no such aid.
Give me the hammer, that Asgard may no longer be shaken by Thor's grief
for his precious toy."

But Thrym was not so easily to be flattered into parting with his
stolen treasure. He grinned a dreadful grin, several yards in width,
which his teeth barred like jagged boulders across the entrance to a
mountain cavern.

"Miölnir the hammer is mine," he said, "and I am Thunder-Lord,
mightiest of the mighty. I have hidden it where Thor can never find
it, twelve leagues below the sea-caves, where Queen Ran lives with
her daughters, the white-capped Waves. But listen, Loki. Go tell the
Æsir that I will give back Thor's hammer. I will give it back upon one
condition,--that they send Freia the beautiful to be my wife."

"Freia the beautiful!" Loki had to stifle a laugh. Fancy the Æsir
giving their fairest flower to such an ugly fellow as this! But he
only said politely, "Ah, yes; you demand our Freia in exchange for the
little hammer? It is a costly price, great Thrym. But I will be your
friend in Asgard. If I have my way, you shall soon see the fairest
bride in all the world knocking at your door. Farewell!"

So Loki whizzed back to Asgard on his falcon wings; and as he went he
chuckled to think of the evils which were likely to happen because of
his words with Thrym. First he gave the message to Thor,--not sparing
of Thrym's insolence, to make Thor angry; and then he went to Freia
with the word for her,--not sparing of Thrym's ugliness, to make her
shudder. The spiteful fellow!

Now you can imagine the horror that was in Asgard as the Æsir listened
to Loki's words. "My hammer!" roared Thor. "The villain confesses that
he has stolen my hammer, and boasts that he is Thunder-Lord! Gr-r-r!"

"The ugly giant!" wailed Freia. "Must I be the bride of that hideous
old monster, and live in his gloomy mountain prison all my life?"

"Yes; put on your bridal veil, sweet Freia," said Loki maliciously,
"and come with me to Jotunheim. Hang your famous starry necklace about
your neck, and don your bravest robe; for in eight days there will be a
wedding, and Thor's hammer is to pay."

Then Freia fell to weeping. "I cannot go! I will not go!" she cried. "I
will not leave the home of gladness and Father Odin's table to dwell
in the land of horrors! Thor's hammer is mighty, but mightier the love
of the kind Æsir for their little Freia! Good Odin, dear brother Frey,
speak for me! You will not make me go?"

The Æsir looked at her and thought how lonely and bare would Asgard be
without her loveliness; for she was fairer than fair, and sweeter than

"She shall not go!" shouted Frey, putting his arms about his sister's

"No, she shall not go!" cried all the Æsir with one voice.

"But my hammer," insisted Thor. "I must have Miölnir back again."

"And my word to Thrym," said Loki, "that must be made good."

"You are too generous with your words," said Father Odin sternly, for
he knew his brother well. "Your word is not a gem of great price, for
you have made it cheap."

Then spoke Heimdal, the sleepless watchman who sits on guard at the
entrance to the rainbow bridge which leads to Asgard; and Heimdal was
the wisest of the Æsir, for he could see into the future, and knew how
things would come to pass. Through his golden teeth he spoke, for his
teeth were all of gold.

"I have a plan," he said. "Let us dress Thor himself like a bride in
Freia's robes, and send him to Jotunheim to talk with Thrym and to win
back his hammer."

But at this word Thor grew very angry. "What! dress me like a girl!"
he roared. "I should never hear the last of it! The Æsir will mock me,
and call me 'maiden'! The giants, and even the puny dwarfs, will have a
lasting jest upon me! I will not go! I will fight! I will die, if need
be! But dressed as a woman I will not go!"

But Loki answered him with sharp words, for this was a scheme after his
own heart. "What, Thor!" he said. "Would you lose your hammer and keep
Asgard in danger for so small a whim? Look, now: if you go not, Thrym
with his giants will come in a mighty army and drive us from Asgard;
then he will indeed make Freia his bride, and moreover he will have you
for his slave under the power of his hammer. How like you this picture,
brother of the thunder? Nay, Heimdal's plan is a good one, and I myself
will help to carry it out."

Still Thor hesitated; but Freia came and laid her white hand on his
arm, and looked up into his scowling face pleadingly.

"To save me, Thor," she begged. And Thor said he would go.

Then there was great sport among the Æsir, while they dressed Thor
like a beautiful maiden. Brunhilde and her sisters, the nine Valkyrie,
daughters of Odin, had the task in hand. How they laughed as they
brushed and curled his yellow hair, and set upon it the wondrous
headdress of silk and pearls! They let out seams, and they let down
hems, and set on extra pieces, to make it larger, and so they hid his
great limbs and knotted arms under Freia's fairest robe of scarlet; but
beneath it all he would wear his shirt of mail and his belt of power
that gave him double strength. Freia herself twisted about his neck her
famous necklace of starry jewels, and Queen Frigg, his mother, hung at
his girdle a jingling bunch of keys, such as was the custom for the
bride to wear at Norse weddings. Last of all, that Thrym might not see
Thor's fierce eyes and the yellow beard, that ill became a maiden, they
threw over him a long veil of silver white which covered him to the
feet. And there he stood, as stately and tall a bride as even a giant
might wish to see; but on his hands he wore his iron gloves, and they
ached for but one thing,--to grasp the handle of the stolen hammer.

[Illustration: "AH, WHAT A LOVELY MAID IT IS!"]

"Ah, what a lovely maid it is!" chuckled Loki; "and how glad will Thrym
be to see this Freia come! Bride Thor, I will go with you as your
handmaiden, for I would fain see the fun."

"Come, then," said Thor sulkily, for he was ill pleased, and wore his
maiden robes with no good grace. "It is fitting that you go; for I like
not these lies and maskings, and I may spoil the mummery without you at
my elbow."

There was loud laughter above the clouds when Thor, all veiled and
dainty seeming, drove away from Asgard to his wedding, with maid Loki
by his side. Thor cracked his whip and chirruped fiercely to his twin
goats with golden hoofs, for he wanted to escape the sounds of mirth
that echoed from the rainbow bridge, where all the Æsir stood watching.
Loki, sitting with his hands meekly folded like a girl, chuckled as he
glanced up at Thor's angry face; but he said nothing, for he knew it
was not good to joke too far with Thor, even when Miölnir was hidden
twelve leagues below the sea in Ran's kingdom.

So off they dashed to Jotunheim, where Thrym was waiting and longing
for his beautiful bride. Thor's goats thundered along above the sea and
land and people far below, who looked up wondering as the noise rolled
overhead. "Hear how the thunder rumbles!" they said. "Thor is on a long
journey to-night." And a long journey it was, as the tired goats found
before they reached the end.

Thrym heard the sound of their approach, for his ear was eager. "Hola!"
he cried. "Some one is coming from Asgard,--only one of Odin's children
could make a din so fearful. Hasten, men, and see if they are bringing
Freia to be my wife."

Then the lookout giant stepped down from the top of his mountain, and
said that a chariot was bringing two maidens to the door.

"Run, giants, run!" shouted Thrym, in a fever at this news. "My bride
is coming! Put silken cushions on the benches for a great banquet,
and make the house beautiful for the fairest maid in all space! Bring
in all my golden-horned cows and my coal-black oxen, that she may see
how rich I am, and heap all my gold and jewels about to dazzle her
sweet eyes! She shall find me richest of the rich; and when I have
her,--fairest of the fair,--there will be no treasure that I lack,--not

The chariot stopped at the gate, and out stepped the tall bride, hidden
from head to foot, and her handmaiden muffled to the chin. "How afraid
of catching cold they must be!" whispered the giant ladies, who were
peering over one another's shoulders to catch a glimpse of the bride,
just as the crowd outside the awning does at a wedding nowadays.

Thrym had sent six splendid servants to escort the maidens: these were
the Metal Kings, who served him as lord of them all. There was the
Gold King, all in cloth of gold, with fringes of yellow bullion, most
glittering to see; and there was the Silver King, almost as gorgeous in
a suit of spangled white; and side by side bowed the dark Kings of Iron
and Lead, the one mighty in black, the other sullen in blue; and after
them were the Copper King, gleaming ruddy and brave, and the Tin King,
strutting in his trimmings of gaudy tinsel which looked nearly as well
as silver but were more economical. And this fine troop of lackey kings
most politely led Thor and Loki into the palace, and gave them of the
best, for they never suspected who these seeming maidens really were.

And when evening came there was a wonderful banquet to celebrate the
wedding. On a golden throne sat Thrym, uglier than ever in his finery
of purple and gold. Beside him was the bride, of whose face no one had
yet caught even a glimpse; and at Thrym's other hand stood Loki, the
waiting-maid, for he wanted to be near to mend the mistakes which Thor
might make.

Now the dishes at the feast were served in a huge way, as befitted the
table of giants: great beeves roasted whole, on platters as wide across
as a ship's deck; plum-puddings as fat as feather-beds, with plums as
big as footballs; and a wedding cake like a snow-capped haymow. The
giants ate enormously. But to Thor, because they thought him a dainty
maiden, they served small bits of everything on a tiny gold dish. Now
Thor's long journey had made him very hungry, and through his veil
he whispered to Loki, "I shall starve, Loki! I cannot fare on these
nibbles. I must eat a goodly meal as I do at home." And forthwith he
helped himself to such morsels as might satisfy his hunger for a little
time. You should have seen the giants stare at the meal which the
dainty bride devoured!

For first under the silver veil disappeared by pieces a whole roast ox.
Then Thor made eight mouthfuls of eight pink salmon, a dish of which
he was very fond. And next he looked about and reached for a platter
of cakes and sweetmeats that was set aside at one end of the table for
the lady guests, and the bride ate them all. You can fancy how the
damsels drew down their mouths and looked at one another when they saw
their dessert disappear; and they whispered about the table, "Alack!
if our future mistress is to sup like this day by day, there will be
poor cheer for the rest of us!" And to crown it all, Thor was thirsty,
as well he might be; and one after another he raised to his lips and
emptied three great barrels of mead, the foamy drink of the giants.
Then indeed Thrym was amazed, for Thor's giant appetite had beaten that
of the giants themselves.

"Never before saw I a bride so hungry," he cried, "and never before one
half so thirsty!"

But Loki, the waiting-maid, whispered to him softly, "The truth is,
great Thrym, that my dear mistress was almost starved. For eight days
Freia has eaten nothing at all, so eager was she for Jotunheim."

Then Thrym was delighted, you may be sure. He forgave his hungry bride,
and loved her with all his heart. He leaned forward to give her a kiss,
raising a corner of her veil; but his hand dropped suddenly, and he
started up in terror, for he had caught the angry flash of Thor's eye,
which was glaring at him through the bridal veil. Thor was longing for
his hammer.

"Why has Freia so sharp a look?" Thrym cried. "It pierces like
lightning and burns like fire."

But again the sly waiting-maid whispered timidly, "Oh, Thrym, be not
amazed! The truth is, my poor mistress's eyes are red with wakefulness
and bright with longing. For eight nights Freia has not known a wink of
sleep, so eager was she for Jotunheim."

Then again Thrym was doubly delighted, and he longed to call her his
very own dear wife. "Bring in the wedding gift!" he cried. "Bring in
Thor's hammer, Miölnir, and give it to Freia, as I promised; for when I
have kept my word she will be mine,--all mine!"

Then Thor's big heart laughed under his woman's dress, and his fierce
eyes swept eagerly down the hall to meet the servant who was bringing
in the hammer on a velvet cushion. Thor's fingers could hardly wait
to clutch the stubby handle which they knew so well; but he sat quite
still on the throne beside ugly old Thrym, with his hands meekly folded
and his head bowed like a bashful bride.

The giant servant drew nearer, nearer, puffing and blowing, strong
though he was, beneath the mighty weight. He was about to lay it at
Thor's feet (for he thought it so heavy that no maiden could lift it or
hold it in her lap), when suddenly Thor's heart swelled, and he gave a
most unmaidenly shout of rage and triumph. With one swoop he grasped
the hammer in his iron fingers; with the other arm he tore off the
veil that hid his terrible face, and trampled it under foot; then he
turned to the frightened king, who cowered beside him on the throne.

"Thief!" he cried. "Freia sends you _this_ as a wedding gift!" And he
whirled the hammer about his head, then hurled it once, twice, thrice,
as it rebounded to his hand; and in the first stroke, as of lightning,
Thrym rolled dead from his throne; in the second stroke perished the
whole giant household,--these ugly enemies of the Æsir; and in the
third stroke the palace itself tumbled together and fell to the ground
like a toppling play-house of blocks.

But Loki and Thor stood safely among the ruins, dressed in their
tattered maiden robes, a quaint and curious sight; and Loki, full of
mischief now as ever, burst out laughing.

"Oh, Thor! if you could see"--he began; but Thor held up his hammer and
shook it gently as he said,--

"Look now, Loki: it was an excellent joke, and so far you have done
well,--after your crafty fashion, which likes me not. But now I have
my hammer again, and the joke is done. From you, nor from another, I
brook no laughter at my expense. Henceforth we will have no mention of
this masquerade, nor of these rags which now I throw away. Do you hear,
red laugher?"

And Loki heard, with a look of hate, and stifled his laughter as best
he could; for it is not good to laugh at him who holds the hammer.

Not once after that was there mention in Asgard of the time when Thor
dressed him as a girl and won his bridal gift from Thrym the giant.

But Miölnir was safe once more in Asgard, and you and I know how it
came there; so some one must have told. I wonder if red Loki whispered
the tale to some outsider, after all? Perhaps it may be so, for now he
knew how best to make Thor angry; and from that day when Thor forbade
his laughing, Loki hated him with the mean little hatred of a mean
little soul.


Of all the Æsir who sat in the twelve seats about Father Odin's
wonder-throne none was so dear to the people of Midgard, the world of
men, as Frey. For Frey, the twin brother of Freia the fair, was the god
who sent sunshine and rain upon the earth that men's crops might grow
and ripen, and the fruits become sweet and mellow. He gave men cattle,
and showed them how to till the fields; and it was he who spread peace
and prosperity over the world. For he was lord of the Light-Elves,
the spirits of the upper air, who were more beautiful than the sun.
And these were his servants whom he sent to answer the prayers of the
men who loved him. Frey was more beautiful, too, than any of the Æsir
except young Balder. This was another reason why he was so beloved by
all. But there came a time when Frey found some one who would not love
him; and that was a new experience for him, a punishment for the only
wrong he ever committed.

You remember that Father Odin had a wonderful throne in the
silver-roofed house, a throne whence he could see everything that was
happening in all the world? Well, no one was allowed to sit upon this
throne except All-Father himself, for he would not have the others
spying into affairs which only the King of Asgard was wise enough to
understand. But one day, when Odin was away from home, Frey had such
a longing to climb up where he might gaze upon all the world which he
loved, that he could not resist the temptation. He stole up to the
great throne when no one was looking, and mounting the steps, seated
himself upon All-Father's wonder-seat.

Oh, marvelous, grand, and beautiful! He looked off into the heavens,
and there he saw all the Æsir busy about their daily work. He looked
above, into the shining realm of clear air. And there he saw his
messengers, the pretty little Light-Elves, flying about upon their
errands of help for men. Some were carrying seeds for the farmers to
plant. Some were watering the fields with their little water-pots,
making the summer showers. Some were pinching the cheeks of the apples
to make them red, and others were reeling silk for the corn-tassels.
Then Frey looked down upon the earth, where men were scurrying around
like little ants, improving the blessings which his servants were
sending, and often stopping their work to give thanks to their beloved
Frey. And this made his kind heart glad.

Next he turned his gaze down into the depths of the blue ocean which
flowed about Midgard like a great river. And down in the sea-caves he
saw the mermaids playing, Queen Ran and her daughters the white-capped
Waves, with their nets ready to catch the sailors who might be drowned
at sea. And he saw King Œgir, among the whales and dolphins, with all
the myriad wondrous creatures who lived in his watery empire. But
Frey's father, old Niörd, lord of the ocean wind, would have been more
interested than he in such a sight.

Last of all Frey bent his eyes upon the far, cold land of Jotunheim,
beyond the ocean, where the giants lived; and as he did so, a beam
of brightness dazzled him. He rubbed his eyes and looked again; and
lo! the flash was from the bright arms of a beautiful maiden, who was
passing from her father's hall to her own little bower. When she raised
her arms to open the door, the air and water reflected their brightness
so that the whole world was flooded with light, and one shaft shot
straight into the heart of Frey, making him love her and long for her
more than for anything he had ever seen. But because he knew that she
must be a giant's daughter, how could he win her for his bride? Frey
descended from Odin's throne very sadly, very hopelessly, and went home
with a heavy heart which would let him neither eat nor sleep. This was
the penalty which came for his disobedience in presuming to sit upon
Odin's sacred throne.

For hours no one dared speak to Frey, he looked so gloomy and
forbidding, quite unlike his own gay self. Niörd his father was greatly
worried, and knew not what to do; at last he sent for Skirnir, who was
Frey's favorite servant, and bade him find out what was the matter.
Skirnir therefore went to his master, whom he found sitting all alone
in his great hall, looking as if there were no more joy for him.

"What ails you, master?" asked Skirnir. "From the beginning of time
when we were very young we two have lived together, and I have served
you with loving care. You ought, then, to have confidence in me and
tell me all your troubles."

"Ah, Skirnir, my faithful friend," sighed Frey, "how shall I tell you
my sorrow? The sun shines every day, but no longer brings light to my
sad heart. And all because I saw more than was good for me!"

So then he told Skirnir all the matter: how he had stolen into Odin's
seat, and what he had seen from there; how he loved a giant's daughter
whose arms were more bright than silver moonbeams.

"Oh, Skirnir, I love her very dearly," he cried; "but because our races
are enemies she would never marry me, I know, even if her father would
allow it. Therefore is it that I am so sad."

But Skirnir did not seem to think the case so hopeless. "Give me but
your swift horse," he said, "which can bear me even through flames
of fire and thick smoke; give me also your magic wand and your sword,
which if he be brave who carries it, will smite by itself any giant who
comes in its way,--and I will see what I can do for you."

Then Skirnir rode forth upon his dangerous errand; for a visit to Giant
Land was ever a perilous undertaking, as you may well imagine. As
Skirnir rode, he patted his good horse's neck and said to him, "Dark it
is, friend, and we have to go over frosty mountains and among frosty
people this night. Bear me well, good horse; for if you fail me the
giants will catch us both, and neither of us will return to bring the
news to our master Frey."

After a long night of hard riding over mountain and desolate snowfield,
Skirnir came to that part of Jotunheim where the giant Gymir dwelt.
This was the father of Gerd, the maiden whom Frey had seen and loved.
But first he had to ride through a hedge of flame, which the horse
passed bravely. Now when he came to the house of Gymir, he found a pack
of fierce dogs chained about the door to keep strangers away.

"H'm!" thought Skirnir, "I like this little indeed. I must find out
whether there be not some other entrance." So he looked around, and
soon he saw a herdsman sitting on a little hill, tending his cattle.
Skirnir rode up to him.

"Ho, friend," he cried. "Tell me, how am I to pass these growling curs
so that I may speak with the young maiden who dwells in this house?"

"Are you mad, or are you a spirit who is not afraid of death!"
exclaimed the herdsman. "Know you not that you can never enter there?
That is Gymir's dwelling, and he lets no one speak with his fair and
good daughter."

"If I choose to die, you need not weep for me," quoth Skirnir boldly.
"But I do not think that I am yet to die. The Norn-maidens spun my fate
centuries ago, and they only can tell what is to be." Now Skirnir's
voice was loud and the hoof-beats of his horse were mighty. For this
was one of the magic steeds of Asgard, used to bearing Frey himself
on his broad back. And not without much noise had all these things
been said and done. From her room in Gymir's mansion Gerd heard the
stranger's voice, and to her waiting-maid she said, "What are these
sounds that I hear? The earth is trembling and all the house shakes."

Then the servant ran to look out of the window, and in a minute
she popped in her head, crying, "Here is a mighty stranger who has
dismounted from his horse and leads him by the bridle to crop the

Gerd was curious to see who this stranger might be; for her father kept
her close and she saw few visitors.

"Bid him enter our hall," she said, "and give him a horn of bright
mead to drink. I will see him, though I fear it is the slayer of my
brother." For Gerd was the sister of Thiasse whom Thor slew.

So Skirnir came into the hall, and Gerd received him coldly. "Who are
you?" she asked. "Which of the wise Æsir are you? For I know that only
one of the mighty ones from Asgard would have the courage and the power
to pass through the raging flames that surround my father's land."

"I come from Frey, O maiden," said Skirnir, "from Frey, whom all folk
love. I come to beg that you also will love him and consent to be his
wife. For Frey has seen your beauty, and you are very dear to him."

Gerd laughed carelessly. "I have heard of your fair Frey," she said,
"and how he is more dear to all than sunshine and the sweet smell of
flowers. But he is not dear to me. I do not wish the love of Frey, nor
any of that race of giant-killers. Tell him that I will not be his

"Stay, be not so hasty," urged Skirnir. "We have more words to exchange
before I start for home. Look, I will give you eleven golden apples
from Asgard's magic tree if you will go with me to Frey's dwelling."

Gerd would hear nothing of the golden apples. Then Skirnir promised her
the golden ring, Draupnir, which the dwarfs had made for Odin, out of
which every ninth night dropped eight other rings as large and bright.
But neither would Gerd listen to word of this generous gift. "I have
gold enough in my father's house," she said disdainfully. "With such
trifles you cannot tempt me to marry your Frey."

Then Skirnir was very angry, and he began to storm and threaten. "I
will strike you with the bright sword which I hold in my hand!" he
cried. "It is Frey's magic sword, under which even that stout old giant
your father must sink if he comes within its reach." But again Gerd
laughed, though with less mirth in her laughter. "I will tame you with
Frey's magic wand!" he threatened, "the wand with which he rules the
Light-Elves, and changes folk into strange shapes. You shall vanish
from the sight of men, and pass your life on the eagle's mount far
above the sky, where you shall sit all day, too sad to eat. And when
you come thence, after countless ages, you will be a hideous monster at
which all creatures will stare in mockery and scorn."

These were dreadful words, and Gerd no longer laughed when she heard
them. But she was obstinate. "I do not love Frey," she said, "and I
will not be his bride."

Then Skirnir was angry indeed, and his fury blazed out in threats most
horrible. "If you will not marry my dear master," he cried, "you shall
be the most unhappy girl that ever lived. You shall cry all day long
and never see joy again. You shall marry a hideous old three-headed
giant, and from day to day you shall ever be in terror of some still
more dreadful fate to come!"

Now Gerd began to tremble, for she saw that Frey's servant meant every
word that he spoke. But she was not ready to yield. "Go back to the
land of Elves," she taunted; "I will not be their Queen at any cost."

Now Skirnir grasped the magic wand, and waving it over her, spoke his
last words of threat and anger. "The gods are angry with you, evil
maiden!" he cried. "Odin sees your obstinacy from his throne, and
will punish you for your cruelty to kind Frey. Frey himself, instead
of loving, will shun you when the gods arm themselves to destroy you
and all your race. Listen, Giants, Dwarfs, Light-Elves, Men, and
all friends of the Æsir! I forbid any one to have aught to do with
this wicked girl,--only the old giant who shall carry her to his
gloomy castle, barred and bolted and grated across. Misery, pain, and
madness--this, Gerd, is the fate which I wave over you with my wand,
unless speedily you repent and do my will."

Poor Gerd gasped and trembled under this dreadful doom. Her willfulness
was quite broken, and now she sought only to make Skirnir unsay the
words of horror. "Hold!" she cried; "be welcome, youth, in the name of
your powerful master, Frey. I cannot afford to be enemy of such as he.
Drink this icy cup of welcome filled with the giant's mead, and take
with it my consent to be the bride of Frey. But alas! I never thought
to be a friend to one of Asgard's race."

"You shall never repent, fair Gerd," said Skirnir gently. For now that
he had won his will, he was all smiles and friendliness. "And when you
see my dear master, you will be glad indeed that you did not insist
upon wedding the old three-headed giant. For Frey is fair,--ay, as fair
as are you yourself. And that is saying much, sweet lady."

So Gerd promised that in nine days she would come to be the bride of
Frey. And the more she thought it over, the less unpleasant seemed the
idea. So that before the time was passed, she was almost as eager as
Frey for their happy meeting; not quite so eager, for you must remember
that she had not yet seen him and knew not all his glory, while he knew
what it was to long and long for what he had once seen.

Indeed, when Skirnir galloped back to Frey as fast as the good horse
could take him, still Frey chided him for being slow. And when
the faithful fellow told the good news of the bride who was to be
his master's in nine short days, still Frey frowned and grumbled

"How can I wait to see her?" he cried. "One day is long; two days are a
century; nine days seem forever. Oh, Skirnir, could you not have done
better than that for your dear master?"

But Skirnir forgave Frey for his impatience, for he knew that
thenceforward his master would love all the better him who had done so
nobly to win the beloved bride.

When Gerd married Frey and went with him to live in Elf Land, where he
and she were king and queen, they were the happiest folk that the world
ever saw. And Gerd was as grateful to Skirnir as Frey himself. For she
could not help thinking of that dreadful old three-headed giant whom
but for him she might have married, instead of her beautiful, kind Frey.

So you see that sometimes one is happier in the end if she is not
allowed to have her own way.


Nowadays, since their journey to get the stolen hammer, Thor and Loki
were good friends, for Loki seemed to have turned over a new leaf and
to be a very decent sort of fellow; but really he was the same sly
rascal at heart, only biding his time for mischief. However, in this
tale he behaves well enough.

It was a long time since Thor had slain any giants, and he was growing
restless for an adventure. "Come, Loki," he said one day, "let us fare
forth to Giant Land and see what news there is among the Big Folk."

Loki laughed, saying, "Let us go, Thor. I know I am safe with you;"
which was a piece of flattery that happened to be true.

So they mounted the goat chariot as they had done so many times before
and rumbled away out of Asgard. All day they rode; and when evening
came they stopped at a little house on the edge of a forest, where
lived a poor peasant with his wife, his son, and daughter.

"May we rest here for the night, friend?" asked Thor; and noting their
poverty, he added, "We bring our own supper, and ask but a bed to
sleep in." So the peasant was glad to have them stay. Then Thor, who
knew what he was about, killed and cooked his two goats, and invited
the family of peasants to sup with him and Loki; but when the meal was
ended, he bade them carefully save all the bones and throw them into
the goatskins which he had laid beside the hearth. Then Thor and Loki
lay down to sleep.

In the morning, very early, before the rest were awake, Thor rose,
and taking his hammer, Miölnir, went into the kitchen, where were the
remains of his faithful goats. Now the magic hammer was skillful, not
only to slay, but to restore, when Thor's hand wielded it. He touched
with it the two heaps of skin and bones, and lo! up sprang the goats,
alive and well, and as good as new. No, not quite as good as new. What
was this? Thor roared with anger, for one of the goats was lame in one
of his legs, and limped sorely. "Some one has meddled with the bones!"
he cried. "Who has touched the bones that I bade be kept so carefully?"

Thialfi, the peasant's son, had broken one of the thigh-bones in order
to get at the sweet marrow, and this Thor soon discovered by the lad's
guilty face; then Thor was angry indeed. His knuckles grew white as he
clenched the handle of Miölnir, ready to hurl it and destroy the whole
unlucky house and family; but the peasant and the other three fell
upon their knees, trembling with fear, and begged him to spare them.
They offered him all that they owned,--they offered even to become his
slaves,--if he would but spare their wretched lives.

They looked so miserable that Thor was sorry for them, and resolved at
last to punish them only by taking away Thialfi, the son, and Röskva,
the daughter, thenceforth to be his servants. And this was not so bad
a bargain for Thor, for Thialfi was the swiftest of foot of any man in
the whole world.

So he left the goats behind, and fared forth with his three attendants
straight towards the east and Jotunheim. Thialfi carried Thor's wallet
with their scanty store of food. They crossed the sea and came at
last to a great forest, through which they tramped all day, until
once more it was night; and now they must find a place in which all
could sleep safely until morning. They wandered about here and there,
looking for some sign of a dwelling, and at last they came to a big,
queer-shaped house. Very queer indeed it was; for the door at one end
was as broad as the house itself! They entered, and lay down to sleep;
but at midnight Thor was wakened by a terrible noise. The ground shook
under them like an earthquake, and the house trembled as if it would
fall to pieces. Thor arose and called to his companions that there was
danger about, and that they must be on guard. Groping in the dark,
they found a long, narrow chamber on the right, where Loki and the two
peasants hid trembling, while Thor guarded the doorway, hammer in hand.
All night long the terrible noises continued, and Thor's attendants
were frightened almost to death; but early in the morning Thor stole
forth to find out what it all meant. And lo! close at hand in the
forest lay an enormous giant, sound asleep and snoring loudly. Then
Thor understood whence all their night's terror had proceeded, for the
giant was so huge that his snoring shook even the trees of the forest,
and made the mountains tremble. So much the better! Here at last was
a giant for Thor to tackle. He buckled his belt of power more tightly
to increase his strength, and laid hold of Miölnir to hurl it at the
giant's forehead; but just at that moment the giant waked, rose slowly
to his feet, and stood staring mildly at Thor. He did not seem a fierce
giant, so Thor did not kill him at once. "Who are you?" asked Thor

"I am the giant Skrymir, little fellow," answered the stranger, "and
well I know who you are, Thor of Asgard. But what have you been doing
with my glove?"

Then the giant stooped and picked up--what do you think?--the queer
house in which Thor and his three companions had spent the night! Loki
and the two others had run out of their chamber in affright when they
felt it lifted; and their chamber was the thumb of the giant's glove.
That was a giant indeed, and Thor felt sure that they must be well upon
their way to Giant Land.

When Skrymir learned where they were going, he asked if he might not
wend with them, and Thor said that he was willing. Now Skrymir untied
his wallet and sat down under a tree to eat his breakfast, while Thor
and his party chose another place, not far away, for their picnic. When
all had finished, the giant said, "Let us put our provisions together
in one bag, my friends, and I will carry it for you." This seemed fair
enough, for Thor had so little food left that he was not afraid to risk
losing it; so he agreed, and Skrymir tied all the provisions in his
bag and strode on before them with enormous strides, so fast that even
Thialfi could scarcely keep up with him.

The day passed, and late in the evening Skrymir halted under a great
oak-tree, saying, "Let us rest here. I must have a nap, and you must
have your dinner. Here is the wallet,--open it and help yourselves."
Then he lay down on the moss, and was soon snoring lustily.

Thor tried to open the wallet, in vain; he could not loosen a single
knot of the huge thongs that fastened it. He strained and tugged,
growing angrier and redder after every useless attempt. This was too
much; the giant was making him appear absurd before his servants. He
seized his hammer, and bracing his feet with all his might, struck
Skrymir a blow on his head. Skrymir stirred lazily, yawned, opened one
eye, and asked whether a leaf had fallen on his forehead, and whether
his companions had dined yet. Thor bit his lip with vexation, but he
answered that they were ready for bed; so he and his three followers
retired to rest under another oak.

But Thor did not sleep that night. He lay thinking how he had been
put to shame, and how Loki had snickered at the sight of Thor's vain
struggles with the giant's wallet, and he resolved that it should not
happen again. At about midnight, once more he heard the giant's snore
resounding like thunder through the forest. Thor arose, clenching
Miölnir tight, and stole over to the tree where Skrymir slept; then
with all his might he hurled the hammer and struck the giant on the
crown of his head, so hard that the hammer sank deep into his skull. At
this the giant awoke with a start, exclaiming, "What is that? Did an
acorn fall on my head? What are you doing there, Thor?"

Thor stepped back quickly, answering that he had waked up, but that it
was only midnight, so they might all sleep some hours longer. "If I can
only give him one more blow before morning," he thought, "he will never
see daylight again." So he lay watching until Skrymir had fallen asleep
once more, which was near daybreak; then Thor arose as before, and
going very softly to the giant's side, smote him on the temple so sore
that the hammer sank into his skull up to the very handle. "Surely, he
is killed now," thought Thor.

But Skrymir only raised himself on his elbow, stroked his chin, and
said, "There are birds above me in the tree. Methinks that just now a
feather fell upon my head. What, Thor! are you awake? I am afraid you
slept but poorly this night. Come, now, it is high time to rise and
make ready for the day. You are not far from our giant city,--Utgard we
call it. Aha! I have heard you whispering together. You think that I
am big; but you will see fellows taller still when you come to Utgard.
And now I have a piece of advice to give you. Do not pride yourselves
overmuch upon your importance. The followers of Utgard's king think
little of such manikins as you, and will not bear any nonsense, I
assure you. Be advised; return homeward before it is too late. If you
will go on, however, your way lies there to the eastward. Yonder is my
path, over the mountains to the north."

So saying, Skrymir hoisted his wallet upon his shoulders, and turning
back upon the path that led into the forest, left them staring after
him and hoping that they might never see his big bulk again.

Thor and his companions journeyed on until noon, when they saw in
the distance a great city, on a lofty plain. As they came nearer,
they found the buildings so high that the travelers had to bend back
their necks in order to see the tops. "This must be Utgard, the giant
city," said Thor. And Utgard indeed it was. At the entrance was a great
barred gate, locked so that no one might enter. It was useless to try
to force a passage in; even Thor's great strength could not move it on
its hinges. But it was a giant gate, and the bars were made to keep out
other giants, with no thought of folk so small as these who now were
bent upon finding entrance by one way or another. It was not dignified,
and noble Thor disliked the idea. Yet it was their only way; so one
by one they squeezed and wriggled between the bars, until they stood
in a row inside. In front of them was a wonderful great hall with the
door wide open. Thor and the three entered, and found themselves in the
midst of a company of giants, the very hugest of their kind. At the end
of the hall sat the king upon an enormous throne. Thor, who had been in
giant companies ere now, went straight up to the throne and greeted
the king with civil words. But the giant merely glanced at him with a
disagreeable smile, and said,--

"It is wearying to ask travelers about their journey. Such little
fellows as you four can scarcely have had any adventures worth
mentioning. Stay, now! Do I guess aright? Is this manikin Thor of
Asgard, or no? Ah, no! I have heard of Thor's might. You cannot really
be he, unless you are taller than you seem, and stronger too. Let us
see what feats you and your companions can perform to amuse us. No one
is allowed here who cannot excel others in some way or another. What
can you do best?"

At this word, Loki, who had entered last, spoke up readily: "There is
one thing that I can do,--I can eat faster than any man." For Loki was
famished with hunger, and thought he saw a way to win a good meal.

Then the king answered, "Truly, that is a noble accomplishment of
yours, if you can prove your words true. Let us make the test." So he
called forth from among his men Logi,--whose name means "fire,"--and
bade him match his powers with the stranger.

Now a trough full of meat was set upon the floor, with Loki at one end
of it and the giant Logi at the other. Each began to gobble the meat
as fast as he could, and it was not a pretty sight to see them. Midway
in the trough they met, and at first it would seem as if neither had
beaten the other. Loki had indeed done wondrous well in eating the meat
from the bones so fast; but Logi, the giant, had in the same time eaten
not only meat but bones also, and had swallowed his half of the trough
into the bargain. Loki was vanquished at his own game, and retired
looking much ashamed and disgusted.

The king then pointed at Thialfi, and asked what that young man could
best do. Thialfi answered that of all men he was the swiftest runner,
and that he was not afraid to race with any one whom the king might

"That is a goodly craft," said the king, smiling; "but you must be a
swift runner indeed if you can win a race from my Hugi. Let us go to
the racing-ground."

They followed him out to the plain where Hugi, whose name means
"thought," was ready to race with young Thialfi. In the first run Hugi
came in so far ahead that when he reached the goal he turned about and
went back to meet Thialfi. "You must do better than that, Thialfi, if
you hope to win," said the king, laughing, "though I must allow that no
one ever before came here who could run so fast as you."

They ran a second race; and this time when Hugi reached the goal there
was a long bow-shot between him and Thialfi.

"You are truly a good runner," exclaimed the king. "I doubt not that
no man can race like you; but you cannot win from my giant lad, I
think. The last time shall show." Then they ran for the third time, and
Thialfi put forth all his strength, speeding like the wind; but all
his skill was in vain. Hardly had he reached the middle of the course
when he heard the shouts of the giants announcing that Hugi had won the
goal. Thialfi, too, was beaten at his own game, and he withdrew, as
Loki had done, shamefaced and sulky.

There remained now only Thor to redeem the honor of his party, for
Röskva the maiden was useless here. Thor had watched the result of
these trials with surprise and anger, though he knew it was no fault
of Loki or of Thialfi that they had been worsted by the giants. And
Thor was resolved to better even his own former great deeds. The king
called to Thor, and asked him what he thought he could best do to prove
himself as mighty as the stories told of him. Thor answered that he
would undertake to drink more mead than any one of the king's men. At
this proposal the king laughed aloud, as if it were a giant joke. He
summoned his cup-bearer to fetch his horn of punishment, out of which
the giants were wont to drink in turn. And when they returned to the
hall, the great vessel was brought to the king.

"When any one empties this horn at one draught, we call him a famous
drinker," said the king. "Some of my men empty it in two trials; but no
one is so poor a manikin that he cannot empty it in three. Take the
horn, Thor, and see what you can do with it."

Now Thor was very thirsty, so he seized the horn eagerly. It did not
seem to him so very large, for he had drunk from other mighty vessels
ere now. But indeed, it was deep. He raised it to his lips and took
a long pull, saying to himself, "There! I have emptied it already, I
know." Yet when he set the horn down to see how well he had done, he
found that he seemed scarcely to have drained a drop; the horn was
brimming as before. The king chuckled.

"Well, you have drunk but little," he said. "I would never have
believed that famous Thor would lower the horn so soon. But doubtless
you will finish all at a second draught."

Instead of answering, Thor raised the horn once more to his lips,
resolved to do better than before. But for some reason the tip of the
horn seemed hard to raise, and when he set the vessel down again his
heart sank, for he feared that he had drunk even less than at his first
trial. Yet he had really done better, for now it was easy to carry the
horn without spilling. The king smiled grimly. "How now, Thor!" he
cried. "You have left too much for your third trial. I fear you will
never be able to empty the little horn in three draughts, as the least
of my men can do. Ho, ho! You will not be thought so great a hero here
as the folk deem you in Asgard, if you cannot play some other game more
skillfully than you do this one."

At this speech Thor grew very angry. He raised the horn to his mouth
and drank lustily, as long as he was able. But when he looked into the
horn, he found that some drops still remained. He had not been able to
empty it in three draughts. Angrily he flung down the horn, and said
that he would have no more of it.

"Ah, Master Thor," taunted the king, "it is now plain that you are not
so mighty as we thought you. Are you inclined to try some other feats?
For indeed, you are easily beaten at this one."

"I will try whatever you like," said Thor; "but your horn is a wondrous
one, and among the Æsir such a draught as mine would be called far from
little. Come, now,--what game do you next propose, O King?"

The king thought a moment, then answered carelessly, "There is a little
game with which my youngsters amuse themselves, though it is so simple
as to be almost childish. It is merely the exercise of lifting my cat
from the ground. I should never have dared suggest such a feat as this
to you, Thor of Asgard, had I not seen that great tasks are beyond your
skill. It may be that you will find this hard enough." So he spoke,
smiling slyly, and at that moment there came stalking into the hall a
monstrous gray cat, with eyes of yellow fire.

"Ho! Is this the creature I am to lift?" queried Thor. And when they
said that it was, he seized the cat around its gray, huge body and
tugged with all his might to lift it from the floor. Then the wretched
cat, lengthening and lengthening, arched its back like the span of a
bridge; and though Thor tugged and heaved his best, he could manage to
lift but one of its huge feet off the floor. The other three remained
as firmly planted as iron pillars.

"Oho, oho!" laughed the king, delighted at this sight. "It is just as I
thought it would be. Poor little Thor! My cat is too big for him."

"Little I may seem in this land of monsters," cried Thor wrathfully,
"but now let him who dares come hither and try a hug with me."

"Nay, little Thor," said the king, seeking to make him yet more angry,
"there is not one of my men who would wrestle with you. Why, they would
call it child's play, my little fellow. But, for the joke of it, call
in my old foster-mother, Elli. She has wrestled with and worsted many
a man who seemed no weaker than you, O Thor. She shall try a fall with

Now in came the old crone, Elli, whose very name meant "age." She
was wrinkled and gray, and her back was bent nearly double with the
weight of the years which she carried, but she chuckled when she saw
Thor standing with bared arm in the middle of the floor. "Come and be
thrown, dearie," she cried in her cracked voice, grinning horribly.

"I will not wrestle with a woman!" exclaimed Thor, eyeing her with pity
and disgust, for she was an ugly creature to behold. But the old woman
taunted him to his face and the giants clapped their hands, howling
that he was "afraid." So there was no way but that Thor must grapple
with the hag.

The game began. Thor rushed at the old woman and gripped her tightly
in his iron arms, thinking that as soon as she screamed with the pain
of his mighty hug, he would give over. But the crone seemed not to
mind it at all. Indeed, the more he crushed her old ribs together the
firmer and stronger she stood. Now in her turn the witch attempted
to trip up Thor's heels, and it was wonderful to see her power and
agility. Thor soon began to totter, great Thor, in the hands of a poor
old woman! He struggled hard, he braced himself, he turned and twisted.
It was no use; the old woman's arms were as strong as knotted oak. In
a few moments Thor sank upon one knee, and that was a sign that he was
beaten. The king signaled for them to stop. "You need wrestle no more,
Thor," he said, with a curl to his lip, "we see what sort of fellow
you are. I thought that old Elli would have no difficulty in bringing
to his knees him who could not lift my cat. But come, now, night is
almost here. We will think no more of contests. You and your companions
shall sup with us as welcome guests and bide here till the morrow."

Now as soon as the king had pleased himself in proving how small and
weak were these strangers who had come to the giant city, he became
very gracious and kind. But you can fancy whether or no Thor and the
others had a good appetite for the banquet where all the giants ate so
merrily. You can fancy whether or no they were happy when they went to
bed after the day of defeats, and you can guess what sweet dreams they

The next morning at daybreak the four guests arose and made ready to
steal back to Asgard without attracting any more attention. For this
adventure alone of all those in which Thor had taken part had been a
disgraceful failure. Silently and with bowed heads they were slipping
away from the hall when the king himself came to them and begged them
to stay.

"You shall not leave Utgard without breakfast," he said kindly, "nor
would I have you depart feeling unfriendly to me."

Then he ordered a goodly breakfast for the travelers, with store
of choicest dainties for them to eat and drink. When the four had
broken fast, he escorted them to the city gate where they were to say
farewell. But at the last moment he turned to Thor with a sly, strange
smile and asked,--

"Tell me now truly, brother Thor; what think you of your visit to
the giant city? Do you feel as mighty a fellow as you did before you
entered our gates, or are you satisfied that there are folk even
sturdier than yourself?"

At this question Thor flushed scarlet, and the lightning flashed
angrily in his eye. Briefly enough he answered that he must confess to
small pride in his last adventure, for that his visit to the king had
been full of shame to the hero of Asgard. "My name will become a joke
among your people," quoth he. "You will call me Thor the puny little
fellow, which vexes me more than anything; for I have not been wont to
blush at my name."

Then the king looked at him frankly, pleased with the humble manner of
Thor's speech. "Nay," he said slowly, "hang not your head so shamedly,
brave Thor. You have not done so ill as you think. Listen, I have
somewhat to tell you, now that you are outside Utgard,--which, if I
live, you shall never enter again. Indeed, you should not have entered
at all had I guessed what noble strength was really yours,--strength
which very nearly brought me and my whole city to destruction."

To these words Thor and his companions listened with open-mouthed
astonishment. What could the king mean, they wondered? The giant

"By magic alone were you beaten, Thor. Of magic alone were my
triumphs,--not real, but seeming to be so. Do you remember the giant
Skrymir whom you found sleeping and snoring in the forest? That was I.
I learned your errand and resolved to lower your pride. When you vainly
strove to untie my wallet, you did not know that I had fastened it with
invisible iron wire, in order that you might be baffled by the knots.
Thrice you struck me with your hammer,--ah! what mighty blows were
those! The least one would have killed me, had it fallen on my head as
you deemed it did. In my hall is a rock with three square hollows in
it, one of them deeper than the others. These are the dents of your
wondrous hammer, my Thor. For, while you thought I slept, I slipped the
rock under the hammer-strokes, and into this hard crust Miölnir bit.
Ha, ha! It was a pretty jest."

Now Thor's brow was growing black at this tale of the giant's trickery,
but at the same time he held up his head and seemed less ashamed of his
weakness, knowing now that it had been no weakness, but lack of guile.
He listened frowningly for the rest of the tale. The king went on:--

"When you came to my city, still it was magic that worsted your party
at every turn. Loki was certainly the hungriest fellow I ever saw, and
his deeds at the trencher were marvelous to behold. But the Logi who
ate with him was Fire, and easily enough fire can consume your meat,
bones, and wood itself. Thialfi, my boy, you are a runner swift as
the wind. Never before saw I such a race as yours. But the Hugi who
ran with you was Thought, my thought. And who can keep pace with the
speed of winged thought? Next, Thor, it was your turn to show your
might. Bravely indeed you strove. My heart is sick with envy of your
strength and skill. But they availed you naught against my magic. When
you drank from the long horn, thinking you had done so ill, in truth
you had performed a miracle,--never thought I to behold the like. You
guessed not that the end of the horn was out in the ocean, which no
one might drain dry. Yet, mighty one, the draughts you swallowed have
lowered the tide upon the shore. Henceforth at certain times the sea
will ebb; and this is by great Thor's drinking. The cat also which you
almost lifted,--it was no cat, but the great Midgard serpent himself
who encircles the whole world. He had barely length enough for his head
and tail to touch in a circle about the sea. But you raised him so high
that he almost touched heaven. How terrified we were when we saw you
heave one of his mighty feet from the ground! For who could tell what
horror might happen had you raised him bodily. Ah, and your wrestling
with old Elli! That was the most marvelous act of all. You had nearly
overthrown Age itself; yet there has never lived one, nor will such
ever be found, whom Elli, old age, will not cast to earth at last.
So you were beaten, Thor, but by a mere trick. Ha, ha! How angry you
looked,--I shall never forget! But now we must part, and I think you
see that it will be best for both of us that we should not meet again.
As I have done once, so can I always protect my city by magic spells.
Yes, should you come again to visit us, even better prepared than now,
yet you could never do us serious harm. Yet the wear and tear upon the
nerves of both of us is something not lightly forgotten."

He ceased, smiling pleasantly, but with a threatening look in his eye.
Thor's wrath had been slowly rising during this tedious, grim speech,
and he could control it no longer.

"Cheat and trickster!" he cried, "your wiles shall avail you nothing
now that I know your true self. You have put me to shame, now my
hammer shall shame you beyond all reckoning!" and he raised Miölnir to
smite the giant deathfully. But at that moment the king faded before
his very eyes. And when he turned to look for the giant city that he
might destroy it,--as he had so many giant dwellings,--there was in the
place where it had been but a broad, fair plain, with no sign of any
palace, wall, or gate. Utgard had vanished. The king had kept one trick
of magic for the last.

Then Thor and his three companions wended their way back to Asgard. But
they were slower than usual about answering questions concerning their
last adventure, their wondrous visit to the giant city. Truth to tell,
magic or no magic, Thor and Loki had showed but a poor figure that day.
For the first time in all their meeting with Thor the giants had not
come off any the worse for the encounter. Perhaps it was a lesson that
he sorely needed. I am afraid that he was rather inclined to think well
of himself. But then, he had reason, had he not?


Once upon a time the Æsir went to take dinner with old Œgir, the
king of the ocean. Down under the green waves they went to the coral
palace where Œgir lived with his wife, Queen Ran, and his daughters,
the Waves. But Œgir was not expecting so large a party to dinner, and
he had not mead enough for them all to drink. "I must brew some more
mead," he said to himself. But when he came to look for a kettle in
which to make the brew, there was none in all the sea large enough
for the purpose. At first Œgir did not know what to do; but at last
he decided to consult the gods themselves, for he knew how wise and
powerful his guests were, and he hoped that they might help him to a

Now when he told the Æsir his trouble they were much interested, for
they were hungry and thirsty, and longed for some of Œgir's good mead.
"Where can we find a kettle?" they said to one another. "Who has a
kettle huge enough to hold mead for all the Æsir?"

Then Tŷr the brave turned to Thor with a grand idea. "My father, the
giant Hymir, has such a kettle," he said. "I have seen it often in his
great palace near Elivâgar, the river of ice. This famous kettle is a
mile deep, and surely that is large enough to brew all the mead we may

"Surely, surely it is large enough," laughed Œgir. "But how are we to
get the kettle, my distinguished guests? Who will go to Giant Land to
fetch the kettle a mile deep?"

"That will I," said brave Thor. "I will go to Hymir's dwelling and
bring thence the little kettle, if Tŷr will go with me to show me the
way." So Thor and Tŷr set out together for the land of snow and ice,
where the giant Hymir lived. They traveled long and they traveled fast,
and finally they came to the huge house which had once been Tŷr's home,
before he went to live with the good folk in Asgard.

Well Tŷr knew the way to enter, and it was not long before they found
themselves in the hall of Hymir's dwelling, peering about for some sign
of the kettle which they had come so far to seek; and sure enough,
presently they discovered eight huge kettles hanging in a row from one
of the beams in the ceiling. While the two were wondering which kettle
might be the one they sought, there came in Tŷr's grandmother,--and
a terrible grandmother she was. No wonder that Tŷr had run away from
home when he was very little; for this dreadful creature was a giantess
with nine hundred heads, each more ugly than the others, and her temper
was as bad as were her looks. She began to roar and bellow; and no one
knows what this evil old person would have done to her grandson and his
friend had not there come into the hall at this moment another woman,
fair and sweet, and glittering with golden ornaments. This was Tŷr's
good mother, who loved him dearly, and who had mourned his absence
during long years.

With a cry of joy she threw herself upon her son's neck, bidding him
welcome forty times over. She welcomed Thor also when she found out who
he was; but she sent away the wicked old grandmother, that she might
not hear, for Thor's name was not dear to the race of giants, to so
many of whom he had brought dole and death.

"Why have you come, dear son, after so many years?" she cried. "I know
that some great undertaking calls you and this noble fellow to your
father's hall. Danger and death wait here for such as you and he; and
only some quest with glory for its reward could have brought you to
such risks. Tell me your secret, Tŷr, and I will not betray it."

Then they told her how that they had come to carry away the giant
kettle; and Tŷr's mother promised that she would help them all she
could. But she warned them that it would be dangerous indeed, for that
Hymir had been in a terrible temper for many days, and that the very
sight of a stranger made him wild with rage. Hastily she gave them meat
and drink, for they were nearly famished after their long journey;
and then she looked around to see where she should hide them against
Hymir's return, who was now away at the hunt.

"Aha!" she cried. "The very thing! You shall hide in the great kettle
itself; and if you escape Hymir's terrible eye, it may hap that you
will find a way to make off with your hiding-place, which is what you
want." So the kind creature helped them to climb into the great kettle
where it hung from one of the rafters in a row with seven others; but
this one was the biggest and the strongest of them all.

Hardly had they snuggled down out of sight when Tŷr's mother began
to tremble. "Hist!" she cried. "I hear him coming. Keep as still as
ever you can, O Tŷr and Thor!" The floor also began to tremble, and
the eight kettles to clatter against one another, as Hymir's giant
footsteps approached the house. Outside they could hear the icebergs
shaking with a sound like thunder; indeed, the whole earth quivered as
if with fear when the terrible giant Hymir strode home from the hunt.
He came into the hall puffing and blowing, and immediately the air
of the room grew chilly; for his beard was hung with icicles and his
face was frosted hard, while his breath was a winter wind,--a freezing

"Ho! wife," he growled, "what news, what news? For I see by the
footprints in the snow outside that you have had visitors to-day."

Then indeed the poor woman trembled; but she tried not to look
frightened as she answered, "Yes, you have a guest, O Hymir!--a guest
whom you have long wished to see. Your son Tŷr has returned to visit
his father's hall."

"Humph!" growled Hymir, with a terrible frown. "Whom has he brought
here with him, the rascal? There are prints of two persons' feet in the
snow. Come, wife, tell me all; for I shall soon find out the truth,
whether or no."

"He has brought a friend of his,--a dear friend, O Hymir!" faltered the
mother. "Surely, our son's friends are welcome when he brings them to
this our home, after so long an absence."

But Hymir howled with rage at the word "friend." "Where are they
hidden?" he cried. "Friend, indeed! It is one of those bloody fellows
from Asgard, I know,--one of those giant-killers whom my good mother
taught me to hate with all my might. Let me get at him! Tell me
instantly where he is hidden, or I will pull down the hall about your

Now when the wicked old giant spoke like this, his wife knew that he
must be obeyed. Still she tried to put off the fateful moment of the
discovery. "They are standing over there behind that pillar," she said.
Instantly Hymir glared at the pillar towards which she pointed, and at
his frosty glance--snick-snack!--the marble pillar cracked in two, and
down crashed the great roof-beam which held the eight kettles. Smash!
went the kettles; and there they lay shivered into little pieces at
Hymir's feet,--all except one, the largest of them all, and that was
the kettle in which Thor and Tŷr lay hidden, scarcely daring to breathe
lest the giant should guess where they were. Tŷr's mother screamed when
she saw the big kettle fall with the others: but when she found that
this one, alone of them all, lay on its side unbroken, because it was
so tough and strong, she held her breath to see what would happen next.

And what happened was this: out stepped Thor and Tŷr, and making
low bows to Hymir, they stood side by side, smiling and looking as
unconcerned as if they really enjoyed all this hubbub; and I dare say
that they did indeed, being Tŷr the bold and Thor the thunderer, who
had been in Giant Land many times ere this.

Hymir gave scarcely a glance at his son, but he eyed Thor with a frown
of hatred and suspicion, for he knew that this was one of Father Odin's
brave family, though he could not tell which one. However, he thought
best to be civil, now that Thor was actually before him. So with gruff
politeness he invited the two guests to supper.

Now Thor was a valiant fellow at the table as well as in war, as
you remember; and at sight of the good things on the board his eyes
sparkled. Three roast oxen there were upon the giant's table, and Thor
fell to with a will and finished two of them himself! You should have
seen the giant stare.

"Truly, friend, you have a goodly appetite," he said. "You have eaten
all the meat that I have in my larder; and if you dine with us
to-morrow, I must insist that you catch your own dinner of fish. I
cannot undertake to provide food for such an appetite!"

Now this was not hospitable of Hymir, but Thor did not mind. "I like
well to fish, good Hymir," he laughed; "and when you fare forth with
your boat in the morning, I will go with you and see what I can find
for my dinner at the bottom of the sea."

When the morning came, the giant made ready for the fishing, and Thor
rose early to go with him.

"Ho, Hymir," exclaimed Thor, "have you bait enough for us both?"

Hymir answered gruffly, "You must dig your own bait when you go fishing
with me. I have no time to waste on you, sirrah."

Then Thor looked about to see what he could use for bait; and presently
he spied a herd of Hymir's oxen feeding in the meadow. "Aha! just the
thing!" he cried; and seizing the hugest ox of all, he trotted down to
the shore with it under his arm, as easily as you would carry a handful
of clams for bait. When Hymir saw this, he was very angry. He pushed
the boat off from shore and began to row away as fast as he could, so
that Thor might not have a chance to come aboard. But Thor made one
long step and planted himself snugly in the stern of the boat.

"No, no, brother Hymir," he said, laughing. "You invited me to go
fishing, and a-fishing I will go; for I have my bait, and my hope is
high that great luck I shall see this day." So he took an oar and rowed
mightily in the stern, while Hymir the giant rowed mightily at the
prow; and no one ever saw boat skip over the water so fast as this one
did on the day when these two big fellows went fishing together.

Far and fast they rowed, until they came to a spot where Hymir cried,
"Hold! Let us anchor here and fish; this is the place where I have best

"And what sort of little fish do you catch here, O Hymir?" asked Thor.

"Whales!" answered the giant proudly. "I fish for nothing smaller than

"Pooh!" cried Thor. "Who would fish for such small fry! Whales,
indeed; let us row out further, where we can find something really
worth catching," and he began to pull even faster than before.

"Stop! stop!" roared the giant. "You do not know what you are doing.
These are the haunts of the dreadful Midgard serpent, and it is not
safe to fish in these waters."

"Oho! The Midgard serpent!" said Thor, delighted. "That is the very
fish I am after. Let us drop in our lines here."

Thor baited his great hook with the whole head of the ox which he had
brought, and cast his line, big round as a man's arm, over the side
of the boat. Hymir also cast his line, for he did not wish Thor to
think him a coward; but his hand trembled as he waited for a bite,
and he glanced down into the blue depths with eyes rounded as big as
dinner-plates through fear of the horrible creature who lived down
below those waves.

"Look! You have a bite!" cried Thor, so suddenly that Hymir started and
nearly tumbled out of the boat. Hand over hand he pulled in his line,
and lo! he had caught two whales--two great flopping whales--on his one
hook! That was a catch indeed.

Hymir smiled proudly, forgetting his fear as he said, "How is that, my
friend? Let us see you beat this catch in your morning's fishing."

Lo, just at that moment Thor also had a bite--such a bite! The boat
rocked to and fro, and seemed ready to capsize every minute. Then the
waves began to roll high and to be lashed into foam for yards and yards
about the boat, as if some huge creature were struggling hard below the

"I have him!" shouted Thor; "I have the old serpent, the brother of the
Fenris wolf! Pull, pull, monster! But you shall not escape me now!"

Sure enough, the Midgard serpent had Thor's hook fixed in his jaw, and
struggle as he might, there was no freeing himself from the line; for
the harder he pulled the stronger grew Thor. In his Æsir-might Thor
waxed so huge and so forceful that his legs went straight through the
bottom of the boat and his feet stood on the bottom of the sea. With
firm bottom as a brace for his strength, Thor pulled and pulled, and
at last up came the head of the Midgard serpent, up to the side of
the boat, where it thrust out of the water mountain high, dreadful to
behold; his monstrous red eyes were rolling fiercely, his nostrils
spouted fire, and from his terrible sharp teeth dripped poison, that
sizzled as it fell into the sea. Angrily they glared at each other,
Thor and the serpent, while the water streamed into the boat, and the
giant turned pale with fear at the danger threatening him on all sides.

Thor seized his hammer, preparing to smite the creature's head; but
even as he swung Miölnir high for the fatal blow, Hymir cut the
fish-line with his knife, and down into the depths of ocean sank the
Midgard serpent amid a whirlpool of eddies. But the hammer had sped
from Thor's iron fingers. It crushed the serpent's head as he sank
downward to his lair on the sandy bottom; it crushed, but did not kill
him, thanks to the giant's treachery. Terrible was the disturbance it
caused beneath the waves. It burst the rocks and made the caverns
of the ocean shiver into bits. It wrecked the coral groves and tore
loose the draperies of sea-weed. The fishes scurried about in every
direction, and the sea-monsters wildly sought new places to hide
themselves when they found their homes destroyed. The sea itself was
stirred to its lowest depths, and the waves ran trembling into one
another's arms. The earth, too, shrank and shivered. Hymir, cowering
low in the boat, was glad of one thing, which was that the terrible
Midgard serpent had vanished out of sight. And that was the last that
was ever seen of him, though he still lived, wounded and sore from the
shock of Thor's hammer.

Now it was time to return home. Silently and sulkily the giant swam
back to land; Thor, bearing the boat upon his shoulders, filled with
water and weighted as it was with the great whales which Hymir had
caught, waded ashore, and brought his burden to the giant's hall.
Here Hymir met him crossly enough, for he was ashamed of the whole
morning's work, in which Thor had appeared so much more of a hero than
he. Indeed, he was tired of even pretending hospitality towards this
unwelcome guest, and was resolved to be rid of him; but first he would
put Thor to shame.

"You are a strong fellow," he said, "good at the oar and at the
fishing; most wondrously good at the hammer, by which I know that you
are Thor. But there is one thing which you cannot do, I warrant,--you
cannot break this little cup of mine, hard though you may try."

"That I shall see for myself," answered Thor; and he took the cup
in his hand. Now this was a magic cup, and there was but one way of
breaking it, but one thing hard enough to shatter its mightiness.
Thor threw it with all his force against a stone of the flooring;
but instead of breaking the cup, the stone itself was cracked into
splinters. Then Thor grew angry, for the giant and all his servants
were laughing as if this were the greatest joke ever played.

"Ho, ho! Try again, Thor!" cried Hymir, nearly bursting with delight;
for he thought that now he should prove how much mightier he was than
the visitor from Asgard. Thor clutched the cup more firmly and hurled
it against one of the iron pillars of the hall; but like a rubber ball
the magic cup merely bounded back straight into Hymir's hand. At this
second failure the giants were full of merriment and danced about,
making all manner of fun at the expense of Thor. You can fancy how well
Thor the mighty enjoyed this! His brow grew black, and the glance of
his eye was terrible. He knew there was some magic in the trick, but he
knew not how to meet it. Just then he felt the soft touch of a woman's
hand upon his arm, and the voice of Tŷr's mother whispered in his ear,--

"Cast the cup against Hymir's own forehead, which is the hardest
substance in the world." No one except Thor heard the woman say these
words, for all the giant folk were doubled up with mirth over their
famous joke. But Thor dropped upon one knee, and seizing the cup
fiercely, whirled it about his head, then dashed it with all his might
straight at Hymir's forehead. Smash! Crash! What had happened? Thor
looked eagerly to see. There stood the giant, looking surprised and
a little dazed; but his forehead showed not even a scratch, while the
strong cup was shivered into little pieces.

"Well done!" exclaimed Hymir hastily, when he had recovered a little
from his surprise. But he was mortified at Thor's success, and set
about to think up a new task to try his strength. "That was very well,"
he remarked patronizingly; "now you must perform a harder task. Let us
see you carry the mead kettle out of the hall. Do that, my fine fellow,
and I shall say you are strong indeed."

The mead kettle! The very thing Thor had come to get! He glanced at
Tŷr; he shot a look at Tŷr's mother; and both of them caught the
sparkle, which was very like a wink. To himself Thor muttered, "I must
not fail in this! I must not, will not fail!"

"First let me try," cried Tŷr; for he wanted to give Thor time for a
resting-spell. Twice Tŷr the mighty strained at the great kettle, but
he could not so much as stir one leg of it from the floor where it
rested. He tugged and heaved in vain, growing red in the face, till his
mother begged him to give over, for it was quite useless.

Then Thor stepped forth upon the floor. He grasped the rim of the
kettle, and stamped his feet through the stone of the flooring as he
braced himself to lift. One, two, three! Thor straightened himself,
and up swung the giant kettle to his head, while the iron handle
clattered about his feet. It was a mighty burden, and Thor staggered
as he started for the door; but Tŷr was close beside him, and they had
covered long leagues of ground on their way home before the astonished
giants had recovered sufficiently to follow them. When Thor and Tŷr
looked back, however, they saw a vast crowd of horrible giants, some of
them with a hundred heads, swarming out of the caverns in Hymir's land,
howling and prowling upon their track.

"You must stop them, Thor, or they will never let us get away with
their precious kettle,--they take such long strides!" cried Tŷr. So
Thor set down the kettle, and from his pocket drew out Miölnir, his
wondrous hammer. Terribly it flashed in the air as he swung it over his
head; then forth it flew towards Jotunheim; and before it returned to
Thor's hand it had crushed all the heads of those many-headed giants,
Hymir's ugly mother and Hymir himself among them. The only one who
escaped was the good and beautiful mother of Tŷr. And you may be sure
she lived happily ever after in the palace which Hymir and his wicked
old mother had formerly made so wretched a home for her.

Now Tŷr and Thor had the giant kettle which they had gone so far and
had met so many dangers to obtain. They took it to Œgir's sea-palace,
where the banquet was still going on, and where the Æsir were still
waiting patiently for their mead; for time does not go so fast below
the quiet waves as on shore. Now that King Œgir had the great kettle,
he could brew all the mead they needed. So every one thanked Tŷr and
congratulated Thor upon the success of their adventure.

"I was sure that Thor would bring the kettle," said fair Sif, smiling
upon her brave husband.

"What Thor sets out to do, that he always accomplishes," said Father
Odin gravely. And that was praise enough for any one.


In the days that are past a wonderful race of horses pastured in the
meadows of heaven, steeds more beautiful and more swift than any which
the world knows to-day. There was Hrîmfaxi, the black, sleek horse who
drew the chariot of Night across the sky and scattered the dew from his
foaming bit. There was Glad, behind whose flying heels sped the swift
chariot of Day. His mane was yellow with gold, and from it beamed light
which made the whole world bright. Then there were the two shining
horses of the sun, Arvakur the watchful, and Alsvith the rapid; and
the nine fierce battle-chargers of the nine Valkyries, who bore the
bodies of fallen heroes from the field of fight to the blessedness of
Valhalla. Each of the gods had his own glorious steed, with such pretty
names as Gold-mane and Silver-top, Light-foot and Precious-stone; these
galloped with their masters over clouds and through the blue air,
blowing flame from their nostrils and glinting sparks from their fiery
eyes. The Æsir would have been poor indeed without their faithful
mounts, and few would be the stories to tell in which these noble
creatures do not bear at least a part.

But best of all the horses of heaven was Sleipnir, the eight-legged
steed of Father Odin, who because he was so well supplied with sturdy
feet could gallop faster over land and sea than any horse which ever
lived. Sleipnir was snow-white and beautiful to see, and Odin was very
fond and proud of him, you may be sure. He loved to ride forth upon his
good horse's back to meet whatever adventure might be upon the way, and
sometimes they had wild times together.

One day Odin galloped off from Asgard upon Sleipnir straight towards
Jotunheim and the Land of Giants, for it was long since All-Father had
been to the cold country, and he wished to see how its mountains and
ice-rivers looked. Now as he galloped along a wild road, he met a huge
giant standing beside his giant steed.

"Who goes there?" cried the giant gruffly, blocking the way so that
Odin could not pass. "You with the golden helmet, who are you, who ride
so famously through air and water? For I have been watching you from
this mountain-top. Truly, that is a fine horse which you bestride."

"There is no finer horse in all the world," boasted Odin. "Have you not
heard of Sleipnir, the pride of Asgard? I will match him against any of
your big, clumsy giant horses."

"Ho!" roared the giant angrily, "an excellent horse he is, your little
Sleipnir. But I warrant he is no match for my Gullfaxi here. Come, let
us try a race; and at its end I shall pay you for your insult to our
horses of Jotunheim."

So saying, the giant, whose ugly name was Hrungnir, sprang upon his
horse and spurred straight at Odin in the narrow way. Odin turned and
galloped back towards Asgard with all his might; for not only must he
prove his horse's speed, but he must save himself and Sleipnir from the
anger of the giant, who was one of the fiercest and wickedest of all
his fierce and wicked race.

How the eight slender legs of Sleipnir twinkled through the blue sky!
How his nostrils quivered and shot forth fire and smoke! Like a flash
of lightning he darted across the sky, and the giant horse rumbled and
thumped along close behind like the thunder following the flash.

"Hi, hi!" yelled the giant. "After them, Gullfaxi! And when we have
overtaken the two, we will crush their bones between us!"

"Speed, speed, my Sleipnir!" shouted Odin. "Speed, good horse, or you
will never again feed in the dewy pastures of Asgard with the other
horses. Speed, speed, and bring us safe within the gates!"

Well Sleipnir understood what his master said, and well he knew the
way. Already the rainbow bridge was in sight, with Heimdal the watchman
prepared to let them in. His sharp eyes had spied them afar, and had
recognized the flash of Sleipnir's white body and of Odin's golden
helmet. Gallop and thud! The twelve hoofs were upon the bridge, the
giant horse close behind the other. At last Hrungnir knew where he was,
and into what danger he was rushing. He pulled at the reins and tried
to stop his great beast. But Gullfaxi was tearing along at too terrible
a speed. He could not stop. Heimdal threw open the gates of Asgard, and
in galloped Sleipnir with his precious burden, safe. Close upon them
bolted in Gullfaxi, bearing his giant master, puffing and purple in
the face from hard riding and anger. Cling-clang! Heimdal had shut and
barred the gates, and there was the giant prisoned in the castle of his

Now the Æsir were courteous folk, unlike the giants, and they were not
anxious to take advantage of a single enemy thus thrown into their
power. They invited him to enter Valhalla with them, to rest and sup
before the long journey of his return. Thor was not present, so they
filled for the giant the great cups which Thor was wont to drain, for
they were nearest to the giant size. But you remember that Thor was
famous for his power to drink deep. Hrungnir's head was not so steady;
Thor's draught was too much for him. He soon lost his wits, of which he
had but few; and a witless giant is a most dreadful creature. He raged
like a madman, and threatened to pick up Valhalla like a toy house
and carry it home with him to Jotunheim. He said he would pull Asgard
to pieces and slay all the gods except Freia the fair and Sif, the
golden-haired wife of Thor, whom he would carry off like little dolls
for his toy house.

The Æsir knew not what to do, for Thor and his hammer were not there to
protect them, and Asgard seemed in danger with this enemy within its
very walls. Hrungnir called for more and more mead, which Freia alone
dared to bring and set before him. And the more he drank the fiercer
he became. At last the Æsir could bear no longer his insults and his
violence. Besides, they feared that there would be no more mead left
for their banquets if this unwelcome visitor should keep Freia pouring
out for him Thor's mighty goblets. They bade Heimdal blow his horn and
summon Thor; and this Heimdal did in a trice.

Now rumbling and thundering in his chariot of goats came Thor. He
dashed into the hall, hammer in hand, and stared in amazement at the
unwieldy guest whom he found there.

"A giant feasting in Asgard hall!" he roared. "This is a sight which
I never saw before. Who gave the insolent fellow leave to sit in my
place? And why does fair Freia wait upon him as if he were some noble
guest at a feast of the high gods? I will slay him at once!" and he
raised the hammer to keep his word.

Thor's coming had sobered the giant somewhat, for he knew that this was
no enemy to be trifled with. He looked at Thor sulkily and said: "I am
Odin's guest. He invited me to this banquet, and therefore I am under
his protection."

"You shall be sorry that you accepted the invitation," cried Thor,
balancing his hammer and looking very fierce; for Sif had sobbed in his
ear how the giant had threatened to carry her away.

Hrungnir now rose to his feet and faced Thor boldly, for the sound of
Thor's gruff voice had restored his scattered wits. "I am here alone
and without weapons," he said. "You would do ill to slay me now. It
would be little like the noble Thor, of whom we hear tales, to do such
a thing. The world will count you braver if you let me go and meet me
later in single combat, when we shall both be fairly armed."

Thor dropped the hammer to his side. "Your words are true," he said,
for he was a just and honorable fellow.

"I was foolish to leave my shield and stone club at home," went on the
giant. "If I had my arms with me, we would fight at this moment. But I
name you a coward if you slay me now, an unarmed enemy."

"Your words are just," quoth Thor again. "I have never before been
challenged by any foe. I will meet you, Hrungnir, at your Stone City,
midway between heaven and earth. And there we will fight a duel to see
which of us is the better fellow."

Hrungnir departed for Stone City in Jotunheim; and great was the
excitement of the other giants when they heard of the duel which one of
their number was to fight with Thor, the deadliest enemy of their race.

"We must be sure that Hrungnir wins the victory!" they cried. "It will
never do to have Asgard victorious in the first duel that we have
fought with her champion. We will make a second hero to aid Hrungnir."

All the giants set to work with a will. They brought great buckets of
moist clay, and heaping them up into a huge mound, moulded the mass
with their giant hands as a sculptor does his image, until they had
made a man of clay, an immense dummy, nine miles high and three miles
wide. "Now we must make him live; we must put a heart into him!" they
cried. But they could find no heart big enough until they thought of
taking that of a mare, and that fitted nicely. A mare's heart is the
most cowardly one that beats.

Hrungnir's heart was a three-cornered piece of hard stone. His head
also was of stone, and likewise the great shield which he held before
him when he stood outside of Stone City waiting for Thor to come to
the duel. Over his shoulder he carried his club, and that also was of
stone, the kind from which whetstones are made, hard and terrible. By
his side stood the huge clay man, Möckuralfi, and they were a dreadful
sight to see, these two vast bodies whom Thor must encounter.

But at the very first sight of Thor, who came thundering to the place
with swift Thialfi his servant, the timid mare's heart in the man
of clay throbbed with fear; he trembled so that his knees knocked
together, and his nine miles of height rocked unsteadily.

Thialfi ran up to Hrungnir and began to mock him, saying, "You are
careless, giant. I fear you do not know what a mighty enemy has come to
fight you. You hold your shield in front of you; but that will serve
you nothing. Thor has seen this. He has only to go down into the earth
and he can attack you conveniently from beneath your very feet."

At this terrifying news Hrungnir hastened to throw his shield upon
the ground and to stand upon it, so that he might be safe from Thor's
under-stroke. He grasped his heavy club with both hands and waited. He
had not long to wait. There came a blinding flash of lightning and a
peal of crashing thunder. Thor had cast his hammer into space. Hrungnir
raised his club with both hands and hurled it against the hammer which
he saw flying towards him. The two mighty weapons met in the air with
an earsplitting shock. Hard as was the stone of the giant's club, it
was like glass against the power of Miölnir. The club was dashed into
pieces; some fragments fell upon the earth; and these, they say, are
the rocks from which whetstones are made unto this day. They are so
hard that men use them to sharpen knives and axes and scythes. One
splinter of the hard stone struck Thor himself in the forehead, with
so fierce a blow that he fell forward upon the ground, and Thialfi
feared that he was killed. But Miölnir, not even stopped in its course
by meeting the giant's club, sped straight to Hrungnir and crushed his
stony skull, so that he fell forward over Thor, and his foot lay on the
fallen hero's neck. And that was the end of the giant whose head and
heart were of stone.

Meanwhile Thialfi the swift had fought with the man of clay, and had
found little trouble in toppling him to earth. For the mare's cowardly
heart in his great body gave him little strength to meet Thor's
faithful servant; and the trembling limbs of Möckuralfi soon yielded to
Thialfi's hearty blows. He fell like an unsteady tower of blocks, and
his brittle bulk shivered into a thousand fragments.

Thialfi ran to his master and tried to raise him. The giant's great
foot still rested upon his neck, and all Thialfi's strength could not
move it away. Swift as the wind he ran for the other Æsir, and when
they heard that great Thor, their champion, had fallen and seemed
like one dead, they came rushing to the spot in horror and confusion.
Together they all attempted to raise Hrungnir's foot from Thor's neck
that they might see whether their hero lived or no. But all their
efforts were in vain. The foot was not to be lifted by Æsir-might.

At this moment a second hero appeared upon the scene. It was Magni, the
son of Thor himself; Magni, who was but three days old, yet already
in his babyhood he was almost as big as a giant and had nearly the
strength of his father. This wonderful youngster came running to
the place where his father lay surrounded by a group of sad-faced
and despairing gods. When Magni saw what the matter was, he seized
Hrungnir's enormous foot in both his hands, heaved his broad young
shoulders, and in a moment Thor's neck was free of the weight which was
crushing it.

Best of all, it proved that Thor was not dead, only stunned by the blow
of the giant's club and by his fall. He stirred, sat up painfully, and
looked around him at the group of eager friends. "Who lifted the weight
from my neck?" he asked.

"It was I, father," answered Magni modestly. Thor clasped him in his
arms and hugged him tight, beaming with pride and gratitude.

"Truly, you are a fine child!" he cried; "one to make glad your
father's heart. Now as a reward for your first great deed you shall
have a gift from me. The swift horse of Hrungnir shall be yours,--that
same Gullfaxi who was the beginning of all this trouble. You shall ride
Gullfaxi; only a giant steed is strong enough to bear the weight of
such an infant prodigy as you, my Magni."

Now this word did not wholly please Father Odin, for he thought that
a horse so excellent ought to belong to him. He took Thor aside and
argued that but for him there would have been no duel, no horse to win.
Thor answered simply,--

"True, Father Odin, you began this trouble. But I have fought your
battle, destroyed your enemy, and suffered great pain for you. Surely,
I have won the horse fairly and may give it to whom I choose. My son,
who has saved me, deserves a horse as good as any. Yet, as you have
proved, even Gullfaxi is scarce a match for your Sleipnir. Verily,
Father Odin, you should be content with the best." Odin said no more.

Now Thor went home to his cloud-palace in Thrudvang. And there he
was healed of all his hurts except that which the splinter of stone
had made in his forehead. For the stone was imbedded so fast that it
could not be taken out, and Thor suffered sorely therefor. Sif, his
yellow-haired wife, was in despair, knowing not what to do. At last she
bethought her of the wise woman, Groa, who had skill in all manner of
herbs and witch charms. Sif sent for Groa, who lived all alone and sad
because her husband Örvandil had disappeared, she knew not whither.
Groa came to Thor and, standing beside his bed while he slept, sang
strange songs and gently waved her hands over him. Immediately the
stone in his forehead began to loosen, and Thor opened his eyes.

"The stone is loosening, the stone is coming out!" he cried. "How can I
reward you, gentle dame? Prithee, what is your name?"

"My name is Groa," answered the woman, weeping, "wife of Örvandil who
is lost."

"Now, then, I can reward you, kind Groa!" cried Thor, "for I can
bring you tidings of your husband. I met him in the cold country,
in Jotunheim, the Land of Giants, which you know I sometimes visit
for a bit of good hunting. It was by Elivâgar's icy river that I met
Örvandil, and there was no way for him to cross. So I put him in an
iron basket and myself bore him over the flood. Br-r-r! But that is a
cold land! His feet stuck out through the meshes of the basket, and
when we reached the other side one of his toes was frozen stiff. So
I broke it off and tossed it up into the sky that it might become a
star. To prove that what I relate is true, Groa, there is the new star
shining over us at this very moment. Look! From this day it shall be
known to men as Örvandil's Toe. Do not you weep any longer. After all,
the loss of a toe is a little thing; and I promise that your husband
shall soon return to you, safe and sound, but for that small token of
his wanderings in the land where visitors are not welcome."

At these joyful tidings poor Groa was so overcome that she fainted.
And that put an end to the charm which she was weaving to loosen the
stone from Thor's forehead. The stone was not yet wholly free, and
thenceforth it was in vain to attempt its removal; Thor must always
wear the splinter in his forehead. Groa could never forgive herself for
the carelessness which had thus made her skill vain to help one to whom
she had reason to be so grateful.

Now because of the bit of whetstone in Thor's forehead, folk of olden
times were very careful how they used a whetstone; and especially they
knew that they must not throw or drop one on the floor. For when they
did so, the splinter in Thor's forehead was jarred, and the good Asa
suffered great pain.


Although Thor had slain Thiasse the giant builder, Thrym the thief,
Hrungnir, and Hymir, and had rid the world of whole families of
wicked giants, there remained many others in Jotunheim to do their
evil deeds and to plot mischief against both gods and men; and of
these Geirröd was the fiercest and the wickedest. He and his two ugly
daughters--Gialp of the red eyes, and Greip of the black teeth--lived
in a large palace among the mountains, where Geirröd had his treasures
of iron and copper, silver and gold; for, since the death of Thrym,
Geirröd was the Lord of the Mines, and all the riches that came out of
the earth-caverns belonged to him.

Thrym had been Geirröd's friend, and the tale of Thrym's death through
the might of Thor and his hammer had made Geirröd very sad and angry.
"If I could but catch Thor, now, without his weapons," he said to his
daughters, "what a lesson I would give him! How I would punish him for
his deeds against us giants!"

"Oh, what would you do, father?" cried Gialp, twinkling her cruel red
eyes, and working her claw fingers as if she would like to fasten them
in Thor's golden beard.

"Oh, what would you do, father?" cried Greip, smacking her lips and
grinding her black teeth as if she would like a bite out of Thor's
stout arm.

"Do to him!" growled Geirröd fiercely. "Do to him! Gr-r-r! I would chew
him all up! I would break his bones into little bits! I would smash him
into jelly!"

"Oh, good, good! Do it, father, and then give him to us to play with,"
cried Gialp and Greip, dancing up and down till the hills trembled and
all the frightened sheep ran home to their folds thinking that there
must be an earthquake; for Gialp was as tall as a pine-tree and many
times as thick, while Greip, her little sister, was as large around as
a haystack and high as a flagstaff. They both hoped some day to be as
huge as their father, whose legs were so long that he could step across
the river valleys from one hilltop to another, just as we human folk
cross a brook on stepping-stones; and his arms were so stout that he
could lift a yoke of oxen in each fist, as if they were red-painted

Geirröd shook his head at his two playful daughters and sighed. "We
must catch Master Thor first, my girls, before we do these fine things
to him. We must catch him without his mighty hammer, that never fails
him, and without his belt, that doubles his strength whenever he puts
it on, or even I cannot chew and break and smash him as he deserves;
for with these his weapons he is the mightiest creature in the whole
world, and I would rather meddle with thunder and lightning than with
him. Let us wait, children."

Then Gialp and Greip pouted and sulked like two great babies who cannot
have the new plaything which they want; and very ugly they were to see,
with tears as big as oranges rolling down their cheeks.

Sooner than they expected they came very near to having their heart's
desire fulfilled. And if it had happened as they wished, and if Asgard
had lost its goodliest hero, its strongest defense, that would have
been red Loki's fault, all Loki's evil planning; for you are now to
hear of the wickedest thing that up to this time Loki had ever done.
As you know, it was Loki who was Thor's bitterest enemy; and for many
months he had been awaiting the chance to repay the Thunder Lord for
the dole which Thor had brought upon him at the time of the dwarf's
gifts to Asgard.

This is how it came about: Loki had long remembered the fun of skimming
as a great bird in Freia's falcon feathers. He had longed to borrow
the wings once again and to fly away over the round world to see what
he could see; for he thought that so he could learn many secrets which
he was not meant to know, and plan wonderful mischief without being
found out. But Freia would not again loan her feather dress to Loki.
She owed him a grudge for naming her as Thrym's bride; and besides,
she remembered his treatment of Idun, and she did not trust his oily
tongue and fine promises. So Loki saw no way but to borrow the feathers
without leave; and this he did one day when Freia was gone to ride in
her chariot drawn by white cats. Loki put on the feather dress, as he
had done twice before,--once when he went to Jotunheim to bring back
stolen Idun and her magic apples, once when he went to find out about
Thor's hammer.

Away he flew from Asgard as birdlike as you please, chuckling to
himself with wicked thoughts. It did not make any particular difference
to him where he went. It was such fun to flap and fly, skim and wheel,
looking and feeling for all the world like a big brown falcon. He
swooped low, thinking, "I wonder what Freia would say to see me now!
Whee-e-e! How angry she would be!" Just then he spied the high wall of
a palace on the mountains.

"Oho!" said Loki. "I never saw that place before. It may be a giant's
dwelling. I think this must be Jotunheim, from the bigness of things. I
must just peep to see." Loki was the most inquisitive of creatures, as
wily minded folk are apt to be.

Loki the falcon alighted and hopped to the wall, then giving a flap of
his wings he flew up and up to the window ledge, where he perched and
peered into the hall. And there within he saw the giant Geirröd with
his daughters eating their dinner. They looked so ugly and so greedy,
as they sat there gobbling their food in giant mouthfuls, that Loki on
the window-sill could not help snickering to himself. Now at that sound
Geirröd looked up and saw the big brown bird peeping in at the window.

"Heigha!" cried the giant to one of his servants. "Go you and fetch me
the big brown bird up yonder in the window."

Then the servant ran to the wall and tried to climb up to get at Loki;
but the window was so high that he could not reach. He jumped and
slipped, scrambled and slipped, again and again, while Loki sat just
above his clutching fingers, and chuckled so that he nearly fell from
his perch. "Te-he! te-he!" chattered Loki in the falcon tongue. It was
such fun to see the fellow grow black in the face with trying to reach
him that Loki thought he would wait until the giant's fingers almost
touched him, before flying away.

But Loki waited too long. At last, with a quick spring, the giant
gained a hold upon the window ledge, and Loki was within reach. When
Loki flapped his wings to fly, he found that his feet were tangled
in the vine that grew upon the wall. He struggled and twisted with
all his might,--but in vain. There he was, caught fast. Then the
servant grasped him by the legs, and so brought him to Geirröd, where
he sat at table. Now Loki in his feather dress looked exactly like a
falcon--except for his eyes. There was no hiding the wise and crafty
look of Loki's eyes. As soon as Geirröd looked at him, he suspected
that this was no ordinary bird.

"You are no falcon, you!" he cried. "You are spying about my palace in
disguise. Speak, and tell me who you are." Loki was afraid to tell,
because he knew the giants were angry with him for his part in Thrym's
death,--small though his part had really been in that great deed. So he
kept his beak closed tight, and refused to speak. The giant stormed and
raged and threatened to kill him; but still Loki was silent.

Then Geirröd locked the falcon up in a chest for three long months
without food or water, to see how that would suit his bird-ship.
You can imagine how hungry and thirsty Loki was at the end of that
time,--ready to tell anything he knew, and more also, for the sake of a
crumb of bread and a drop of water.

So then Geirröd called through the keyhole, "Well, Sir Falcon, now will
you tell me who you are?" And this time Loki piped feebly, "I am Loki
of Asgard; give me something to eat!"

"Oho!" quoth the giant fiercely. "You are that Loki who went with
Thor to kill my brother Thrym! Oho! Well, you shall die for that, my
feathered friend!"

"No, no!" screamed Loki. "Thor is no friend of mine. I love the giants
far better! One of them is my wife!"--which was indeed true, as were
few of Loki's words.

"Then if Thor is no friend of yours, to save your life will you bring
him into my power?" asked Geirröd.

Loki's eyes gleamed wickedly among the feathers. Here all at once was
his chance to be free, and to have his revenge upon Thor, his worst
enemy. "Ay, that I will!" he cried eagerly. "I will bring Thor into
your power."

So Geirröd made him give a solemn promise to do that wrong; and upon
this he loosed Loki from the chest and gave him food. Then they formed
the wicked plan together, while Gialp and Greip, the giant's ugly
daughters, listened and smacked their lips.

Loki was to persuade Thor to come with him to Geirrödsgard. More; he
must come without his mighty hammer, and without the iron gloves of
power, and without the belt of strength; for so only could the giant
have Thor at his mercy.

After their wicked plans were made, Loki bade a friendly farewell to
Geirröd and his daughters and flew back to Asgard as quickly as he
could. You may be sure he had a sound scolding from Freia for stealing
her feather dress and for keeping it so long. But he told such a
pitiful story of being kept prisoner by a cruel giant, and he looked in
truth so pale and thin from his long fast, that the gods were fain to
pity him and to believe his story, in spite of the many times that he
had deceived them. Indeed, most of his tale was true, but he told only
half of the truth; for he spoke no word of his promise to the giant.
This he kept hidden in his breast.

Now, one day not long after this, Loki invited Thor to go on a journey
with him to visit a new friend who, he said, was anxious to know the
Thunder Lord. Loki was so pleasant in his manner and seemed so frank in
his speech that Thor, whose heart was simple and unsuspicious, never
dreamed of any wrong, not even when Loki added,--"And by the bye, my
Thor, you must leave behind your hammer, your belt, and your gloves;
for it would show little courtesy to wear such weapons in the home of a
new friend."

Thor carelessly agreed; for he was pleased with the idea of a new
adventure, and with the thought of making a new friend. Besides,
on their last journey together, Loki had behaved so well that Thor
believed him to have changed his evil ways and to have become his
friend. So together they set off in Thor's goat chariot, without
weapons of any kind except those which Loki secretly carried. Loki
chuckled as they rattled over the clouds, and if Thor had seen the look
in his eyes, he would have turned the chariot back to Asgard and to
safety, where he had left gentle Sif his wife. But Thor did not notice,
and so they rumbled on.

Soon they came to the gate of Giant Land. Thor thought this strange,
for he knew they were like to find few friends of his dwelling among
the Big Folk. For the first time he began to suspect Loki of some
treacherous scheme. However, he said nothing, and pretended to be as
gay and careless as before. But he thought of a plan to find out the

Close by the entrance was the cave of Grid, a good giantess, who alone
of all her race was a friend of Thor and of the folk in Asgard.

"I will alight here for a moment, Loki," said Thor carelessly. "I long
for a draught of water. Hold you the goats tightly by the reins until I

So he went into the cave and got his draught of water. But while he was
drinking, he questioned good mother Grid to some purpose.

"Who is this friend Geirröd whom I go to see?" he asked her.

"Geirröd your friend! You go to see Geirröd!" she exclaimed. "He is the
wickedest giant of us all, and no friend to you. Why do you go, dear

"H'm!" muttered Thor. "Red Loki's mischief again!" He told her of the
visit that Loki had proposed, and how he had left at home the belt, the
gloves, and the hammer which made him stronger than any giant. Then
Grid was frightened.

"Go not, go not, Thor!" she begged. "Geirröd will kill you, and those
ugly girls, Gialp and Greip, will have the pleasure of crunching your
bones. Oh, I know them well, the hussies!"

But Thor declared that he would go, whether or no. "I have promised
Loki that I will go," he said, "and go I will; for I always keep my

"Then you shall have three little gifts of me," quoth she. "Here is my
belt of power--for I also have one like your own." And she buckled
about his waist a great belt, at whose touch he felt his strength
redoubled. "This is my iron glove," she said, as she put one on his
mighty hand, "and with it, as with your own, you can handle lightning
and touch unharmed the hottest of red-hot metal. And here, last of
all," she added, "is Gridarvöll, my good staff, which you may find
useful. Take them, all three; and may Sif see you safe at home again by
their aid."

Thor thanked her and went out once more to join Loki, who never
suspected what had happened in the cave. For the belt and the glove
were hidden under Thor's cloak. And as for the staff, it was quite
ordinary looking, as if Thor might have picked it up anywhere along the

On they journeyed until they came to the river Vimer, the greatest of
all rivers, which roared and tossed in a terrible way between them and
the shore which they wanted to reach. It seemed impossible to cross.
But Thor drew his belt a little tighter, and planting Grid's staff
firmly on the bottom, stepped out into the stream. Loki clung behind to
his cloak, frightened out of his wits. But Thor waded on bravely, his
strength doubled by Grid's belt, and his steps supported by her magic
staff. Higher and higher the waves washed over his knees, his waist,
his shoulders, as if they were fierce to drown him. And Thor said,--

"Ho there, river Vimer! Do not grow any larger, I pray. It is of no
use. The more you crowd upon me, the mightier I grow with my belt and
my staff!"

But lo! as he nearly reached the other side, Thor spied some one hiding
close down by the bank of the river. It was Gialp of the red eyes, the
big elder daughter of Geirröd. She was splashing the water upon Thor,
making the great waves that rolled up and threatened to drown him.

"Oho!" cried he. "So it is you who are making the river rise, big
little girl. We must see to that;" and seizing a huge boulder, he
hurled it at her. It hit her with a thud, for Thor's aim never missed.
Giving a scream as loud as a steam-whistle, Gialp limped home as best
she could to tell her father, and to prepare a warm reception for the
stranger who bore Loki at his back.

When Thor had pulled himself out of the river by some bushes, he soon
came to the palace which Loki had first sighted in his falcon dress.
And there he found everything most courteously made ready for him. He
and Loki were received like dear old friends, with shouts of rejoicing
and ringing of bells. Geirröd himself came out to meet them, and would
have embraced his new friend Thor; but the Thunder Lord merely seized
him by the hand and gave him so hearty a squeeze with the iron glove
that the giant howled with pain. Yet he could say nothing, for Thor
looked pleased and gentle. And Geirröd said to himself, "Ho, ho, my
fine little Thor! I will soon pay you for that handshake, and for many
things beside."

All this time Gialp and Greip did not appear, and Loki also had taken
himself away, to be out of danger when the hour of Thor's death should
come. For he feared that dreadful things might happen before Thor died;
and he did not want to be remembered by the big fist of the companion
whom he had betrayed. Loki, having kept his promise to the giant, was
even now far on the road back to Asgard, where he meant with a sad
face to tell the gods that Thor had been slain by a horrible giant; but
never to tell them how.

So Thor was all alone when the servants led him to the chamber which
Geirröd had made ready for his dear friend. It was a wonderfully fine
chamber, to be sure; but the strange thing about it was that among the
furnishings there was but one chair, a giant chair, with a drapery all
about the legs. Now Thor was very weary with his long journey, and he
sat down in the chair to rest. Then, wonderful to tell!--if elevators
had been invented in those days, he might have thought he was in one.
For instantly the seat of the chair shot up towards the roof, and
against this he was in danger of being crushed as Geirröd had longed to
see him. But quick as a flash Thor raised the staff which good old Grid
had given him, and pushed it against the rafters with all his might
to stop his upward journey. It was a tremendous push that he gave.
Something cracked; something crashed; the chair fell to the ground as
Thor leaped off the seat, and there were two terrible screams.

Then Thor found--what do you think? Why, that Gialp and Greip, the
giant's daughters, had hidden under the seat of the chair, and had
lifted it up on their backs to crush Thor against the roof! But instead
of that, it was Thor who had broken their backs, so that they lay dead
upon the floor like limp rag dolls.

Now this little exercise had only given Thor an excellent appetite for
supper. So that when word came bidding him to the banquet, he was very

"First," said big Geirröd, grinning horribly, for he did not know what
had happened to his daughters,--"first we will see some games, friend

Then Thor came into the hall, where fires were burning in great chimney
places along the walls. "It is here that we play our little games,"
cried Geirröd. And on the moment, seizing a pair of tongs, he snatched
a red-hot wedge of iron from one of the fires and hurled it straight at
Thor's head. But Thor was quicker than he. Swift as a flash he caught
the flying spark in his iron glove, and calling forth all the might
of Grid's belt, he cast the wedge back at the giant. Geirröd dodged
behind an iron pillar, but it was in vain. Thor's might was such as no
iron could meet. Like a bolt of lightning the wedge passed through the
pillar, through Geirröd himself, through the thick wall of the palace,
and buried itself deep in the ground, where it lodges to this day,
unless some one has dug it up to sell for old iron.

So perished Geirröd and his children, one of the wickedest families
of giants that ever lived in Jotunheim. And so Thor escaped from the
snares of Loki, who had never done deed worse than this.

When Thor returned home to Asgard, where from Loki's lying tale he
found all the gods mourning him as dead, you can fancy what a joyful
reception he had. But for Loki, the false-hearted, false-tongued
traitor to them all, there was only hatred. He no longer had any
friends among the good folk. The wicked giants and the monsters of
Utgard were now his only friends, for he had grown to be like them, and
even these did not trust him overmuch.


Loki had given up trying to revenge himself upon Thor. The Thunder
Lord seemed proof against his tricks. And indeed nowadays Loki hated
him no more than he did the other gods. He hated some because they
always frowned at him; he hated others because they only laughed and
jeered. Some he hated for their distrust and some for their fear. But
he hated them all because they were happy and good and mighty, while he
was wretched, bad, and of little might. Yet it was all his own fault
that this was so. He might have been an equal with the best of them,
if he had not chosen to set himself against everything that was good.
He had made them all his enemies, and the more he did to injure them,
the more he hated them,--which is always the way with evil-doers. Loki
longed to see them all unhappy. He slunk about in Asgard with a glum
face and wrinkled forehead. He dared not meet the eyes of any one, lest
they should read his heart. For he was plotting evil, the greatest
of evils, which should bring sorrow to all his enemies at once and
turn Asgard into a land of mourning. The Æsir did not guess the whole
truth, yet they felt the bitterness of the thoughts which Loki bore;
and whenever in the dark he passed unseen, the gods shuddered as if a
breath of evil had blown upon them, and even the flowers drooped before
his steps.

Now at this time Balder the beautiful had a strange dream. He dreamed
that a cloud came before the sun, and all Asgard was dark. He waited
for the cloud to drift away, and for the sun to smile again. But no;
the sun was gone forever, he thought; and Balder awoke feeling very
sad. The next night Balder had another dream. This time he dreamed that
it was still dark as before; the flowers were withered and the gods
were growing old; even Idun's magic apples could not make them young
again. And all were weeping and wringing their hands as though some
dreadful thing had happened. Balder awoke feeling strangely frightened,
yet he said no word to Nanna his wife, for he did not want to trouble

When it came night again Balder slept and dreamed a third dream, a
still more terrible one than the other two had been. He thought that in
the dark, lonely world there was nothing but a sad voice, which cried,
"The sun is gone! The spring is gone! Joy is gone! For Balder the
beautiful is dead, dead, dead!"

This time Balder awoke with a cry, and Nanna asked him what was
the matter. So he had to tell her of his dream, and he was sadly
frightened; for in those days dreams were often sent to folk as
messages, and what the gods dreamed usually came true. Nanna ran
sobbing to Queen Frigg, who was Balder's mother, and told her all the
dreadful dream, asking what could be done to prevent it from coming

Now Balder was Queen Frigg's dearest son. Thor was older and stronger,
and more famous for his great deeds; but Frigg loved far better
gold-haired Balder. And indeed he was the best-beloved of all the
Æsir; for he was gentle, fair, and wise, and wherever he went folk
grew happy and light-hearted at the very sight of him, just as we do
when we first catch a glimpse of spring peeping over the hilltop into
Winterland. So when Frigg heard of Balder's woeful dream, she was
frightened almost out of her wits.

"He must not die! He shall not die!" she cried. "He is so dear to all
the world, how could there be anything which would hurt him?"

And then a wonderful thought came to Frigg. "I will travel over the
world and make all things promise not to injure my boy," she said.
"Nothing shall pass my notice. I will get the word of everything."

So first she went to the gods themselves, gathered on Ida Plain for
their morning exercise; and telling them of Balder's dream, she begged
them to give the promise. Oh, what a shout arose when they heard her

"Hurt Balder!--our Balder! Not for the world, we promise! The dream
is wrong,--there is nothing so cruel as to wish harm to Balder the
beautiful!" they cried. But deep in their hearts they felt a secret
fear which would linger until they should hear that all things had
given their promise. What if harm were indeed to come to Balder! The
thought was too dreadful.

Then Frigg went to see all the beasts who live in field or forest or
rocky den. Willingly they gave their promise never to harm hair of
gentle Balder. "For he is ever kind to us," they said, "and we love him
as if he were one of ourselves. Not with claws or teeth or hoofs or
horns will any beast hurt Balder."

Next Frigg spoke to the birds and fishes, reptiles and insects. And
all--even the venomous serpents--cried that Balder was their friend,
and that they would never do aught to hurt his dear body. "Not with
beak or talon, bite or sting or poison fang, will one of us hurt
Balder," they promised.

After doing this, the anxious mother traveled over the whole round
world, step by step; and from all the things that are she got the
same ready promise never to harm Balder the beautiful. All the trees
and plants promised; all the stones and metals; earth, air, fire, and
water; sun, snow, wind, and rain, and all diseases that men know,--each
gave to Frigg the word of promise which she wanted. So at last,
footsore and weary, she came back to Asgard with the joyful news that
Balder must be safe, for that there was nothing in the world but had
promised to be his harmless friend.

Then there was rejoicing in Asgard, as if the gods had won one of their
great victories over the giants. The noble Æsir and the heroes who had
died in battle upon the earth, and who had come to Valhalla to live
happily ever after, gathered on Ida Plain to celebrate the love of all
nature for Balder.

There they invented a famous game, which was to prove how safe he was
from the bite of death. They stationed Balder in the midst of them, his
face glowing like the sun with the bright light which ever shone from
him. And as he stood there all unarmed and smiling, by turns they tried
all sorts of weapons against him; they made as if to beat him with
sticks, they stoned him with stones, they shot at him with arrows and
hurled mighty spears straight at his heart.

It was a merry game, and a shout of laughter went up as each stone
fell harmless at Balder's feet, each stick broke before it touched
his shoulders, each arrow overshot his head, and each spear turned
aside. For neither stone nor wood nor flinty arrow-point nor barb of
iron would break the promise which each had given. Balder was safe
with them, just as if he were bewitched. He remained unhurt among the
missiles which whizzed about his head, and which piled up in a great
heap around the charmed spot whereon he stood.

Now among the crowd that watched these games with such enthusiasm,
there was one face that did not smile, one voice that did not rasp
itself hoarse with cheering. Loki saw how every one and every thing
loved Balder, and he was jealous. He was the only creature in all the
world that hated Balder and wished for his death. Yet Balder had never
done harm to him. But the wicked plan that Loki had been cherishing
was almost ripe, and in this poison fruit was the seed of the greatest
sorrow that Asgard had ever known.


While the others were enjoying their game of love, Loki stole away
unperceived from Ida Plain, and with a wig of gray hair, a long
gown, and a staff, disguised himself as an old woman. Then he hobbled
down Asgard streets till he came to the palace of Queen Frigg, the
mother of Balder.

"Good-day, my lady," quoth the old woman, in a cracked voice. "What is
that noisy crowd doing yonder in the green meadow? I am so deafened by
their shouts that I can hardly hear myself think."

"Who are you, good mother, that you have not heard?" said Queen Frigg
in surprise. "They are shooting at my son Balder. They are proving the
word which all things have given me,--the promise not to injure my dear
son. And that promise will be kept."

The old crone pretended to be full of wonder. "So, now!" she cried.
"Do you mean to say that _every single thing_ in the whole world has
promised not to hurt your son? I can scarce believe it; though, to be
sure, he is as fine a fellow as I ever saw." Of course this flattery
pleased Frigg.

"You say true, mother," she answered proudly, "he is a noble son. Yes,
everything has promised,--that is, everything except one tiny little
plant that is not worth mentioning."

The old woman's eyes twinkled wickedly. "And what is that foolish
little plant, my dear?" she asked coaxingly.

"It is the mistletoe that grows in the meadow west of Valhalla. It was
too young to promise, and too harmless to bother with," answered Frigg

After this her questioner hobbled painfully away. But as soon as she
was out of sight from the Queen's palace, she picked up the skirts of
her gown and ran as fast as she could to the meadow west of Valhalla.
And there sure enough, as Frigg had said, was a tiny sprig of mistletoe
growing on a gnarled oak-tree. The false Loki took out a knife which
she carried in some hidden pocket and cut off the mistletoe very
carefully. Then she trimmed and shaped it so that it was like a little
green arrow, pointed at one end, but very slender.

"Ho, ho!" chuckled the old woman. "So you are the only thing in all the
world that is too young to make a promise, my little mistletoe. Well,
young as you are, you must go on an errand for me to-day. And maybe
you shall bear a message of my love to Balder the beautiful."

Then she hobbled back to Ida Plain, where the merry game was still
going on around Balder. Loki quietly passed unnoticed through the
crowd, and came close to the elbow of a big dark fellow who was
standing lonely outside the circle of weapon-throwers. He seemed sad
and forgotten, and he hung his head in a pitiful way. It was Höd, the
blind brother of Balder.

The old woman touched his arm. "Why do you not join the game with the
others?" she asked, in her cracked voice. "Are you the only one to do
your brother no honor? Surely, you are big and strong enough to toss a
spear with the best of them yonder."

Höd touched his sightless eyes madly. "I am blind," he said. "Strength
I have, greater than belongs to most of the Æsir. But I cannot see to
aim a weapon. Besides, I have no spear to test upon him. Yet how gladly
would I do honor to dear Balder!" and he sighed deeply.

"It were a pity if I could not find you at least a little stick to
throw," said Loki sympathetically. "I am only a poor old woman, and of
course I have no weapon. But ah,--here is a green twig which you can
use as an arrow, and I will guide your arm, poor fellow."

Höd's dark face lighted up, for he was eager to take his turn in the
game. So he thanked her, and grasped eagerly the little arrow which she
put into his hand. Loki held him by the arm, and together they stepped
into the circle which surrounded Balder. And when it was Höd's turn to
throw his weapon, the old woman stood at his elbow and guided his big
arm as it hurled the twig of mistletoe towards where Balder stood.

Oh, the sad thing that befell! Straight through the air flew the little
arrow, straight as magic and Loki's arm could direct it. Straight to
Balder's heart it sped, piercing through jerkin and shirt and all, to
give its bitter message of "Loki's love," as he had said. With a cry
Balder fell forward on the grass. And that was the end of sunshine and
spring and joy in Asgard, for the dream had come true, and Balder the
beautiful was dead.

When the Æsir saw what had happened, there was a great shout of fear
and horror, and they rushed upon Höd, who had thrown the fatal arrow.

"What is it? What have I done?" asked the poor blind brother, trembling
at the tumult which had followed his shot.

"You have slain Balder!" cried the Æsir. "Wretched Höd, how could you
do it?"

"It was the old woman--the evil old woman, who stood at my elbow and
gave me a little twig to throw," gasped Höd. "She must be a witch."

Then the Æsir scattered over Ida Plain to look for the old woman who
had done the evil deed; but she had mysteriously disappeared.

"It must be Loki," said wise Heimdal. "It is Loki's last and vilest

"Oh, my Balder, my beautiful Balder!" wailed Queen Frigg, throwing
herself on the body of her son. "If I had only made the mistletoe give
me the promise, you would have been saved. It was I who told Loki of
the mistletoe,--so it is I who have killed you. Oh, my son, my son!"

But Father Odin was speechless with grief. His sorrow was greater than
that of all the others, for he best understood the dreadful misfortune
which had befallen Asgard. Already a cloud had come before the sun, so
that it would never be bright day again. Already the flowers had begun
to fade and the birds had ceased to sing. And already the Æsir had
begun to grow old and joyless,--all because the little mistletoe had
been too young to give a promise to Queen Frigg.

"Balder the beautiful is dead!" the cry went echoing through all the
world, and everything that was sorrowed at the sound of the Æsir's

Balder's brothers lifted up his beautiful body upon their great war
shields and bore him on their shoulders down to the seashore. For, as
was the custom in those days, they were going to send him to Hela, the
Queen of Death, with all the things he best had loved in Asgard. And
these were,--after Nanna his wife,--his beautiful horse, and his ship
Hringhorni. So that they would place Balder's body upon the ship with
his horse beside him, and set fire to this wonderful funeral pile. For
by fire was the quickest passage to Hela's kingdom.

But when they reached the shore, they found that all the strength of
all the Æsir was unable to move Hringhorni, Balder's ship, into the
water. For it was the largest ship in the world, and it was stranded
far up the beach.

"Even the giants bore no ill-will to Balder," said Father Odin. "I
heard the thunder of their grief but now shaking the hills. Let us for
this once bury our hatred of that race and send to Jotunheim for help
to move the ship."

So they sent a messenger to the giantess Hyrrockin, the hugest of all
the Frost People. She was weeping for Balder when the message came.

"I will go, for Balder's sake," she said. Soon she came riding fast
upon a giant wolf, with a serpent for the bridle; and mighty she was,
with the strength of forty Æsir. She dismounted from her wolf-steed,
and tossed the wriggling reins to one of the men-heroes who had
followed Balder and the Æsir from Valhalla. But he could not hold the
beast, and it took four heroes to keep him quiet, which they could only
do by throwing him upon the ground and sitting upon him in a row. And
this mortified them greatly.

Then Hyrrockin the giantess strode up to the great ship and seized
it by the prow. Easily she gave a little pull and presto! it leaped
forward on its rollers with such force that sparks flew from the flint
stones underneath and the whole earth trembled. The boat shot into the
waves and out toward open sea so swiftly that the Æsir were likely to
have lost it entirely, had not Hyrrockin waded out up to her waist and
caught it by the stern just in time.

Thor was angry at her clumsiness, and raised his hammer to punish her.
But the other Æsir held his arm.

"She cannot help being so strong," they whispered. "She meant to do
well. She did not realize how hard she was pulling. This is no time for
anger, brother Thor." So Thor spared her life, as indeed he ought, for
her kindness.

Then Balder's body was borne out to the ship and laid upon a pile of
beautiful silks, and furs, and cloth-of-gold, and woven sunbeams which
the dwarfs had wrought. So that his funeral pyre was more grand than
anything which had ever been seen. But when Nanna, Balder's gentle
wife, saw them ready to kindle the flames under this gorgeous bed, she
could bear her grief no longer. Her loving heart broke, and they laid
her beside him, that they might comfort each other on their journey
to Hela. Thor touched the pile gently with his hammer that makes
the lightning, and the flames burst forth, lighting up the faces of
Balder and Nanna with a glory. Then they cast upon the fire Balder's
war-horse, to serve his master in the dark country to which he was
about to go. The horse was decked with a harness all of gold, with
jewels studding the bridle and headstall. Last of all Odin laid upon
the pyre his gift to Balder, Draupnir, the precious ring of gold which
the dwarf had made, from which every ninth night there dropped eight
other rings as large and brightly golden.

"Take this with you, dear son, to Hela's palace," said Odin. "And do
not forget the friends you leave behind in the now lonely halls of

Then Hyrrockin pushed the great boat out to sea, with its bonfire of
precious things. And on the beach stood all the Æsir watching it out
of sight, all the Æsir and many besides. For there came to Balder's
funeral great crowds of little dwarfs and multitudes of huge frost
giants, all mourning for Balder the beautiful. For this one time
they were all friends together, forgetting their quarrels of so many
centuries. All of them loved Balder, and were united to do him honor.

The great ship moved slowly out to sea, sending up a red fire to color
all the heavens. At last it slid below the horizon softly, as you have
often seen the sun set upon the water, leaving a brightness behind to
lighten the dark world for a little while.

This indeed was the sunset for Asgard. The darkness of sorrow came in
earnest after the passing of Balder the beautiful.

But the punishment of Loki was a terrible thing. And that came soon and


After the death of Balder the world grew so dreary that no one had any
heart left for work or play. The Æsir sat about moping and miserable.
They were growing old,--there was no doubt about that. There was no
longer any gladness in Valhalla, where the Valkyries waited on table
and poured the foaming mead. There was no longer any mirth on Ida
Plain, when every morning the bravest of earth-heroes fought their
battles over again. Odin no longer had any pleasure in the daily news
brought by his wise ravens, Thought and Memory, nor did Freia enjoy her
falcon dress. Frey forgot to sail in his ship Skidbladnir, and even
Thor had almost wearied of his hammer, except as he hoped that it would
help him to catch Loki. For the one thought of all of them now was to
find and punish Loki.

Yet they waited; for Queen Frigg had sent a messenger to Queen Hela to
find if they might not even yet win Balder back from the kingdom of

Odin shook his head. "Queen Hela is Loki's daughter," he said, "and she
will not let Balder return." But Frigg was hopeful; she had employed a
trusty messenger, whose silver tongue had won many hearts against their

It was Hermod, Balder's brother, who galloped down the steep road to
Hela's kingdom, on Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Father Odin.
For nine nights and nine days he rode, through valleys dark and chill,
until he came to the bridge which is paved with gold. And here the
maiden Modgard told him that Balder had passed that way, and showed him
the path northward to Hela's city. So he rode, down and down, until
he came to the high wall which surrounded the grim palace where Hela
reigned. Hermod dismounted and tightened the saddle-girths of gray
Sleipnir, whose eight legs were as frisky as ever, despite the long
journey. And when he had mounted once more, the wonderful horse leaped
with him over the wall, twenty feet at least!

Then Hermod rode straight into the palace of Hela, straight up to the
throne where she sat surrounded by gray shadows and spirit people. She
was a dreadful creature to see, was this daughter of Loki,--half white
like other folk, but half black, which was not sunburn, for there was
no sunshine in this dark and dismal land. Yet she was not so bad as she
looked; for even Hela felt kindly towards Balder, whom her father had
slain, and was sorry that the world had lost so dear a friend. So when
Hermod begged of her to let his brother return with him to Asgard, she
said very gently,--

"Freely would I let him go, brave Hermod, if I might. But a queen
cannot always do as she likes, even in her own kingdom. His life must
be bought; the price must be paid in tears. If everything upon earth
will weep for Balder's death, then may he return, bringing light and
happiness to the upper world. Should one creature fail to weep, Balder
must remain with me."

Then Hermod was glad, for he felt sure that this price was easily paid.
He thanked Hela, and made ready to depart with the hopeful message.
Before he went away he saw and spoke with Balder himself, who sat with
Nanna upon a throne of honor, talking of the good times that used to
be. And Balder gave him the ring Draupnir to give back to Father Odin,
as a remembrance from his dear son; while Nanna sent to mother Frigg
her silver veil with other rich presents. It was hard for Hermod to
part with Balder once again, and Balder also wept to see him go. But
Hermod was in duty bound to bear the message back to Asgard as swiftly
as might be.

Now when the Æsir heard from Hermod this news, they sent messengers
forth over the whole world to bid every creature weep for Balder's
death. Heimdal galloped off upon Goldtop and Frey upon Goldbristle, his
famous hog; Thor rumbled away in his goat chariot, and Freia drove her
team of cats,--all spreading the message in one direction and another.
There really seemed little need for them to do this, for already there
was mourning in every land and clime. Even the sky was weeping, and the
flower eyes were filled with dewy tears.

So it seemed likely that Balder would be ransomed after all, and the
Æsir began to hope more strongly. For they had not found one creature
who refused to weep. Even the giants of Jotunheim were sorry to lose
the gentle fellow who had never done them any harm, and freely added
their giant tears to the salt rivers that were coursing over all the
world into the sea, making it still more salt.

It was not until the messengers had nearly reached home, joyful in the
surety that Balder was safe, that they found an ugly old giantess named
Thökt hidden in a black cavern among the mountains.

"Weep, mother, weep for Balder!" they cried. "Balder the beautiful is
dead, but your tears will buy him back to life. Weep, mother, weep!"

But the sulky old woman refused to weep.

"Balder is nothing to me," she said. "I care not whether he lives or
dies. Let him bide with Hela--he is out of mischief there. I weep dry
tears for Balder's death."

So all the work of the messengers was in vain, because of this one
obstinate old woman. So all the tears of the sorrowing world were shed
in vain. Because there were lacking two salty drops from the eyes of
Thökt, they could not buy back Balder from the prison of death.

When the messengers returned and told Odin their sad news, he was

"Do you not guess who the old woman was?" he cried. "It was Loki--Loki
himself, disguised as a giantess. He has tricked us once more, and for
a second time has slain Balder for us; for it is now too late,--Balder
can never return to us after this. But it shall be the last of Loki's
mischief. It is now time that we put an end to his deeds of shame."

"Come, my brothers!" shouted Thor, flourishing his hammer. "We have
wept and mourned long enough. It is now time to punish. Let us hasten
back to Thökt's cave, and seize Loki as quickly as may be."

So they hurried back into the mountains where they had left the
giantess who would not weep. But when they came to the place, the
cave was empty. Loki was too sharp a fellow to sit still and wait for
punishment to overtake him. He knew very well that the Æsir would soon
discover who Thökt really was. And he had taken himself off to a safer
place, to escape the questions which a whole world of not too gentle
folk were anxious to ask him.

The one desire of the Æsir was now to seize and punish Loki. So when
they were unable to find him as easily as they expected, they were
wroth indeed. Why had he left the cave? Whither had he gone? In what
new disguise even now was he lurking, perhaps close by?

The truth was that when Loki found himself at war with the whole world
which he had injured, he fled away into the mountains, where he had
built a strong castle of rocks. This castle had four doors, one looking
into the north, one to the south, one to the east, and one to the west;
so that Loki could keep watch in all directions and see any enemy
who might approach. Besides this, he had for his protection the many
disguises which he knew so well how to don. Near the castle was a river
and a waterfall, and it was Loki's favorite game to change himself into
a spotted pink salmon and splash about in the pool below the fall.

"Ho, ho! Let them try to catch me here, if they can!" he would chuckle
to himself. And indeed, it seemed as if he were safe enough.

One day Loki was sitting before the fire in his castle twisting
together threads of flax and yarn into a great fish-net which was his
own invention. For no one had ever before thought of catching fish with
a net. Loki was a clever fellow; and with all his faults, for this one
thing at least the fishermen of to-day ought to be grateful to him. As
Loki sat busily knotting the meshes of the net, he happened to glance
out of the south door,--and there were the Æsir coming in a body up the
hill towards his castle.

Now this is what had happened: from his lookout throne in Asgard,
Odin's keen sight had spied Loki's retreat. This throne, you remember,
was in the house with a silver roof which Odin had built in the very
beginning of time; and whenever he wanted to see what was going on in
the remotest corner of Asgard, or to spy into some secret place beyond
the sight of gods or men, he would mount this magic throne, whence his
eye could pierce thick mountains and sound the deepest sea. So it was
that the Æsir had found out Loki's castle, well-hidden though it was
among the furthest mountains of the world. They had come to catch him,
and there was nothing left for him but to run.

Loki jumped up and threw his half-mended net into the fire, for he did
not want the Æsir to discover his invention; then he ran down to the
river and leaped in with a great splash. When he was well under water,
he changed himself into a salmon, and flickered away to bask in his
shady pool and think how safe he was.

By this time the Æsir had entered his castle and were poking among the
ashes which they found smouldering on the hearth.

"What is this?" asked Thor, holding up a piece of knotted flax which
was not quite burned. "The knave has been making something with little

"Let me see it," said Heimdal, the wisest of the Æsir,--he who once
upon a time had suggested Thor's clever disguise for winning back his
hammer from the giant Thrym. He took now the little scrap of fish-net
and studied it carefully, picking out all the knots and twists of it.

"It is a net," said Heimdal at last. "He has been making a net,
and--pfaugh!--it smells of fish. The fellow must have used it to trap
fish for his dinner, though I never before heard of such a device."

"I saw a big splash in the river just as we came up," said Thor the
keen-eyed,--"a very big splash indeed. It seemed too large for any

"It was Loki," declared Heimdal. "He must have been here but a
moment since, for this fire has just gone out, and the net is still
smouldering. That shows he did not wish us to find this new-fangled
idea of his. Why was that? Let me think. Aha! I have it. Loki has
changed himself into a fish, and did not wish us to discover the means
of catching him."

"Oho!" cried the Æsir regretfully. "If only we had another net!"

"We can make one," said wise Heimdal. "I know how it is done, for I
have studied out this little sample. Let us make a net to catch the
slyest of all fish."

"Let us make a net for Loki," echoed the Æsir. And they all sat down
cross-legged on the floor to have a lesson in net-weaving from Heimdal.
He found hemp cord in a cupboard, and soon they had contrived a goodly
net, big enough to catch several Lokis, if they should have good
fisherman's luck.

They dragged the net to the river and cast it in. Thor, being the
strongest, held one end of the net, and all the rest drew the other
end up and down the stream. They were clumsy and awkward, for they had
never used a net before, and did not know how to make the best of it.
But presently Thor exclaimed, "Ha! I felt some live thing touch the

"So did we!" cried the others. "It must be Loki!" And Loki it was, sure
enough; for the Æsir had happened upon the very pool where the great
salmon lay basking so peacefully. But when he felt the net touch him,
he darted away and hid in a cleft between two rocks. So that, although
they dragged the net to and fro again and again, they could not catch
Loki in its meshes; for the net was so light that it floated over his

"We must weight the net," said Heimdal wisely; "then nothing can pass
beneath it." So they tied heavy stones all along the under edge, and
again they cast the net, a little below the waterfall. Now Loki had
seized the chance to swim further down the stream. But ugh! suddenly he
tasted salt water. He was being swept out to sea! That would never do,
for he could not live an hour in the sea. So he swam back and leaped
straight over the net up into the waterfall, hoping that no one had
noticed him. But Thor's sharp eyes had spied the flash of pink and
silver, and Thor came running to the place.

"He is here!" he shouted. "Cast in the net above the fall! We have him

When Loki saw the net cast again, so that there was no choice for him
but to be swept back over the falls and out to sea, or to leap the net
once more still further up the river, he hesitated. He saw Thor in the
middle of the stream wading towards him; but behind him was sure death.
So he set his teeth and once more he leaped the net. There was a huge
splash, a scuffle, a scramble, and the water was churned into froth all
about Thor's feet. He was struggling with the mighty fish. He caught
him once, but the salmon slipped through his fingers. He caught him
again, and this time Thor gripped hard. The salmon almost escaped, but
Thor's big fingers kept hold of the end of his tail, and he flapped
and flopped in vain. It was the grip of Thor's iron glove; and that
is why to this day the salmon has so pointed a tail. The next time
you see a salmon you must notice this, and remember that he may be a
great-great-great-grand-descendant of Loki.

So Loki was captured and changed back into his own shape, sullen and
fierce. But he had no word of sorrow for his evil deeds; nor did he ask
for mercy, for he knew that it would be in vain. He kept silent while
the Æsir led him all the weary way back to Asgard.

Now the whole world was noisy with the triumph of his capture. As the
procession passed along it was joined by all the creatures who had
mourned for Balder,--all the creatures who longed to see Loki punished.
There were the men of Midgard, the place of human folk, shouting, "Kill
him! kill him!" at the top of their lungs; there were armies of little
mountain dwarfs in their brown peaked caps, who hobbled along, prodding
Loki with their picks; there were beasts growling and showing their
teeth as if they longed to tear Loki in pieces; there were birds who
tried to peck his eyes, insects who came in clouds to sting him, and
serpents that sprang up hissing at his feet to poison him with their
deadly bite.

But to all these Thor said, "Do not kill the fellow. We are keeping
him for a worse punishment than you can give." So the creatures merely
followed and jostled Loki into Asgard, shouting, screaming, howling,
growling, barking, roaring, spitting, squeaking, hissing, croaking, and
buzzing, according to their different ways of showing hatred and horror.

[Illustration: "KILL HIM! KILL HIM!"]

The Æsir met on Ida Plain to decide what should be done with Loki.
There were Idun whom he had cheated, and Sif whose hair he had cut
off. There were Freia whose falcon dress he had stolen and Thor whom he
had tried to kill. There were Höd whom he had made a murderer; Frigg
and Odin whose son he had slain. There was not one of them whom Loki
had not injured in some way; and besides, there was the whole world
into which he had brought sorrow and darkness; for the sake of all
these Loki must be punished. But it was hard to think of any doom heavy
enough for him. At last, however, they agreed upon a punishment which
they thought suited to so wicked a wretch.

The long procession formed again and escorted Loki down, down into a
damp cavern underground. Here sunlight never came, but the cave was
full of ugly toads, snakes, and insects that love the dark. These were
Loki's evil thoughts, who were to live with him henceforth and torment
him always. In this prison chamber side by side they placed three sharp
stones, not far apart, to make an uneasy bed. And these were for Loki's
three worst deeds, against Thor and Höd and Balder. Upon these rocks
they bound Loki with stout thongs of leather. But as soon as the cords
were fastened they turned into iron bands, so that no one, though he
had the strength of a hundred giants, could loosen them. For these were
Loki's evil passions, and the more he strained against them, the more
they cut into him and wounded him until he howled with pain.

Over his head Skadi, whose father he had helped to slay, hung a
venomous, wriggling serpent, from whose mouth dropped poison into
Loki's face, which burned and stung him like fire. And this was the
deceit which all his life Loki had spoken to draw folk into trouble and
danger. At last it had turned about to torture him, as deceit always
will do to him who utters it. Yet from this one torment Loki had some
relief; for alone of all the world Sigyn, his wife, was faithful and
forgiving. She stood by the head of the painful bed upon which the Red
One was stretched, and held a bowl to catch the poison which dropped
from the serpent's jaws, so that some of it did not reach Loki's face.
But as often as the bowl became full, Sigyn had to go out and empty it;
and then the bitter drops fell and burned till Loki made the cavern
ring with his cries.

So this was Loki's punishment, and bad enough it was,--but not too bad
for such a monster. Under the caverns he lies there still, struggling
to be free. And when his great strength shakes the hills so that the
whole ground trembles, men call it an earthquake. Sometimes they even
see his poisonous breath blowing from the top of a mountain-chimney,
and amid it the red flame of wickedness which burns in Loki's heart.
Then all cry, "The volcano, the volcano!" and run away as fast as they
can. For Loki, poisoned though he is, is still dangerous and full of
mischief, and it is not good to venture near him in his torment.

But there for his sins he must bide and suffer, suffer and bide, until
the end of all sorrow and suffering and sin shall come, with Ragnarök,
the ending of the world.

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 176: "You shall hide" was misprinted as "You shall bide". Corrected
here based on the use of "hiding-place" later in the same sentence.

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