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Title: Norse mythology; or The religion of our forefathers, containing all the myths of the Eddas, systematized and interpreted
Author: Anderson, Rasmus Björn
Language: English
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                            NORSE MYTHOLOGY

[Illustration: Thor Fighting The Giants.]

                            NORSE MYTHOLOGY;


                           CONTAINING ALL THE

                          MYTHS OF THE EDDAS,





                         R. B. ANDERSON, A.M.,

                 COLUMBUS,” “DEN NORSKE MAALSAG,” ETC.

                            SECOND EDITION.

                       S. C. GRIGGS AND COMPANY.
                          LONDON TRÜBNER & CO.





                      HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW,

                           THE AMERICAN POET,

                    FROM THE WELLS OF URD AND MIMER,

                       THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED,


                              THE AUTHOR.

I think Scandinavian Paganism, to us here, is more interesting than any
other. It is, for one thing, the latest; it continued in these regions
of Europe till the eleventh century: eight hundred years ago the
Norwegians were still worshipers of Odin. It is interesting also as the
creed of our fathers; the men whose blood still runs in our veins, whom
doubtless we still resemble in so many ways. Strange: they did believe
that, while we believe so differently. Let us look a little at this poor
Norse creed, for many reasons. We have tolerable means to do it; for
there is another point of interest in these Scandinavian mythologies:
that they have been preserved so well.

Neither is there no use in _knowing_ something about this old Paganism
of our fathers. Unconsciously, and combined with higher things, it is in
_us_ yet, that old faith withal. To know it consciously brings us into
closer and clearer relations with the past,—with our own possessions in
the past. For the whole past, as I keep repeating, is the possession of
the present. The past had always something _true_, and is a precious
possession. In a different time, in a different place, it is always some
other _side_ of our common human nature that has been developing itself.

—_Thomas Carlyle._


AMERICA NOT DISCOVERED BY COLUMBUS having been so favorably received by
the press generally, as well as by many distinguished scholars, who have
expressed themselves in very flattering terms of our recent _début_ in
English, we venture to appear again; and, although the subject is
somewhat different, it still (as did the first) has its fountain head in
the literature of the North.

We come, this time, encouraged by all your kind words, with higher
aspirations, and perhaps, too, with less timidity and modesty. We come
to ask your opinion of Norse mythology. We come to ask whether Norse
mythology is not equally as worthy of your attention as the Greek. Nay,
we come to ask whether you will not give the Norse the _preference_. We
propose to call your attention earnestly, in this volume, to the merits
of our common Gothic or Teutonic inheritance, and to chat a few hours
with you about the imaginative, poetic and prophetic period of our
Gothic history.

We are well aware that we are here giving you a book full of
imperfections so far as style, originality, arrangement and external
adornment of the subject is concerned, and we shall not take it much to
heart, even if we are severely criticised in these respects; we shall
rather take it as an earnest admonition to study and improve in language
and composition for the future.

But, if the spirit of the book, that is, the cause which we have
undertaken to plead therein,—if that be frowned down, or rejected, or
laughed at, we shall be the recipient of a most bitter disappointment,
and yet we shall not wholly despair. The time must come, when our common
Gothic inheritance will be loved and respected. There will come men—ay,
there are already men in our midst who will advocate and defend its
rights on American soil with sharper steel than ours. And, though we may
find but few roses and many thorns on our pathway, we shall not suffer
our ardor in our chosen field of labor to be diminished. We are
determined not to be discouraged.

What we claim for this work is, that it is the _first complete and
systematic presentation of the Norse mythology in the English language_;
and this we think is a sufficient reason for our asking a humble place
upon your book-shelves. And, while we make this claim, we fully
appreciate the value of the many excellent treatises and translations
that have appeared on this subject in England. We do not undervalue the
labors of Dasent, Thorpe, Pigott, Carlyle, etc., but none of these give
a comprehensive account of all the deities and the myths in full. There
is, indeed, no work outside of Scandinavia that covers the whole ground.
So far as America is concerned, the only work on Norse mythology that
has hitherto been published in this country is BARCLAY PENNOCK’S
translation of the Norse Professor Rudolph Keyser’s _Religion of the
Northmen_. This is indeed an excellent and scholarly work, and a
valuable contribution to knowledge; but, instead of _presenting_ the
mythology of the Norsemen, it _interprets_ it; and Professor Keyser is
yet one of the most eminent authorities in the exposition of the Asa
doctrine. Pennock’s translation of Keyser is a book of three hundred and
forty-six pages, and of these only _sixteen_ are devoted to a synopsis
of the mythology; and it is, as the reader may judge, nothing but a very
brief synopsis. The remaining three hundred and thirty pages contain a
history of Old Norse literature, an interpretation of the Odinic
religion, and an exhibition of the manner of _worship_ among the heathen
Norsemen. In a word, Pennock’s book _presupposes_ a knowledge of the
subject; and for one who has this, we would recommend _Pennock’s_ KEYSER
as the best work _extant_ in English. We are indebted to it for many
valuable paragraphs in this volume.

This subject has, then, been investigated by many able writers; and, in
preparing this volume, we have borrowed from their works all the light
they could shed upon our pathway. The authors we have chiefly consulted
are named in the accompanying list. While we have used their very phrase
whenever it was convenient, we have not followed them in a slavish
manner. We have made such changes as in our judgment seemed necessary to
give our work harmony and symmetry throughout. We at first felt disposed
to give the reader a mere translation either of N. M. Petersen, or of
Grundtvig, or of P. A. Munch; but upon further reflection we came to the
conclusion that we could treat the subject more satisfactorily to
ourselves, and fully as acceptably to our readers, by sketching out a
plan of our own, and making free use of all the best writers upon this
subject. And as we now review our pages, we find that N. M. Petersen has
served us the most. Much of his work has been appropriated in an almost
unchanged form.

Although many of the ideas set forth in this work may seem new to
American readers, yet they are by no means wholly original. Many of them
have for many years been successfully advocated in Scandinavian
countries, and to some extent, also, in Germany and England. Our aim has
not at present been so much to make original investigations, as—that
which is far more needed and to the purpose—to give the fruits of the
labors performed in the North, and call the attention of the American
public earnestly to the wealth stored up in the Eddas and Sagas of
Iceland. No one can doubt the correctness of our position in this
matter, when he reflects that we now drawing near the close of the
_nineteenth_ century, and have not yet had a complete Norse mythology in
the English language, while the number of Greek and Roman mythologies is
legion. Bayard Taylor said to us, recently, that the Scandinavian
languages, in view of their rich literature, in view of the light which
this literature throws upon early English history, and in view of the
importance of Icelandic in a successful study of English and
Anglo-Saxon, ought to be taught in every college in Vinland; and that is
the very pith of what we have to say in this preface.

We have had excellent aid from Dr. S. H. Carpenter, who combines broad
general culture with a thorough knowledge of Old English and
Anglo-Saxon. He has read every page of this work, and we hereby thank
him for the generous sympathy and advice which he has invariably given
us. To President John Bascom we are under obligations for kind words and
valuable suggestions. We hereby extend heartfelt thanks to Professor
Willard Fiske, of Cornell University, for aid and encouragement; to Mrs.
Ole Bull, for free use of her excellent library; and to the poet, H. W.
Longfellow, for permitting us to make extracts from his works, and to
inscribe this volume to him as the Nestor among American writers on
Scandinavian themes. May the persons here named find that this our work,
in spite of its faults, advances, somewhat, the interest in the studies
of Northern literature in this country.

While Mallet’s _Northern Antiquities_ is a very valuable work, we cannot
but make known our regrets that Blackwell’s edition of it ever was
published. Mr. Blackwell has in many ways injured the cause which he
evidently intended to promote. While we, therefore, urge caution in the
use of Mallet’s _Northern Antiquities_ by Blackwell, we can with all our
heart recommend such writers upon the North as Dasent, Laing, Thorpe,
Gosse, Pennock, Boyesen, Marsh, Fiske, the Howitts, Pigott, Lord
Dufferin, Maurer, Möbius, Morris, Magnússon, Vigfusson, Hjaltalin, and
several others.

It is sincerely hoped that by this our effort we may, at least for the
present, fill a gap in English literature, and accomplish something in
awakening among students some interest in Norse mythology, history,
literature and institutions. Let it be remembered, that Carlyle, and
many others of our best scholars, claim that it is from the Norsemen we
have derived our vital energy, our freedom of thought, and, in a measure
that we do not yet suspect, our strength of speech.

We are conscious that our work contains many imperfections, and that
others might have performed the task better; and thus we commend this
volume to the kind indulgence of the critic and the reader.


_University of Wisconsin, May 15, 1875._

                        LIST OF WORKS CONSULTED.

The following authors have been consulted in preparing this work, and to
them the reader is referred, if he wishes to make special study of the
subject of Norse mythology.

Of the Elder Edda we have used Benjamin Thorpe’s translation and Sophus
Bugge’s edition of the original. It has been found necessary to make a
few alterations in Thorpe’s translation. Of the Younger Edda we have
used Dasent’s translation and Sveinbjorn Egilsson’s edition of the
original. Of modern Scandinavian writers we have confined ourselves
mainly to N. M. Petersen, N. F. S. Grundtvig, P. A. Munch, Rudolph
Keyser, Finn Magnússon, and Christian Winther. Other authors borrowed
from more or less are: H. W. Longfellow, H. G. Möller, R. Nyerup, E. G.
Geier, M. Hammerich, F. J. Mone, Jacob Grimm, Thomas Keightly, Thomas
Carlyle, Max Müller, and Geo. W. Cox.

The recent excellent work of Alexander Murray has been referred to on
the subject of Greek mythology. It claims on its title-page to give an
account of Norse mythology; but we were surprised to find that the
author dismisses the subject with fifteen pages and a few wood-cuts of
questionable value.

The philological notes are chiefly based upon the Icelandic Dictionary
recently published by Macmillan & Co., and edited by Gudbrand Vigfusson,
of Oxford University, England. We object to the price of it, which is
thirty-two dollars, but it is indeed a scholarly work, and marks a new
epoch in the study of the Icelandic language.

For the engraving opposite the title-page we are indebted to Mr. James
R. Stuart, who has devoted many years in America and Europe to the study
of his art. The painting, from which the engraving is made, is wholly
original, and was made expressly for this work. We hereby extend our
thanks to Mr. Stuart, and hope some day to see more of Norse mythology
treated by his brush.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS.




The myth the oldest form of truth—The Unknown God—Ingemund the
Old—Thorkel Maane—Harald Fairfax—Every cause in nature a divinity—Thor
the thunder-storm—Prominent faculties impersonated—These gods worthy of
reverence—Church ceremonies—Different religions—Hints to preachers—The
mythology of _our_ ancestors—In its oldest form it is Teutonic—What
Dasent says—Thomas Carlyle, 23



Introduction of Christianity—The Catholic priests—The Eddas—Mythology in
its Germanic form—Thor not the same in Norway and Denmark—Norse
mythology—Max Müller, 41



Norse and Greek mythology differ—Balder and Adonis—Greek gods free from
decay—The Deluge—Not the same but a similar tradition—The hand stone
weeps tears—The separate groups exquisite—Greek mythology an epic
poem—Theoktony—The Norse yields the prize to the Greek—Depth of Norse
and Christian thought—Naastrand—Outward nature influences the
mythology—Visit Norseland—Norse scenery—Simple and martial
religion—Sincerity and grace—Norse and Greek mythology, 51



Oxford and Cambridge—The Romans were robbers—We must not throw Latin
wholly overboard—We must study English and Anglo-Saxon—English more
terse than Latin—Greek preferable to Hebrew or Latin—Shakespeare—He who
is not a son of Thor, 71



Aberration from the true religion—Historical interpretation—Ethical
interpretation—Physical interpretation—Odin, Thor, Argos, Io—Our
ancestors not prosaic—The Romans again—Physical interpretation
insufficient—Natural science—Historical prophecy—A complete mythology,



How to educate the child—Ole Bull—Men frequently act like
ants—Oelenschlæger—Thor’s fishing—The dwarfs—Ten stanzas in Danish—The
brush and the chisel—Nude art—The germ of the faith—We Goths are a
chaste race—Dr. John Bascom—We are growing too prosaic and ungodly, 94



The Elder Edda—Icelandic poetry—Beowulf’s Drapa and
Niebelungen-Lied—Influence of the Norse mythology—Influence of the
Asa-faith—Samuel Laing—Odinic rules of life—Hávamál—The lay of
Sigdrifa—Rudolph Keyser—The days of the week, 116





Section i. The original condition of the world—Ginungagap. Section ii.
The origin of the giants—Ymer. Section iii. The origin of the crow
Audhumbla and the birth of the gods—Odin, Vile and Ve. Section iv. The
Norse deluge and the origin of heaven and earth. Section v. The heavenly
bodies, time, the wind, the rainbow—The sun and moon—Hrimfaxe and
Skinfaxe—The seasons—The Elder Edda—Bil and Hjuke. Section vi. The
Golden Age—The origin of the dwarfs—The creation of the first man and
woman—The Elder Edda. Section vii. The gods and their abodes. Section
viii. The divisions of the world, 171



The ash Ygdrasil—Mimer’s fountain—Urd’s fountain—The norns or
fates—Mimer and the Urdar-fountain—The norns, 188



Pondus iners—The supreme god—The cow Audhumbla—Trinity—The Golden
Age—Creation of man—The giants—The gods kill or marry the giants—Elves
and hulders—Trolls—Nisses and necks—Merman and mermaid—Ygdrasil—Mimer’s
fountain—The norns, 192





Section i. Odin. Section ii. Odin’s names. Section iii. Odin’s outward
appearance. Section iv. Odin’s attributes. Section v. Odin’s journeys.
Section vi. Odin and Mimer. Section vii. Hlidskjalf. Section viii. The
historical Odin. Section ix. Odin’s wives. Section x. Frigg’s
maid-servants. Section xi. Gefjun—Eir. Section xii. Rind. Section xiii.
Gunlad—The origin of poetry. Section xiv. Saga. Section xv. Odin as the
inventor of runes. Section xvi. Valhal. Section xvii. The valkyries, 215



Section i. Hermod. Section ii. Tyr. Section iii. Heimdal. Section iv.
Brage and Idun. Section v. Idun and her apples, 270



Section i. Balder. Section ii. The death of Balder the Good. Section
iii. Forsete, 279



Section i. General synopsis—Thor, Sit and Uller. Section ii. Thor and
Hrungner. Section iii. Thor and Geirrod. Section iv. Thor and Skrymer.
Section v. Thor and the Midgard-serpent (Thor and Hymer). Section vi.
Thor and Thrym, 298


VIDAR, 337



Section i. Njord and Skade. Section ii. Æger and Ran. Section iii. Frey.
Section iv. Frey and Gerd. Section v. Worship of Frey. Section vi.
Freyja. Section vii. A brief review, 341



Section i. Loke. Section ii. Loke’s children—The Fenriswolf. Section
iii. Jormungander or the Midgard-serpent. Section iv. Hel. Section v.
The Norsemen’s idea of death. Section vi. Loke’s punishment. Section
vii. The iron post. Section viii. A brief review, 371







Vocabulary, 439

Index, 462


                               CHAPTER I.

The word mythology (μυθολογόα, from μῦθος, word, tale, fable, and λόγοc,
speech, discourse,) is of Greek origin, and our vernacular tongue has
become so adulterated with Latin and Greek words; we have studied Latin
and Greek in place of English, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Gothic so long
that we are always in a quandary (_qu’en dirai-je?_), always tongue-tied
when we attempt to speak of something outside or above the daily
returning cares of life. Our own good old English words have been
crowded out by foreign ones; this is our besetting sin. But, as the
venerable Professor George Stephens remarks in his elaborate work on
Runic Monuments, we have watered our mother tongue long enough with
bastard Latin; let us now brace and steel it with the life-water of our
own sweet and soft and rich and shining and clear-ringing and manly and
world-ranging, ever-dearest ENGLISH.

Mythology is a system of myths; a collection of popular legends, fables,
tales, or stories, relating to the gods, heroes, demons or other beings
whose names have been preserved in popular belief. Such tales are not
found in the traditions of the ancient Greeks, Hindoos and Egyptians,
only, but every nation has had its system of mythology; and that of the
ancient Norsemen is more simple, earnest, miraculous, stupendous and
divine than any other mythological system of which we have record.

The myth is the oldest form of truth; and mythology is the knowledge
which the ancients had of the Divine. The object of mythology is to find
God and come to him. Without a written revelation this may be done in
two ways: either by studying the intellectual, moral and physical nature
of man, for evidence of the existence of God may be found in the proper
study of man; or by studying nature in the outward world in its general
structure, adaptations and dependencies; and truthfully it may be said
that God manifests himself in nature.

Our Norse forefathers (for it is their religion we are to present in
this volume) had no clearly-defined knowledge of any god outside of
themselves and nature. Like the ancient Greeks, they had only a somewhat
vague idea about a supreme God, whom the rhapsodist or skald in the
Elder Edda (Hyndluljóð 43, 44) dare not name, and whom few, it is said,
ever look far enough to see. In the language of the Elder Edda:

                        Then one is born
                        Greater than all;
                        He becomes strong
                        With the strengths of earth;
                        The mightiest king
                        Men call him,
                        Fast knit in peace
                        With all powers.

                        Then comes another
                        Yet more mighty;
                        _But him dare I not
                        Venture to name._
                        Few further may look
                        Than to where Odin
                        To meet the wolf goes.

Odin goes to meet the Fenriswolf in Ragnarok (the twilight of the gods;
that is, the final conflict between all good and evil powers); but now
let the reader compare the above passage from the Elder Edda with the
following passage from the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the

    Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ Hill and said: Ye men of
    Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious; for
    as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this
    inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly
    worship, him declare I unto you.

It was of this same _unknown God_ that one of the ancient Greek poets
had said, that in him we live and move and have our being. Thus did the
Greeks find Jehovah in the labyrinth of their heathen deities; and when
we claim that the Norse mythology is more _divine_ than any other system
of mythology known, we mean by this assertion, that the supreme God is
mentioned and referred to oftener, and stands out in bolder relief in
the Norseman’s heathen belief, than in any other.

It is a noticeable fact that long before Christianity was introduced or
had even been heard of in Iceland, it is recorded that Ingemund the Old,
a heathen Norseman, bleeding and dying, prayed God to forgive Rolleif,
his murderer.

Another man of the heathen times, Thorkel Maane, a supreme judge of
Iceland, a man of unblemished life and distinguished among the wisest
magistrates of that island during the time of the republic, avowed that
he would worship no other God but him who had created the sun; and in
his dying hour he prayed the Father of Light to illuminate his soul in
the darkness of death. Arngrim Jonsson tells us that when Thorkel Maane
had arrived at the age of maturity and reflection, he disdained a blind
obedience to traditionary custom, and employed much of his time in
weighing the established tenets of his countrymen by the standard of
reason. He divested his mind of all prejudice; he pondered on the
sublimity of nature, and guided himself by maxims founded on truth and
reason. By these means he soon discovered not only the fallacy of that
faith which governed his countrymen, but became a convert to the
existence of a supreme power more mighty than Thor or Odin. In his maker
he acknowledged his God, and to him alone directed his homage from a
conviction that none other was worthy to be honored and worshiped. On
perceiving the approach of death, this pious and sensible man requested
to be conveyed into the open air, in order that, as he said, he might in
his last moments contemplate the glories of Almighty God, who has
created the heavens and the earth and all that in them is.

Harald Fairfax (Haarfager), the first sovereign of Norway, the king that
united Norway under his scepter in the year 872, is another remarkable
example in this respect. He was accustomed to assist at the public
offerings made by his people in honor of their gods. As no better or
more pure religion was known in those days, he acted with prudence in
not betraying either contempt or disregard for the prevailing worship of
the country, lest his subjects, stimulated by such example, might become
indifferent, not only to their sacred, but also to their political,
duties. Yet he rejected from his heart these profane ceremonies, and
believed in the existence of a more powerful god, whom he secretly
adored. I swear, he once said, never to make my offerings to an idol,
but to that God alone whose omnipotence has formed the world and stamped
man with his own image. It would be an act of folly in me to expect help
from him whose power and empire arises from the accidental hollow of a
tree or the peculiar form of a stone.

Such examples illustrate how near the educated and reflecting Norse
heathen was in sympathy with Christianity, and also go far toward
proving that the object of mythology is to find God and come to him.

Still we must admit that of this supreme God our forefathers had only a
somewhat vague conception; and to many of them he was almost wholly
unknown. Their god was a natural human god, a person. There can be no
genuine poetry without impersonation, and a perfect system of mythology
is a finished poem. Mythology is, in fact, religious truth expressed in
poetical language. It ascribes all events and phenomena in the outward
world to a personal cause. Each cause is some divinity or other—some god
or demon. In this manner, when the ancients heard the echo from the
woods or mountains, they did not think, as we now do, that the waves of
sound were reflected, but that there stood a dwarf, a personal being,
who repeated the words spoken by themselves. This dwarf had to have a
history, a biography, and this gave rise to a myth. To our poetic
ancestors the forces of nature were not veiled under scientific names.
As Carlyle truthfully remarks, they had not yet learned to reduce to
their fundamental elements and lecture learnedly about this beautiful,
green, rock-built, flowery earth, with its trees, mountains and
many-sounding waters; about the great deep sea of azure that swims over
our heads, and about the various winds that sweep through it. When they
saw the black clouds gathering and shutting out the king of day, and
witnessed them pouring out rain and ice and fire, and heard the thunder
roll, they did not think, as we now do, of accumulated electricity
discharged from the clouds to the earth, and show in the lecture room
how something like these powerful shafts of lightning could be ground
out of glass or silk, but they ascribed the phenomenon to a mighty
divinity—Thor—who in his thunder-chariot rides through the clouds and
strikes with his huge hammer, Mjolner. The theory of our forefathers
furnishes food for the imagination, for our poetical nature, while the
reflection of the waves of sound and the discharge of electricity is
merely dry reasoning—mathematics and physics. To our ancestors Nature
presented herself in her naked, beautiful and awful majesty; while to us
in this age of Newtons, Millers, Oersteds, Berzeliuses and Tyndalls, she
is enwrapped in a multitude of profound scientific phrases. These
phrases make us flatter ourselves that we have fathomed her mysteries
and revealed her secret workings, while in point of fact we are as far
from the real bottom as our ancestors were. But we have robbed ourselves
to a sad extent of the poetry of nature. Well might Barry Cornwall

              O ye delicious fables! where the wave
            And the woods were peopled, and the air, with things
              So lovely! Why, ah! why has science grave
            Scattered afar your sweet imaginings?

The old Norsemen said: The mischief-maker Loke cuts for mere sport the
hair of the goddess Sif, but the gods compel him to furnish her new
hair, Loke gets dwarfs to forge for her golden hair, which grows almost
spontaneously. We, their prosaic descendants, say: The heat (Loke)
scorches the grass (Sif’s hair), but the same physical agent (heat) sets
the forces of nature to work again, and new grass with golden (that is
to say bright) color springs up again.

Thus our ancestors spoke of all the workings of nature as though they
were caused by personal agents; and instead of saying, as we now do,
that winter follows summer, and explaining how the annual revolutions of
the earth produce the changes that are called seasons of the year, they
took a more poetical view of the phenomenon, and said that the blind god
Hoder (winter) was instigated by Loke (heat) to slay Balder (the summer

This idea of personifying the visible workings of nature was so
completely developed that prominent faculties or attributes of the gods
also were subject to impersonation. Odin, it was said, had two ravens,
Hugin and Munin; that is, reflection and memory. They sit upon his
shoulders, and whisper into his ears. Thor’s strength was redoubled
whenever he girded himself with Megingjarder, his belt of strength; his
steel gloves, with which he wielded his hammer, produced the same
effect. Nay, strength was so eminent a characteristic with Thor that it
even stands out apart from him as an independent person, and is
represented by his son Magne (strength), who accompanies him on his
journeys against the frost-giants.

In this manner a series of myths were formed and combined into a system
which we now call mythology; a system which gave to our fathers gods
whom they worshiped, and in whom they trusted, and which gives to us a
mirror in which is reflected the popular life, the intellectual and
moral characteristics of our ancestors. And these gods were indeed
worthy of reverence; they were the embodiments of the noblest thoughts
and purest feelings, but these thoughts and feelings could not be
awakened without a personified image. As soon as the divine idea was
born, it assumed a bodily form, and, in order to give the mind a more
definite comprehension of it, it was frequently drawn down from heaven
and sculptured in wood or stone. The object was by images to make
manifest unto the senses the attributes of the gods, and thus the more
easily secure the devotion of the people. The heathen had to see the
image of God, the image of the infinite thought embodied in the god, or
he would not kneel down and worship. This idea of wanting something
concrete, something within the reach of the senses, we find deeply
rooted in human nature. Man does not want an abstract god, but a
_personal_, visible god, at least a visible sign of his presence. And we
who live in the broad daylight of revealed religion and science ought
not to be so prone to blame our forefathers for paying divine honors to
images, statues and other representations or symbols of their gods, for
the images were, as the words imply, not the gods themselves to whom the
heathen addressed his prayers and supplications, but merely the symbols
of these gods; and every religion, Christianity included, is mythical in
its development. The tendency is to draw the divine down to earth, in
order to rise with it again to heaven. When God suffers with us, it
becomes easier for us to suffer; when he redeems us, our salvation
becomes certain. God is in all systems of religion seen, as it were,
through a glass—never face to face. No one can see Jehovah and live.

Even as in our present condition our immortal soul cannot do without the
visible body, and cannot without this reveal itself to its
fellow-beings, so our faith requires a visible church, our religion must
assume some form in which it can be apprehended by the senses. Our faith
is made stronger by the visible church in the same manner as the mind
gains knowledge of the things about us by means of the bodily organs.
The outward rite or external form and ceremonial ornament, which are so
conspicuous in the Roman and Greek Catholic churches, for instance,
serve to awaken, edify and strengthen the soul and assist the memory in
recalling the religious truths and the events in the life of Christ and
of the saints more vividly and forcibly to the mind; besides, pictures
and images are to the unlettered what books are to those educated in the
art of reading. Did not Christ himself combine things supersensual with
things within the reach of the senses? The purification and
sanctification of the soul he combined with the idea of cleansing the
body in the sacrament of baptism. The remembrance of him and of his
love, how he gave his body and blood for the redemption of fallen man,
he combined with the eating of bread and drinking of wine in the
sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He gave his religion an outward, visible
form; and, just as the soul is mirrored in the eyes, in the expression
of the countenance, in the gestures and manners of the body, so our
faith is reflected in the church. This is what is meant by mythical
development; and when we discover this tendency to cling to visible
signs and ceremonies manifesting itself so extensively even in the
Christian church of our own time, it should teach us to be less severe
in judging and blaming the heathen for their idol-worship.

As long as the nations have inhabited the earth, there have been
different religions among men; and how could this be otherwise? The
countries which they have inhabited; the skies which they have looked
upon; their laws, customs and social institutions; their habits,
language and knowledge; have differed so widely that it would be absurd
to look for uniformity in the manner in which they have found,
comprehended and worshiped God. Nay, this is not all. Even among
Christians, and, if we give the subject a careful examination, even
among those who confess one and the same faith and are members of one
and the same church, we find that the religion of one man is never
perfectly like that of another. They may use the same prayers, learn and
subscribe to the same confession, hear the same preacher and take part
in the same ceremonies, but still the prayer, faith and worship of the
one will differ from the prayer, faith and worship of the other. Two
persons are never precisely alike, and every one will interpret the
words which he hears and the ceremonies in which he takes part according
to the depth and breadth of his mind and heart—according to the extent
and kind of his knowledge and experience, and according to other
personal peculiarities and characteristics. Even this is not all. Every
person changes his religious views as he grows older, as his knowledge
and experience increase, so that the faith of the youth is not that of
the child, nor does the man with silvery locks approach the altar with
precisely the same faith as when he knelt there a youth. For it is not
the words and ceremonies, but the thoughts and feelings, that we combine
with these symbols, that constitute our religion; it is not the
confession which we learned at school, but the ideas that are suggested
by it in our minds, and the emotions awakened by it in our hearts, that
constitute our faith.

If the preachers of the Christian religion realized these truths more
than they generally seem to do, they would perhaps speak with more
charity and less scorn and contempt of people who differ from them in
their religious views. They would recognize in the faith of others the
same connecting link between God and man for them, as their own faith is
for themselves. They would not hate the Jew because he, in accordance
with the Mosaic commandment, offers his prayers in the synagogue to the
God of his fathers; nor despise the heathen because _he_, in want of
better knowledge, in childlike simplicity lifts his hands in prayer to
an image of wood or stone; for, although this be perishable dust, he
still addresses the prayer of his inmost soul to the supreme God, even
as the child, that kisses the picture of his absent mother, actually
thinks of her.

The old mythological stories of the Norsemen abound in poetry of the
truest and most touching character. These stories tell us in sublime and
wonderful speech of the workings of external nature, and may make us
cheerful or sad, happy or mournful, gay or grave, just as we night feel,
if from the pinnacle of Gausta Fjeld we were to watch the passing
glories of morning and evening tide. There is nothing in these stories
that can tend to make us less upright and simple, while they contain
many thoughts and suggestions that we may be the better and happier for
knowing. All the so-called disagreeable features of mythology are
nothing but distortions, brought out either by ill-will or by a
superficial knowledge of the subject; and, when these distortions are
removed, we shall find only things beautiful, lovely and of good report.
We shall find the simple thoughts of our childlike, imaginative, poetic
and prophetic forefathers upon the wonderful works of their maker, and
nothing that we may laugh at, or despise, or _pity_. These words of our
fathers, if read in the right spirit, will make us feel as we ought to
feel when we contemplate the glory and beauty of the heavens and the
earth, and observe how wonderfully all things are adapted to each other
and to the wants of man, that the thoughts of him who stands at the helm
of this ship of the universe (Skidbladner) must be very deep, and that
we are sensible to the same joys and sufferings, are actuated by the
same fears and hopes and passions, that were felt by the men and women
who lived in the dawn of our Gothic history. We will begin to realize
how the great and wise Creator has led our race on—slowly, perhaps, but
nevertheless surely—to the consciousness that he is a loving and
righteous Father, and that he has made the sun and moon and stars, the
earth, and all that in them is, in their season.

The Norse mythology reflects, then, the religious, moral, intellectual
and social development of our ancestors in the earliest period of their
existence. We say _our_ ancestors, for we must bear in mind that in its
most original form this mythology was common to all the Teutonic
nations, to the ancestors of the Americans and the English, as well as
to those of the Norsemen, Swedes and Danes. Geographically it extended
not only over the whole of Scandinavia, including Iceland, but also over
England and a considerable portion of France and Germany. But it is only
in Iceland, that weird island of the icy sea, with the snow-clad volcano
Mt. Hecla for its hearth, encircled by a wall of glaciers, and with the
roaring North Sea for its grave,—it is only in Iceland that anything
like a complete record of this ancient Teutonic mythology was put in
writing and preserved; and this fact alone ought to be quite sufficient
to lead us to cultivate a better acquaintance with the literature of
Scandinavia. To use the words of that excellent Icelandic scholar, the
Englishman George Webbe Dasent: It is well known, says he, that the
Icelandic language, which has been preserved almost incorrupt in that
remarkable island, has remained for many centuries the depository of
literary treasures, the common property of all the Scandinavian and
Teutonic races, which would otherwise have perished, as they have
perished in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and England. There was a
time when all these countries had a common mythology, when the royal
race each of them traced its descent in varying genealogies up to Odin
and the gods of Asgard. Of that mythology, _which may hold its own
against any other that the world has seen_, all memory, as a systematic
whole, has vanished from the mediæval literature of Teutonic Europe.
With the introduction of Christianity, the ancient gods had been deposed
and their places assigned to devils and witches. Here and there a
tradition, a popular tale or a superstition bore testimony to what had
been lost; and, though in this century the skill and wisdom of the
Grimms and their school have shown the world what power of restoration
and reconstruction abides in intelligent scholarship and laborious
research, _even the genius of the great master of that school of
criticism would have lost nine-tenths of its power had not faithful
Iceland preserved through the dark ages the two Eddas, which present to
us, in features that cannot be mistaken, and in words which cannot die,
the very form and fashion of that wondrous edifice of mythology which
our forefathers in the dawn of time imagined to themselves as the temple
at once of their gods and of the worship due to them from all mankind on
this middle earth_. For man, according to their system of belief, could
have no existence but for those gods and stalwart divinities, who, from
their abode in Asgard, were ever watchful to protect him and crush the
common foes of both, the earthly race of giants, or, in other words, the
chaotic natural powers. Any one, therefore, that desires to see what
manner of men his forefathers were in their relation to the gods, how
they conceived their theogony, how they imagined and constructed their
cosmogony, must betake himself to the Eddas, as illustrated by the
Sagas, and he will there find ample details on all these points; while
the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic literatures only throw out vague hints and
allusions. As we read Beowulf and the Traveler’s Song, for instance, we
meet at every step references to mythological stories and mythical
events, which would be utterly unintelligible were it not for the full
light thrown upon them by the Icelandic literature. Thus far Dasent’s

The Norse mythology, we say, then, shows what the religion of our
ancestors was; and their religion is the main fact that we care to know
about them. Knowing this well, we can easily account for the rest. Their
religion is the soul of their history. Their religion tells us what they
felt; their feelings produced their thoughts, and their thoughts were
the parents of their acts. When we study their religion, we discover the
unseen and spiritual fountain from which all their outward acts welled
forth, and by which the character of these was determined.

The mythology is neither the history nor the poetry nor the natural
philosophy of our ancestors; but it is the germ and nucleus of them all.
It _is_ history, for it treats of events; but it is _not_ history in the
ordinary acceptance of that word, for the persons figuring therein have
never existed. It _is_ natural philosophy, for it investigates the
origin of nature; but it is _not_ natural philosophy according to modern
ideas, for it personifies and deifies nature. It _is_ metaphysics, for
it studies the science and the laws of being; but it is _not_
metaphysics in our sense of the word, for it rapidly overleaps all
categories. It is poetry in its very essence; but its pictures are
streams that flow together. Thus the Norse mythology is history, but
limited to neither time nor place; poetry, but independent of arses or
theses; philosophy, but without abstractions or syllogisms.

We close this chapter with the following extract from Thomas Carlyle’s
essays on Heroes and Hero-worship; an extract that undoubtedly will be
read with interest and pleasure:

    In that strange island—Iceland—burst up, the geologists say, by
    fire, from the bottom of the sea; a wild land of barrenness and
    lava; swallowed, many months of the year, in black tempests, yet
    with a wild, gleaming beauty in summer-time; towering up there,
    stern and grim, in the North Ocean; with its snow-jökuls, roaring
    geysers, sulphur pools and horrid volcanic chasms, like the waste,
    chaotic battle-field of frost and fire—where of all places we least
    looked for literature or written memorials; the record of these
    things was written down. On the seaboard of this wild land is a rim
    of grassy country, where cattle can subsist, and men, by means of
    them and of what the sea yields; and it seems they were poetic men,
    these—men who had deep thoughts in them, and uttered musically their
    thoughts. Much would be lost had Iceland not been burst up from the
    sea—not been discovered by the Northmen! The old Norse poets were
    many of them natives of Iceland.

    Sæmund, one of the early Christian priests there, who perhaps had a
    lingering fondness for paganism, collected certain of their old
    pagan song, just about becoming obsolete then—poems or chants, of a
    mythic, prophetic, mostly all of a religious, character: this is
    what Norse critics call the _Elder_ or Poetic _Edda_. _Edda_, a word
    of uncertain etymology, is thought to signify _Ancestress_. Snorre
    Sturleson, an Iceland gentleman, an extremely notable personage,
    educated by this Sæmund’s grandson, took in hand next, near a
    century afterwards, to put together, among several other books he
    wrote, a kind of prose synopsis of the whole mythology, elucidated
    by new fragments of traditionary verse; a work constructed really
    with great ingenuity, native talent, what one might call unconscious
    art; altogether a perspicuous, clear work—pleasant reading still.
    This is the _Younger_ or Prose _Edda_. By these and the numerous
    other _Sagas_, mostly Icelandic, with the commentaries, Icelandic or
    not, which go on zealously in the North to this day, it is possible
    to gain some direct insight even yet, and see that old system of
    belief, as it were, face to face. Let as forget that it is erroneous
    religion: let us look at it as old thought, and try if we cannot
    sympathize with it somewhat.

    The primary characteristic of this old Northland mythology I find to
    be impersonation of the visible workings of nature—earnest, simple
    recognition of the workings of physical nature, as a thing wholly
    miraculous, stupendous and divine. What we now lecture of as
    science, they wondered at, and fell down in awe before, as religion.
    The dark, hostile powers of nature they figured to themselves as
    _Jötuns_ (giants), huge, shaggy beings, of a demoniac character.
    Frost, Fire, Sea, Tempest, these are _Jötuns_. The friendly powers,
    again, as Summer-heat, the Sun, are gods. The Empire of this
    Universe is divided between these two; they dwell apart in perennial
    internecine feud. The gods dwell above in _Asgard_, the Garden of
    the _Asas_, or Divinities; _Jötunheim_, a distant, dark, chaotic
    land, is the home of the Jötuns.

    Curious, all this; and not idle or inane if we will look at the
    foundation of it. The power of _Fire_ or _Flame_, for instance,
    which we designate by some trivial chemical name, thereby hiding
    from ourselves the essential character of wonder that dwells in it,
    as in all things, is, with these old Northmen, _Loge_, a most swift,
    subtle demon, of the brood of the Jötuns. The savages of the
    Ladrones Islands, too (say some Spanish voyagers), thought Fire,
    which they had never seen before, was a devil, or god, that bit you
    sharply when you touched it, and lived there upon dry wood. From us,
    too, no chemistry, if it had not stupidity to help it, would hide
    that flame is a wonder. What is flame? Frost the old Norse seer
    discerns to be a monstrous, hoary Jötun, the giant _Thrym_, _Hrym_,
    or _Rime_, the old word, now nearly obsolete here, but still used is
    Scotland to signify hoar-frost. _Rime_ was not then, as now, a dead
    chemical thing, but a living Jötun, or Devil; the monstrous Jötun
    _Rime_ drove home his horses at night, sat combing their
    manes;—which horses were _Hail-clouds_, or fleet _Frost-winds_. His
    cows—no, not his, but a kinsman’s, the giant Hymer’s cows—are
    _Icebergs_. This Hymer looks at the rocks with his devil-eye, and
    they _split_ in the glance of it.

    Thunder was then not mere electricity, vitreous or resinous; it was
    the god Donner (Thunder), or Thor,—god, also, of the beneficent
    Summer-heat. The thunder was his wrath; the gathering of the black
    clouds is the drawing down of Thor’s angry brows; the fire-bolt
    bursting out of heaven is the all-rending hammer flung from the hand
    of Thor. He urges his loud chariot over the mountain tops—that is
    the peal; wrathful he blows in his red beard—that is the rustling
    storm-blast before the thunder begins. Balder, again, the White God,
    the beautiful, the just and benignant, (whom the early Christian
    missionaries found to resemble Christ,) is the sun—beautifulest of
    visible things: wondrous, too, and divine still, after all our
    astronomies and almanacs! But perhaps the notablest god we hear tell
    of is one of whom Grimm, the German etymologist, finds trace: the
    god Wünsch, or Wish. The god _Wish_, who could give us all that we
    _wished_! Is not this the sincerest and yet the rudest voice of the
    spirit of man? The _rudest_ ideal that man ever formed, which still
    shows itself in the latest forms of our spiritual culture. Higher
    considerations have to teach us that the god _Wish_ is not the true

    Of the other gods or Jötuns, I will mention, only for etymology’s
    sake, that Sea-tempest is the Jötun _Ægir_, a very dangerous Jötun;
    and now to this day, on our river Trent, as I learn, the Nottingham
    bargemen, when the river is in a certain flooded state (a kind of
    back-water or eddying swirl it has, very dangerous to them), call it
    _Eager_. They cry out, Have a care! there is the _Eager_ coming!
    Curious, that word surviving, like the peak of a submerged world!
    The _oldest_ Nottingham barge-men had believed in the god Ægir.
    Indeed, our English blood, too, in good part, is Danish, Norse,—or
    rather, at the bottom, Danish and Norse and Saxon have no
    distinction except a superficial one—as of Heathen and Christian, or
    the like. But all over our island we are mingled largely with Danes
    proper—from the incessant invasions there were; and this, of course,
    in a greater proportion along the east coast; and greatest of all,
    as I find, in the north country. From the Humber upward, all over
    Scotland, the speech of the common people is still in singular
    degree Icelandic; its Germanism has still a peculiar Norse tinge.
    They, too, are Normans, Northmen—if that be any great beauty!

    Of the chief god, Odin, we shall speak by-and-by. Mark, at present,
    so much: what the essence of Scandinavian, and, indeed, of all
    paganism, is: a recognition of the forces of nature as godlike,
    stupendous, personal agencies—as gods and demons. Not inconceivable
    to us. It is the infant thought of man opening itself with awe and
    wonder on this ever stupendous universe. It is strange, after our
    beautiful Apollo statues and clear smiling mythuses, to come down
    upon the Norse gods brewing ale to hold their feast with Aegir, the
    Sea-Jötun; sending out Thor to get the caldron for them in the Jötun
    country; Thor, after many adventures, clapping the pot on his head,
    like a huge hat, and walking off with it—quite lost in it, the ear
    of the pot reaching down to his heels! A kind of vacant hugeness,
    large, awkward gianthood, characterizes that Norse system; enormous
    force, as yet altogether untutored, stalking helpless, with large,
    uncertain strides. Consider only their primary mythus of the
    Creation. The gods having got the giant Ymer slain—a giant made by
    warm winds and much confused work out of the conflict of Frost and
    Fire—determined on constructing a world with him. His blood made the
    sea; his flesh was the Land; the Rocks, his bones; of his eyebrows
    they formed Asgard, their gods’ dwelling; his skull was the great
    blue vault of Immensity, and the brains of it became the Clouds.
    What a Hyper-Brobdignagian business! Untamed thought; great,
    giantlike, enormous; to be tamed, in due time, into the compact
    greatness, not giantlike, but godlike, and stronger than gianthood
    of the Shakespeares, the Goethes! Spiritually, as well as bodily,
    these men are our progenitors.

                              CHAPTER II.
                              OR TEUTONIC?

In its original form, the mythology, which is to be presented in this
volume, was common to all the Teutonic nations; and it spread itself
geographically over England, the most of France and Germany, as well as
over Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. But when the Teutonic nations
parted, took possession of their respective countries, and began to
differ one nation from the other, in language, customs and social and
political institutions, and were influenced by the peculiar features of
the countries which they respectively inhabited, then the germ of
mythology which each nation brought with it into its changed conditions
of life, would also be subject to changes and developments in harmony
and keeping with the various conditions of climate, language, customs,
social and political institutions, and other influences that nourished
it, while the fundamental myths remained common to all the Teutonic
nations. Hence we might in one sense speak of a Teutonic mythology. That
would then be the mythology of the Teutonic peoples, as it was known to
them while they all lived together, some four or five hundred years
before the birth of Christ, in the south-eastern part of Russia, without
any of the peculiar features that have been added later by any of the
several branches of that race. But from this time we have no Teutonic
literature. In another sense, we must recognize a distinct German
mythology, a distinct English mythology, and even make distinction
between the mythologies of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

That it is only of the Norse mythology we have anything like a complete
record, was alluded to in the first chapter; but we will now make a more
thorough examination of this fact.

The different branches of the Teutonic mythology died out and
disappeared as Christianity gradually became introduced, first in
France, about five hundred years after the birth of Christ; then in
England, one or two hundred years later; still later, in Germany, where
the Saxons, Christianized by Charlemagne about A.D. 800, were the last
heathen people.

But in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, the original Gothic
heathenism lived longer and more independently than elsewhere, and had
more favorable opportunities to grow and mature. The ancient
mythological or pagan religion flourished here until about the middle of
the eleventh century; or, to speak more accurately, Christianity was not
completely introduced in Iceland before the beginning of the eleventh
century; in Denmark and Norway, some twenty to thirty years later; while
in Sweden, paganism was not wholly eradicated before 1150.

Yet neither Norway, Sweden nor Denmark give us any mythological
literature. This is furnished us only by the Norsemen, who had settled
in Iceland. Shortly after the introduction of Christianity, which gave
the Norsemen the so-called Roman alphabetical system instead of their
famous Runic _futhorc_, there was put in writing in Iceland a colossal
mythological and historical literature, which is the full-blown flower
of Gothic paganism. In the other countries inhabited by Gothic
(Scandinavian, Low Dutch and English) and Germanic (High German) races,
scarcely any mythological literature was produced. The German
_Niebelungen-Lied_ and the Anglo-Saxon _Beowulf’s Drapa_ are at best
only semi-mythological. The overthrow of heathendom was too abrupt and
violent. Its eradication was so complete that the heathen religion was
almost wholly obliterated from the memory of the people. Occasionally
there are found authors who refer to it, but their allusions are very
vague and defective, besides giving unmistakable evidence of being
written with prejudice and contempt. Nor do we find among the early
Germans that spirit of veneration for the memories of the past, and
desire to perpetuate them in a vernacular literature; or if they did
exist, they were smothered by the Catholic priesthood. When the Catholic
priests gained the ascendancy, they adopted the Latin language and used
that exclusively for recording events, and they pronounced it a sin even
to mention by name the old pagan gods oftener than necessity compelled
them to do so.

Among the Norsemen, on the other hand, and to a considerable extent
among the English, too, the old religion flourished longer; the people
cherished their traditions; they loved to recite the songs and Sagas, in
which were recorded the religious faith and brave deeds of their
ancestors, and cultivated their native speech in spite of the priests.
In Iceland at least, the priests did not succeed in rooting out
paganism, if you please, before it had developed sufficiently to produce
those beautiful blossoms, the Elder and Younger Eddas. The chief reason
of this was, that the people continued to use their mother-tongue, in
writing as well as in speaking, so that Latin, the language of the
church, never got a foothold. It was useless for the monks to try to
tell Sagas in Latin, for they found but few readers in that tongue. An
important result of this was, that the Saga became the property of the
people, and not of the favored few. In the next place, our Norse
Icelandic ancestors took a profound delight in poetry and song. The
skald sung in the mother-speech, and taking the most of the material for
his songs and poems from the old mythological tales, it was necessary to
study and become familiar with these, in order that he might be able, on
the one hand, to understand the productions of others, and, on the
other, to compose songs himself. Among the numerous examples which
illustrate how tenaciously the Norsemen clung to their ancient
divinities, we may mention the skald Hallfred, who, when he was baptized
by the king Olaf Tryggvesson, declared bravely to the king, that he
would neither speak ill of the old gods, nor refrain from mentioning
them in his songs.

The reason, then, why we cannot present a complete and thoroughly
systematic Teutonic or German or English or Danish or Swedish Mythology,
is not that these did not at some time exist, but because their records
are so defective. Outside of Norway and Iceland, Christianity, together
with disregard of past memories, has swept most of the resources, with
which to construct them, away from the surface, and there remain only
deeply buried ruins, which it is difficult to dig up and still more
difficult to polish and adjust into their original symmetrical and
comprehensive form after they have been brought to the surface. It is
difficult to gather all the scattered and partially decayed bones of the
mythological system, and with the breath of human intellect reproduce a
living vocal organism. Few have attempted to do this with greater
success than the brothers Grimm.

For the elucidation of our mythology in its Germanic form, for instance,
the materials, although they are not wholly wanting, are yet difficult
to make use of, since they are widely scattered, and must be sought
partly in quite corrupted popular legends, partly in writings of the
middle ages, where they are sometimes found interpolated, and where we
often least should expect to find them. But in its Norse form we have
ample material for studying the Asa-mythology. Here we have as our guide
not only a large number of skaldic lays, composed while the mythology
still flourished, but even a complete religious system, written down, it
is true, after Christianity had been introduced in Iceland, still,
according to all evidence, without the Christian ideas having had any
special influence upon its delineation, or having materially corrupted
it. These lays, manuscripts, etc., which form the source of Norse
mythology, will be more fully discussed in another chapter of this

We may add further, that if we had, in a complete system, the mythology
of the Germans, the English, etc., we should find, in comparing them
with the Norse, the same correspondence and identity as see find
existing between the different branches of the Teutonic family of
languages. We should find in its essence the same mythology in all the
Teutonic countries, we should find this again dividing itself into two
groups, the Germanic and the Gothic, and the latter group, that is, the
Gothic, would include the ancient religion of the Scandinavians,
English, and Low Dutch. If we had sufficient means for making a
comparison, we should find that any single myth may have become more
prominent, may have become more perfectly developed by one branch of the
race than by another; one branch of the great Teutonic family may have
become more attached to a certain myth than another, while the myth
itself would remain identical everywhere. Local myths, that is, myths
produced by the contemplation of the visible workings of external
nature, are colored by the atmosphere of the people and country where
they are fostered. The god Frey received especial attention by the
Asa-worshipers in Sweden, but the Norse and Danish Frey are still in
reality the same god. Thunder produces not the same effect upon the
people among the towering and precipitous mountains of Norway and the
level plains of Denmark, but the Thor of Norway and of Denmark are still
the same god; although in Norway he is tall a mountain, his beard is
briers, and he rushes upon his heroic deeds with the strength and frenzy
of a berserk, while in Denmark he wanders along the sea-shore, a youth,
with golden looks and downy beard.

It is the Asa-mythology, as it was conceived and cherished by the
Norsemen of Norway and Iceland, which the Old Norse literature properly
presents to us, and hence the myths will in this volume be presented in
their Norse dress, and hence its name, _Norse Mythology_. From what has
already been said, there is no reason to doubt that the Swedes and Danes
professed in the main the same faith, followed the same religious
customs, and had the same religious institutions; and upon this
supposition other English writers upon this subject, as for instance
Benjamin Thorpe, have entitled their books _Scandinavian Mythology_. But
we do not know the details of the religious faith, customs and
institutions of Sweden and Denmark, for all reliable inland sources of
information are wanting, and all the highest authorities on this subject
of investigation, such as Rudolph Keyser, P. A. Munch, Ernst Sars, N. M.
Petersen and others, unanimously declare, that although the ancient
Norse-Icelandic writings not unfrequently treat of heathen religious
affairs in Sweden and Denmark, yet, when they do, it is always in such a
manner that the conception is clearly _Norse_, and the delineation is
throughout adapted to institutions as they existed in Norway. We are
aware that there are those who will feel inclined to criticise us for
not calling this mythology Scandinavian or Northern (a more elastic
term), but we would earnestly recommend them to examine carefully the
writings of the above named writers before waxing too zealous on the

As we closed the previous chapter, with an extract from Thomas Carlyle,
so we will close this chapter with a brief quotation frown an equally
eminent scholar, the author of _Chips from a German Workshop_. In the
second volume of that work Max Müller says:[1]

    There is, after Anglo-Saxon, no language, no literature, no
    mythology so full of interest for the elucidation of the earliest
    history of the race which now inhabits these British isles as the
    Icelandic. Nay, in one respect Icelandic beats every other dialect
    of the great Teutonic family of speech, not excepting Anglo-Saxon
    and Old High German and Gothic. It is in Icelandic alone that we
    find complete remains of genuine Teutonic heathendom. Gothic as _a
    language_, is more ancient than Icelandic; but the only literary
    work which we we possess in Gothic is a translation of the Bible.
    The Anglo-Saxon literature, with the exception of the Beowulf, is
    Christian. The old heroes of the Niebelunge, such as we find them
    represented in the Suabian epic, have been converted into
    church-going knights; whereas, in the ballads of the Elder Edda,
    Sigurd and Brynhild appear before us in their full pagan grandeur,
    holding nothing sacred but their love, and defying all laws, human
    and divine, in the name of that one almighty passion. The Icelandic
    contains the key to many a riddle in the English language and to
    many a mystery in the English character. Though the Old Norse is but
    a dialect of the same language which the Angles and Saxons brought
    to Britain, though the Norman blood is the same blood that floods
    and ebbs in every German heart, yet there is an accent of defiance
    in that rugged northern speech, and a spring of daring madness in
    that throbbing northern heart, which marks the Northman wherever he
    appears, whether in Iceland or in Sicily, whether on the Seine or on
    the Thames. At the beginning of the ninth century, when the great
    northern exodus began, Europe, as Dr. Dasent remarks, was in danger
    of becoming too comfortable. The two nations destined to run
    neck-and-neck in the great race of civilization, Frank and
    Anglo-Saxon, had a tendency to become dull and lazy, and neither
    could arrive at perfection till it had been chastised by the
    Norsemen, and finally forced to admit an infusion of northern blood
    into its sluggish veins. The vigor of the various branches of the
    Teutonic stock may be measured by the proportion of Norman blood
    which they received; and the national character of England owes more
    to the descendants of Hrolf Ganger[2] than to the followers of
    Hengist and Horsa.

    But what is known of the early history of the Norsemen? Theirs was
    the life of reckless freebooters, and they had no time to dream and
    ponder on the past, which they had left behind in Norway. Where they
    settled as colonists or as rulers, their own traditions, their very
    language, were soon forgotten. Their language has nowhere struck
    root on foreign ground, even where, as in Normandy, they became
    earls of Rouen, or, as in these isles, kings of England. There is
    but one exception—Iceland. Iceland was discovered, peopled and
    civilized by Norsemen in the ninth century; and in the nineteenth
    century the language spoken there is still the dialect of Harald
    Fairhair, and the stories told there are still the stories of the
    Edda, or the Venerable Grandmother. Dr. Dasent gives us a rapid
    sketch of the first landings of the Norse refugees on the fells and
    forths of Iceland. He describes how love of freedom drove the
    subjects of Harald Fairhair forth from their home; how the Teutonic
    tribes, though they loved their kings, the sons of Odin, and
    sovereigns by the grace of God, detested the dictatorship of Harald.
    He was a mighty warrior, so says the ancient Saga, and laid Norway
    under him, and put out of the way some of those who held districts,
    and some of them he drove out of the land; and besides, many men
    escaped out of Norway because of the overbearing of Harald Fairhair,
    for they would not stay to be subjects to him. These early emigrants
    were pagans, and it was not till the end of the tenth century that
    Christianity reached the Ultima Thule of Europe. The missionaries,
    however, who converted the freemen of Iceland, were freemen
    themselves. They did not come with the pomp and the pretensions of
    the church of Rome. They preached Christ rather than the Pope; they
    taught religion rather than theology. Nor were they afraid of the
    old heathen gods, or angry with every custom that was not of
    Christian growth. Sometimes this tolerance may have been carried too
    far, for we read of kings, like Helge, who mixed in their faith, who
    trusted in Christ, but at the same time invoked Thor’s aid whenever
    they went to sea or got into any difficulty. But on the whole, the
    kindly feeling of the Icelandic priesthood toward the national
    traditions and customs and prejudices of their converts must have
    been beneficial. Sons and daughters were not forced to call the gods
    whom their fathers and mothers had worshiped, devils; and they were
    allowed to use the name of Allfadir, whom they had invoked in the
    prayers of their childhood, when praying to Him who is our Father in

    The Icelandic missionaries had peculiar advantages in their relation
    to the system of paganism which they came to combat. Nowhere else,
    perhaps, in the whole history of Christianity, has the missionary
    been brought face to face with a race of gods who were believed by
    their own worshipers to be doomed to death. The missionaries had
    only to proclaim that Balder was dead, that the mighty Odin and Thor
    were dead. The people knew that these gods were to die, and the
    message of the One Everliving God must have touched their ears and
    their hearts with comfort and joy. Thus, while in Germany the
    priests were occupied for a long time in destroying every trace of
    heathenism, in condemning every ancient lay as the work of the
    devil, in felling sacred trees and abolishing national customs, the
    missionaries of Iceland were able to take a more charitable view of
    the past, and they became the keepers of those very poems and laws
    and proverbs and Runic inscriptions which on the continent had to be
    put down with inquisitorial cruelty. The men to whom the collection
    of the ancient pagan poetry of Iceland is commonly ascribed were men
    of Christian learning: the one,[3] the founder of a public school;
    the other,[4] famous as the author of a history of the North, the
    Heimskringla (the Home-Circle—the World). It is owing to their
    labors that we know anything of the ancient religion, the
    traditions, the maxims, the habits of the Norsemen. Dr. Dasent
    dwells most fully on the religious system of Iceland, which is the
    same, at least in its general outline, as that believed in by all
    the members of the Teutonic family, and may truly be called one of
    the various dialects of the primitive religious and mythological
    language of the Aryan race. There is nothing more interesting than
    religion in the whole history of man. By its side, poetry and art,
    science and law, sink into comparative insignificance.

Footnote 1:

  Max Müller’s Review of Dr. Dasent’s _The Norseman in Iceland_.

Footnote 2:

  The founder of Normandy in France.

Footnote 3:

  Sæmund the Wise.

Footnote 4:

  Snorre Sturleson.

                              CHAPTER III.

Dr. Dasent says the Norse mythology may hold its own against any other
in the world. The fact that it is the religion of our forefathers ought
to be enough to commend it to our attention; but it may be pardonable in
us to harbor even a sense of pride, if we find, for instance, that the
mythology of our Gothic ancestors suffers nothing, but rather is the
gainer in many respects by a comparison with that world-famed paganism
of the ancient Greeks. We would therefore invite the attention of the
reader to a brief comparison between the Norse and Greek systems of

A comparison between the two systems is both interesting and important.
They are the two grandest systems of cosmogony and theogony of which we
have record, but the reader will generously pardon the writer if he
ventures the statement already at the outset, that of the two the Norse
system is the grander. These two, the Greek and the Norse, have, to a
greater extent than all other systems of mythology combined, influenced
the civilization, determined the destinies, socially and politically, of
the European nations, and shaped their polite literature. In literature
it might indeed seem that the Greek mythology has played a more
important part. We admit that it has acted a more _conspicuous_ part,
but we imagine that there exists a wonderful blindness, among many
writers, to the transcendent influence of the blood and spirit of
ancient Norseland on North European, including English and American,
character, which character has in turn stamped itself upon our
literature (as, for instance, in the case of Shakespeare, the Thor among
all Teutonic writers); and, furthermore, we rejoice in the absolute
certainty to which we have arrived by studying the signs of the times,
that the comparative ignorance, which has prevailed in this country and
in England, of the history, literature, ancient religion and
institutions of a people so closely allied to us by race, national
characteristics, and tone of mind as the Norsemen, will sooner or later
be removed; that a school of Norse philology and antiquities will ere
long flourish on the soil of the Vinland of our ancestors, and that
there is a grand future, not far hence, when Norse mythology will be
copiously reflected in our elegant literature, and in our fine arts,
painting, sculpturing and music.

The Norse mythology differs widely from the Greek. They are the same in
essence; that is to say, both are a recognition of the forces and
phenomena of nature as gods and demons; but all mythologies are the same
in this respect, and the differences, between the various mythological
systems, consist in the different ways in which nature has impressed
different peoples, and in the different manner in which they have
comprehended the universe, and personified or deified the various forces
and phenomena of nature. In other words, it is in the ethical clothing
and elaboration of the myths, that the different systems of mythology
differ one from the other. In the Vedic and Homeric poets the germs of
mythology are the same as in the Eddas of Norseland, but this common
stock of materials, that is, the forces and phenomena of nature, has
been moulded into an infinite variety of shapes by the story-tellers of
the Hindoos, Greeks and Norsemen.

Memory among the Greeks is _Mnemosyne_, the mother of the muses, while
among the Norsemen it is represented by Munin, one of the ravens perched
upon Odin’s shoulders. The masculine Heimdal, god of the rainbow among
the Norsemen, we find in Greece as the feminine Iris, who charged the
clouds with water from the lakes and rivers, in order that it might fall
again upon the earth in gentle fertilizing showers. She was daughter of
Thaumas and Elektra, granddaughter of Okeanos, and the swift-footed
gold-winged messenger of the gods. The Norse Balder is the Greek Adonis.
Frigg, the mother of Balder, mourns the death of her son, while
Aphrodite sorrows for her special favorite, the young rosy shepherd,
Adonis. Her grief at his death, which was caused by a wild boar, was so
great that she would not allow the lifeless body to be taken from her
arms until the gods consoled her by decreeing that her lover might
continue to live half the year, during the spring and summer, on the
earth, while she might spend the other half with him in the lower world.
Thus Balder and Adonis are both summer gods, and Frigg and Aphrodite are
goddesses of gardens and flowers. The Norse god of Thunder, Thor
(Thursday), who, among the Norsemen, is only the protector of heaven and
earth, is the Greek Zeus, the father of gods and men. The gods of the
Greeks are essentially free from decay and death. They live forever on
Olympos, eating ambrosial food and drinking the nectar of immortality,
while in their veins flows not immortal blood, but the imperishable
ichor. In the Norse mythology, on the other hand, Odin himself dies, and
is swallowed by the Fenriswolf; Thor conquers the Midgard-serpent, but
retreats only nine paces and falls poisoned by the serpent’s breath; and
the body of the good and beautiful Balder is consumed in the flames of
his funeral pile. The Greek dwelt in bright and sunny lands, where the
change from summer to winter brought with it no feelings of overpowering
gloom. The outward nature exercised a cheering influence upon him,
making him happy, and this happiness he exhibited in his mythology. The
Greek cared less to commune with the silent mountains, moaning winds,
and heaving sea; he spent his life to a great extent in the cities,
where his mind would become more interested in human affairs, and where
he could share his joys and sorrows with his kinsmen. While the Greek
thus was brought up to the artificial society of the town, the hardy
Norseman was inured to the rugged independence of the country. While the
life and the nature surrounding it, in the South, would naturally have a
tendency to make the Greek more human, or rather to deify that which is
human, the popular life and nature in the North would have a tendency to
form in the minds of the Norsemen a sublimer and profounder conception
of the universe. The Greek clings with tenacity to the beautiful earth;
the earth is his mother. Zeus, surrounded by his gods and goddesses,
sits on his golden throne, on Olympos, on the top of the mountain, in
the cloud. But that is not lofty enough for the spirit of the Norsemen.
Odin’s Valhal is in heaven; nay, Odin himself is not the highest god;
Muspelheim is situated above Asaheim, and in Muspelheim is Gimle, where
reigns a god, who is mightier than Odin, the god whom Hyndla ventures
not to name.

In _Heroes and Hero Worship_, Thomas Carlyle makes the following
striking comparison between Norse and Greek mythology: To me, he says,
there is in the Norse system something very genuine, very great and
manlike. A broad simplicity, rusticity, so very different from the light
gracefulness of the old Greek paganism, distinguishes this Norse system.
It is _thought_, the genuine thought of deep, rude, earnest minds,
fairly opened to the things about them, a face-to-face and
heart-to-heart inspection of things—the first characteristic of all good
thought in all times. Not graceful lightness, half sport, as in the
Greek paganism; a certain homely truthfulness and rustic strength, a
great rude sincerity, discloses itself here. Thus Carlyle.

As the visible workings of nature are in the great and main features the
same everywhere; in all climes we find the vaulted sky with its sun,
moon, myriad stars and flitting clouds; the sea with its surging
billows; the land with its manifold species of plants and animals, its
elevations and depressions; we find cold, heat, rain, winds, etc.,
although all these may vary widely in color, brilliancy, depth, height,
degree, and other qualities; and as the minds and hearts of men cherish
hope, fear, anxiety, passion, etc., although they may be influenced and
actuated by them in various ways and to various extents; and as
mythology is the impersonation of nature’s forces and phenomena as
contemplated by the human mind and _heart_, so all mythologies, no
matter in what clime they originated and were fostered, must of
necessity have their stock of materials, their ground-work or foundation
and frame in common, while they may differ widely from each other in
respect to peculiar characteristics, both in the ethical elaboration of
the myth and in the architectural effect of the _tout ensemble_. Thus we
have a tradition about a deluge, for instance, in nearly every country
on the globe, but no two nations tell it alike. In Genesis we read of
Noah and his ark, and how the waters increased greatly upon the earth,
destroying all flesh that moved upon the earth excepting those who were
with him in the ark. In Greece, Deukalion and his wife Pyrrha become the
founders of a new race of men. According to the Greek story, a great
flood had swept away the whole human race, except one pair, Deukalion
and Pyrrha, who, as the flood abated, landed on Mt. Parnassos, and
thence descending, picked up stones and cast them round about, as Zeus
had commanded. From these stones sprung a new race—men from those cast
by Deukalion, and women from those cast by his wife. In Norseland, Odin
and his two brothers, Vile and Ve, slew the giant Ymer, and when he
fell, so much blood flowed from his wounds, that the whole race of
frost-giants was drowned, except a single giant, who saved himself with
his household in a skiff (ark), and from him descended a new race of
frost-giants. Now this is not a tradition carried from one place to the
other; it is a natural expression of the same thought; it is a similar
effort to account for the origin of the land and the race of man. A
people develops its mythology in the same manner as it develops its
language. The Norse mythology is related to the Greek mythology to the
same extent that the Norse language is related to the Greek language,
and no more; and comparative mythology, when the scholar wields the pen,
is as interesting as comparative philology.

The Greeks have their chaos, the all-embracing space, the Norsemen have
Ginungagap, the yawning abyss between Niflheim (the nebulous world) and
Muspelheim (the world of fire). The Greeks have their titans,
corresponding in many respects to the Norse giants. The Greeks tell of
the Melian nymphs; the Norsemen of the elves, etc.; but these
comparisons are chiefly interesting for the purpose of studying the
differences between the Norse and Greek _mind_, which reflects itself in
the expression of the thought.

The hard stone weeps tears, both in Greece and in Norseland; but let us
notice how differently it is expressed. In Greece, Niobe, robbed of her
children, was transformed into a rugged rock, down which tears trickled
silently. She becomes a stone and still continues her weeping—

                    Et lacrymas etiamnum marmora manant,

as the poet somewhere has it. In Norseland all nature laments the sad
death of Balder, even the stones weep for him (gráta Baldr).

Let us take another idea, and notice how differently the words symbolize
the same truth or thought in the Bible, in Greece, and in Norseland. In
the Bible:

    And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how people cast
    money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And
    there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which
    make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples and said unto
    them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in,
    than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did
    cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that
    she had, even all her living.

In Greece:

    A rich Thessalian offered to the temple at Delphi one hundred oxen
    with golden horns. A poor citizen from Hermion took as much meal
    from his sack as he could hold between two fingers, and he threw it
    into the fire that burned on the altar. Pythia said, that the gift
    of the poor man was more pleasing to the gods than that of the rich

In Norseland the Elder Edda has it:

                         Knowest thou how to pray?
                         Knowest thou how to offer?
                         Better not pray at all
                         Than to offer too much,
                         Better is nothing sent
                         Than too much consumed.

In these few and simple words are couched the same thought as in the
Jewish and Greek accounts just given. It is this identity in thought,
with diversity of depth, breadth, beauty, simplicity, etc., in the
expression or symbol that characterizes the differences between all
mythological systems. Each has its own peculiarities stamped upon it,
and in these peculiarities the spirit of the people, their tendency to
thorough investigation or superficiality, their strength or weakness,
their profoundness or frivolity, are reflected as in a mirror.

The beauty of the Greek mythology consists not so much in the system,
considered as a whole, as in the separate single groups of myths. Each
group has its own center around which it revolves, each group moves in
its own sphere, and there develops its own charming perfection, without
regard to the effect upon the system of mythology considered as a whole.
Each group is exquisite, and furnishes an inexhaustible fountain of
legendary narrative, but the central thought that should bind all these
beautiful groups into one grand whole is weak. Nay, the complex
multiplicity into which it constantly kept developing, as long as the
Greek mind was in vigorous activity, was the cause that finally
shattered it. Is not this the same spirit, which we find so distinctly
developed in the Greek mythology, this want of a centralizing thought,
most wonderfully and perfectly reflected in the social and political
characteristics of the Greek states, and in all the more recent Romance
nations? Each Greek state developed a peculiar beauty and perfection of
its own; but between the different states (Sparta, Athens, etc.,) there
was no strong bond of union which could keep them together, and hence
all the feuds and civil wars and final dissolution. In the Norse
mythology, on the other hand, the centralizing idea or thought is its
peculiar feature; in it lies its strength and beauty. In the Norse
mythology, the one myth and the one divinity is inextricably in
communion with the other; and thus, also, the idea of unity,
centralization, is a prominent feature, and one of the chief
characteristics of the Teutonic nations. While the Greek mythology
foreshadowed all the petty states of Greece, as well as those of South
Europe and South America, the Norse mythology foreshadowed the political
and social destinies of _united_ Scandinavia, _united_ Great Britain,
_united_ Germany, and the _United_ States of North America. When the
Greeks unite, they _fall_. We Northerners live only to be _united_.

As we would be led to suppose, from a study of the physical and
climatical peculiarities of Greece and Norseland, we find that the Greek
mythology forms an epic poem, and that the Norse is a tragedy. Not only
the mythology, considered as a whole, but even the character of its
speech, and of its very words and phrases, must necessarily be suggested
and modified by the external features of the country. Thus in Greece,
where the sun’s rays never scorch, and where the northern winds never
pierce, we naturally find in the speech of the people, brilliancy rather
than gloom, life rather than decay, and constant renovation rather than
prolonged lethargy. But in the frozen-bound regions of the North, where
the long arms of the glaciers clutch the valleys in their cold embrace,
and the death-portending avalanches cut their way down the
mountain-sides, the tongue of the people would, with a peculiar
intensity of feeling, dwell upon the tragedy of nature.

The Danish poet Grundtvig expressed a similar idea more than sixty years
ago, when he said that the Asa-Faith unfolds in five acts the most
glorious drama of victory that ever has been composed, or ever could be
composed, by any mortal poet. And Hauch defines these five acts as

    Act I. The Creation.

    Act II. The time preceding the death of Balder.

    Act III. The death of Balder.

    Act IV. The time immediately succeeding the death of Balder.

    Act V. Ragnarok, the Twilight of the gods, that is, the decline and
    fall immediately followed by the regeneration of the world.

It is an inestimable peculiarity of the Norse mythology, that it, in
addition to beginning with a theogony (birth of the gods), also ends
with a theoktony (death of the gods). In the Greek mythology, the drama
lacks the fifth or final act, and we have only a prosaic account of how
the people at length grew tired of their gods, and left them when they
became old and feeble. But the Eddas have a theoktonic myth, in which
the heroic death of the gods is sung with the same poetic spirit as
their youthful exploits and victories. As the shades of night flee
before the morning dawn, thus Valhal’s gods had to sink into the earth,
when the idea, that an idol is of no consequence in this world, first
burst upon the minds of the idol-worshipers. This idea spontaneously
created the myth of Ragnarok. All the elements of its mythical form were
foreshadowed in the older group of Norse conceptions. The idea of
Ragnarok was suggested already in the Creation; for the gods are there
represented as proceeding from giants, that is, from an evil, chaotic
source, and, moreover, that which can be born must die. The Greeks did
not release the titans from their prisons in Tartaros and bring them up
to enter the last struggle with the gods. Signs of such a contest
flitted about like clouds in the deep-blue southern sky, but they did
not gather into a deluging thunder-storm. The ideas were too broken and
scattered to be united into one grand picture. The Greek was so much
allured by the pleasures of life, that he could find no time to fathom
its depths or rise above it. And hence, when the glories of this life
had vanished, there remained nothing but a vain shadow, a lower world,
where the pale ghosts of the dead knew no greater happiness than to
receive tidings from this busy world.

The Norseman willingly yields the prize to the Greek when the question
is of precision in details and external adornment of the figures; but
when we speak of deep significance and intrinsic power, the Norseman
points quietly at Ragnarok, the Twilight of the gods, and the Greek is

The Goth, as has before been indicated, concentrated life; the Greek
divided it into parcels. Thus the Greek mythology is frivolous, the
Norse is profound. The frivolous mind lives but to enjoy the passing
moment; the profound mind reflects, considers the past and the future.
The Greek abandoned himself wholly to the pleasures of this life,
regardless of the past or future. The Norseman accepted life as a good
gift, but he knew that he was merely its transient possessor. Over every
moment of life hangs a threatening sword, which may in the next moment
prove fatal. Life possesses no hour of the future. And this is the
peculiar characteristic of the heroic life in the North, that our
ancestors were powerfully impressed with the uncertainty of life. They
constantly witnessed the interchange of life and death, and this
nourished in them the thought that life is not worth keeping, for no one
knows how soon it may end. Life itself has no value, but the object
constantly to be held in view is to die an honorable death. While we are
permitted to live, let us strive to die with honor, it is said in
Bjarkemaal; and in the lay of Hamder of the Elder Edda we read:

                   Well have we fought;
                   On slaughtered Goths we stand,
                   On those fallen by the sword,
                   Like eagles on a branch.
                   Great glory we have gained;
                   Though now or to-morrow we shall die,—
                   No one lives till eve
                   Against the norns’ decree.

It is this same conception of the problem of life that in the Christian
religion has assumed a diviner form. Though his ideas were clothed in a
ruder form, the Norseman still reached the same depth of thought as when
the Christian says: I am ready to lay down my life, if I may but die
happy, die a child of God; for what is a man profited if he shall gain
the whole world, and lose his own soul?

The Norseman always concentrated his ideas as much as possible. For this
reason he knew but three sins—perjury, murder, and adultery; that is,
sin against God, sin against the state, and sin against fellow-man; and
all these are in fact but one sin—deceitfulness. In the same manner the
Norseman concentrated his ideas in regard to the punishment of sin. When
the Eddas tell us about the punishment of the wicked, they sum it all up
in Naastrand (the strand of corpses), that place far from the sun, that
large and terrible cave, the doors of which open to the north. This cave
is built of serpents wattled together, and the heads of all the serpents
turn into the cave, filling it with streams of poison, in which
perjurers, murderers and adulterers have to wade. The suffering is
terrible; gory hearts hang outside of their breasts; their faces are
dyed in blood; strong venom-dragons fiercely run through their hearts;
their hands are riveted together with ever-burning stones; their clothes
a wrapped in flames; remorseless ravens tear their eyes from their

                        But all the horrors
                        You cannot know,
                        That Hel’s condemned endure;
                        Sweet sins there
                        Bitterly are punished,
                        False pleasures
                        Reap true pain.

The point to be observed is, that all the punishment here described is
the same for all the wicked.

But with this, the versatile Greek is not content. He multiplies the
sins and the punishments. Tartaros is full of despair and tears, and the
wicked there suffer a variety of tortures. Enormous vultures continually
gnaw the liver of Tityos, but it always grows again. Ixion is lashed
with serpents to a wheel, which a strong wind drives continually round
and round. Tantalos suffers from an unceasing dread of being crushed by
a great rock that hangs over his head; he stands in a stream of water
that flows up to his throat, and he almost perishes from thirst;
whenever he bends his head to drink the water recedes; delicious fruits
hang over his head, whenever he stretches out his hand they evade his
grasp. Thus it is to be _tantalized_. The Danaïdes must fill a cistern
that has holes in the bottom; all the water they pour in runs out
equally fast. Sisyphos, sweating and all out of breath, rolls his huge
stone up the mountain side; when he reaches the summit, the stone rolls
down again.

The fundamental idea is always the same. It is always punishment for
sin; but it is expressed and illustrated in many different ways. The
variety enhances the beauty. The Greek mythology is rich, for
profuseness of illustration is wealth. The Norse mythology is poor,
because it is so strong; it consumes all its strength in the
profoundness of its thought. The Norse mythology excels in the
concentratedness and strength of the whole system; the Greek excels in
the beauty of the separate groups of myths. The one is a religion of
_strength_, the other of _beauty_.

The influence that the outward features of a country exercise upon the
thoughts and feelings of men, especially during the vigorous,
imaginative, poetic and prophetic childhood of a nation, can hardly be
overestimated. Necessarily, therefore, do we find this influence
affecting and modifying a nation’s mythology, which is a child-like
people’s thoughts and feelings, contemplating nature reflected in a
system of religion. Hence, it is eminently fitting, in comparing the
Norse mythology with the Greek, to take a look at the home of the
Norsemen. We, therefore, cordially invite the traveler from the
smooth-beaten tracks of southern Europe to the mountains, lakes, valleys
and fjords of Norseland. You may come in midsummer, when Balder (the
summer sunlight) rules supreme, when the radiant dawn and glowing sunset
kiss each other and go hand in hand on the mountain tops; but we would
also invite you to tarry until Balder is slain, when the wintry gloom,
with its long nights, sits brooding over the country, and Loke (Thok,
fire) weeps his arid tears (sparks) over the desolation he has wrought.

Norway is dark, cloudy, severe, grand, and majestic. Greece is light,
variegated, mild, and beautiful. No one can long more deeply for the
light of summer, with its mild and gentle breezes from the south, than
the Norseman. When he has pondered on his own thoughts during the long
winter, when the sun entirely or nearly disappeared from above the
horizon, and nothing but northern lights flickered and painted the
colors of the rainbow over his head, he welcomes the spring sun with
enthusiastic delight. It was this deep longing for Balder that drove
swarms of Norsemen on viking expeditions to France, Spain, and England;
through the pillars of Hercules to Italy, Greece, Constantinople and
Palestine, and over the surging main to Iceland, Greenland and Vinland.
It is this deep longing for Balder that every year brings thousands of
Norsemen to alight upon our shores and scatter themselves to their
numberless settlements in these United States. Still every Norse
emigrant, if he has aught in him worthy of his race, thinks he shall
once more see those weird, gigantic, snow-capped mountains, that
stretched their tall heads far above the clouds and seemed to look half
anxiously, half angrily after him as his bark was floating across the
deep sea.

There is something in the natural scenery of Norway—a peculiar blending
of the grand, the picturesque, the gigantic, bewildering and majestic.
There is something that leaves you in bewildering amazement, when you
have seen it, and makes you ask yourself, Was it real or was it only a
dream? Norway is in fact one huge imposing rock, and its valleys are but
great clefts in it. Through these clefts the rivers, fed by vast
glaciers upon the mountains, find their way to the sea. They come from
the distance, now musically and chattingly meandering their way beneath
the willows, now tumbling down the slopes, reeking and distorted by the
rocks that oppose them, until they reach some awful precipice and tumble
down some eight hundred to a thousand feet in a single leap into the
depths below, where no human being ever yet set his foot. We are not
overdrawing the picture. You cannot get to the foot of such falls as the
Voring Force or Rjukan Force, but you may look over the precipice from
above and see the waters pouring like fine and fleecy wool into the
seething caldron, where you can discern through the vapory mists shoots
of foam at the bottom, like rockets of water, radiating in every
direction. You hear a low rumbling sound around you, and the very rock
vibrates beneath your feet; and as you hang half giddy over the cliff,
clasping your arms around some young birch-tree that tremblingly leans
over the brink of the steep, and turn your eyes to the huge mountain
mass that breasts you,—its black, melancholy sides seemingly within a
stone’s throw, and its snow-white head far in the clouds above,—your
thoughts involuntarily turn to _him_, the God, whom the skald dare not
name, to _him_ at whose bidding Gausta Fjeld and Reeking Force sprang
from Ginungagap, from the body of the giant Ymer, from chaos. You look
longer upon this wonderful scene, and you begin to think of Ragnarok, of
the Twilight of the gods. Once seen, and the grand picture, which defies
the brush of the painter, will forever afterwards float before your mind
like a dream.

Make a journey by steamer on some of those noble and magnificent fjords
on the west coast of Norseland. The whole scenery looks like a moving
panorama of the finest description. The dark mountains rise almost
perpendicularly from the water’s edge to an enormous height; their
summits, crowned with ice and snow, stand out sharp and clear against
the bright blue sky; and the ravines on the mountain tops are filled
with huge glaciers, that clasp their frosty arms around the valley, and
send down, like streams of tears along the weather-beaten cheeks of the
mountains, numerous waterfalls and cascades, falling in an endless
variety of graceful shapes from various altitudes into the fjord below.
Sometimes a solitary peak lifts its lordly head a thousand feet clear
above the surrounding mountains, and towering like a monarch over all,
it defiantly refuses to hold communion with any living thing save the
eagle. Here and there a force appears, like a strip of silvery fleecy
cloud, suspended from the brow of the mountain, and dashing down more
than two thousand feet in one leap; and all this marvelously grand
scenery, from base to peak, stands reflected, as deep as it is lofty, in
the calm, clear, sea-green water of the fjord, perfect as in a mirror.

There is no storm; the deep water of the fjord is silent and at rest.
Not even the flight of a single bird ruffles its glassy surface. As the
steamer glides gently along between the rocky walls, you hear no sound
save the monotonous throbbing of the screw and the consequent splashing
of the water. All else is still as death. The forces hang in silence all
around, occasionally overarched by rainbows suspended in the rising
mist. The naked mountains have a sombre look, that would make you
melancholy were it not for the overpowering grandeur. Sunshine reaches
the water only when the sun’s rays fall nearly vertically, in
consequence of the immense height of the mountains’ sides, whose
enormous shadows almost perpetually overshade the narrow fjord. The
noonday sun paints a streak of delicate palish green on one side,
forming a striking contrast to the other dark overshadowed side of the
profound fjord. It is awe-inspiring. It is stupendous. It is solemnly
grand. You can but fancy yourself in a fairy land, with elves and
sprites and neckens and trolls dancing in sportive glee all around you.

Words can paint no adequate picture of the stupendousness, majesty and
grandeur of Norse scenery; but can the reader wonder any longer that
this country has given to the world such marvelous productions in
poetry, music and the fine arts? Nay, what is more to our purpose at
present, would you not look for a grand and marvelous mythological
system from the poetic and imaginative childhood of the nation that
inhabits this land? Knock, and it shall be opened unto you! and entering
the solemn halls and palaces of the gods, where all is cordiality and
purity, you will find there perfectly reflected the wild and tumultuous
conflict of the elements, strong rustic pictures, full of earnest and
deep thought, awe-inspiring and wonderful. You will find that simple and
martial religion which inspired the early Norsemen and developed them
like a tree full of vigor extending long branches over all Europe. You
will find that simple and martial religion which gave the Norsemen that
restless unconquerable spirit, apt to take fire at the very mention of
subjection and constraint; that religion which forged the instruments
that broke the fetters manufactured by the Roman emperors, destroyed
tyrants and slaves, and taught men that nature having made all free and
equal, no other reason but their mutual happiness could be assigned for
making them dependent. You will find that simple and martial religion
which was cherished by those vast multitudes which, as Milton says, the
populous North

                ——poured from her frozen loins to pass
                Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
                Came like a deluge on the South and spread
                Beneath Gibraltar and the Libyan sands.

But it may be necessary for the reader to refresh himself with a few
draughts of that excellent beverage kept in Minter’s gushing fountain,
and drink with _his_ glittering horn, before he will be willing to
accept these and many more such statements that we will make in thee
course of this introduction.

To return to our theme. The gods of Norseland are stern and
awe-inspiring; those of Greece are gentle and lovely. In the Norse
mythology we find deep devotion, but seldom tears. In the Greek, there
are violent emotions and the fears flow copiously. In Norseland, there
is plenty of imagination; but it is not of that light, variegated,
butterfly, soap-bubble nature as in Greece. In the Norse mythology there
is plenty of cordiality and sincerity, and the gods treat you hospitably
to flesh of the boar, Sæhrimner; and the valkyries will give you deep
draughts from bowls flowing with ale. In Greece there is gracefulness, a
perfect etiquette, and you dine on ambrosia and nectar; there Eros and
Psyche, the graces and muses, hover about you like heavenly cherubs.
Graces and muses are wanting in Norseland. The Norse mythology is
characterized throughout by a deep and genuine sincerity; the Greek, on
the other hand, by a sublime gracefulness; but, with Carlyle, we think
that sincerity is better than grace.

But the comparison between Norse and Greek mythology is too vast a field
for us to attempt to do justice to it in this volume. It would be an
interesting work to show how Norse and Greek mythologies respectively
have colored the religious, social, political and literary character of
Greek and Romance peoples on the one hand, and Norsemen and Teutons on
the other. Somebody will undoubtedly in due time be inspired to
undertake such a task. We must study both, and when they are
harmoniously blended in our nature, we must let them together shape our
political, social and literary destinies, and, tempered by the
Mosaic-Christian religion, they may be entitled to some consideration
even in our religious life.

                              CHAPTER IV.
                            ROMAN MYTHOLOGY.

In all that has been said up to this time Roman mythology has not once
been mentioned. Why not? Properly speaking, there is no such thing. It
is an historical fact, that nearly the whole Roman literature,
especially that part of it which may be called _belles-lettres_, is
scarcely anything but imitation. It did not, like the Greek and Old
Norse, spring from the popular mind, by which it was cherished through
centuries; but at least a large portion of it was produced for pay and
for ornament, mostly in the time of the tyrant Augustus, to tickle his
ear and gild those chains that were artfully forged to fetter the
peoples of southern Europe. This is a dry but stubborn truth, and it is
wonderful with what tenacity the schools in all civilized lands have
clung to the Roman or Latin language, after it had become nothing but a
corpse; as though it could be expected that any genuine culture could be
derived from this dead monster.

It is, however, an encouraging fact that the Teutonic races are
indicating a tendency to emancipate themselves from the fetters of Roman
bondage, and happy should we be if our English words were emancipated
therefrom. We should then use neither _emancipate_, nor _tendency_, nor
_indicate_, but would have enough of Gothic words to use in place of
them. Ay, the signs of the times are encouraging. Look at what is being
done at Oxford and Cambridge, in London and in Edinburgh. Behold what
has been done during these later years by Dasent, Samuel Laing, Thorpe,
Carlyle, Max Müller, Cleasby, Vigfusson, Magnússon, Morris, Hjaltalin,
and others. And look at the publications of the Clarendon press, which
is now publishing Icelandic Sagas in the original text. This is right.
Every scrap of Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon literature must be published,
for we must see what those old heroes, who crushed Rome and instituted a
new order of things, thought in every direction. We must find out what
their aspirations were. To the credit of the Scandinavians it must here
be said, that they began to appreciate their old Icelandic literature
much sooner than the rich Englishman realized the value of the
Anglo-Saxon, and that the English are indebted to Rasmus Rask, the
Danish scholar, for the most valuable contribution to Anglo-Saxon
studies; but it must also be admitted, in the first place, that the
Scandinavians have done far too little for Icelandic, and, in the next
place, that without a preparation in Icelandic, but little progress
could be made in the study of Anglo-Saxon. But England, with its usual
liberality in literary matters, is now rapidly making amends for the
past. And well she might. In the publication of the Icelandic and
Anglo-Saxon literature she is the greatest gainer, for it is nothing
less than a bridge, that will unite her present and past history. Maurer
and Möbius are watching with Argos eyes the interests of Teutonic
studies in Germany.

Greek should be studied, for that is no imitation. It is indigenous. It
is a crystal clear stream flowing unadulterated from the Castalian
fountain of Parnassos. Our warfare, therefore, is not against Greek, but
against Latin. We have suffered long enough with our necks under the
ponderous Roman yoke in all its venous forms; take it as fetters forged
by the Roman emperors, as crosiers in the hands of the Roman popes, or
as rods in the hands of the Roman school-masters. The Goths severed the
fetters of the Roman emperors, Luther and the Germans broke the crosiers
of the Roman popes, but all the Teutons have submissively kissed the rod
of the Roman school-master, although this was the most dangerous of the
three: it was the deadly weapon concealed in the hand of the assassin.

The Romans were a people of robbers both in political and in a literary
sense. Nay, the Roman writers themselves tell us that the divine founder
of the city, Romulus, was a captain of _robbers_; that _Mars_, the god
of _war_, was his father; and that a _wolf_ (_rapacity_), descending
from the mountains to drink, ran at the cry of the child and fed him
under a fig-tree, caressing and licking him as if he had been her own
son, the infant hanging on to her as if she had been his mother. This
Romulus began his great exploits by _killing his own brother_. When the
new city seemed to want women, to insure its duration, he proclaimed a
magnificent feast throughout all the neighboring villages, at which
feast were presented, among other things, the terrible shows of
_gladiators_. While the strangers were most intent upon the spectacle, a
number of Roman youths rushed in among the Sabines, _seized_ the
youngest and fairest of their wives and daughters, and carried them off
by _violence_. In vain the parents and husbands protested against this
_breach of hospitality_. This same Romulus ended his heroic career by
being _assassinated_ by his friends, or, as others say, _torn in pieces_
in the senate-house. Certain it is that the Romans _murdered_ him, and
then declared him the guardian spirit of the city; thus worshiping as a
god, by name Quirinus, him whom they could not bear as a king. Such
falsehoods as the one the senate invented, when they said that Romulus,
whom they had murdered, had been taken up into heaven, the Roman writers
tell us were constantly taught to the Romans by Numa Pompilius, and by
other Sabine and Etrurian priests; and such instruction laid the
foundation of their myths. The history of Romulus is, in fact, in
miniature, the history of Rome.

But in spite of this, and much else that can in justice be said against
Rome and Latin, we cannot afford to throw the language and literature of
the Romans entirely overboard. Their history was too remarkable for
that; besides, many scribbled in Latin down through the middle ages, and
the Latin language has played so conspicuous a part in English
literature, and in the sciences, that no educated man can very well do
without it. What we respectfully object to is making it the foundation
of all education, this _bringing the scholar up_, so to speak, on Latin
language, history and literature; this nourishing and moulding the
tender heart and mind on _Roman thought_,—thus making the man,
intellectually and morally, a slave bound in Roman chains, while we
free-born Goths, the descendants of Odin and Thor, ought to begin our
education and receive our first impressions from our own ancestors. The
tree should draw its nourishment from its own roots; and we Americans
are the youngest and most vigorous branch of that glorious Gothic tree,
the beautiful and noble Ygdrasil in the Norse cosmogony, whose three
grand roots strike down among the Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, and
Germans. In order fully to comprehend the man, we must study the life of
the child; and in order to comprehend ourselves as a people, we must
study our own ancient history and literature and make ourselves
thoroughly acquainted with the imaginative and prophetic childhood of
the Teutonic race. We must give far more attention than we do, first, to
English and Anglo-Saxon, and we must, as we have heard Dr. S. H.
Carpenter, of the University of Wisconsin most truthfully remark, begin
with the most modern English, and then follow it step by step, century
by century, back to the most ancient Anglo-Saxon. A _living_ language
can be learned ten times as fast as a dead one, and we would apply Dr.
Carpenter’s[5] principle still further. We would make one of the living
Romantic languages (French, Italian, or Spanish,) a key to the Latin;
and above all, we would make modern Greek a preparation for old classic
Greek. It cannot be controverted that children learn to read and write a
language much sooner and easier if they first learn to speak it, even
though the book-speech may differ considerably from the dialect which
the child learned from his mother; ample evidence of which fact may be
found in the different counties of England and Scotland and throughout
the European countries.

In the next place, that is, next after English and Anglo-Saxon, we must
study German, Mæso-Gothic and the Scandinavian languages, and especially
Icelandic, which is the only _living_ key to the history of the middle
ages, and to the Old Norse literature. It is the only language now in
use in an almost unchanged form, through a knowledge of which we can
read the literature of the middle ages. We must by no means forget that
we have Teutonic antiquities to which we stand in an entirely different
and far closer relation than we do to Greece or Rome. And the Norsemen
have an old literature, which the scholar must of necessity be familiar
with in order to comprehend the history of the middle ages.

When we have thus done justice to our own Teutonic race we may turn our
attention to the ancient peoples around the Mediterranean Sea, the most
important of which in literary and historical respects are the Hebrews,
Greeks and Romans. The antiquities of these peoples will always form
important departments in our colleges and universities, and it is our
duty to study them; but they should not, as they still to a great extent
do, constitute the all-absorbing subject of our attention, the _summa
summarum_, the foundation and superstructure of our education and

It has been argued by some that the Latin is more terse than English;
but did the reader ever reflect that it takes about _sixty syllables_ in
Latin to express all that we can say in English with _forty syllables_?
The large number of inflectional endings have also been lauded as a
point of superior excellence in the Latin; but as a language _grows_ and
makes _progress_, it gradually emancipates itself from the thraldom of
inflection and contents itself with the abstract, spiritual chain that
links the words together into sentences; and did the reader ever run
across this significant truth, expressed by George P. Marsh, who says
that in Latin you have to be able to analyse and parse a sentence before
you can comprehend it, while in English you must comprehend the sentence
before you can analyse or parse? _Forward_ has been and will forever be
the watchword of languages. They must either progress or die.

When the question is asked, whether Hebrew, Greek or Latin should be
preferred by the student, we answer that the choice is not a difficult
one to make, and our opinion has in fact already been given. Latin is
the language of a race of robbers; most of it is nothing but imitation,
and besides it is a mere corpse, while Greek is the only one of the
three that is still living, and modern Greek—for that is what we must
begin with—is the key to the old Greek literature with its rich,
beautiful and original store of mythology, poetry, history, oratory, and
philosophy. As Icelandic in the extreme north of Europe is the _living_
key to the middle ages and to the celebrated Old Norse Eddas and Sagas,
so modern Greek in the far south is the _living_ language, that
introduces us to the spirit of Homer, Herodotus, Demosthenes, and Plato;
and thus the norns or fates, who preside over the destinies of men and
nations, have in a most wonderful manner knit, or rather woven, us
together with the Greeks, and the more we investigate the development
and progress of nations and civilization, the more vividly the truth
will flash upon our minds, that the Greek and the Icelandic are two
silver-haired veterans, who hold in their hands two golden keys,—the one
to unlock the treasures of ancient times, the other those of the middle
ages; the one the treasures of the south and the other those of the
north of Europe. But we must free ourselves from the bondage of Rome!

When we get away from Rome, where slaves were employed as teachers, and
pay more attention to the antiquities of Greece, where it was the
highest honor that the greatest, noblest and most eloquent men could
attain to, to be listened to by youths eager to learn and to be taught,
then the present slavery both of the teacher and of the student will
cease, but scarcely before then.

The case of Shakespeare is an eminent example to us of what the Goth is
able to accomplish, when he breaks the Roman chains. His works are not
an imitation of Seneca or Æschylus, nor are they the fruit of a careful
study of the _Ars Poetica_ or _Gradus ad Parnassum_. No, he knew but
little Latin and less Greek, but what made him the undisputed Hercules
in English literature was the heroic spirit of Gothdom which flowed in
his veins, and which drove him away from the Latin school before his
emotional nature had been flogged and tortured out of him. Shakespeare,
and not Roman literature and scholasticism, is the lever that has raised
English literature and given it the first rank among all the Teutons. It
is not, we repeat, the deluge of Latin words that flood it, that has
given this preëminence to English, but it is the genuine Gothic strength
that everywhere has tried to break down the Roman walls. The slaves of
Latin will find it difficult enough to explain how Shakespeare, who was
not for an age, but for all time,—he whose Latin was small and whose
Greek was less,—how he, the star of poets, the sweet swan of Avon, was
_made_ as well as born. Ay, he was made. _He_ was also one of those who,
to cast a living line had to sweat, and strike the second heat upon the
Muses’ anvil. It is true that Shakespeare did not arrive at a full
appreciation of the Gothic spirit, for he did not have an opportunity to
acquaint himself thoroughly with the Gothic myths; but then they ever
haunted him like the ghost of Hamlet, accusing their murderer, without
finding any avenger. We therefore count Shakespeare on our side of this
great question.

May the time speedily come, nay, the time must come, when Greek and
Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse and Gothic and German will shake hands over
the bloody chasm of Roman vandalism!

We fancy we see more than one who reads this chapter, and does not
remember that he is a son of Thor, stretch out his hand for Mjolner,
that huge and mighty hammer of Thor, to swing it at us for what we have
said and have not said about Rome, Roman mythology, and the Latin
language and literature; but, alas! for him, and fortunately for us, the
Roman school-master took Thor’s hammer away from him and whipped the
strength wherewith to wield it out of him. We only repeat that we know
nothing of Roman mythology, but the Greek and Norse are twin sisters,
and with the assistance of the Mosaic-Christian religion they have a
grand mission in the Gothic-Greek development of the world.

Footnote 5:

  Author of _English of the Fourteenth Century_ and of _An Introduction
  to the Study of the Anglo-Saxon Language_.

                               CHAPTER V.

Considerable has been said on this subject in the preceding pages, and
the interpretation which will be adhered to in this volume has been
clearly indicated. We propose now to give a general synopsis of the more
prominent methods of interpreting Norse mythology.

In one thing all undoubtedly agree, namely, that all mythologies embody
religious faith. As we, to this day, each in his own way, seek to find
God by philosophical speculation (natural theology), by our emotions, by
good deeds, or by all these at one time; and as we, when we have found
him, rest upon his breast, although we do not fully agree as to our
conception of him, each one of us having his own God as each has his own
rainbow; thus our forefathers sought God everywhere—in the rocks, in the
babbling stream, in the heavy ear of grain, in the star-strewn sky of
night, and in the splendor of the sun. It was revelations of divinity
that they looked for. The fundamental element in their mythology was a
religious one, and this fact must never be lost sight of. To interpret a
myth, then, is not only to give its source, but also its aim and object,
together with the thoughts and feelings that it awakens in the human

Some writers (William and Mary Howitt and others) maintain that the
Norse mythology is a degradation of, or aberration from, the _true
religion_, which was revealed to man in the earliest period of the
history of the human race and is found pure and undefiled in the Bible;
that it presents sparkling waters from the original fountain of
tradition. They point with seriousness to it as something that bears us
on toward the primal period of one tongue and one religion. In reference
to the Elder Edda, they say that it descended through vast ages,
growing, like all traditions, continually darker, and accumulating lower
matter and more divergent and more pagan doctrines, as the walls of old
castles become covered with mosses and lichens, till it finally assumed
the form it which it was collected from the mouths of the people, and
put in a permanent written form. These interpreters claim that through
all mythologies there run certain great lines, which converge toward one
common center and point to an original source of a religious faith,
which has grown dimmer and more disfigured, the further it has gone. The
geographical center, they say, from which all these systems of heathen
belief have proceeded is the same—Central Asia; they point to the
eastern origin of the Norseman; they assert, with full confidence, that
the religious creed of the Norseman is the faith of Persia, India,
Greece, and every other country, transferred to the snow-capped
mountains of Norway and jokuls of Iceland, having only been modified
there, so as to give it an air of originality without destroying its
primeval features. They argue that Loke of the Norsemen, Pluto of the
Greeks, Ahriman of the Persians, Siva of the Hindoos, etc., are all
originally the devil of the Bible, who has changed his name and more or
less his personal form and characteristics. The biblical Trinity is
degenerated into the threefold trinity of Odin, Vile, and Ve; Odin,
Hœner, and Loder; and Odin, Thor, and Balder. They find in the Norse
cosmogony, in a somewhat mutilated and interpolated condition, the
Scripture theory of the creation, preservation, destruction and
regeneration of the world. Ygdrasil is the tree of life in the garden of
Eden; Ask and Embla, the first human pair, are Adam and Eve; the blood
of the slain giant Ymer, in which the whole race of frost-giants was
drowned, (excepting one pair, who were saved, and from whom a new giant
race descended,) is the flood of Noah, the deluge; the citadel called
Midgard is the tower of Babel; in the death of Balder, by Hoder, who was
instigated by Loke, they find the crucifixion of Christ by Judas,
instigated by the devil, etc.; displaying a vast amount of erudition,
profoundness and ingenuity, that might have been applied to some good
purpose. We refrain from giving more of the results of their learned and
erudite investigations, from fear of seducing ourselves or our readers
into the adoption of their absurdities.

Other scholars (Snorre Sturleson, Saxo Grammaticus, Suhm, Rask, and
others,) give us what is called an _historical_ interpretation,
asserting that Odin, Thor, Balder, and the other deities that figure in
the Norse mythology, are veritable ancestors of the Norsemen,—men and
women who have lived in the remote past; and as distance lends
enchantment to the view, so the ordinary kings and priests of
pre-historic times have been magnified into gods. Odin and the other
divinities are in Snorre Sturleson’s Heimskringla represented as having
come to Norseland from the great Svithiod, a country lying between the
Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. According to the historical
interpretation the mythical worlds are real countries that can be
pointed out on the map. This was the prevailing view taken during the
last two centuries, and even that sagacious scholar of the earlier part
of this century, Professor Rasmus Rask, adheres almost exclusively to
the historical interpretation.

It is curious to read these old authors and observe how sincerely they
have looked upon Odin as an extraordinary and enterprising person who
formerly ruled in the North and inaugurated great changes in the
government, customs and religion of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They
speak of the great authority which he enjoyed, and how he even had
divine honors paid to him. They ingeniously connect Odin with the Roman
Commonwealth, with Mithridates and Pompey (see p. 232). This historical
sketch of Odin will be given in connection with the Odinic myth; suffice
it here to say that the king of Pontus and all his barbarian allies were
obliged to yield to the genius of Pompey. And here it is said that Odin
was one of the number defeated by Pompey. He was obliged to withdraw
himself by flight from the vengeance of the Romans! Odin came to Norway
by way of Holstein and Jutland. On his way through Denmark he founded
the city Odinse, and placed his son Skjold upon the Danish throne. How
profound! What erudition! How much like the enthusiastic work of the
Swede Rudbeck, who makes out the Atlantis of Plato to be Sweden, and
shows that Japhet, son of Noah, came there and settled with his family!
What profound learning (_gelahrtheit_) these men must have possessed! We
are amazed and confounded at the vast amount of mental force that has
been brought into activity, at the untiring zeal and the marvelous
ingenuity, with which these theories have been set up; but we cannot
witness all this without a feeling of deep regret that so much erudition
and ingenuity, so much mental strength, was so fruitlessly thrown away.
They were generally profound _Latin_ scholars, and wrote the most of
their books in Latin; but those ponderous tomes make their authors fools
in folios in the light of modern historical knowledge. They studied by
that kind of lamp that illuminates a small spot on the table, but leaves
the whole room dark. A more careful and enlightened study of our early
literature has of course given the death-blow to so prosaic an
interpretation of the Norse mythology as the purely historical one is.

Then we are met by the so-called _ethical_ interpretation of mythology,
seeking its origin in man’s peculiar nature, especially in a moral point
of view. The advocates of this theory claim that mythology is a mere
fiction created to satisfy man’s spiritual, moral, and emotional nature.
The gods according to this interpretation represent man’s virtues and
vices, emotions, faculties of mind and muscle, etc., personified. Odin,
they say, is wisdom; Balder is goodness; Thor is strength; Heimdal is
grace, etc. Again: Thor is the impersonation of strength and courage;
the giants represent impotent sloth and arrogance; the conflicts between
Thor and the giants are a struggle going on in the human breast. And
again: the mischief-maker Loke instigated the blind Hoder to kill the
good Balder; Nanna, Balder’s wife, took her husband’s death so much to
heart, that she died of grief; Hoder is afterwards slain by Odin’s son
Vale; all nature weeps for Balder, but still he is not released from Hel
(hell). That is, physical strength with its blind earthly desires
(Hoder), guided by sin (Loke), unconsciously kills innocence, (Balder).
Love (Nanna) dies broken-hearted; reflection (Vale) is aroused and
subdues physical strength (Hoder); but innocence (Balder) has vanished
from the world to remain in Hel’s regions until the earth is
regenerated, after Ragnarok. The ethical interpretation makes the gods
the faculties of the spirit, and the giants the faculties of the body,
in man; and between the two, soul and body, there is a constant struggle
for supremacy. This interpretation is very good, because it is very
_poetic_, but it has more to do with the application of the myths than
with their primary source.

Finally, an interpretation, that has frequently been alluded to in the
preceding pages of this introduction, is the _physical_, or
interpretation from nature,—impersonation of the visible workings of
nature. The divinities are the forces and phenomena of nature
personified; and evidence of the correctness of this view can be
abundantly presented by defining etymologically names of the several
divinities, their attributes, dwellings and achievements, and by showing
how faithfully the works of the gods correspond with the events and
scenes of the outward world. There is no doubt that this is the true
interpretation of all mythologies; and that it is, so to speak, the key
to the Norse mythology, it is hoped will be sufficiently demonstrated in
the second part of this book in connection with the myths themselves;
but the ethical, or perhaps better the spiritual, interpretation must by
all means be added. The spiritual or ethical and the physical
interpretation must be combined. In other words, we can scarcely make
the interpretation too _anthropomorphic_. The phenomena and forces of
nature have been personified by our forefathers into deities, but the
myths have been elaborated to suit and correspond with the moral,
intellectual and emotional nature,—the inner life of man. The deities
have been conceived in a human form, with human attributes and
affections. The ancient Norsemen have made their mythology reflect human
nature, and have clothed the gods with their own faculties of mind and
body in respect to good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong. As
Rudolf Keyser beautifully expresses himself:

    The gods are the ordaining powers of nature clothed in personality.
    They direct the world, which they created; but beside them stand the
    mighty goddesses of fate and time, the great norns, who sustain the
    world-structure, the all-embraceing tree of the world (Ygdrasil).
    The life of the world is a struggle between the good and light gods
    on the one side, and the offspring of chaotic matter, the giants,
    nature’s disturbing forces, on the other. This struggle extends also
    into man’s being: the spirit proceeds from the gods, the body
    belongs to the world of the giants; they struggle with each other
    for the supremacy. If the spirit conquers by virtue and bravery, man
    goes to heaven after death, to fight in concert with the gods
    against the evil powers; but if the body conquers and links the
    spirit to itself by weakness and low desires, then man sinks after
    death to the world of the giants in the lower regions, and joins
    himself with the evil powers in the warfare against the gods.

Nature is the mother at whose breast we all are nourished. In ancient
times she was the object of childlike contemplation, nay, adoration.
Nature and men were in close communion with each other, much closer than
we are now. They had a more delicate perception of, and more sympathy
for, suffering nature; and it were well if some of the purity of this
thought could be breathed down to us, their prosaic descendants, who
have abandoned the offerings to give place to avarice (die Habsucht nahm
zu, als die Opfer aufhörten.—Grimm).

It was a beautiful custom, which is still preserved in some parts of
Norway, to fasten a bundle of grain to a long pole, which on Christmas
eve was erected somewhere in the yard, or on the top of the house or
barn, for the wild birds to feed upon early on Christmas-day
morning,—(our heathen ancestors also had the Christmas or Yule-tide
festival). In our degenerate times we think of chickens and geese and
turkeys, but who thinks of the innocent and a suffering little birds?
Nay, our ancestors lay nearer to nature’s breast. Have we had our hearts
hardened by the iron yoke of civilized government? We certainly need to
ask ourselves that question.

The contemplation of the heavens produced the myth about Odin, and the
thunder-storm suggested Thor, as in the Greek mythology Argos with his
hundred eyes represents the starry heavens, and the wandering Io, whom
Hera had set him to watch, is the wandering moon. But stopping here
would be too prosaic; it would be leaving out the better half; it would
be giving the empty shell and throwing away the kernel; it would be
giving the skull of the slain warrior without any ale in it; it would be
doing great injustice to our forefathers and robbing ourselves of more
than half of the intellectual pleasure that a proper study of their
myths afford. The old Frisians contemplated the world as a huge ship, by
name Mannigfual (a counterpart of our ash-tree Ygdrasil); the mountains
were its masts; the captain must go from one place to another of the
ship, giving his orders, on horseback; the sailors go aloft as young men
to make sail, and when they come down again their hair and beard are
white. Ay, we are all sailors on board this great ship, and we all have
enough to do, each in his own way, to climb its rope ladders and make
and reef its sails, and ere we are aware of it our hairs are gray; but
take the anthropomorphic element out of this myth, and what is there
left of it?

Our ancestors were not prosaic. They were poetic in the truest sense of
that word. Our life is divided between the child, the vigorous man, and
old age,—the imaginative and prophetic child, the emotional and active
man, and the reflecting elder. So a nation, which like the ancient Greek
and Norse, for instance, has had a natural growth and development, has
first its childhood of imagination and prophecy, producing poetry (Homer
and the Eddas); then its manhood of emotion and activity, producing
history (Herodotus and the Sagas); and then its old age of mature
reflection, producing philosophy (Socrates). Dividing the three periods
in Greek history more definitely, we will find that imagination and
poetry predominated during the whole time before Solon; emotion,
activity and history during the time between Solon and Alexander the
Great; and then reflection and philosophy, such as they were, from
Alexander to the collapse of the Greek states.

Even among the Romans, the most prosaic of all peoples, that nation of
subduers, enslavers and robbers, traces of this growth from poetic
childhood through historic manhood to philosophic old age can be found,
which proves moreover that this is a law of human development that
cannot be eradicated, although it may be perverted. That of the Romans
is a most distorted growth, showing that as the twig is bent the tree is
inclined. _Ut sementem feceris, ita metes_—as you sow, so will you
reap,—to quote the Romans’ own words against them. The Romans had their
poetic and prophetic age during the reign of the seven kings; their
emotional and historical age during the most prosperous and glorious
epoch of the republic; and finally, their age of reflection and
philosophy began with the time of the elder Cato. Rome took a distorted,
misanthropic course from the beginning, so that her profoundest and most
poetic myth is that of the _warlike_ Mars and the _rapacious wolf_, the
father and nurse of the _fratricide_ Romulus. This myth is prophetic,
and in it the whole history of Rome is reflected as in a mirror. The
Romans themselves claim that their Sibylline books (prophecy) belong to
the time of their kings. When, during the transition period from the
emotional to the philosophic age, Rome was to have dramatic writers, she
produced in comedy the clumsy Plautus, whom the Romans employed in
turning a hand-mill; and in tragedy the flat Ennius, whose works were
lost; so that her only really poetical tragedy is the fate of her
dramatic poets. Her other poetical works, of which the world has boasted
so much, came later, after the death of Cicero, their most famous
orator, during the life of the crowned Augustus; they came like an Iliad
after Homer, and the most of them was a poor imitation of Greek
literature, just as this book is a poor imitation of Scandinavian
literature. _Ex ipso fonte dulcius bibuntur aquæ_—go to the fountain
itself if you want to drink the pure and sparkling water. The Roman
literature is eminently worthy of the consideration of the historical
philosopher, but it ought not to be canonized and used to torture the
life out of students with.

The Hebrews have their imaginative, poetic and prophetic age from
Genesis to Moses; their emotional and historical age from Moses to
Solomon, and then begins their age of reflection and philosophy.

Taking a grand, colossal, general view of the history of the world, we
would say that the ancients belong chiefly to the poetic age, the middle
ages to the emotional and modern times to the reflecting age, of the
human race. Thus the life of the individual is, in miniature, the life
of a people or of the whole human family.

This was a digression, and we confess that it is not the first one we
have made; but in the world of thought, as in the world of music,
monotony is tedious; and the reader having perhaps refreshed his mind by
the interlude, we will proceed to discuss further the union of the
ethical with the physical interpretation of mythology. Physical
interpretation alone is the shell without the kernel. Nature gives us
only the source of the myth; but we want its value in the minds and
hearts of a people in their childhood. The touching gracefulness of
Nanna, and of Idun reclining on Brage’s breast, was not suggested by
nature alone, but the pictures of these reflect corresponding natures in
our ancestors. To explain a myth simply by the phenomenon in external
nature (be it remembered, however, that man also constitutes a part of
nature) that suggested it to the ancients, would be reducing mythology
to a natural science and it is sad to witness how the beautiful and
poetical Eddas, in the hands of some, have dwindled down into the dry
chemistry, chronology, electro-magnetism, mathematics, astronomy, or, if
you please, the almanacs, of our forefathers, instead of being presented
as the grand, prophetic drama which foreshadowed the heroic and
enterprising destiny of the Teutonic nations. The twelve dwellings of
the gods, they say, represent the twelve signs of the zodiac; Balder
they make the constellation of the lion; Odin’s twelve names, they say,
are the twelve months of the year; his fifty-two names, which he himself
enumerates in Grimnismaal, are the fifty-two weeks in the year; the
thirteen valkyries are the thirteen new moons in the year. How profound!
How perfectly everything adapts itself to the theory! This invaluable
discovery was made on the seventh of December, 1827. It ought to be a
legal holiday! The one ox, three measures of mead and eight salmon which
Thor, according to the Elder Edda, consumed, when he had come to
Jotunheim to fetch his hammer, they claim also represent the year’s
twelve months, for 1 + 3 + 8 = 12. Furthermore, the three gods, Haar,
Jafnhaar, and Thride, are the three fundamental elements, sulphur,
mercury, and salt; Odin, Vile, and Ve, are the three laws of the
universe, gravity, motion, and affinity. Thor is electricity; his belt
is an electric condenser, his gloves an electric conductor. Hrungner,
with whom he contends, is petrifaction; the Mokkerkalfe, whom Thjalfe
slew, is the magnetic needle. Gunlad is oxygen, Kvaser is sugar, etc.
But this will do. Are not these golden keys, with which to unlock the
secret chambers of the Eddas!

All the deities do not represent phenomena and forces of nature, and
this fact gives if possible still more importance to the anthropomorphic
interpretation. Some myths are mere creations of the imagination, to
give symmetry and poetical finish to the system, or we might say to the
drama—to complete the delineations of the characters that appear on the
stage of action. Hermod, for instance, is no phenomenon in physical
nature: he is the servant of Odin in the character of the latter as the
god of war. Odin is the god of the heavens, but it is not in this
capacity he sends out the valkyries to pick up the fallen heroes on the
field of battle.

In rejecting the _historical_ interpretation, we do by no means mean to
deny the influence of the mythology upon the social, religious,
political and literary life of the Norsemen. But this is not an
explanation of the mythology itself, but of its influence upon the minds
of the people. If we mean it in a prophetic sense, the Norse mythology
has also an historical interpretation. In it was mirrored the grand
future of the Norse spirit; by it the Norsemen were taught to make those
daring expeditions to every part of the civilized world, making
conquests and planting colonies; to cross the briny deep and open the
way to Iceland, Greenland and America; to take possession of Normandy in
France, subdue England and make inroads into Spain and Italy; to pass
between the pillars of Hercules, devastate the classic fields of Greece,
and carve their mysterious runes on the marble lion in Athens; to lay
the foundations of the Russian Empire, penetrate the walls of
Constantinople and swing their two-edged battle-axes in its streets; to
sail up the rivers Rhine, the Scheldt, the Seine, and the Loire,
conquering Cologne and Aachen and besieging Paris; to lead the van of
the chivalry of Europe in rescuing the holy sepulchre and rule over
Antioch and Tiberias under Harald; to sever the fetters forged by the
Roman emperors, break the crosiers in the hands of the Roman popes and
infuse a nobler and freer spirit into the nations of the earth; and by
their mythology they were taught to give to the world that germ of
liberty that struck root in the earliest literature of France, budded in
the Magna Charta of England, and developed its full-blown flowers in the
American Declaration of Independence.

The principal object of the second part of this volume is to give a
faithful, accurate and _complete_ presentation of the myths; but
interpretations and reflections will be freely indulged in. The basis of
the interpretation will be the physical and ethical combined, the two
taken as a unit. The reflections will consist in pointing out
occasionally the fulfilment of the prophecies historically, or rather
the application of the myths to historical philosophy. When only the
physical source of the myth is given, its anthropomorphic element must
be supplied in the mind of the reader. When Thor is given as the
impersonation of thunder, and Heimdal as the rainbow, clothed with
personality, then the reader must consider what sensations would be
awakened in his own breast by these phenomena if he had been taught to
regard them as persons. And when he has given them stature, gait,
clothing, bearing, expression of the eye and countenance, and personal
character corresponding with their lofty positions in the management of
the affairs of the world, then he can form some idea of these deities as
contemplated by the ancient Norsemen.

                              CHAPTER VI.

In a previous chapter it was claimed that the time must come when Norse
mythology will be copiously reflected in our elegant literature and is
our fine arts; and we insist that we who are Goths, and branches of the
noble ash Ygdrasil, ought to develop some fibre, leaves, buds and
flowers with nourishment drawn from the roots of our own tree of
existence, and not be constantly borrowing from our neighbors. If our
poets would but study Norse mythology, they would find in it ample
material for the most sublime poetry. The Norse mythology is itself a
finished poem, and has been most beautifully presented in the Elder
Edda, but it furnishes at the same time a variety of themes that can be
combined and elaborated into new poems with all the advantages of modern
art, modern civilization and enlightenment. With the spirit of
Christianity, a touch of beauty and grandeur can be unconsciously thrown
over the loftiness of stature, the growth of muscle, the bold masses of
intellectual masonry, the tempestuous strength of passions, those gods
and heroes of impetuous natures and gigantic proportions, those
overwhelming tragedies of primitive vigor, which are to be found in the
Eddas. If our American poet would but pay a visit to Urd’s fountain, to
Time’s morning in our Gothic history, and tarry there until the dawn
tinges the horizon with crimson and scarlet and the sun breaks through
the clouds and sends its inspiring rays into his soul,—then his poetry
and compositions would reflect those auroral rays with intensified
effulgence; it would shine upon and enlighten and gladden a whole
nation. We need poets who can tell us, in words that burn, about our
Gothic ancestors, in order that we may be better able to comprehend
ourselves. It has heretofore been explained how the history of nations
divides itself into three periods—the imaginative, the emotional, and
reflective; poetry, history, and philosophy; and how these have their
miniature counterparts in the life of any single person—childhood,
manhood, and old age; and now we are prepared to present this claim,
that the poetic, imaginative and prophetic period of our race should be
compressed into the soul of the child. The poetic period of _his own_
race should be melted and moulded into poetry, touched by a spark of
Christian refinement and love, and then poured, so to speak, into the
soul of the child. The child’s mind should feed upon the mythological
stories and the primitive folklore of his race. It should be nourished
with milk from its own mother’s breast. Does any one doubt this? Let him
ask the Scandinavian poets: ask what kindled the imaginative fancy of
Welhaven; ask what inspired the force and simplicity of phrase in
Oelenschlæger’s poetry; ask what produced the unadorned loveliness with
which Björnstjerne Björnson expresses himself, and the mountain torrent
that rushes onward with impetuous speed in Wergeland; ask what produced
the refinement of phrase of Tegner, and the wild melodious abandon of
Ibsen;—and they will tell him that in the deep defiles of that sea-girt
and rock-bound land called Norseland, where the snow-crowned mountains
tower like castle-walls, they found in a leafy summer bower a Saga-book
full of magic words and beautiful pictures, and, like Alexander of old,
they made this wonderful book their pillow. They may tell you that the
Scandinavian schools, like the American, are pretty thoroughly
Latinized, but that they stole out of the school-room, studied this
Saga-book, and from it they drew their inspiration.

The writer once asked the famous Norse violinist, Ole Bull, what had
inspired his musical talent and given his music that weird, original,
inexplicable expression and style. He said, that from childhood he had
taken a profound delight in the picturesque and harmonious combination
of grandeur, majesty, and gracefulness of the flower-clad valleys, the
silver-crested mountains, the singing brooks, babbling streams,
thundering rivers, sylvan shores and smiling lakes of his native land.
He had eagerly devoured all the folk-lore, all the stories about trolls,
elves and sprites that came within his reach; he had especially reveled
in all the mythological tales about Odin, Thor, Balder, Ymer, the
Midgard-serpent, Ragnarok, etc.; and these things, he said, have made my
music. Truthfully has our own poet Longfellow, who has himself taken
more than one draft from Mimer’s fountain, and communed more than once
with Brage—said of Ole Bull:

                 He lived in that ideal world
                 Whose language is not speech, but song;
                 Around him evermore the throng
                 Of elves and sprites their dances whirled;
                 The Strömkarl sang, the cataract hurled
                 Its headlong waters from the height,
                 And mingled in the wild delight
                 The scream of sea-birds in their flight,
                 The rumor of the forest trees,
                 The plunge of the implacable seas,
                 The tumult of the wind at night,
                 Voices of eld, like trumpets blowing
                 Old ballads and wild melodies
                 Through mist and darkness pouring forth
                 Like Elivagar’s rivers flowing
                 Out of the glaciers of the North.

These are the things that make poets, and musicians are poets. Then
continues the same author:

                   And when he played, the atmosphere
                   Was filled with music, and the ear
                   Caught echo of that harp of gold
                   Whose music had so weird a sound,
                   The heeled stag forgot to bound,
                   The leaping rivulet backward rolled,
                   The bird came down from bush and tree,
                   The dead came from beneath the sea,
                   The maiden to the harper’s knee.

Only these few lines make it clear that Longfellow has not only communed
with Brage, but has also refreshed himself at the Castalian fountain;
that he has not only penetrated the mysteries of the Greek mythology,
but has also visited the deities of the North.

If you do not believe that the Norse mythology furnishes suitable themes
for poetry, then do not echo the voice of the multitude and cry the idea
down because it seems new. Men frequently act like ants. When a red ant
appears among the black ones, they all attack it, for they have once for
all made up their minds that all ants must necessarily be black; they
have themselves been black all their lives, and all their ancestors were
black, so far as they know anything about them. Thus it has become a
fixed opinion with many, that mythology necessarily means Greek or
Roman. We said to one of our friends: We are writing a book on Norse
mythology. Says our learned friend: Are not those old stories about
Jupiter and Mars pretty well written up by this time? We said we thought
they were, too much so; but we are writing about Odin and Thor. Then our
learned friend shook his head in surprise and said that he never heard
of those gentlemen before. If our reader’s case is the same as that of
our learned friend, then let him examine the subject for himself. Let
him read the Norse mythology through carefully. Let him then tell us
what themes suggestive of sublime poetry he found in the upper, the
middle and the lower worlds of the Odinic mythology; how he was
impressed with the regions of the gods, of the giants, and of the
dwarfs; what he thought of the various exploits of the gods; how he was
impressed with the great and wise Odin, the good and shining Balder, the
mighty Thor, the subtle and malicious Loke, the queenly Frigg, the
genial Frey, the lovely Idun reclining on the eloquent Brage’s breast,
and the gentle Nanna. Let him read and see whether or not he will be
delighted with all the magnificent scenery of Gladsheim, Valhal,
Midgard, Niflheim, Muspelheim, and Ginungagap; with the norns Urd,
Verdande, and Skuld; with the glorious ash Ygdrasil; with the fountain
of Mimer (let him take a deep drink, while he is there);, with the
heavenly bridge Bifrost (the rainbow), upon which the gods daily descend
to the Urdar-fountain; and with the wild tempest-traversed regions of
Ran (the goddess of the sea, wife of Æger). The celebrated poet
Oelenschlæger found in all these things inexhaustible scope for poetic
embellishments, and he availed himself of it in his work, entitled _Gods
of the North_, with the zeal and power of a genuine poet. He revived the
memories of the past. He bade the gods come forward out of the mists of
the centuries, and he accomplished in less than fifty years what _Latin_
versions of the Eddas had not been able to accomplish in three
centuries. Two of Oelenschlæger’s poems are given translated in _Poets
and Poetry of Europe_, and Mr. Longfellow has given us permission to
present them here. We will now avail ourselves of his kindness and not
discuss this portion of the subject of this chapter any further, knowing
that the reader will find the poems _Thor’s Fishing_ and _The Dwarfs_
far more pleasing and convincing than any additional arguments we might
be able to produce. Here they are:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Bifrost i’ th’ east shone forth in brightest green;
        On its top, in snow-white sheen,
        Heimdal at his post was seen.

        On the charmed belt the dagger hath no power;
        The star of Jotunheim ’gan to lour;
        But now, in Asgard’s evil hour,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        His hammer lost, back wends the giant-bane,
        Wasted his strength, his prowess vain;
        And Mjolner must with Ran remain.

        THE DWARFS.

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

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

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

        Then he knew that the noise good boded him naught,
          He knew that ’t was Thor who was coming;
        He changed himself straight to a salmon-trout,
          And leaped in a fright in the Glommen.[6]

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

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

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

        But if now thou’lt pardon my heedless joke,—
          For malice sure meant I none,—
        I swear to thee here, by root, billow and rock,
          By the moss on the Bauta-stone,[7]

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

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

        Him answered Thor: Why, thou brazen knave,
          To my face to mock me dost dare?
        Thou know’st well that Mjolner is now ’neath the wave
          With Ran, and wilt still by it swear?

        O a better hammer for thee I’ll obtain;
          And he shook like an aspen-tree,
        For whose stroke shield, buckler and greave shall be vain,
          And the giants with terror shall flee!

        Not so! cried Thor, and his eyes flashed fire;
          Thy base treason calls loud for blood,
        And hither I’m come with my sworn brother Frey,
          To make thee of ravens the food.

        I’ll take hold of thy arms and thy coal-black hair,
          And Frey of thy heels behind,
        And thy lustful body to atoms we’ll tear,
          And scatter thy limbs to the wind.

        O spare me, Frey, thou great-souled king!
          And, weeping, he kissed his feet;
        O mercy, and thee I’ll a courser bring,
          No match in the wide world shall meet.

        Without whip or spur round the earth you shall ride;
          He’ll ne’er weary by day nor by night;
        He shall carry you safe o’er the raging tide,
          And his golden hair furnish you light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

        And all around the cavern might plainly be shown
          Where giants had once been at play;
        For the ground was with heaps of huge muscle-shells strewn,
          And strange fish were marked in the clay.

        Here an ichthyosaurus stood out from the wall,
          There monsters ne’er told of in story,
        Whilst hard by the Nix in the waterfall
          Sang wildly the days of their glory.

        Here bones of the mammoth and mastodon,
          And serpents with wings and with claws;
        The elephant’s tusks from the burning zone
          Are small to the teeth in their jaws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        ’T was the same with which Odin sanctified
          God Balder’s and Nanna’s faith;
        On his gentle bosom was Draupner laid,
          When their eyes were closed in death.

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

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

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

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

        Now a small elf came running with gold on his head,
          Which he gave a dwarf woman to spin,
        Who the metal like flax on her spinning wheel laid,
          Nor tarried her task to begin.

        So she span and span, and the gold thread ran
          Into hair, though Loke thought it a pity;
        She span and sang to the sledge-hammer’s clang
          This strange, wild spinning-wheel ditty;

        Henceforward her hair shall the tall Sif wear,
          Hanging loose down her white neck behind;
        By no envious braid shall it captive be made,
          But in native grace float in the wind.

        No swain shall it view in the clear heaven’s blue,
          But his heart in its toils shall be lost;
        No goddess, not e’en beauty’s faultless queen,
          Such long glossy ringlets shall boast.

        Though they now seem dead, let them touch but her head,
          Each hair shall the life-moisture fill;
        Nor shall malice nor spell henceforward prevail
          Sif’s tresses to work aught of ill.

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

        The boar Frey bestrode, and away proudly rode,
          And Thor took the ringlets and hammer;
        To Valhal they hied, where the asas reside,
          ’Mid of tilting and wassal the clamor.

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

For the benefit of those who can read Danish, we will give in the
original the last ten stanzas of the latter poem of Oehlenschlæger,
beginning with the spinning of Sif’s hair:

                Nu kom med Guldet en Dværgeflok
                  Og gave det til Dværginden;
                Hun satte, som Hör, det paa sin Rok,
                  Hvis Hjul hensused for Vinden.

                Og spandt og spandt, mens Guldtraaden randt
                  Til Haar for den deilige Dise;
                Hun snurred og sang, ved Kildernes Klang,
                  En underlig Spindevise:

                Gudinden i Vaar skal bære sit Haar
                  Hel frit for Vinden herefter,
                Ei flette det mer, at yndig sig ter
                  Dets Glands med straalende Kræfter.

                Hver Svend, som det saa, fra Himmelens Blaa,
                  Hans Hjerte skal Haarene fange.
                Selv Lokker vist ei paa veneste Frey
                  Nedbölge saa blöde, saa lange.

                Skjönt Guldet er dödt, saasnart det har mödt
                  Gudindens Tinding, den höie,
                Det levende blier og efter sig gier,
                  Og lader, som Hörren, sig böie.

                Beholder sin Glands, i Vindenes Dands,
                  Og lader sig aldrig udrykke;
                Som Middagens Skin, det svöber sig ind
                  Bag Hjelmens ludende Skygge!—

                Saa sang hun og gik med ydmyge Blik
                  For Thor, og rakte ham Haaret;
                Paa Lokken han saa og maatte tilstaa:
                  Saa fager var ingen baaret.

                Fra Bjerget valt nu Frey paa sin Galt
                  Og Thor med Haaret og Hammer,
                Til Valhal de for, hvor Hærfader bor
                  I Lysets salige Flammer.

                Da satte paa Sif lig Tang paa et Rif,
                  Sig fast Guldhaaret paa stande,
                Og monne sig slaa i Lokker saa smaa,
                  Trindt om den hvælvede Pande.

                Paa straalende Thing fik Odin sin Ring,
                  Man tilgav Loke sin Bröde,
                Men snart dog igjen Bjergtroldenes Ven
                  Maa for sin Trolöshed böde.

There remains now to discuss briefly whether the Norse mythology
furnishes subjects for painting and sculpturing. If the reader has
become convinced that there is material in it worthy of the greatest
poet, then it is not necessary to say much about painting and
sculpturing; for we know that most things that can be said in verse can
be made visible on the canvas, or be chiseled in marble. We shall
therefore be brief on this particular point, but after the presentation
of a few subjects for the painter or sculptor, we shall have something
to say about nude art.

Can the brush or the chisel ask for more suggestive subjects than Odin,
Balder, Thor, Frey, Idun, Nanna, Loke, etc.? or groups like the norns at
the Urdar-fountain? or Urd (the past) and Verdande (the present), who
stretch from east to west a web, which is torn to pieces by Skuld (the
future); the valkyries in the heat of the battle picking up the slain;
or when they carry the fallen Hakon Adelsten to Valhal? Cannot a
beautiful picture be made of Æger and Ran and their daughters, the
waves? of the gods holding their feast with Æger and sending out Thor to
fetch a caldron for them from Jotunheim? or of Thor clapping the pot on
his head like a huge hat and walking off with it? What more touching
scene can be perceived than the death of Balder? Only in that short poem
Hamarsheimt (fetching the hammer) there are no less than three beautiful
subjects: (1) Thor wakes up and misses his hammer; he feels around him
for it; he is surprised and hesitates; he wrinkles his brows and his
head trembles. Loke looks down upon him from above; the rogue is in his
eye; he would like to break out in a roar of laughter, but dare not. (2)
All the gods are engaged in dressing Thor in Freyja’s clothes; he is a
tall straight youth with golden hair and a fine brown beard; lightning
flashes from his eyes; while Fulla puts on him Freyja’s jewels there is
a terrible conflict going on in his breast with this humiliation of his
dignity, which he cannot overcome. Loke stands half-ready near by as
maid-servant; he dresses Thor’s hair and is himself half-covered by the
bridal-veil which Thor is to wear. All take an intense interest in the
work, for they are so anxious to have the stratagem succeed. (3) The
giants have laid the hammer in the lap of the bride; Thor seizes it, and
as he pushes aside the veil he literally grows into his majestic
divinity, for whenever he wields his mighty Mjolner his strength is
redoubled. The disappointed desire of Thrym, the astounded giants, the
amused Loke; all furnish an endless variety of excellent material for
the brush of the painter. The plastic art can find no more exquisite
group than Loke bound upon three stones, and his loving wife, Sigyn,
leaning over him with a dish, wherein she catches the drops of venom
that would otherwise fall into his face and intensify his agonies. A
volume of themes might be presented, but it is not necessary. Suffice it
then to say that for poetry, painting and the plastic arts, there is in
the Norse mythology a fountain of delight whose waters but few have
tasted, but which no man can drain dry.

We promised to say something about nude art. It is this: We Goths are,
and have forever been, a _chaste_ race. We abhor the loathsome nudity of
Greek art. We do not want nude figures, at least not unless they embody
some very sublime thought. The people of southern Europe differ widely
from us Northerners in this respect; and this difference reaches far
back into our respective mythologies, adding additional proof to the
fact that the myths foreshadow the social life of a nation or race of
people. The Greek gods were generally conceived as nude, and hence Greek
art would naturally be nude also. Whether the licentiousness and
lasciviousness of the Greek communities were the primary causes of the
unæsthetical features of their mythology or their Bacchanalian revels
sprang from the mythology, it is difficult to determine. We undoubtedly
come nearest the truth when we say that the same primeval causes
produced both the social life and mythology of the Greeks; that there
thenceforward was an active reciprocating influence between the religion
on the one side and the popular life on the other, an influence that we
may liken unto that which operates between the soul and the body; and
thus it may be said that the mythology and the popular life combined
produced their nude art. To say that the popular character of the
Greeks, taken individually or collectively, was stimulated into life by
their mythology; that the virtues and the vices of the people originated
in it _alone_; would certainly be an incorrect and one-sided view of the
subject. The Greeks brought with them, from their original home into
Greece, the germs of that faith which afterwards became developed in a
certain direction under the influence of the popular life and the action
of external circumstances upon that life, but which in turn reacted upon
the popular life with a power which increased in proportion as the
system of mythology acquired by development a more decided character.
The same is true of the Norsemen and of the Goths in general. When it is
found, for instance, that the mythological representation of Odin as
father of the slain (Val-father), and that Valhal (the hall of the
slain), the valkyries and einherjes, contain a strong incentive to
warlike deeds, then it must not be imagined that this martial spirit,
that displayed itself so powerfully among the Goths generally, and among
the Norsemen particularly, was the offspring of the mythology of our
ancestors; but we may rather conceive that the Norsemen were from the
beginning a race of remarkable physical power, that accidental external
causes, such as severe climate, mountainous country, conflicts with
neighboring peoples, etc., brought this inherent physical force into
activity and thus awakened the warlike spirit; and then it may be said
that this martial spirit stamped itself upon their religious ideas, upon
their mythology, and finally that the mythology, when it had received
this characteristic impress from the people, again reacted to preserve
and even further inflame that martial spirit. And there is no
inconsistency between this view of the subject and that which was
presented in the third chapter.

It was said at the outset that we Goths are a chaste race, and abhor the
loathsome nudity of Greek art. We were a chaste people before our
fathers came under the influence of Christianity. The Elder Edda, which
is the grand depository of the Norse mythology, may be searched through
and through, and there will not be found a single nude myth, not an
impersonation of any kind that can be considered an outrage upon virtue
or a violation of the laws of propriety; and this feature of the Odinic
religion deserves to be urged as an important reason why our painters
and sculptors should look at home for something wherewith to employ
their talent, before they go abroad; look in our own ancient Gothic
history, before going to ancient Greece.

But the artist who is going to chisel out an Odin, a Thor, a Balder, a
Nanna, or a Loke, must not be a mere imitator. He must possess a
creative mind. He must not go to work at a piece of Norse art with his
imagination full of Greek myths, much less must he attempt to apply
Greek principles to a piece of Gothic art. He will find the Norse chisel
a somewhat more ponderous weapon to swing; and you cannot turn as
rapidly with a railroad car as you can with a French _fiacre_ or
American gig. To try to chisel out the gods of _our_ forefathers after
South European patterns would be like attempting to write English with
the mind full of Latin syntax. Hence we repeat, that we do not want an
imitator, but an original genius. Greek mythology has been presented so
many times, and so well, that the imitation, the repetition, is
comparatively easy. He who would bring out Gothic art (and but little of
it has hitherto been brought out) must himself be a poet, and what a
mine of wealth there is open to him! Would that genuine art fever would
attack our artists and that some of the treasures that lie hid in the
granite quarries of the Norse mythology might speedily be exhumed!

In his work, entitled _Science of Beauty_, Dr. John Bascom has taken
decided grounds against nude figures in art. We would recommend the
eighth chapter of that work to the careful consideration of the reader.
We are not able for want of space to give his opinion in full, but make
the following brief extract:

    There is one direction in which art has indulged itself in a most
    marked violation of propriety, and that too on the side of vice. I
    refer to the frequent nudity of its figures. This is a point upon
    which artists have been pretty unanimous, and disposed to treat the
    opinions of others with _hauteur_ and disdain, as arising at best
    from a virtue more itching and sensitive than wise, from instincts
    more physical than æsthetical. This practice has been more abused in
    painting than in sculpture, both as less needed, and hence less
    justifiable, and as ever tending to become more loose and lustful in
    the double symbols of color and form, than when confined to the
    pure, stern use of the latter in stone or metal. Despite alleged
    necessities,—despite the high-toned claims and undisguised contempt
    of artists,—our convictions are strongly against the practice, as
    alike injurious to taste and morals. Indeed, if injurious to morals,
    it cannot be otherwise than injurious to taste, since art has no
    more dangerous enemy than a lascivious perverted fancy.

Nay, in the radiant dawn of our Gothic history our poets and artists
may, if they would but look for them, find chaste themes to which they
may consecrate the whole ardor of their souls for the æsthetical
elevation and ennoblement of our race. As a people we are growing too
prosaic and, therefore, too ungodly; we nourish the tender minds of our
children too early and too extensively on dry reasoning, mathematics and
philosophy, instead of strengthening, stimulating and beautifying their
souls with some of the poetic thoughts, some of the mythology and
folk-lore of our forefathers. These mythological stories, these fairy
tales and all this folk-lore, illuminated by the genial rays of the
Christian religion shining upon them, should be made available in our
families and schools, by our poets, painters and sculptors, and then our
children would in turn get their æsthetical natures developed so as to
be able to beautify their own life and that of their posterity with
still finer productions in poetry, painting, and sculpture.

Footnote 6:

  A river in Norway.

Footnote 7:

  A stone raised over a grave.

                              CHAPTER VII.

In order to thoroughly comprehend the Odinic mythology it is necessary
to make a careful study of the history, literature, languages and
dialects of the Teutonic races and of their popular life in all its
various manifestations.

The chief depositories of the Norse mythology are the Elder or Sæmund’s
Edda (poetry) and the Younger or Snorre’s Edda (prose). In Icelandic
_Edda_ means _great-grandmother_, and some think this appellation refers
to the ancient origin of the myths it contains. Others connect it with
the Indian _Veda_ and the Norse _vide_ (Swedish _veta_, to know).

                           I. The Elder Edda.

This work was evidently collected from the mouths of the people in the
same manner as Homer’s _Iliad_, and there is a similar uncertainty in
regard to who put it in writing. It has generally been supposed that the
songs of the Elder Edda were collected by Sæmund the Wise (born 1056,
died 1133), but Sophus Bugge and N. M. Petersen, both eminent Icelandic
scholars, have made it seem quite probable that it was not put in
writing before the year 1240. This is not the place for a discussion of
this difficult question, and the reader is referred to Sophus Bugge’s
Introduction to _Sæmundar Edda_ and to Petersen’s _History of Northern
Literature_, if he wishes to investigate this subject. There are
thirty-nine poems in the Elder Edda, and we have here to look at their
contents. Like the most of the Icelandic poetry, these poems do not
distinguish themselves, as does the poetry of Greece and Rome, by a
metrical system based on quantity, but have an arrangement of their own
in common with the poetry of the other old Gothic nations, the
Anglo-Saxons, etc. This system consists chiefly in the number of _long
syllables_ and in _alliteration_. The songs are divided into strophes
commonly containing eight verses or lines. These strophes are usually
divided into two halves, and each of these halves again into two parts,
which form a fourth part of the whole strophe, and contain two verses
belonging together and united by alliteration.

The alliteration (letter rhyme) is the most essential element in
Icelandic versification. It is found in all kinds of verse and in every
age, the Icelanders still using it; and its nature is this, that in the
two lines belonging together, three words occur beginning with the same
letter, two of which must be in the first line and the third in the
beginning of the second. The third and last of these is called the chief
letter (_höfuðstafr_, head-stave), because it is regarded as ruling over
the two others which depend on it and have the name sub-letters
(_studlar_, supporters). All rhyme-letters must be found in accented
syllables, and no more words in the two lines should begin with the same
letter—at least no chief word, which takes the accent on the first
syllable. This principle is illustrated by the following first half of
the seventh strophe of Völuspá, the oldest song in the Elder Edda:

                           _T_efldu í _t_úni,
                           _T_eitir váru;
                           _V_ar þeim _v_ettugis
                           _V_ant ór gulli.

Free version in English:

                   With _g_olden tablets in the _g_arden
                     _G_lad they played,
                   Nor _w_as there to the _v_aliant gods
                     _W_ant of gold.

The rhyme-letters here are those in _italics_.

The poems of the Elder Edda are in no special connection one with the
other, and they may be divided into three classes: purely mythological,
mythological-didactic, and mythological-historical poems.

The Elder Edda presents the Norse cosmogony, the doctrines of the Odinic
mythology, and the lives and doings of the gods. It contains also a
cycle of poems on the demi-gods and mythic heroes and heroines of the
same period. It gives us as complete a view of the mythological world of
the North as Homer and Hesiod do of that of Greece. But (to use in part
the language of the Howitts) it presents this to us not as Homer does,
worked up into one great poem, but as the rhapsodists of Greece
presented to Homer’s hands the materials for that great poem in the
various hymns and ballads of the fall of Troy, which they sung all over
Greece. No Homer ever arose in Norseland to mould all these sublime
lyrics of the Elder Edda into one lordly epic. The story of Siegfried
and Brynhild, which occupies the latter portion of the Elder Edda, was,
in later times in Germany moulded into the great and beautiful
_Niebelungen-Lied_; although it was much altered by the German poet or
by German tradition. The poems of the Elder Edda show us what the myths
of Greece would have been without a Homer. They remain huge, wild and
fragmentary; full of strange gaps rent into their very vitals by the
strokes of rude centuries; yet like the ruin of the Colosseum or the
temples of Pæstum, standing aloft amid the daylight of the present time,
magnificent testimonials of the stupendous genius of the race which
reared them. There is nothing besides the Bible, which sits in a divine
tranquillity of unapproachable nobility like a king of kings amongst all
other books, and the poem of Homer itself, which can compare in all the
elements of greatness with the Edda. There is a loftiness of stature,
and a firmness of muscle about it which no poets of the same race have
ever since reached. The only production since, that can be compared with
the Elder Edda in profoundness of thought, is that of Shakespeare, the
Hercules or Thor in English literature, that heroic mind of divine
lineage which passed through the hell-gates of the Roman school-system
unscathed. The obscurity which still hangs over some parts of the Elder
Edda, like the deep shadows crouching amid the ruins of the past, is the
result of neglect, and will in due time be removed; but amid this stand
forth the boldest masses of intellectual masonry. We are astonished at
the wisdom which is shaped into maxims, and at the tempestuous strength
of passions to which all modern emotions seem puny and constrained. Amid
the bright sun-light of a far-off time, surrounded by the densest
shadows of forgotten ages, we come at once into the midst of gods and
heroes, goddesses and fair women, giants and dwarfs, moving about in a
world of wonderful construction, unlike any other world or creation
which God has founded or man has imagined, but still beautiful beyond

The Elder Edda opens with Völuspá (the vala’s prophecy), and this song
may be regarded as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, poetic monument
of the North. In it the mysterious vala, or prophetess, seated somewhere
unseen in the marvelous heaven, sings an awful song of the birth of gods
and men; of the great Ygdrasil, or Tree of Existence, whose roots and
branches extend through all regions of space, and concludes her
thrilling hymn with the terrible Ragnarok, or Twilight of the gods, when
Odin and the other gods perish in the flames that devour all creation,
and the new heavens and new earth rise beautifully green to receive the
reign of Balder and of milder natures.

The second song in the Elder Edda is Hávamál (the high-song of Odin).
Odin himself is represented as its author. It contains a pretty complete
code of Odinic morality and precepts of wisdom. The moral and social
axioms that are brought together in Hávamál will surprise the reader,
who has been accustomed to regard the Norsemen as a rude and half wild
race, hunting in the savage forests of the North, or scouring the coasts
of Europe in quest of plunder. They contain a profound knowledge, not
merely of human nature, but of human nature in its various social and
domestic relations. They are more like the proverbs of Solomon than
anything in human literature.

The third poem in the Elder Edda is Vafthrudnismál (that is,
Vafthrudner’s speech or song). Vafthrudner is derived from _vaf_, a web
or weaving, and _thrúð_, strong; hence Vafthrudner is the _powerful
weaver_, the one powerful in riddles, and it is the name of a giant, who
in the first part of the poem propounds a series of intricate questions
or riddles. Odin tells his wife Frigg that he desires to visit the
all-wise giant Vafthrudner, to find out from him the secrets of the past
and measure strength with him. Frigg advises him not to undertake this
journey, saying that she considers Vafthrudner the strongest of all
giants. Odin reminds her of his many perilous adventures and
experiences, arguing that these are sufficient to secure him in his
curiosity to see Vafthrudner’s halls. Frigg wishes him a prosperous
journey and safe return, and also the necessary presence of mind at his
meeting with the giant. Odin then proceeds on his journey and enters the
halls of Vafthrudner in the guise of a mortal wayfarer, by name
Gangraad. He greets the lord of the house, and says he is come to learn
whether he was a wise or omniscient giant. Such an address vexes
Vafthrudner, coming as it did from a stranger, and he soon informs
Gangraad that if he is not wiser than himself he shall not leave the
hall alive. But the giant, finding, after he had asked the stranger a
few questions, that he really had a worthy antagonist in his presence,
invites him to take a seat, and challenges him to enter into a
disputation, that they might measure their intellectual strength, on the
condition that the vanquished party—the one unable to answer a question
put to him by the other—should forfeit his head. Odin accepts this
dangerous challenge. They accordingly discuss, by question and answer,
the principal topics of Norse mythology. The pretended Gangraad asks the
giant many questions, which the latter answers correctly; but when the
former at length asks his adversary what Odin whispered in the ear of
his son Balder before he had been placed on the funeral pile—a question
by which the astonished giant becomes aware that his antagonist is Odin
himself, who was alone capable of answering it,—the giant acknowledges
himself vanquished, and sees with terror that he cannot avoid the death
which he in his cruel pride had intended to inflict upon an innocent

The fourth song is Grimnismál (the song of Grimner). It begins with a
preface in prose, in which it is related that Odin, under the name of
Grimner, visited his foster-son Geirrod, and the latter, deceived by a
false representation by Frigg, takes him for a sorcerer, makes him sit
between two fires and pine there without nourishment for eight days,
until Agnar, the king’s son, reaches him a drinking-horn. Hereupon
Grimner sings the song which bears his name. Lamenting his confinement
and blessing Agnar, he goes on to picture the twelve abodes of the gods
and the splendors of Valhal, which he describes at length, and then
speaks of the mythological world-tree Ygdrasil, of the valkyries, of the
giant Ymer, of the ship Skidbladner, and adds various other cosmological

The fifth song is Skirnismál, or För Skirnis (the journey of Skirner).
This gives in the form of a dialogue the story of Frey and Gerd, of his
love to her, and his wooing her through the agency of his faithful
servant Skirner, after whom the song is named.

The sixth is the Lay of Harbard. It is a dialogue between Thor and the
ferryman Harbard, who refuses to carry him over the stream. This
furnishes an occasion for each of them to recount his exploits. They
contrast their deeds and exploits. The contest is continued without
interruption until near the end of the poem, where Thor finally offers a
compromise, again requesting to be taken over the river. Harbard, who is
in fact Odin, again refuses in decided terms. Then Thor asks him to show
him another way. This request Harbard seems in a manner to comply with,
but refers Thor to Fjorgyn, his mother. Thor asks how far it is, but
Harbard makes enigmatical answers. Thor ends the conversation with
threats and Harbard with evil wishes.

The seventh poem is the Song of Hymer. The gods of Asgard are invited to
a banquet with the sea-god Æger. Thor goes to the giant Hymer for a
large kettle, in which to brew ale for the occasion. When Thor has
arrived at the home of Hymer he persuades the giant to take him along on
a fishing expedition, in which Thor fishes up the Midgard-serpent, which
he would have killed had it not been for Hymer, who cut off the
fish-line. Thor succeeds in carrying off the kettle, but has to slay
Hymer and other giants who pursue him.

The eighth is Lokasenna (or Loke’s quarrel.) This poem has a preface in
prose. This is also a banquet at Æger’s. It takes place immediately
after Balder’s death. Loke was present. He slew one of Æger’s servants
and had to flee to the woods, but soon returns, enters Æger’s hall, and
immediately begins to abuse the gods in the most shameful manner: first
Brage, then Idun, Gefjun, Odin, Frigg, Freyja, Njord, and the others,
until Thor finally appears and drives him away. There is a prose
conclusion to this poem, describing Loke’s punishment A profound tragedy
characterizes this poem. Although Loke is abusive, he still speaks the
truth, and he exposes all the faults of the gods, which foreshadow their
final fall. Peace disappeared with the death of Balder, and the gods,
conscious that Ragnarok is inevitable, are overpowered by distraction
and sorrow.

The ninth poem is the Song of Thrym. This gives an account of the loss
of Thor’s hammer, and tells how Loke helped him to get it back from the
giant Thrym.

The tenth is the Song of Alvis (the all-wise). Alvis comes for Thor’s
daughter as his bride. Thor cunningly detains him all night by asking
him questions concerning the various worlds he has visited. Alvis
answers and teaches him the names by which the most important things in
nature are called in the respective languages of different worlds: of
men, of the gods, of the vans, of the giants, of the elves, of the
dwarfs, and finally of the realms of the dead and of the supreme god.
The dwarf, being one of those mythical objects which cannot endure the
light of day, was detained till dawn without accomplishing his object.

The eleventh poem is Vegtam’s Lay. Odin assumes the name Vegtam. In
order to arrive at certainty concerning the portentous future of the
gods, he descends to Niflheim, goes into the abodes of Hel, and calls
the vala up from her grave-mound, asking her about the fate of Balder.
She listens to him indignantly, answers his questions unwillingly, but
at last discovers that Vegtam is the king of the gods, and angrily tells
him to ride home.

We will omit a synopsis of the remainder, and merely give their titles,
as they do not enter so completely into the system of mythology as the
first eleven: (12) Rigsmaal (Song of Rig), (13) The Lay of Hyndla, (14)
The Song of Volund, (15) The Song of Helge Hjorvardson, (16) Song of
Helge Hundingsbane I, (17) Song of Helge Hundingsbane II, (18) Song of
Sigurd Fafnisbane I, (19) Song of Sigurd Fafnisbane II, (20) Song of
Fafner, (21) Song of Sigdrifa, (22) Song of Sigurd, (23) Song of Gudrun
I, (24) Song of Gudrun III, (25) Brynhild’s Ride to Hel, (26) Song of
Gudrun II, (27) Song of Gudrun III, (28) The Weeping of Odrun, (29) The
Song of Atle, (30) The Speech of Atle, (31) The Challenge of Gudrun,
(32) The Song of Hamder, (33) The Song of Grotte, (34) Extracts from the
Younger Edda, (35) Extracts from the Volsunga Saga, (36) Song of Svipdag
I, (37) Song of Svipdag II, (38) The Lay of the Sun, (39) Odin’s

The antiquity of these poems cannot be fixed, but they certainly carry
us back to the remotest period of the settlement of Norway by the Goths.

It may be added here that many of the poems of the Elder Edda, as well
as much of the Old Norse poetry generally, are very difficult to
understand, on account of the bold metaphorical language in which they
are written. The poet did not call an object by its usual name, but
borrowed a figure by which to present it, either from the mythology or
from some other source. Thus he would call the sky _the skull of the
giant Ymer_; the rainbow he called _the bridge of the gods_; gold was
_the tears of Freyja_; poetry, _the present_ or _drink of Odin_. The
earth was called indifferently _the wife of Odin_, _the flesh of Ymer_,
_the daughter of night_, _the vessel that floats on the ages_, or _the
foundation of the air_; herbs and plants were called _the hair_ or _the
fleece of the earth_. A battle was called _a bath of blood_, _the hail
of Odin_, _the shock of bucklers_; the sea was termed _the field of
pirates_, _the girdle of the earth_; ice, _the greatest of all bridges_;
a ship, _the horse of the waves_; the tongue, _the sword of words_, etc.

                         II. The Younger Edda,

written by Snorre Sturleson, the author of the famous _Heimskringla_
(born 1178, died 1241) is mostly prose, and may be regarded as a sort of
commentary upon the Elder Edda. The prose Edda consists of two parts:
Gylfaginning (the deluding of Gylfe), and the Bragaræður or
Skáldskaparmál (the conversations of Brage, the god of poetry, or the
treatise on poetry). Gylfaginning tells how the Swedish king Gylfe makes
a journey to Asgard, the abode of the gods, where Odin instructs him in
the old faith, and gradually relates to him the myths of the Norsemen.
The manner in which the whole is told reminds us of _A Thousand and One
Nights_, or of poems from a later time, as for instance Boccaccio’s
_Decameron_. It is a prose synopsis of the whole Asa faith, with here
and there a quotation from the Elder Edda by way of elucidation. It
shows a great deal of ingenuity and talent on the part of its author,
and is the most perspicuous and clear presentation of the mythology that
we possess.

But all the material for the correct presentation of the Norse mythology
is not found in the Eddas; or rather we do not perfectly understand the
Eddas, if we confine our studies to them alone. For a full comprehension
of the myths, it is necessary to study carefully all the
semi-mythological Icelandic Sagas, which constitute a respectable
library by themselves; and in connection with these we must read the
Anglo-Saxon _Beowulf’s Drapa_, and the German _Niebelungen-Lied_. In the
next place, we must examine carefully all the folk-lore of the Gothic
race, and we must, in short, study the manifestations of the Gothic mind
and spirit everywhere: in the development of the State and of the
Church, in their poetry and history, in their various languages and
numerous dialects, in their literature, in their customs and manners,
and in their popular belief. If we neglect all these we shall never
understand the Eddas; if we neglect the Eddas we shall never understand
the other sources of mythology. They mutually explain each other, and
the Gothic race must sooner or later begin to study its own history.

That the Odinic mythology exercised a mighty influence in forming the
national character of the Norsemen, becomes evident when we compare the
doctrines of their faith with the popular life as portrayed in the
Sagas. Still we must bear in mind that this national spirit was not
created by this faith. The harsh climate of the North modified not only
the Norse mythology, but also moulded indefinitely the national
character, and then the two, the mythology and the national character,
acted and reacted upon each other. Thus bred up to fight with nature in
a constant battle for existence, and witnessing the same struggle in the
life of his gods, the Norseman became fearless, honest and truthful,
ready to smite and ready to forgive, shrinking not from pain himself and
careless about inflicting it on others. Beholding in external nature and
in his mythology the struggle of conflicting forces, he naturally looked
on life as a field for warfare. The ice-bound fjords and desolate fells,
the mournful wail of the waving pine-branches, the stern strife of frost
and fire, the annual death of the short-lived summer, made the Norseman
sombre, if not gloomy, in his thoughts, and inured him to the rugged
independence of the country. The sternness of the land in which he lived
was reflected in his character; the latter was in turn reflected in the
tales which he told of his gods and heroes, and thus the Norseman and
his mythology mutually influenced each other.

The influence of the Asa faith, says Prof. Keyser, upon the popular
spirit of the Norsemen, must be regarded from quite another point of
view than that of Christianity at a later period. The Asa faith was, so
to speak, inborn with the Norsemen, as it had developed itself from
certain germs and assumed form with the popular life almost
unconsciously to the latter. Christianity, on the other hand, was given
to the people as a religious system complete in itself, intended for all
the nations of the earth; one which by its own divine power opened for
itself a way to conviction, and through that conviction operated on the
popular spirit in a direction previously pointed out by the fundamental
principles of the religion itself. As the system of the Asa faith arose
without any conscious object of affecting the morals, therefore it did
not embrace any actual code of morals in the higher sense of this term.
The Asa doctrine does not pronounce by positive expression what is
virtue and what is vice; it presupposes a consciousness thereof in its
votaries. It only represents virtue as reaping its own rewards and vice
its own punishment, if not here upon the earth, then with certainty
beyond the grave. Thus Keyser.

The Norse system of mythology embodied the doctrine of an imperishable
soul in man; it had Valhal and Gimle set apart for and awaiting the
brave and virtuous, and Helheim and Naastrand for the wicked.

The moral and social maxims of the Norsemen are represented as being
uttered by Odin himself in the Hávamál (high song of Odin), the second
song of the Elder Edda, and by the valkyrie Sigdrifa in the Sigrdrífumál
(the lay of Sigdrifa), the twenty-first poem of the same work. Read
these poems and maxims, and judge whether they will warrant the position
repeatedly taken in this work, that the electric spark that has made
England and America great and free came not from the aboriginal Britons,
not from the Roman enslavers, but must be sought in the prophetic,
imaginative and poetic childhood of the Gothic race. Read these poems
and judge whether the eminent English writer, Samuel Laing, is right
when he says:

    All that men hope for of good government and future improvement in
    their physical and moral condition,—all that civilized men enjoy at
    this day of civil, religious and political liberty,—the British
    constitution, representative legislation, the trial by jury,
    security of property, freedom of mind and person, the influence of
    public opinion over the conduct of public affairs, the Reformation,
    the liberty of the press, the spirit of the age,—all that is or has
    been of value to man in modern times as a member of society, either
    in Europe or in the New World, may be traced to the spark left
    burning upon our shores by these northern barbarians.

Read these poems and find truth in the words of Baron Montesquieu, the
admirable author of _The Spirit of Laws_ (L’Esprit des Lois), when he
says: The great prerogative of Scandinavia, and what ought to recommend
its inhabitants beyond every people upon earth, is, that they afforded
the great resource to the liberty of Europe, that is, to almost all the
liberty that is among men; and when he calls the North the forge of
those instruments which broke the fetters manufactured in the South.

In the old Gothic religion were embodied principles and elements which
had a tendency to make its votaries brave, independent, honest, earnest,
just, charitable, prudent, temperate, liberty-loving, etc.; principles
and morals that in due course of time and under favorable circumstances
evolved the Republic of Iceland, the Magna Charta of England, and the
Declaration of Independence.

The rules of life as indicated by the High Song of Odin and in
Sigrdrífumál, in which the valkyrie gives counsel to Sigurd Fafnisbane,
are briefly summed up by Professor Keyser as follows:

    1. The recognition of the depravity of human nature, which calls for
    a struggle against our natural desires and forbearance toward the
    weakness of others.

    2. Courage and faith both to bear the hard decrees of the norns and
    to fight against enemies.

    3. The struggle for independence in life with regard to knowledge as
    well as to fortune; an independence which should, therefore, be
    earned by a love of learning and industry.

    4. A strict adherence to oaths and promises.

    5. Candor and fidelity as well as foresight in love, devotion to the
    tried friend, but dissimulation toward the false and war to the
    death against the implacable enemy.

    6. Respect for old age.

    7. Hospitality, liberality, and charity to the poor.

    8. A prudent foresight in word and deed.

    9. Temperance, not only in the gratification of the senses, but also
    in the exercise of power.

    10. Contentment and cheerfulness.

    11. Modesty and politeness in intercourse.

    12. A desire to win the good will of our fellow men, especially to
    surround ourselves with a steadfast circle of devoted kinsmen and
    faithful friends.

    13. A careful treatment of the bodies of the dead.

Listen now to Odin himself, as he gives precepts of wisdom to mankind in


            1.  All door-ways
                Before going forward,
                Should be looked to;
                For difficult it is to know
                Where foes may sit
                Within a dwelling

            2.  Givers, hail!
                A guest is come in:
                Where shall he sit?
                In much haste is he,
                Who on his ways has
                To try his luck.

            3.  Fire is needful
                To him who is come in,
                And whose knees are frozen;
                Food and raiment
                A man requires
                Who o’er the fell has traveled.

            4.  Water to him is needful,
                Who for refection comes,
                A towel and hospitable invitation,
                A good reception;
                If he can get it,
                Discourse and answer.

            5.  Wit is needful
                To him who travels far:
                At home all is easy.
                A laughingstock is he
                Who nothing knows,
                And with the instructed sits.[8]

            6.  Of his understanding
                No one should be proud,
                But rather in conduct cautious.
                When the prudent and taciturn
                Come to a dwelling,
                Harm seldom befalls the cautious;
                For a firmer friend
                No man ever gets
                Than great sagacity.

            7.  A wary guest
                Who to refection comes
                Keeps a cautious silence;
                With his ears listens,
                And with his eyes observes:
                So explores every prudent man.

            8.  He is happy
                Who for himself obtains
                Fame and kind words:
                Less sure is that
                Which a man must have
                In another’s breast.

            9.  He is happy
                Who in himself possesses
                Fame and wit while living;
                For bad counsels
                Have oft been received
                From another’s breast.

            10. A better burthen
                No man bears on the way
                Than much good sense:
                That is thought better than riches
                In a strange place;
                Such is the recourse of the indigent.

            11. A worse provision
                On the way he cannot carry
                Than too much beer-bibbing;
                So good is not,
                As it is said,
                Beer for the sons of men.

            12. A worse provision
                No man can take from table
                Than too much beer-bibbing,
                For the more he drinks
                The less control he has
                Of his own mind.

            13. Oblivion’s heron ’tis called
                That over potations hovers;
                He steals the minds of men.
                With this bird’s pinions
                I was fettered
                In Gunlad’s dwelling.

            14. Drunk I was,
                I was over-drunk,
                At that cunning Fjalar’s.
                It’s the best drunkenness
                When every one after it
                Regains his reason.

            15. Taciturn and prudent,
                And in war daring
                Should a king’s children be;
                Joyous and liberal
                Everyone should be
                Until his hour of death.

            16. A cowardly man
                Thinks he will ever live
                If warfare he avoids;
                But old age will
                Give him no peace.
                Though spears may spare him.

            17. A fool gapes
                When to a house he comes,
                To himself mutters or is silent;
                But all at once,
                If he gets drink,
                Then is the man’s mind displayed.

            18. He alone knows,
                Who wanders wide
                And has much experienced,
                By what disposition
                Each man is ruled,
                Who common sense possesses.

            19. Let a man hold the cup,
                Yet of the mead drink moderately,
                Speak sensibly or be silent.
                As of a fault
                No man will admonish thee,
                If thou goest betimes to sleep.

            20. A greedy man,
                If he be not moderate,
                Eats to his mortal sorrow.
                Oftentimes his belly
                Draws laughter on a silly man
                Who among the prudent comes.

            21. Cattle know
                When to go home
                And then from grazing cease;
                But a foolish man
                Never knows
                His stomach’s measure.

            22. A miserable man,
                And ill-conditioned,
                Sneers at everything:
                One thing he knows not,
                Which he ought to know,
                That he is not free from faults.

            23. A foolish man
                Is all night awake,
                Pondering over everything;
                He then grows tired,
                And when morning comes
                All is lament as before.

            24. A foolish man
                Thinks all who on him smile
                To be his friends;
                He feels it not,
                Although they speak ill of him,
                When he sits among the clever.

            25. A foolish man
                Thinks all who speak him fair
                To be his friends;
                But he will find,
                If into court he comes,
                That he has few advocates.

            26. A foolish man
                Thinks he knows everything
                If placed in unexpected difficulty;
                But he knows not
                    What to answer
                    If to the test he is put.

            27. A foolish man,
                Who among people comes,
                Had best be silent;
                For no one knows
                That he knows nothing
                Unless he talks too much.
                He who previously knew nothing
                    Will still know nothing,
                Talk he ever so much.

            28. He thinks himself wise
                Who can ask questions
                And converse also;
                Conceal his ignorance
                No one can,
                    Because it circulates among men.

            29. He utters too many
                Futile words
                Who is never silent;
                    A garrulous tongue,
                If it be not checked,
                    Sings often to its own harm.

            30. For a gazing-stock
                    No man shall have another,
                Although he come a stranger to his house.
                Many a one thinks himself wise,
                If he is not questioned,
                And can sit in a dry habit.

            31. Clever thinks himself
                The guest who jeers a guest,
                If he takes to flight.
                Knows it not certainly
                He who prates at meat,
                Whether he babbles among foes.

            32. Many men are mutually
                Yet at table will torment each other.
                That strife will ever be;
                Guest will guest irritate.

            33. Early meals
                A man should often take,
                Unless to a friend’s house he goes;
                Else he will sit and mope,
                Will seem half famished,
                And can of few things inquire.

            34. Long is and indirect the way
                To a bad friend’s,
                Though by the road he dwell;
                But to a good friend’s
                The paths lie direct,
                Though he be far away.

            35. A guest should depart,
                Not always stay
                In one place:
                The welcome becomes unwelcome
                If he too long continues
                In another’s house.

            36. One’s own house is best,
                Small though it be;
                At home is every one his own master.
                Though he but two goats possess,
                And a straw-thatched cot,
                Even that is better than begging.

            37. One’s own house is best,
                Small though it be;
                At home is every one his own master.
                Bleeding at heart is he
                Who has to ask
                For food at every meal-tide.

            38. Leaving in the field his arms,
                    Let no man go
                A foot’s length forward;
                For it is hard to know
                    When on his way
                A man may need his weapon.

            39. I have never found a man so bountiful
                Or so hospitable
                That he refused a present;
                Or of his property
                So liberal
                That he scorned a recompense.

            40. Of the property
                Which he has gained,
                No man should suffer need;
                For the hated oft is spared
                What for the dear was destined:
                Much goes worse than is expected.

            41. With arms and vestments
                Friends should each other gladden,
                Those which are in themselves most sightly.
                Givers and requiters
                Are longest friends,
                If all else goes well.

            42.   To his friend
                A man should be a friend,
                And gifts with gifts requite;
                Laughter with laughter
                Men should receive,
                But leasing with lying.

            43.   To his friend
                A man should be a friend,
                To him and to his friend;
                  But of his foe
                  No man shall
                  His friend’s friend be.

            44. Know if thou hast a friend
                Whom thou fully trustest,
            And from whom thou would’st good derive;
            Thou should’st blend thy mind with his,
                And gifts exchange,
                And often go to see him.

            45. If thou hast another
                Whom thou little trustest,
                Yet would’st good from him derive,
                Thou should’st speak him fair,
                But think craftily,
                And leasing pay with lying.

            46. But of him yet further
                Whom thou little trustest,
                And thou suspectest his affection,
                Before him thou should’st laugh,
                And contrary to thy thoughts speak;
                Requital should the gift resemble.

            47. I once was young,
                I was journeying alone
                And lost my way;
                Rich I thought myself
                When I met another:
                Man is the joy of man.

            48. Liberal and brave
                Men live best,
                They seldom cherish sorrow;
                But a bare-minded man
                Dreads everything;
                The niggardly is uneasy even at gifts.

            49. My garments in a field
                I gave away
                To two wooden men:
                Heroes they seemed to be
                When they got cloaks:[9]
                Exposed to insult is a naked man.

            50. A tree withers
                That on a hill-top stands;
                Protects it neither bark nor leaves:
                Such is the man
                Whom no one favors:
                Why should he live long?

            51. Hotter than fire
                Love for five days burns
                Between false friends;
                But is quenched
                When the sixth day comes,
                And friendship is all impaired.

            52. Something great
                Is not always to be given,
                Praise is often for a trifle bought
                With half a loaf
                And a tilted vessel
                I got myself a comrade.

            53. Little are the sand grains,
                Little the wits,
                Little the minds of men;
                For all men
                Are not wise alike:
                Men are everywhere by halves.

            54. Moderately wise
                Should each one be,
                But never over-wise;
                For a wise man’s heart
                Is seldom glad,
                If he is all-wise who owns it.

            55. Moderately wise
                Should each one be,
                But never over-wise:
                Of those men
                The lives are fairest
                Who know much well.

            56. Moderately wise
                Should each one be,
                But never over-wise;
                His destiny let know
                No man beforehand;
                His mind will be freest from care.

            57. Brand burns from brand
                Until it is burnt out,
                Fire is from fire quickened:
                Man to man
                Becomes known by speech,
                But a fool by his bashful silence.

            58. He should rise early
                Who another’s property or life
                Desires to have:
                Seldom a sluggish wolf
                Gets prey,
                Or a sleeping man victory.

            59. Early should rise
                He who has few workers.
                And go his work to see to;
                Greatly is he retarded
                Who sleeps the morn away.
                Wealth half depends on energy.

            60. Of dry planks
                And roof shingles
                A man knows the measure;
                Of the firewood
                That may suffice
                Both measure and time.

            61. Washed and refected
                Let a man ride to _Thing_,[10]
                Although his garments be not too good;
                Of his shoes and breeches
                Let no one be ashamed,
                Nor of his horse,
                Although he have not a good one.

            62. Inquire and impart
                Should every man of sense,
                Who will be accounted sage.
                Let one only know,
                A second may not;
                If three, all the world knows.

            63. Gasps and gapes,
                When to the sea he comes,
                The eagle over old ocean;
                So is a man
                Who among many comes,
                And has few advocates.

            64. His power should
                Every sagacious man
                Use with discretion,
                For he will find,
                When among the bold he comes,
                That no one alone is doughtiest.

            65. Circumspect and reserved
                Every man should be,
                And wary in trusting friends;
                Of the words
                That a man says to another
                He often pays the penalty.

            66. Much too early
                I came to many places,
                But too late to others;
                The beer was drunk,
                Or not ready:
                The disliked seldom hits the moment.

            67. Here and there I should
                Have been invited
                If I a meal had needed;
                Or two hams had hung
                At that true friend’s
                Where of one I had eaten.

            68. Fire is best
                Among the sons of men,
                And the sight of the sun,
                If his health
                A man can have,
                With a life free from vice.

            69. No man lacks everything,
                Although his health be bad.
                One in his sons is happy,
                One in his kin,
                One in abundant wealth,
                One in his good works.

            70. It is better to live,
                Even to live miserably;
                A living man can always get a cow.
                I saw fire consume
                The rich man’s property,
                And death stood without his door.

            71. The halt can ride on horseback.
                The one-handed drive cattle;
                The deaf, fight and be useful:
                To be blind is better
                Than to be burnt:[11]
                No one gets good from a corpse.

            72. A son is better
                Even if born late,
                After his father’s departure.
                Gravestones seldom
                Stand by the way-side
                Unless raised by a kinsman to a kinsman.

            73. Two are adversaries:
                The tongue is the bane of the head:
                Under every cloak
                I expect a hand.

            74. At night is joyful
                He who is sure of traveling entertainment;
                A ship’s yards are short;
                Variable is an autumn night,
                Many are the weather’s changes
                In five days,
                But more in a month.

            75. He knows not,
                Who knows nothing,
                That many a one apes another,
                One man is rich,
                Another poor:
                Let him not be thought blameworthy.

            76. Cattle die,
                Kindred die,
                We ourselves also die;
                But the fair fame
                Never dies
                Of him who has earned it.

            77. Cattle die,
                Kindred die,
                We ourselves also die;
                But I know one thing
                That never dies,—
                Judgment on each one dead.

            78. Full storehouses I saw
                At Dives’ sons’:
                Now bear they the beggar’s staff.
                Such are riches,
                As is the twinkling of an eye:
                Of friends they are most fickle.

            79. A foolish man,
                If he acquires
                Wealth or woman’s love,
                Pride grows within him,
                But wisdom never:
                He goes on more and more arrogant.

            80. Thus ’t is made manifest,
                If of runes thou questionest him,
                Those to the high ones known,
                Which the great powers invented,
                And the great talker[12] painted,
                That he had best hold silence.

            81. At eve the day is to be praised,
                A woman after she is burnt,[13]
                A sword after it is proved,
                A maid after she is married,
                Ice after it has been crossed,
                Beer after it is drunk.

            82. In the wind one should hew wood,
                In a breeze row out to sea,
                In the dark talk with a lass,
                Many are the eyes of day.
                In a ship voyages are to be made,
                But a shield is for protection,
                A sword for striking,
                But a damsel for a kiss.

            83. By the fire one should drink beer,
                On the ice slide;
                Buy a horse that is lean,
                A sword that is rusty;
                Feed a horse at home,
                But a dog at the farm.

            84. In a maiden’s words
                No one should place faith,
                Nor in what a woman says;
                For on a turning wheel
                Have their hearts been formed,
                And guile in their breasts been laid.

            85. In a creaking bow,
                A burning flame,
                A yawning wolf,
                A chattering crow,
                A grunting swine,
                A rootless tree,
                A waxing wave,
                A boiling kettle,

            86. A flying dart,
                A falling billow,
                A one night’s ice,
                A coiled serpent,
                A woman’s bed-talk
                Or a broken sword,
                A bear’s play
                Or a royal child,

            87. A sick calf,
                A self-willed thrall,
                A flattering prophetess,
                A corpse newly slain,
                A serene sky,
                A laughing lord,
                A barking dog
                And a harlot’s grief,

            88. An early-sown field,
                Let no one trust,
                Nor prematurely in a son:
                Weather rules the field,
                And wit the son,
                Each of which is doubtful.

            89. A brother’s murderer,
                Though on the high-road met,
                A half-burnt house,
                An over-swift horse
                (A horse is useless
                If a leg be broken):
                No man is so confiding
                As to trust any of these.

            90. Such is the love of women,
                Who falsehood meditate,
                As if one drove not rough-shod
                On slippery ice,
                A spirited two-year-old
                And unbroken horse;
                Or as in a raging storm
                A helmless ship is beaten;
                Or as if the halt were set to catch
                A reindeer in the thawing fell.[14]

            91. Openly I now speak,
                Because I both sexes know;
                Unstable are men’s minds toward women;
                ’Tis then we speak most fair,
                When we most falsely think:
                That deceives even the cautious.

            92. Fair shall speak,
                And money offer,
                Who would obtain a woman’s love
                Praise the form
                Of a fair damsel;
                He gets, who courts her.

            93. At love should no one
                Ever wonder
                In another:
                A beauteous countenance
                Oft captivates the wise,
                Which captivates not the foolish.

            94. Let no one wonder at
                Another’s folly,
                It is the lot of many.
                All-powerful desire
                Makes of the sons of men
                Fools even of the wise.

            95. The mind only knows
                What lies near the heart;
                That alone is conscious of our affections
                No disease is worse
                To a sensible man
                Than not to be content with himself.

            96. That I experienced
                When in the reeds I sat
                Awaiting my delight.
                Body and soul to me
                Was that discreet maiden;
                Nevertheless I possess her not.

            97. Billing’s lass
                On her couch I found,
                Sun-bright, sleeping.
                A prince’s joy
                To me seemed naught,
                If not with that form to live.

            98. Yet nearer eve
                Must thou, Odin, come, she said,
                If thou wilt talk the maiden over;
                All will be disastrous
                Unless we alone
                Are privy to such misdeed.

            99. I returned,
                Thinking to love
                At her wise desire;
                I thought
                I should obtain
                Her whole heart and love.

            100.  When next I came,
                  The bold warriors were
                  All awake,
                  With lights burning,
                  And bearing torches:

            101.  But at the approach of morn,
                  When again I came,
                  The household all was sleeping;
                  The good damsel’s dog
                  Alone I found
                  Tied to the bed.

            102.  Many a fair maiden,
                  When rightly known,
                  Toward men is fickle:
                  That I experienced
                  When that discreet maiden
                  I decoyed into danger:
                  Contumely of every kind
                  That wily girl
                  Heaped upon me;
                  Nor of that damsel gained I aught.

            103.  At home let a man be cheerful,
                  And toward a guest liberal;
                  Of wise conduct he should be,
                  Of good memory and ready speech;
                  If much knowledge he desires,
                  He must often talk on what is good.
                  Fimbulfambi he is called
                  Who little has to say:
                  Such is the nature of the simple.

            104.  The old giant I sought;
                  Now I am come back:
                  Little got I there by silence;
                  In many words
                  I spoke to my advantage
                  In Suttung’s halls.[15]

            105.  Gunlad gave me,
                  On her golden seat,
                  A draught of the precious mead;
                  A bad recompense I afterwards made her
                  For her whole soul,
                  Her fervent love.

            106.  Rate’s mouth I caused
                  To make a space,
                  And to gnaw the rock;
                  Over and under me
                  Were the giant’s ways:
                  Thus I my head did peril.

            107.  Of a well assumed form
                  I made good use:
                  Few things fail the wise,
                  For Odrærer is now come up
                  To men’s earthly dwellings.

            108.  ’Tis to me doubtful,
                  That I could have come
                  From the giant’s courts,
                  Had not Gunlad aided me,—
                  That good damsel
                  Over whom I laid my arm.

            109.  On the day following
                  Came the frost-giants
                  To learn something of the High One
                  In the High One’s hall;
                  After Bolverk they inquired,
                  Whether he with the gods were come,
                  Or Suttung had destroyed him.

            110.  Odin I believe
                  A ring-oath[16] gave.
                  Who in his faith will trust?
                  Of his drink bereft,
                  And Gunlad made to weep!

            111.  Time ’t is to discourse
                  From the speaker’s chair.
                  By the well of Urd
                  I silent sat,
                  I saw and meditated,
                  I listened to men’s words.

            112.  Of runes I heard discourse,
                  And of things divine,
                  Nor of risting[17] them were they silent,
                  Nor of sage counsels,
                  At the High One’s hall.
                  In the High One’s hall
                  I thus heard say:

            113.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Rise not at night,
                  Unless to explore,
                  Or art compelled to go out.

            114.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  In an enchantress’ embrace
                  Thou mayest not sleep,
                  So that in her arms she clasp thee.

            115.  She will be the cause
                  That thou carest not
                  For _Thing_ or prince’s words;
                  Food thou wilt shun
                  And human joys;
                  Sorrowful wilt thou go to sleep.

            116.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, it thou takest it.
                  Another’s wife
                  Entice thou never
                  To secret converse.

            117.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  By fell or firth
                  If thou have to travel,
                  Provide thee well with food.

            118.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  A bad man
                  Let thou never
                  Know thy misfortunes;
                  For from a bad man
                  Thou never wilt obtain
                  A return for thy good will.

            119.  I saw mortally
                  Wound a man
                  A wicked woman’s words;
                  A false tongue
                  Caused his death,
                  And most unrighteously.

            120.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  If thou knowest thou hast a friend,
                  Whom thou well canst trust,
                  Go oft to visit him;
                  For with brushwood overgrown
                  And with high grass
                  Is the way that no one treads.

            121.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  A good man attract to thee
                  In pleasant converse,
                  And salutary speech learn, while thou livest.

            122.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  With thy friend
                  Be thou never
                  First to quarrel.
                  Care gnaws the heart,
                  If thou to no one canst
                  Thy whole mind disclose.

            128.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Words thou never
                  Shouldst exchange
                  With a witless fool.

            124.  For from an ill-conditioned man
                  Thou wilt never get
                  A return for good;
                  But a good man will
                  Bring thee favor
                  By his praise.

            125.  There is a mingling of affection,
                  Where one can tell
                  Another all his mind.
                  Everything is better
                  Than being with the deceitful.
                  He is not another’s friend
                  Who ever says as he says.

            126.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Even in three words
                  Quarrel not with a worse man:
                  Often the better yields,
                  When the worse strikes.

            127.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Be not a shoemaker
                  Nor a shaftmaker,
                  Unless for thyself it be:
                  For a shoe, if ill made,
                  Or a shaft if crooked,
                  Will call down evil on thee.

            128.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Wherever of injury thou knowest,
                  Regard that injury as thy own;
                  And give to thy foes no peace.

            129.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Rejoiced at evil
                  Be thou never,
                  But let good give thee pleasure.

            130.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  In a battle
                  Look not up,[18]
                  (Like swine[19]
                  The sons of men then become),
                  That men may not fascinate thee.

            131.  If thou wilt induce a good woman
                  To pleasant converse,
                  Thou must promise fair,
                  And hold to it:
                  No one turns from good, if it can be got.

            132.  I enjoin thee to be wary,
                  But not over-wary;
                  At drinking be thou most wary,
                  And with another’s wife;
                  And thirdly,
                  That thieves delude thee not.

            133.  With insult or derision
                  Treat thou never
                  A guest or wayfarer;
                  They often little know,
                  Who sit within,
                  Of what race they are who come.

            134.  Vices and virtues
                  The sons of mortals bear
                  In their breasts mingled;
                  No one is so good
                  That no failing attends him,
                  Nor so bad as to be good for nothing.

            135.  At a hoary speaker
                  Laugh thou never,
                  Often is good that which the aged utter;
                  Oft from a shriveled hide
                  Discreet words issue,
                  From those whose skin is pendent
                  And decked with scars,
                  And who go loitering among the vile.

            136.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou wilt profit, if thou takest it.
                  Rail not at a guest,
                  Nor from thy gate thrust him;
                  Treat well the indigent,
                  They will speak well of thee.

            137.  Strong is the bar
                  That must be raised
                  To admit all.[20]
                  Do thou give a penny,
                  Or they will call down on thee
                  Every ill on thy limbs.

            138.  I counsel thee, Lodfafner,
                  To take advice;
                  Thou will profit, if thou takest it.
                  Wherever thou beer drinkest,
                  Invoke to thee the power of earth;
                  For earth is good against drink,
                  Fire for distempers,
                  The oak for constipation,
                  A corn-ear for sorcery,
                  A hall for domestic strife.
                  In bitter hates invoke the moon;
                  The bitter for bite-injuries is good,
                  But runes against calamity;
                  Fluid let earth absorb.

This is all of the famous Hávamál of the Elder Edda except the so-called
Runic Chapter, which will be given in the second part in connection with
the myth of Odin. Hear now what the valkyrie has to say to Sigurd
Fafnisbane in

                   SIGRDRÍFUMÁL (_the Lay of Sigdrifa_).

Sigurd rode up the Hindarfiall, and directed his course southward toward
Frankland. In the fell he saw a great light, as if a fire were burning,
which blazed up to the sky. On approaching it, there stood a
_skialdborg_, and over it a banner. Sigurd went into the skialdborg, and
saw a warrior lying within it asleep, completely armed. He first took
the helmet off the warrior’s head, and saw that it was a woman. Her
corselet was as fast as if it had grown to her body. With his sword,
Gram, he ripped the corselet from the upper opening downwards, and then
through both sleeves. He then took the corselet off from her, when she
awoke, sat up, and, on seeing Sigurd, said:

                   1.  What has my corselet cut?
                       Why from my sleep have I started?
                       Who has cast from me
                       The fallow bands?


                   1.  Sigmund’s son
                       (Recently did the raven
                       Feed on carrion)[21]
                       And Sigurd’s sword.


                   2.  Long have I slept,
                       Long been with sleep oppressed,
                       Long are mortals’ sufferings!
                       Odin is the cause
                       That I have been unable
                       To cast off torpor.

Sigurd sat down and asked her name. She then took a horn filled with
mead, and gave him the _minnis-cup_ (cup of memory).


                   3.  Hail to Day!
                       Hail to the sons of Day!
                       To Night and her daughter, hail!
                       With placid eyes
                       Behold us here,
                       And here sitting give us victory.

                   4.  Hail to the gods!
                       Hail to the goddesses!
                       Hail to the bounteous earth!
                       Words and wisdom
                       Give to us noble twain,
                       And healing hands while we live.

She was named Sigdrifa, and was a valkyrie. She said that two kings had
made war on each other, one of whom was named Hialmgunnar; he was old
and a great warrior, and Odin had promised him victory. The other was
Agnar, a brother of Aud, whom no divinity would patronize. Sigdrifa
overcame Hialmgunnar in battle; in revenge for which Odin pricked her
with a sleep-thorn, and declared that thenceforth she should never have
victory in battle, and should be given in marriage. But, said she, I
said to him that I had bound myself by a vow not to espouse any man who
could be made to fear. Sigurd answers, and implores her to teach him
wisdom, as she had intelligence from all worlds:


                5.  Beer I bear to thee,
                    Column of battle!
                    With might mingled,
                    And with bright glory:
                    ’Tis full of song,
                    And salutary saws,
                    Of potent incantations,
                    And joyous discourses.

                6.  Sig-runes thou must know,
                    If victory (_sigr_) thou wilt have,
                    And on thy sword’s hilt rist them;
                    Some on the chapes,
                    Some on the guard,
                    And twice name the name of Tyr.

                7.  Öl-(ale-)runes thou must know,
                    If thou wilt not that another’s wife
                    Thy trust betray, if thou
                    In her confide.
                    On the horn must they be risted,
                    And on the hand’s back,
                    And Naud[22] on the nail be scored.

                8.  A cup must be blessed,
                    And against peril guarded,
                    And garlick in the liquor cast;
                    Then I know
                    Thou wilt never have
                    Mead with treachery mingled.

                9.  Biarg-(help-)runes thou must know,
                    If thou wilt help
                    And loose the child from women;
                    In the palm they must be graven,
                    And round the joints be clasped,
                    And the dises prayed for aid.

                10. Brim-(sea-)runes thou must know,
                    If thou wilt have secure
                    Afloat thy sailing steeds.
                    On the prow they must be risted,
                    And on the helm-blade,
                    And with fire to the oar applied.
                    No surge shall be so towering,
                    Nor waves so dark,
                    But from the ocean thou safe shalt come,

                11. Lim-(branch-)runes thou must know.
                    If thou a leech would be,
                    And wounds know how to heal.
                    On the bark they must be risted,
                    And on the leaves of trees,
                    Of those whose boughs bend eastward.

                12. Mál-(speech-)runes thou must know,
                    If thou wilt that no one
                    For injury with hate requite thee.
                    Those thou must wind,
                    Those thou must wrap round,
                    Those thou must altogether place
                    In the assembly,
                    Where people have
                    Into full court to go.

                13. Hug-(thought-)runes thou must know,
                    If thou a wiser man wilt be
                    Than every other.
                    Those interpreted,
                    Those risted,
                    Those devised Hropt,[23]
                    From the fluid
                    Which had leaked
                    From Heiddraupner’s[24] head,
                    And from Hoddropner’s horn.

                14. On a rock he stood,
                    With edged sword,
                    A helm on his head he bore.
                    Then spake Mimer’s head
                    Its first wise word,
                    And true sayings uttered.

                15. They are, it is said,
                    On the shield risted
                    Which stands before the shining god,
                    On Aarvak’s[25] ear,
                    And on Alsvinn’s hoof,
                    On the wheel which rolls
                    Under Rogner’s[26] car,
                    On Sleipner’s teeth,
                    And on the sledge’s bands.

                16. On the bear’s paw,
                    And on Brage’s tongue,
                    On the wolf’s claws,
                    And the eagle’s beak,
                    On bloody wings,
                    And on the bridge’s end,
                    On the releasing hand.
                    And on healing’s track.

                17. On glass and on gold,
                    On amulets of men,
                    In wine and in ale,
                    And in the welcome seat,
                    On Gungner’s point,
                    And on Grane’s breast,
                    On the norn’s nail,
                    And the owl’s neb.

                18. All were erased
                    That were inscribed,
                    And mingled with the sacred mead,
                    And sent on distant ways;
                    They are with the gods,
                    They are with the elves;
                    Some with the wise vans,
                    Some human beings have.

                19. Those are bôk-runes
                    Those are biarg-runes,
                    And all öl-(ale-)runes,
                    And precious megin-(power-)runes
                    For those who can,
                    Without confusion or corruption,
                    Turn them to his welfare.
                    Use, if thou hast understood them,
                    Until the powers perish.

                20. Now thou shalt choose,
                    Since a choice is offered thee,
                    Keen armed warrior!
                    My speech or silence:
                    Think over it in thy mind.
                    All evils have their measure.


                21. I will not flee,
                    Though thou shouldst know me doomed:
                    I am not born a craven.
                    Thy friendly councils all
                    I will receive,
                    As long as life is in me.


                22. This I thee counsel first:
                    That toward thy kin
                    Thou bear thee blameless.
                    Take not hasty vengeance,
                    Although they raise up strife:
                    That, it is said, benefits the dead.

                23. This I thee counsel secondly:
                    That no oath thou swear,
                    If it not be true.
                    Cruel bonds
                    Follow broken faith:
                    Accursed is the faith-breaker.

                24. This I thee counsel thirdly:
                    That in the assembly thou
                    Contend not with a fool;
                    For an unwise man
                    Oft utters words
                    Worse than he knows of.

                25. All is vain,
                    If thou holdest silence;
                    Then wilt thou seem a craven born,
                    Or else truly accused.
                    Doubtful is a servant’s testimony,
                    Unless a good one thou gettest.
                    On the next day
                    Let his life go forth,
                    And so men’s lies reward.

                26. This I counsel thee fourthly:
                    If a wicked sorceress
                    Dwell by the way,
                    To go on is better
                    Than there to lodge,
                    Though night may overtake thee.

                27. Of searching eyes
                    The sons of men have need,
                    When fiercely they have to fight:
                    Oft pernicious women
                    By the wayside sit,
                    Who swords and valor deaden.

                28. This I thee counsel fifthly:
                    Although thou see fair women
                    On the benches sitting,
                    Let not their kindred’s silver[27]
                    Over thy sleep have power.
                    To kiss thee entice no woman.

                29. This I thee counsel sixthly:
                    Although among men pass
                    Offensive tipsy talk,
                    Never, while drunken, quarrel
                    With men of war:
                    Wine steals the wits of many.

                30. Brawls and drink
                    To many men have been
                    A heart-felt sorrow;
                    To some their death,
                    To some calamity:
                    Many are the griefs of men!

                31. This I thee counsel seventhly:
                    If thou hast disputes
                    With a daring man,
                    Better it is for men
                    To fight than to be burnt
                    Within their dwelling.

                32. This I thee counsel eighthly:
                    That thou guard thee against evil,
                    And eschew deceit.
                    Entice no maiden,
                    Nor wife of man,
                    Nor to wantonness incite.

                33. This I thee counsel ninthly:
                    That thou corpses bury,
                    Wherever on the earth thou findest them;
                    Whether from sickness they have died,
                    Or from the sea,
                    Or are from weapons dead.

                34. Let a mound be raised
                    For those departed;
                    Let their hands and head be washed,
                    Combed, and wiped dry,
                    Ere in the coffin they are laid;
                    And pray for their happy sleep.

                35. This I thee counsel tenthly:
                    That thou never trust
                    A foe’s kinsman’s promises,
                    Whose brother thou hast slain,
                    Or sire laid low:
                    There is a wolf
                    In a young son,
                    Though he with gold be gladdened.

                36. Strifes and fierce enmities
                    Think not to be lulled,
                    No more than deadly injury.
                    Wisdom and fame in arms
                    A prince not easily acquires,
                    Who shall of men be foremost.

                37. This I counsel thee eleventhly:
                    That thou at evil look,
                    What course it may take.
                    A long life, it seems to me,
                    The prince may [not] enjoy;
                    Fierce disputes will arise.

Sigurd said: A wiser mortal exists not, and I swear that I will possess
thee, for thou art after my heart. She answered: Thee I will have before
all others, though I have to choose among all men. And this they
confirmed with oaths to each other.

Here ends the lay of Sigdrifa.

The reader may find some of these rules of _Hávamál_ and _Sigrdrífumál_
somewhat inconsistent with our ideas of a supreme deity; but are not
many of these principles laid down in the Odinic morality worthy of a
Christian age and of a Christian people, and do they not all reveal a
profound knowledge of human nature in all its various phases?

These rules of life, says Professor Keyser, were variously understood,
and as variously carried out into practice. But on the whole we find
them reflected in the popular character of the Norsemen, such as history
teaches it to us during heathendom. Bravery, prudence, and a love of
independence are its brightest features, although bravery often
degenerated into warrior fierceness, prudence into dissimulation, and
the love of independence into self-will. If on the one hand we find a
noble self-command, devoted faithfulness in friendship and love,
noble-hearted hospitality and generosity, a love of right and of legal
order, we also see on the other hand, unyielding stubbornness, a fierce
spirit of revenge, a repulsive arrogance, a far-reaching self-interest,
and an excessive dependence upon the formalities of the law. A cold and
unmoved exterior often concealed a soul torn by the bitterest grief, or
stirred up by the wildest passions. A passionate outburst of joy or of
grief was considered undignified. Few words, but energetic action, was
esteemed in conduct, and complaint was silenced in order that vengeance
could strike the more surely and heavily. Under a tranquil, indifferent
mien were concealed the boldest and most deep-laid plans, and the real
intention first came to light in the decisive moment. On the whole,
there was certainly an impress of rigidity, insensibility and
self-goodness stamped upon the popular character, but this stamp was
more upon the outside than in its innermost character, more the result
of inordinate prudence than of an evil disposition; and through all its
failings there shines forth a dignity of soul which ennobled power and
held up glory in this life and in after ages as the highest object of
human undertakings.[28]

The part assigned to the Norsemen in the grand drama of European history
was to free the human mind from the Cæsarian thraldom of Rome, in which
it had so long been chained; to show what marvels self-government and
free institutions can accomplish, and thus hand down to us, their
descendants, a glorious heritage of imperishable principles, which we
must study and in a great measure be guided by.

We retain in the days of the week the remembrance of this religion,
which was brought to England more than fourteen hundred years ago by the
Goths, who came to give that country a new name and a new fate in the
world. The Goths taught the people of Britain to divide tho week into
their _Sun_-day, _Moon_-day, _Tys_-day, _Odin’s_-day, _Thor’s_-day, and
_Frey’s_ or _Freyja’s_-day. The name of Saturday the English owe to the
Roman god Saturnus; but the last day of the week was known among the
early Norsemen, and is still known among them, as _Laugar_-dag,
_Lör_-dag, that is _Washing_-day. It is possible, as E. C. Otté quaintly
remarks, that our Anglo-Saxon forefathers may have wished to change this
name when, in later times, they had ceased to have only _one_
washing-day out of the seven, like their northers ancestors.

We are now prepared to present the Norse mythology, and we shall divide
divisions we dedicate respectively to URD, VERDANDE, and SKULD, the
three norns, WAS, IS, and SHALL BE, which uphold the world’s structure
and preside over the destinies of gods and men.

Footnote 8:

  Beowulf, 1839.

Footnote 9:

  The tailor makes the man.

Footnote 10:

  The public assembly.

Footnote 11:

  That is, _dead_ on the funeral pile.

Footnote 12:


Footnote 13:


Footnote 14:

  Such lines as this show the _Norse_ origin of the Edda.

Footnote 15:

  For the story of Suttung and Gunlad, see second part, pp. 246-253.

Footnote 16:

  In the North a holy oath was taken on a ring kept in the temple for
  that purpose.

Footnote 17:

  Carving: runes are risted = runes are carved.

Footnote 18:

  In a battle we must not look up, but forward.

Footnote 19:

  To become panic-stricken, which the Norsemen called to become swine.

Footnote 20:

  The meaning is, it is difficult to show hospitality to everybody. A
  door would have to be strong to stand so much opening and shutting.

Footnote 21:

  The parenthesis refers to Fafner’s death.

Footnote 22:

  The name of a rune; our _N_.

Footnote 23:


Footnote 24:


Footnote 25:

  The horses of the sun.

Footnote 26:


Footnote 27:

  Which thou mightest get by marriage.

Footnote 28:

  _Religion of the Northmen_, chap. xvii.

                            NORSE MYTHOLOGY.

                          Urðar orði
                          kveðr engi maðr.
                        Vafin er Verðandi reyk.
                          Lítið sjáum aptr,
                          en ekki fram;
                          skyggir Skuld fyrir sjón.

                        MATTHIAS JOCHUMSON.

                                PART I.


                              Urðar orði
                              kveðr engi maðr.

                               CHAPTER I.
                             THE CREATION.


The condition of things before the creation of the world is expressed
negatively. There was nothing of that which sprang into existence. This
transition from empty space into being demands the attention of the
whole human race. Therefore the vala, or wandering prophetess, begins
her mysterious song, the grand and ancient Völuspá, the first lay in the
Elder Edda, as follows:

                     Give ear
                     All ye divine races,
                     Great and small,
                     Sons of Heimdal!
                     I am about to relate
                     The wonderful works of Valfather,
                     The oldest sayings of men,
                     The first I remember.

                     It was Time’s morning
                     When Ymer lived:
                     There was no sand, no sea,
                     No cooling billows;
                     Earth there was none,
                     No lofty heaven,
                     Only Ginungagap,
                     But no grass.

The beginning was this: Many ages, ere the earth was made, there existed
two worlds. Far to the north was Niflheim (the nebulous world), and far
to the south was Muspelheim (the fire world). Between them was
Ginungagap (the yawning gap). In the middle of Niflheim lay the spring
called Hvergelmer, and from it flowed twelve ice-cold streams, the
rivers Elivagar, of which Gjol was situated nearest Hel-gate. Muspelheim
was so bright and hot that it burned and blazed and could not be trodden
by those who did not have their home and heritage there. In the midst of
this intense light and burning heat sat Surt, guarding its borders with
a flaming sword in his hand.


The first beings came into existence in the following manner: When those
rivers that are called Elivagar, and which flowed from the spring
Hvergelmer, had flowed far from their spring-head the venom which flowed
with them hardened, as does dross that runs from a furnace, and became
ice. And when the ice stood still, and ran not, the vapor arising from
the venom gathered over it and froze to rime, and in this manner were
formed in the yawning gap many layers of congealed vapor piled one over
the other. That part of Ginungagap that lay toward the north was thus
filled with thick and heavy ice and rime, and everywhere within were
fogs and gusts; but the south side of Ginungagap was lightened by the
sparks and flakes that flew out of Muspelheim. Thus while freezing cold
and gathering gloom proceeded from Niflheim, that part of Ginungagap
which looked toward Muspelheim was hot and bright; but Ginungagap was as
light as windless air; and when the heated blast met the frozen vapor it
melted into drops, _and by the might of him who sent the heat_,[29]
these drops quickened into life and were shaped into the likeness of a
man. His name was Ymer, but the frost-giants called him Aurgelmer. Ymer
was not a god; he was bad (evil, _illr_), as were all his kind. When he
slept, he fell into a sweat, and from the pit of his left arm waxed a
man and a woman, and one of his feet begat with the other a son, from
whom descend the frost-giants, and therefore Ymer is called the old
frost-giant (Rhimthurs). Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of Vafthrudner:

                    Countless winters
                    Ere earth was formed,
                    Was born Bergelmer;
                    Was his sire,
                    His grandsire Aurgelmer.

                    From Elivagar
                    Sprang venom drops,
                    Which grew till they became a giant;
                    But sparks flew
                    From the south-world:
                    To the ice the fire gave way.

                    Under the armpit grew,
                    ’Tis said, of Rhimthurs,
                    A girl and boy together;
                    Foot with foot begat,
                    Of that wise giant,
                    A six-headed son.


On what did the giant Ymer live, is a pertinent question. Here is the
answer: The next thing, when the rime had been resolved into drops, was
that the cow, which is called Audhumbla, was made of it. Four
milk-rivers ran out of her teats, and thus she fed Ymer. On what did the
cow feed? She licked rime-stones, which were salt; and the first day
that she licked the stones there came at evening out of the stones a
man’s hair, the second day a man’s head, and the third day all the man
was there. His name was Bure. He was fair of face, great and mighty. He
begat a son by name Bor. Bor took for his wife a woman whose name was
Bestla, a daughter of the giant Bolthorn, and they had three sons, Odin,
Vile and Ve, the rulers of heaven and earth; and Odin, adds the Younger
Edda, is the greatest and lordliest of all the gods.

The frost-giants were, then, the first race or the first dynasty of
gods. The Elder Edda makes this dynasty embrace three beings, for
Aurgelmer in the passage quoted is the same as Ymer.

Odin descended from the frost-giants, which is also proved by a passage
in the Younger Edda, where Ganglere asks where Odin kept himself ere
heaven and earth were yet made. Then he was, answered Haar, with the
frost-giants (Rhimthursar).


Bor’s sons, Odin, Vile and Ve, slew the giant Ymer, but when he fell
there ran so much blood out of his wounds, that with that they drowned
all the race of the frost-giants, save one, who got away with his
household; him the giants call Bergelmer. He went on board his boat, and
with him went his wife, and from them came a new race of frost-giants.
Thus the Elder Edda:

                       Winters past counting,
                       Ere earth was yet made,
                       Was born Bergelmer:
                       Full well I remember
                       How this crafty giant
                       Was stowed safe in his skiff.

Odin, Vile and Ve dragged the body of Ymer into the middle of
Ginungagap, and of it they formed the earth. From Ymer’s blood they made
the seas and waters; from his flesh the land; from his bones the
mountains; from his hair the forests, and from his teeth and jaws,
together with some bits of broken bones, they made the stones and
pebbles. From the blood that ran from his wounds they made the vast
ocean, in the midst of which they fixed the earth, the ocean encircling
it as a ring; and hardy, says the Younger Edda, will he be who attempts
to cross those waters. Then they took his skull and formed thereof the
vaulted heavens, which they placed over the earth, and set a dwarf at
the corner of each of the four quarters. These dwarfs are called East,
West, North, and South. The wandering sparks and red-hot flakes that had
been cast out from Muspelheim they placed in the heavens, both above and
below Ginungagap, to give light unto the world. The earth was round
without and encircled by the deep ocean, the outward shores of which
were assigned as a dwelling for the race of giants. But within, round
about the earth, the sons of Bor raised a bulwark against turbulent
giants, employing for this structure Ymer’s eye-brows. To this bulwark
they gave the name Midgard.[30] They afterwards threw and scattered the
brains of Ymer in the air, and made of them the melancholy clouds. Thus
the Elder Edda, in the lay of Vafthrudner:

                       From Ymer’s flesh
                       The earth was formed,
                       And from his bones the hills,
                       The heaven from the skull
                       Of that ice-cold giant,
                       And from his blood the sea.

And in Grimner’s lay:

                    Of Ymer’s flesh
                    Was earth created,
                    Of his blood the sea,
                    Of his bones the hills,
                    Of his hair trees and plants,
                    Of his skull the heavens,
                    And of his brows
                    The gentle powers
                    Formed Midgard for the sons of men;
                    But of his brain
                    The heavy clouds are
                    All created.


The heavenly bodies were formed of the sparks from Muspelheim. The gods
did not create them, but only placed them in the heavens to give light
unto the world, and assigned them a prescribed locality and motion. By
them days and nights and seasons were marked. Thus the Elder Edda, in

                          The sun knew not
                          His proper sphere;
                          The stars knew not
                          Their proper place;
                          The moon knew not
                          Where her position was.

                          There was nowhere grass
                          Until Bor’s sons
                          The expanse did raise,
                          By whom the great
                          Midgard was made.
                          From the south the sun
                          Shone on the walls;
                          Then did the earth
                          Green herbs produce.
                          The moon went ahead
                          The sun followed,
                          His right hand held
                          The steeds of heaven.

Mundilfare was the father of the sun and moon. It is stated in the
Younger Edda that Mundilfare had two children, a son and a daughter, so
lovely and graceful that he called the boy Maane[31] (moon) and the girl
Sol (sun), and the latter he gave in marriage to Glener (the shining

But the gods, being incensed at Mundilfare’s presumption, took his
children and placed them in the heavens, and let Sol drive the horses
that draw the car of the sun. These horses are called Aarvak (the
ever-wakeful) and Alsvinn (the rapid one); they are gentle and
beautiful, and under their withers the gods placed two skins filled with
air to cool and refresh them, or, according to another ancient
tradition, an iron refrigerant substance called _ísarnkol_. A shield, by
name Svalin (cool), stands before the Sun, the shining god. The
mountains and the ocean would burn up if this shield should fall away.
Maane was set to guide the moon in her course, and regulate her
increasing and waning aspect.

A giant, by name Norve, who dwelt in Jotunheim, had a daughter called
Night (_nótt_), who, like all her race, was of a dark and swarthy
complexion. She was first wedded to a man called Naglfare, and had by
him a son named Aud, and afterward to another man called Annar, by whom
she had a daughter called Earth (_jörd_). She finally espoused Delling
(day-break), of asa-race, and their son was Day (_dagr_), a child light
and fair like his father. Allfather gave Night and Day two horses and
two cars, and set them up in the heavens that they might drive
successively one after the other, each in twenty-four hours’ time, round
the world. Night rides first with her steed Hrimfaxe (rime-fax),[32]
that every morn, as he ends his course, bedews the earth with the foam
from his bit. The steed driven by Day is called Skinfaxe (shining-fax),
and all the sky and earth glistens from his mane. Thus the Elder Edda,
in the lay of Vafthrudner:

                         Mundilfare hight he
                         Who the moon’s father is,
                         And also the sun’s:
                         Round heaven journey
                         Each day they must,
                         To count years for men.

In the lay of Grimner:

                      Aarvak and Alsvinn,
                      Theirs it is up hence
                      Tired the sun to draw
                      Under their shoulder
                      These gentle powers, the gods,
                      Have concealed an iron-coolness.

                      Svalin the shield is called
                      Which stands before the sun,
                      The refulgent deity;
                      Rocks and ocean must, I ween,
                      Be burnt,
                      Fell it from its place.

In the lay of Vafthrudner:

                    Delling called is he
                    Who the Day’s father is,
                    But Night was of Norve born;
                    The new and waning moons
                    The beneficent powers created
                    To count years for men.

                    Skinfaxe he is named
                    That the bright day draws
                    Forth over human kind;
                    Of coursers he is best accounted
                    Among faring men;
                    Ever sheds light that horse’s mane.

                    Hrimfaxe he is called
                    That each night draws forth
                    Over the beneficent powers;
                    He from his bit lets fall
                    Drops every morn
                    Whence in the dells comes dew.

The sun speeds at such a rate as if she feared that some one was
pursuing her for her destruction. And well she may; for he that seeks
her is not far behind, and she has no other way to escape than to run
before him. But who is he that causes her this anxiety? There are two
wolves; the one, whose name is Skol, pursues the sun, and it is he that
she fears, for he shall one day overtake and devour her. The other,
whose name is Hate Hrodvitneson, runs before her and as eagerly pursues
the moon, that will one day be caught by him. Whence come these wolves?
Answer: A giantess dwells in a wood called Jarnved (ironwood). It is
situated east of Midgard, and is the abode of a race of witches. This
old hag is the mother of many gigantic sons, who are all of them shaped
like wolves, two of whom are Skol and Hate. There is one of that race
who is the most formidable of all. His name is Maanagarm
(moon-swallower): he is filled with the life-blood of men who draw near
their end, and he will swallow up the moon, and stain the heavens and
the earth with blood. As it is said in the Völuspá, of the Elder Edda:

                       Eastward in the Ironwood
                       The old one sitteth,
                       And there bringeth forth
                       Fenrer’s fell kindred.
                       Of these, one, the mightiest,
                       The moon’s devourer,
                       In form most fiend-like,
                       And filled with the life-blood
                       Of the dead and the dying,
                       Reddens with ruddy gore
                       The seats of the high gods.
                       Then shall the sunshine
                       Of summer be darkened,
                       And fickle the weather.
                       Conceive ye this or not?

The gods set Evening and Midnight, Morning and Noon, Forenoon and
Afternoon, to count out the year. There were only two seasons, summer
and winter; hence spring and fall must be included in these two. The
father of summer is called Svasud (the mild), who is such a gentle and
delicate being, that what is mild is from him called sweet (_sváslegt_).
The father of winter has two names, Vindlone and Vindsval (the
wind-cool); he is the son of Vasud (sleet-bringing), and, like all his
race, has an icy breath and is of grim and gloomy aspect.

Whence come the winds, that are so strong that they move the ocean and
fan fire to flame, and still are so airy that no mortal eye can discern
them? Answer: In the northern extremity of the heavens sits a giant
called Hræsvelger (corpse-swallower), clad with eagles’ plumes. When he
spreads out his wings for flight, the winds arise from under them.

Which is the path leading from earth to heaven? The gods made a bridge
from earth to heaven and called it Bifrost (the vibrating way). We have
all seen it and call it the rainbow. It is of three hues and constructed
with more art than any other work. But though strong it be, it will be
broken to pieces when the sons of Muspel, after having traversed great
rivers, shall ride over it. There is nothing in nature that can hope to
make resistance when the sons of Muspel sally forth to the great combat.
Now listen to the Elder Edda on some of these subject.

In the lay of Grimner:

                Skol the wolf is named
                That the fair-faced goddess
                To the ocean chases;
                Another Hate is called,
                He is Hrodvitner’s son:
                He the bright maid of heaven shall precede.

In the Völuspá:

                      Then went the powers all
                      To their judgment seats,
                      The all-holy gods,
                      And thereon held council:
                      To night and to the waning moon
                      Gave names;
                      Morn they named
                      And mid-day,
                      Afternoon and eve,
                      Whereby to reckon years.

In the lay of Vafthrudner:

                       Vindsval is his name
                       Who winter’s father is,
                       And Svasud summer’s father is:
                       Yearly they both
                       Shall ever journey,
                       Until the powers perish.

                       Hræsvelger is his name
                       Who at the end of heaven sits,
                       A giant in an eagle’s plumage:
                       From his wings comes,
                       It is said, the wind
                       That over all men passes.

In reference to Maane, it should be added, that the Younger Edda tells
us, that he once took children from earth. Their names were Bil and
Hjuke. They went from the spring called Byrger, and bore on their
shoulders the bucket called Sæger with the pole called Simul. Their
father’s name was Vidfin. These children follow Maane, as may be seen,
from the earth.

                        THE FIRST MAN AND WOMAN.

In the beginning Allfather (Odin) appointed rulers and bade them judge
with him the fate of men and regulate the government of the celestial
city. They met for this purpose in a place called Idavold (the plains of
Ida), which is the center of the divine abode (Asgard, the abode of the
asas). Their first work was to erect a court or hall, where there are
twelve seats for themselves, besides the throne which is occupied by
Allfather. This hall is the largest and most magnificent in the
universe, being resplendent on all sides both within and without with
the finest gold. Its name is Gladsheim (home of gladness). They also
erected another hall for the sanctuary of the goddesses. It is a fair
structure and is called Vingolf (friends’-floor). Thereupon they built a
smithy and furnished it with hammers, tongs and anvils, and with these
made all other requisite instruments with which they worked in metals,
stone and wood, and composed so large a quantity of the metal called
gold, that they made all their house-furniture of it. Hence that age was
called the Golden Age. This was the age that lasted until the arrival of
the women out of Jotunheim, who corrupted it.

Then the gods seating themselves upon their thrones distributed justice,
and remembered how the dwarfs had been bred in the mould of the earth,
just as worms in a dead body. The dwarfs were quickened as maggots in
the flesh of the old giant Ymer, but by the command of the gods they
received the form and understanding of men; their abode was, however, in
the earth and rocks. Four dwarfs, Austre (east), Vestre (west), Nordre
(north), and Sudre (south), were appointed by the gods to bear up the
sky. Of the race of dwarfs Modsogner and Durin are the principal ones.

There were not yet any human beings upon the earth, when one day, as the
sons of Bor (Odin, Hœner and Loder) were walking along the sea-beach,
they found two trees and created from them the first human pair, man and
woman. Odin gave them life and spirit, Hœner endowed them with reason
and the power of motion, and Loder gave them blood, hearing, vision and
a fair complexion. The man they called Ask, and the woman Embla. The
newly created pair received from the gods Midgard as their abode; and
from Ask and Embla is descended the whole human family. Thus the Elder
Edda, in Völuspá.

                         The asas met
                         On Ida’s plains;
                         They altars raised
                         And temples built;
                         Furnaces they established,
                         Precious things forged,
                         Their strength they tried
                         In many ways
                         When making tongs
                         And forming tools.

                         On the green they played
                         In joyful mood,
                         Nor knew at all
                         The want of gold,
                         Until there came
                         Three giant maids
                         Exceeding strong
                         From Jotunheim.

                         Then all the powers
                         Went to the throne,
                         The holy gods,
                         And held consult
                         Who should of dwarfs
                         The race then fashion
                         From the livid bones
                         And blood of the giant.

                         Modsogner, chief
                         Of the dwarfish race,
                         And Durin, too,
                         Were then created;
                         And like to men
                         Dwarfs in the earth
                         Were formed in numbers
                         As Durin ordered.

                         And then there came
                         Out of the ranks,
                         Powerful and fair,
                         Three asas home,
                         And found on shore,
                         In helpless plight,
                         Ask and Embla,[33]
                         Without their fate.

                         They had not yet
                         Spirit or mind,
                         Blood or beauty
                         Or lovely hue.
                         Odin gave spirit,
                         Hœner gave mind,
                         Loder gave blood
                         And lovely hue.


In the Old Norse language a god is called _áss_ (pl. _æsir_) and a
goddess _ásynja_. The gods dwell in Asgard. In its midst are the plains
of Ida (_Idavöllr_, the assembling-place of the gods), and Odin’s
high-seat Hlidskjalf, from where he looks out upon all the worlds. But
above the heaven of the asas are higher heavens, and in the highest
stands the imperishable gold-roofed hall Gimle, which is brighter than
the sun.

The gods, to whom divine honors must be rendered, are twelve in number,
and their names are Odin, Thor, Balder, Tyr, Brage, Heimdal, Hoder,
Vidar, Vale, Uller, Forsete, Loke. In this list Njord and Frey are not
mentioned, for they originally belonged to the vans or sea-gods, and
were received among the asas by virtue of a treaty in which Njord was
given as a hostage, and Frey is his son.

Of goddesses we find the number twenty-six, and Vingolf is their hall.
Odin’s hall is the great Valhal. Spears support its ceiling; it is
roofed with shields, and coats of mail adorn its benches. Thither and to
Vingolf Odin invites all men wounded by arms or fallen in battle.
Therefore he is called Valfather (father of the slain), and his invited
guests are called einherjes. They are waited upon by valkyries.

The dwelling of Thor is Thrudvang or Thrudheim. His hall, the immense
Bilskirner. Uller, Thor’s son, lives in Ydaler. Balder lives in
Breidablik, where nothing impure is found. Njord, one of the vans,
dwells in Noatun by the sea. Heimdal inhabits Himinbjorg, which stands
where Bifrost’s bridge approaches heaven. Forsete has Glitner for his
dwelling, whose roof of silver rests on golden columns. The chief
goddess Frigg, wife of Odin, has her dwelling-place in Fensal, and
Freyja, the goddess of love, dwells in Folkvang; her hall is Sessrymner.
Saga dwells in the great Sokvabek under the cool waves; there she drinks
with Odin every day from golden vessels.

We have so far mentioned the following classes of deities: giants, gods,
goddesses, vans (sea-deities), and dwarfs. In addition to these the
Younger Edda mentions two kinds of elves: elves of light and elves of
darkness. The elves of light dwell in Alfheim (home of the elves), but
the elves of darkness live under the earth, and differ from the others
still more in their actions than in their appearance. The elves of light
are fairer than the sun, but the elves of darkness blacker than pitch.

Then we have a lot of inferior spirits, such as trolls, hulder, witches
(_vœttr_), nisses, necks, etc., all of which figure extensively in the
Norse folk-lore, but an extensive description of them will not be
attempted in this work.


Nine worlds are mentioned: Muspelheim, Asaheim, Ljosalfaheim, Vanaheim,
Mannaheim, Jotunheim, Svartalfaheim, Helheim, Niflheim. The highest is
Muspelheim (the fire-world), the realm of Surt, and in its highest
regions it appears that Gimle (heaven) was thought to be situated. The
lowest is Niflheim (the mist-world), the realm of cold and darkness, and
in its midst is the fountain Hvergelmer, where the dragon Nidhug dwells.
Between the two is Mannaheim (the world of man) or Midgard, the round
disk of the earth, surrounded by the great ocean. The gods gave Ask and
Embla, the first human pair, and their descendants, this world to dwell
in. Far above Mannaheim is Asaheim (the world of the gods), forming a
vault above the earth. In the midst of this world is Idavold, the
assembling-place of the gods, and here is also Odin’s lofty throne
Hlidskjalf. Beyond the ocean is Jotunheim (the world of the giants).
This world is separated from Asaheim by the river Ifing, which never
freezes over. Nearest above the earth is Ljosalfaheim (the world of the
light elves), and between it and Asaheim is Vanaheim (the world of the
vans). Proceeding downward, we come first to Svartalfaheim (world of the
dark elves), below Mannaheim, and between Svartalfaheim and Niflheim we
have Helheim (the world of the dead, hell). Thither the way from the
upper worlds led down by the north through Jotunheim over the stream
Gjol, the bridge over which, called Gjallar-bridge, was roofed over with
shining gold.

Footnote 29:

  The supreme god.

Footnote 30:

  The Tower of Babel.

Footnote 31:

  In the Norse language, as also in the Anglo-Saxon, the sun is of the
  feminine and the moon of the masculine gender.

Footnote 32:

  Fax = mane.

Footnote 33:

  Ash and Elm.

                              CHAPTER II.
                           THE PRESERVATION.

Ygdrasil is one of the noblest conceptions that ever entered into any
scheme of cosmogony or human existence. It is in fact the great tree of
life, wonderfully elaborated and extended through the whole system of
the universe. It furnishes bodies for mankind from its branches; it
strikes its roots through all worlds, and spreads its life-giving arms
through the heavens. All life is cherished by it, even that of serpents,
which devour its roots and seek to destroy it. It has three grand roots
far apart. One of them extends to the asas, another to the giants in
that very place where was formerly Ginungagap, and the third stands over
Niflheim, and under this root, which is constantly gnawed by the serpent
Nidhug and all his reptile brood, is the fountain Hvergelmer. Under the
root that stretches out toward the giants is Mimer’s fountain, in which
wisdom and wit lie hid. The owner of this fountain is called Mimer. He
is full of wisdom, because he drinks the waters of the fountain every
morning with the Gjallarhorn. Once Odin came and begged a draught of
this water, which he received, but he had to leave one of his eyes in
pawn for it. Thus it is recorded in the Elder Edda:

                            Full well I know,
                            Great Odin, where
                            Thine eye thou lost;
                            In Mimer’s well,
                            The fountain pure,
                            Mead Mimer drinks
                            Each morning new,
                            With Odin’s pledge.
                            Conceive ye this?

Under the root of Ygdrasil, which extends to the asas in heaven, is the
holy Urdar-fountain. Here the gods sit in judgment. Every day they ride
up hither on horseback over Bifrost (the rainbow), which is called the
bridge of the gods (_ásbrú_). Odin rides his gray eight-footed Sleipner,
Heimdal on Goldtop. The other horses are Glad (bright), Gyller (gilder),
Gler (the shining one), Skeidbrimer (fleet-foot), Silfrintop (silver
top), Siner (sinews), Gisl (the sunbeam), Falhofner (pale hoof), Letfet
(light-foot). It has been stated before that the gods worthy of divine
honors were twelve, and here we have ten horses named. Balder’s and
Thor’s are wanting. Balder’s horse was burnt with his master’s body, and
as for Thor, he has to go on foot. He cannot pass the Asabridge, for the
thunder, which he is, would destroy it; therefore he daily wades through
the rivers Kormt, Ormt, and two others called Kerlaug, to get to the
council of the gods.

The giants cannot pass the Asabridge, for the red in it is burning fire
and the waters of heaven roar around it. If it were easy for every one
to walk over it, the giants would go up to heaven by that bridge, and
perhaps succeed in bringing ruin upon the gods.

At the Urdar-fountain dwell also three maidens, named Urd, Verdande and
Skuld (Present, Past and Future). These maidens fix the lifetime of all
men, and are called norns. They guard the fountain, which takes its name
from the first and highest of the three, Urd (Urdar-fount). Besides
these there are other norns, some of which are of heavenly origin, but
others belong to the races of elves and dwarfs. The norns who are of
good origin are good themselves, and dispense good destinies. Those men
to whom misfortunes happen ought to ascribe them to the evil norns. Thus
it is that some men are fortunate and wealthy, while others acquire
neither riches nor honors; some live to a good old age, while others are
cut off in their prime.

Furthermore it must be stated of the ash Ygdrasil, that on its topmost
bough sits an eagle who knows many things, and between the eagle’s eyes
sits a hawk by name Vedfolner. A squirrel, whose name is Ratatosk, runs
up and down the tree, and seeks to cause strife between the eagle and
the serpent Nidhug. Four stags leap about beneath its branches and feed
on its buds. They are called Daain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Durathror. But
there are so many snakes with Nidhug in the fountain Hvergelmer, that no
tongue can count them. Thus the Elder Edda:

                        The tree Ygdrasil
                        Bears a sorer burden
                        Than men imagine.
                        Above the stags bite it,
                        On its sides age rots it,
                        Nidhug gnaws below.

                        More serpents lie
                        Under Ygdrasil’s ash
                        Than simpletons think of;
                        Goin and Moin,
                        The sons of Grafvitner,

                        Graabak and Grafvollud,
                        Ofner and Svafner,
                        Must for aye, methinks,
                        Gnaw the roots of that tree.

The norns, who dwell by the Urdar-fount, every day draw water from this
spring, and with it, and the clay that lies around the fount, they
sprinkle the ash, in order that the boughs may continue green, and not
rot and wither away. This water is so holy that everything placed in the
spring becomes as white as the film within an egg-shell. Thus the Elder

                          An ash know I standing
                          Named Ygdrasil,
                          A stately tree sprinkled
                          With water, the purest;
                          Thence come the dewdrops
                          That fall in the dales;
                          Ever blooming it stands
                          O’er the Urdar-fountain.

The dew that falls from the tree on the earth men call honey-dew, and it
is the food of the bees. Finally, two swans swim in the Urdar-fountain,
and they are the parents of the race of swans. Thus all the tribes of
nature partake of the universal tree.

                              CHAPTER III.

In the Norse as in all mythologies, the beginning of creation is a
cosmogony presenting many questions difficult of solution. The natural
desire of knowledge asks for the origin of all things; and as the
beginning always remains inexplicable, the mind tries to satisfy itself
by penetrating as far into the primeval forms of matter and means of
sustaining life as possible. We follow the development of the tree back
to the seed and then to the embryo of the seed, but still we are unable
to explain how a miniature oak can exist in scarcely more than a mere
point in the acorn. We even inspect the first development of the plant
with the microscope, but we acquire knowledge not of the force, but only
of its manifestations or phenomena. Such was also the experience of our
ancestors, when they inquired into the origin of this world. They had
the same desire to know, but were not so well provided with means of
finding out, as we are with our microscopic, telescopic, and spectrum
analysis instruments.

The first effort of the speculative man is to solve the mystery of
existence. The first question is: How has this world begun to be? What
was in the beginning, or what was there before there yet was anything?
In the Greek mythology many forms seem to arise out of night, which
seems to shroud them all. Thus in the Norse mythology the _negative_ is
the first, a _conditio sine qua non_, space we might say, which we must
conceive of as existing, before anything can be conceived as existing in
it. Our ancestors imagined in the beginning only a yawning gap in which
there was absolutely nothing. Wonderfully enough they said that the one
side of this immense gulf extended to the north and the other to the
south, as though there could be such things as _north_ and _south_
before the creation of the world. The north side was cold, the south
warm; and thus we find by closer inspection that this nothing still was
something, that contained in itself opposite forces, cold and heat,
force of contraction and force of expansion, but these forces were in a
state of absolute inertia. Thus also the Greek chaos:

             ... rudis indigestaque moles,
             Nec quidquam nisi pondus iners, congestaque eodem
             Non bone junctarum discordia semina rerum.

We cannot conceive how a body containing two forces can be a _pondus
iners_, for every force is infinite and cannot rest unless it is
prisoned by its opposite force, and this is then strife. The Norse view
is, philosophically speaking, more correct. Here the opposite forces are
separated by a gulf, and as they cannot penetrate the empty space, they
remain inert.

It has before been stated that the Norsemen believed in a great and
almighty god, who was greater than Odin. This god appears in the
creation of the world, where he sends the heated blasts from Muspelheim
and imparts life to the melted drops of rime. He will appear again as
the just and mighty one, who is to reign with Balder in the regenerated
earth. He is the true Allfather.

When the thought was directed to inquire into the origin of the world,
one question would naturally suggest another, thus:

Question: What produced the world? Answer: The giant Ymer.

Question: But on what did the giant Ymer live? Answer: On the milk of a

Question: What did the cow live on? Answer: On salt.

Question: Where did the salt come from? Answer: From the rime.

Question: Whence came the rime? Answer: From ice-cold streams.

Question: Whence came the cold? Answer: From Niflheim.

Question: But what gave life to the rime? Answer: The heat.

Question: Whence came the heat? Answer: From him who sent it.

Here inquiry could go no further. This process brought the inquirer to
the god whom he dared not name, the author and ruler of all things. This
unknown god thus appears only before the creation and after the fall of
the world. He is not a god of time but of eternity. He is from
everlasting to everlasting.

The Elder Edda calls Ymer, Aurgelmer, father of Thrudgelmer and
grandfather of Bergelmer (Berggel-mer.) The first syllables of these
words express the gradual hardening of matter from _aur_ (loose clay) to
_thrud_ (packed, compressed, strong clay), and finally to _berg_ (rock).
Ymer, that is, the first chaotic world-mass, is produced by the union of
frost and fire. The dead cold matter is quickened by the heat into a
huge shapeless giant, which has to be slain; that is, the crude matter
had to be broken to pieces before it could be remodeled into the various
forms which nature since has assumed. This living mass, Ymer, produces
many beings like himself, frost-cold, stone-like, shapeless frost-giants
and mountain giants (icebergs and mountains). In these forms evil is
still predominant. All are allied to the world of cold and darkness. It
is only the lower, the physical, world-life which moves in them.

But a better being, although of animal nature,—the cow Audhumbla—came
into existence from the frozen vapor, as the nurse of Ymer. This power
nourishes the chaotic world, and at the sane time calls forth by its
refining agency—by licking the rime-clumps—a higher spiritual life,
which unfolds itself through several links—through Bure, the bearing
(father), and Bor, the born (son)—until it has gained power sufficient
to overcome chaotic matter—to kill Ymer and his offspring. This
conquering power is divinity itself, which now in the form of a trinity
goes forth as a creative power—as spirit, will and holiness, in the
brothers Odin, Vile and Ve. The spirit quickens, the will arranges, and
holiness banishes the impure and evil. It is however only in the
creation of the world that these three brothers are represented as
coöperating. Vile and Ve are not mentioned again in the whole mythology.
They are blended together in the all-embracing, all-pervading
world-spirit Odin, who is the essence of the world, the almighty god.

This idea of a trinity appears twice more in the Norse mythology. In the
gylfaginning of the Younger Edda, Ganglere sees three thrones, raised
one above the other, and a man sitting on each of them. Upon his asking
what the names of these lords might be, his guide answered: He who
sitteth on the lowest throne is a king, and his name is Haar (the high
or lofty one); the second is Jafnhaar (equally high); but he who sitteth
on the highest throne is called Thride (the third). Then in the creation
of man the divinity appears in the form of a trinity. The three gods,
Odin, Hœner, and Loder, create the first human pair, each one imparting
to them a gift corresponding to his own nature. Odin (_önd_, spirit)
gives them spirit, the spiritual life; he is himself the spirit of the
world, of which man’s is a reflection. Hœner (light) illuminates the
soul with understanding (_ódr_). Loder (fire, Germ. _lodern_, to flame)
gives the warm blood and the blushing color, together with the burning
keenness of the senses. It is evident that Odin’s brothers on these
occasions are mere emanations of his being; they proceed from him, and
only represent different phases of the same divine power. Loder is
probably the same person as afterwards steps forward as an independent
divinity by name Loke. When he was united with Odin in the trinity he
sends a quiet, gentle and invisible flame of light through the veins of
Ask and Embla, that is of mankind. Afterwards, assuming the name of
Loke, he becomes the consuming fire of the earth. Loder produces and
develops life; Loke corrupts and destroys life.

By the creation the elements are separated. Ymer’s body is parceled out;
organic life begins. But the chaotic powers, though conquered, are not
destroyed; a giant escapes in his ark with his family, and from them
comes a new race of giants. Disturbing and deadly influences are
perceptible everywhere in nature, and these influences are represented
by the hostile dispositions of the giants toward the asas and of their
struggles to destroy the work of the latter. The giants have been forced
to fly to Jotunheim, to Utgard, to the outermost deserts beyond the sea;
but still they manage to get within Midgard, the abode of man, and here
they dwell in the rugged mountains, in the ice-clad jokuls and in the
barren deserts, in short, everywhere where any barrenness prevails.
Their agency is perceptible in the devastating storms caused by the
wind-strokes of Hræsvelger, the giant eagle in the North; it is felt in
winter’s cold, snow and ice, and in all the powers of nature which are
unfriendly to fruitfulness and life.

                      The golden age of the gods, when
                      On the green they played
                      In joyful mood,
                      Nor knew at all
                      The want of gold,
                      Until there came
                      Three giant maids
                      From Jotunheim,

represents the golden age of the child and the childhood of the human
race. The life of the gods in its different stages of development
resembles the life of men. Childhood innocent and happy, manhood brings
with it cares and troubles. The gods were happy and played on the green
so long as their development had not yet taken any decided outward
direction; but this freedom from care ended when they had to make dwarfs
and men, and through them got a whole world full of troubles and
anxieties to provide for and protect,—just as the golden age ends for
the child when it enters upon the activities of life, and for the race,
when it enters into the many complications and cares of organized
society. The gods played with pieces of gold. The pure gold symbolizes
innocence. These pieces of gold (_gullnar töflur_) were lost, but were
found again in the green grass of the regenerated earth. From the above
it must be clear that the three giant maids, who came from Jotunheim and
put an end to the golden age, must be the norns, the all-pervading
necessity that develops the child into manhood. It does not follow,
therefore, that these maids were giantesses, for the gods themselves
_descended_ from the giants. Nor did the norns introduce evil into the
world, but they marked out for the gods a career which could not be
changed; and immediately after the appearance of the maids from
Jotunheim the gods must create man, whose fate those same norns would
afterwards determine.

The gods did not create the dwarfs, but only determined that they were
to have the form and understanding of men.

Man was made of trees—of the ash and the elm. There is something
graceful in this idea. The Norse conception certainly is of a higher
order than those which produce man from earth or stones. It is more
natural and more noble to regard man as having been made of trees, which
as they grow from the earth heavenward show an unconscious attraction to
that which is divine, than, as the Greeks do, to make men stand forth
out of cold clay and hard stones. We confess that the Norse myth looks
Greek and the Greek looks Norse; yet there may be a good reason for it.
The plastic Greek regarded man as a statue, which generally was formed
of clay or stone, but to which a divine spark of art gave life. The
Norsemen knew not the plastic art and therefore had to go to nature, and
not to art, for their symbols. The manner in which Odin breathes spirit
and life into the trees reminds us very forcibly of the Mosaic
narrative. It is interesting to study the various mythological theories
in regard to the origin of man. The inhabitants of Thibet have a theory
that undoubtedly is of interest to the followers of Darwin. In Thibet
the three gods held counsel as to how Thibet might be peopled. The first
one showed in a speech that the propagation of the human race could not
be secured unless one of them changed himself into an ape. The last one
of the three gods did this, and the goddess Kadroma was persuaded to
change herself into a female ape. The plan succeeded, and they have left
a numerous offspring.[34]

Various classes of beings are mentioned in the mythology. Life is a
conflict between these beings, for the spiritual everywhere seeks to
penetrate and govern the physical; but it also everywhere meets
resistance. The asas rule over heaven and earth, and unite themselves
with the vans, the water divinities. The giants war with the asas and
vans. The elves most properly belong to the asas, while the dwarfs are
more closely allied to the giants, but they serve the asas. The most
decided struggle, then, is between the asas and giants.

The spiritual and physical character of the giants is clearly brought
out in the myths. They constitute a race by themselves, divided into
different groups, but have a common king or ruler. Their bodies are of
superhuman size, having several hands and heads. Sterkodder had six
arms; Hymer had many heads, and they were hard as stones; Hrungner’s
forehead was harder than any kettle. The giantesses are either horribly
ugly or charmingly beautiful. As the offspring of darkness, the giants
prefer to be out at night. The sunlight, and especially lightning,
terrifies them. On land and sea they inhabit large caves, rocks and
mountains. Their very nature is closely allied to stones and mountains.
When Brynhild drove in a chariot on the way to Hel, and passed through a
place in which a giantess dwelt, the giantess said:

                             Thou shalt not
                             Pass through
                             My stone-supported

The weapons of the giants, as the following myths will show, were stones
and rocks; they had clubs and shields of stone. Hrungner’s weapons were
flint-stones. The giants also have domesticated animals. The giant Thrym
sat on a mound plaiting gold bands for his greyhounds and smoothing the
manes of his horses. He had gold-horned cows and all-black oxen. They
possess abundance of wealth and treasures.

The giant is old, strong and powerful, very knowing and wise, but also
severe, proud and boasting. The giantess is violent, passionate and
impertinent. In their lazy rest the giants are good-natured; they may be
as happy as children; but they must not be teased.

The giants representing the wild, disturbing, chaotic forces in nature,
the beneficent gods can subdue or control them in two ways: The one is
to kill them and use their remains for promoting the fruitfulness of the
earth, the other is to unite with them, in other words, to marry them.
This forms the subject of a large number of myths, which, when we have
formed a correct general conception of the giants, need no further
explanation. Odin kills Sokmimer, the destructive maelstrom of the
ocean. Thor crushes Hrungner, the barren mountain. Odin marries Gunlad,
Njord marries Skade, Frey marries Gerd, etc.

When the Odinic mythology was superseded by the Christian religion it
left a numerous offspring of elves, trolls (dwarfs), nisses, necks,
mermaids, princes, princesses, etc., all of which still live in the
memory and traditions of Scandinavia. They may be said to belong to the
fairy mythology of these countries. We give a brief sketch of these
objects of popular belief, chiefly from the excellent work of Thomas
Keightley. A general knowledge of them is necessary in order to
appreciate the rich folk-lore literature of Norseland.

The elves still retain their distinction into _white_ and _black_. The
white or good elves dwell in the air, dance on the grass, or sit in the
leaves of trees; the black or evil elves are regarded as an underground
people, who frequently inflict sickness or injury on mankind, for which
there is a particular kind of doctors and doctresses in most parts of
Scandinavia. The elves are believed to have their kings, and to
celebrate their weddings and banquets, just the same as the dwellers
above ground. There is an interesting intermediate class of them called
in popular tradition hill-people (_haugafolk_), who are believed to
dwell in caves and small hills. When they show themselves they have a
handsome human form. The common people seem to connect with them a deep
feeling of melancholy, as if bewailing a half-quenched hope of
salvation. Their sweet singing may occasionally be heard on summer
nights out of their hills, when one stands still and listens, or, as it
is expressed in the ballads, lays his ear to the elf-hill; but no one
must be so cruel as by the slightest word to destroy their hopes of
salvation, for then the spritely music will be turned into weeping and
lamentation. The Norsemen usually call the elves _hulder_ or
_huldrefolk_, and their music _huldreslaat_. It is in the minor key, and
of a dull and mournful sound. Norse fiddlers sometimes play it, being
thought to have learned it by listening to the underground people among
the hills and rocks. There is also a tune called the elfkings’ tune,
which several of the good fiddlers know right well, but never venture to
play, for as soon as it begins both old and young, and even inanimate
objects, are compelled to dance, and the player cannot stop unless he
can play the air backwards, or that some one comes behind him and cuts
the strings of his fiddle. Ole Bull and Thorgeir Andunson, the people
think, learned to play the fiddle from the hill-people. The little
underground elves, who are thought to dwell under the houses of mankind,
are described as sportive and mischievous, and as imitating all the
actions of men. They are said to love cleanliness about the house and
place, and to reward such servants as are neat and cleanly.

The dwarfs have become trolls. They are not generally regarded as
malignant. They are thought to live inside of hills, mounds and
mountains; sometimes in single families, sometimes in societies. They
figure extensively in the folk-lore. They are thought to be extremely
rich, for when on great occasion of festivity they have their hills
raised up on red pillars, people that have chanced to be passing by have
seen them shoving large chests full of money to and fro, and opening and
clapping down the lids of them. Their dwellings are very magnificent
inside, being decorated with gold and crystal. They are obliging and
neighborly, freely lending and borrowing and otherwise keeping up a
friendly intercourse with mankind. But they have a sad propensity to
stealing, not only provisions, but also women and children. Trolls have
a great dislike to noise, probably from the recollection of the time
when Thor used to be flinging his hammer after them, while this would
indicate that the giants are their true ancestors. The hanging of bells
in the churches has for this reason driven the most of them out of the

The nisse is the German kobold and the Scotch brownie. He seems to be of
the dwarf family, as he resembles them in appearance, and like them has
plenty of money and a dislike to noise and tumult. He is of the size of
a year-old child, but has the face of an old man. His usual dress is
gray, with a pointed red cap, but on Michaelmas day he wears a round hat
like those of the peasants. No farm-house goes on well unless there is a
nisse in it, and well it is for the maids and the men when they are in
favor with him. They may go to their beds and give themselves no trouble
about their work, and yet in the morning the maids will find the kitchen
swept and water brought in, and the men will find the horses in the
stable well cleaned and curried, and perhaps a supply of corn cribbed
for them from the neighbor’s barns. But he punishes them for any
irregularity that takes place.

The neck is the river-spirit. Sometimes he is represented as sitting
during the summer nights on the surface of the water, like a pretty
little boy with golden hair hanging in ringlets, and a red cap on his
head; sometimes as above the water, like a handsome young man, but
beneath like a horse; at other times as an old man with a long beard,
out of which he wrings the water as he sits on the cliffs. The neck is
very severe against any haughty maiden who makes an ill return to the
love of her wooer; but should he himself fall in love with a maid of
human kind, he is the most polite and attentive suitor in the world. The
neck is also a great musician; he sits on the water and plays on his
gold harp, the harmony of which operates on all nature. To learn music
of him, a person must present him with a black lamb and also promise him
resurrection and redemption.

The stromkarl, called in Norway _grim_ or _fosse-grim_ (force-grim), is
a musical genius like the neck. He who has learned from him can play in
such a masterly manner that the trees dance and waterfalls stop at his

The merman is described as of a handsome form with green or black hair
and beard. He dwells either in the bottom of the sea or in cliffs near
the sea-shore, and is regarded as rather a good and beneficent kind of

The mermaid (_haffrue_) is represented in the popular tradition
sometimes as good, at other times as evil and treacherous. Her
appearance is beautiful. Fishermen sometimes see her in the bright
summer’s sun, when a thin mist hangs over the sea, sitting on the
surface of the water, and combing her long golden hair with a golden
comb, or driving up her snow-white cattle to feed on the strands or
small islands. At other times she comes as a beautiful maiden, chilled
and shivering with the cold of the night, to the fires the fishermen
have kindled, hoping by this means to entice them to her love. Her
appearance prognosticates both storm and ill success in their fishing.
People that are drowned, and whose bodies are not found, are believed to
be taken into the dwellings of the mermaids.

It is the prevalent opinion among the common people of the North that
all these various beings were once worsted in a conflict with superior
powers, and condemned to remain until doomsday in certain assigned
abodes. The rocks were given to the dwarfs; the groves and leafy trees
to the elves; the caves and caverns to the hill-people; the sea, lakes
and rivers to the merman, mermaids and necks; and the small forces
(waterfalls) to the fossegrims. Both the Catholic and Protestant priests
have tried to excite an aversion to these beings, but in vain. They
still live and fill the fairy-tales and folk-lore with their strange
characters, and are capable of furnishing a series of unrivaled subjects
for the painter and sculptor. These weird stories are excellently
adapted to adorn our epic and dramatic poetry as well as our historic
novels. But they must be thoroughly understood first, not only by the
poet, but also by his reader. Thomas Keightley, from whom we have given
a short abstract, has given us an excellent work in English on Gothic
fairy mythology, and we would recommend our readers to read his work in
connection with Dr. Dasent’s _Tales from the Fjeld_. _We_ have to
present the original mythology, not its offspring.

Ygdrasil is a most sublime and finished myth. It is a symbol uniting all
the elements of mythology into a poetical system. The tree symbolizes,
and extends its roots and branches into, the whole universe. Its roots
are gnawed by serpents, and stags bite its branches, but the immortal
tree still stands firm and flourishes from age to age. The Norsemen’s
whole experience of life is here presented in a picture that either in
regard to beauty or depth of thought finds no equal in all the other
systems of mythology. Thomas Carlyle says: I like too that
representation they (the Norsemen) have of the tree Ygdrasil: all life
is figured by them as a tree. Ygdrasil, the Ash-tree of Existence, has
its roots deep down in the kingdom of _Hela_, or Death; its trunk
reaches up heaven-high, spreads its boughs over the whole universe. It
is the Tree of Existence. At the foot of it, in the Death-kingdom, sit
three _Nornas_ (fates),—the Past, Present, Future,—watering its roots
from the Sacred Well. Its boughs, with their buddings and
disleafings—events, things suffered, things done, catastrophes,—stretch
through all lands and times. Is not every leaf of it a biography, every
fiber there an act or word? Its boughs are histories of nations; the
rustle of it is the noise of human existence, onwards from of old. It
grows there, the breath of human passion rustling through it; or
storm-tost, the storm-wind howling through it like the voice of all the
gods. It is Ygdrasil, the Tree of Existence. It is the past, the
present, and the future; what was done, what is doing, what will be
done; the infinite conjugation of the verb _to do_. Considering how
human things circulate, each inextricably in communion with all,—how the
word I speak to you to-day is borrowed, not from Ulfila, the Mæso-Goth
only, but from all men since the first man began to speak,—I find no
similitude so true as this of a tree. Beautiful altogether, beautiful
and great. The machine of the universe! Alas, do but think of that in

The name Ygdrasil is derived from Odin’s name, _Yggr_ (the deep
thinker), and _drasill_ (carrier, horse). Ygdrasil, therefore, means the
_Bearer of God_, a phrase which finds a literal explanation when Odin
hangs nine nights on this tree before he discovered the runes. Thus the
Elder Edda:

                         I know that I hung
                         Nine whole nights,
                         And to Odin offered,
                         On that tree,
                         From what root it springs.
                         On a wind-rocked tree,
                         With a spear wounded,
                         Myself to myself,
                         Of which no one knows.

All the tribes of nature partake of this universal tree, from the eagle
who sits on the topmost bough down through the different stages of
animal life; the hawk in the lower strata of air, the squirrel who
busily leaps about in the branches, the stags by the fountain, to the
serpents beneath the surface of the earth.

The peculiar feature of this myth is its comprehensiveness. How
beautiful the sight of a large tree! Its far-extending branches, its
moss-covered stem, its high crown and deep roots, remind us of the
infinity of time; it has seen ages roll by before we were born. In the
evening, when our day’s work is done, we lie down in its broad shade and
think of the rest that awaits us when all our troubles are ended. Its
leaves rustle in the breezes and the sunshine; they speak to us of that
which is going on above this sorrow-stricken earth. But the tree is not
the whole symbol. It is connected with the great waters, with the clear
fountain with its egg-white waves, and with the turbulent streams that
flow in the bowels of the earth. While the calm firmness of the tree and
the monotonous rustling of the wind through its leaves invites the soul
to rest, the ceaseless activity of the various tribes of animals that
feed upon its roots and branches remind us of nature never at rest and
never tiring. The tree sighs and groans beneath its burden; the animals
move about in it and around it; every species of animals has its place
and destination; the eagle soars on his broad wings over its top; the
serpent winds his slimy coils in the deep; the swan swims in the
fountain; and while all the tribes of animated life are busily engaged,
the dew-drops fall to refresh and cool the earth and the heart of man.
Nay, this is not all. There is one who has planted the tree, and there
are many who watch and care for it; higher beings protect it. Gods and
men, all that possesses life and consciousness, has its home in this
tree and its work to do. The norns constantly refresh it with water from
the Urdar-fountain; the elves hover about it; Heimdal suspends his
tri-colored arch beneath it; the glory of Balder shines upon it; Mimer
lifts his head in the distance, and the pale Hel watches the shades of
men who have departed this earth and journey through the nine worlds
over Gjallarbro to their final rewards. The picture is so grand that
nothing but an infinite soul can comprehend it; no brush can paint it,
no colors can represent it. Nothing is quiet, nothing at rest; all is
activity. It is the whole world, and it can be comprehended only by the
mind of man, by the soul of the poet, and be symbolized by the ceaseless
flow of language. It is not a theme for the painter or sculptor, but for
the poet. Ygdrasil is the tree of experience of the Gothic race. It is
the symbol of a great race, sprung originally from the same root but
divided into many branches, Norsemen, Englishmen, Americans, etc. It has
three roots, and experience has taught the Goths that there are in
reality but three kinds of people in the world: some that work
energetically for noble and eternal purposes, and their root is in
Asaheim; some that work equally energetically, but for evil and temporal
ends, and their root is in Jotunheim; and many who distinguished
themselves only by sloth and impotence, and their root is in Niflheim
with the goddess Hel or death, in Hvergelmer, where the serpent Nidhug,
with all his reptile brood, gnaws at their lives. Thus the Gothic race
is reflected in Ygdrasil, and if our poets will study it they will find
that this grand myth is itself in fact a root in the Urdar-fountain, and
from it may spring an Ygdrasil of poetry, extending long branches
throughout the poetical world and delighting the nations of the earth.

Beneath that root of Ygdrasil, which shoots down to Jotunheim, there is
a fountain called after its watcher _Mimer’s Fountain_, in which wisdom
and knowledge are concealed. The name Mimer means the _knowing_. The
giants, being older than the asas, looked deeper than the latter into
the darkness of the past. They had witnessed the birth of the gods and
the beginning of the world, and they foresaw their downfall. Concerning
both these events, the gods had to go to them for knowledge, an idea
which is most forcibly expressed in the Völuspá, the first song in the
Elder Edda, where a vala, or prophetess, from Jotunheim is represented
as rising up from the deep and unveiling the past and future to gods and
men. It is this wisdom that Mimer keeps in his fountain. Odin himself
must have it. In the night, when the sun has set behind the borders of
the earth, he goes to Jotunheim. Odin penetrates the mysteries of the
deep, but he must leave his eye in pawn for the drink which he receives
from the fountain of knowledge. But in the glory of morning dawn, when
the sun rises again from Jotunheim, Mimer drinks from his golden horn
the clear mead which flows over Odin’s pawn. Heaven and this lower world
mutually impart their wisdom to each other.

The norns watch over man through life. They spin his thread of fate at
his birth and mark out with it the limits of his sphere of action in
life. Their decrees are inviolable destiny, their dispensations
inevitable necessity. The gods themselves must bow before the laws of
the norns; they are limited by time; they are born and must die. Urd and
Verdande, the Past and Present, are represented as stretching a web from
east to west, from the radiant dawn of life to the glowing sunset, and
Skuld, the Future, tears it to pieces. There is a deeply-laid plan in
the universe, a close union between spirit and matter. There is no such
thing as independent life or action. The ends of the threads wherewith
our life is woven lie deeply hid in the abyss of the beginning.
Self-consciousness is merely an abstraction. The self-conscious
individual is merely a leaf, which imagines itself to be something, but
is in fact only a bud that enfolds itself and falls off from the tree of
the universe. The self-contradiction between absolute necessity and free
will was an unsolved riddle with our heathen ancestors, and puzzles the
minds of many of our most profound thinkers still. Thus, says the Elder
Edda, the norns came to decide the destiny of Helge Hundingsbane:

                    It was in times of yore,
                    When the eagles screamed,
                    Holy waters fell
                    From the heavenly hills;
                    Then to Helge,
                    The great of soul,
                    Berghild gave birth
                    In Braalund.

                    In the mansion it was night:
                    The norns came,
                    Who should the prince’s
                    Life determine;
                    They him decreed
                    A prince most famed to be,
                    And of leaders
                    Accounted best.

                    With all their might they span
                    The fatal threads,
                    When that he burghs should overthrow
                    In Braalund.
                    They stretched out
                    The golden cord,
                    And beneath the middle
                    Of the moon’s mansion fixed it.

                    East and west
                    They hid the ends,
                    Where the prince had
                    Lands between;
                    Toward the north
                    Nere’s sister
                    Cast a chain,
                    Which she bade last forever.

Nay, in the Norseman’s faith, man and all things about him were
sustained by divine power. The norns decreed by rigid fate each man’s
career, which not even the gods could alter. Man was free to act, but
all the consequences of his actions were settled beforehand.

Footnote 34:

  Wagner, p. 192.

                                PART II.


                          Vafin er Verðandi reyk.

                               CHAPTER I.

                            SECTION I. ODIN.

The first and eldest of the asas is Odin. His name is derived from the
verb _vada_ (imperfect _ód_), to walk, (compare watan, wuot, wuth,
wüthen, wuothan, wodan). He is the all-_pervading_ spirit of the world,
and produces life and spirit (_önd_, _aand_). He does not create the
world, but arranges and governs it. With Vile and Ve he makes heaven and
earth from Ymer’s body; with Hœner and Loder he makes the first man and
woman, and he gives them spirit. All enterprise in peace and in war
proceeds from him. He is the author of war and the inventor of poetry.
All knowledge comes from him and he is the inventor of the runes. As the
spirit of life he permeates all animate and inanimate matter, the whole
universe; he is the infinite wanderer. He governs all things, and
although the other deities are powerful they all serve and obey him as
children do their father. He confers many favors on gods and men. As it
is said in the Elder Edda, in the lay of Hyndla:


                       Wake maid of maids!
                       Wake, my friend!
                       Hyndla! Sister,
                       Who in the cavern dwellest.
                       Now there is dark of darks;
                       We will both to Valhal ride
                       And to the holy fane.

                       Let us Odin pray
                       Into our minds to enter;
                       He gives and grants
                       Gold to the deserving.
                       He gave Hermod
                       A helm and corselet,
                       And from him Sigmund
                       A sword received.

                       Victory to his sons he gives,
                       But to some riches;
                       Eloquence to the great
                       And to men wit;
                       Fair wind he gives to traders,
                       But visions to skalds;
                       Valor he gives
                       To many a warrior.

Especially are the heroes constantly the object of his care. He guides
and protects the brave hero through his whole life; he watches over his
birth and over his whole development; gives him wonderful weapons,
teaches him new arts of war; assists him in critical emergencies,
accompanies him in war, and takes the impetus out of the enemy’s
javelins; and when the warrior has at last grown old, he provides that
he may not die upon his bed, but fall in honorable combat. Finally, he
protects the social organization and influences the human mind. He
revenges murder, protects the sanctity of the oath, subdues hatred, and
dispels anxieties and sorrows.

                       SECTION II. ODIN’S NAMES.

Odin is called Allfather, because he is the father of all the gods, and
Valfather (father of the slain), because he chooses for his sons all who
fall in combat. For their abode he has prepared Valhal and Vingolf,
where they are called einherjes (heroes). In Asgard, Odin has twelve
names, but in the Younger Edda forty-nine names are enumerated, and if
to these are added all the names by which the poets have called him, the
number will reach nearly two hundred. The reason for his many names,
says the Younger Edda, is the great variety of languages. For the
various nations were obliged to translate his name into their respective
tongues in order that they might supplicate and worship him. Some of his
names, however, are owing to adventures that have happened to him on his
journeys and which are related in old stories. No one can pass for a
wise man who is not able to give an account of these wonderful


In appearance, Odin is an old, tall, one-eyed man with a long beard, a
broad-brimmed hat, a striped cloak of many colors, and a spear in his
hand. On his arm he wears the gold ring Draupner, two ravens sit on his
shoulders, two wolves lie at his feet, and a huge chariot rolls above
his head. He sits upon a high throne and looks out upon the world, or he
rides on the winds upon his horse Sleipner. There is a deep speculative
expression on his countenance. In the Volsung Saga, Odin is revealed as
follows: King Volsung had made preparations for an entertainment.
Blazing fires burned along the hall, and in the middle of the hall stood
a large tree, whose green and fair foliage covered the roof. (This
reminds us of Ygdrasil.) King Volsung had placed it there, and it was
called Odin’s tree. Now as the guests sat around the fire in the
evening, a man entered the hall whose countenance they did not know. He
wore a variegated cloak, was bare-footed, his breeches were of linen,
and a wide-brimmed hat hung down over his face. He was very tall, looked
old, and was one-eyed. He had a sword in his hand. The man went to the
tree, struck his sword into it with so powerful a blow that it sunk into
it even to the hilt. No one dared greet this man. Then said he: He who
draws this sword out of the trunk of the tree shall have it as a gift
from me, and shall find it true that he never wielded a better sword.
Then went the old man out of the hall again, and no one knew who he was
or whither he went. Now all tried to draw the sword out, but it would
not move, before Volsung’s son, Sigmund, came; for him it seemed to be
quite loose. Farther on in the Saga Sigmund had become king, and had
already grown old when he waged war with King Lynge. The norns protected
him so that he could not be wounded. In a battle with Lynge there came a
man to Sigmund, wearing a large hat and blue cloak. He had but one eye,
and had a spear in his hand. The man swung his spear against Sigmund.
Sigmund’s sword broke in two, luck had left him, and he fell. The same
Saga afterwards tells us that Sigmund’s son, Sigurd, sailed against the
sons of Hunding, on a large dragon. A storm arose, but Sigurd commanded
that the sails should not be taken down, even though the wind should
split them, but rather be hoisted higher. As they passed a rocky point,
a man cried to the ship and asked who was the commander of the ships and
men. They answered that it was Sigurd Sigmundson, the bravest of all
young men. The man said, all agree in praising him; take in the sails
and take me on board! They asked him for his name. He answered: Hnikar
they called me, when I gladdened the raven after the battle; call me now
Karl, from the mountain, Fengr or Fjolner, but take me on board! They
laid to and took him on board. The storm ceased and they sailed until
they came to the sons of Hunding; then Fjolner (Odin) disappeared. In
the same Saga he also comes to Sigurd in the garb of an old man with
long flowing beard, and teaches him how to dig ditches by which to
capture Fafner.

                     SECTION IV. ODIN’S ATTRIBUTES.

Odin’s hat represents the arched vault of heaven, and his blue or
variegated cloak is the blue sky or atmosphere, and both these symbolize

Odin’s ravens, Hugin (reflection) and Munin (memory), have been
mentioned before. They are perched upon his shoulders and whisper into
his ears what they see and hear. He sends them out at daybreak to fly
over the world, and they come back at eve toward meal-time. Hence it is
that Odin knows so much and is called Rafnagud (raven-god). Most
beautifully does Odin express himself about these ravens in Grimner’s
lay, in the Elder Edda:

                      Hugin and Munin
                      Fly each day
                      Over the spacious earth.
                      I fear for Hugin
                      That he come not back,
                      Yet more anxious am I for Munin.

And in Odin’s Raven-song, Hug (Hugin) goes forth to explore the heavens.
Odin’s mind, then, is the flying raven; he is the spiritual ruler.

Odin has two wolves, Gere and Freke (the greedy one and the voracious
one). Odin gives the meat that is set on his table to these two wolves;
for he himself stands in no need of food. Wine is for him both meat and
drink. Thus the Elder Edda, in Grimner’s lay:

                        Gere and Freke
                        Feeds the war-faring,
                        Triumphant father of hosts;
                        For ’tis with wine only
                        That Odin in arms renowned
                        Is nourished forever.

To meet a wolf is a good omen. Odin amusing himself with his wolves is
an exquisite theme for the sculptor.

Odin had a ring called Draupner. We find its history in the
conversations of Brage, the second part of the Younger Edda. Loke had
once out of malice cut all the hair off Sif, the wife of Thor. But when
Thor found this out he seized Loke and would have crushed every bone in
him if he had not sworn to get the elves of darkness to make golden hair
for Sif, that would grow like other hair. Then went Loke to the dwarfs,
that are called Ivald’s sons, and they made the hair, and Skidbladner
(Frey’s ship), and the spear that Odin owned and is called Gungner. Then
Loke wagered his head with the dwarf, whose name is Brok, that his
brother, Sindre, would not be able to make three more treasures as good
as those three just named. The brothers went to the smithy. Sindre put a
pig-skin in the furnace and bade Brok blow the bellows and not stop
before Sindre took that out of the furnace which he had put into it. A
fly set itself on Brok’s hand and stung him, but still he continued
blowing the bellows, and that which Sindre took out was a boar with
golden bristles. Then Sindre put gold into the furnace. This time the
fly set itself on Brok’s neck, and stung him worse, but he continued
blowing the bellows, and that which the smith took out was the gold ring
Draupner (from the verb meaning _to drop_). The third time Sindre put
iron in the furnace, and bade his brother be sure to continue blowing or
all would be spoiled. Now the fly set itself between his eyes and stung
his eye-lids. The blood ran down into his eyes, so that he could not
see; then Brok let go of the bellows just for a moment to drive the fly
away. That which the smith now took out was a hammer. Sindre gave his
brother these treasures and bade him go to Asgard to fetch the wager. As
now Loke and Brok came each with his treasures, the asas seated
themselves upon their thrones and held consult, and Odin, Thor and Frey
were appointed judges who should render a final decision. Then Loke gave
Odin the spear, which never would miss its mark; Thor he gave the hair,
which immediately grew fast upon Sif’s head; and to Frey he gave the
ship, which always got fair wind as soon as the sails were hoisted, no
matter where its captain was going, and it could also be folded as a
napkin and put into the pocket, if this were desirable. Thereupon Brok
came forward and gave Odin the ring, and said that every ninth night a
ring equally heavy would drop from it. To Frey he gave the boar, and
said that it could run in the air and on the sea, night and day, faster
than any horse, and the night never was so dark, nor the other worlds so
gloomy, but that it would be light where this boar was present, so
bright shone its bristles. To Thor he gave the hammer, and said that
with it he might strike as large an object as he pleased; it would never
fail, and when he threw it he should not be afraid of losing it, for no
matter how far it flew it would always return into his hand, and at his
wish it would become so small that he might conceal it in his bosom, but
it had one fault, and that was that the handle was rather short.
According to the decision of the gods, the hammer was the best of all
the treasures, and especially as a protection against the frost-giants;
they accordingly decided that the dwarf had won the wager. The latter
now wanted Loke’s head. Loke offered to redeem it in some way, but the
dwarf would accept no alternatives. Well take me then, said Loke, and in
a moment he was far away, for he had shoes with which he could run
through the air and over the sea. Then the dwarf asked Thor to seize
him, which was done; but when the dwarf wanted to cut his head off, Loke
said: The head is yours, but not the neck.[35] Then took the dwarf
thread and knife and wanted to pierce Loke’s lips, so as to sew his lips
together, but the knife was not sharp enough. Now it were well, if I had
my brother’s awl, said he, and instantaneously the awl was there, and it
was sharp. Then the dwarf sewed Loke’s lips together. (The dwarfs are
here represented as smiths of the gods.)

The ring Draupner is a symbol of fertility. Odin placed this ring on
Balder’s funeral pile and it was burnt with Balder (the summer), and
when Balder sent this ring back to Odin, his wife, the flower-goddess
Nanna, sent Frigg, the wife of Odin, a carpet (of grass), which
represents the return of vegetation and fruitfulness. Balder sends the
ring back as a memento of the fair time when he and his father (Odin)
worked together, and reminds the father of all, that he must continue to
bless the earth and make it fruitful. But this is not all; this ring
also symbolizes the fertility of the mind, the creative power of the
poet, the evolution of one thought from the other, the wonderful chain
of thought. The rings fell from Draupner as drop falls from drop. Ideas
do not cling fast to their parent, but live an independent life when
they are born; and the idea or thought, when once awakened, does not
slumber, but continues to grow and develop in man after man, in
generation after generation, evolving constantly new ideas until it has
grown into a unique system of thought. If we, as our fathers undoubtedly
did, make this gold ring typify the historical connection between times
and events, a ring constantly multiplying and increasing with ring
interlinked with ring in time’s onward march, what a beautiful golden
chain there has been formed from time’s morning until now!

Odin had a spear called Gungner. The word means producing a violent
shaking or trembling, and it most thoroughly shook whomsoever was hit by
it. As has been seen above, it was made by the sons of Ivald (the
dwarfs), and was presented to Odin by Loke. Odin speeds forth to the
field of battle with golden helmet, resplendent armor, and his spear
Gungner. Oath was taken on the point of Gungner. This spear is
frequently referred to in the semi-mythological Sagas, where spears are
seen flying over the heads of the enemy; they are panic-stricken and
defeated. Spears are sometimes seen as meteorical phenomena, showing
that war is impending. The spear symbolizes Odin’s strength and power.
When Odin’s spear was thrown over anybody, Odin thereby marked him as
his own. Did not Odin wound himself with a spear, and thereby consecrate
himself to heaven? (See pp. 254-261.) When Odin puts the spear into the
hands of the warrior, it means that he awakens and directs his deeds of
valor. When Odin is the god of poetry and eloquence (Anglo-Saxon _wód_),
then the spear Gungner is the keen, stinging satire that can be
expressed in poetry and oratory.

Odin’s horse Sleipner (slippery) was the most excellent horse. Runes
were carved on his teeth. The following myth gives us an account of his
birth: When the gods were constructing their abodes, and had already
finished Midgard and Valhal, a certain artificer came and offered to
build them, in the space of three half years, a residence so well
fortified that they should be perfectly safe from the incursions of the
frost-giants and the giants of the mountains, even though they should
have penetrated within Midgard. But he demanded for his reward the
goddess Freyja, together with the sun and moon. After long deliberation
the gods agreed to his terms, provided he would finish the whole work
himself without any one’s assistance, and all within the space of one
winter; but if anything remained unfinished on the first day of summer,
he should forfeit the recompense agreed on. On being told these terms,
the artificer stipulated that he should be allowed the use of his horse,
called Svadilfare (slippery-farer), and this by the advice of Loke was
granted to him. He accordingly set to work on the first day of winter,
and during the night let his horse draw stone for the building. The
enormous size of the stones struck the gods with astonishment, and they
saw clearly that the horse did one half more of the toilsome work than
his master. Their bargain, however, had been concluded in the presence
of witnesses and confirmed by solemn oaths, for without these
precautions a giant would not have thought himself safe among the gods,
especially when Thor returned from an expedition he had then undertaken
toward the east against evil demons.

As the winter drew to a close, the building was far advanced, and the
bulwarks were sufficiently high and massive to render this residence
impregnable. In short, when it wanted but three days to summer, the only
part that remained to be finished was the gateway. Then sat the gods on
their seats of justice and entered into consultation, inquiring of one
another who among them could have advised to give Freyja away to
Jotunheim or to plunge the heavens in darkness by permitting the giant
to carry away the sun and the moon. They all agreed that none but Loke
Laufeyarson and the author of so many evil deeds could have given such
bad counsel, and that he should be put to a cruel death if he did not
contrive some way or other to prevent the artificer from completing his
task and obtaining the stipulated recompense. They immediately proceeded
to lay hands on Loke, who in his fright promised upon oath, that let it
cost him what it would he would so manage matters that the man should
lose his reward. That very night, when the artificer went with
Svadilfare for building-stone, a mare suddenly ran out of a forest and
began to neigh. The horse being thus excited, broke loose and ran after
the mare into the forest, which obliged the man also to run after his
horse, and thus between one and the other the whole night was lost, so
that at dawn the work had not made the usual progress. The man, seeing
that he had no other means of completing his task, resumed his own
gigantic stature, and the gods now clearly perceived that it was in
reality a mountain giant who had come amongst them. No longer regarding
their oaths, they therefore called on Thor, who immediately ran to their
assistance, and lifting up his mallet Mjolner (the crusher) that the
dwarfs had made, he paid the workman his wages, not with the sun and
moon, and not even by sending him back to Jotunheim, for with the first
blow he shattered the giant’s skull to pieces, and hurled him headlong
into Niflheim. But Loke had run such a race with Svadilfare, that
shortly after the mischief-maker (Loke) bore a gray foal with eight
legs. This is the horse Sleipner, which excels all horses ever possessed
by gods or men. The gods perjured themselves, and in reference to this
says the Elder Edda:

                        Then went the rulers there,
                        All gods most holy,
                        To their seats aloft,
                        And counsel together took;
                        Who all the winsome air
                        With guile had blended,
                        Or to the giant’s race
                        Oder’s maiden given.[36]

                        Then Thor, who was there,
                        Arose in wrathful mood,
                        For seldom sits he still
                        When such things he hears.
                        Annulled were now all oaths,
                        And words of promise fair,
                        And faith not long before
                        In council plighted.

This riddle is propounded. Who are the two who ride to the Thing? Three
eyes have they together, ten feet and one tail; and thus they travel
through the lands. The answer is Odin, who rides on Sleipner; he has one
eye, the horse two; the horse runs on eight feet, Odin has two; only the
horse has a tail.

Odin’s horse, Sleipner, symbolizes the winds of heaven, that blow from
eight quarters. In Skaane and Bleking, in Sweden, it was customary to
leave a sheaf of grain in the field for Odin’s horse, to keep him from
treading down the grain. Wednesday is named after Odin (Odinsday), and
on this day his horse was most apt to visit the fields. But in a higher
sense Sleipner is a Pegasos. Pegasos flew from the earth to the abodes
of the gods; Sleipner comes from heaven, carries the hero unharmed
through the dangers of life, and lifts the poet, who believes in the
spirit, up to his heavenly home. Grundtvig calls Sleipner the courser of
the poet’s soul; that is to say, of the Icelandic or Old Norse strophe
in poetry, which consisted of eight verses, or four octometers. The most
poetic is the most truthful interpretation of the myths.

                      SECTION V. ODIN’S JOURNEYS.

A whole chapter might be written about the wanderings of Odin, his
visits to the giants, to men, to battles, etc.; but as these records are
very voluminous, and are found to a great extent in the
semi-mythological Sagas, in which it is difficult to separate the
mythical and historical elements, we will make but a few remarks on this
subject. All his wanderings of course describe him as the all-pervading
spirit of the universe. They have the same significance as his horse
Sleipner, his ravens Hugin and Munin, etc. He descends to the bottom of
the sea for wisdom, he descends to earth to try the minds of men. In the
Elder Edda journeys of Odin form the subjects of the lays of
Vafthrudner, Grimner, Vegtam, etc. (See pp. 120-124.) In the lay of
Vafthrudner Odin visits the giant Vafthrudner for the purpose of proving
his knowledge. They propose questions relating to the cosmogony of the
Norse mythology, on the condition that the baffled party forfeit his
head. The giant incurs the penalty. Odin calls himself Gangraad, but by
the last question the giant recognizes him and is stricken with awe and
fear. The giant must perish since he has ventured into combat with Odin.
The mind subdues physical nature. When the giant recognizes Odin he
realizes his own depressed nature and must die. No rogue can look an
honest man in the eye. In Grimnersmál Odin assumes the name of Grimner,
and goes to try the mind of his foster-son Geirrod. Geirrod tortures him
and places him between two fires. And here begins the lay, in which Odin
glorifies himself and the power of the gods and pities his fallen
foster-son, but finally discloses himself and declares death to Geirrod
for his want of hospitality. Thus Odin closes his address to Geirrod in
the lay of Grimner:

                      Many things I told thee,
                      But thou hast few remembered:
                      Thy friends mislead thee.
                      My friend’s sword
                      Lying I see
                      With blood all dripping.

                      The fallen by the sword
                      Ygg shall now have;
                      Thy life is now run out:
                      Wrath with thee are the dises,
                      Odin thou now shalt see:
                      Draw near to me, if thou canst.

                      Odin I am named,
                      Ygg I was called before,
                      Before that Thund,
                      Vaker and Skilfing,
                      Vafud and Hroptatyr;
                      With the gods Gaut and Jalk,[37]
                      Ofner and Svafner;
                      All which I believe to be
                      Names of me alone.

                      SECTION VI. ODIN AND MIMER.

In the lay of Vegtam, Odin goes to Hel, and wakes the prophetess to
learn the fate of his son Balder. He also takes counsel from the utmost
sources of the ocean, and listens to the voice from the deep. Some myths
refer to Odin’s pawning his eye with Mimer, others to his talking with
Mimer’s head.

The Younger Edda, having stated that Mimer’s well is situated under that
root of the world-ash Ygdrasil that extends to Jotunheim, adds that
wisdom and wit lie concealed in it, and that Odin came to Mimer one day
and asked for a drink of water from the fountain. He obtained the drink,
but was obliged to leave one of his eyes in pawn for it. To this myth
refers the following passage from the Völuspá in the Elder Edda:

                      Alone she[38] sat without,
                      When came that ancient
                      Dreaded prince[39] of the gods,
                      And in his eye she gazed.

The vala to Odin:

                      Of what wouldst thou ask me?
                      Odin! I know all,
                      Where thou thine eye didst sink
                      In the pure well of Mimer.

                      Mimer drinks mead each morn
                      From Valfather’s pledge.
                      Understand ye yet, or what?

This myth was given in connection with Ygdrasil, but it is repeated here
to shed a ray of light upon the character of Odin, and in this wise
Mimer is brought into a clearer sunlight also.

In regard to Odin’s speaking with Mimer’s head, we have the following
passage in the lay of Sigdrifa:

                        On the rock he[40] stood
                        With edged sword,
                        A helm on his head he bore.
                        _Then spake Mimer’s head_
                        Its first wise word,
                        And true sayings uttered.

And in Völuspá, when Ragnarok is impending:

                      Mimer’s sons dance,
                      But the central tree takes fire
                      At the resounding
                      Loud blows Heimdal,
                      His horn is raised;
                      _Odin speaks
                      With Mimer’s head_.

Odin’s eye is the sun. Mimer’s fountain is the utmost sources of the
ocean. Into it, Odin’s eye, the sun sinks every evening to search the
secrets of the deep, and every morning Mimer drinks the gold-brown mead
(aurora). When the dawn colors the sea with crimson and scarlet, then
Mimer’s white fountain is changed to golden mead; it is then Mimer, the
watcher of the fountain of knowledge, drinks with his golden horn the
clear mead which flows over Odin’s pledge. But Mimer means memory[41]
(Anglo-Saxon _meomor_), and as we know that our ancestors paid deep
reverence to the memories of the past, and that the fallen heroes, who
enjoyed the happiness of Valhal with Odin, reveled in the memory of
their deeds done on earth, it is proper to add that Mimer is an
impersonation of memory. Our spirit (Odin, _od_, _aand_) sinks down into
the depths of the past (memory, the sea, Odin’s fountain), and brings
back golden thoughts, which are developed by the knowledge which we
obtained from the depths beneath the sea of past history and experience.
What a vast ocean is the history and experience of our race!

                        SECTION VII. HLIDSKJALF.

Hlidskjalf is Odin’s throne. The accounts of it are very meagre. The
Younger Edda speaks of a stately mansion belonging to Odin called
Valaskjalf, which was built by the gods and roofed with pure silver, and
in which is the throne called Hlidskjalf. When Odin is seated on this
throne he can see over the whole world. But he not only looks, he also

                               Odin listened
                               In Hlidskjalf,

it is said in Odin’s Raven-song; in Grimner’s lay it is stated that Odin
and Frigg, his wife, were sitting in Hlidskjalf, looking over all the
world; and in the lay of Skirner we read that Frey, son of Njord, had
one day seated himself in Hlidskjalf. As Odin every morning sends out
his ravens, it seems to be his first business, as a good father, to look
out upon the world that he has made, and see how his children are doing,
and whether they need his providential care in any respect. Hlidskjalf
and Valhal must not be confounded. Valhal will be explained hereafter.
It is situated in Gladsheim, where Odin sat with his chosen heroes and
drank wine. But Valaskjalf is a place apart from Gladsheim, and on its
highest pinnacle above the highest arches of heaven is Odin’s throne,


We have now presented the mythological Odin as based on the inscrutable
phenomena of nature, and have given some hints in regard to the ethical
or anthropomorphic element contained in each myth. Our next subject will
be Odin’s wives, their maid-servants, his sons, etc.; but before we
proceed to them we will give a short outline of the historical Odin, as
he is presented in the Heimskringla of Snorre Sturleson by Saxo
Grammaticus and others. Mr. Mallet, the French writer on Northern
Antiquities, has given a synoptical view of all that these writers have
said about the wanderings and exploits of this famous person, and we
will make an abstract from him.

The Roman Empire had arrived at its highest point of power, and saw all
the then known world subject to its laws, when an unforeseen event
raised up enemies against it from the very bosom of the forests of
Scythia and on the banks of the Tanais. Mithridates by flying had drawn
Pompey after him into those deserts. The king of Pontus sought there for
refuge and new means of vengeance. He hoped to arm against the ambition
of Rome all the barbarous nations, his neighbors, whose liberty she
threatened. He succeeded in this at first, but all those peoples, ill
united as allies, poorly armed as soldiers, and still worse disciplined,
were forced to yield to the genius of Pompey. Odin is said to have been
of this number. He was obliged to flee from the vengeance of the Romans
and to seek, in countries unknown to his enemies, that safety which he
could no longer find in his own.

Odin commanded the Asas, whose country was situated between the Pontus
Euxinus and the Caspian Sea. Their principal city was Asgard. Odin
having united under his banners the youth of the neighboring nations,
marched toward the west and north of Europe, subduing all the peoples he
met on his way and giving them to one or other of his sons for subjects.
Many sovereign families of the North are said to be descended from these
princes. Thus Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs who conquered Britain
in the fifth century, counted Odin in the number of their ancestors. So
did also the other Anglo-Saxon princes, as well as the greater part of
the princes of Lower Germany and the North.

After having disposed of so many countries and confirmed and settled his
new governments, Odin directed his course toward Scandinavia, passing
through Holstein and Jutland. These provinces made him no resistance.
Then he passed into Funen (Denmark), which submitted as soon as he
appeared. In this island he remained for a long time and built the city
of Odense (_Odins-ve_, Odin’s sanctuary), which still preserves in its
name the memory of its founder. Hence he extended his authority over all
the North. He subdued the rest of Denmark and placed his son Skjold upon
its throne. The descendants of Skjold continued for many generations to
rule Denmark, and were called Skjoldungs.

Odin, who seems to have been better pleased to give crowns to his
children than to wear them himself, afterwards passed over into Sweden,
where at that time ruled a prince by name Gylfe, who paid him great
honors and even worshiped him as a divinity. Odin quickly acquired in
Sweden the same authority as he had obtained in Denmark. The Swedes came
in crowds to do him homage, and by common consent bestowed the title of
king upon his son Yngve and his posterity. Hence sprung the Ynglings, a
name by which the kings of Sweden were for a long time distinguished.
Gylfe died and was forgotten; Odin acquired lasting fame by his
distinguished rule. He enacted new laws, introduced the customs of his
own country, and established at Sigtuna, an ancient city in the same
province as Stockholm, a supreme council or tribunal, composed of twelve
judges. Their business was to watch over the public weal, to distribute
justice to the people, to preside over the new worship, which Odin had
brought with him into the North, and to preserve faithfully the
religious and magical secrets which that prince deposited with them. He
levied a tax on every man throughout the country, but engaged on his
part to defend the inhabitants against all their enemies and to defray
the expense of the worship rendered to the gods at Sigtuna.

These great acquisitions seem not, however, to have satisfied his
ambition. The desire of extending further his religion, his authority,
and his glory, caused him to undertake the conquest of Norway. His good
fortune followed him thither, and this kingdom quickly obeyed a son of
Odin named Sæming, who became the head of a family the different
branches of which reigned for a long time in Norway.

After Odin had finished these glorious achievements he retired into
Sweden, where, perceiving his end to draw near, he would not wait for a
lingering disease to put an end to that life which he had so often and
so valiantly hazarded in the battle-field, but gathering round him the
friends and companions of his fortune, he gave himself nine wounds in
the form of a circle with the point of a lance, and many other cuts in
his skin with his sword. As he was dying he declared he was going back
to Asgard to take his seat among the gods at an eternal banquet, where
he would receive with great honors all who should expose themselves
intrepidly in battle and die bravely with their swords in their hands.
As soon as he had breathed his last they carried his body to Sigtuna,
where, in accordance with a custom introduced by him into the North, his
body was burned with much pomp and magnificence.

Such was the end of this man, whose death was as extraordinary as his
life. It has been contended by many learned men that a desire of being
revenged on the Romans was the ruling principle of his whole conduct.
Driven by those enemies of universal liberty from his former home, his
resentment was the more violent, since the Goths considered it a sacred
duty to revenge all injuries, especially those offered to their
relations or country. He had no other view, it is said, in traversing so
many distant kingdoms, and in establishing with so much zeal his
doctrines of valor, but to arouse all nations against so formidable and
odious a nation as that of Rome. This leaven which Odin left in the
bosoms of the worshipers of the gods, fermented a long time in secret;
but in the fullness of time, the signal given, they fell upon this
unhappy empire, and, after many repeated shocks, entirely overturned it,
thus revenging the insult offered so many ages before to their founder.

The Sagas paint Odin as the most persuasive of men. Nothing could resist
the force of his words. He sometimes enlivened his harangues with
verses, which he composed extemporaneously, and he was not only a great
poet, but it was he who taught the art of poetry to the Norsemen. He was
the inventor of the runic characters, which so long were used in the
North. This marking down the unseen thought that is in man with written
characters is the most wonderful invention ever made; it is almost as
miraculous as speech itself, and well may it be called a sort of second
speech. But what most contributed to make Odin pass for a god was his
skill in magic. He could run over the world in the twinkling of an eye;
he had the command of the air and the tempests, he could transform
himself into all sorts of shapes, could raise the dead, could foretell
things to come, could by enchantments deprive his enemies of health and
strength and discover all the treasures concealed in the earth. He knew
how to sing airs so tender and melodious, that the very plains and
mountains would open and expand with delight; the ghosts, attracted by
the sweetness of his songs, would leave their infernal caverns and stand
motionless around him.

But while his eloquence, together with his august and venerable
deportment, procured him love and respect in a calm and peaceable
assembly, he was no less dreadful and furious in battle. He inspired his
enemies with such terror that they thought they could not describe it
better than by saying he rendered them blind and deaf. He would appear
like a wolf all desperate and biting his very shield for rage, he would
throw himself amidst the opposing ranks, making around him the most
horrible carnage, without receiving any wound himself. Such is the
historical Odin of the North, such was, in other words, the great
example that the Norsemen had to imitate in war and in peace.

                       SECTION IX. ODIN’S WIVES.

Odin’s wives are Jord (Fjorgyn, Hlodyn), Rind and Frigg. Heaven is
married to earth. This we find in all mythologies (Uranos and Gaia, Zeus
and Demeter, etc.) Among the Norsemen also the ruler of heaven and earth
(Odin) enters into marriage relations with his own handiwork. This
relation is expressed in three ways: Odin is married to Jord, to Frigg,
and to Rind. Jord is the original, uninhabited earth, or the earth
without reference to man; Frigg is the inhabited, cultivated earth, the
abode of man, and Rind is the earth when it has again become unfruitful,
when the white flakes of winter have covered its crust; it is in this
latter condition that she long resists the loving embraces of her
husband. These three relations are expressed still more clearly by their
children. With Jord Odin begets Thor, with Frigg Balder, and with Rind
Vale. Jord is the Greek Gaia, Frigg is Demeter, but the fortunate Greeks
had no goddess corresponding to Rind; they knew not the severe Norse

Jord is sometimes called Fjorgyn and Hlodyn, but neither of these names
occur many times in the Eddas. There are only found occasional allusions
to her, such as the flesh of Ymer, the daughter of Annar, sister of Dag,
mother of Thor, etc.

Frigg is the daughter of Fjorgyn and the first among the goddesses, the
queen of the asas and asynjes. Odin is her dearly beloved husband. She
sits with him in Hlidskjalf and looks out upon all the worlds, and for
the death of their son, the light Balder, they mourn together with all
nature. Frigg knows the fate of men, but she never says or prophesies
anything about it herself. She possesses a falcon-disguise, which Loke
once borrowed of her. She possesses a magnificent mansion Fensal, where
she sat weeping over Valhal’s misfortune after the death of Balder. It
is not certain whether Friday is named after Frigg or Freyja or after
Frey, but the probabilities are that it is Freyja’s day (_dies
Veneris_). While Frigg and Freyja are by many authors confounded, they
are nevertheless wholly different characters. Frigg is _asa_queen,
Freyja is _vana_dis. Frigg is a _mother’s_ love; Freyja is the love of
the _youth_ or _maiden_. The asas are land deities, the vans are
divinities of the water. The vana-goddess Freyja represents the surging,
billowy, unsettled love; the asynje Frigg represents love in its nobler
and more constant form.

                   SECTION X. FRIGG’S MAID-SERVANTS.

Fulla, Hlyn, Gnaa, Snotra, Var, Lofn (Sjofn), and Syn, are enumerated as
maid-servants of Frigg.

Fulla goes about with her hair flowing over her shoulders and her head
adorned with a golden ribbon. She is intrusted with the toilette and
slippers of Frigg and admitted into the most important secrets of that
goddess. The word Fulla means full, fulness, and as the servant of Frigg
she represents the fulness of the earth, which is beautifully suggested
by her waving hair and golden ribbon (harvest), and when Balder sent the
ring Draupner from Hel, his wife Nanna sent Frigg a carpet, and Fulla a
gold ring.

Hlyn has the care of those whom Frigg intends to deliver from peril.

Gnaa is the messenger that Frigg sends into the various worlds on her
errands. She has a horse that can run through air and water, called
Hofvarpner (the hoof-thrower). Once, as she drove out, certain vans saw
her car in the air, when one of them exclaimed:

                       What flies there?
                       What goes there?
                       In the air aloft what glides?

She answered:

                        I fly not, though I go,
                        And glide through the air
                        On Hofvarpner,
                        Whose sire’s Hamskerper[42]
                        And dame Gardrofa.[43]

Gnaa is interpreted to mean the mild breezes, that Frigg sends out to
produce good weather.

Var listens to the oaths that men take, and particularly the troth
plighted between man and woman, and punishes those who keep not their
promises. She is wise and prudent, and so penetrating that nothing
remains hidden from her. Her name Var means _wary_, careful.

Lofn (_lofa_, _loben_, love) is so mild and gracious to those who invoke
her, that by a peculiar privilege which either Odin himself or Frigg has
given her, she can remove every obstacle that may prevent the union of
lovers sincerely attached to each other. Hence her name is applied to
denote love, and whatever is beloved by men.

Sjofn delights in turning men’s hearts and thoughts to love; hence love
is called from her name _sjafni_.

Syn keeps the door in the hall and shuts it against those who ought not
to enter. She presides at trials, when anything is to be denied on oath;
whence the proverb, Syn (negation) is set against it, when anything is

                        SECTION XI. GEFJUN, EIR.

The norns or destinies have been previously explained (see p. 190);
Nanna will be discussed in connection with Balder, and Freyja, the
goddess of love, in connection with Njord and Frey; but there are
besides these a few other goddesses, who demand our attention here.

Gefjun is a maid, and all those who die maids become her hand-maidens.
Of her there is the following anecdote in the Younger Edda. King Gylfe
ruled over the land which is now called Sweden. It is related of him
that he once gave a wayfaring woman, as a recompense for her having
diverted him, as much land in his realm as she could plow with four oxen
in a day and a night.[44] This woman was however of the race of the
asas, and was called Gefjun. She took four oxen from the North, out of
Jotunheim, (but they were the sons she had had with a giant,) and set
them before a plow. Now the plow made such deep furrows that it tore up
the land, which the oxen drew westward out to the sea until they came to
a sound. There Gefjun fixed the land and called it Zealand. And the
place where the land had stood became water, and formed a lake which is
now called Logrinn (the sea) in Sweden, and the inlets of this lake
correspond exactly with the headlands of Zealand in Denmark. Thus saith
the Skald, Brage:

                    Gefjun drew from Gylfe,
                    Rich in stored up treasure,
                    The land she joined to Denmark.
                    Four heads and eight eyes bearing,
                    While hot sweat trickled down them,
                    The oxen dragged the reft mass
                    That formed this winsome island.

The etymology of Gefjun is uncertain. Some explain it as being a
combination of the Greek γῆ, and Norse _fjón_, separation (_terræ
separatio_). Grimm compares it with the Old Saxon _geban_, Anglo-Saxon,
_geofon_, _gifan_, the ocean. Grundtvig derives it from Anglo-Saxon
_gefean_, gladness. He says it is the same word as Funen (_Fyn_), and
that the meaning of the myth is that Funen and Jutland with united
strength tore Zealand from Sweden. This would then be a historical

The derivation from _gefa_, to give, has also been suggested, and there
is no doubt that the plowing Gefjun is the goddess of agriculture. She
unites herself with the giants (the barren and unfruitful fields or
deserts) and subdues them, thus preparing the land for cultivation. In
this sense she is Frigg’s maid-servant. Gefjun, the plowed land,
develops into Frigg, the fruit-bearing earth; hence she is a maid, not a
woman. The maid _is not_, but _shall become_ fruitful.

Eir is the goddess of the healing art, and this is about all that we
know of her; but that is a great deal. A healer for our frail body and
for the sick mind! what a beneficent divinity!

                           SECTION XII. RIND.

This goddess was mentioned in Section IX. It is the third form of earth
in its relation to Odin. Thus the lay of Vegtam, in the Elder Edda:

                        Rind a son shall bear
                        In the wintry halls,
                        He shall slay Odin’s son
                        When one night old.
                        He a hand will not wash,
                        Nor his hair comb,
                        Ere he to the pile has borne
                        Balder’s adversary.

Odin’s repeated wooing of this maid is expressed in Hávamál, of the
Elder Edda, as follows:

                 The mind only knows
                 What lies near the heart;
                 That alone is conscious of our affections.
                 No disease is worse
                 To a sensible man
                 Than not to be content with himself.

                 That I experienced
                 When in the reeds I sat
                 Awaiting my delight.
                 Body and soul to me
                 Was that discreet maiden:
                 Nevertheless I possess her not.

                 Billing’s lass[45]
                 On her couch I found,
                 Sun-bright, sleeping.
                 A prince’s joy
                 To me seemed naught,
                 If not with that form to live.

                 Yet nearer night, she said,
                 Must thou, Odin, come,
                 If thou wilt talk the maiden over;
                 All will be disastrous
                 Unless we alone
                 Are privy to such misdeed.

                 I returned,
                 Thinking to love
                 At her wise desire;
                 I thought
                 I should obtain
                 Her whole heart and love.

                 When next I came,
                 The bold warriors were
                 All awake,
                 With lights burning,
                 And bearing torches:
                 Thus was the way to pleasure closed.

                 But at the approach of morn,
                 When again I came,
                 The household all was sleeping;
                 The good damsel’s dog
                 Alone I found
                 Tied to the bed.

                 Many a fair maiden,
                 When rightly known,
                 Toward men is fickle:
                 That I experienced
                 When that discreet maiden I
                 Strove to win:
                 Contumely of every kind
                 That wily girl
                 Heaped upon me;
                 Nor of that damsel gained I aught.

This is clearly the same story as is related by Saxo Grammaticus, as
follows: Odin loves a maiden, whose name is Rind, and who has a stubborn
disposition. Odin tried to revenge the death of his son Balder. Then he
was told by Rosthiof that he with Rind, the daughter of the king of the
Ruthenians, would beget another son, who would revenge his brother’s
death. Odin put on his broad-brimmed hat and went into the service of
the king, and won the friendship of the king, for as commander he put a
whole army to flight. He revealed his love to the king, but when he
asked the maiden for a kiss, she struck his ear. The next year he came
as a smith, called himself Rosterus, and offered the maiden a
magnificent bracelet and beautiful rings; but she gave his ear another
blow. The third time he came as a young warrior, but she thrust him away
from her so violently that he fell head first to the ground. Finally he
came as a woman, called himself Vecha, and said he was a doctress. As
Rind’s servant-maid, he washed her feet in the evening, and when she
became sick he promised to cure her, but the remedy was so bitter that
she must first be bound. He represented to her father that it, even
against her wish, must operate with all its dissolving power, and
permeate all her limbs before she could be restored to health. Thus he
won the maiden, as some think, with the secret consent of her father.
But the gods banished Odin from Byzantium, and accepted in his place a
certain Oller, whom they even gave Odin’s name. This Oller had a bone,
which he had so charmed by incantations that he could traverse the ocean
with it as in a ship. Oller was banished again by the gods, and betook
himself to Sweden; but Odin returned in his divine dignity and requested
his son Bous, whom Rind bad borne, and who showed a great proclivity for
war, to revenge the death of his brother. Saxo Grammaticus relates this
as confidently as if it were the most genuine history, not having the
faintest suspicion as to its mythical character.

Saxo’s Rosthiof is mentioned in the Elder Edda as Hross-thiofr
(horse-thief), of Hrimner’s (the frost’s rime’s) race. Saxo’s Vecha is
Odin, who in the Elder Edda is called Vak. The latter portion of the
myth is not given in Hávamál, and were it not for faithful Saxo we
should scarcely understand that portion of the Elder Edda which was
quoted above. But with the light that he sheds upon it there is no
longer any doubt. Rind is the earth, not generally speaking, but the
earth who after the death of Balder is consigned to the power of winter.
Does not the English word _rind_ remind us of the hard-frozen crust of
the earth? Defiantly and long she resists the love of Odin; in vain be
proffers her the ornaments of summer; in vain he reminds her of his
warlike deeds, the Norseman’s most cherished enterprise in the
summer-season. By his all-powerful witchcraft he must dissolve and as it
were melt her stubborn mind. Finally she gives birth to Vale, the strong

In the incantation of Groa, in the Elder Edda, this is the first song
that the mother sings to her son:

               I will sing to thee first
               One that is thought most useful,
               Which Rind sang to Ran;[46]
               That from thy shoulders thou shouldst cast
               What to thee seems irksome:
               Let thyself thyself direct. (Be independent!)

What is it that seems so irksome to Rind and Ran, and that both cast
from their shoulders in order to become independent? It is the ice. When
Rind had thrown it off she requested the sea-goddess Ran to do likewise.

The Greeks have a myth corresponding somewhat to this. The god of the
heavens, Zeus, comes down in the rain into Hera’s lap; but when she
resisted his entreaties Zeus let fall a shower of rain, while she was
sitting on the top of a mountain, and he changed himself to a
nightingale (a symbol of spring-time). Then Hera compassionately took
the wet and dripping bird into her lap. But look at the difference! Hera
soon gives way and pities, but our Norse Rind makes a desperate
resistance. It repeatedly looks as if Odin had conquered, but the maid
reassumes her stubborn disposition. How true this is of the climate in
the northern latitudes! Rind is not inapplicable to our Wisconsin

Such is the physical interpretation of Odin’s relation to Frigg and
Rind. Heaven and earth are wedded together; and upon this marriage earth
presents itself in two forms: fruitful and blest, unfruitful and
imprisoned in the chains of cold and frost. As the king of the year Odin
embraces both of them. But Odin is also the spiritual (_aand_) king, who
unites himself with the human earthly mind. He finds it crude and
uncultured, but susceptible of impressions. Pure thoughts and noble
feelings are developed, which grow into blooming activities. But then
comes back again the unfeeling coldness and defiant stubbornness which
take possession of the mind, shutting out the influence of truth upon
the mind. It is a sad time when doubt and skepticism and despair every
night lay their leaden weight upon the poor man’s soul. However to the
honest seeker of truth it is only a transitory state of trial. A wise
Providence takes him with tender and patient hands again to his bosom.
He sends down showers of blessings or misfortunes upon him. With his
mild breath he melts the frozen heart, and it at once clothes itself
with garlands of divinest hues. With all his charms he touches the
wintry _rind_ that encases us, and the mind stands forth unmanacled and
free. What to the year is light summer and dark winter is to us bright
and gloomy periods of our existence, that succeed each other in their
turn, advancing or impeding our spiritual development, which must
continue forever. This is also contained in the myth about Odin and
Rind, nay, it is the better half.


Poetry is represented as an inspiring drink. He who partakes of it is
_skáld_, poet. This drink was kept with the giants, where Gunlad
protected it. Odin goes down to the giants, conquers all obstacles, wins
Gunlad’s affection, and gets permission to partake of the drink. He
brings it to the upper world and gives it to men. Thus poetry originated
and developed. Thus it is related in the Younger Edda:

Æger having expressed a wish to know how poetry originated, Brage, the
god of poetry, informed him that the asas and vans having met to put an
end to the war which had long been carried on between them, a treaty of
peace was agreed to and ratified by each party spitting into a jar. As a
lasting sign of the amity which was thenceforward to subsist between the
contending parties, the gods formed out of this spittle a being, to whom
they gave the name of Kvaser, and whom they endowed with such a high
degree of intelligence that no one could ask him a question that he was
unable to answer. Kvaser then traversed the whole world to teach men
wisdom, but the dwarfs, Fjalar and Galar, having invited him to a feast,
treacherously murdered him. They let his blood run into two cups and a
kettle. The name of the kettle is Odrœrer, and the names of the cups are
Son and Bodn. By mixing up his blood with honey they composed a drink of
such surpassing excellence that whoever partakes of it acquires the gift
of song (becomes a poet or man of knowledge, _skáld_, _eða fræðamaðr_).
When the gods inquired what had become of Kvaser, the dwarfs told them
that he had been suffocated with his own wisdom, not being able to find
anyone who, by proposing to him a sufficient number of learned
questions, might relieve him of its super-abundance.

The dwarfs invited a giant, by name Gilling, and his wife. They proposed
to the giant to take a boat-ride with them out on the sea, but they
rowed on to a rock and capsized. Gilling could not swim, and perished,
but the dwarfs rowed ashore, and told his wife of his death, which made
her burst forth in a flood of tears. Then Fjalar asked her whether it
would not be some consolation to her to look out upon the water, where
her husband had perished; and when she consented to this, Fjalar said to
his brother Galar that he should get up above the door, and, as she
passed out through it, he should let fall a mill-stone upon her head,
for he was sick and disgusted with her crying. The brother did so, and
thus she perished also. A son of Gilling, a giant by name Suttung,
avenged these treacherous deeds. He took the dwarfs out to sea and
placed them on a shoal, which was flooded at high water. In this
critical position they implored Suttung to spare their lives, and accept
the verse-inspiring beverage, which they possessed, as an atonement for
their having killed his parents. Suttung, having agreed to these
conditions, released the dwarfs, and, carrying the mead home with him,
committed it to the care of his daughter Gunlad. Hence poetry is
indifferently called Kvaser’s blood, Suttung’s mead, the dwarfs’ ransom,

How did the gods get possession of this valuable mead of Suttung? Odin
being fully determined to acquire it, set out for Jotunheim, and after
journeying for some time he came to a meadow, in which nine thralls were
mowing. Entering into conversation with them, Odin offered to whet their
scythes, an offer which they gladly accepted. He took a whetstone from
his belt and whetted their scythes, and finding that it had given their
scythes an extraordinarily keen edge the thralls asked him whether he
was willing to dispose of it; but Odin threw the whetstone up into the
air, and as all the thralls attempted to catch it as it fell, each
brought his scythe to bear on the neck of one of his comrades, so that
they were all killed in the scramble. Odin took up his night’s lodging
at the house of Suttung’s brother Bauge, who told him he was sadly at a
loss for laborers, his nine thralls having slain each other. Odin who
here called himself Bolverk (one who can perform the most difficult
work), said that for a draught of Suttung’s mead he would do the work of
nine men for him. Bauge answered that he had no control over it. Suttung
wanted it alone, but he would go with Bolverk and try to get it. These
terms were agreed on and Odin worked for Bauge the whole summer, doing
the work of nine men; but when winter set in he wanted his reward. Bauge
and Odin set out together, and Bauge explained to Suttung the agreement
between him and Bolverk, but Suttung was deaf to his brother’s
entreaties and would not part with a drop of the precious drink, which
was carefully preserved in a cavern under his daughter’s custody. Into
this cavern Odin was resolved to penetrate. We must invent some
stratagem, said he to Bauge. He then gave Bauge the augur, which is
called Rate, and said to him that he should bore a hole through the
rock, if the edge of the augur was sharp enough. Bauge did so, and said
that he now had bored through. But Odin, or Bolverk as he is here
called, blew into the augur-hole and the chips flew into his face. He
then perceived that Bauge intended to deceive him and commanded him to
bore clear through. Bauge bored again, and, when Bolverk blew a second
time, the chips flew the other way. Then Odin transformed himself into a
worm, crept through the hole, and resuming his natural shape won the
heart of Gunlad. Bauge put the augur down after him, but missed him.
After having passed three nights with the fair maiden, he had no great
difficulty in inducing her to let him take a draught out of each of the
three jars called Odrœrer, Bodn, and Son, in which the mead was kept.
But wishing to make the most of his advantage, he drank so deep that not
a drop was left in the vessels. Transforming himself into an eagle, he
then flew off as fast as his wings could carry him, but Suttung becoming
aware of the stratagem, also took upon himself an eagle’s guise and flew
after him. The gods, on seeing him approach Asgard, set out in the yard
all the jars they could lay their hands on, which Odin filled by
disgorging through his beak the wonder-working liquor he had drunk. He
was however so near being caught by Suttung, that he sent some of the
mead after him backwards, and as no care was taken of this it fell to
the share of poetasters. It is called the drink of silly poets. But the
mead discharged into the jars was kept for the gods and for those men
who have sufficient wit to make a right use of it. Hence poetry is
called Odin’s booty, Odin’s gift, the beverage of the gods, etc.

But let us look at this myth in its older and purer form. Thus the Elder
Edda, in Hávamál:

                       Oblivion’s heron ’t is called
                       That over potations hovers;
                       He steals the minds of men.
                       With this bird’s pinions
                       I was fettered
                       In Gunlad’s dwelling.

                       Drunk I was,
                       I was over-drunk
                       At that cunning Fjalar’s.
                       It’s the best drunkenness
                       When every one after it
                       Regains his reason.

This passage then refers to the effects of the strong drink of poetry,
and Odin recommends us to use it with moderation. Would it not be well
for some of our poets to heed the advice?

Thus Hávamál again:

                    The old giant[47] I sought;
                    Now I am come back;
                    Little got I there by silence;
                    In many words
                    I spoke to my advantage
                    In Suttung’s halls.

                    Gunlad gave me,
                    On her golden seat,
                    A draught of the precious mead;
                    A bad recompense
                    I afterwards made her,
                    For her whole soul,
                    Her fervent love.

                    Rate’s mouth I caused
                    To make a space,
                    And to gnaw the rock;
                    Over and under me
                    Were the giant’s ways:
                    Thus I my head did peril.

                    Of a well-assumed form
                    I made good use:
                    Few things fail the  wise;
                    For Odrœrer
                    Is now come up
                    To men’s earthly dwellings.

                    ’Tis to me doubtful
                    That I could have come
                    From the giant’s courts
                    Had not Gunlad aided me
                    That good damsel
                    Over whom I laid my arm.

                    On the day following
                    Came the frost-giants
                    To learn something of the High One.
                    In the High One’s hall:
                    After Bolverk they inquired
                    Whether he with the gods were come,
                    Or Suttung had destroyed him.

                    Odin, I believe,
                    A ring-oath gave.
                    Who in his faith will trust?
                    Suttung defrauded,
                    Of his drink bereft,
                    And Gunlad made to weep.

It is a beautiful idea that Odin creeps into Suttung’s hall as a
serpent, but when he has drunk the mead of poetry, when he has become
inspired, he soars away on eagles’ pinions.

Odin’s name, Bolverk, may mean the one working evil, which might be said
of him in relation to the giants, or the one who accomplishes difficult
things, which then would impersonate the difficulty in mastering the art
of poetry. Without a severe struggle no one can gain a victory in the
art of poetry, and least of all in the Old Norse language. Gunlad (from
_gunnr_, struggle, and _laða_, to invite) invites Odin to this struggle.
She sits well fortified in the abode of the giant. She is surrounded by
stone walls. The cup in which was the mead is called Odrœrer
(_od-rœrer_, that which moves the spirit); that is, the cup of
inspiration; and the myth is as clear as these names. Kvaser is the
fruit of which the juice is pressed and mixed with honey; it produces
the inspiring drink. It is also pertinently said that Kvaser perishes in
his own wisdom. Does not the fruit burst from its superabundance of
juice? But do not take only the outside skin of this myth; press the
ethical juice out of it.

It should be noticed here that Kvaser (the spit, the ripe fruit) is
produced by a union of asas and vans, an intimate union of the solid and
liquid elements.

This myth also illustrates the wide difference between the Elder and the
Younger Edda. How much purer and poetic in the former than in the
latter! _Ex ipso fonte dulcius bibuntur aquæ._ In the Elder Edda is
water in which it is worth our while to fish.

                           SECTION XIV. SAGA.

Odin is not only the inventor of poetry, he also favors and protects
history, Saga. The Elder Edda:

                    Sokvabek hight the fourth dwelling.,
                    Over it flow the cool billows;
                    Glad drink there Odin and Saga
                    Every day from golden cups.

The charming influence of history could not be more beautifully

Sokvabek is the brook of the deep. From the deep arise the thoughts and
roll as cool refreshing waves through golden words. Saga can tell, Odin
can think, about it. Thus they sit together day after day and night
after night and refresh their minds from the fountain of history. Saga
is the second of the goddesses. She dwells at Sokvabek, a very large and
stately abode. The stream of history is large, it is broad and deep.
Saga is from the word meaning _to say_. In Greece Klio was one of the
muses, but in Norseland Saga is alone, united with Odin, the father of
heroic deeds. Her favor is the hope of the youth and the delight of the
old man.


The original meaning of the word rune is _secret_, and it was used to
signify a mysterious song, mysterious doctrine, mysterious speech, and
mysterious writing. Our ancestors had an alphabet called runes, before
they learned the so-called Roman characters. The runic stave-row was a
futhore (_f_, _u_, _th_, _o_, _r_, _k_), not an alphabet (_A_, _B_) as
in Greek or Latin. But what does it mean mythologically, that Odin is
the inventor of the runes? Odin himself says in his famous Rune-song in
the Elder Edda:

              I know that I hung
              On a wind-rocked tree[48]
              Nine whole nights,
              With a spear wounded
              And to Odin offered,
              Myself to myself;
              On that tree
              Of which no one knows
              From what root it springs.

              Bread no one gave me
              Nor a horn of drink,
              Downward I peered,
              To runes applied myself
              Wailing learnt them,
              Then fell down thence.

              Potent songs nine
              From the  famed son I learned
              Of Bolthorn, Bestla’s father,
              And a draught obtained
              Of the precious mead,
              Drawn from Odrœrer.

              Then I began to bear fruit
              And to know many things,
              To grow and well thrive:
              Word by word
              I sought out words,
              Fact by fact
              I sought out facts.

              Runes thou wilt find
              And explained characters,
              Very large characters,
              Very potent characters,
              Which the great speaker depicted
              And the high powers formed
              And the powers’ prince graved.

              Odin among the asas,
              But among the elves, Daain;
              Odin as inventor of runes
              And Dvalin for the dwarfs;
              Aasvid for the giants runes risted,
              Some I myself risted.

              Knowest thou how to rist them?
              Knowest thou how to expound them?
              Knowest thou how to depict them?
              Knowest thou how to prove them?
              Knowest thou how to pray?
              Knowest thou how to offer?
              Knowest thou how to send?
              Knowest thou how to consume?

              ’T is better not to pray
              Than too much offer;
              A gift ever looks to a return.
              ’T is better not to send
              Than too much consume.
              So Thund risted
              Before the origin of men,
              There he ascended
              Where he afterwards came.

              Those songs I know
              Which the king’s wife knows not
              Nor son of man.
              _Help_ the first is called,
              For that will help thee
              Against strifes and cares.

              For the second I know,
              What the sons of men require
              Who will as leeches live.

              For the third I know,
              If I have great need
              To restrain my foes,
              The weapon’s edge I deaden:
              Of my adversaries
              Nor arms nor wiles harm aught.

              For the fourth I know,
              If men place
              Bonds on my limbs,
              I so sing
              That I can walk;
              The fetter starts from my feet
              And the manacle from my hands.

              For the fifth I know,
              I see a shot from a hostile hand,
              A shaft flying amid the host,
              So swift it cannot fly,
              That I cannot arrest it,
              If only I get sight of it.

              For the sixth I know,
              If one wounds me
              With a green tree’s root,[49]
              Also if a man
              Declares hatred to me,
              Harm shall consume _them_ sooner than me.

              For the seventh I know,
              If a lofty house I see
              Blaze o’er its inmates,
              So furiously it shall not burn
              That I cannot save it;
              That song I can sing.

              For the eighth I know,
              What to all is
              Useful to learn;
              Where hatred grows
              Among the sons of men—
              That I can quickly assuage.

              For the ninth I know,
              If I stand in need
              My bark on the water to save,
              I can the wind
              On the waves allay,
              And the sea lull.

              For the tenth I know,
              If I see troll-wives
              Sporting in air,
              I can so operate
              That they will forsake
              Their own forms
              And their own minds.

              For the eleventh I know,
              If I have to lead
              My ancient friends to battle,
              Under their shields I sing,
              And with power they go
              Safe to the fight,
              Safe from the fight;
              Safe on every side they go.

              For the twelfth I know,
              If on a tree I see
              A corpse swinging from a halter,
              I can so rist
              And in runes depict,
              That the man shall walk,
              And with me converse.

              For the thirteenth I know,
              If on a young man
              I sprinkle water,[50]
              He shall not fall,
              Though he into battle come:
              That man shall not sink before swords.

              For the fourteenth I know,
              If in the society of men
              I have to enumerate the gods,
              Asas and elves,
              I know the distinctions of all.
              This few unskilled can do.

              For the fifteenth I know.
              What the dwarf of Thodrœrer[51] sang
              Before Delling’s doors.
              Strength he sang to the asas,
              And to the elves prosperity,
              Wisdom to Hroptatyr (Odin).

              For the sixteenth I know,
              If a modest maiden’s favor and affection
              I desire to possess,
              The soul I change
              Of the white-armed damsel,
              And wholly turn her mind.

              For seventeenth I know,
              That that young maiden will
              Reluctantly avoid me.
              These songs, Lodfafner,
              Thou wilt long have lacked;
              Yet it may be good, if thou understandest them,
              Profitable if thou learnest them.

              For the eighteenth I know,
              That which I never teach
              To maid or wife of man,
              (All is better
              What _one_ only knows:
              This is the closing of the songs)
              Save her alone
              Who clasps me in her arms,
              Or is my sister.

              Now are sung the
              _High One’s_ songs
              In the High One’s hall,
              To the sons of men all useful,
              But useless to the giants’ sons.
              Hail to him who has sung them!
              Hail to him who knows them!
              May he profit who has learnt them!
              Hall to those who have listened to them!

Odin’s sister or wife is, as we have seen, Frigg, the earth, and there
is much between heaven and earth of which the wisest men do not even
dream, much that the profoundest philosophy is unable to unravel, and
this is what Odin never teaches to maid or wife of man.

The runes of Odin were risted on the shield which stands before the
shining god, on the ear of Aarvak (the ever-wakeful), and on the hoof of
Alsvin; on the wheels that roll under Rogner’s chariot, on Sleipner’s
reins, on the paw of the bear and on the tongue of Brage; on the claws
of the wolf, on the beak of the eagle, on bloody wings and on the end of
the bridge (the rainbow); on glass, on gold, on wine and on herb; on
Vile’s heart, on the point of Gungner (Odin’s spear), on Grane’s breast,
on the nails of the norn and on the beak of the owl. All, that were
carved, were afterwards scraped off, mixed with the holy mead and sent
out into all parts of the world. Some are with the asas, some with the
elves, and some with the sons of men.

All this and even more that is omitted we find in the Elder Edda. What
are Odin’s runes? What but a new expression of his being? Odin’s runes
represent the might and wisdom with which he rules all nature, even its
most secret phenomena. Odin, as master of runes, is the spirit that
subdues and controls physical nature. He governs inanimate nature, the
wind, the sea, the fire, and the mind of man, the hate of the enemy and
the love of woman. Everything submits to his mighty sway, and thus the
runes were risted on all possible things in heaven and on earth. He is
the spirit of the world, that pervades everything, the almighty creator
of heaven and earth, or, to use more mythological expression, the father
of gods and men.

Odin hung nine days on the tree (Ygdrasil) and sacrificed himself to
himself, and wounded himself with his own spear. This has been
interpreted to mean the nine months in which the child is developed in
its mother’s womb. Turn back and read the first strophes carefully, and
it will be found that there is some sense in this interpretation; but,
kind reader, did you ever try to subdue and penetrate into the secrets
of matter with your mind? Do you know that knowledge cannot be acquired
without labor, without struggle, without sacrifice, without solemn
consecration of one’s self to an idea? Do you remember that Odin gave
his eye in pawn for a drink from Mimer’s fountain? The spear with which
he now wounds himself shows how solemnly he consecrates himself. For the
sake of this struggle to acquire knowledge, the spirit offers itself to
itself. It knows what hardships and sufferings must be encountered on
the road to knowledge, but it bravely faces these obstacles, it wants to
wrestle with them; that is its greatness, its glory, its power. Nine
nights Odin hangs on the tree. Rome was not built in a day. _Tantæ molis
erat Romanas condere gentes!_ Neither is knowledge acquired in a day.
The mind is developed by a slow process. He neither eats nor drinks, he
fasts. You must also curb your bodily appetites, and, like Odin, look
down into the depths and penetrate the mysteries of nature with your
mind. Then will you learn all those wonderful songs that Odin learned
crying before he fell from the tree.

Odin is the author of the runic incantations that played so conspicuous
a part in the social and religious life of the Norseman. The belief in
sorcery (_galdr_ and _seiðr_) was universal among the heathen Norsemen,
and it had its origin in the mythology, which represents the magic arts
as an invention of Odin.

                          SECTION XVI. VALHAL.

Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of Grimner:

                  Gladsheim is named the fifth dwelling;
                  There the golden-bright
                  Valhal stands spacious;
                  There Hropt[52] selects
                  Each day those men
                  Who die by weapons.

                  Easily to be known is,
                  By those who to Odin come,
                  The mansion by its aspect.
                  Its roof with spears is laid,
                  Its hall with shields is decked,
                  With corselets are its benches strewed.

                  Easily to be known is,
                  By those who to Odin come,
                  The mansion by its aspect.
                  A wolf hangs
                  Before the western door,
                  Over it an eagle hovers.

Odin was preëminently the god of war. He who fell in battle came after
death to Odin in Valhal. There he began the battle anew, fell and arose
again. Glorious was the life in Valhal.

The hall was called Valhal, that is, the hall of the slain; Odin was
called Valfather (father of the slain), and the maids he sent out to
choose the fallen heroes on the field of battle were called valkyries.
Valhal must not, as before stated, be confused with the silver-roofed

The heroes who came to Valhal were called einherjes, from _ein_ and
_herja_, which together mean the excellent warrior, and we find that
Odin was also called Herja-father (father of heroes).

Valhal is situated in Gladsheim. It is large and resplendent with gold;
spears support its ceiling, it is roofed with shields, and coats of mail
adorn its benches. Swords serve the purpose of fire, and of its immense
size we can form some idea when we read in the Elder Edda that

                   Five hundred doors
                   And forty more
                   Methinks are in Valhal;
                   Eight hundred heroes through each door
                   Shall issue forth
                   Against the wolf to combat.

Outside of Valhal stands the shining grove Glaser. All its leaves are
red gold, whence gold is frequently called Glaser’s leaves.

What does Odin give all his guests to eat? If all the men who have
fallen in fight since the beginning of the world are gone to Odin in
Valhal, there must be a great crowd there. Yes, the crowd there is
indeed great, but great though it be, it will still be thought too
little when the wolf comes (the end of the world). But however great the
band of men in Valhal may be, the flesh of the boar Sæhrimner will more
than suffice for their sustenance. This boar is cooked every morning,
but becomes whole again every night. The cook is called Andhrimner and
the kettle Eldhrimner. Thus the Elder Edda:

                          Andhrimner cooks
                          In Eldhrimner
                          ’Tis the best of flesh;
                          But few know
                          What the einherjes eat.

What do the guests of Odin drink? Do you imagine that Allfather would
invite kings and jarls and other great men and give them nothing but
water to drink? In that case many of those, who had endured the greatest
hardships and received deadly wounds in order to obtain access to
Valhal, would find that they had paid too great a price for their water
drink, and would indeed have reason to complain were they there to meet
with no better entertainment. But we shall see that the case is quite
otherwise; for the she-goat Heidrun (the clear stream) stands above
Valhal and feeds on the leaves of a very famous tree. This tree is
called Lerad (affording protection), and from the teats of the she-goat
flows mead in such great abundance that every day a bowl, large enough
to hold more than would suffice for all the heroes, is filled with it.
And still more wonderful is what is told of the stag, Eikthyrner (the
oak-thorned, having knotty horns), which also stands over Valhal and
feeds upon the leaves of the same tree, and while he is feeding so many
drops fall from his antlers down into Hvergelmer that they furnish
sufficient water for the thirty-six rivers that issuing thence flow
twelve to the abodes of the gods, twelve to the abodes of men, and
twelve to Niflheim.

Ah! our ancestors were uncultivated barbarians, and that is proved by
the life in Valhal, where the heroes ate pork and drank mead! But what
are we, then, who do the same thing? Let us look a little more carefully
at the words they used. Food they called flesh, and drink,
mead,—expressions taken from life; but they connected an infinitely
higher idea with the heavenly nourishment. Although but few know what
the einherjes eat, we ought to know it. When we hear the word ambrosia,
we think of a very fine nourishment, although we do not know what it
was. In the _Iliad_ (14, 170), it is used of pure water. The words used
in the Norse mythology in reference to the food and drink of the gods
are very simple, And-hrimner, Eld-hrimner, and Sæ-hrimner. Hrim (rime)
is the first and most delicate transition from a liquid to a solid;
hrimner is the one producing this transition. The food was formed, as
the words clearly show, by air (_and_, _önd_, _aande_, breath), by fire
(_eld_), and by water (_sæ_, sea). We have here the most delicate
formation of the most delicate elements. There is nothing earthly in it.
The fundamental element is water boiled by the fire, which is nourished
by the air; and the drink is the clear stream, which flows from the
highest abodes of heaven, the pure ethereal current, which comes from
the distant regions where the winds are silent. Nay, we cannot even call
it a drink, but it is the purest and most delicate breath of the air,
that fills the lungs of the immortal heroes in Valhal.

A mighty band of men there is in Valhal, and Odin must indeed be a great
chieftain to command such a numerous host; but how do the heroes pass
their time when they are not drinking? Answer: Every day, as soon as
they have dressed themselves, they ride out into the court, and there
fight until they cut each other into pieces. This is their pastime. But
when meal-time approaches, they remount their steeds and return to drink
mead from the skulls of their enemies[53] in Valhal. Thus the Elder

                     The einherjes all
                     On Odin’s plain
                     Hew daily each other,
                     While chosen the slain are.
                     From the battle-field they ride
                     And sit in peace with each other.


As the god of war, Odin sends out his maids to choose the fallen heroes
(_kjósa val_). They are called valkyries and valmaids (_valmeyar_). The
valkyries serve in Valhal, where they bear in the drink, take care of
the drinking-horns, and wait upon the table. Odin sends them to every
field of battle, to make choice of those who are to be slain and to sway
the victory. The youngest of the norns, Skuld, also rides forth to
choose the slain and turn the combat. More than a dozen valkyries are
named in the Elder Edda, and all these have reference to the activities
of war.

This myth about Odin as the god of war, about Valhal and the valkyries,
exercised a great influence upon the mind and character of our
ancestors. The dying hero knows that the valkyries have been sent after
him to invite him home to Odin’s hall, and he receives their message
with joy and gladness. That the brave were to be taken after death to
Valhal was one of the fundamental points, if not the soul, of the Norse
religion.[54] The Norsemen felt in their hearts that it was absolutely
necessary to be brave. Odin would not care for them, but despise and
thrust them away from him, if they were not brave. And is there not some
truth in this doctrine? Is it not still a preëminent duty to be brave?
Is it not the first duty of man to subdue fear? What can we accomplish
until we have got rid of fear? A man is a slave, a coward, his very
thoughts are false, until he has got fear under his feet. Thus we find
that the Odinic doctrine, if we disentangle the real kernel and essence
of it, is true even in our times. A man must be valiant—he must march
forward and acquit himself like a man. How much of a man he is will be
determined in most cases by the completeness of his victory over fear.
Their views of Odin, Valhal and the valkyries made the Norsemen think it
a shame and misery not to die in battle; and if natural death seemed to
be coming on, they would cut wounds in their flesh, that Odin might
receive them as warriors slain. Old kings, about to die, had their
bodies laid in a ship; the ship was sent forth with sails set, and a
slow fire burning it, so that once out at sea it might blaze up in
flame, and in such manner bury worthily the hero both in the sky and in
the ocean. The Norse viking fought with an indomitable, rugged energy.
He stood in the prow of his ship, silent, with closed lips, defying the
wild ocean with its monsters, and all men and things. No Homer sang of
these Norse warriors and sea-kings, but their heroic deeds and wild
deaths are the ever-recurring theme of the skalds.

The death of the Norse viking is beautifully described in the following
strophe from Professor Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen’s poem, entitled _Odin’s

                In the prow with head uplifted
                Stood the chief like wrathful Thor;
                Through his locks the snow-flakes drifted
                Bleached their hue from gold to hoar.
                Mid the crash of mast and rafter
                Norsemen leaped through death with laughter
                Up through Valhal’s wide-flung door.

Regner Lodbrok thus ends his famous song, the Krákumál:

                  Cease, my strain! I hear a voice
                  From realms where martial souls rejoice;
                  I hear the maids of slaughter call,
                  Who bid me hence to Odin’s hall:
                  High-seated in their blest abodes
                  I soon shall quaff the drink of gods.
                  The hours of life have glided by,
                  I fall, but smiling shall I die.

And in the death-song of Hakon (_Hákonarmál_) we find the valkyries
Gondul and Skogul in the heat of battle:

                           The god Tyr sent
                           Gondul and Skogul
                           To choose a king
                           Of the race of Ingve,
                           To dwell with Odin
                           In roomy Valhal.

The battle being described, the skald continues:

                         When lo! Gondul,
                         Pointing with her spear,
                         Said to her sister,
                         Soon shall increase
                         The band of the gods:
                         To Odin’s feast
                         Hakon is bidden.

                         The king beheld
                         The beautiful maids
                         Sitting on their horses
                         In shining armor,
                         Their shields before them,
                         Solemnly thoughtful.

                         The king heard
                         The words of their lips,
                         Saw them beckon
                         With pale hands,
                         And thus bespoke them:
                         Mighty goddesses,
                         Were we not worthy
                         You should choose us
                         A better doom?

                         Skogul answered:
                         Thy foes have fallen,
                         Thy land is free,
                         Thy fame is pure;
                         Now we must ride
                         To greener worlds,
                         To tell Odin
                         That Hakon comes.

An interpretation of the valkyries is not necessary. The god of war
sends his thoughts and his will to the carnage of the battle-field in
the form of mighty armed women, in the same manner as he sends his
ravens over all the earth.

Ethically considered, then, Odin symbolizes the matchless hope of
victory that inspired the Norsemen, and from which their daring exploits
sprang; and we know that this hope of victory did not leave the hero
when he fell bleeding on the field of battle, but followed him borne in
valkyrian arms to Valhal, and thence he soared on eagle pinions to Gimle
on the everlasting hights.

Footnote 35:

  Compare _Shakespeare_—Shylock and the pound of flesh:

                 ... No jot of blood;
                 The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.”

Footnote 36:

  Freyja, whom the gods had promised the giant, was Oder’s wife.

Footnote 37:

  Jack the Giant-killer.

Footnote 38:

  The vala, or prophetess.

Footnote 39:


Footnote 40:


Footnote 41:

  See Vocabulary under the word _Mimer_.

Footnote 42:

  He who hardens the hide.

Footnote 43:


Footnote 44:

  Compare with this myth Dido and the founding of Carthage.

Footnote 45:

  Rind was daughter of Billing.

Footnote 46:

  The goddess of the sea.

Footnote 47:


Footnote 48:


Footnote 49:

  Roots of trees were especially fitted for hurtful trolldom
  (witchcraft). They produced mortal wounds.

Footnote 50:

  The old heathen Norsemen sprinkled their children with water when they
  named them.

Footnote 51:

  The waker of the people.

Footnote 52:


Footnote 53:

  If the _North American Review_, or anybody else, thinks this is proof
  of barbarism, we can refer them to the monks in Trier, who preserved
  the skull of Saint Theodulf and gave sick people drink from it; and we
  know several other such instances. Our Norse ancestors were not, then,
  in this respect any more savage than the Christian bishops and monks.
  See _North American Review_, January, 1875, p. 195.

Footnote 54:

  See Thomas Carlyle’s _Heroes and Hero-worship_.

                              CHAPTER II.

                           SECTION I. HERMOD.

Odin’s sons are emanations of his own being. As the god of war, warlike
valor is one of his servants, and honor another. He invents the art of
poetry, but the execution of it he leaves to his son Brage. He does not
meddle with thunder, having left this work of a lower order to his son
Thor. He is the father of light and darkness, and he leaves the
beneficent light to diffuse itself and struggle with darkness
independently (Balder and Hoder). Nor does he himself watch the rainbow,
but let the watchful Heimdal take care of it.

Hermod (the valiant in combat) was the son of Odin and messenger of the
gods. Odin himself gave him helmet and corselet, the means by which to
display his warlike character, and he is sent on all dangerous missions.
Of his many exploits the most important one is when he was sent on
Sleipner to Hel to bring Balder back. It was Hermod and Brage who were
sent to bid Hakon, the king, welcome, when he arrived at Valhal.

                            SECTION II. TYR.

Tyr’s name is preserved in Tuesday. He is the god of martial honor
(compare the German _Zier_). Tyr is the most daring and intrepid of all
the gods. It is he who dispenses valor in war; hence warriors do well to
invoke him. It has become proverbial to say of a man who surpasses all
others in valor, that he is Tyr-strong, or valiant as Tyr. A man noted
for his wisdom is also said to be wise as Tyr. He gives a splendid proof
of his intrepidity when the gods try to persuade the wolf Fenrer, as we
shall see hereafter, to let himself be bound up with the chain Gleipner.
The wolf fearing that the gods would never afterwards unloose him,
consented to be bound only on the condition that while they were
chaining him he should keep Tyr’s hand between this jaws. Tyr did not
hesitate to put his hand in the monster’s mouth, but when the Fenriswolf
perceived that the gods had no intention to unchain him, he bit the hand
off at that point which has ever since been called the wolf’s joint
(_úlfliðr_), the wrist. From that time Tyr has but one hand.

Tyr is the son of Odin, and it is through him the latter, as the god of
war, awakens wild courage. Thus he is the god of honor, and when the
noble gods desire to tame the raging flames he naturally has to arouse
all his courage and even sacrifice a part of himself, just as we
frequently have to sacrifice some of our comforts to keep clear of
rogues and scoundrels.

                   SECTION III. HEIMDAL. (HEIMDALLR).

Heimdal is the son of Odin, and is called the white god (_hvíti áss_,
the pure, innocent god). He is the son of nine virgins, who were
sisters, and is a very sacred and powerful deity. Thus he says in the
Elder Edda:

                        Born was I of mothers nine,
                        Son I am of sisters nine.

He also bears the appellation of the gold-toothed, for his teeth were of
pure gold, and the appellation Hallinskide (_hallinskiði_, the owner of
the vaulted arch). His horse is called Gulltop (_goldtop_), and he
dwells in Himminbjorg, the mountains of heaven, at the end of Bifrost,
the rainbow. He is the warder of the gods, and is therefore placed on
the borders of heaven to prevent the giants from forcing their way over
the bridge. He requires less sleep than a bird and sees by night as well
as by day a hundred miles around him. So acute is his ear that no sound
escapes him, for he can even hear the grass growing on the earth and the
wool on a sheep’s back. He has a horn called Gjallar-horn, which is
heard throughout the universe. Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of

                       ’Tis Himminbjorg called
                       Where Heimdal they say
                       Hath dwelling and rule.
                       There the gods’ warder drinks
                       In peaceful old halls
                       Gladsome the good mead.

Heimdal has a sword called Hofud (head); he figures at the death of
Balder and appears in Ragnarok. Physically interpreted, Heimdal is the
god of the rainbow, but the brilliant rainbow most beautifully
symbolizes the favoring grace of the gods. The rainbow itself is called
_ásbrú_ (asabridge) or Bifrost (the trembling way), and he who has seen
a perfect rainbow can appreciate how this resplendent arch among all
races has served as a symbol of peace, the bridge between heaven and
earth, the bridge connecting the races of the earth with the gods. Did
not God in Genesis set his bow in the cloud that it should be for a
token of a covenant between him and the earth? And when our poor
laboring masses get their taste cultivated for poetry, art, and
mythological lore,—when they have learned to appreciate our common
inheritance,—they will find that our Gothic history, folk-lore and
mythology together form

                                            A link
                    That binds us to the skies,
                    A bridge of _rainbows_ thrown across
                    The gulf of tears and sighs.[55]

In Greece we find the goddess Iris as the impersonation of the rainbow;
while in the Bible the rainbow is not personified, and in no
mythological system does the graceful divinity of the rainbow enter so
prominently into the affairs of men as does our Heimdal. In the first
verse of Völuspá, all mankind is called the sons of Heimdal, and this
thought is developed in a separate lay in the Elder Edda, called
Rigsmál, the lay of Rig (Heimdal), to which the reader is referred.

                      SECTION IV. BRAGE AND IDUN.

Brage is the son of Odin, and Idun is Brage’s wife. Brage is celebrated
for his wisdom, but more especially for his eloquence and correct forms
of speech. He is not only eminently skilled in poetry, but the art
itself is from his name called _Brage_, which epithet is also used to
denote a distinguished poet or poetess. Runes are risted on his tongue.
He wears a long flowing beard, and persons with heavy beard are called
after him, beard-brage (_skeggbragi_). His wife Idun (_Iðunn_) keeps in
a box the apples which the gods, when they feel old age approaching,
have only to taste of to become young again. It is in this manner they
will be kept in renovated youth until Ragnarok. This is a great treasure
committed to the guardianship and good faith of Idun, and it shall be
related how great a risk the gods once ran.

At the feast after the death of a king or jarl, it was customary among
the Norsemen for the heir to occupy a lower bench in front of the chief
seat, until Brage’s bowl was brought in. Then he arose, made a pledge,
and drank the cup of Brage. After that he was conducted into the seat of
his father.

At the sacrificial feasts of the Norsemen, the conductor of the
sacrifice consecrated the drinking-horns as well as the sacrificed food.
The guests first drank Odin’s horn, for the victory and rule of the
king; next they drank Njord’s and Frey’s horns, for prosperous seasons
and for peace; and then many were accustomed to drink a horn to Brage,
the god of poetry. A characteristic ceremony in connection with this
horn was, that when the bowl was raised, the promise of performing some
great deed was made, which might furnish material for the songs of the
skalds. This makes the character of Brage perfectly clear.

Idun’s name is derived from the root _ið_, and expresses a constant
activity and renovation, which idea becomes more firmly established by
the following myth.

                    SECTION V. IDUN AND HER APPLES.

Æger, the god of the sea, who was well skilled in magic, went to Asgard,
where the gods gave him a very good reception. Supper-time having come,
the twelve mighty gods, together with the goddesses Frigg, Freyja,
Gefjun, Idun, Gerd, Sigun, Fulla, and Nanna, seated themselves on their
lofty doom seats, in a hall around which were arranged swords of such
surpassing brilliancy that no other light was necessary. While they were
emptying their capacious drinking-horns, Æger, who sat next to Brage,
requested him to relate something concerning the asas. Brage instantly
complied with his request by informing him of what had happened to Idun.

Once, he said, when Odin, Loke and Hœner went on a journey, they came to
a valley where a herd of oxen were grazing, and, being sadly in want of
provisions, did not scruple to kill one for their supper. Vain, however,
were their efforts to boil the flesh; they found it, every time they
took the lid off the kettle, as raw as when first put in. While they
were endeavoring to account for this singular circumstance a noise was
heard above them, and on looking up they beheld an enormous eagle
perched on the branch of an oak tree. If you are willing to let me have
my share of the flesh, said the eagle, it shall soon be boiled. And on
assenting to this proposal it flew down and snatched up a leg and two
shoulders of the ox—a proceeding which so incensed Loke that he picked
up a large pole and made it fall pretty heavily on the eagle’s back. It
was, however, not an eagle that Loke struck, but the renowned giant
Thjasse, clad in his eagle-plumage. Loke soon found this out to his
sorrow, for while one end of the pole stuck fast to the eagle’s back, he
was unable to let go his hold of the other end, and was consequently
trailed by the eagle-clad giant over rocks and forests until he was
almost torn to pieces, and he thought his arms would be pulled off at
the shoulders. Loke in this predicament began to sue for peace, but
Thjasse told him that he should never be released from his hold until he
bound himself by a solemn oath to bring Idun and her apples out of
Asgard. Loke very willingly gave his oath to bring about this, and went
back in a piteous plight to his companions.

On his return to Asgard, Loke told Idun that in a forest not very far
from the celestial residence he had found apples growing, which he
thought were of a much better quality than her own, and that at all
events it was worth while to make a comparison between them. Idun,
deceived by his words, took her apples and went with him into the
forest, but they had no sooner entered it than Thjasse, clad in his
eagle-plumage, flew rapidly toward them, and, catching up Idun, carried
her and her treasure off with him to Jotunheim. The gods being thus
deprived of their renovating apples, soon became wrinkled and gray, old
age was creeping fast upon them when they discovered that Loke had been,
as usual, the contriver of all the mischief that had befallen them.
Inquiry was made about Idun in the assembly which was called, and the
last anybody knew about her was that she had been seen going out of
Asgard in company with Loke. They therefore threatened him with torture
and death if he did not instantly hit upon some expedient for bringing
back Idun and her apples to Asgard. This threat terrified Loke, and he
promised to bring her back from Jotunheim if Freyja would lend him her
falcon-plumage. He got the falcon-plumage of Freyja, flew in it to
Jotunheim, and finding that Thjasse was out at sea fishing, he lost no
time in transforming Idun into a nut and flying off with her in his
claws. But when Thjasse returned and became aware of what had happened,
he put on his eagle-plumage and flew after them. When the gods saw Loke
approach, holding Idun changed into a nut between his claws, and Thjasse
with his outspread eagle-wings ready to overtake him, they placed on the
walls of Asgard bundles of chips, which they set fire to the instant
Loke had flown over them; and as Thjasse could not stop his flight, the
fire caught his plumage, and he thus fell into the power of the gods,
who slew him within the portals of the celestial residence.

When these tidings came to Thjasse’s daughter, Skade (_Skaði_, German
_Schade_, harm), she put on her armor and went to Asgard, fully
determined to avenge her father’s death; but the gods having declared
their willingness to atone for the deed, an amicable arrangement was
entered into. Skade was to choose a husband in Asgard, and the gods were
to make her laugh, a feat which she flattered herself it would be
impossible for any one to accomplish. Her choice of a husband was to be
determined by a mere inspection of the feet of the gods, it being
stipulated that the feet should be the only part of their persons
visible until she had made known her determination. In inspecting the
row of feet placed before her, Skade took a fancy to a pair which from
their fine proportions she thought certainly must be those of Balder. I
choose these, she said, for on Balder there is nothing unseemly. The
feet were however Njord’s, and Njord was given her for a husband; and as
Loke managed to make her laugh by playing some diverting antics with a
goat, the atonement was fully effected. It is even said that Odin did
more than had been stipulated, by taking out Thjasse’s eyes and placing
them to shine as stars in the firmament.

This myth, interpreted by the visible workings of nature, means that
Idun (the ever-renovating spring) being in the possession of Thjasse
(the desolating winter), all the gods—that is, all nature—languishes
until she is delivered from her captivity. On this being effected, her
presence again diffuses joy and gladness, and all things revive; while
her pursuer, winter, with his icy breath, dissolves in the solar rays
indicated by the fires lighted on the walls of Asgard. The wintry blasts
rage so fearfully in the flames, that the flesh cannot be boiled, and
the wind even carries a burning (Loke) stick with it. The ethical
interpretation will suggest itself to every reader, and Idun is to
Brage, who sings among the trees and by the musical brooks of spring,
what a poetical contemplation of the busy forces of nature in producing
blossoms and ripening fruit must always be to every son of Brage.

Footnote 55:

  Barry Cornwall.

                              CHAPTER III.

                           SECTION I. BALDER.

Balder is the favorite of all nature, of all the gods and of men. He is
son of Odin and Frigg, and it may be truly said of him that he is the
best god, and that all mankind are loud in his praise. So fair and
dazzling is he in form and features, that rays of light seem to issue
from him; and we may form some idea of the beauty of his hair when we
know that the _whitest of all plants_ is called _Balder’s brow_.[56]
Balder is the mildest, the wisest and the most eloquent of all the gods,
yet such is his nature that the judgment he has pronounced can never be
altered. He dwells in the heavenly mansion called Breidablik (the
broad-shining splendor), into which nothing unclean can enter. Thus the
Elder Edda, in the lay of Grimner:

                         Breidablik is the seventh,
                         Where Balder has
                         Built for himself a hall,
                         In that land
                         In which I know exists
                         The fewest crimes.


This was an event which the asas deemed of great importance. Balder the
Good having been tormented by terrible dreams, indicating that his life
was in great peril, communicated them to the assembled gods, who,
sorrow-stricken, resolved to conjure all things to avert from him the
threatened danger. Then Frigg exacted an oath from fire and water, from
iron and all other metals, as well as from stones, earths, diseases,
beasts, birds, poisons, and creeping things, that none of them would do
any harm to Balder. Still Odin feared that the prosperity of the gods
had vanished. He saddled his Sleipner and rode down to Niflheim, where
the dog from Hel met him; it was bloody on the breast and barked a long
time at Odin. Odin advanced; the earth trembled beneath him, and he came
to the high dwelling of Hel. East of the door he knew the grave of the
vala was situated; thither he rode and sang magic songs (_kvað galdra_),
until she unwillingly stood up and asked who disturbed her peace, after
she had been lying so long covered with snow and wet with dew. Odin
called himself Vegtam, a son of Valtam, and asked for whom the benches
were strewn with rings and the couches were swimming in gold. She
replied that the mead was brewed for Balder, but all the gods would
despair. When Odin asked further who should be Balder’s bane, she
answered that Hoder would hurl the famous branch and become the bane of
Odin’s son; but Rind should give birth to a son who, only one night old,
should wield a sword, and would neither wash his hands nor comb his hair
before he had avenged his brother. But recognizing Odin by an
enigmatical question, she said: You are not Vegtam, as I believed, but
you are Odin, the old ruler. Odin replied: You are no vala, but the
mother of three giants. Then the vala told Odin to ride home and boast
of his journey, but assured him that no one should again visit her thus
before Loke should be loosed from his chains and the ruin of the gods
had come. Thus the lay of Vegtam in the Elder Edda:

                    Together were the gods
                    All in council,
                    And the goddesses
                    All in conference;
                    And they consulted
                    The mighty gods,
                    Why Balder had
                    Oppressive dreams.

                    To that god his slumber
                    Was most afflicting;
                    His auspicious dreams
                    Seemed departed.
                    They the giants questioned,
                    Wise seers of the future,
                    Whether this might not
                    Forebode calamity.

                    The responses said
                    That to death destined was
                    Uller’s kinsman,
                    Of all the dearest:
                    That caused grief
                    To Frigg and Svafner,
                    And to the other powers,—
                    On a course they resolved:

                    That they would send
                    To every being,
                    Assurance to solicit,
                    Balder not to harm.
                    All species swore
                    Oaths to spare him:
                    Frigg received all
                    Their vows and compacts.

                    Valfather fears
                    Something defective;
                    He thinks the haminjes[57]
                    May have departed;
                    The gods he convenes,
                    Their counsel craves;
                    At the deliberation
                    Much is devised.

                    Up stood Odin,
                    Lord of men,
                    And on Sleipner he
                    The saddle laid;
                    Rode he thence down
                    To Niflheim.
                    A dog he met,
                    From Hel coming.

                    It was blood-stained
                    On its breast,
                    On its slaughter-craving throat,
                    And nether jaw.
                    It barked
                    And widely gaped
                    At the father of magic song;
                    Long it howled.

                    Forth rode Odin—
                    The ground thundered—
                    Till to Hel’s lofty
                    House he came;
                    Then rode Ygg (Odin)
                    To the eastern gate,
                    Where he knew there was
                    A vala’s grave.

                    To the prophetess he began
                    A magic song to chant,
                    Toward the north looked,
                    Potent runes applied,
                    A spell pronounced,
                    An answer demanded,
                    Until compelled she rose
                    And with death-like voice she said:

                    THE VALA:

                    What man is this,
                    To me unknown,
                    Who has for me increased
                    An irksome course?
                    I have with snow been decked,
                    By rain beaten,
                    And with dew moistened,—
                    Long have I been dead.


                    Vegtam is my name,
                    I am Valtam’s son.
                    Tell thou me of Hel;
                    From earth I call on thee.
                    For whom are these benches
                    Strewed o’er with rings,—
                    Those costly couches
                    O’erlaid with gold?

                    THE VALA:

                    Here stands mead
                    For Balder brewed,
                    Over the bright drink
                    A shield is laid;
                    But the race of gods
                    Is in despair.
                    By compulsion I have spoken,
                    Now will I be silent.


                    Be not silent, vala!
                    I will question thee
                    Until all I know:
                    I will yet know
                    Who will Balder’s
                    Slayer be
                    And Odin’s son
                    Of life bereave.

                    THE VALA:

                    Hoder will hither
                    His glorious brother send;
                    He of Balder will
                    The slayer be,
                    And Odin’s son
                    Of life bereave.
                    By compulsion I have spoken,
                    Now will I be silent.


                    Be not silent, vala!
                    I will question thee
                    Until all I know:
                    I will yet know
                    Who on Hoder vengeance
                    Will inflict,
                    Or Balder’s slayer
                    Raise on the pile.

                    THE VALA:

                    Rind a son shall bear
                    In the wintry halls:
                    He shall slay Odin’s son,
                    When one night old.
                    He a hand will not wash,
                    Nor his hair comb,
                    Ere to the pile he has borne
                    Balder’s adversary.
                    By compulsion I have spoken,
                    Now will I be silent.


                    Be not silent, vala!
                    I will question thee
                    Until all I know:
                    I will yet know
                    Who are the maids
                    That weep at will
                    And heavenward cast
                    Their neck-veils.
                    Tell me that;
                    Till then thou sleepest not.

                    THE VALA:

                    Not Vegtam art thou,
                    As I before believed;
                    Rather art thou Odin,
                    Lord of men.


                    Thou art no vala,
                    Nor wise woman;
                    Rather art thou the mother
                    Of three thurses (giants).

                    THE VALA:

                    Home ride thou, Odin!
                    And exult.
                    Thus shall never more
                    Man again visit me
                    Until Loke free
                    From his bonds escapes,
                    And Ragnarok
                    All-destroying comes.

When it had been made known that nothing in the world would harm Balder,
it became a favorite pastime of the gods, at their meetings, to get
Balder to stand up and serve them as a mark, some hurling darts at him,
some stones, while others hewed at him with their swords and
battle-axes; for whatever they did none of them could harm him, and this
was regarded by all as a great honor shown to Balder. But when Loke
Laufeyarson beheld the scene he was sorely vexed that Balder was not
hurt. Assuming, therefore, the guise of a woman he went to Fensal, the
mansion of Frigg. That goddess, seeing the pretended woman, inquired of
her whether she knew what the gods were doing at their meetings. The
woman (Loke) replied that they were throwing darts and stones at Balder,
without being able to hurt him.

Ay, said Frigg, neither metal nor wood can hurt Balder, for I have
exacted an oath from all of them.

What! exclaimed the woman, have all things sworn to spare Balder?

All things, replied Frigg, except one little shrub that grows on the
eastern side of Valhal, and is called mistletoe, and which I thought too
young and feeble to crave an oath from.

As soon as Loke heard this he went away, and, resuming his natural form,
pulled up the mistletoe and repaired to the place where the gods were
assembled. There he found Hoder standing far to one side without
engaging in the sport, on account of his blindness. Loke going up to him
said: Why do not you also throw something at Balder?

Because I am blind, answered Hoder, and cannot see where Balder is, and
besides I have nothing to throw with.

Come then, said Loke, do like the rest, and show honor to Balder by
throwing this twig at him, and I will direct your arm toward the place
where he stands.

Hoder then took the mistletoe, and under the guidance of Loke darted it
at Balder, who, pierced through and through, fell down lifeless. Surely
never was there witnessed, either among gods or men, a more atrocious
deed than this! When Balder fell the gods were struck speechless with
horror, and then they looked at each other; and all were of one mind to
lay hands on him who had done the deed, but they were obliged to delay
their vengeance out of respect for the sacred place (place of peace)
where they were assembled. They at length gave vent to their grief by
such loud lamentations that they were not able to express their grief to
one another. Odin, however, felt this misfortune most severely, because
he knew best how great was the mischief and the loss which the gods had
sustained by the death of Balder. When the gods were a little composed,
Frigg asked who among them wished to gain all her love and favor by
riding to the lower world to try and find Balder, and offer a ransom to
Hel if she will permit Balder to return to Asgard; whereupon Hermod,
surnamed the Nimble, offered to undertake the journey. Odin’s horse,
Sleipner, was then led forth and prepared for the journey; Hermod
mounted him and galloped hastily away.

The god then took the dead body of Balder and carried it to the sea,
where lay Balder’s ship, Ringhorn, which was the largest of all ships.
But when they wanted to launch this ship, in order to make Balder’s
funeral pile on it, they were unable to move it from the place. In this
predicament they sent a messenger to Jotunheim for a certain giantess
named Hyrroken (the smoking fire), who came riding on a wolf and had
twisted serpents for her reins. As soon as she alighted Odin ordered
four berserks to hold her steed, but they were obliged to throw the
animal down on the ground before they could manage it. Hyrroken then
went to the prow of the ship, and with a single push set it afloat; but
the motion was so violent that fire sparkled from the underlaid rollers
and the whole earth shook. Thor, enraged at the sight, grasped his
mallet and would have broken the woman’s skull, had not the gods
interceded for her. Balder’s body was then carried to the funeral pile
on board the ship, and this ceremony had such an effect upon Balder’s
wife, Nanna, daughter of Nep, that her heart broke with grief, and her
body was laid upon the same pile and burned with that of her husband.
Thor stood beside the pile and consecrated it with his hammer Mjolner.
Before his feet sprang up a dwarf called Lit. Thor kicked him with his
foot into the fire, so that he also was burned. There was a vast
concourse of various kinds of people at Balder’s funeral procession.
First of all came Odin, accompanied by Frigg, the valkyries, and his
ravens. Then came Frey in his chariot, drawn by the boar Gullinburste
(gold-brush), or Slidrugtanne (the sharp-toothed). Heimdal rode his
horse Goldtop, and Freyja drove in her chariot drawn by cats. There were
also a great number of frost-giants and mountain-giants present. Odin
cast upon the funeral pile the famous ring Draupner, which had been made
for him by the dwarfs, and possessed the property of producing every
ninth night eight rings of equal weight. Balder’s horse, fully
caparisoned, was also laid upon the pile, and consumed in the same
flames with the body of his master.

Meanwhile Hermod was proceeding on his mission. Of him it is to be
related that he rode nine days and as many nights through dark and deep
valleys, so dark that he could not discern anything, until he came to
the river Gjol and passed over the Gjallar bridge (bridge over the river
Gjol), which is covered with glittering gold. Modgud, the maiden who
kept the bridge, asked him his name and parentage, and added that the
day before five fylkes (kingdoms, bands) of dead men had ridden over the
bridge; but, she said, it did not shake as much beneath all of them
together as it does under you alone, and you have not the complexion of
the dead; why then do you ride here on your way to Hel? I ride to Hel,
answered Hermod, to seek for Balder; have you perchance seen him pass
this way? She replied that Balder had ridden over the Gjallar bridge,
and that the road to the abodes of death (to Hel) lay downward and
toward the north.

Hermod then continued his journey until he came to the barred gates of
Hel. Then he alighted from his horse, drew the girths tighter, remounted
him and clapped both spurs into him. The horse cleared the gate with a
tremendous leap without touching it. Hermod then rode forward to the
palace, alighted and went in, where he found his brother Balder
occupying the most distinguished seat in the hall, and spent the night
in his company. The next morning he entreated Hel (death) to let Balder
ride home with him, representing to her the sorrow which prevailed among
the gods. Hel replied that it should now be tried whether Balder was so
universally beloved as he was said to be; if therefore, she added, all
things in the world, the living as well as the lifeless, will weep for
him, then he shall return to the gods, but if anything speak against him
or refuse to weep, then Hel will keep him.

After this Hermod rose up. Balder went with him out of the hall and gave
him the ring Draupner, to present as a keepsake to Odin. Nanna sent
Frigg a carpet together with several other gifts, and to Fulla she sent
a gold finger-ring. Hermod then rode back to Asgard and related
everything that he had heard and witnessed.

The gods upon this dispatched messengers throughout all the world to
beseech everything to weep, in order that Balder might be delivered from
the power of Hel. All things very willingly complied with the
request,—men, animals, the earth, stones, trees, and all metals, just as
we see things weep when they come out of the frost into the warm air.
When the messengers were returning, with the conviction that their
mission had been quite successful, they found on their way home a
giantess (ogress, Icel. _gýgr_), who called herself Thok. They bade her
also weep Balder out of the dominion of Hel. But she answered:

                        Thok will weep
                        With dry tears[58]
                        For Balder’s death;
                        Neither in life nor in death
                        Gave he me gladness.
                        Let Hel keep what she has.

It is supposed that this giantess (_gýgr_) was no other than Loke
Laufeyarson himself, who had caused the gods so many other troubles.
Thus the Elder Edda refers to the death of Balder in Völuspá:

                        I saw the concealed
                        Fate of Balder,
                        The blood-stained god,
                        The son of Odin.
                        In the fields
                        There stood grown up,
                        Slender and passing fair,
                        The mistletoe.

                        From that shrub was made,
                        As to me it seemed,
                        A deadly noxious dart;
                        Hoder shot it forth;
                        But Frigg bewailed
                        In Fensal
                        Valhal’s calamity.
                        Understand ye yet, or what?

To conquer Vafthrudner, and to reveal himself, Odin asks him to solve
this last problem:

                        What said Odin
                        In his son’s ear,
                        Ere he on the pile was laid?

This is the question that Vafthrudner was unable to answer, and hence he
had to forfeit his head. N. M. Petersen thinks that Odin whispered into
Balder’s ear the name of the supreme god.

This myth about the death of Balder finds an apt explanation in the
seasons of the year, in the change from light to darkness, in Norseland.
Balder represents the bright and clear summer, when twilight and
daybreak kiss each other and go hand in hand in these northern
latitudes. His death by Hoder is the victory of darkness over light, the
darkness of winter over the light of summer, and the revenge by Vale is
the breaking forth of new light after the wintry darkness.

In this connection it is also worthy of notice that there used to be a
custom, which is now nearly forgotten, of celebrating the banishment of
death or darkness, the strife between winter and summer, together with
the arrival of the May-king and election of the May-queen. Forgotten!
yes, well may we ask how it could come to pass that we through long
centuries have worried and tortured ourselves with every scrap of Greek
and Latin we could find, without caring the least for our own beautiful
and profound memories of the past. Death was carried out in the image of
a tree and thrown in the water or burned. In the spring two men
represent summer and winter, the one clad in wintergreen or leaves, the
other in straw. They have a large company of attendants with them, armed
with staves, and they fight with each other until winter (or death) is
subdued. They prick his eyes out or throw him into the water. These
customs, which prevailed throughout the middle ages, had their root and
origin in the ancient myth given above.

No myth can be clearer than this one of Balder. The Younger Edda says
distinctly that he is so fair and dazzling in form and features that
rays of light seem to issue from him. Balder, then, is the god of light,
the light of the world. Light is the best thing we have in the world; it
is white and pure; it cannot be wounded; no shock can disturb it;
nothing in the world can kill it excepting its own negative, darkness
(Hoder). Loke (fire) is jealous of it; the pure light of heaven and the
blaze of fire are each other’s eternal enemies. Balder does not fight,
the mythology gives no exploits by him; he only shines and dazzles,
conferring blessings upon all, and this he continues to do steadfast and
unchangeable, until darkness steals upon him, darkness that does not
itself know what harm it is doing; and when Balder is dead, cries of
lamentation are heard throughout all nature. All nature seeks light.
Does not the eye of the child seek the light of the morning, and does
not the child weep when light vanishes, when night sets in? Does not
this myth of Balder repeat itself in the old man, who like Gœthe, when
death darkened his eyes, cried out: _mehr licht_ (more light)? Does not
the eagle from the loftiest pinnacle of the mountain seek light? The
lark soars on his lofty pinions and greets in warbling notes the king of
day welcome back into his kingdom. The tree firmly rooted in the ground
strains toward the light, spreading upward in search of it. The bird of
passage on his free wing flies after and follows the light. Is it not
the longing after light that draws the bird southward in the fall when
the days shorten in the north, and draws the little wanderer back again
as soon as the long northern days set in with all their luminous and
long-drawn hours? As Runeberg epigrammatically has it:

                   The bird of passage is of noble birth;
                   He bears a motto, and his motto is,
                   _Lux mea dux_, Light is my leader.

Nay all living things, even the shells in the sea, every leaf of the oak
and every blade of grass seeks light, and the blind poet sings:

             Hail, holy light! offspring of heaven first born!
             He that hath light within his own clear breast
             May sit in the center and enjoy bright day;
             But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
             Benighted walks under the midday sun.[59]

And another bard:

                      Light down from heaven descends,
                      Ether pure in flowing bowls;
                      Light up to heaven ascends,
                      A mediator for our souls.

Ay, it would be resting satisfied with the shell to interpret Balder as
the mere impersonation of the natural light of heaven. He represents and
symbolizes in the profoundest sense the heavenly light of the soul and
of the mind, purity, innocence, piety. There can be no doubt that our
ancestors combined the ethical with the physical in this myth. All light
comes from heaven. The natural light shines into and illuminates the
eye, the spiritual shines into and illuminates the heart. Innocence
cannot be wounded. Arrogance and jealousy throw their pointed arrows of
slander at it, but they fall harmless to the ground. But there is one
inclination, one unguarded spot among our other strong guarded passions.
The mischief-maker knows how to find this and innocence is pierced. When
Balder dies, a dark veil enshrouds all nature, and thus history clothes
herself in mourning, not because the hero dies, but because the innocent
Lincoln is pierced by the bullet of the foul assassin, who turns to the
night and flees. Every time light is slain by darkness it is the
beautiful and good that is stricken down, but it is never stricken down
except to return and shine with increased splendor. Balder dies in
nature when the woods are stripped of their foliage, when the flowers
fade and the storms of winter howl. Balder dies in the spiritual world
when the good are led away from the paths of virtue, when the soul
becomes dark and gloomy, forgetting its heavenly origin. Balder returns
in nature when the gentle winds of spring stir the air, when the
nightingale’s high note is heard in the heavens, and the flowers are
unlocked to paint the laughing soil, when light takes the place of gloom
and darkness; Balder returns in the spiritual world when the lost soul
finds itself again, throws off the mantle of darkness, and like a
shining spirit soars on wings of light to heaven, to God, who gave it.

The flower which is sacred to Balder, the Balder’s brow, is the
_anthemis cotula_. It is a complete flower with a yellow disc and white
rays, a symbol of the sun with its beaming light, a sunflower. What a
poetical thought! The light pouring down upon the earth from beneath
Balder’s eye-brows, and the hairs of his eye-lids are the beams. What a
theme for a Correggio, who succeeded so well in painting the innocence
of woman beaming from her half-closed eyes!

Balder’s wife is Nanna. She dies broken-hearted at his death. She is the
floral goddess who always turns her smiling face toward the sun. Her
father was Nep (_nepr_, a bud), son of Odin. Nanna’s and Balder’s
sending the ring Draupner to Odin, a carpet to Frigg, and a ring to
Fulla, has been explained heretofore, and how beautifully it symbolizes
the return of earth’s flowery carpet, with fruitfulness and abundance,
will be evident to every thoughtful reader.

The sorrow of all nature we easily understand when we know that Loke
represents fire and Balder is gone to Hel. All things weep, become damp,
when brought from the cold to the warm air, excepting fire, and we
remember that Thok, that is, Loke in disguise, wept dry tears (sparks);
but all genuine tears are caused by a change of the heart from coldness
to warmth. It is a common expression in Iceland yet to say that the
stones, when covered with dew, weep for Balder (_gráta Baldr_). Balder’s
ship, Ringhorn, is rightly called the largest of all ships. Ringhorn is
the whole world, and the whole earth is Balder’s funeral pile. The tops
of the mountains are the masts of this ship, which is round (ring) as
the whirling world.

It is time we ceased talking about our barbarous ancestors, for, if we
rightly comprehend this myth of Balder, we know that they appreciated,
nay, profoundly and poetically appreciated, the light that fills the eye
and blesses the heart, and were sensitive to the pain that cuts through
the bosom of man even into its finest and most delicate fibers. In this
myth of Balder is interwoven the most delicate feelings with the
sublimest sentiments. Read it and comprehend it. Let the ear and heart
and soul be open to the voiceless music that breathes through it. And
when you have thus read this myth, in connection with the other myths
and in connection with the best Sagas, then do not say another word
about the North not having any literature! Thanks be to the norns, that
the monks and priests, whose most zealous work it was to root out the
memories of the past and reduce the gods of our fathers to commonplace
demons, did not succeed in their devastating mission in faithful
Iceland! Thanks be to Shakespeare, that he did not forget the stern,
majestic, impartial and beautiful norns, even though he did change them
into the wrinkled witches that figure in Macbeth! Nay, that this our
ancient mythology, in spite of the wintry blasts that have swept over
it, in spite of the piercing cold to which it has been exposed at the
hand of those who thought they came with healing for the nations, in
spite of all the persecution it has suffered from monks and bishops,
professors and kings; that it, in spite of all these, has been able to
bud and blossom in our Teutonic folk-lore, our May-queens, and popular
life, is proof of the strong vital force it contained, and proof, too,
of the vigorous thought of our forefathers who preserved it. And nowhere
is this more evident than in Norway. These stories which have their root
in the Norse mythology have been handed down by word of month from
generation to generation with remarkable fidelity. Look at those long
and narrow and deep valleys of Norway! Those great clefts are deep
furrows plowed in the mountain mass in order that it might yield a
bountiful crop of folk-lore, the seed of which is the Edda mythology.
Let us give our children a share in the harvest!

                         SECTION III. FORSETE.

Forsete is the son of Balder and Nanna. He possesses the heavenly
mansion called Glitner, and all disputants at law who bring their cases
before him go away perfectly reconciled. His tribunal is the best that
is to be found among gods and men. Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of

                       Glitner is the tenth mansion;
                       It is on gold sustained,
                       And also with silver decked.
                       There Forsete dwells
                       Throughout all time,
                       And every strife allays.

Forsete means simply _president_. The island Helgoland was formerly
called Forseteland. Justice was dealt out in Norseland during the bright
season of the year, and only while the sun was up, in the open air, in
the flowering lap of nature. The sanctity of the assembly and purity of
justice is expressed by the golden columns and the silver roof of
Glitner. The splendor of Balder shone upon his son.

Footnote 56:

  The _anthemis cotula_ is generally called _Baldersbraa_ in the North.

Footnote 57:

  Guardian spirits.

Footnote 58:

  The sparks of fire are dry tears.

Footnote 59:


                              CHAPTER IV.
                   THOR, HIS WIFE SIF AND SON ULLER.

                      SECTION I. GENERAL SYNOPSIS.

THOR (_þórr_, _þunarr_, Anglo-Saxon _þunor_, German _donner_, thunder),
after whom Thursday is named (Thor’s-day), is the chief god next after
Odin. He is a spring god, subduing the frost-giants.

Thor wears a red beard, his nature is fire, he is girded with the belt
of strength, swings a hammer in his hand, rides in a chariot drawn by
two goats, from whose hoofs and teeth sparks of fire flash, and the
scarlet cloud reflects his fiery eyes, over his head he wears a crown of
stars, under his feet rests the earth, and it shows the footprints of
his mighty steps. He is called Asathor and also Akethor (from _aka_, to
ride), and is the strongest of gods and men. He is enormously strong and
terrible when angry, but, as is so frequently the case with very strong
men, his great strength is coupled with a thoroughly inoffensive
good-nature. His realm is named Thrudvang and his mansion Bilskirner, in
which are five hundred and forty halls. It is the largest house ever
built. Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of Grimner:

                          Five hundred halls
                          And forty more
                          Methinks has
                          Bowed Bilskirner;
                          Of houses roofed
                          There is none I know
                          My son’s[60] surpassing.

Thor’s chariot is drawn by two goats, called Tanngnjost and Tanngrisner.
It is from his driving about in this chariot he is called Akethor
(charioteer-Thor). He possesses three very precious articles. The first
is a mallet called Mjolner, which both the frost and mountain giants
know to their cost, when they see it hurled against them in the air; and
no wonder, for it has split many a skull of their fathers and kindred.
The second rare thing he possesses is called the belt of strength or
prowess (Megingjarder). When he girds it about him his divine strength
is redoubled. The third precious article which he possesses is his iron
gauntlet, which he is obliged to put on whenever he lays hold on the
handle of his mallet. No one is so wise as to be able to relate all
Thor’s marvelous exploits.

Now the reader will easily comprehend the following beautiful strophes
from the pen of Longfellow,[61] who has so ingeniously sprinkled his
literature with dews from Ygdrasil:

                        I am the god Thor,
                        I am the war god,
                        I am the Thunderer!
                        Here in my Northland,
                        My fastness and fortress,
                        Reign I forever!

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

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

                        The light thou beholdest
                        Stream through the heavens,
                        In flashes of crimson,
                        Is but my red beard
                        Blown by the night-wind,
                        Affrighting the nations.

                        Jove is my brother;
                        Mine eyes are the lightning;
                        The wheels of my chariot
                        Roll in the thunder,
                        The blows of my hammer
                        Ring in the earthquake!

                        Force rules the world still,
                        Has ruled it, shall rule it;
                        Meekness is weakness,
                        Strength is triumphant;
                        Over the whole earth
                        Still is Thor’s-day!

Thor is the father of Magne, whose mother is Jarnsaxa, and of Mode. He
is the husband of Sif and step-father of Uller; he is the protector of
Asgard and Midgard, and is frequently called Midgardsveor; his servants
are Thjalfe, and the sister of the latter, Roskva. Among Thor’s several
names the most common ones are Vingthor, Vingner, and Hlorride. All this
of course has reference to him as the god of thunder. Thor, as has been
observed, is þunarr, thunder. Thrudvang, his realm, is the heavy compact
cloud, where he reigns; his mansion, Bilskirner (_bil-skirnir_), are the
flushes of lightning that for a moment (_bil_[62]) light up the heavens;
his goats, Tanngnjost (teeth-gnasher) and Tanngrisner (fire-flashing
teeth), symbolize the flashes of lightning, and so does also his red
beard. Mjolner, his hammer, is the crusher (compare the English word
_mill_[63]); his belt, Megingjarder, is the girdle of strength; his
sons, Magne and Mode, symbolize strength and courage. Vingthor is the
flying thunderstorm and Hlorride is he who rides in the flaming chariot.
His servant Thjalfe is the busy one, and Roskva is the rapid or nimble
one. That Thor is the god of thunder is also most clearly shown in the
Younger Edda, where it is related that Thor goes on foot and is obliged
every day to wade the rivers Kormt and Ormt, and two others called
Kerlaung, when he goes to sit in judgment with the other gods at the
Urdar-fount, and cannot ride, as do the other gods. If he did not walk
as he goes to the doomstead under the ash Ygdrasil, the Asabridge would
be in flames and the holy waters would become boiling hot, that is, if
Thor should drive over Bifrost in his thunder-chariot.

Thor’s wife, Sif, is another symbol of the earth. She is called the
fair-haired. Gold is called Sif’s hair on account of the myth already
related, according to which Loke cuts off her hair and gets dwarfs to
forge for her golden locks. The interpreters of mythology are not
willing to give to Sif the field waving with ripe grain, which belongs
to the god Frey, being symbolized by his boar Goldenbristle, but say
that Sif is the mountain clad with grass, in contradistinction to
Jarnsaxa, who reigns in the barren deserts. Hrungner, that is, the naked
rock, tried to win the favor of Sif, but did not succeed.

Uller is the son of Sif and the step-son of Thor. He is so well skilled
in the use of the bow, and can go so fast on his snow-skates (_skees_),
that in these arts no one can contend with him. He is also very handsome
in his person and possesses every quality of a warrior; wherefore it is
proper to invoke him in single combats. Uller’s mansion is Ydaler
(valleys of rain). From his running on skees we judge that he is a
personification of winter, and if the artist chooses him for his theme,
he must represent him standing on snow-shoes, clad in winter-suit, with
bow and arrow in his hands. We are now prepared to give some of Thor’s

                     SECTION II. THOR AND HRUNGNER.

Thor had once gone eastward to crush trolls, but Odin rode on his horse,
Sleipner, to Jotunheim, and came to a giant by name Hrungner. Then asked
Hrungner what man that was, who with a helmet of gold rode through the
air and over the sea, and added that it was an extraordinarily good
horse he had. Odin replied that he would wager his head that so good a
horse could not be found in Jotunheim. Hrungner said that it was indeed
a very excellent horse, but he had one, by name Goldfax (gold-mane),
that could take much longer paces, and he immediately sprang upon his
horse and galloped away after Odin. Odin constantly kept ahead, but
Hrungner’s giant nature had become so excited that before he was himself
aware of it he had come within the gates of Asgard. When he came to the
door of the hall the gods invited him to drink, which as soon as he had
entered he demanded. Then the gods set before him the bowls out of which
Thor was accustomed to drink, and them he emptied each in one draught.
And when he had become drunk, he gave the freest vent to his loud
boastings. He was going to take Valhal, he said, and carry it off to
Jotunheim; he would demolish Asgard and kill the gods, except Freyja and
Sif, whom he would take home with him; and while Freyja was pouring the
celestial beverage into the bowls for him he remarked that he was going
to drink up all the ale of the gods. When the gods at length grew tired
of his arrogance, they named Thor, who immediately came and swung his
hammer and was very much enraged, and asked who was to blame that
dogwise giants should be permitted to drink there, or who had given
safety to Hrungner in Valhal, and why Freyja should pour ale for him as
she did at the feasts of the gods. Hrungner, looking at Thor with
anything but a friendly eye, answered that Odin had invited him and that
he was under his protection. Thor said that Hrungner should come to rue
that invitation before he came out; but the giant answered that it would
be but little honor to Asathor to kill him, unarmed as he was; it would
be a better proof of his valor if he dared contend with him at the
boundaries of his territory, at Grjottungard (_Grjóttunagarðar_).
Foolish was it also of me, continued Hrungner, to leave my shield and my
flint-stone at home; had I my weapons here we would now try a
holmgang;[64] but I declare you to be a coward if you kill me unarmed.
Thor would not excuse himself from a duel when he was challenged out on
a holm; this was something that no one had ever offered him before.
Hrungner now went his way and hastened home. This journey of Hrungner
was much talked of by the giants, and especially did his challenge of
Thor awaken their interest, and it was of great importance to them which
of the two should come out from the combat victorious. For if Hrungner,
who was the most powerful among the giants, should be conquered, they
might look for nothing but evil from Thor. They therefore made at
Grjottungard a man of clay, nine rasts (miles?) high and three rasts
broad between the shoulders; they could not find a heart corresponding
to his size, and therefore took one out of a mare; but this fluttered
and trembled when Thor came. Hrungner had a heart of hard stone, sharp
and three-cornered; his head was also of stone, and likewise his shield,
which was broad and thick, and this shield he held before himself when
he stood at Grjottungard waiting for Thor. His weapon was a flint-stone,
which he swung over his shoulders, so that it was no trifle to join in
combat with him. By his side stood the clay-giant, that is called
Mokkerkalfe (_Mökkrkálfi_), and was so extremely terrified that the
sweat poured from off him. Thor went to the holmgang together with
Thjalfe, a servant, whom he had got from a peasant by the sea. Thjalfe
ran to the place where Hrungner was standing, and said to him: You stand
unguarded, giant; you hold the shield before you, but Thor has seen you;
he comes with violence from beneath the earth and attacks you. Then
Hrungner hastily put the shield beneath his feet and stood on it, but he
seized his flint-stone with both hands. Presently he saw flashes of
lightning and heard loud crashings, and then he saw Thor in his
asamight, rushing forward with impetuous speed, swinging his hammer and
throwing it from the distance against Hrungner. The latter lifted the
flint-stone with both his hands and threw it with all his might against
the hammer; the two met in the air and the flint-stone broke into two
pieces, one piece of which fell on the ground (and hence the flint
mountains), while the other fell with such force against the head of
Thor that he fell forward to the ground; but the hammer Mjolner hit
Hrungner right in the head and crushed his skull into small pieces, he
himself falling over Thor, so that his foot lay across Thor’s neck.
Thjalfe contended with Mokkerkalfe, who fell with little honor. Then
Thjalfe went over to Thor, and was going to take Hrungner’s foot away,
but he was not able to do it. Thereupon came all the gods to
Grjottungard, when they had learned that Thor had fallen, but neither
was any one of them able to remove the foot of the giant. Then came
Magne (_magni_, strength), the son of Thor and Jarnsaxa; he was only
three nights old and he threw Hrungner’s foot off from Thor saying: It
was a great mishap, father, that I came so late; this giant, I think, I
could have slain with my fist. Thor stood up and lovingly greeted his
son, adding that he would give him the giant’s horse Goldfax; but Odin
remarked that this was wrongfully done of Thor to give the son of a hag
(_gýgjar syni_, son of Jarnsaxa) and not his father so excellent a

Thor returned home to Thrudvang, and the flint-stone sat fast in his
head. Then came a sorceress, whose name was Groa, wife of Orvandel the
Wise; she sang her magic songs over Thor until the flint-stone became
loose. But when Thor perceived this, and was just expecting that the
stone would disappear, he desired to reward Groa for her cure, and
gladden her heart. He accordingly related to her how he had waded from
the north over the rivers Elivagar and had borne Orvandel on his back in
a basket from Jotunheim; and in evidence he told her that one toe of
Orvandel had protruded from the basket and had frozen, wherefore he had
broken it off and thrown it up into the sky and made of it the star
which is called Orvandel’s toe. Finally he added that it would not be
long before Orvandel would come home again. But Groa became so delighted
with this news that she forgot all her magic songs and the flint-stone
became no looser than it was, and it sticks fast in Thor’s head yet.
Therefore no one must throw a flint-stone across the floor, for then the
stone in Thor’s head is moved. Thus sings the Skald, Thjodolf of Hvin:

                  We have ample evidence
                  Of the terrible giant’s journey
                  To Grjottungard,
                  With berg-folks’ consuming fire
                  The blood boiled in Meile’s brother,[65]
                  The moon-land trembled.
                  When earth’s son went
                  To the steel-gloved contest.

                  In bright flame stood
                  All the realms of the sky
                  For Uller’s step-father,
                  And the earth rocked;
                  To pieces flew Svolner’s widow
                  When the span of goats
                  Drew the sublime chariot
                  And its divine master
                  To the meeting with Hrungner.

The most prominent feature of this myth is the lightning which strikes
down among the rocks and splits them. Hrungner (from _hruga_, to
wrinkle, to heap up) is the naked, wrinkled mountains with their peaks.
Everything is made of stone. Hrungner’s heart and head and shield and
weapon were all of stone; beside him stands the clayey mountain
(Mokkerkalfe) clad in mist (_mökkr_), and the contest is at
Grjottungard, on the boundary of the stone-covered field. Thor crushes
the mountain to make way for agriculture. Thjalfe is the untiring labor,
which prepares the rock for cultivation. He advises Hrungner to protect
himself from below with his shield. The cultivation of the mountain must
begin at the foot of it; there labors the industrious farmer. When he
looks up the mountain lifts its rocky head like a huge giant of stone,
but the clouds gather around the giant’s head, the lightnings flash and
split it. Thjalfe may also be regarded as a concomitant of the
thunderstorm, and would then represent the pouring rain, as Thor had got
him from a peasant by the sea, and he contends with the mountain of
clay, from which the water pours down. Thor’s forehead may also
represent the face of the earth, from which he rises as the son of
earth, and we know that Minerva sprang forth full-grown and equipped
from the brain of Zeus. Orvandel[66] and Groa (to grow) refer to the
seed sprouting (Orvandel) and growing. Thor carries the seed in his
basket over the ice-cold streams (Elivagar), that is, he preserves
plant-life through the winter; the sprout ventures out too early in the
spring and a toe freezes off; and it is a beautiful idea that the gods
make shining stars of everything in the realm of giants that has became
useless on earth, and what more charming theme can the painter ask for
than Thor carrying on his divine shoulders the reckless Orvandel wading
through the ice streams of winter?

Before proceeding to the next myth, we will pause here for a moment and
take a cursory look at history, to see whether a few outlines of it do
not find their completest reflection in this stone-hearted myth about
Hrungner and Thor.

Hrungner on his horse _Goldfax_, racing with Odin and Sleipner, in the
most perfect manner represents the Roman _poetastry_, reveling in the
_wealth_ robbed from the nations of the earth, in rivalry with the
genuine Greek _poetry_ and philosophy; for Sleipner is Pegasos; and when
the Roman poetasters are in the hight of their glory Hrungner is
entertained at Asgard, drunk and crazy, bragging and swearing that he
will put all the gods to death excepting Sif (Fortuna) and Freyja
(Venus), destroy Asgard and move Valhal to Jotunheim; or, in other
words, Venus and Fortuna are the only divinities that shall be
worshiped; all religion (Asgard) shall be rooted out and history
(Valhal) shall only serve to glorify Rome.

But in the course of time the North begins to take part in determining
the destinies of the world; Thor comes home, and shortly afterwards a
duel is fought between the Goth and Roman (Vandal) in which Rome is
worsted, which could not be expressed more fitly than by the fortunate
blow of Mjolner, which crushes the stone-hearted and stone-headed Giant
(Roman Vandalism).

But the Goth becomes Romanized, he becomes a slave of Roman thought and
Roman civilization, and thus Hrungner falls upon Thor, with his foot
upon Thor’s neck, until his son Magne comes and takes it away. Magne is
the Anglo-Saxon who created a Gothic Christianity and a Gothic
book-speech; and well might the Anglo-Saxon be called Magne, son of
Asathor and the hag Jarnsaxa, for Magne is the mythical representation
of the mechanical arts, which have received their most perfect
development in England and America (the Anglo-Saxons). And we need only
to look at the literature of England and America to observe with what
pleasure Magne (the Anglo-Saxon) is a great child, who rides the horse
Goldfax (the Latin language), at which Odin (the Goth) may well complain
that it was wrongfully done, although the spirit of the North (Odin)
might rather envy the horse (Romanism) its rider than the rider (the
Anglo-Saxon) his horse.

In regard to the piece of flint-stone that remained in Thor’s forehead,
and sticks there yet, we know, alas! that it is too true that the
schools and the literature of all the Teutonic races suffer more or less
from the curse of Romanism; and this they suffer in spite of the German
sorceress Groa (Luther), who in the sixteenth century loosened the ugly
Roman popery in Thor’s forehead, without his getting rid of it; for he
began boasting too soon, and Groa (the Lutheran Reformation) became so
glad on account of her husband with his frozen toe (German scholasticism
and soulless philosophy elevated to the skies), that she forgot not her
Latin but her magic Teutonic songs; and hence we look in vain for a
complete system of German mythology and old German poetry.

Who the Mokkerkalfe who assisted Hrungner is, in this picture, it is
difficult to say, unless it be the Arab, and he may well be called a
brother of the Roman (Hrungner) against Thor. The Mokkerkalfe had a
mare’s heart in him, and we know that love of horses has forever been a
characteristic of the Arabs; and the Frank, who defeated the Arab on the
historical arena, must then be Thjalfe, who was a servant of Thor.

Thus this myth is disposed of and its application in a prophetic sense
has been pointed out. It is not claimed that the ancient Norsemen had in
their minds Arabs and Greeks and Romans and Franks and Anglo-Saxons, but
that they had in their minds a profound comprehension of the relations
of things, the supreme law of the universe; and history is but the
reflection of the sublimest riddles in nature.

                   SECTION III. THOR AND GEIRROD.[67]

It is worth relating how Thor made a journey to Geirrodsgard without his
hammer Mjolner, or belt Megingjarder, or his iron gloves; and that was
Loke’s fault. For when Loke once, in Frigg’s falcon-guise, flew out to
amuse himself, curiosity led him to Geirrodsgard, where he saw a large
hall. He sat down and looked in through an opening in the wall, but
Geirrod observed him and ordered one of his servants to seize the bird
and bring it to him. But the wall was so high that it was difficult to
climb up, and it amused Loke that it gave the servant so much trouble,
and he thought was time enough to fly away when the servant had got over
the worst. As the latter now caught at him, he spread his wings and made
efforts (stritted) with his feet, but the feet were fast, so that he was
seized and brought to the giant. When the latter saw his eyes he
mistrusted that it was no bird; and when Loke was silent and refused to
answer the questions put to him, Geirrod locked him down in a chest and
let him hunger for three months. Thus Loke finally had to confess who he
was, and to save his life he had to make an oath to Geirrod that he
should get Thor to Geirrodsgard without his hammer or his belt of

On the way Thor visited the hag Grid, mother of Vidar the Silent. She
informed him, in regard to Geirrod, that he was a dogwise and dangerous
giant, and she lent him her belt of strength, her iron gloves and her
staff, which is called Gridarvold. Thor then went to the river Vimer,
which is exceedingly large; then he buckled the belt around him and
stemmed the wild torrent with his staff, but Loke and Thjalfe held
themselves fast in the belt. When he had come into the middle of the
river it grew so much that the waves washed over his shoulders. Then
quoth Thor:

                            Wax not, Vimer,
                          Since to wade I desire
                          To the realms of giants!
                          Know, if thou waxest
                          Then waxes my asamight
                          As high as the heavens!

Up in a cleft he saw Geirrod’s daughter, Gjalp, who stood on both sides
of the stream and caused its growth; then took he a large stone and
threw after her. At its source the stream must be stemmed, and he always
hit what he aimed at. At the same time he reached the land and got hold
of a shrub, and so he escaped out of the river; hence comes the adage
that a shrub saved Thor. When Thor with his companions had now come to
Geirrod, lodgings were given them in a house, but there was only one
chair in it, and on this Thor sat down. Then he noticed that the chair
was raised under him toward the roof. He then put Grid’s staff against
the beams and pressed himself down against the chair; then a noise was
heard, upon which followed a great screaming, for Geirrod’s daughters,
Gjalp and Greip, had been sitting under the chair and he had broken the
backs of both or them. Then quoth Thor:

                        Once I employed
                        My asamight
                        In the realm of giants,
                        When Gjalp and Greip,
                        Geirrod’s daughters,
                        Wanted to lift me to heaven.

Then Geirrod invited Thor into the hall to see games. Large fires burned
along the hall, and when Thor had come opposite to Geirrod the latter
took with a pair of tongs a red-hot iron wedge and threw it after Thor;
he seized it with the iron gloves and lifted it up into the air, but
Geirrod ran behind an iron post to defend himself. Thor threw the wedge,
which struck through the post and through Geirrod and through the wall,
so that it went outside and into the ground.

Geirrod is the intense heat which produces violent thunderstorms, and
hence his daughter the violent torrent. Of course Loke (fire) is locked
up and starved through the hottest part of the summer; but this myth
needs no explanation, and we proceed to the next.

                     SECTION IV. THOR AND SKRYMER.

One day the god Thor, accompanied by Loke, set out on a journey in his
car drawn by his goats. Night coming on, they put up at a peasant’s
cottage, when Thor killed his goats, and, after flaying them, put them
in a kettle. When the flesh was boiled he sat down with his
fellow-traveler to supper, and invited the peasant and his wife and
their children to partake of the repast. The peasant’s son was named
Thjalfe and his daughter Roskva. Thor bade them throw all the bones into
the goats’ skins, which were spread out near the fireplace, but young
Thjalfe broke one of the shank-bones to come at the marrow. Thor having
passed the night in the cottage, rose at the dawn of day, and when he
had dressed himself he took his hammer, Mjolner, and, lifting it up,
consecrated the goats’ skins, which he had no sooner done than the two
goats reassumed their wonted form, with the exception that one of them
limped on one of its hind legs. Thor, perceiving this, said that the
peasant or one of his family had handled the shank-bone of this goat too
roughly, for he saw clearly that it was broken. It may readily be
imagined how frightened the peasant was, when he saw Thor knit his brows
and seize the handle of his hammer with such force that the knuckles of
his fingers grew white with the exertion. But the peasant, as we might
expect, and his whole family, screamed aloud, sued for peace, and
offered all they possessed as an atonement for the offense committed.
But when Thor saw their fright he desisted from his wrath and became
appeased, and he contented himself by requiring their children, Thjalfe
and Roskva, who thus became his servants and have accompanied him ever
since. Thor let his goats remain there, and proceeded eastward on the
way to Jotunheim clear to the sea. Then he went across the deep ocean,
and when he came to the other shore he landed with Loke, Thjalfe and
Roskva. They had traveled but a short distance when they came to a large
forest, through which they wandered until night set in. Thjalfe was
exceedingly fleet-footed; he carried Thor’s provision-sack, but the
forest was a bad place for finding anything eatable to stow into it.
When it had become dark they looked around for lodgings for the night
and found a house. It was very large, with a door that took up the whole
breadth of one of the ends of the building; here they chose them a place
to sleep in. At midnight they were alarmed by a great earthquake. The
earth trembled beneath them and the whole house shook. Then Thor stood
up and called his companions to seek with him a place of safety. On the
right they found an adjoining chamber, into which they entered; but
while the others, trembling with fear, crept into the farthest corner of
this retreat, Thor remained in the doorway, with his hammer in his hand,
prepared to defend himself whatever might happen. Then they heard a
rumbling and roaring. When the morning began to dawn, Thor went out and
saw a man lying a short distance from the house in the woods. The giant
was large, lay sleeping, and snored loudly. Then Thor could understand
whence the noise had come in the night. He girded himself with his belt
of strength, and his divine strength grew; at the same time the man
awoke and arose hastily. But it is related that Thor on this occasion
became so amazed that he forgot to make use of his mallet; he asked the
man for his name, however. The latter answered that his name was
Skrymer; but your name I do not need to ask about, said he; I know you
are Asathor; but what have you done with my mitten? Thereupon Skrymer
stretched out his hand and picked up his mitten, which Thor then
perceived was what they had taken over night for a house, the chamber
where they had taken refuge being the thumb. Skrymer asked whether Thor
wanted him for a traveling companion, and when Thor consented to this,
Skrymer untied his provision-sack and began to eat his breakfast. Thor
and his companions did the same in another place. Then Skrymer proposed
that they should put their provisions together, and when Thor gave his
consent to this, Skrymer put all the food into one sack and slung it on
his back. He went before them all day with tremendous strides, but
toward evening he sought out for them a place where they might pass the
night, beneath a large oak. Then said Skrymer to Thor that he was going
to lie down to sleep; the others might in the meantime take the
provision-sack and prepare their supper. Then Skrymer fell asleep, and
snored tremendously, and Thor took the provision-sack to untie it; but,
incredible though it may appear, not a single knot could he untie, nor
render a single string looser than it was before. Seeing that his labor
was in vain, Thor became angry, seized the hammer Mjolner with both
hands, went over to Skrymer and struck him on the head. But Skrymer
awoke and asked whether there had fallen a leaf down upon his head, and
whether they had eaten their supper and were ready to go to sleep? Thor
answered that they were just going to sleep, and went to lie down under
another oak, but also here it was dangerous to sleep. At midnight Thor
again heard how fast Skrymer slept and snored, so outrageously that a
thundering noise was heard through the whole woods. Arising he went over
to the giant, swung his hammer with all his might, and struck him right
in the skull, and the hammer entered the head clear to the handle.
Skrymer, suddenly awakening, said: What is the matter now? Did an acorn
fall down upon my head? How is it with you, Thor. Thor went hastily away
and said that he had just waked up; it was midnight, he said, and time
to sleep. Then thought he that if he could get an opportunity to give
the giant a third blow he should never see the light of day any more,
and he now lay watching to see whether Skrymer was fast asleep again.
Shortly before day-break he heard that the giant was sleeping again. He
got up, hastened over to him, swung his hammer with all his might, and
gave him such a blow on the temples that the head of the hammer was
buried in the giant’s head. Skrymer arose, stroked his chin and said: Do
there sit birds above me in the tree? It seemed to me as I awoke that
some moss fell down upon me out of the boughs; but are you awake, Thor?
It seems to me that it is time to arise and dress, and you have not now
a long journey to the castle which is called Utgard. I have heard you
have whispered among yourselves that I am not small of stature, but you
shall find larger men when you come to Utgard. I am going to give you
good advice: do not brag too much. Utgard-Loke’s courtiers will not
brook the boasting of such insignificant little fellows as you are. If
you will not heed his advice you had better turn back, and that is in
fact the best thing for you to do. But if you are determined to go
further then hold to the east; my way lies northward to those mountains
that you see yonder. Skrymer then taking the provision-sack, slung it on
his back and disappeared in the woods, and it has never been learned
whether the asas wished to meet him again or not.

Thor now went on with his companions till it was noon, when their eyes
beheld a castle standing on a great plain, and it was so high that they
had to bend their necks quite back in order to be able to look over it.
They advanced to the castle; there was a gate to the entrance, which was
locked. Thor tried to open it, but could not, and being anxious to get
within the castle, they crept between the bars of the gate. They saw the
palace before them, the door was open, and they entered, where they saw
a multitude of men, of whom the greater number were immensely large,
sitting on two benches. Then they came into the presence of the king,
Utgard-Loke, and saluted him; but it took some time before he would
deign to look at them, and he smiled scornfully, so that one could see
his teeth, saying: It is tedious to ask for tidings of a long journey,
but if I am not mistaken this little stripling must be Asathor; perhaps,
however, you are really bigger than you look. Well, what are the feats
that you and your companions are skilled in? No one is tolerated among
us here unless he distinguishes himself by some art or accomplishment.
Then said Loke: I understand an art, of which I am prepared to give
proof, and that is, that there is none here who can eat his food as fast
as I can. To this Utgard-Loke made reply: Truly that is an art, if you
can achieve it, which we shall now see. He called to the men, who sat on
one end of the bench, that he, whose name was Loge (flame), should come
out on the floor and contend with Loke. A trough was brought in full of
meat. Loke seated himself at one end and Loge at the other; both ate as
fast as they could and met in the middle of the trough. Loke had picked
the meat from the bones, but Loge had consumed meat, bones and trough
all together; and now all agreed that Loke was beaten. Then asked
Utgard-Loke, what that young man could do. It was Thjalfe. He answered,
that he would run a race with any one that Utgard-Loke would appoint.
Utgard-Loke replied that this was a splendid feat, but added that he
must be very swift if he expected to win, but they should see, for it
would soon be decided. Utgard-Loke arose and went out; there was a very
good race-course on the level field. Then he called a little fellow, by
name Huge (thought) and bade him race with Thjalfe. The first time they
ran Huge was so much in advance that at the turning back in the course
he met Thjalfe. You must ply your legs better, Thjalfe, said
Utgard-Loke, if you expect to win, though I must confess that there
never came a man here swifter of foot than you are. They ran a second
time, but when Huge came to the end and turned around, Thjalfe was a
full bow-shot from the goal. Well run, both of you, said Utgard-Loke,
but I think Thjalfe will hardly win, but the third race shall decide it.
They accordingly ran a third time, but Huge had already reached the goal
before Thjalfe had got half-way. Then all who were present cried out
that there had been sufficient trial of skill in this art. Utgard-Loke
then asked Thor in what arts he would choose to give proof of his skill
for which he was so famous. Thor answered that he preferred to contend
in drinking with any one that wished. Utgard-Loke consented, and
entering the palace he called his cup-bearer, and bade him bring the
large horn which his courtiers were obliged to drink out of when they
had trespassed in any way against established usage. The cup-bearer
brought the horn, gave it to Thor, and Utgard-Loke said: Whoever is a
good drinker will empty that horn at a single draught, though some men
make two of it; but there is no so wretched drinker that he cannot
exhaust it at the third draught. Thor looked at the horn and thought it
was not large, though tolerably long; however, as he was very thirsty he
set it to his lips, and without drawing breath drank as long and as deep
as he could, in order that he might not be obliged to make a second
draught of it. But when his breath gave way and he set the horn down, he
saw to his astonishment that there was little less of the liquor in it
than before. Utgard-Loke said: That is well drunk, but not much to boast
of; I should never have believed but that Asathor could have drunk more;
however, of this I am confident, you will empty it at the second
draught. Thor made no reply, but put the horn to his mouth and drank as
long as he had breath, but the point of the horn did not rise as he
expected; and when he withdrew the horn from his mouth it seemed to him
that its contents had sunk less this time than the first; still the horn
could now be carried without spilling. Utgard-Loke said: How now, Thor,
have you not saved for the third draught more than you can make away
with? You must not spare yourself more in performing a feat than befits
your skill, but if you mean to drain the horn at the third draught you
must drink deeply. You will not be considered so great a man here as you
are thought to be among the asas if you do not show greater skill in
other games than you appear to have shown in this. Then Thor became
angry, put the horn to his mouth, and drank with all his might, so as to
empty it entirely; but on looking into the horn he found that its
contents had lessened but little, upon which he resolved to make no
further attempt, but gave back the horn to the cup-bearer. Then said
Utgard-Loke: It is now plain that your strength is not so great as we
thought it to be. Will you try some other games, for we see that you
cannot succeed in this? Yes, said Thor, I will try something else, but I
am sure that such draughts as I have been drinking would not have been
counted small among the asas, but what new trial have you to propose?
Utgard-Loke answered: We have a very trifling game here, in which we
exercise none but children. Young men think it nothing but play to lift
my cat from the ground, and I should never have proposed this to Asathor
if I had not already observed that you are by no means what we took you
for. Thereupon a large gray cat ran out upon the floor. Thor advancing
put his hand under the cat’s body and did his utmost to raise it from
the floor, but the cat, bending its back in the same degree as Thor
lifted, had notwithstanding all Thor’s efforts only one of its feet
lifted up, seeing which Thor made no further effort. Then said
Utgard-Loke: The game has terminated just as I expected; the cat is
large, but Thor is small and little compared with our men. Then said
Thor: Little as you call me I challenge any one to wrestle with me, for
now I am angry. I see no one here, replied Utgard-Loke, looking around
on the benches, who would not think it beneath him to wrestle with you;
but let somebody call hither that old woman, my nurse, Elle (old age),
and let Thor prove his strength with her, if he will. She has thrown to
the ground many a man not less strong and mighty than Thor is. A
toothless old woman then entered the hall and she was told by
Utgard-Loke to wrestle with Thor. To cut the story short, the more Thor
tightened his hold the firmer she stood. Finally, after a violent
struggle, Thor began to lose his footing, and it was not long before he
was brought down on one knee. Then Utgard-Loke stepped forward and told
them to stop, adding that Thor had now no occasion to ask anyone else in
the hall to wrestle with him, and it was also getting late. He therefore
showed Thor and his companions to their seats, and they passed the night
there enjoying the best of hospitality.

The next morning, at break of day, Thor and his companions arose,
dressed themselves and prepared for their departure. Utgard-Loke then
came and ordered a table to be set for them, on which there wanted no
good provisions, either meat or drink. When they had breakfasted they
set out on their way. Utgard-Loke accompanied them out of the castle,
and on parting he asked Thor how he thought his journey had turned out,
and whether he had found any man more mighty than himself. Thor answered
that he could not deny that he had brought great dishonor upon himself;
and what mortifies me the most, he added, is that you will consider me a
man of little importance. Then said Utgard-Loke: Now I will tell you the
truth, since you are out of my castle, where as long as I live and reign
you shall never re-enter, and you may rest assured that had I known
before what might you possessed, and how near you came plunging us into
great trouble, I would not have permitted you to enter this time. Know
then that I have all along deceived you by my illusions; first, in the
forest, where I arrived before you, and there you were unable to untie
the provision-sack, because I had bound it with tough iron wire in such
a manner that you could not discover how the knot ought to be loosened.
After this you gave me three blows with your hammer; the first one,
though it was the least, would have ended my days had it fallen on me,
but I brought a rocky mountain before me, which you did not perceive;
but you saw near my castle a mountain in which were three square glens,
the one deeper than the other, and those were the marks of your hammer.
I have made use of similar illusions in the contests you have had with
my courtiers. In the first, Loke was hungry and devoured all that was
set before him, but Loge was in reality nothing else but wild-fire, and
therefore consumed not only the meat, but the trough which contained it.
Huge, with whom Thjalfe contended in running, was my thought, and it was
impossible for Thjalfe to keep pace with it. When you tried to empty the
horn you performed indeed an exploit so marvelous that had I not seen it
myself I should never have believed it. The one end of the horn stood in
the sea, which you did not perceive, and when you come to the shore you
will see how much the ocean has diminished by what you drank. This is
now called the ebb. You performed a feat no less wonderful when you
lifted the cat, and, to tell the truth, when we saw that one of his paws
was off the floor we were all of us terror-stricken, for what you took
for a cat was in reality the great Midgard-serpent, that encompasses the
whole earth, and he was then barely long enough to inclose it between
his head and tail, so high had your hand raised him up toward heaven.
Your wrestling with Elle was also a most astonishing feat, for there
never yet was, nor will there ever be, a man for whom Old Age (for such
in fact was Elle) will not sooner or later lay low, if he abides her
coming. But now, as we are going to part, let me tell you that it will
be better for both of us if you never come near me again, for should you
do so I shall again defend myself with other illusions, so that you will
never prevail against me. On hearing these words Thor grasped his
hammer, and lifted it into the air, but as he was about to strike
Utgard-Loke was nowhere, and when he turned back to the castle to
destroy it, he saw only beautiful verdant plains around him and no
castle. He therefore retraced his steps without stopping till he came to
Thrudvang. But he had already resolved to make that attack on the
Midgard-serpent, which afterwards took place.

It is said in the Younger Edda that no one can tell anything more _true_
of this journey of Thor’s, but if the reader wants to see the most
beautiful thing that has been said about this journey, he must learn
Danish and read Œlenschlæger’s poem entitled _Thor’s Journey to
Jotunheim_.[68] We have only to add that as the asas had their Loke, so
the giants had their _Utgard-Loke_.


The gods were having a feast at Æger’s, and could not get enough to eat
and drink. The reason was that Æger was in want of a kettle for brewing
ale. He asked Thor to go and fetch it, but neither the asas nor the vans
knew where it could be found, before Tyr said to Thor: East of the
rivers Elivagar, near the borders of heaven, dwells the dogwise Hymer,
and this my father has a kettle which is strong and one rast (mile)
deep. Do you think we can get it? said Thor. Yes, by stratagem it may be
gotten, answered Tyr. Tyr, and Thor under the semblance of a young man,
now started out and traveled until they came to Egil. With him they left
the goats and proceeded further to Hymer’s hall, and we shall presently
see how Thor made amends for his journey to Utgard-Loke. At Hymer’s hall
Tyr found his grandmother, an ugly giantess with nine hundred heads, but
his mother, a beautiful woman, brought him a drink. She advised her
guests to conceal themselves under the kettles in the hall, for her
husband was sometimes cruel toward strangers. Hymer came home from his
fishing late in the evening; the jokuls resounded as he entered the
hall, and his beard was full of frost. I greet you welcome home, Hymer,
said the woman; our son, whom we have been so long expecting, has now
come home to your halls, and in company with him is the enemy of the
giants and the friend of man, Veor (_i.e._ Asgardsveor, the protector of
Asgard). See how they have concealed themselves at the gable end of the
hall, behind the post yonder. Hymer threw a glance in the direction
pointed out by his wife, and the post instantly flew into shivers at the
look of the giant, the beam broke, and eight kettles fell down; one so
hard and strong that it did not break in falling. The gods came forth,
and straight the old giant gazed at his enemy. It was no pleasant sight
to see Thor before him, but still he ordered three steers to be killed
and served on the table. Thor alone ate two. This meal seemed to the
friend of Hrungner somewhat extravagant, and he remarked that the next
evening they would have to live on fish. The following morning, at break
of day, when Thor perceived that Hymer was making a boat ready for
fishing, he arose and dressed himself, and begged the giant to let him
row out to sea with him. Hymer answered that such a puny stripling as he
was could be of no use to him; besides, he said, you will catch your
death of cold if I go far out and remain as long as I am accustomed to
do. Thor said that for all that he would row as far from the land as
Hymer had a mind, and was not sure which of them would be the first who
might wish to row back again. At the same time he was so enraged that he
was much inclined to let his hammer ring at the giant’s skull without
further delay, but intending to try his strength elsewhere he subdued
his wrath, and asked Hymer what he meant to bait with. Hymer told him to
look out for a bait himself. Thor instantly went up to a herd of oxen
that belonged to the giant, and seizing the largest bull, that bore the
name Himinbrjoter (heaven-breaker), wrung off his head, and returning
with it to the boat, put out to sea with Hymer. Thor rowed aft with two
oars, and with such force that Hymer, who rowed at the prow, saw with
surprise how swiftly the boat was driven forward. He then observed that
they were come to the place where he was wont to angle for flat-fish,
but Thor assured him that they had better go on a good way further. They
accordingly continued to ply their oars, until Hymen cried out that if
they did not stop they would be in danger from the great
Midgard-serpent. Notwithstanding this, Thor persisted in rowing further,
and in spite of Hymer’s remonstrances it was a long time before he would
lay down his oars. When they finally stopped, Hymer soon drew up two
whales at once with his bait. Then Thor took out a fishing line,
extremely strong, made with wonderful art and furnished with an equally
strong hook, on which he fixed the bull’s head and cast his line into
the sea. The bait soon reached the bottom, and it may be truly said that
Thor then deceived the Midgard-serpent not a whit less than Utgard-Loke
had deceived Thor when he obliged him to lift up the serpent in his
hand; for the monster greedily caught at the bait and the hook stuck
fast in his palate. Stung with the pain, the serpent tugged at the hook
so violently that Thor was obliged to hold fast with both hands in the
pegs that bear against the oars. But his wrath now waxed high, and
assuming all his divine power he pulled so hard at the line that his
feet forced their way through the boat and went down to the bottom of
the sea, while with his hands he drew up the serpent to the side of the
vessel. It is impossible to express by words the scene that now took
place. Thor on the one hand darting looks of wrath at the serpent, while
the monster on the other hand, rearing his head, spouted out floods of
venom upon him. When the giant Hymer beheld the serpent he turned pale
and trembled with fright, and seeing moreover that the water was
entering his boat on all sides, he took out his knife, just as Thor
raised his hammer aloft, and cut the line, on which the serpent sank
again under water. According to another version valiant Thor hauled the
venom-potted serpent up to the edge of the boat, his hands struck
against the side of the boat and with both his feet he stepped through,
so that he stood on the bottom of the sea. With his hammer he struck the
serpent in the forehead; the mountains thundered, the caves howled, and
the whole old earth shrank together; but the serpent sank to the bottom,
for at the sight of it the giant became so terrified that he cut the
line. Then, according to both versions, Thor struck Hymer such a blow on
the ear with his fist that the giant fell headlong into the water. The
giant was not glad when they rowed back. While he carried his two
whales, Thor took the boat, with oars and all, and carried it to the
house of the giant. Then the giant challenged Thor to show another
evidence of his strength and requested him to break his goblet. Thor,
sitting, threw it through some large posts, but it was brought whole to
the giant. But Thor’s fair friend gave him friendly advice: Throw it
against the forehead of Hymer, said she, it is harder than any goblet.
Then Thor assumed his asastrength. The giant’s forehead remained whole,
but the round wine-goblet was broken. The giant had lost a great
treasure; that drink, said he, was too hot; but there yet remained for
Thor one trial of his strength, and that was to bring the kettle out of
his hall. Twice Tyr tried to lift it, but it was immovable. Then Thor
himself took hold of it at the edge with so great force that he stepped
through the floor of the hall; the kettle he lifted onto his head, and
its rings rung at his heels. They had gone a long distance before Odin’s
son looked back and saw a many-headed multitude rushing impetuously from
the caves with Hymer. Then he lifted the kettle from his shoulders,
swung the murderous Mjolner and slew all the mountain-giants. After that
he proceeded to Egil, where he had left his goats; and he had not gone
far thence before one of the goats dropped down half dead. It was lame,
and we remember from a previous myth that a peasant near the sea had to
give Thor his son Thjalfe and daughter Roskva as bond-servants for
laming one of his goats. Thor finally came to the feast of the gods and
had the kettle with him, and there was nothing now to hinder Æger from
furnishing ale enough at the feast, that he prepared for the gods at
every harvest time.

This myth forms the subject of the lay of Hymer in the Elder Edda. The
whole myth of course represents the thunderstorm in conflict with the
raging sea; but a historical counterpart of this struggle of Thor with
Hymer and the Midgard-serpent is so forcibly suggested that we cannot
omit it. It is Luther’s struggle with the pope Romanism. Luther, the
heroic Thor, saw his enemy, but did not strike just in the right time
and in the right way, and the golden opportunity was lost after Hymer
(the pope) had severed the fishing-line; that is after the old memories
were destroyed, when the golden line connecting the Germans with their
poetic dawn had been divided, and Romanism, with blood-stained breast,
with close embrace first twined around the whole school system of
Germany and north Europe, and horribly mangled their grand mission with
its fangs, and then seized the Teutonic Laocoon and his sons and bound
their unsophisticated Teutonic hearts in its mighty folds. Ay, this
_Roman_ Midgard-serpent, with its licentiousness, arrogance, despotism,
unbridled ambition, unbounded egotism, dry reasoning and soulless
philosophy, has grasped the _Goth_ twice, yes thrice, about the middle,
and winding its scaly book thrice around his neck, has overtopped him.
In vain he has striven to tear asunder its knotted and gory spires. He
can but shriek to heaven for help, and may Thor hear his cry and come to
his rescue! May Thor next time embark well armed with his gloves and
belt and hammer; but he had better leave the giant slain on shore. Yet
Luther did a noble work. Although his first intention was to leave the
giant unmolested, and only take his kettle from him, still, when he
found a determined opposition threatening, he turned around, set down
his kettle, and slew both the giant and the many-headed multitude (pope,
cardinals, bishops, etc.) that followed him. But Luther erred in not
establishing a thoroughly Teutonic in place of a Romanic school system.
Thus he left his great work only half finished. If he had made good use
of his hammer at the time, much valuable knowledge about our Teutonic
ancestors might have been collected and preserved which now is lost

                      SECTION VI. THOR AND THRYM.

This is a very beautiful myth, and we will give it complete as it is
found in the Elder Edda, in the lay of Thrym. We give our own

                        Wrathful was Vingthor
                        As he awaked
                        And his hammer
                        Did miss;
                        His beard shook,
                        His hair trembled,
                        The son of earth
                        Looked around him.

                        Thus first of all
                        He spoke:
                        Mark now Loke
                        What I say!
                        What no one knows
                        Either on earth
                        Or in high heaven,—
                        The hammer is stolen.

                        Went they to Freyja’s
                        Fair dwelling;

                        There in these words
                        Thor first spoke:
                        Wilt thou, Freyja, lend
                        Me thy feather-guise,
                        That I my hammer
                        Mjolner may fetch?

                        I gave it thee gladly
                        Though it were of gold;
                        I would instantly give it
                        Though it were of silver.

                        Flew then Loke—
                        The feather-guise whizzed;
                        Out he flew
                        From home of asas,
                        In he flew
                        To home of giants.

                        On the hill sat Thrym;
                        The king of giants
                        Twisted gold-bands
                        For his dogs,
                        Smoothed at leisure
                        The manes of his horses.


                        How fare the asas?
                        How fare the elves?
                        Why comest thou alone
                          To Jotunheim?


                        Ill fare the asas,
                        Ill fare the elves,
                        Hast thou concealed
                        The hammer of Thor?


                        I have concealed
                        The hammer of Thor
                        Eight rasts
                        Beneath the ground;
                        No man
                        Brings it back
                        Unless he gives me
                        Freyja as my bride.

                        Flew then Loke—
                        The feather-guise whizzed;
                        Out he flew
                        From home of giants,
                        In he flew
                        To home of asas.
                        Met him Thor
                        First of all
                        And thus addressed him:

                        Hast thou succeeded
                        In doing thine errand?
                        Then tell before perching
                        Long messages;
                        What one says sitting
                        Is often of little value,
                        And falsehood speaks he
                        Who reclines.


                        Well have I succeeded
                        In doing my errand;
                        Thrym has thy hammer,
                        The king of the giants.
                        No man
                        Brings it back
                        Unless he gives him
                        Freyja as bride.

                        Went they then the fair
                        Freyja to find,
                        First then Thor
                        Thus addressed her:
                        Dress thyself, Freyja,
                        In bridal robes,
                        Together we will ride
                        To Jotunheim.

                        Angry grew Freyja,
                        And she raged
                        So the hall of the asas
                        Must shake.
                        Her heavy necklace,
                        Brisingamen, broke;
                        Then would I be
                        A lovesick maid
                        If with thee I would ride
                        To Jotunheim.

                        Then all the asas
                        Went to the _Thing_,
                        To the _Thing_ went
                        All the asynjes,
                        The powerful divinities,
                        And held consult,
                        How they should get
                        The hammer back.

                        Then spake Heimdal
                        The whitest god—
                        Foreknowing was he,
                        As the vans are all:
                        Dress we Thor
                        In bridal robes,
                        Must he wear.

                        Let jingle keys
                        About his waist;
                        Let a woman’s dress
                        Cover his knees;
                        On his bosom we put
                        Broad broaches,
                        And artfully we
                        His hair braid.

                        Spoke then Thor,
                        The mighty god:
                        Mock me all
                        The asas would,
                        If in bridal robes
                        I should be dressed.

                        Spoke then Loke
                        Be silent Thor;
                        Stop such talk.
                        Soon will giants
                        Build in Asgard
                        If thou thy hammer
                        Bring not back.

                        Dressed they then Thor
                        In bridal-robes;
                        He had to wear;
                        Keys let they jingle
                        About his waist,
                        And a woman’s dress
                        Fell over his knees;
                        On his bosom they placed
                        Broad broaches,
                        And artfully they
                        His hair did braid.

                        Spoke then Loke
                        For thee must I
                        Be servant-maid;
                        Ride we both
                        To Jotunheim.

                        Home were driven
                        Then the goats,
                        And hitched to the car;
                        Hasten they must—
                        The mountains crashed.
                        The earth stood in flames,
                        Odin’s son
                        Rode to Jotunheim.

                        Spoke then Thrym,
                        The king of giants;
                        Giants! arise
                        And spread my benches!
                        Bring to me
                        Freyja as bride,
                        Njord’s daughter,
                        From Noatun.

                        Cows with golden horns
                        Go in the yard,
                        Black oxen
                        To please the giant;
                        Much wealth have I,
                        Many gifts have I;
                        Freyja, methinks,
                        Is all I lack.

                        Early in the evening
                        Came they all;
                        Ale was brought
                        Up for the giant.
                        One ox Thor ate,
                        Eight salmon
                        And all the delicacies
                        For the women intended;
                        Sif’s husband besides
                        Drank three barrels of mead.

                        Spoke then Thrym,
                        The king of giants:
                        Where hast thou seen
                        Such a hungry bride?
                        I ne’er saw a bride
                        Eat so much,
                        And never a maid
                        Drink more mead.

                        Sat there the shrewd
                        Maid-servant near;[69]
                        Thus she replied
                        To the words of Thrym:
                        Nothing ate Freyja
                        In eight nights,
                        So much did she long
                        For Jotunheim.

                        Behind the veil
                        Thrym sought a kiss,
                        But back he sprang
                        The length of the hall:
                        Why are Freyja’s
                        Eyes so sharp?
                        From her eyes it seems
                        That fire doth burn.

                        Sat there the shrewd
                        Maid-servant near,
                        And thus she spake,
                        Answering the giant:
                        Slept has not Freyja
                        For eight nights,
                        So much did she long
                        For Jotunheim.

                        In came the poor
                        Sister of Thrym;
                        For bridal gift
                        She dared to ask:
                        Give from the hand
                        The golden rings,
                        If thou desirest
                        Friendship of me,
                        Friendship of me—
                        And love.

                        Spoke then Thrym,
                        The king of giants:
                        Bring me the hammer
                        My bride to hallow:
                        Place the hammer
                        In the lap of the maid;
                        Wed us together
                        In the name of Var.[70]

                        Laughed then Thor’s
                        Heart in his breast;
                        Severe in mind
                        He knew his hammer,
                        First slew he Thrym,
                        Tho king of giants,
                        Crushed then all
                        That race of giants;

                        Slew the old
                        Sister of Thrym,
                        She who asked
                        For a bridal gift;
                        Slap she got
                        For shining gold,
                        Hammer blows
                        For heaps of rings;
                        Thus came Odin’s son
                        Again by his hammer.

Thrym (from _þruma_) is the noisy, thundering imitator of Thor. While
the thunder sleeps, the giant forces of nature howl and rage in the
storms and winds, they have stolen the hammer from Thor. Thor goes and
brings his hammer back and the storms are made to cease. It has been
suggested that Thor is the impersonation of truth, and the Younger Edda
speaks of him as one _never having yet uttered an_ UNTRUTH. It has also
been claimed that the name of his realm _Thrud_-vang contains the same
root as our English word _truth_, but this we leave for the reader to
examine for himself. Before the Norsemen learned to make the sign of the
cross, they made the sign of the hammer upon themselves and upon other
things that they thereby wished to secure against evil influences.

Now let us glance at the last appearance of Thor on the stage of this
world. The Norse king, Olaf the saint, was eagerly pursuing his work of
Christian reform in Norway, and we find him sailing with fit escort
along the western shore of that county from haven to haven, dispensing
justice or doing other royal work. On leaving a certain haven, it is
found that a stranger of grave eyes and aspect, with red beard and of a
robust and stately figure, has stepped in. The courtiers address him;
his answers surprise by their pertinency and depth. At length he is
brought to the king. The strangers conversation here is not less
remarkable, as they sail along the beautiful shore; but after awhile he
addresses King Olaf thus: Yes, King Olaf, it is all beautiful, with the
sun shining on it there; green, fruitful, a right fair home for you; and
many a sore day had Thor, many a wild fight with the mountain giants,
before he could make it so. And now you seem minded to put away Thor.
King Olaf, have a care! said the stranger, knitting his brows; and when
they looked again he was nowhere to be found. This is the last myth of
Thor, a protest against the advance of Christianity, no doubt
reproachfully set forth by some conservative pagan.[71]

Footnote 60:


Footnote 61:

  From _Tales of a Wayside Inn_.

Footnote 62:

  _Bil_ is a common word in Norseland, meaning _moment_.

Footnote 63:

  But see also Vocabulary, under the word _Mjolner_.

Footnote 64:

  Holmgang (literally _isle-gang_) is a duel taking place on a small
  island. Each combatant was attended by a second who had to protect him
  with a shield. The person challenged had the right to strike the first
  blow. When the opponent was wounded, so that his blood stained the
  ground, the seconds might interfere and put an end to the combat. He
  that was the first wounded had to pay the holmgang fine.

Footnote 65:

  A name for Thor.

Footnote 66:

  A Orvandel, from _aur_, earth, and _vendill_, the sprout (_vöndr_),
  ruler = the seed.

Footnote 67:

  This Geirrod must not be confounded with Odin’s foster-son Geirrod,
  son of Hraudung (see p. 228).

Footnote 68:

  The next best thing is William Edward Frye’s translation of
  Œlenschlæger’s work entitled _The Gods of the North_. London, 1845.

Footnote 69:


Footnote 70:

  The goddess who presides over marriages.

Footnote 71:

  Thomas Carlyle, _Heroes and Hero-worship_.

                               CHAPTER V.

On the way to Geirrod (see p. 310) we noticed that Thor visited the hag
Grid, and she lent him three things, counterparts of Thor’s own
treasures, her belt of strength, iron gloves and staff. Grid belongs to
the race of giants; she dwells in the wild, unsubdued nature, but is not
hostile toward the gods. Her belt, gloves and staff, her name, the place
where she dwells between Asgard and Jotunheim, her ability to give Thor
information about Geirrod, all give evidence of her wild and powerful

She is the mother of Vidar, who is a son of Odin. Hence we have here, as
in the case of Tyr, a connecting link between the giants and asas.
Through Tyr the gods are related to the raging sea, through Vidar to the
wild desert and the forests. Vidar is surnamed the Silent. He is almost
as strong as Thor himself, and the gods place great reliance on him in
all critical conjunctures. He is the brother of the gods. He has an iron
shoe; it is a thick shoe, of which it is said that material has been
gathered for it through all ages. It is made of the scraps of leather
that have have been cut off from the toes and heels in cutting patterns
for shoes. These pieces must therefore be thrown away by the shoemaker
who desires to render assistance to the gods. He is present at Æger’s
feast, where Odin says to him:

                       Stand up, Vidar!
                       And let the wolf’s father[72]
                       Be guest at the feast,
                       That Loke may not
                       Bring reproach on us
                       Here in Æger’s hall.

His realm is thus described in the Elder Edda:

                         Grown over with shrubs
                         And with high grass
                         Is Vidar’s wide land.
                         There sits Odin’s
                         Son on the horse’s back:
                         He will avenge his father.

He avenges his father in the final catastrophe, in Ragnarok; for when
the Fenris-wolf has swallowed Odin, Vidar advances, and setting his foot
on the monster’s lower jaw he seizes the other with his hand, and thus
tears and rends him till he dies. It is now his shoe does him such
excellent service. After the universe has been regenerated

                      There dwell Vidar and Vale
                      In the gods’ holy seats,
                      When the fire of Surt is slaked.

Vidar’s name (from _viðr_, a forest) indicates that he is the god of the
primeval, impenetrable forest, where neither the sound of the ax nor the
voice of man was ever heard; and hence he is also most fittingly
surnamed the Silent God. Vidar is, then, imperishable and incorruptible
nature represented as an immense indestructible forest, with the iron
trunks of the trees rearing their dense and lofty tops toward the
clouds. Who has ever entered a thick and pathless forest, wandered about
in its huge shadows and lost himself in its solemn darkness, without
feeling deeply sensible to the loftiness of the idea that underlies
Vidar’s character. Vidar is the Greek Pan, the representative of
incorruptible nature. He is not the ruler of the peaceful grove near the
abode of the gods, where Idun dwells, but of the great and wild primeval
forest, that man never yet entered. The idea of Vidar’s woods is
imperishableness, while that of Idun’s grove is the constant renovation
and rejuvenation of the life of the gods. The gods and all the work of
their hands shall perish, and it is nowhere stated that Idun survives
Ragnarok. Odin himself perishes, and with him all his labor and care for
man; but nature does not perish. If that should be entirely destroyed,
then it could not be _regenerated_. If matter should perish, where would
then the spirit take its dwelling? If Vidar did not exist, where would
Vale be? The glory of the world, the development that has taken place,
and the spirit revealed in it, perish; but not Vidar, for he is the
imperishable, wild, original nature, the eternal matter, which reveals
its force to, but is not comprehended by, man; a force which man sees
and reveres, without venturing an explanation; but when all the works of
man are destroyed by consuming flames, this force of eternal matter will
be revealed with increased splendor.

Thus we find the power and strength of the gods expressed in two myths,
in Thor and in Vidar, both sons of Odin, who is, as the reader knows,
the father of all the gods. Thor is the thundering, noisy, crushing, but
withal beneficent, god; Vidar is silent, dwells far away from, and
exercises no influence upon, the works of man, except as he inspires a
profound awe and reverence. Thor is the visible, in their manifestations
wonderful, constantly returning and all-preserving, workings of nature;
Vidar is the quiet, secretly working, hidden and self-supporting
imperishableness. Popularity, fame, position, influence, wealth,—all
that makes so much stir and bustle in the world—shall perish; but the
quiet working of the soul, the honest pursuit of knowledge, the careful
secret development of the powers of the human mind, shall live forever.
And Vidar and Vale (mind and knowledge) shall together inhabit the
sacred dwellings of the gods, when the waves of time have ceased to
roll: Vidar as the god of imperishable matter, Vale as the god of
eternal light (spirit) that shines upon it.

Footnote 72:


                              CHAPTER VI.
                               THE VANS.

                      SECTION I. NJORD AND SKADE.

Two opposite elements in nature are united in order to produce life. The
opposite elements are expressed in the mythology by the terms asas and
vans. In our language and mode of expression that would mean the solid
and the liquid, the masculine and the feminine. Water, the _par
excellence_ representative of liquids, may symbolize various ideas. It
may typify sorrow; it then manifests itself in tears, and sorrow is
fleeting as the flowing tears. Water may symbolize gladness, happiness,
and blessings, that flow in gushing streams along the pathway of life;
and it may also be used as the symbol of innocence, purity, and wealth.
These ideas may be regarded as a general interpretation of the vans, and
we find them reflected in the triune vana-deity; Njord with his children
Frey and Freyja, who rise from the sea and unite themselves with the
asa-divinity in heaven and on earth.

Njord is called Vanagod, and he dwells in the heavenly region called
Noatun. He rules over the winds and checks the fury of the sea and of
fire, and is therefore invoked by seafarers and fishermen. He is so
wealthy that he can give possessions and treasures to those who call on
him for them. Yet Njord is not of the lineage of the asas, for he was
born and bred in Vanaheim. But the vans gave him as hostage to the asas,
receiving from them in his stead Hœner. By this means peace was
reëstablished between the asas and vans. (See Part II, Chap. 1, Sec.

Njord took to wife Skade, the daughter of the giant Thjasse.[73] She
preferred dwelling in the abode formerly belonging to her father, which
is situated among rocky mountains in the region called Thrymheim, but
Njord loved to reside near the sea. They at last agreed that they should
pass together nine nights in Thrymheim and then three in Noatun. But one
day when Njord came back from the mountains to Noatun, he thus sang:

                         Am weary of the mountains,
                         Not long was I there,
                         Only nine nights:
                         The howl of the wolves
                         Methought sounded ill
                         To the song of the swans.

To which Skade sang in reply:

                        Sleep could I not
                        On my sea-strand couch
                        For screams of the sea-fowl.
                        _There_ wakes me
                        When from the wave he comes
                        Every morn the mew (gull).

Skade then returned to the rocky mountains and dwelt in Thrymheim. There
fastening on her skees and taking her bow she passes her time in the
chase of wild beasts, and is called Andre-dis (Skee-goddess). Thus it is

                        Thrymheim it’s called
                        Where Thjasse dwelled,
                        That stream-mighty giant;
                        But Skade now dwells,
                        Skee-bride of the gods,
                        In her father’s old mansion.

Njord is the god of the sea; that is to say, of that part of the sea
which is immediately connected with the earth, that part of the sea
which is made serviceable to man, where fishing and commerce carried on.
His dwelling is Noatun, which means land of ships (_nór_, ship; _tún_,
yard, place). Njord’s realm is bounded on the one side by the earth, the
land, and on the other by the raging ocean, where Æger with his
daughters reigns. Njord’s wife is Skade (harm), the wild mountain
stream, which plunges down from the high rocks, where she prefers to
dwell, and pours herself into the sea. Her dwelling is Thrymheim, the
_roaring home_, at the thundering waterfall. Taken as a whole, the myth
is very clear and simple.

The compromise between Njord and Skate, to dwell nine nights in
Thrymheim (home of uproar, storms) and three nights in Noatun, of course
has reference to the severe northern latitudes, where rough weather and
wintry storms prevail during the greater part of the year.

                       SECTION II. ÆGER AND RAN.

These do not belong to the vana-divinities, but are given here in order
to have the divinities of the sea in one place. As Njord is the mild,
beneficent sea near the shore, so Æger is the wild, turbulent, raging
sea far from the land, where fishing and navigation cannot well be
carried on; the great ocean, and yet bordering on the confines of then
asas. Hence Æger’s twofold nature; he is a giant, but still has
intercourse with the gods. Thus in Mimer, Æger and Njord, we have the
whole ocean represented, from its origin, Mimer, to its last stage of
development, to Njord, in whom, as a beneficent divinity, it unites
itself with the gods; that is to say, blesses and serves the enterprises
of men.

Æger visits the gods, and the latter visit him in return; and it was
once when the gods visited him that his brewing-kettle was found too
small, so that Thor had to go to the giant Hymer and borrow a larger
one. In Æger’s hall the bright gold was used instead of fire, and there
the ale passed around spontaneously. Ran is his wife. She has a net, in
which she catches those who venture out upon the sea. Æger and Ran have
nine daughters, the waves. Loke once borrowed Ran’s net, to catch the
dwarf Andvare, who in the guise of a fish dwelt in a waterfall. With her
hand she is able to hold the ships fast. It was a prevailing opinion
among the ancient Norsemen that they who perished at sea came to Ran;
for Fridthjof, who with his companions was in danger of being wrecked,
talks about his having to rest on Ran’s couch instead of Ingeborg’s, and
as it was not good to come empty-handed to the halls of Ran and Æger, he
divided a ring of gold between himself and his men.

Thus Tegner has it in _Fridthjof_ at Sea:

                      Whirling cold and fast
                      Snow-wreaths fill the sail;
                      Over dock and mast
                      Patters heavy hail.

                      The very stem they see so more,
                      So thick is darkness spread,
                      As gloom and horror hover o’er
                      The chamber of the dead.

                      Still to sink the sailor dashes
                      Implacable each angry wave;
                      Gray, as if bestrewn with ashes,
                      Yawns the endless, awful grave.

Then says Fridthjof:

                       For us in bed of ocean
                       Azure pillows _Ran_ prepares,
                       On thy pillow, Ingeborg,
                       Thou thinkest upon me.
                       Higher ply, my comrades,
                       Ellida’s sturdy oars;
                       Good ship, heaven-fashioned,
                       Bear us on an hour.

The storm continues:

                  O’er the side apace
                  Now a sea hath leapt;
                  In an instant’s space
                  Clear the deck is swept.

                  From his arm now Fridthjof hastens
                  To draw his ring, three marks in weight;
                  Like the morning sun it glistens,
                  The golden gift of Bele great.
                  With his sword in pieces cutting
                  The famous work of pigmied art,
                  Shares he quickly, none forgetting,
                  Unto every man a part.

Then says Fridthjof again:

                       Gold is good possession
                       When one goes a-wooing;
                       Let none go empty-handed
                       Down to azure _Ran_.
                       Icy are her kisses,
                       Fickle her embraces;
                       But we’ll charm the sea-bride
                       With our ruddy gold.

How eager Ran is to capture those who venture out upon her domain is
also illustrated in another part of Fridthjof’s Saga, where King Ring
and his queen Ingeborg ride over the ice on the lake to a banquet.
Fridthjof went along on skates. Thus Tegner again:

              They speed as storms over ocean speed;
              The queen’s prayers little King Ring doth heed.

              Their steel-shod comrade standeth not still,
              He flieth past them as swift as he will.

              Many a rune on the ice cutteth he;
              Fair Ingeborg’s name discovereth she.

              So on their glittering course they go,
              But _Ran_, the traitress, lurketh below.

              A hole in her silver roof she hath reft,
              Down sinketh the sleigh in the yawning cleft.

But, fortunately, Fridthjof was not far away. He came to their rescue,

                  With a single tug he setteth amain
                  Both steed and sleigh on the ice again.

Of Æger’s and Ran’s daughters, the waves, it is said that they
congregate in large numbers according to the will of their father. They
have pale locks and white veils; they are seldom mild in their
disposition toward men; they are called billows or surges, and are
always awake when the wind blows. They lash the sounding shores, and
angrily rage and break around the holms;[74] they have a hard bed
(stones and rocks), and seldom play in calm weather. The names of the
daughters of Æger and Ran represent the waves in their various
magnitudes and appearances. Thus Himinglœfa, the sky-clear; Duva, the
diver; Blodughadda, the bloody- or purple-haired; Hefring, the swelling;
Bylgja, billow; Kolga, raging sea, etc.

These myths are very simple and need no extended explanations. Æger is
the Anglo-Saxon _eagor_, the sea. He is also called Hler, the shelterer
(_hlé_, Anglo-Saxon _hleo_, Danish _Læ_, English _lee_), and Gymer, the
concealing (_geyma_, Anglo-Saxon _gyman_, Norse _gjemme_, to conceal, to
keep). These names express the sea in its uproar, in its calmness, and
as the covering of the deep. The name of his wife, Ran (robbery or the
robbing; _rœna_, to plunder), denotes the sea as craving its sacrifice
of human life and of treasures. It is a common expression in Norseland
that the sea brews and seethes, and this at once suggests Æger’s
kettles. The foaming ale needs no butler but passes itself around, and
there is plenty of it. That Æger, when visited by the gods, illuminated
his hall with shining gold, refers of course to the phosphorescent light
of the sea (Icelandic _marelldr_, Norse _morild_). Those who are
familiar with the sea cannot fail to have seen the sparks of fire that
apparently fly from it when its surface is disturbed in the dark. Thus
the servants of Æger, Elde and Funfeng (both words meaning fire), are
properly called excellent firemen. The relation between Njord and Æger
seems to be the same as between Okeanos, the great water encircling the
earth, and Pontus, the Mediterranean, within the confines of the earth.

Some of the old Norse heroes are represented as possessing a terrifying
helmet, Æger’s helmet (_gishjálmr_); and thus, as Odin’s golden helmet
is the beaming sky, and as the dwarfs cover themselves with a helmet of
fog, so Æger wears on his brow a helmet made of dense darkness and
heaven-reaching, terrifying breakers.

Æger and his family, it is certain, did not belong among the asas, yet
they were regarded, like them, as mighty beings, whose friendship was
sought by the gods themselves; and England, that proud mistress of the
sea, is the reflection of the myth of Æger, showing what grand results
are achieved historically, when human enterprise and heroism enter into
friendly relations with the sea, making it serve the advancement of
civilization,—when the gods go to Æger’s hall to banquet.

                           SECTION III. FREY.

Njord had two children—a son Frey and a daughter Freyju, both fair and
mighty. Frey is one of the most celebrated of the gods. He presides over
rain and sunshine and all the fruits of the earth, and should be invoked
to obtain good harvests, and also for peace. He moreover dispenses
wealth among men. He is called van and vanagod, yeargod and goods-giver
(_fégjafi_). He owns the ship Skidbladner and also Goldenbristle
(_gullinbursti_) or Slidrugtanne (the sharp-toothed), a boar with golden
bristles, with which he rides as folk-ruler to Odin’s hall. In time’s
morning, when he was yet a child, the gods gave him Alfheim (home of
elves) as a present.

Of Frey’s ship Skidbladner, we have before seen (see p. 220) how it was
made by the dwarfs, sons of Ivald, and presented to Frey. It was so
large that all the gods with their weapons and war stores could find
room on board it. As soon as the sails are set a favorable breeze arises
and carries it to its place of destination, and it is made of so many
pieces, and with so much skill, that when it is not wanted for a voyage
Frey may fold it together like a piece of cloth and put it into his

Njord had the consolation, when he was sent as hostage to the gods, that
he begat a son whom no one hates, but who is the best among the gods.
Thus the Elder Edda, in Æger’s banquet to the gods, where Loke also was


                       It is my consolation—
                       For I was from a far-off place
                       Sent as a hostage to the gods—
                       That I begat that son
                       Whom no one hates,
                       And who is regarded
                       Chief among the gods.

To which LOKE makes reply:

                        Hold thy tongue, Njord!
                        Subdue thy arrogance;
                        I will conceal it no longer
                        That with thy sister
                        A son thou didst beget
                        Scarcely worse than thyself.

But TYR defends Frey:

                    Frey is the best
                    Of all the chiefs
                    Among the gods.
                    He causes not tears
                    To maids or mothers:
                    His desire is to loosen the fetters
                    Of those enchained.


                    Hold thy tongue, Tyr!
                    Never thou couldst
                    Use both hands,
                    Since thy right one,
                    As I now remember,
                    The wolf Fenrer took from you.


                    I lack a hand,
                    Thou lackest good reputation,—
                    Sad it is to lack such a thing;
                    Nor does the wolf fare well,—
                    In chains he pines
                    Till the end of the world.


                    Hold thy tongue, Tyr!
                    Thy wife and I
                    Had a son together,
                    But thou, poor fellow,
                    Received not a farthing
                    In fine from me.


                    The wolf I see lie
                    At the mouth of the river
                    Until the powers perish.
                    If thou dost not hold thy tongue
                    Thou also shalt be bound.


                    For gold thou bought’st
                    Gymer’s daughter,
                    And sold thy sword
                    At the same time;
                    But when the sons of Muspel
                    Come riding from the dark woods,
                    What hail thou, poor fellow,
                    To rely upon?

Frey has a servant by name BYGVER, who responds to Loke:

                       Know that, were I born
                       Of so noble a race
                       As Ingun’s Frey,
                       And had I
                       So glorious a hall,
                       I would crush the evil crow,
                       Break his bones to the marrow!

LOKE then turns upon Bygver, and calls him a little impertinent thing,
that always hangs about Frey’s ears and cries under the millstone (can
the reader help thinking at this moment of Robert Burns’ famous poem,
_John Barleycorn?_); a good-for-nothing fellow, who never would divide
good with men, and when the heroes fought they could not find him, for
he was concealed in the straw of the bed.

Frey’s maid-servant is Beyla, Bygver’s wife, whom Loke calls the ugliest
and filthiest hag that can be found among the offspring of the gods. Of
course Loke exaggerates and uses abusive language, but it was in truth a
sorry thing for Frey that he traded his sword away, for it is to this
fact he owes his defeat when he encounters Surt in Ragnarok.

Frey’s wife was Gerd, a daughter of Gymer, and their son was Fjolner.
Frey was worshiped throughout the northern countries. In the common
formula of the oath his name was put first: HJÁLPI MÉR SVÁ FREYR OK
NJÖRÐR OK HINN ALMÁTTKI ÁS! that is, So help me Frey and Njord and the
almighty Asa (Odin). On Jul-eve (Christmas eve) it was customary to lead
out a boar, which was consecrated to Frey, and which was called the
atonement boar. On this the persons present laid their hands and made
solemn vows; and at the feast, where the flesh of the sacrificed animal
was eaten by the assembled guests, there was drunk, among other horns, a
horn to Njord and Frey for prosperous seasons and for peace.

Everything about Frey goes to show that he is the god of the earth’s
fruitfulness. The sea, Njord, rises as vapor and descends in rain upon
the land, making it fruitful. There has been much dispute about the
etymological meaning of the word Frey. Finn Magnússon derives it from
_frœ_, Norse _frö_, meaning seed. Grimm, on the other hand, thinks the
fundamental idea is mildness, gladness (compare German _froh_, Norse
_fryd_). A derived meaning of the word is man, masculine of Freyja
(German _frau_), meaning woman.

                       SECTION IV. FREY AND GERD.

Frey had one day placed himself in Hlidskjalf, and looked out upon all
the worlds. He also saw Jotunheim, and perceived a large and stately
mansion which a maid was going to enter, and as she raised the latch of
the door so great a radiancy was thrown from her hand, that the air and
waters and all worlds were illuminated by it. It was Gerd, a daughter of
the giant Gymer and Aurboda, relatives of Thjasse. At this sight Frey,
as a just punishment for his audacity in mounting on that sacred throne,
was struck with sudden sadness, so that on his return home he could
neither speak nor sleep nor drink, nor did any one dare to inquire the
cause of his affliction. Frey’s messenger was named Skirner. Njord sent
for him and requested of him, as did also Skade, that he should ask Frey
why he thus refused to speak to any one.

Thus the Elder Edda, in the lay of Skirner:


                   Skirner, arise, and swiftly run
                   Where lonely sits our pensive son;
                   Bid him to parley, and inquire
                   ’Gainst whom he teems with sullen ire.


                   Ill words I fear my lot will prove,
                   If I your son attempt to move;
                   If I bid parley, and inquire
                   Why teems his soul with savage ire.

Reluctantly Skirner then proceeded to Frey, and thus addressed him:


                  Prince of the gods, and first in fight!
                  Speak, honored Frey, and tell me right:
                  Why spends my lord the tedious day
                  In his lone hall, to grief a prey?


                  Oh, how shall I, fond youth, disclose
                  To you my bosom’s heavy woes?
                  The ruddy god shines every day,
                  But dull to me his cheerful ray.


                  Your sorrows deem not I so great
                  That you the tale should not relate:
                  Together sported we in youth,
                  And well may trust each other’s truth.


                  In Gymer’s court I saw her move,
                  The maid who fires my breast with love;
                  Her snow-white arms and bosom fair
                  Shone lovely, kindling sea and air.
                  Dear is she to my wishes, more
                  Than e’er was maid to youth before;
                  But gods and elves, I wot it well,
                  Forbid that we together dwell.


                  Give me that horse of wondrous breed
                  To cross the nightly flame with speed;
                  And that self-brandished sword to smite
                  The giant race with strange affright.


                  To you I give this wondrous steed
                  To pass the watchful fire with speed;
                  And this, which borne by valiant wight,
                  Self-brandished will his foemen smite.

Frey, having thus given away his sword, found himself without arms when
he on another occasion fought with Bele, and hence it was that he slew
him with a stag’s antlers. This combat was, however, a trifling affair,
for Frey could have killed him with a blow of his fist, had he felt
inclined; but the time will come when the sons of Muspel will sally
forth to the fight in Ragnarok, and then indeed will Frey truly regret
having parted with his falchion. Having obtained the horse and sword,
Skirner set out on his journey, and thus he addressed his horse:

                 Dark night is spread; ’t is time, I trow,
                 To climb  the mountains hoar with snow;
                 Both shall return, or both remain
                 In durance, by the giant ta’en.

Skirner rode into Jotunheim, to the court of Gymer. Furious dogs were
tied there before the gate of the wooden inclosure which surrounded
Gerd’s bower. He rode toward a shepherd, who was sitting on a mound, and
thus addressed him:

                  Shepherd, you, that sit on the mound,
                  And turn your watchful eyes around,
                  How may I lull these bloodhounds? say;
                  How speak unharmed with Gymer’s may?

                  THE SHEPHERD:

                  Whence and what are you? doomed to die?
                  Or, dead, revisit you the sky?
                  For ride by night or ride by day,
                  You ne’er shall come to Gymer’s may.


                  I grieve not, I, a better part
                  Fits him who boasts a ready heart:
                  At hour of birth our lives were shaped;
                  The doom of fate can ne’er be ’scaped.

But Gerd inside hears the stranger, and thus speaks to her maid-servant:

                 What sounds unknown my ears invade,
                 Frightening this mansion’s peaceful shade;
                 The earth’s foundation rocks withal,
                 And trembling shakes all Gymer’s hall.

                 THE MAID-SERVANT:

                 Dismounted stands warrior sheen;
                 His courser crops the herbage green.


                 Haste! bid him to my bower with speed,
                 To quaff unmixed the pleasant mead;
                 And good betide us; for I fear
                 My brother’s murderer is near.

Skirner having entered, Gerd thus addresses him:

                 What are you, elf or asas’ son?
                 Or from the wiser vanas sprung?
                 Alone to visit our abode,
                 O’er bickering flames, why have you rode?


                 Nor elf am I, nor asas’ son;
                 Nor from the wiser vanas sprung:
                 Yet o’er the bickering flames I rode
                 Alone to visit your abode.
                 Eleven apples here I hold,
                 Gerd, for you, of purest gold;
                 Let this fair gift your bosom move
                 To grant young Frey your precious love.


                 Eleven apples take not I
                 From man as price of chastity:
                 While life remains, no tongue shall tell
                 That Frey and I together dwell.


                 Gerd, for you this wondrous ring,
                 Burnt on young Balder’s pile, I bring,
                 On each ninth night shall other eight
                 Drop from it. all of equal weight.


                 I take not, I, that wondrous ring,
                 Though it from Balder’s pile you bring:
                 Gold lack not I, in Gymer’s bower;
                 Enough for me my father’s dower.


                 Behold this bright and slender wand,
                 Unsheathed and glittering in my hand!
                 Refuse not, maiden! lest your head
                 Be severed by the trenchant blade.


                 Gerd will ne’er by force be led
                 To grace a conqueror’s hateful bed;
                 But this I trow, with main and might
                 Gymer shall meet your boast in fight.


                 Behold this bright and slender wand,
                 Unsheathed and glittering in my hand!
                 Slain by its edge your sire shall lie,
                 That giant old is doomed to die.

As this has no effect upon Gerd’s mind, Skirner heaps blows upon her
with a magic wand, and at the same time he begins his incantations,
scoring runic characters as he sings:

                E’en as I list, the magic wand
                Shall tame you! Lo, with charmed hand
                I touch you, maid! There shall you go
                Where never man shall learn your woe.
                On some high, pointed rock, forlorn
                Like eagle, shall you sit at morn;
                Turn from the world’s all-cheering light,
                And seek the deep abyss of night.
                Food shall to you more loathly show
                Than slimy serpent creeping slow,
                When forth you come, a hideous sight,
                Each wondering eye shall stare with fright;
                By all observed, yet sad and lone;
                ’Mongst shivering giants wider known
                Than him who sits unmoved on high,
                The guard of heaven with sleepless eye.
                ’Mid charms and chains and restless woe,
                Your tears with double grief shall flow.
                Now sit down, maid, while I declare
                Your tide of sorrow and despair.
                Your bower shall be some giant’s cell,
                Where phantoms pale shall with you dwell;
                Each day to the frosty giant’s hall,
                Comfortless, wretched, shall you crawl;
                Instead of joy, and pleasure gay,
                Sorrow and tears and sad dismay;
                With some three-headed giant wed,
                Or pine upon a lonely bed;
                From morn to morn love’s secret fire
                Shall gnaw your heart with vain desire;
                Like barren root of thistle pent
                In some high ruined battlement.
                  O’er shady hill, through greenwood round,
                I sought this wand; the wand I found.
                Odin is wroth, and mighty Thor;
                E’en Frey shall now your name abhor.
                But ere o’er your ill-fated head
                The last dread curse of heaven be spread,
                Giants and Thurses far and near,
                Suttung’s sons, and ye asas, hear
                How I forbid with fatal ban
                This maid the joys, the fruit of man.
                Cold Grimner is that giant hight
                Who you shall hold in realms of might;
                Where slaves in cups of twisted roots
                Shall bring foul beverage from the goats;
                Nor sweeter draught, nor blither fare
                Shall you, sad virgin, ever share.
                  ’Tis done! I wind the mystic charm;
                Thus, thus I trace the giant form;
                And three fell characters below,
                Fury and Lust and restless Woe.
                E’en as I wound, I straight unwind
                This fatal spell, if you are kind.


                Now hail, now hail, you warrior bold!
                Take, take this cup of crystal cold,
                And quaff the pure metheglin old.
                Yet deemed I ne’er that love could bind
                To vana-youth my hostile mind.


                I turn not home to bower or hall
                Till I have learnt mine errand all;
                Where you will yield the night of joy
                To brave Njord’s, the gallant boy.


                Bar-isle is hight, the seat of love;
                Nine nights elapsed, in that known grove
                Shall brave Njord’s, the gallant boy,
                From Gerd take the kiss of joy.

Then Skirner rode home. Frey stood forth and hailed him and asked what


                 Speak, Skirner, speak and tell with speed!
                 Take not the harness from your steed,
                 Nor stir your foot, till you have said,
                 How fares my love with Gymer’s maid!


                 Bar-isle is hight, the seat of love;
                 Nine nights elapsed, in that known grove
                 To brave Njord’s, the gallant boy,
                 Will Gerd yield the kiss of joy.


                 Long is one night, and longer twain;
                 But how for three endure my pain?
                 A month of rapture sooner flies
                 Than half one night of wishful sighs.

This poem illustrates how beautifully a myth can be elaborated. Gerd is
the seed; Skirner is the air that comes with the sunshine. Thus the myth
is easily explained: The earth, in which the seed is sown, resists the
embrace of Frey; his messenger Skirner, who brings the seed out into the
light, in vain promises her the golden ears of harvest and the ring, the
symbol of abundance. She has her giant nature, which has not yet been
touched by the divine spirit; she realizes not the glory which she can
attain to by Frey’s love. Skirner must conjure her, he must use
incantations, he must show her how she, if not embraced by Frey, must
forever be the bride of the cold frost, and never experience the joys of
wedded life. She finally surrenders herself to Frey, and they embrace
each other, when the buds burst forth in the grove. This myth then
corresponds to Persephone, the goddess of the grain planted in the
ground. Demeter’s sorrow on account of the naked, forsaken field, from
which the sprout shall shoot forth from the hidden reed, is Frey’s
impatient longing; and Skirner is Mercurius, who brings Proserpina up
from the lower world.

But the myth has also a deeper ethical signification. Our forefathers
were not satisfied with the mere shell; and Frey’s love to Gerd, which
is described so vividly in the Elder Edda, is taken from the nature of
love, with all its longings and hopes, and is not only a symbol of what
takes place in visible nature. As the warmth of the sun develops the
seed, thus love develops the heart; love is the ray of light (Skirner)
sent from heaven, which animates and ennobles the clump of earth. Gerd
is the maid, who is engaged in earthly affairs and does not yet realize
anything nobler than her every-day cares. Then love calls her; in her
breast awakens a new life; wonderful dreams like gentle breezes embrace
her, and when the dreams grow into consciousness her eyes are opened to
a higher sphere of existence. This myth is most perfectly reflected in
the love-story of Fridthjof’s Saga, an old Norse romance moulded into a
most fascinating Epic Poem by Tegner. A good English translation of this
poem appeared a few years ago in London, and was republished in this
country under the auspices of Bayard Taylor. It is also translated into
almost every other European language, and is justly considered one of
the finest poetical productions of this century.

                      SECTION V. WORSHIP OF FREY.

The Sagas tell us, as has already been stated, that Frey was worshiped
extensively throughout the northern countries.

In Throndhjem there was during the reign of Olaf Tryggvesson a temple in
which Frey was zealously worshiped. When the king, having overthrown the
statue of the god, blamed the bondes for their stupid idolatry, and
asked them wherein Frey had evinced his power, they answered: Frey often
talked with us, foretold us the future, and granted us good seasons and

The Norse chieftain Ingemund Thorstenson, who in the days of the tyrant
Harald Hairfair emigrated from Norway and settled in Vatnsdal, Iceland,
built near his homestead a temple, which appears to have been specially
dedicated to Frey, who had in a manner pointed out a dwelling-place to
him; for in digging a place for his pillars of the high-seat
(_öndvegis-súlur_, something similar to the Greek Hermes and Roman
Penates), Ingemund found in the earth an image of Frey, which he had
lost in Norway.

The Icelander Thorgrim of Seabol was a zealous worshiper of Frey, and
conducted sacrificial festivals in his honor during the winter nights.
He was killed in his bed by Gisle, and a famous funeral service was
given him; but one thing, says the Saga of Gisle Surson, also happened,
which seemed remarkable. Snow never settled on Thorgrim’s how
(grave-mound) on the south side, nor did it freeze; it was thought that
Frey loved him so much, because he had sacrificed to him, that he did
not want it to grow cold between them.

In the vicinity of the estate Tver-aa, in Eyjafjord in Iceland, there
was a temple dedicated to Frey, and the place became so holy that no
guilty person dared to tarry there, for Frey did not allow it. When the
chieftain Thorkel the Tall was banished from Tver-aa by Glum Eyjolfson,
who is universally known as Vigaglum, he led a full-grown ox to Frey’s
temple before he left, and thus addressed the god: Long have you been to
me a faithful friend, O Frey! Many gifts have you received from me and
rewarded me well for them. Now I give you this ox, in order that Glum
may some day have to leave Tver-aa no less reluctantly than I do. And
now give to me a sign to show whether you accept this offering or not.
At that moment the ox bellowed loudly and fell dead upon the ground.
Thorkel considered this a good omen, and moved away with a lighter
heart. Afterwards (it is related in Vigaglum’s Saga) Glum in his old
days became involved in a dangerous suit for manslaughter, which ended
in his having to relinquish Tver-aa to Ketil, son of Thorvald Krok, whom
he confessed having killed. On the night before he rode to the _thing_
(assembly, court), where his case was to be decided, he dreamed that
there had congregated a number of men at Tver-aa to meet Frey; he saw
many down by the river (_á_ is river in Icelandic), and there sat Frey
on a bench. Glum asked who they were, and they answered: We are your
departed relatives, and have come to pray Frey that you may not be
driven from Tver-aa; but it avails us nothing. Frey answers us short and
angrily and now remembers the ox which Thorkel the Tall gave to him.
Glum awoke, and from that time he said that he was on unfriendly terms
with Frey.

In the temple at Upsala, in Sweden, Frey, together with Odin and Thor,
was especially worshiped; and by the story of the Norseman Gunnar
Helming, who in Sweden gave himself out as Frey, it is attested that the
people in some provinces of Sweden put their highest trust in this god,
and even believed him sometimes to appear in human form.

The horse, it appears, was regarded as a favorite animal of Frey. At his
temple in Throndhjem it is said there were horses belonging to him. It
is related of the Icelander Rafnkel that he loved Frey above all other
gods, and bestowed upon him an equal share in all his best possessions.
He had a brown horse called Frey-fax (compare Col-fax, Fair-fax, etc.),
which he loved so highly that he made a solemn vow to kill the man who
should ride this horse against his will, a vow he also fulfilled.
Another Icelander, Brand, also had a horse called Frey-fax, which he
made so much of that he was said to believe in it as in a divinity.

Frey’s boar, Gullinburste, has been referred to in connection with the
Jul or Christmas festivities, and there are found many examples of
swine-sacrifice in the old Norse writings. King Hedrek made solemn vows
on the atonement-boar on Jul-eve, and in one of the prose supplements to
the ancient Edda poem of Helge Hjorvardson we find that the
atonement-boar is mentioned as being led out on Jul-eve, in order that
they might lay lands upon it and make solemn vows.

A highly valued wooden statue or image of Frey was found in a temple at
Throndhjem, which king Olaf Tryggvesson hewed in pieces in the presence
of the people. Kjotve the Rich, king of Agder in Norway, one of the
chiefs who fought against Harald Fairhair, had a weight upon which the
god Frey was sculptured in silver. This treasure, which he held in great
veneration, fell after the battle into the hands of King Harald, and he
presented it to his friend, the chieftain Ingemund Thorstenson, who
afterwards carried the image in a purse and held it in very high esteem.
This last-mentioned image was probably borne as an amulet, as was often
the case, no doubt, with the gold braeteates which are found in the
grave-hows and in the earth, having upon them the images of men and
animals, and which are furnished with a clasp for fastening to a

                          SECTION VI. FREYJA.

The goddess of love is Freyja, also called Vanadis or Vanabride. She is
the daughter of Njord and the sister of Frey. She ranks next to Frigg.
She is very fond of love ditties, and all lovers would do well to invoke
her. It is from her name that women of birth and fortune are called in
the Icelandic language _hús freyjur_ (compare Norse _fru_ and German
_frau_). Her abode in heaven is called Folkvang, where she disposes of
the hall-seats. To whatever field of battle she rides she asserts her
right to one half the slain, the other half belonging to Odin. Thus the
Elder Edda, in Grimner’s lay:

                       Folkvang ’tis called
                       Where Freyja has right
                       To dispose of the hall-seats.
                       Every day of the slain
                       She chooses the half
                       And leaves half to Odin.

Her mansion, Sessrymner (having many or large seats), is large and
magnificent; thence she rides out in a car drawn by two cats. She lends
a favorable ear to those who sue for her assistance. She possesses a
necklace called Brisingamen, or Brising. She married a person called
Oder, and their daughter, named Hnos, is so very handsome that whatever
is beautiful and precious is called by her name _hnossir_ (that means,
nice things). It is also said that she had two daughters, Hnos and
Gerseme, the latter name meaning precious. But Oder left his wife in
order to travel into very remote countries. Since that time Freyja
continually weeps, and her tears are drops of pure gold; hence she is
also called the fair-weeping goddess (_it grátfagra goð_). In poetry,
gold is called Freyja’s tears, the rain of Freyja’s brows or cheeks. She
has a great variety of names, for, having gone over many countries in
search of her husband, each people gave her a different name. She is
thus called Mardal, Horn, Gefn, Syr, Skjalf and Thrung. It will also be
remembered, from the chapter about Thor, that Freyja had a falcon-guise,
and how the giant Thrym longed to possess her. In the lay of Hyndla, in
the Elder Edda, Freyja comes to her friend and sister, the giantess
Hyndla, and requests her to ride to Valhal, to ask for success for her
favorite Ottar; promising the giantess to appease Odin and Thor, who of
course were enemies to the giants. Hyndla is inclined to doubt Freyja’s
remarks, especially as she comes to her with Ottar in the night. Who
this Ottar was we do not know, excepting that he was a son of the Norse
hero, Instein, and hence probably a Norseman. He was heir to an estate,
but his right to it was disputed by Angantyr. It was therefore necessary
to make his title good, and to enumerate his ancestors, but for this he
was too ignorant. Meanwhile he had always been a devout worshiper of the
asynjes (goddesses), and had especially worshiped Freyja by making
sacrifices, images, and erecting altars to her. Hence it is that she
wishes to help him in this important case, but finds that she is not
able, and it was for this reason she saddled her golden boar and went to
the wise giantess Hyndla, who was well posted in regard to the
pedigrees, origin and fates of gods, giants and men. Hyndla consents to
giving the information asked for, and so she enumerates first the
immediate ancestors of Ottar on his father’s and mother’s side, then
speaks of the king so famous in olden times, Halfdan Gamle, the original
progenitor of the Skjolds and several other noble families of the North.
And as these royal families were said to be descended from the gods and
the latter again from the giants, Hyndla gives some of their genealogies
also. Thus she gets an opportunity to speak of Heimdal and his giant
mothers, then of Loke and of the monsters descended from him, which
shall play so conspicuous a part in Ragnarok, then of the mighty god of
thunder, and finally of a god yet more mighty, whom she ventures not to
name, and here she ends her tale. She will not prophesy further than to
where Odin is swallowed by the Fenris-wolf and the world by the yawning
abyss. Freyja after this asks her for a drink of remembrance to give to
Ottar, her guest and favorite, in order that he might be able to
remember the whole talk and the pedigree two days afterwards, when the
case between him and Angantyr should be decided by proofs of this kind.
Hyndla refuses to do this, and upbraids her with abusive language. By
this Freyja is excited to wrath and threatens to kindle a fire around
the giantess, from which she would not be able to escape, if she did not
comply with her request. When the threat begins to be carried out (at
the breaking forth of the flaming aurora in the morning) Hyndla gives
the requested drink, but at the same time curses it. Freyja is not
terrified by this, but removes the curse by her blessing and earnest
prayers to all divinities for the success of her beloved Ottar.

We should like to give the lay in full, as it is found in the Elder
Edda, but having quoted several strophes from it before, and it being
quite long, we reluctantly omit it. We advise our readers, however, by
all means to read the ELDER EDDA. There is more profound thought in it
than in any other human work, not even Shakespeare excepted. What a pity
that it is so little known!

Women came after death to Freyja. When Egil Skallagrimson had lost his
young son, and was despairing unto death on this account, his daughter
Thorgerd, who was married to Olaf in Lax-aa-dal, comes to console him;
and when she hears that he will neither eat nor drink, then she also
says that she has not and will not eat or drink before she comes to
Freyja. With _her_, lovers who have been faithful unto death are
gathered; therefore Hagbard sings: Love is renewed in Freyja’s halls.

Freyja is the goddess of love between man and woman. Hence we find in
her nature, beauty, grace, modesty, the longings, joys, and tears of
love, and we find also that burning love in the heart which breaks out
in wild flames. She rules in _Folk_vang, in the human dwellings, where
there are seats enough for all. No one escapes her influence. Odin
shares the slain equally with her, for the hero has _two_ grand objects
in view—to conquer his enemy and to win the heart of the maiden.

Thus the Norse mythology teaches us that the sturdy Norseman was not
insusceptible to impressions from beauty nor unmoved by love. The most
beautiful flowers were named after Freyja’s hair and eye-dew, and even
animate objects, which, like the flowers, were remarkable for their
beauty, were named after this goddess, as for instance the butterfly
(Icel. _Freyjuhœna_—Freyja’s hen).

There is a semi-mythological Saga called Orvarodd’s Saga. Orvarodd
signifies Arrow-odd; and as this same Arrow-odd is implicated in a large
number of love exploits, it has been suggested that he may be Freyja’s
husband, whose name the reader remembers was Oder, the stem of which is
_od_, and hence we have in the North also not only a _goddess_ of love,
but also a god of love (Cupid), with his arrows!

Freyja’s cats symbolize sly fondling and sensual enjoyment. The name of
her husband, Oder, means sense, understanding, but also wild desire. The
various names bestowed upon Freyja when she travels among the different
nations denote the various modes by which love reveals itself in human
life. The goddesses Sjofn, Lofn, and Var, heretofore mentioned, were
regarded as messengers and attendants of Freyja. Friday (_dies Veneris_)
is named after her. (See page 237.)

                      SECTION VII. A BRIEF REVIEW.

The lives and exploits of the propitious divinities have now been
presented; and in presenting the myths we have not only given the forces
and phenomena of nature symbolized by the myths, but we have also tried
to bring the mythology down from heaven to the earth, and exhibit the
value it had in the minds of our ancestors. We have tried, as Socrates
did with his philosophy, to show what influence the myths have had upon
the life of our forefathers; in other words, we have tried to put a
kernel into the shell. We have tried to present the mythology, not as
the science and laws by which the universe is governed, but as
something—call it science or what you will—by which to illustrate how
the contemplation of the forces and phenomena of nature have influenced
human thought and action. Language is in its origin nothing but
impressions from nature, which having been revolved for a time in the
human mind find their expression in words. Poetry is in its origin
nothing else but expressions of human thought and feeling called forth
by the contemplation of the wonderful works of God. And this is also
true of mythology.

We have found the propitious divinities divided into three classes,
those of heaven, those of earth, and those of the sea. The union or
marriage between heaven and earth has been promoted in various myths.
The king of heaven is but _one_, but he embraces the earth in various
forms, and the earth is, in a new form, wedded to the god of thunder;
nay, the vans, or divinities of the sea, arise and fill the land with
blessings in various ways. The manner in which the gods are combined and
interlinked with each other in one grand system is a feature peculiar to
the Norse mythology. There is not, as in the Greek, a series of separate
groups and separate dwellings, but the gods come in frequent contact
with each other. Odin rules in the heavens, Thor in the clouds, Heimdal
in the rainbow, Balder in the realms of light, Frey with his elves of
light in the earth, but the sun affects them all: it is Odin’s eye, it
is Balder’s countenance, Heimdal needs it for his rainbow, and Frey
governs its rays; and still the sun itself rides as a beaming maid with
her horses from morning until evening. The earth has its various forms,
and the seed planted in the earth has its own god (Frey), surrounded by
the spirits of the groves, the forests and the fountains. And the king
of heaven unites man with nature; he not only provides for his animal
life, but also breathes into him a living soul and inspires him with
enthusiasm. He sits with Saga at the fountain of history; he sends out
his son Brage, the god of poetry and eloquence, and unites him with
Idun, the rejuvenating goddess, whose carefully protected rivers meander
through the grove full of fruit trees bearing golden apples; and he lets
his other son, Balder, the ruler of light, marry the industrious
flower-goddess, Nanna, who with her maids spreads a fragrant carpet over
the earth. And as the god of thunder rules but to protect heaven and
earth, so the naked desert and the impenetrable forest exist only to
remind us of the incorruptible vital force of nature, safe against all
attacks. The imperishableness of nature appears more strikingly in the
stupendous mountains and gigantic forests than in the fertile,
cultivated and protected parts of the earth. Now let us again ask: Is
there nothing here for the poet or artist? Has the Norse mythology
nothing that can be elaborated and clothed with beautiful forms and
colors? Does this mythology not contain germs that art can develop into
fragrant leaves, swelling buds and radiant blossoms? Does not this our
Gothic inheritance deserve a place with the handmaids of literature?
Will not our poets, public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and writers
of elegant literature generally, who make so many quaint allusions to,
and borrow so many elegant and suggestive illustrations from, Greek
mythology; will they not, we say, do their own ancestors the honor to
dip their pen occasionally into the mythology of the Gothic race? It is
bad practice to borrow when we can get along without it, besides the
products of the south thrive not well in our northern Gothic soil and
climate. Ygdrasil grows better here, and that is a tree large enough and
fruitful enough to sustain the Gothic race with enthusiasm and
inspiration for centuries yet to come, and to supply a a whole race of
future bards and poets and artists with a precious and animating elixir.
Our next generation will comprehend this.

Footnote 73:

  How Skade came to choose Njord when she was permitted to choose a
  husband among the gods, seeing only their feet, was related on page

Footnote 74:

  Rocky islands.

                              CHAPTER VII.

                            SECTION I. LOKE.

We have now made an acquaintance with the lives and exploits or the good
and propitious divinities, with the asas and vans. But what of the evil?
Whence come they, and how have they been developed? Many a philosopher
has puzzled his brain with this vexed question, and the wisest minds are
still engaged in deep meditations in regard to it. It is and will remain
an unsolved problem. But what did the old Goths, and particularly our
Norse forefathers, think about the development of evil? What forms did
it assume among them? How did it spring forth in nature, and how did it
impress the minds and hearts of the people? These are questions now to
be answered.

There are in the Norse mythology two individuals by the name of Loke.
The one is _Utgard_-Loke, hideous in his whole being, and his character
was sketched in the myth about Thor and Skrymer (see pp. 312-322); he
represents physical and moral evil in all its naked loathsomeness. The
other is _Asa_-Loke, of whom there also have been accounts given at
various times in connection with the propitious gods; and it is of him
solely we are now to speak, as the former belongs wholly to the race of
giants. Asa-Loke, whom we shall hereafter call by his common name, Loke,
is the same evil principle in all its various manifestations; but as he
makes his appearance among the gods, he represents evil in the seductive
and seemingly beautiful form in which it glides about through the world.
We find him flowing in the veins of the human race and call him sin, or
passion. In nature he is the corrupting element in air, fire and water.
In the bowels of the earth he is the volcanic flame, in the sea he
appears as a fierce serpent, and in the lower world we recognize him as
pale death. Thus, like Odin, Loke pervades all nature. And in no
divinity is it more clear than in this, that the idea proceeding from
the visible workings of nature entered the human heart and mind and
there found its moral or ethical reflection. Loke symbolises sin,
shrewdness, deceitfulness, treachery, malice, etc. Loke is indeed in his
development one of the profoundest myths. In the beginning he was
intimately connected with Odin, then he became united with the air, and
finally he impersonates the destructive fire. And in these changes he
keeps growing worse and worse.

In the banquet of Æger he reminds Odin that they in the beginning of
time had their blood mixed. Thus the Elder Edda:


                    Do thou mind, Odin,
                    That we in time’s morning
                    Mixed blood together!
                    Then thou pretendedst
                    That thou never wouldst ask a drink
                    Unless it was offered to both of us.

Sameness of blood symbolizes sameness of mind, and Loke is in the
Younger Edda called Odin’s brother, the uncle of the gods. Under the
name of Loder, or Lopter, Loke took part in the creation of man; he gave
the senses, the sources of evil desires, the passions, the fire of the
veins. Thus he is like the fire, which is beneficent and necessary for
development, but also dangerous and destructive. With the giantess
Angerboda (producing sorrow) he begat the wolf Fenrer, but the most
disgusting monster is the woman Hel, who is a daughter of Loke. _Odin_
unites himself with the gigantic force in nature, but he does this to
develop, ennoble and elevate it. _Loke_ unites himself with crude
matter, but by this union he only still further develops the evil
principle, which then expresses itself in all kinds of terrible
phenomena: the sea tosses its waves against heaven itself, and rushes
out upon the land; the air trembles; then comes snow and howling winds;
the rain splashes down upon the earth, etc. Such is also his influence
upon the human mind. He is the sly, treacherous father of lies. In
appearance he is beautiful and fair, but in his mind he is evil, and in
his inclinations he is inconstant. Notwithstanding his being ranked
among the gods, he is the slanderer of the gods, the grand contriver of
deceit and fraud, the reproach of gods and men. Nobody renders him
divine honors. He surpasses all mortals in the arts of perfidy and

There is some dispute about the real meaning of Loke’s name. Some derive
it from the Icelandic _lúka_, to end, thus arguing that Loke is the end
and consummation of divinity. Another definition is given, taken from
the Icelandic _logi_ (Anglo-Saxon _lîg_), according to which the primary
meaning would be fire, flame. He is also called Loder, or Lopter (the
aërial; compare Norse _luft_, Anglo-Saxon _lyft_, air); and this would
seem to corroborate the definition of Loke as fire. Loder (_lodern_, to
blaze) would then designate him in the character of the blazing earthly
fire, and Lopter as the heated and unsteady air. He is son of the giant
Farbaute, that is, the one who strikes the ships, the wind. His mother
is Laufey, or Nal, the former meaning leaf-isle, and the latter needle.
Oak trees produce leaves and pines produce needles; both Laufey and Nal
are therefore combustibles. His brothers are Byleist (dwelling
destroyer, raging flame), and Helblinde, the latter being another name
for Odin.

In the previous chapters it has frequently been seen how Loke time and
again accompanied the gods, they making use of his strength and cunning;
but it has also been shown how he acted in concert with the jotuns and
exposed the gods to very great perils and then extricated them again by
his artifices. By Loke’s advice the gods engage the artificer to build a
dwelling so well fortified that they should be perfectly safe from the
incursions of the frost-giants. For this the artificer is to receive
Freyja, providing he completes his work within a stipulated time; but
Loke prevented him from completing his task by the birth of Sleipner.
When the dwarfs forge the precious things for the gods, it is he who
brings about that the work lacks perfection, and even the handle of
Thor’s mallet, Mjolner, becomes too short; for evil is everywhere
present and makes the best things defective. He cuts the hair of the
goddess Sif, and by this he makes way for the forging of the precious
articles; thus evil often in spite of itself produces good results.
Examples of this abound in the history of the world. Loke gives Thjasse
an opportunity to rob Idun, but brings her back again and thus causes
Thjasse’s death. He hungers at Geirrod’s, and causes Thor to undertake
his dangerous journey; but he also looks after Thor’s hammer, and
accompanies him as maid-servant to get it back. He steals Freyja’s
Brisingamen, and quarrels with Heimdal about it. But his worst deed is
Balder’s death. For these reasons Loke is in Old Norse poetry called:
son of Farbaute, son of Laufey, son of Nal, brother of Byleist, brother
of Helblinde, father of the Fenris-wolf, father of the Midgard-serpent,
father of Hel, uncle of Odin, visitor and chest-goods of Geirrod, thief
of Brisingamen and of Idun’s apples, defender of Sigyn (his wife), Sif’s
hair destroyer, adviser of Balder’s bane, etc.

Odin, Hœner and Loke are often together. It is related that they once
set out to explore the whole world. They came to a stream, and followed
it until they came to a force (cascade) where there sat an otter near
the force. It had caught a salmon in the force and sat half sleeping
eating it. Then Loke picked up a stone and threw it at the otter, struck
it in the head and then boasted of his deed, for he had killed or
captured both the otter and salmon with one stone. They then took the
salmon and otter with them and came to a gard (farm), where they entered
the house. The bonde,[75] who lived there, hight Hreidmar, an able
fellow well skilled in necromancy. The gods asked for night lodgings,
but added that they were supplied with provisions whereupon they showed
what they had caught. But when Hreidmar saw the otter he called to him
his sons Fafner and Regin, and told them that their brother Odder
(otter) Wad been slain, and who had done it. Father and sons then attack
the gods, overpower and bind them, and then inform them that the otter
was Hreidmar’s son. The gods offered a ransom for their lives, as large
as Hreidmar himself would determine it; they made a treaty accordingly,
confirming it with oaths. When the otter then had been flayed, Hreidmar
took the skin and demanded that they should fill it with shining gold
and then perfectly cover it with the same. These were the terms of
agreement. Then Odin sent Loke to the home of the swarthy elves
(Svartalf-heim), where he met the dwarf Andvare (wary, cautious spirit),
who lived as a fish, in the water. Loke borrowed Ran’s net and caught
him, and demanded of him, as a ransom for his life, all the gold he had
in the rock, where he dwelt. And when they came into the rock the dwarf
produced all the gold which he possessed, which was a considerable
amount; but Loke observed that the dwarf concealed under his arm a gold
ring, and ordered him to give it up. The dwarf prayed Loke by all means
to let him keep it; for when he kept this ring, he said, he could
produce for himself more of the metal from it. But Loke said that he
should not keep so much as a penny, and took the ring from him, and went
out. Then said the dwarf, that that ring should be the bane of the
person who possessed it. Loke had no objection to this, and said that,
in order that this purpose should be kept, he should bring these words
to the knowledge of him who should possess it. Then Loke returned to
Hreidmar, and showed Odin the gold; but when the latter saw the ring he
thought it was pretty; he therefore, taking it, gave Hreidmar the rest
of the gold. Hreidmar then filled the otter-skin as well as he could,
and set it down when it was full. Then Odin went to cover the bag with
gold, and afterwards bade Hreidmar whether the bag was perfectly
covered; but Hreidmar examined, and looked carefully in every place, and
found an uncovered hair near the mouth, which Odin would have to cover,
or the agreement would be broken. Then Odin produced the ring and
covered the hair with it, and said that they now had paid the
otter-ransom. But when Odin had taken his spear, and Loke his shoes, so
that they had nothing more to fear, Loke said that the curse of the
dwarf Andvare should be fulfilled, and that this gold and this ring
should be the bane of him who possessed it. From this myth it is that
gold is poetically called otter-ransom.

And the curse was fulfilled. This curse of ill-gotten gold became the
root of a series of mortal calamities, which are related in the latter
part of the Elder Edda, in the songs about Sigurd Fafner’s bane, or the
Slayer of Fafner; about Brynhild, about Gudrun’s sorrow, Gudrun’s
revenge, in the song about Atle, etc. The curse on the gold, pronounced
upon it by Andvare, the dwarf, is the grand moral in these wonderful
songs, and never was moral worked out more terribly. Even Shakespeare
has no tragedy equal to it. When Odin and Loke had gone away, Fafner and
Regin demanded from their father, Hreidmar, a share of the ransom in the
name of their brother Odder; but Hreidmar refused, so Fafner pierced his
father with a sword while he slept. Thus Hreidmar died, but Fafner took
all the gold. Then Regin demanded his paternal inheritance, but Fafner
refused to give it, and disappeared. Another prominent character in the
Edda is Sigurd, who frequently visited Regin and told him that Fafner,
having assumed the shape of a monstrous dragon, lay on Gnita Heath, and
had Æger’s helmet, the helmet of terror, before which all living
trembled. Regin made a sword for Sigurd, which was called Gram; it was
so sharp that when it stood in the river and a tuft of wool floated on
the current, the sword would cut the wool as easily as the water. With
this sword Sigurd cut Regin’s anvil in twain. Regin excites Sigurd to
kill Fafner, and accordingly Sigurd and Regin proceeded on their way to
Gnita Heath, and discovered Fafner’s path, whereupon the latter (Fafner)
crept into the water. In the way Sigurd dug a large grave and went down
into it. When Fafner now crept away from the gold he spit poison, but
this flew over Sigurd’s head, and as Fafner passed over the grave Sigurd
pierced him with his sword to the heart. Fafner trembled convulsively,
and fiercely shook his head and tail. Sigurd sprang out of the grave
when they saw each other. Then a conversation takes place between them,
in which Fafner heaps curses upon Sigurd until the former expires. Regin
had gone away while Sigurd killed Fafner, but came back while Sigurd was
wiping the blood off the sword.


                   Hail to thee now, Sigurd!
                   Now thou best victory won
                   And Fafner slain.
                   Among all men who tread the earth
                   Most fearless
                   I proclaim thee to be born.


                   Uncertain it is to know,
                   When we all come together,
                   Sons of victorious gods,
                   Who was born most fearless;
                   Many a man is brave
                   Who still does not thrust the blade
                   Into another man’s breast.


                   Glad art thou now, Sigurd,
                   Glad of thy victory.
                   As thou wipest Gram on the grass.
                   Thou hast my
                   Brother wounded,
                   Let myself have some share therein.


                   It was thou who caused
                   That I should ride
                   Hither over frosty mountains;
                   His wealth and life
                   Would the spotted snake still possess,
                   Hadst thou not excited me to fight.

Then went Regin to Fafner and cut the heart out of him with the sword
called Ridel, and afterwards drank the blood from the wound. He said:

                     Sit down now, Sigurd!
                     I will go to sleep:
                     Hold Fafner’s heart by the fire.
                     Such a repast
                     Will I partake of
                     After this drink of blood.


                     Thou didst absent thyself
                     When I in Fafner’s blood
                     My sharp blade stained.
                     I set my strength
                     Against the power of the dragon
                     While thou didst lie in the heath


                     Long wouldst thou
                     Have let the old
                     Troll lie in the heath,
                     Hadst thou not used
                     The sword which I made,
                     Thy sharpened blade.


                     Courage is better
                     Than sword-strength
                     Where angry men must fight;
                     For the brave man
                     I always see win
                     Victory with a dull blade.
                     It it better for the brave man
                     Than for the coward
                     To join in the battle,
                     It is better for the glad
                     Than for the sorrowing
                     In all circumstances.

Sigurd took Fafner’s heart, put it on a spit and roasted it; but when he
thought it must be roasted enough, and when the juice oozed out of the
heart, he felt of it with his fingers to see whether it was well done.
He burned himself, and put his finger into his mouth, but when the blood
of Fafner’s heart touched his tongue he understood the song of birds. He
heard birds singing in the bushes, and seven birds sang a strophe each,
talking about how Regin might avenge his brother, kill Sigurd, and
possess the treasure alone, when Sigurd finally says:

                          Not so violent
                          Will fate be, that Regin
                          Shall announce my death;
                          For soon shall both
                          Brothers go
                          Hence to Hel.

And he cut the head off Regin, ate afterwards Fafner’s heart, and drank
both his and Regin’s blood. Then Sigurd heard the birds sing:

                        Sigurd! gather
                        Golden rings;
                        It is not royal
                        To be smothered by fear.
                        I know a maid
                        Fairer than all
                        Endowed with gold,
                        If thou couldst but get her.
                        To Gjuke lie
                        Green paths,
                        Fortune beckons
                        The wanderers forward;
                        There a famous king
                        Has fostered a daughter,—
                        Her thou, Sigurd, must win.

Sigurd followed the track of the dragon to his nest and found it open.
Its doors and door-frames, and all the beams and posts of the place,
were of iron, but the treasure was buried in the ground. There Sigurd
found a large heap of gold, with which he filled two chests. Then he
took the helmet of terror (Æger’s helmet), a gold cuirass, the sword
Hrotte, and many treasures, which he put on the back of the horse Grane,
but the horse would not proceed before Sigurd mounted it also.

This is but the beginning of this terrible tragedy, but our space does
not allow us here to enter upon all the fatal results of the curse of
Andvare. In the fate, first of Sigurd and Brynhild, and afterwards of
Sigurd and Gudrun, is depicted passion, tenderness and sorrow with a
vivid power which nowhere has a superior. The men are princely warriors
and the women are not only fair, but godlike, in their beauty and vigor.
The noblest sentiments and most heroic actions are crossed by the
foulest crimes and the most terrific tragedies. In this train of events,
produced by the curse of Andvare alone, there is material for a score of
dramas of the most absorbing character. In the story of Sigurd and
Brynhild, as we find it in the latter part of the Elder Edda, there are
themes for tragic and heroic composition that would become as immortal
as Dante’s _Inferno_ or Shakespeare’s _Macbeth_, for they are based on
our profoundest sympathies, and appeal most forcibly to our ideas of the
beautiful and the true.

The ring Andvarenant (Andvare’s gift), as it is called, here as
elsewhere, symbolizes wealth, which increases in the hands of the wary,
careful Andvare (_and-vari_, wary). But for avarice, that never gets
enough, it becomes a destructive curse. It is perfectly in harmony with
Loke’s character to be satisfied and pleased with the curse attached to
the ring.[76]


Loke’s wife was Sigyn; their son was Nare or Narfe, and a brother of him
was Ale (Ole) or Vale.

With the hag, Angerboda, Loke had three children. Angerbode was a
giantess of Jotunheim, and her name means anguish-boding. The children’s
names are Fenrer or Fenris-wolf, the Midgard-serpent called
Jormungander, and Hel. Tho gods were not long ignorant that these
monsters continued to be bred up in Jotunheim, and, having had recourse
to divination, became aware of all the evils they would have to suffer
from them; that they were sprung from such a bad mother was a _bad_
omen, and from such a father, one still worse. Allfather (Odin)
therefore deemed it advisable to send the gods to bring them to him.
When they came, he threw the serpent into that deep ocean by which the
earth is encircled. But the monster has grown to such an enormous size,
that holding his tail in his mouth he engirdles the whole earth. Hel he
cast headlong into Niflheim, and gave her power over nine worlds
(regions), into which she distributes those who are sent to her,—that is
to say, all who die through sickness or old age. Here she possesses a
habitation protested by exceedingly high walls and strongly-barred
gates. Her hall is called Elvidner (place of storm); hunger is her
table; starvation, her knife; delay, her man-servant; slowness, her
maid-servant; precipice, her threshold; care, her bed; and burning
anguish forms the hangings of her apartments. The one half of her body
is livid, the other half the color of human flesh. She may therefore
easily be recognized; the more so as she has a dreadfully stern and grim

The wolf Fenrer was bred up among the gods, but Tyr alone had courage
enough to go and feed him. Nevertheless, when the gods perceived that he
every day increased prodigiously in size, and that the oracles warned
then that he would one day become fatal to them, they determined to make
a very strong iron chain for him, which they called Leding. Taking this
fetter to the wolf, they requested him to try his strength on it.
Fenrer, perceiving that the enterprise would not be very difficult for
him, let them do what they pleased, permitted himself to be bound, and
then by great muscular exertion burst the chain and set himself at
liberty. The gods having seen this, made another chain, twice as strong
as the former, and this they called Drome. They prevailed on the wolf to
put it on, assuring him that, by breaking this, he would give an
incontestible proof of his strength; it would be a great honor to him if
so great a chain could not hold him.

The wolf saw well enough that it would not be so easy to break this
fetter, but finding at the same time that his strength had increased
since he broke Leding, and thinking that he could never become famous
without running some risk, he voluntarily submitted to be chained. When
the gods told him that they had finished their task, Fenrer shook
himself violently, stretched his limbs, rolled on the ground, and at
last burst his chains, which flew in pieces all around him. He thus
freed himself from Drome. From that time we have the proverbs, to get
loose out of Leding, or to dash out of Drome, when anything is to be
accomplished by powerful efforts.

After this the gods despaired of ever being able to bind the wolf;
wherefore Odin sent Skirner, the messenger of Frey, down to the abode of
the dark elves (Svartalf-heim), to engage certain dwarfs to make the
chain called Gleipner. It was made out of six things, namely, the noise
made by the footstep of a cat, the beard of a woman, the roots of the
mountains, the sinews of the bear, the breath of the fish, and the
spittle of birds (the enumeration of these things produces alliteration
in Icelandic). And although you, says he who relates this in the Younger
Edda, may not have heard of these things before, you may easily convince
yourself that I have not been telling you lies. You may have observed
that woman has no beard, that cats make no noise when they run, and that
there are no roots under the mountains; but it is a nevertheless none
the less true what I have related, although there may be some things
that you are not able to furnish proof of.

How was this chain smithied? It was perfectly smooth and soft like a
silken string, and yet, as we shall presently see, very firm and strong.
When this fetter was brought to the gods, they were profuse in their
thanks to Skirner for the trouble he had given himself and for having
done his errand so well, and taking the wolf with them they proceeded to
a lake called Amsvartner, to a holm (rocky island) which is called
Lyngve. They showed the string to the wolf, and expressed their wish
that he would try to break it, at the same time assuring him that it was
somewhat stronger than its thinness would warrant a person in supposing
it to be. They took it themselves one after another in their hands, and,
after attempting in vain to break it, said: You alone, Fenrer are able
to accomplish such a feat. Methinks, replied the wolf, that I shall
acquire no fame by breaking such a slender thread, but if any deceit or
artifice has been employed in making it, slender though it seems, it
shall never come on my feet.

The gods assured him that he would easily break a limber silken cord,
since he had already burst asunder iron fetters of the most solid
construction; but if you should not succeed in breaking it, they added,
you will show that you are too weak to cause the gods any fear, and we
will not hesitate to set you at liberty without delay. I fear much,
replied the wolf, that if you once bind me so fast that I shall be
unable to free myself by my own efforts, you will be in no haste to
loose me. Loath am I therefore to have this cord wound around me, but in
order that you may not doubt my courage, I will consent, provided one of
you put his hand into my mouth, as a pledge that you intend me no
deceit. The gods looked wistfully at one another, and thought the
conditions severe, finding that they had only the choice of two evils,
and no one would sacrifice his hand, until Tyr, as has formerly been
related, stepped forward and intrepidly put his hand between the
monster’s jaws. Thereupon the gods having tied up the wolf, he violently
stretched himself as he had formerly done, and used all his might to
disengage himself, but the more efforts he made the tighter became the
cord. Then all the gods burst out in laughter at the sight, excepting
Tyr, who lost his hand.

When the gods saw that the wolf was effectually bound, they took the
chain called Gelgja, which was attached to the cord, and drew it through
the middle of a large rock called Gjol, which they sank deep into the
earth; afterwards, to make it still more secure, they fastened the end
of the cord to another massive stone called Thvite, which they sank
still deeper. The wolf made in vain the most violent efforts to break
loose, and, opening his tremendous jaws, and turning in every possible
direction, endeavored to bite the gods. They, seeing this, thrust a
sword into his mouth within his outstretched jaws, so that the hilt
stood in his lower jaw and the point in the roof of the mouth; and this
is called his palate-spar (_gómsparri_). He howls horribly, and the foam
flows continually from his month in such abundance that it forms the
river called Von; from which the wolf is also sometimes called
Vonargander. There he will remain until Ragnarok, the Twilight of the
gods. But why did not the gods slay the wolf, when they have so much
evil to fear from him? Because they had so much respect for the sanctity
of their peace-steads that they would not stain them with the blood of
the wolf, although prophecies foretold to them that he must one day
become the bane of Odin.

The Fenris-wolf is the earthly fire chained by man, exceedingly
ferocious when let loose, as has been terribly illustrated by our recent
fires in Chicago and her sister city Boston; as a devouring wolf it
attacks and licks up the dwellings of men, as it is said in the lay of

                           Fearfully fares
                           The Fenris-wolf
                           Over the fields of men
                           When he is loosed.

Once it shall, with its upper jaw reaching to the heavens and with the
lower jaw on the earth, advance with terror and destruction, and destroy
the fire and flame of heaven, Odin (the sun). At present it is fettered
on the island, where a grave is dug and a furnace is built of stone,
with the draft (mouth) partially barred, so that the fire is surrounded
by things which prevent its spreading. It is managed and controlled by
men for their advantage, and it is so useful that no one would think of
entirely destroying it (killing it).


The Midgard- or world-serpent we have already become tolerably well
acquainted with, and recognize in him the wild tumultuous sea. Thor
contended with him; he got him on his hook, but did not succeed in
killing him. We also remember how Thor tried to lift him in the form of
a cat. The North abounds in stories about the sea-serpent, which a
nothing but variations of the original myth of the Eddas. Odin cast him
into the sea, where he shall remain until he is conquered by Thor in

                            SECTION IV. HEL.

The goddess, or giantess (it is difficult to decide what to call her),
Hel, is painted with vivid colors. She rules over nine worlds in
Niflheim, where she dwells under one of the roots of Ygdrasil. Her home
is called Helheim. The way thither, Hel-way, is long. Hermod traveled it
in nine days and nine nights. Its course is always downward and
northward. Her dwelling is surrounded by a fence or inclosure with one
or more large gates. Gloomy rivers flow through her world. One of these
streams is called Slid, which rises in the east and flows westward
through valleys of venom, and is full of mud and swords. A dog stands
outside of a cave (Gnipahellir). With blood-stained breast and loud
howling this dog came from Hel to meet Odin, when the latter rode down
to wake the vala, who lay buried in her grave-mound east of the
Hel-gate, and to inquire about the fate of Balder. Horrible is the
coming of Hel, for she binds the dying man with strong chains that
cannot be broken. Anguish gnaws his heart, and every evening Hel’s maids
come and invite him. These maids are also represented as dead women, who
come in the night and invite him who is dying to their benches. And to
the vision of the dying man opens a horrible, gloomy world of fog; he
sees the sun, the genuine star of day, sink and disappear, while he, on
the other hand, hears the gate of Hel harshly grate on its hinges,
opening to receive him. Hel receives all that die of sickness or old
age. But it also seems that others, both good and evil, come there; for
Balder we know came to Hel, after he had been slain by Hoder. And
Sigurd, who we remember slew Fafner, was afterwards assassinated by
Gunnar and went to Hel; and thither went also Brynhild, in her beautiful
car, after she had been burned on her funeral pile. Hel’s company is
large, but she has dwellings enough for all; for her regions extend
widely, and her palaces are terribly high and have large gates. Of
course it is all shadows, but it has the appearance of reality.

For Balder,

                          The decorated seats
                          Were strewn with rings;
                          The lordly couch
                          Was radiant with gold,
                          And the pure mead
                          Was brewed for him.

But there seems to have been a place set aside far down in the deepest
abyss of Hel for the wicked; for it is said that the evil went to Hel,
and thence to Niflhel, that is, down into the ninth world. And it is
here, in this most infernal pit, that the palace is named Anguish; the
table, Famine; the waiters, Slowness and Delay; the threshold,
Precipice, and the bed, Care. It is here Hel is so livid and ghastly
pale that her very looks inspire horror.

Hel’s horse has three feet. Hel-shoes were tied on to the feet of the
dead, even though they went to Valhal.

Our English word _hell_ is connected with the goddess Hel,[77] and to
kill is in Norse _at slaa ihel_ (i-Hel). The faith in this goddess is
not yet perfectly eradicated from the minds of the people. Her dog is
yet heard barking outside of houses as a warning that death is near. She
wanders about from place to place as a messenger of death. In the story
of Olaf Geirstada-alf it is a large ox, that goes from farm to farm, and
at his breath people sink down dead. In the popular mind in Norway this
messenger of death is sometimes thought to be a three-footed goat, and
at other times a white three-footed horse. To see it is a sure sign of
death. When a person has recovered from a dangerous illness, it is said
that he has given Death a bushel of oats, for her wants must be
supplied, and Hel wandering about in the guise of a goat, ox or horse,
may accept oats as a compromise.

It may also be noticed here, that the so-called Black Plague, or Black
Death, that ravaged Norway as well as many other European countries
about the middle of the fourteenth century, assumed in the minds of the
Norsemen the form of an old hag (Thok, Hel, Loke), going through the
realm from parish to parish with a rake and a broom. In some parishes
she used the rake, and there a few were spared; in other parishes she
used the broom, and there all perished, and the parishes were swept


The Norse mythology shows that our ancestors had a deeply-rooted belief
in the immortality of the soul. They believed in a state of retribution
beyond the grave. The dissolution of the body was typified by Balder’s
death, and like the latter it was result of Loke’s malignity, just as
the devil brought death upon Adam and Eve, and through them upon all

But while we find the belief in the imperishableness of the soul firmly
established, the ideas regarding the state of existence after death were
somewhat unsettled. We are soon to present the Eddaic doctrines of
future life, but in connection with Hel it seems proper to give some
further explanation of the ideas that our forefathers entertained of
death. Hel’s gate is open, or ajar, said the old Goths, when the shades
of death went out through the darkness of night and terrified all; but
it is also open to receive the child with rosy cheeks as well as the man
with hoary locks and trembling gait.

The future state was regarded as a continuation of our earthly
existence. This is proved by the custom so prevalent among the Norsemen
of supplying the dead with the best part of their property and the first
necessities of life. A coin was put under the dead man’s tongue, that he
might be able to defray his first expenses with it on his way to his
final abode. Of course the dead went either to Odin or to Hel, but the
relation between Valhal and Helheim presented difficulties which the
Norsemen strove in various ways to solve. It was said that they who are
slain in battle go to Odin in Valhal, while those who die of sickness or
old age go to Hel in Helheim. But according to this it would be the kind
of death alone which decided the soul’s future state; only those who
fell by weapons would ascend to the glad abodes of heaven, while all who
die of sickness would have to wander away to the dark world of the
abyss, and there were people in whose eyes nothing except warlike deeds
was praiseworthy. But the Odinic mythology, taken as a whole, presents a
different view, although it must be admitted, as has before repeatedly
been stated, that bravery was a cardinal virtue among our Norse

We remember, from a previous chapter in this book, that the spirit or
soul of man was a gift of Odin, while the body, blood and external
beauty were a gift of Loder, who afterwards separated from the trinity
of Odin, Hœner and Loder and became the mischievous Loke. Thus the soul
belonged to the spirit-world, or Heaven, and the body to the material
world, to the Deep. The two, soul and body, were joined together in this
earthly life, but at its close they were separated, and each returned to
its original source. The soul, with its more refined bodily form in
which it was thought to be enveloped, went to the home of the gods,
while the body, with the grosser material life, which was conceived to
be inseparable from it, went to the abodes of Hel to become the prey of
Loke’s daughter. Thus man’s being was divided between Odin and Hel.
Odin, whose chief characteristic was _god of war_, seems to have claimed
his share chiefly from those who fell in battle; and this probably may
suggest to us some reason why Balder went to Hel. Balder is not a
fighting god, he only shines, conferring numberless blessings on
mankind, and death finally steals upon him. Odin seems not to have much
need of his like. Thus death by arms came to be considered a happy lot,
by the zealous followers of the asa-faith, for it was a proof of Odin’s
favor smiling upon them. He who fell by arms was called by Odin to
himself, before Hel laid claim to her share of his being; he was Odin’s
chosen son, who with longing was awaited in Valhal, that he, in the
ranks of the einherjes, might assist and sustain the gods in their last
battle, in Ragnarok. In accordance with this theory we find in the
ancient song of praise to the fallen king Erik Blood-ax, that Sigmund
asks Odin this question:

                        Why snatch him then, father,
                        From fortune and glory?
                        Why not leave him rather
                        To fill up his story
                        On victory’s road?


                        Because no man knows
                        When gray wolf[79] so gory
                        His grisly maw shows
                        In Asgard’s abode;
                        Therefore Odin calls
                        And Erik fain falls
                        To follow his liege lord
                        And fight for his god.

By this Odin means to say, we do not know when the Fenris-wolf may come,
and therefore we may need Erik’s assistance. In the same sense the
valkyrie is made by Eyvind Skaldespiller, in Hákonarmál, to say:

                Now _are strengthened the host of the gods_,
                Since they have Haakon
                And his valiant army
                Home to themselves brought.

But because the dead who were slain by arms were thought to be called to
Valhal, to unite themselves with the hosts of the einherjes, it was not
supposed that Hel did not get her share in their being; nor was it
supposed, on the other hand, that the soul of every one who died a
natural death was shut out from heaven and forced to follow the body
down into the abodes of Hel. That it was virtue, on the whole, and not
bravery alone, which was to be rewarded in another life, and that it was
wickedness and vice that were to be punished, is distinctly shown in the
first poem of the Elder Edda, where it says of Gimle:

                            The virtuous there
                            Shall always dwell,
                            And evermore
                            Delights enjoy;

while perjurers, murderers and adulterers shall wade through thick
venom-streams in Naastrand. But it must be remembered that Gimle and
Naastrand had reference to the state of things after Ragnarok, the
Twilight of the gods; while Valhal and Hel have reference to the state
of things between death and Ragnarok,—a time of existence corresponding
somewhat to what is called _purgatory_ by the Catholic church. It may
however be fairly assumed that the ideas which our ancestors had of
reward and punishment concerning the preceding middle state (purgatory)
of the dead, were similar to those which they had concerning the state
after Ragnarok.

It was certainly believed that the soul of the virtuous, even though
death by arms had not released it from the body and raised it up to the
rank of the real einherjes, still found an abode in heaven, either in
Valhal or in Vingolf or in Folkvang. The skald, Thjodolf of Hvin, makes
King Vanlande go to Odin, although Hel tortured him; and Egil
Skallagrimson, lamenting the death of his drowned son, knows that the
son has come to the home of the gods (Gudheimr), while of himself he
says that he fearlessly awaits the coming of Hel.

Of Nanna we read that she went with her husband, Balder, to Hel; but the
souls of noble women were believed to go to heaven after death. There
they found an abode with Freyja, and the spirits of maidens with Gefjun.
When it is said that Freyja shares the slain with Odin, it may be
supposed to mean that the slain, who in life had loved wives, were
united to them again with Freyja.

On the other hand, it was as certainly believed that blasphemy and
baseness might shut out even the bravest from Valhal. In the Saga of
Burnt Njal, Hakon Jarl says of the bold but wicked Hrap, who had seduced
his benefactor’s daughter and burned a temple: The man who did this
shall be banished from Valhal and never come thither.

The reader may think that the statements here presented show some
inconsistency in the theory and plan of salvation according to the
doctrines of the Norse mythology. We admit that there _seems_ to be some
inconsistency, but let us ask, is not this charge also frequently made
against the Scriptures? Is not the church, on this very question of the
plan of salvation, divided into two great parties, the one insisting on
faith and the other on works? The one party quoting and requoting Paul,
in his epistle to the Romans (iii, 28), where he says, that man is
justified by _faith_ without the deeds of the law; and the other
appealing to James’ epistle (ii, 24), where he says, that by works a man
is justified, and not by faith only. And as the most eminent divines
have found harmony in the principles of the Mosaic-Christian religion as
laid down in the Scriptures, so we venture to assert that a profound
study of the Odinic mythology will enable the student to elicit a
sublime harmony in its doctrines and principles.

The strict construction of the asa-doctrine appears to be this, that
although man in the intermediate state, between death and Ragnarok, was
divided between Odin and Hel, yet each one’s share of his being, after
death, was greater or less according to the life he had lived. The
spirit of the virtuous and the brave had the power to bear up to heaven
with it after death the better part of its corporeal being, and Hel
obtained only the dust. But he whose spirit, by wickedness and base,
sensual lust was drawn away from heaven, became in all his being the
prey of Hel. His soul was not strong enough to mount freely up to the
celestial abodes of the gods, but was drawn down into the abyss by the
dust with which it had ever been clogged. Perhaps the representation of
Hel as being half white and half pale-blue had its origin in this
thought, that to the good, death appeared as a bright (white) goddess of
deliverance, but to the wicked, as a dark and punishing deity.

When the drowned came to the halls of Ran, the sea-goddess took the part
of Hel; that is, Ran claimed the body as her part, while the spirit
ascended to heaven.

Bondsmen came to Thor after death. This seems to express the idea, that
their spirits had not the power to mount up with free-born heroes to the
higher celestial abodes, but were obliged to linger midway, as it were,
among the low floating clouds under the stern dominion of Thor;—a
thought painful to the feelings of humanity, but nevertheless not
inconsistent with the views of our ancestors in ancient times. But when
the bondsmen, as was the custom in the most ancient Gothic times,
followed their master on the funeral pile, the motive must have been
that they would continue to serve him in the future life, or their
throwing themselves on their master’s funeral pile could have no meaning

The old Norsemen had many beautiful ideas in connection with death. Thus
in the lay of Atle it is said of him who dies that he goes to the other
light. That the dead in the mounds were a state of consciousness is
illustrated by the following passages from Fridthiof’s Saga:

             Now, children, lay us in two lofty graves
             Down by the sea-shore, near the deep-blue waves:
             Their sounds shall to our souls be music sweet,
             Singing our dirge as on the strand they beat.

             When round the hills the pale moonlight is thrown
             And midnight dews fall on the Bautn-stone,
             We’ll sit, O Thorsten, in one rounded graves
             And speak together o’er the gentle waves.

Finally, it is a beautiful thought that there was a sympathetic union
between the dead and the living. As the Persians believed that the
rivers of the lower world grew by the tears of the living and interfered
with the happiness of the departed, so the Norse peasant still believes
that when a daughter weeps for the death of her father she must take
care that no tear falls on his corpse, for thereby the peace of the
deceased would be disturbed. We find this same thought expressed in the
Elder Edda, where Helge says to Sigrun:

                        Thou alone causest, Sigrun
                        From Sevafjeld,
                        That Helge is bathed
                        In sorrow’s dew.

                        Thou weepest, gold-adorned,
                        Sunbright woman!
                        Cruel tears,
                        Before thou goest to sleep.
                        Every bloody tear
                        Fell on the king’s breast,
                        Ice-cold and swelling
                            With sorrow.

Thus also in the old song of Aage and Else:

                        Whenever thou grievest,
                        My coffin is within
                        As livid blood:
                        Whenever thou rejoicest,
                        My coffin is within
                        Filled with fragrant roses.

                     SECTION VI. LOKE’S PUNISHMENT.

Loke and Balder struggled for the government of the world. Loke
gradually grew victorious in his terrible children, while Balder,
defenseless and innocent, had nothing but his shining purity with which
to oppose Loke’s baseness. Loke’s wickedness reached its culminating
point in the death of Balder and in the hag Thok, who with arid tears
would wail Balder from Hel.

According to the Younger Edda it would seem that Loke was punished
immediately after the death of Balder, but according to the Elder Edda
the banquet of Æger seems to have taken place after the death of Balder,
and there Loke was present to pour out in words his enmity to the
defeated gods. When Æger had received the large kettle, that Thor had
brought him from the giant Hymer, he brewed ale for the gods and invited
them to a banquet. The gods and elves were gathered there, but Thor was
not present. Æger’s servants were praised for their attentiveness and
agility. This Loke could not bear to hear, and he killed one of them by
name Funfeng. The gods drove him into the woods, but when they had
seated themselves at the table and had begun to drink he came back
again, and asked Elder, the other servant of Æger, what the gods talked
about at the banquet. They talk about their weapons and about their
bravery, replied Elder, but neither the gods nor the elves speak well of
you. Then, said Loke, I must go into Æger’s hall, to look at the
banquet: scolding and evil words bring I to the sons of the gods and mix
evil in their ale. Then Loke went into the hall; but when they who were
there saw who had entered, they were all silent. Then said Loke to the

                       Thirsty I hither
                       To the hall came—
                       Long way I journeyed—
                       The gods to ask
                       Whether one would grant me
                       A drink of the precious mead.

                       Why are ye silent, gods!
                       And sit so stubborn?
                       Have ye lost your tongues?
                       Give me a seat
                       And place at the banquet,
                       Or turn me away.


                       The gods will never
                       Give you a seat
                       And place at the banquet:
                       Well know the gods
                       To whom they will give
                       Pleasure at the banquet.

Then Loke begins to abuse the gods, and reminds Odin how they once mixed
blood together,—and Vidar must yield him his seat. But before Loke drank
he greeted all the gods and goddesses excepting Brage, who occupied the
innermost bench. And now Loke pours out his abuse upon all the gods and
goddesses, much of which has been given heretofore. His last quarrel is
with Sif, the wife of Thor. But then Beyla hears the mountains quake and
tremble. It is Thor that is coming; and when he enters the hall he
threatens to crush every bone in Loke’s body; and to him Loke finally
yields, for he knows that Thor carries out his threats. On going out he
heaps curses upon Æger, and hopes that he (Æger) may never more make
banquets for the gods, but that flames may play upon his realm and burn
him too.

Loke now fled and hid himself in the mountains. There he built him a
dwelling with four doors, so that he could see everything that passed
around him. Often in the daytime he assumed the likeness of a salmon and
concealed himself under the waters of a cascade called Fraananger Force,
where he employed himself in divining and circumventing whatever
stratagems the gods might have recourse to in order to catch him. One
day as he sat in his dwelling he took flax and yarn and worked them into
meshes, in the manner that nets have since been made by fishermen. Odin
had however, sitting in Hlidskjalf, discovered Loke’s retreat; and the
latter, becoming aware that the gods were approaching, threw his net
into the fire and ran to conceal himself in the river. When the gods
entered Loke’s house, Kvaser, who as the most distinguished among them
all for his quickness and penetration, traced out in the hot embers the
vestiges of the net which had been burnt, and told Odin that it must be
an invention to catch fish. Whereupon they set to work and wove a net
after the model they saw imprinted in the ashes. This net, when
finished, they threw into the river in which Loke had hid himself. Thor
held one end of the net and all the other gods laid hold of the other
end, thus jointly drawing it along the stream. Notwithstanding all their
precautions the net passed over Loke, who had crept between two stones,
and the gods only perceived that some living thing had touched the
meshes. They therefore cast their net a second time, hanging so great a
weight to it that it everywhere raked the bed of the river. But Loke,
perceiving that he had but a short distance to the sea, swam onward and
leapt over the net into the force. Tho gods instantly followed him and
divided themselves into two bands. Thor, wading along in mid-stream,
followed the net, whilst the others dragged it along toward the sea.
Loke then perceived that he had only two chances of escape,—either to
swim out to the sea, or to leap again over the net. He chose the latter,
but as he took a tremendous leap Thor caught him in his hand. Being
however extremely slippery, he would have escaped had not Thor held him
fast by the tail; and this is the reason why salmon have had their tails
ever since so fine and slim.

The gods having thus captured Loke, they dragged him without
commiseration into a cavern, wherein they placed three sharp-pointed
rocks, boring a hole through each of them. Having also seized Loke’s
children, Vale and Nare, or Narfe, they changed the former into a wolf,
and in this likeness he tore his brother to pieces and devoured him. The
gods then made cords of his intestines, with which they bound Loke on
the points of the rocks, one cord passing under his shoulders, another
under his loins, and a third under his hams, and afterwards transformed
these cords to fetters of iron. Then the giantess Skade took a serpent
and suspended it over him in such a manner that the venom should fall
into his face, drop by drop. But Sigyn, Loke’s wife, stands by him and
receives the drops, as they fall, in a cup, which she empties as often
as it is filled. But while she is doing this, venom falls upon Loke,
which makes him shriek with horror and twist his body about so violently
that the whole earth shakes; and this produces what men call
earthquakes. There will Loke lie until Ragnarok.

Here we have Loke in the form of a salmon. Slippery as a salmon, is as
common an adage in Norseland as our American: slippery as an eel. Lobe
himself makes the net by which he is caught and ruined. This is very
proper; sin and crime always bring about their own ruin. The chaining of
Loke is one of the grandest myths in the whole mythology. That Loke
represents fire in its various forms, becomes clearer with every new
fact, every new event in his life. Skade is the cold mountain stream,
that pours its venom upon Loke. Sigyn takes much of it away, but some of
it will, in spite of her, come in contact with the subterranean fire,
and the earth quakes and the geysers spout their scalding water. But who
cannot see human life represented in this grand picture? All great
convulsions in the history of man are brought about in the same manner,
and beside the great forces of revolution stand the pious, gentle and
womanly minds who with the cup of religion or with the eloquence of the
pure spirit prevent the most violent outbreaks of storm among the
nations, and pour their quieting oils upon the disturbed waters. And who
does not remember cases at the shrine of the family, where the
inevitable consequences of man’s folly and crime produce convulsive
crises, misfortunes and misery, which the wife shares, prevents and
moderates with her soft hand, gentle tears, and soothing words,—always
cheerful and never growing weary. It is woman’s divine work in life, in
a quiet manner to bring consolation and comfort, and never to despair.

As the earth and sea in their various manifestations are represented by
various divinities, so the fire also presents various forms. It is
celestial, united with Odin; it is earthly in the Fenris-wolf, and it is
subterranean in the chained Loke. That Loke symbolizes fire, is also
illustrated by the fact that the common people in Norway, when they hear
the fire crackling, say that Loke is whipping his children. In a wider
sense Loke is in one word the evil one, the devil. The common people
also know Loke as a divinity of the atmosphere. When the sun draws
water, they say that Loke is drinking water. When vapors arise from the
earth and float about in the atmosphere, this phenomenon is also
ascribed to Loke. When he sows his oats among the grain, he produces a
peculiar aërial phenomenon, of which the novelist Blicher speaks in one
of his romances, saying that this trembling motion of the air, which the
people call Loke’s oats, confuses and blinds the eyes. Nay, truly it
confuses and blinds, for we need not take this only in a literal sense.
It is that motion which shocks the nerves of man when the soul conceives
evil thoughts; it is that nervous concussion which shocks the whole
system of the criminal when he goes to commit his foul misdeed.

Having now given a description of Loke,—having painted with words the
character of this wily, mischievous, sly and deceitful divinity,—we ask,
with Petersen, where is the painter who will present him in living
colors on canvas? We want a personal representation of him. We want his
limbs, his body and his head. Where is the painter who can give his chin
the proper form, his mouth the right shape, paint his dimples with those
deep and fine wrinkles when he smiles, and do justice to his nose and
upper lip? Who will paint those delicate elevations and depressions of
his cheeks, that terrible brilliancy of his eyes, his subtle and crafty
forehead, and his hair at once stiff and wavy? Who will paint this
immortal youth who yet everywhere reveals his old age, or this old man
whose face mocks at everything like a reckless youth? Here is a theme
without a model, a theme for a master of the art.

                      SECTION VII. THE IRON POST.

The following story from the south of Germany illustrates how stories
can be remodeled and changed as to their external adornment and still
preserve their fundamental feature. The reader will not fail to discover
Loke in the following tradition, entitled _Der Stock im Eisen_, a story
which in its most original form must date back to the time when Loke was
known in Germany.

Opposite St. Stephen’s Tower in Vienna there is found, it is said, one
of the old landmarks of this city, the so-called _Stock im Eisen_ (the
iron post). It is a post that has in the course of time become blackened
and charred, and into which nail after nail has been driven so close
together that there is not room for a single one more, and the post is
literally inclosed in an iron casing. This covering of iron keeps the
dry post in an upright position, and near the ground it is fastened by
an iron ring with unusually wonderful lock. In olden times this post was
a landmark, for to it extended the great Wienerwald. In connection with
it the following tale is told by H. Meinert:

    A young good-looking locksmith apprentice, by name Reinbert, had
    secretly won the heart and become engaged to his master’s daughter
    Dorothea; but there was not much hope that she would ever become his
    wife. One evening the two lovers agreed to meet outside the city:
    they forget themselves in their conversation, in their doubts and
    their hopes, and hear not the clock that strikes the hour when the
    gate of the city is to be closed; and the lover has forgotten to
    take money along to get it opened. But what a misfortune if they
    should be shut out, what a disgrace to his beloved, if it should
    become known that she has spent the night outside the city, outside
    of her father’s house, in company with a man! Suddenly there arises
    as it were from the ground a pale man, with the contour of his face
    sharply marked, with wonderful flashing eyes, wearing a black cloak
    and black hat, and in the latter waves a cock-feather. Reinbert
    involuntarily shudders as he sees him, but still he does not forget
    his misfortune in being shut out of the city; he therefore explains
    his distress to the stranger, and asks him to lend him enough to pay
    the gate-watch. Like for like! whispers the stranger into Reinbert’s
    ear; if I am to help you and your beloved out of your distress, then
    you must promise me upon the salvation of your soul never any Sunday
    to neglect the holy mass. Reinbert hesitates; but it is in fact a
    pious promise, and necessity knows no laws. He promises, and the
    gate opens as it were spontaneously.

    Four weeks later, when Reinbert sat in his workshop, the door opens
    and that strange man enters. Reinbert shudders at the sight of him;
    but when the stranger does not even care to look at him and only
    asks for his master, he regains his peace of mind. When the
    apprentices had called the master, the visitor ordered an iron
    fastening, with lock and bolt, and the master is willing to
    undertake the work. But now began the stranger (cunning as Loke)
    with a wonderful knowledge of details to mention all the different
    parts of the lock, explained with great eloquence the whole plan of
    it, and took special pains to describe the manner in which the
    springs must necessarily be bent and united; and although both the
    master and the apprentices had to admit that such a lock was not
    without the range of possibilities,—nay, that it would indeed be a
    masterpiece,—still their heads began to swim when they tried to
    think of its wonderful construction and arrange the plan in their
    minds, and they had to admit that they did not trust themselves to
    do the work. Then the stranger’s mouth assumed a deeply-furrowed,
    indescribably scornful smile; and he said with contempt: Call
    yourselves master and apprentices, when you do not know how to
    undertake a work that the youngest one among you can do in less than
    an hour! The youngest one among us, murmured the apprentices; do you
    think that Reinbert would be able to do it,—he is the youngest one
    among us? O yes, said the stranger, he there can do it, or his look
    must deceive me much. With these words he called out the astounded
    Reinbert, explained to him once more the plan of the lock, and
    added: If you do not save the honor of the smiths, the whole world
    shall know their disgrace: but if you can get the lock ready within
    two hours, no master will refuse you his daughter, after you have
    saved his reputation. Yes indeed, said the master, if you can
    perform such an impossibility, Dorothea shall be yours. While the
    stranger described the nature of the lock, Reinbert had sunk into
    deep reflections; to his soul the narrow workshop widened into a
    large plain; he saw a beautiful, happy future blooming before him;
    by strange and wonderful voices he heard himself styled the master
    of masters; and his beloved he saw approaching him with the bridal
    wreath entwined in her locks; and just at that moment he heard his
    master’s words: If you can perform such an impossibility, Dorothea
    shall be yours. He immediately began his work; it seemed as if he
    were working with a hundred arms: each blow of the hammer gave form
    to a part of the work; by a peculiar resounding the hammer-blows
    seemed to multiply, as if more invisible hands hammered with him,
    while the stranger in the red glare of the flame looked like a
    pillar of fire (Loke). After the lapse of an hour the work was
    finished. Apprentices and master looked at it and examined it,
    shaking their heads, and with mouths wide open; but there was no
    doubt that Reinbert had accomplished a masterpiece never seen
    before, and the master ascribed it to his enthusiasm awakened by his
    love. The stranger took the lock and went ahead; the master with
    Reinbert and all his apprentices and the members of his family
    followed, and all proceeded to the place where the iron post (Stock
    im Eisen) now stands. Here the stranger placed an iron chain around
    the post and fastened it with Reinbert’s lock. When they returned,
    the stranger had disappeared, and with him the key to the marvelous

We omit a part of the story, taking only that part which has reference
to Loke.

    On account of slander, Reinbert had to travel far and wide before he
    finally got his beloved Dorothea. A few days after he had returned,
    the government issued a proclamation to the effect that whatever
    smith could make a key that would open that lock should thereby get
    his diploma of mastership. Reinbert announced himself a candidate,
    and repaired to his workshop to make the key. But for the first time
    his work did not seem to succeed. The iron was stubborn and would
    not assume the form required; and it seemed astonishing to him, when
    he at last had succeeded in giving the key the proper form, and put
    it into the furnace to temper it, it was turned and twisted when he
    took it out again. His impatience grew into wrath. But when he at
    length, after many unsuccessful attempts, had got the key ready and
    put it into the furnace and carefully scrutinized to see what it was
    that thus always ruined his work, he saw in the midst of the fire a
    claw seize after the key, and terror-stricken he discovered that
    disagreeable stranger’s twisted face (Loke) staring at him out of
    the burning furnace. He quickly snatched the key away, turned it,
    seized it with the tongs at the other end, and put it into the fire
    again; and lo and behold! when he took it out the handle was
    somewhat twisted, but the head preserved its right shape. (We
    remember that it was Loke’s fault that the handle of Thor’s hammer
    became rather short.)

    Reinbert now announced to the government that the key was ready; and
    the day after the government officials and the citizens marched in
    procession to the iron post, and Reinbert’s key opened the lock. In
    his enthusiasm at his success he threw the key high up in the air,
    but to everybody’s surprise it did not come down again. It was
    sought for everywhere, but could nowhere be found, and Reinbert had
    to promise to make a new one some time. To commemorate the fact that
    it had been possible to open the lock he drove a nail into the
    woodon post, and since that time every smith has done the same when
    he left Vienna; thus this post was formed with its numberless nails.

    Reinbert became a master and married his beloved. Up to this time he
    had kept his promise and had attended upon the holy mass every
    Sunday; he began to drink and gamble, but he conscientiously
    continued to keep his promise. Finally it happens that he once
    stayed a little too long at the gambling-house, and hastens
    terrified in order not too late to church. But the door of St.
    Stephen’s church is closed. Outside sits an old woman (Loke assumed
    the guise of a woman[80] after Balder’s death), who, in answer to
    his question, informs him that mass is out. Filled with deadly
    anguish he rushes back to his comrades, who laughed at him and
    insisted that, as as began at half-past eleven o’clock, and as it
    was only three-quarters past eleven, the mass could not yet be over.
    He hastens back again: the church-door is now open, but at the very
    moment he enters, the priest leaves the altar—the mass is over. The
    old woman rises, seizes him by the arms, and his soul departs from

Thus the myth develops into traditionary story, and one story begets
another; they wander about from the south to the north and from the
north to the south, and change with the times, reminding us of the
various manifestations of life; reminding us how human things circulate
and develop, each inextricably interwoven with all, and always reminding
us, too, that there is a heaven above the earth and an existence beyond
what is allotted to us mortals on earth.

                     SECTION VIII. A BRIEF REVIEW.

We have now completed the second part of our work, and witnessed the
life and exploits of the gods. It remains now to sum up briefly the main
features of, and the principal lessons taught in, this portion of the

We cannot fail to have observed that the life of the gods is, in the
first place, a reflection of the workings of visible nature, and, in the
second place, a reflection and foreshadowing of the life of man,
particularly of life in its various manifestations in the history of the
Gothic race. We have also witnessed how wonderfully the interests and
works of the gods—nay, how absolutely the gods themselves—are
interlinked with each other,—that centralizing thought which, as has
been said before, forms one of the most prominent characteristics of
Norse or Gothic mythology, thought and history.

We have seen how the divinities and demons, after having been created,
enter upon various activities, contend with each other and are
reconciled, and how new beings are developed in this struggle, all
destined to fight on one side or the other in the final conflict.

The myth reflects nature and society, the one inextricably in communion
with the other; and in the development of nature and society we find
three relations: the relation of the asas to the giants, the relation of
the asas to the vans, and the relation of Loke to Odin. The asas and the
giants try to unite, but meet with poor success, their natures are too
opposite. The union of the asas and vans is accomplished with but little
difficulty; while between Odin and Loke there is a tendency to separate
more and more. The beginning of warfare between the gods and the giants
is the beginning of nature’s development; the giants storm the heavens
and are repulsed; this struggle lasts through life, and in it Sleipner
is produced. Later, begins the war between the asas and vans, which ends
in peace, and with this peace begins the development of society; the
asas and vans together forming a series of beautiful myths, that have
reference to war, to the cultivation of the earth, to the civilizing
influences of the water, to the greater development of the mind and
heart,—that is, to knowledge, love, humanity and peace,—the object of
which reconciliation, reached by labor and struggles. But enmity soon
arises among the gods themselves. Odin’s union with Loke is dissolved.
In the midst of the good there is evil. The evil proceeds from the good
by separation, by taking a wrong course. The unity of the spirit is
destroyed when anything tears itself loose from it and assumes an
independent position in opposition to it. Loke separates himself from
Odin and develops himself independently. He acts like Odin; he permeates
all nature and the soul of man; but he does it independently, and the
result is that the powers of evil spread over the earth in the form of
Loke’s children. Everything becomes wild and tumultuous. Fire rages in
its frantic fury in the character of the Fenris-wolf. The
Midgard-serpent represents the furious convulsions of the sea; cowardice
seizes the heart and begets the pale Hel, death without conflict, life
as a mere shadow. Thus it goes on. Knowledge rightly used is a blessing,
but unconstrained by prudence it degenerates into cunning and
deceitfulness; killing is honorable, but unconstrained by justice and
valor it becomes foul murder; to break a promise that can no longer be
kept is proper, but when done recklessly it is perjury. We find,
throughout the life of the gods, light and darkness well defined and
distinctly separated. Loke fluctuates between the two; he gradually
leaves light and unites himself to darkness. The darkness of night
supplants the light of day; the gloomy winter overcomes the shining
summer. The gods learn that they are subject to the infirmities of old
age; the rejuvenating Idun sinks into the abyss. From the depths below,
Odin receives warnings that the light of life may be extinguished. Loke
begins his conflict with Balder; finally his stratagem and cunning gain
a victory, and all the sorrowing of nature is in vain. Loke is chained,
but Balder does not return from Hel. Vale has avenged his brother’s
death, but the end of life is at hand. And now we are prepared for

Footnote 75:

  Peasant, farmer.

Footnote 76:

  To anyone who wishes to read this great epic of the North, we would
  recommend the _Völsunga Saga_ translated by Eiríkr Magnússon and
  William Morris. London, 1872.

Footnote 77:

  They are both derived from the Anglo-Saxon _hélan_ or _helian_, to
  cover, to conceal; compare the English _to hill_.

Footnote 78:

  For a more complete discussion of this subject the reader is referred
  to Keyser’s _Religion of the Northmen_ translated by Barclay Pennock.
  New York, 1854.

Footnote 79:

  The Fenris-wolf.

Footnote 80:


                               PART III.
                       RAGNAROK AND REGENERATION.


                         Lítið sjáum aptr,
                         En ekki fram;
                         Skyggir Skuld fyrir sjón.

                               CHAPTER I.

The final destruction of the world, and regeneration of gods and men, is
called Ragnarok; that is, the Twilight of the gods (_Ragna_, from
_regin_, gods, and _rökr_, darkness).

The journey through life has been a long one, and yet we have not
reached the end, for the end is also the beginning. Death is the center,
where the present and future existence meet. When life ends, there is a
change, there comes a new day and a sun without a shadow.

In comparing the Greek mythology with the Norse, it was stated, that the
Norse has a theoktonic myth, while the Greek lacks the final act of the
grand drama. The Greeks knew of no death of the gods; their gods were
immortal. And yet, what were they but an ideal conception of the forms
of life? And this life with all its vanity, pomp and glory, the Greek
loved so dearly, that he thought it must last forever. He imagined an
everlasting series of changes. But what will then the final result be?
Shall the thundering Zeus forever continue to thunder? Shall the
faithless Aphrodite forever be unfaithful? Shall Typhon forever go on
with his desolations? Shall the sinner continue to sin forever, and
shall the world continue without end to foster and nourish evil? These
are questions that find no satisfactory answer in the Greek mythology.

Among the Norsemen, on the other hand, we find in their most ancient
records a clearly expressed faith in the perishableness of all things;
and we find this faith at every step that the Norsemen has taken. The
origin of this faith we seek in vain; it conceals itself beneath the
waters of the primeval fountains of their thoughts and aspirations. They
regarded death as but the middle of a long life. They considered it
cowardice to spare a life that is to return; they thought it folly to
care for a world that must necessarily perish; while they knew that
their spirits would be clothed with increased vigor in the other world.
Happy were they who lived beneath the polar star, for the greatest fear
that man knows, the fear of death, disturbed them not. They rushed
cheerfully upon the sword; they entered the battle boldly, for, like
their gods, who every moment looked forward to the inevitable Ragnarok,
they knew that life could be purchased by a heroic death.

The very fact that the gods in the creation proceeded from the _giant_
Ymer foreshadowed their destruction. The germ of death was in their
nature from the beginning, and this germ would gradually develop as
their strength gradually became wasted and consumed. That which is born
must die, but that which is not born cannot grow old.

The gradual growth of this germ of death, and corresponding waste of the
strength of the gods, is profoundly sketched throughout the mythology.
The gods cannot be conquered, unless they make themselves weak; but such
is the very nature of things, that they must do this. To win the
charming Gerd, Frey must give away his sword, but when the great final
conflict comes he has no weapon. In order that the Fenris-wolf may be
chained, Tyr must risk his right hand, and he loses it. How shall he
then fight in Ragnarok? Balder could not have died, had not the gods
been blind and presumptuous; their thoughtlessness put weapons into the
hands of their enemy. Hoder would never have thrown the fatal mistletoe,
had not their own appointed game been an inducement to him to honor his
brother. When Loke became separated from Odin, the death of the gods was
a foregone conclusion.

The imperfection of nature is also vividly depicted in the Eddas. The
sun was so scorching hot that the gods had to place a shield before it;
the fire was so destructive that the gods had to chain it, in order that
it might not bring ruin upon the whole world. Life, after the natural
death, was not continued only in the shining halls of Valhal, but also
in the subterranean regions among the shades of Hel.

Our old Gothic fathers, in the poetic dawn of our race, investigated the
origin and beginning of nature and time. The divine poetic and
imaginative spark in them lifted them up to the Eternal, to that
wonderful secret fountain which is the source of all things. They looked
about them in profound meditation to find the image and reflection of
that glorious harmony which their soul in its heavenly flight had found,
but in all earthly things they discovered strife and warfare. When the
storms bent the pine trees on the mountain tops, and when the foaming
waves rolled in gigantic fury against the rocky cliffs, the Norseman saw
strife. When the growl of the bear and the howl of the wolf blended with
the moaning of the winds and the roaring of the waters, he heard strife.
In unceasing conflict with the earth, with the beasts and with each
other, he saw men stand, conquer, and fall. If he lifted his weary eye
toward the skies, he saw the light struggling with darkness and with
itself. When light arose out of darkness, it was greeted with
enthusiasm; when it sank again into darkness, its rays were broken and
it dissolved in glimmering colors; and if he looked down into the heart
of man, into his own breast, he found that all this conflict of opposing
elements in the outward world did but faintly symbolize that terrible
warfare pervading and shattering his whole being. Well might he long for
peace, and can we wonder that this deep longing for rest and peace,
which filled his heart in the midst of all his struggles,—can we wonder,
we say, that his longing for peace found a grand expression in a final
conflict through which imperishableness and harmony were attained?

This final conflict, this dissolution of nature’s and life’s disharmony,
the Edda presents to us in the death of the gods, which is usually, as
stated, called Ragnarok.

There is nothing more sublime in poetry than the description, in the
Eddas, of Ragnarok. It is preceded by ages of crime and terror. The vala
looks down into Niflheim,

                         There saw she wade
                         In the heavy streams
                         Men—foul murderers,
                         And perjurers,
                         And them who other’s wives
                         Seduce to sin.

The growing depravity and strife in the world proclaim the approach of
this great event. First there is a winter called Fimbul-winter, during
which snow will fall from the four corners of the world; the frosts will
be very severe, the winds piercing, the weather tempestuous, and the sun
will impart no gladness. Three such winters shall pass away without
being tempered by a single summer. Three other similar winters follow,
during which war and discord will spread over the whole earth. Brothers
for the sake of mere gain shall kill each other, and no one shall spare
either his parents or his children. Thus the Elder Edda:

                       Brothers slay brothers;
                       Sisters’ children
                       Shed each other’s blood.
                       Hard is the world;
                       Sensual sin grows huge.
                       There are sword-ages, ax-ages;
                       Shields are cleft in twain;
                       Storm-ages, murder-ages;
                       Till the world falls dead,
                       And men no longer spare
                       Or pity one another.

Then shall happen such things as may truly be regarded as great
miracles. The Fenris-wolf shall devour the sun, and a severe loss will
that be to mankind. The other wolf[81] will take the moon, and this,
too, will cause great mischief. Then the stars shall be hurled from the
heavens, and the earth shall be shaken so violently that trees will be
torn up by the roots, the tottering mountains will tumble headlong from
their foundations, and all bonds and fetters will be shivered to pieces.
The Fenris-wolf then breaks loose and the sea rushes over the earth on
account of the Midgard-serpent writhing in giant rage and gaining the
land. On the waters floats the ship Naglfar (nail-ship), which is
constructed of the nails of dead men. For this reason great care should
be taken to die with pared nails, for he who dies with his nails unpared
supplies materials for the building of this ship, which both gods and
men wish may be finished as late as possible. But in this flood shall
Naglfar float, and the giant Hrym be its steersman.

The Fenris-wolf advances and opens his enormous mouth; the lower jaw
reaches to the earth and the upper one to heaven, and he would open it
still wider had he room to do so. Fire flashes from his eyes and
nostrils. The Midgard-serpent, placing himself by the side of the
Fenris-wolf, vomits forth floods of poison, which fill the air and the
waters. Amidst this devastation the heavens are rent in twain, and the
sons of Muspel come riding through the opening in brilliant array. Surt
rides first, and before and behind him flames burning fire. His sword
outshines the sun itself. Bifrost (the rainbow), as they ride over it,
breaks to pieces. Then they direct their course to the battle-field
called Vigrid. Thither repair also the Fenris-wolf and the
Midgard-serpent, and Loke with all the followers of Hel, and Hrym with
all the frost-giants. But the sons of Muspel keep their effulgent bands
apart on the battle-field, which is one hundred miles (rasts) on each

Meanwhile Heimdal arises, and with all his strength he blows the
Gjallar-horn to arouse the gods, who assemble without delay. Odin then
rides to Mimer’s fountain and consults Mimer how he and his warriors are
to enter into action. The ash Ygdrasil begins to quiver, nor is there
anything in heaven or on earth that does not fear and tremble in that
terrible hour. The gods and all the einherjes of Valhal arm themselves
with speed and sally forth to the field, led on by Odin with his golden
helmet, resplendent cuirass, and spear called Gungner. Odin places
himself against the Fenris-wolf. Thor stands by his side, but can render
him no assistance, having himself to combat the Midgard-serpent. Frey
encounters Surt, and terrible blows are exchanged ere Frey falls; and he
owes his defeat to his not having that trusty sword which he gave to
Skirner. That day the dog Garm, that had been chained in the Gnipa-cave,
breaks loose. He is the most fearful monster of all, and attacks Tyr,
and they kill each other. Thor gains great renown for killing the
Midgard-serpent, but at the same time, retreating nine paces, he falls
dead upon the spot, suffocated with the floods of venom which the dying
serpent vomits forth upon him. The wolf swallows Odin, but at that
instant Vidar advances, and setting his foot upon the monster’s lower
jaw he seizes the other with his hand, and thus tears and rends him till
he dies. Vidar is able to do this because he wears those shoes which
have before been mentioned, and for which stuff has been gathered in all
ages, namely, the shreds of leather which are cut off to form the toes
and heels of shoes; and it is on this account that those who desire to
render service to the gods should take care to throw such shreds away.
Loke and Heimdal fight and kill each other. Then Surt flings fire and
flame over the world. Smoke wreathes up around the all-nourishing tree
(Ygdrasil), the high flames play against the heavens, and earth consumed
sinks down beneath the sea.

All this is vividly and sublimely presented in the Elder Edda, thus:

                      East of Midgard in the Ironwood
                      The old hag[82] sat,
                      Fenrer’s terrible
                      Race she fostered.
                      One[83] of them
                      Shall at last
                      In the guise of a troll
                      Devour the moon.

                      It feeds on the bodies
                      Of men, when they die:
                      The seats of the gods
                      It stains with red blood:
                      The sunshine blackens
                      In the summers thereafter
                      And the weather grows bad—
                      Know ye now more or not?

                      The hag’s watcher,
                      The glad Edger,
                      Sat on the hill-top
                      And played his harp;
                      Near him crowed
                      In the bird-wood
                      A fair-red cock
                      Which Fjalar hight.

                      Among the gods crowed
                      The gold-combed cock,
                      He who wakes in Valhal
                      The hosts of heroes;
                      Beneath the earth
                      Crows another,
                      The root-red cock,
                      In the halls of Hel.

                      Loud barks Garm
                      At Gnipa-cave;
                      The fetters are severed,
                      The wolf is set free,—
                      Vale knows the future.
                      More does she see
                      Of the victorious gods
                      Terrible fall.

The wolf referred to in the first strophe is Maanegarm (the
moon-devourer), of whom we have made notice before. The hag in the
Ironwood is Angerboda (anguish-boding), with whom Loke begat children.
Evil is being developed. The gods become through Loke united with the
giants. The wood is of iron, hard and barren; the children are ravenous
wolves. On the hill-top sits Egder (an eagle), a storm-eagle, the
howling wind that rushes through the wood, and howling wind is the music
produced upon his harp. The cock is a symbol of fire, and it is even to
this day a common expression among the Norsemen, when a fire breaks out,
that _the red cock is crowing over the roof of the house_. There are
three cocks, one in the bird-wood, one in heaven, and one in the lower
regions with Hel. The idea then is, that the cock as a symbol of fire
announces the coming of Ragnarok in all the regions of the world. The
vala continues:

                    Mimer’s sons play;
                    To battle the gods are called
                    By the ancient
                    Loud blows Heimdal,
                    His sound is in the air;
                    Odin talks
                    With the head of Mimer.

                    Quivers then Ygdrasil,
                    The strong-rooted ash;
                    Rustles the old tree
                    When the giant gives way.
                    All things tremble
                    In the realms of Hel,
                    Till Surt’s son
                    Swallows up Odin.

                    How fare the gods?
                    How fare the elves?
                    Jotunheim shrieks.
                    The gods hold Thing;
                    The dwarfs shudder
                    Before their cleft caverns,
                    Where behind rocky walls they dwell.
                    Know ye now more or not?

                    Loud barks Garm[84]
                    At Gnipa-cave;
                    The fetters are severed,
                    The wolf is set free,—
                    Vala knows the future.
                    More does she see
                    Of the victorious gods’
                    Terrible fall.

                    From the east drives Hrym,
                    Bears his child before him;
                    Jormungander welters
                    In giant fierceness;
                    The waves thunder;
                    The eagle screams,
                    Rends the corpses with pale beak,
                    And Naglfar is launched.

                    A ship from the east nears,
                    The hosts of Muspel
                    Come o’er the main,
                    But Loke is pilot.
                    All grim and gaunt monsters
                    Conjoin with the wolf,
                    And before them all goes
                    The brother of Byleist.[85]

                    From the south wends Surt
                    With seething fire;
                    The sun of the war-god
                    Shines in his sword;
                    Mountains together dash,
                    And frighten the giant-maids;
                    Heroes tread the paths to Hel,
                    And heaven in twain is rent.

                    Over Hlin[86] then shall come
                    Another woe,
                    When Odin goes forth
                    The wolf to combat,
                    And he[87] who Bele slew
                    ’Gainst Surt rides;
                    Then will Frigg’s
                    Beloved husband[88] fall.

                    Loud barks Garm
                    At Gnipa-cave;
                    The fetters are severed,
                    The wolf is set free,—
                    Vala knows the future.
                    More does she see
                    Of the victorious gods’
                    Terrible fall.

                    Then Vidar, the great son
                    Of Victory’s father,
                    Goes forth to fight
                    With the ferocious beast;
                    With firm grasp his sword
                    In the giant-born monster’s heart
                    Deep he plants,
                    And avenges his father.

                    Then the famous son[89]
                    Of Hlodyn[90] comes;
                    Odin’s son comes
                    To fight with the serpent;
                    Midgard’s ward[91]
                    In wrath slays the serpent.
                    Nine paces away
                    Goes the son of Fjorgyn;
                    He totters, wounded
                    By the fierce serpent.
                    All men
                    Abandon the earth.

                    The sun darkens,
                    The earth sinks into the ocean:
                    The lucid stars
                    From heaven vanish;
                    Fire and vapor
                    Rage toward heaven;
                    High flames
                    Involve the skies.

                    Loud barks Garm
                    At Gnipa-cave;
                    The fetters are severed,
                    The wolf is set free,—
                    Vala knows the future.
                    More does she see
                    Of the victorious gods’
                    Terrible fall.

These strophes are taken from Völuspá (the prophecy of the vala); and
besides these we also have a few strophes of the lay of Vafthrudner, in
the Elder Edda, referring to the final conflict:


                       Tell me, Gagnraad,[92]
                       Since on the floor thou wilt
                       Prove thy proficiency,
                       How that plain is called,
                       Where in fight shall meet
                       Surt and the gentle gods?

                       GAGNRAAD (ODIN):

                       Vigrid the plain is called,
                       Where in fight shall meet
                       Surt and the gentle gods;
                       A hundred rasts it is
                       On every side.
                       That plain is to them decreed.

And in the second part of this same poem, in which Odin asks and
Vafthrudner answers:

                         GAGNRAAD (ODIN):

                         What of Odin will
                         The end of life be,
                         When the powers perish?


                         The wolf will
                         The father of men devour;
                         Him Vidar will avenge:
                         He his cold jaws
                         Will cleave
                         In conflict with the wolf.

The terrible dog mentioned several times is Hel’s bloody-breasted and
murderous hound. Like the Fenris-wolf and Loke, this dog had been bound
at Gnipa-cave, although the Eddas tell us nothing about when or how this
was done.

When it is said that another woe comes over Hlin, the maid-servant is
placed for Frigg herself; and the former woe implied is the death of
Balder, _the other woe_ meaning the approaching death of Odin.

It is worthy of notice, that as this final conflict is inevitable, the
gods proceed to it, not with despair and trembling, but joyfully and
fearlessly as to a game, for it is the last. Odin rides to the battle
adorned; he knows that he must die, and for this very reason he
decorates himself as does a bride for the wedding, and the gods follow
him; even those who are defenseless voluntarily expose themselves on the
plain of Vigrid. They are determined to die.

Which are the powers that now oppose each other? On the one side we have
those who have ruled and blessed heaven and earth; and fighting against
them we find their eternal enemies, those powers which had sprung into
being before heaven and earth were created, and those which had
developed in the earth and in the sea, and which no asa-might can
conquer. From Muspelheim come the sons of Muspel in shining armor; from
Muspel’s world came originally the sun, moon and stars. It is a
fundamental law in nature that all things destroy themselves, all things
contain an inherent force that finally brings ruin; that is the meaning
of perishableness or corruption. A second host consists of the
frost-giants. From the body of the old giant Ymer was formed the earth,
the sea, the mountains, the trees, etc.; the giants must therefore
assist in the destruction of their own work. The third host is Loke and
his children, born in time and the offspring of that which was created.
They are the destructive elements in that which was created; the ocean
becoming a fierce serpent, mid the fire a devouring wolf. Loke himself
is the volcanic fire which the earth has produced within its bowels; and
then there is all that is cowardly represented by the pale Hel with her
bloodless shadows, the life which has turned into shadowy death. All
these forces oppose each other. Those who fought in life mutually
conquer each other in death. Odin, whose heaven is the source of all
life, is slain by the Fenris-wolf, the earthly fire, which has brought
all kinds of activities into the life of man; but the wolf, after he has
conquered, falls again at the hands of Vidar, the imperishable,
incorruptible force of nature. In this duel heaven and earth are
engaged. The god of the clouds, Thor, contends with the
Midgard-serpent,—many a struggle they have had together; now the clouds
and ocean mutually destroy each other. Since the death of Balder, Frey
is the most pure and shining divinity. His pure and noble purpose and
longing are still within him, but his sword, his power, is gone. Hence
he is stricken down by Surt, the warder of Muspelheim. Heimdal stretched
his brilliant rainbow over the earth, Loke his variegated stream of fire
within the earth; the one proclaiming mercies and blessings, the other
destruction; both perish in Ragnarok. Hel and her pale host also betake
themselves to the final contest, but the Eddas say nothing about their
taking part in the fight. How can they? They are nothing but emptiness,
the mere vanity of the heart, in which there is no substance; they are
but the darkness which enwraps the earth, and are not capable of deeds.

Thus is Ragnarok! The great antagonism pervading the world is removed in
a final struggle, in which the contending powers mutually destroy each
other. Ragnarok is an outbreak of all the chaotic powers, a conflict
between them and the established order of creation. Fire, water,
darkness and death work together to destroy the world. The gods and
their enemies meet in a universal, world-embracing wrestle and duel, and
mutually destroy each other. The flames of Surt, the supreme fire-god,
complete the overthrow, and the last remnant of the consumed earth sinks
into the ocean.

Footnote 81:

  Moongarm. See Vocabulary.

Footnote 82:

  Angerboda. See p. 179.

Footnote 83:

  Moongarm. See p. 180.

Footnote 84:

  Hel’s dog.

Footnote 85:


Footnote 86:

  One of Frigg’s maid-servants.

Footnote 87:


Footnote 88:


Footnote 89:


Footnote 90:

  Another name for Frigg.

Footnote 91:


Footnote 92:


                              CHAPTER II.

But when the heavens and the earth and the whole world have been
consumed in flames, when the gods and all the einherjes and all mankind
have perished,—what then? Is not man immortal? Are not all men to live
in some world or other forever? The vala looks again, and

                    She sees arise
                    The second time,
                    From the sea, the earth
                    Completely green:
                    Cascades do fall,
                    The eagle soars,
                    From lofty mounts
                    Pursues its prey.

                    The gods convene
                    On Ida’s plains,
                    And talk of the powerful
                    They call to mind
                    The Fenris-wolf
                    And the ancient runes
                    Of the mighty Odin.

                    Then again
                    The wonderful
                    Golden tablets
                    Are found in the grass:
                    In time’s morning
                    The leader of the gods
                    And Odin’s race
                    Possessed them.

                    The fields unsown
                    Yield their growth;
                    All ills cease;
                    Balder comes.
                    Hoder and Balder,
                    Those heavenly gods,
                    Dwell together in Hropt’s[93] halls.
                    Conceive ye this or not?

Vidar and Vale survive; neither the flood nor Surt’s flame has harmed
them, and they dwell on the plain of Ida, where Asgard formerly stood.
Thither come the sons of Thor, Mode and Magne, bringing with them their
father’s hammer, Mjolner. Hœner is there also, and comprehends the
future. Balder and Hoder sit and converse together; they call to mind
their former knowledge and the perils they underwent, and the fight with
the wolf Fenrer, and with the Midgard-serpent. The sons of Hoder and
Balder inhabit the wide Wind-home. The sun brings forth a daughter more
lovely than herself, before she is swallowed by Fenrer; and when the
gods have perished, the daughter rides in her mother’s heavenly course.

During the conflagration caused by Surt’s fire, a woman by name Lif
(life) and a man named Lifthraser lie concealed in Hodmimer’s forest.
The dew of the dawn serves then for food, and so great a race shall
spring from them that their descendants shall soon spread over the whole

Then the vala

                         Sees a hall called Gimle;
                         It outshines the sun,
                         Of gold its roof;
                         It stands in heaven:
                         The virtuous there
                         Shall always dwell,
                         And evermore
                         Delights enjoy.

Toward the north on the Nida-mountains stands a large hall of shining
gold, which the race of Sindre, that is the dwarfs, occupy. There is
also another hall called Brimer, which is also in heaven, in the region
Okolner, and there all who delight in quaffing good drink will find
plenty in store for them. Good and virtuous beings inhabit all these

But there is also a place of punishment. It is called Naastrand (strand
of dead bodies). In Naastrand there is a vast and terrible structure,
with doors that face to the north. It is built entirely of the backs of
serpents, wattled together like wicker-work. But all the serpents’ heads
are turned toward the inside of the hall, and continually vomit forth
floods of venom, in which wade all those who have committed murder,
perjury, or adultery. The vala, in the Elder Edda,

                     Saw a hall
                     Far from the sun,
                     On the strand of dead bodies,
                     With doors toward the north.
                     Venom drops
                     Through the loopholes;
                     Formed is that hall
                     Of wreathed serpents.

                     There saw she wade
                     Through heavy streams,
                     And murderers
                     And adulterers;
                     There Nidhug sucked
                     The bodies of the dead
                     And the wolf tore them to pieces.
                     Conceive ye this or not?

                     Then comes the mighty one[94]
                     To the great judgment;
                     From heaven he comes,
                     He who guides all things:
                     Judgments he utters;
                     Strifes he appeases,
                     Laws he ordains
                     To flourish forever.

Or as it is stated in Hyndla’s lay, after she has described Heimdal, the
sublime protector of the perishable world:

                          Then comes another
                          Yet more mighty,
                          But him dare I not
                          Venture to name;
                          Few look further forward
                          Than to the time
                          When Odin goes
                          To meet the wolf.

And when the vale in Völuspá, beginning with the primeval time, has
unveiled, in the most profound sentences, the whole history of the
universe,—when she has gone through every period of its development down
through Ragnarok and the Regeneration, the following is her last vision:

                      _There_ comes the dark
                      Dragon[95] flying,
                      The shining serpent
                      From the Nida-mountains
                      In the deep.

                      Over the plain it flies;
                      Dead bodies Nidhug
                      Drags in his whizzing plumage,—
                      Now must Nidhug sink.

Thus ends the vala’s prophecy (_völuspá_.) She has revealed the decrees
of the Father of Nature; she has described the conflagration and
renovation of the world, and now proclaims the fate of the good and of
the evil.

The world and the things in it perish, but not the forces. Some of the
gods reappear in the regenerated earth, while some do not. They who
reappear are mentioned in pairs, excepting Hœner, who is alone. Balder
and Hoder are together; likewise Vidar and Vale, and Mode and Magne.
Neither Odin nor Thor nor the vans appear. They perished with the world,
for they represented the developing forces of this world; they were
divinities representing that which came into being and had existence in
it. On the other hand, Balder and Hoder came back from Hel. They
represent light and darkness; but they are alike in this respect, that
they are nothing substantial, nothing real, they are only the condition
for something to be, or we might say they are the space, the firmament,
in which something may exist. They are the two brothers whose sons shall
inhabit the wide Wind-home. Thus when heaven and earth have passed away
there is nothing remaining but the wide expanse of space with light and
darkness, who not only rule together in perfect harmony, but also
permeate each other and neutralize each other.

Hœner comes back. He was originally one of the trinity with Odin and
Loder (Loke); but the gods received Njord as a hostage from the vans,
and gave to the vans in return Hœner, as a security of friendship
between them. This union between the asas and vans is now dissolved.
Hœner has nothing more to do among the vans. Their works all perished
with the old earth. He is the developing, creative force that is needed
now in the new world as it was in the old.

Vidar is the imperishable force in original nature, that is, in crude
nature, but at the same time united with the gods. He is the connecting
link between gods and giants. His mother was Grid, a giantess, and his
father was Odin. The strong Vale begotten of Odin and Rind (the
slumbering earth) is the imperishable force of nature which constantly
renews itself in the earth as a habitation of man. Both Vidar and Vale
are avenging gods. Vale avenges the death of Balder, and Vidar the death
of Odin, and thus we have in Vidar and Vale representatives of the
imperishable force of nature in two forms, the one without and the other
within the domain of man, both purified and renewed in the regenerated

In the atmosphere and in the dense clouds reigned Thor, with his
flashing fire and clattering thunder. Thunder and lightning have passed
away, but the forces that produced them, courage and strength, are
preserved in Thor’s sons, Mode (courage) and Magne (strength). They have
their father’s hammer, Mjolner, and with it they can strike to the right
and to the left, permeating the new heaven and new earth. What a well of
profound thought are the Eddas!

The parents of the new race of men are called Lif and Lifthraser. Life
cannot perish. It lies concealed in Hodmimer’s forest, which the flame
of Surt was not able to destroy. The new race of mankind seem to possess
a far nobler nature than the former, for they subsist on the morning

Do Mimer and Surt live? They are the fundamental elements of fire and
water. The Eddas are not clear on this point, but an affirmative answer
seems to be suggested in the fact that the better part of every being is

The good among men find their reward in Gimle; for he that made man gave
him a soul, which shall live and never perish, though the body shall
have mouldered away or have been burnt to ashes; and all that are
righteous shall dwell with him in the place called Gimle, says the
Younger Edda. The dwarfs have their Sindre, and their golden hall on the
Nida-mountains; and the giant has his shining drinking hall, Brimer, but
it is situated in Okolner (not cool), where there is no more frost.

The Elder Edda seems to point out two places of punishment for men.
Giants and dwarfs are not punished, for they act blindly, they have no
free will. But the wicked of mankind go to Naastrand and wade in streams
of serpent-venom, and thence they appear to be washed down into
Hvergelmer, that horrible old kettle, where their bodies are torn by
Nidhug, the dragon of the uttermost darkness.

There is a day of judgment. The good and bad are separated. The god,
whom the Edda dare not name, is the judge. The Younger Edda once calls
him Allfather, for he is to the new world what Odin was to the old. He
was before the beginning of time, and at the end of time he enters upon
his eternal reign.

The reward is eternal. Is the punishment also eternal? When light and
darkness (Balder and Hoder) can live peaceably together,—when darkness
can resolve itself into light,—cannot then the evil be dissolved in the
good; cannot the eternal streams of goodness wash away the evil? We
think so, and the Edda seems to justify us in this thought; at least the
Elder Edda seems to take this view of the subject. Listen again to the
last vision of the vala:

                      _There_ comes the dark
                      Dragon flying,
                      The shining serpent
                      From the Nida-mountains
                      In the deep.
                      Over the plain it flies;
                      Dead bodies Nidhug
                      Drags in his whizzing plumage,—
                      _Now must Nidhug sink_.[96]

When there is an intermediate state, a transition, a purification, a
purgatory, then this purification must sooner or later be accomplished;
and that is the day of the great judgment, _when Nidhug must sink_, and
nevermore lift his wings loaded with dead bodies. This idea is
beautifully elaborated in _Zendavista_. The Edda has it in a single
line, but the majority of its interpreters have not comprehended it. We
who are permeated by the true Christian spirit, we know how great joy
there is in heaven over a sinner who is converted; we know the God of
mercy, who does not desire the ruin of a single sinner, and the God of
omnipotence, who with his hand is able to press the tears of repentance
from the heart, though it be hard as steel; we comprehend why he lets
Nidhug sink down. All darkness shall be cleared up and be gilded by the
shining light of heaven.

Such was the origin, the development, the destruction and regeneration
of the world. And now, says the Younger Edda, as it closes the deluding
of King Gylfe, if you have any further questions to ask, I know not who
can answer you; for I never heard tell of anyone who could relate what
will happen in the other ages of the world. Make therefore the best use
you can of what has been imparted to you.

Upon this Ganglere heard a terrible noise all around him. He looked, but
could see neither palace nor city anywhere, nor anything save a vast
plain. He therefore set out on his return to his kingdom, where he
related all that he had seen and heard; and ever since that time these
tidings have been handed down from man to man by oral tradition, and we
add, may the stream of story never cease to flow! May the youth, the
vigorous man, and the grandfather with his silvery locks, forever
continue to refresh their minds by looking into and drinking from the
fountain that reflects the ancient history of the great Gothic race!

In closing, we would present this question: Shall we have northern art?
We have southern art (Hercules and Hebe), we have oriental art (Adam and
Eve), and now will some one complete the trilogy by adding Loke and
Sigyn? Ay, let us have another Thorvaldsen, and let him devote himself
to _northern art_. Here is a new and untrodden field for the artist. Ye
Gothic poets and painters and sculptors! why stand ye here idle?

Footnote 93:


Footnote 94:

  The Supreme God.

Footnote 95:


Footnote 96:

  We present this view of the subject from N. M. Petersen, who suggests
  that the common reading of this passage _hon_ ought to be _hann_,—that
  is _he_, not _she_. In our translation we have supplied the noun
  _Nidhug_, while if we had followed the other authorities we would have
  used the noun _vala_. Petersen remarks that the word sink (_sökkvask_)
  is a natural expression when applied to the dragon, who sinks into the
  abyss, but forced and unnatural when applied to the vala. He also
  quotes another passage (the last line in Brynhild’s Hel-ride, where
  Brynhild says to the hag: Sink thou (_sökkstu!_) of giantkind!) from
  the Elder Edda which corroborates his view. As the reader will
  observe, we have adopted Petersen’s view entirely.









ÆGIR [Anglo-Sax. _eagor_, the sea]. The god presiding over the stormy
sea. He entertains the gods every harvest, and brews ale for them. It
still survives in provincial English for the sea-wave on rivers. Have a
care, there is the _eager_ coming!—(Carlyle’s Heroes and Hero-worship.)

AGNAR. A son of King Hraudung and foster-son of Frigg. _Agnar._

AGNAR. A son of King Geirrod. He gives a drink to Grimner (Odin).

ÁLFR [Anglo-Sax. _ælf_, _munt-ælfen_, _sæ-elfen_, _wudu-elfen_, etc.;
Eng. _elf_, _elves_; Germ. _alb_ and _elfen_, _Erl-_ in _Erl_könig
(Goethe) is, according to Grimm, a corrupt form from the Danish
_Elle_konge like _Elver_konge; in the west of Iceland the word is also
pronounced _álbr_]. An elf, fairy; a class of beings like the dwarfs,
between gods and men. They were of two kinds: elves of light
(_Ljósálfar_) and elves of darkness (_Dökkálfar_). The abode of the
elves is _Álfheimr_, fairy-land, and their king is the god Frey. _Elf._

ALFÖÐR or ALFAÐIR [Father of all]. The name of Odin as the supreme god.
It also refers to the supreme and unknown god. _Allfather._

ÁLFHEIMR [_álf_, elf, and _heimr_, home]. Elf-land, fairy-land. Frey’s
dwelling, given him as a tooth-gift. _Alfheim._

ALSVIÐR [_sviðr_ (_svinnr_), rapid, wise]. All-wise. One of the horses
of the sun. _Alsvid._

ALVÍSS [All-wise]. The dwarf who answers Thor’s questions in the lay of
Alvis. _Alvis._

AMSVARTNIR. [The etymology is doubtful; perhaps from _ama_, to vex,
annoy, and _svartnir_ (_svartr_), black.] The name of the sea, in which
the island was situated where the wolf Fenrer was chained. _Amsvartner._

ÁNNARR or ÓNARR. Husband of night and father of Jord (_jörð earth_).

ANDRÍMNIR [_önd_, soul, spirit, breath, and _hrímnir_, _hrím_.
Anglo-Sax. _hrím_; Eng. _rime_, hoar-frost; _hrímnir_, the one producing
the hoar-frost]. The cook in Valhal. _Andhrimner._

ANDVARI. The name of a gurnard-shaped dwarf; the owner of the fatal ring
called _Andvaranautr_. _Andvare._

ANDVARAFORS. The force or waterfall in which the dwarf Andvare kept
himself in the form of a gurnard (pike). _Andvare-Force._

ANDVARANAUTR [_önd_, spirit; _varr_, cautious; _nautr_, Germ. ge-_nosse_
(from Icel. _njota_), a donor]. The fatal ring given by Andvare (the
wary spirit). _Andvarenaut._

ANGANTYR. He has a legal dispute with Ottar Heimske, who is favored by
Freyja. _Angantyr._

ANGEYJA. One of Heimdal’s nine mothers. Says the Elder Edda in the Lay
of Hyndla: Nine giant maids gave birth to the gracious god, at the
world’s margin. These are: Gjalp, Greip, Eistla, Angeyja, Ulfrun,
Eyrgjafa, Imd, Atla, and Jarnsaxa. _Angeyja._

ANGRBOÐA [Anguish-boding]. A giantess; mother of the Fenris-wolf by
Loke. _Angerboda._

ÁRVAKR [Early awake]. The name of one of the horses of the sun.

ÁSS or ÁS, plural ÆSIR. The _asas_, gods. The word appears in such
English names as _Os_born, _Os_wald, etc. With an _n_ it is found in the
Germ. _Ans_gar (Anglo-Sax. _Os_car). It is also found in many
Scandinavian proper names, as _As_björn, _As_trid, etc. The term _æsir_
is used to distinguish Odin, Thor, etc., from the _vanir_. (vans).

ÁSA-LOKI. Loke, so called to distinguish him from Utgard-Loke, who is a
giant. _Asa-Loke._

ÁSA-PÓRR. A common name for Thor. _Asa-Thor._

ÁSGARÐR. The residence of the gods (_asas_). _Asgard._

ASKR [Anglo-Sax. _äsc_, an ash]. The name of the first man created by
Odin, Hœner and Loder. _Ask._

ÁSYNJA; plural ÁSYNJUR. A goddess; feminine of _Áss_. _Asynje._

ATLA. One of Heimdal’s nine mothers. _Atla._

AUÐHUMLA; also written AUÐHUMBLA. [The etymology of this word is
uncertain. Finn Magnússon derives it from _auðr_, void, and _hum_,
darkness, and expresses the name by _aër nocturnus_.] The cow formed
from the frozen vapors resolved into drops. She nourished the giant
Ymer. _Audhumbla._

AURBOÐA [_aurr_, wet clay or loam; _boða_, to announce]. Gymer’s wife
and Gerd’s mother. _Aurboda._

AURGELMIR [_aurr_, wet clay or loam]. A giant; grandfather of Bergelmer;
called also Ymer. _Aurgelmer._

AUSTRI. A dwarf presiding over the east region. _Austre._ _East._


BALDR. [Anglo-Sax. _baldor_, princeps, the best, foremost]. The god of
the summer-sunlight. He was son of Odin and Frigg; slain by Hoder, who
was instigated by Loke. He returns after Ragnarok. His dwelling is
Breidablik. _Balder._

BARREY [Needle-isle]. A cool grove in which Gerd agreed with Skirner to
meet Frey. _Barey._

BAUGI. A brother of Suttung, for whom (Baugi) Odin worked one summer in
order to get his help in obtaining Suttung’s mead of poetry. _Bauge._

BELI. A giant, brother of Gerd, slain by Frey. _Bele_.

BERGELMIR [_berg_, rock]. A giant; son of Thrudgelmer and grandson of
Aurgelmer. _Bergelmer._

BESTLA. Wife of Bur and mother of Odin. _Bestla._

BEYLA. Frey’s attendant; wife of Bygver. _Beyla._

BIFRÖST [_bifast_, to tremble, _röst_ (compare Eng. _rest_), a space, a
way; the trembling way, _via tremula_]. The rainbow. _Bifrost._

BILSKIRNIR [_bil_, a moment; _skir_, serene, shining]. The heavenly
abode of Thor, from the flashing of light in the lightning.

BÖLÞORN [Evil thorn]. A giant: father of Bestla, Odin’s mother.

BÖLVERKR [Working terrible things]. An assumed name of Odin, when he
went to get Suttung’s mead. _Bolverk._

BOÐN. [Compare Anglo-Sax. _byden_, dolium.] One of the three vessels in
which the poetical mead was kept. Hence poetry is called the wave of the
_boðn_. _Bodn._

BÖRR [_burr_, a son; compare Eng. _born_, Scotch _bairn_, Norse _barn_,
a child]. A son of Bure and father of Odin, Vile and Ve. _Bor._

BRAGI. [Compare Anglo-Sax. _brego_, princeps.] The god of poetry. A son
of Odin. He is the best of skalds. _Brage._

BREIÐABLIK [Literally broad-blink, from _breiðr_, broad, and _blika_
(Germ. _blicken_; Eng. to _blink_), to gleam, twinkle]. Balder’s
dwelling. _Breidablik._

BRÍSINGAMEN. Freyja’s necklace or ornament. _Brisingamen._

BURI. [This word is generally explained as meaning _the bearing_, _i.
e._ father; but we think that it is the same as the Anglo-Saxon _býre_,
son, descendant, offspring. We do not see how it can be conceived as an
active participle of the verb _bera_, to bring forth. See p. 195, where
we have followed Keyser.] The father of Bor. He was produced by the
cow’s licking the stones covered with rime. _Bure._

BYGGVIR. Frey’a attendant; Beyla’s husband. _Bygver._

BYLEIPTR [The flame of the dwelling]. The brother of Loke. _Byleipt._


DAGR [Day]. Son of Delling. _Dag._

DÁINN. A hart that gnaws the branches of Ygdrasil. _Daain._

DELLINGR [_deglinger_ (_dagr_, day), dayspring]. The father of Day.

DÍS; plural DÍSIR. Attendant spirit or guardian angel. Any female mythic
being may be called Dís. _Dis._

DRAUPNIR [_drjúpa_; Eng. _drip_; Germ. _traufen_; Dan. _dryppe_]. Odin’s
ring. It was put on Belder’r funeral-pile. Skirner offered it to Gerd.

DRÓMI. One of the fetters by which the Fenris-wolf was fettered.

DUNEYRR, DURAPRÓR. Harts that gnaw the branches of Ygdrasil. _Duneyr_;

DURINN. The dwarf, second in degree. _Durin._

DVALINN. A dwarf. _Dvalin._

DVERGR [Anglo-Sax. _dweorg_; Eng. _dwarf_; Germ. _zwerg_; Swed.
_dwerg_]. A dwarf. In modern Icelandic lore dwarfs disappear, but remain
in local names, as Dverga-steinn (compare the Dwarfie Stone in Scott’s
_Pirate_), and in several words and phrases. From the belief that dwarfs
lived in rocks an echo is called _dwerg-mál_ (dwarf-talk), and
_dwerg-mála_ means to echo. The dwarfs were skilled in metal-working.


EDDA. The word means a great-grandmother. The name usually applied to
the mythological collection of poems discovered by Brynjolf Sveinsson in
the year 1643. He, led by a fanciful and erroneous suggestion, gave to
the book which he found the name Sæmundar Edda, Edda of Sæmund. This is
the so-called _Elder Edda_. Then there is the _Younger Edda_, a name
applied to a work written by Snorre Sturleson, and containing old
mythological lore and the old artificial rules for verse-making. The
ancients applied the name _Edda_ only to this work of Snorre. The _Elder
Edda_ was never so called. And it is also uncertain whether Snorre
himself knew his work by the name Edda. In the Rigsmál (Lay of Rig) Edda
is the progenitrix of the race of thralls.

EGÐIR. An eagle that appears at Ragnarok. _Egder._

EGILL. The father of Thjalfe; a giant dwelling near the sea. Thor left
his goats with him on his way to the giant Hymer. _Egil._

EIKÞYRNIR. [_eik_, oak, and _þyrnir_, a thorn]. A hart that stands over
Odin’s hall (Valhal). From his antlers drops into the abyss water from
which rivers flow. _Eikthyrner._

EINHERI; plural EINHERJAR. The only (_ein_) or great champions; the
heroes who have fallen in battle and been admitted into Valhal.

EIR. [The word means _peace_, _clemency_.] An attendant of Menglod, and
the best of all in the healing art. _Eir._

EISTLA. One of Heimdal’s nine mothers. _Eistla._

ELDHRÍMNIR. [_eld_, fire, and _hrímnir_, the one producing rime]. The
kettle in which the boar Sæhrimner is cooked in Valhal. _Eldhrimner._

ELDIR. The fire-producer; a servant of Æger. _Elder._

ÉLIVÁGAR. The ice-waves; poisonous cold streams that flow out of
Niflheim. _Elivagar._

EMBLA. The first woman. The gods found two lifeless trees, the _ask_
(ash) and the _embla_; of the ash they made _man_, of the embla,
_woman_. It is a question what kind of tree the embla was; some suggest
a metathesis, viz. _emla_, from _almr_ (elm), but the compound
_emblu-askr_, in one of Egil’s poems, seems to show that the _embla_ was
in some way related to the ash. _Embla._

EYRGJAFA. One of Heimdal’s nine mothers. _Eyrgjafa._


FÁFNIR. Son of Hreidmar. He kills his father to get possession of the
Andvarenaut. He afterwards changes himself into a dragon and guards the
treasure on Gnita-heath. He is slain by Sigurd, and his heart is roasted
and eaten. _Fafner._

FALHÓFNIR [Barrel-hoof, hollow-hoof]. One of the horses of the gods.

FARBAUTI [Ship-beater, ship-destroyer]. The father of Loke. _Farbaute._

FENRIR or FENRISÚLFR. The monster-wolf. He is the son of Loke. He bites
the hand Tyr. The gods put him in chains, where he remains until
Ragnarok. In Ragnarok he gets loose, swallows the sun and conquers Odin,
but is killed by Vidar. _Fenrer_ or _Fenris-wolf_.

FENSALIR. The abode of Frigg. _Fensal._

FJALAR. A misnomer for Skrymer, in whose glove Thor took shelter.

FJALAR. A dwarf, who slew Kvaser, and composed from his blood the poetic
mead. _Fjalar._

FJALAR. A cock that crows at Ragnarok. _Fjalar._

FIMAFENGR [_fimr_, quick, nimble]. The nimble servant of Æger. He was
slain by the jealous Loke. _Fimafeng._

FIMBUL. [Compare Germ. _fimmel_, an iron wedge; Bohem. _fimol_; Swed.
_fimmel-stång_, the handle of a sledge-hammer; in Icel. obsolete, and
only used in four or five compounds in old poetry.] It means _mighty
great_. In the mythology we have:

FIMBULFAMBI. A mighty fool. _Fimbulfambe._

FIMBULTÝR. The mighty god, great helper (Odin). _Fimbultyr._

FIMBULVETR [_vetr_, winter]. The great and awful winter of three years’
duration preceding the end of the world. _Fimbul-winter._

FIMBULÞUL. A heavenly river (_þul_, roaring.) _Fimbulthul._

FIMBULÞULR. The great wise man (Odin’s High-song, 143). _Fimbulthuler._

FJÖLNIR. A name of Odin. _Fjolner._

FJÖRGYN. A personification of the earth; mother of Thor. _Fjorgyn._

FÓLKVANGR [Anglo-Sax. _folc_; Germ. _volk_; Eng. _folk_, people, and
_vangr_ (Ulfilas, _waggs_), paradise; Anglo-Sax. _wang_; Dan. _vang_, a
field]. The folk-field. Freyja’s dwelling. _Folkvang._

FORNJÓTR. The ancient giant. He was father of Æger or Hler, the god of
the ocean; of Loge, flame or fire, and of Kaare, wind. His wife was Ran.
These divinities are generally regarded as belonging to an earlier
mythology, probably that of the Fins or Celts, and we omitted them in
our work. _Fornjot._

FORSETI [The fore-sitter, president, chairman]. Son of Balder and Nanna.
His dwelling is Glitner, and his office is peace-maker. _Forsete._

FRÁNANGRS-FORS. The force or waterfall into which Loke, in the likeness
of a salmon, cast himself, and where the gods caught him and bound him.

FREKI. One of Odin’s wolves. _Freke._

FREYJA [Feminine of Freyr]. The daughter of Njord and sister of Frey.
She dwells in Folkvang. Half the fallen in battle belong to her. She
lends her feather disguise to Loke. She is the goddess of love. Her
husband is Oder. Her necklace is Brisingamen. She has a boar with golden
bristles. _Freyja._

FREYR [Goth. _frauja_; Gr. χύρτος, Anglo-Sax. _freâ_; Heliand _frô_, a
lord]. He is son of Njord, husband of Skade, slayer of Bele, and falls
in conflict with Surt in Ragnarok. Alfheim was given him as a
tooth-gift. The ship Skidbladner was built for him. He falls in love
with Gerd, Gymer’s fair daughter. He gives his trusty sword to Skirner.

FRIGG. [Compare Anglo-Sax. _frigu_, love]. She is the wife of Odin, and
mother of Balder and of other gods. She is the queen of the gods. She
sits with Odin in Hlidskjalf. She exacts an oath from all things that
they shall not harm Balder. She mourns Balder’s death. _Frigg._

FULLA [Fullness]. Frigg’s attendant. She takes care of Frigg’s toilette,
clothes and slippers. Nanna sent her a finger-ring from Helheim. She
wears her hair flowing over her shoulders. _Fulla._


GALAR. One of the dwarfs who killed Kvaser. Fjalar was the other.

GAGNRÁÐE. A name assumed by Odin when he went to visit Vafthrudner.

GANGLERI. One of Odin’s names in Grimner’s Lay. _Ganglere._

GANGLERI. A name assumed by King Gylfe when he came to Asgard.

GANÐROFA [Fence-breaker]. The goddess Gnaa has a horse by name
Hofvarpner. The sire of this horse is Hamskerper, and its mother is
Garðrofa. _Gardrofa._

GARMR. A dog that barks at Ragnarok. He is called the largest and best
among dogs. _Garm._

GEFJUN or GEFJON. A goddess. She is a maid, and all those who die maids
become her maid-servants. She is present at Æger’s feast. Odin says she
knows men’s destinies as well as he does himself. _Gefjun._

GEIRRÖÐR. A son of King Hraudung and foster-son of Odin; he becomes king
and is visited by Odin, who calls himself Grimner. He is killed by his
own sword. There is also a giant by name Geirrod, who was once visited
by Thor. _Geirrod._

GEIRSKÖGUL. A valkyrie. _Geirskogul._

GEIRVIMUL. A heavenly river. _Geirvimul._

GERÐR. Daughter of Gymer, a beautiful young giantess; beloved by Frey.

GERI [_gerr_, greedy]. One of Odin’s wolves. _Gere._

GERSEMI [Anglo-Sax. _gersuma_, a costly thing.] One of Freyja’s
daughters. _Gerseme._

GJALLARBRÚ [_gjalla_, to yell, to resound; Anglo-Sax. _giellan_]. The
bridge across the river Gjol, near Helheim. The bridge between the land
of the living and the dead. _Gjallar-bridge._

GJALLARHORN. Heimdal’s horn, which he will blow at Ragnarok. _Gjallar

GILLING. Father of Suttung, who possessed we poetic mead. He was slain
by Fjalar and Galar. _Gilling._

GIMLI [_gimill_, _himill_, _himin_, heaven]. The abode of the righteous
after Ragnarok. _Gimle._

GJÁLP. One of Heimdal’s nine mothers. _Gjalp._

GINNUNGA-GAP. [Compare Anglo-Sax. _gin_ or _ginn_, vast, wide. (The
_unga_ may be the adverbial ending added to _ginn_, as in _eall-unga_,
adv. from _all_, all.)] The great yawning gap, the premundane abyss, the
chaos or formless void, in which dwelt the supreme powers before the
creation. In the eleventh century the sea between Greenland and Vinland
(America) was called Ginnunga-gap. _Ginungagap._

GJÖLL. The one of the rivers Elivagar that flowed nearest the gate of
Hel’s abode. _Gjol._

GÍSL [Sunbeam]. One of the horses of the gods. _Gisl._

GLAÐR [Clear, bright]. One of the horses of the gods. _Glad._

GLAÐSHEIMR [Home of brightness or gladness]. Odin’s dwelling.

GLASIR. A grove in Asgard. _Glaser._

GLEIPNIR. The last fetter with which the wolf Fenrer was bound.

GLER [The glassy]. One of the horses of the gods. _Gler._

GLITNIR [The glittering]. Forsete’s golden hall. _Glitner._

GNÁ. She is the messenger that Frigg sends into the various worlds on
her errands. She has a horse called Hofvarpner, that can run through air
and water. _Gnaa._

GNÍPAHELLIR. The cave before which the dog Garm barks. _The Gnipa-cave._

GNÍTAHEIÐR. Fafner’s abode, where he kept the treasure called
Andvarenaut. _Gnita-heath._

GÓINN. A serpent under Ygdrasil. _Goin._

GÖLL. A valkyrie. _Gol._

GÖMUL. A heavenly river. _Gomul._

GÖNDUL. A valkyrie. _Gondul._

GÖPUL. A heavenly river. _Gopul._

GRÁBAKR [Gray-back]. One of the serpents under Ygdrasil. _Graabak._

GRÁÐ. A heavenly river. _Graad._

GRAFVITNIR, GRAFVÖLLUÐR. Serpents under Ygdrasil. _Grafvitner_;

GREIP [Anglo-Sax. _grâp_; Eng. _grip_]. One of Heimdal’s nine giant
mothers. _Greip._

GRÍMNIR [Icel. _grima_; Anglo-Sax. _grîma_; Dan. _grime_, a
horse-halter]. A kind of hood or cowl covering the upper part of the
face. Grimner is a name of Odin from his traveling in disguise.

GRÓA [Icel. _gróa_; Anglo Sax. _growan_; Eng. _grow_; Lat. _crescere_,
_crev_-i]. The giantess mother of Orvandel. Thor went to her to have her
charm the flint-stone out of his forehead. _Groa._

GULLFAXI [Gold-mane]. The giant Hrungner’s horse. _Goldfax._

GULLINKAMBI [Gold-comb]. A cock that crows at Ragnarok. _Gullinkambe_ or

GULLTOPPR [Gold-top]. Heimdal’s horse. _Goldtop._

GULLVEIG [Gold-drink, gold-thirst]. A personification of gold. She is
pierced and thrice burnt, and yet lives. _Gulveig._

GULLINBURSTI [Golden bristles]. The name of Frey’s hog. _Gullinburste._

GUNGNIR [Dan. _gungre_, to tremble violently]. Odin’s spear. _Gungner._

GUNNLÖÐ; genitive GUNNLAÐAR [Icel. _gunnr_, war, battle; Anglo-Sax.
_gûð_; Old High Germ. _gundia_; and Icel. _löð_ (_laða_, to invite),
invitation; Anglo-Sax. _gelaðian_, to invite]. One who invites war. She
was daughter of the giant Suttung, and had charge of the poetic mead.
Odin got it from her. _Gunlad._

GYLFI. A king of Svithod, who visited Asgard under the name of Ganglere.
The first part of the Younger Edda is called Gylfaginning, which means
the Delusion of Gylfe. _Gylfe._

GYLLIR [Golden]. One of the horses of the gods. _Gyller._

GÝMIR. A giant: the father of Gerd, the beloved of Frey. _Gymer._

GÝMIR. Another name of the ocean divinity Æger. _Gymer._


HALLINSKÍÐI. Another name of the god Heimdal. The possessor of the
leaning (_halla_) way (_skeið_). _Hallinskid._

HAMSKERPIR [Hide-hardener]. A horse; the sire of Hofvarpner, which was
Gnaa’s horse. _Hamskerper._

HÁR [Anglo. Sax. _heáh_; Eng. _high_; Ulfilas _hauhs_]. The High One,
applied to Odin. _Haar._

HÁRBARÐR. The name assumed by Odin in the Lay of Harbard. _Harbard._

HEIÐRUNR [Bright-running]. A goat that stands over Valhal. _Heidrun._

HEIMDALR. The etymology has not been made out. He was the heavenly
watchman in the old mythology, answering to St. Peter in the medieval.
According to the Lay of Rig (Heimdal), he was the father and founder of
the different classes of men, nobles, churls and thralls. He has a horn
called Gjallar-horn, which he blows at Ragnarok. His dwelling is
Himinbjorg. He is the keeper of Bifrost (the rainbow). Nine giantesses
are his mothers. _Heimdal._

HEL. [Ulfilas _halja_, ᾅδης; Anglo-Sax. and Eng. _hell_; Heliand and Old
High Germ. _hellia_; Germ. _Hölle_; Dan. at slaa, i-_hjel_, to kill].
The goddess of death, born of Loke and Angerboda. She corresponds to
Proserpina. Her habitation is Helheim, under one of the roots of
Ygdrasil. _Hel._

HELBLINDI. A name of Odin. _Helblinde._

HELGRINDR. The gates of Hel. _Helgrind_ or _Helgate_.

HELHEIM. The abode of Hel. _Helheim._

HERFÖÐR, HERJAFÖÐR. [The father of hosts]. A name of Odin. _Her-father._

HERMOÐR [Courage of hosts]. Son of Odin, who gives him helmet and
corselet. He went on Sleipner to Hel to bring Balder back. _Hermod._

HILDISVINI [_hildr_ (Anglo-Sax. _hild_) means war]. Freyja’s hog.

HIMINBJÖRG [_himinn_, heaven, and _björg_, help, defense; hence heaven
defender]. Heimdal’s dwelling. _Himinbjorg._

HIMINBRJÓTR [Heaven-breaker]. One of the giant Hymer’s oxen.

HLÉSEY. The abode of Æger. _Hlesey._

HLIÐSKJÁLF [from _hlið_, gate, and _skjálf_, shelf, bench]. The seat of
Odin, whence he looked out over all the worlds. _Hlidskjalf._

HLÍN. One of the attendants of Frigg; but Frigg herself is sometimes
called by this name. _Hlin._

HLÓÐYN. A goddess; a names of the earth; Thor’s mother. _Hlodyn._

HLÓRIDI [from _hlóa_; Anglo-Sax. _hlowan_; Eng. _low_, to bellow, roar,
and _reið_, thunder]. One of the names of Thor; the bellowing thunderer.

HNIKARR, HNIKUÐR. Names of Odin, Hnikar and Hnikuder.

HNOSS [Anglo-Sax. _hnossian_, to hammer]. A costly thing; the name of
one of Freyja’s daughters. _Hnos._

HODDMÍMISHOLT. Hodmimer’s holt or grove, where the two human beings Lif
and Lifthraser were preserved during Ragnarok. _Hodmimer’s forest._

HÖÐR. The slayer of Balder. He is blind, returns to life in the
regenerated world. The Cain of the Norse mythology. _Hoder._

HŒNIR. One of the three creating gods. With Odin and Loder Hœner creates
Ask and Embla, the first human pair. _Hœner._

HÓFVARPNIR [Hoof-thrower]. Guaa’s horse. His father is Hamskerper and
mother Gardrofa. _Hofvarpner._

HRÆSVELGR [Corpse-swallower]. A giant in an eagle’s plumage, who
produces the wind. _Hræsvelger._

HRAUÐUNGR. Geirrod’s father. _Hraudung._

HREIÐMARR. Father of Regin and Fafner. He exacts the blood-fine from the
gods for slaying Otter. He is slain by Fafner. _Hreidmar._

HRÍMFAXI [Rime-mane]. The horse of Night. _Rimefax._

HRÍMÞURSAR [Anglo-Sax. _hrîm_; Eng. _rime_, hoar-frost]. Rime-giants or
frost-giants, who dwell under one of Ygdrasil’s roots. _Giants._

HROÐVITNIR. A wolf; father of the wolf Hate. _Hrodvitner._

HROPTR. One of Odin’s names. _Hropt._

HRUNGNIR. A giant; friend of Hymer. Thor fought with him and slew him.

HRINGHORNI. The ship upon which Balder’s body was burned. _Hringhorn._

HROSSÞJÓFR [Horse-thief]. A giant. _Hrosthjof._

HUGINN [Mind]. One of Odin’s ravens. _Hugin._

HVERGELMIR [The old kettle]. The spring in the middle of Niflheim,
whence flowed the rivers Elivagar. The Northern Tartaros. _Hvergelmer._

HÝMIR. A giant with whom Thor went fishing when he caught the
Midgard-serpent. His wife was the mother of Tyr. Tyr and Thor went to
him to procure a kettle for Æger. _Hymer._

HYNDLA. A vala visited by Freyja, who comes to her to learn the
genealogy of her favorite Ottar. _Hyndla._


IÐAVÖLLR. A plain where the gods first assemble, where they establish
their heavenly abodes, and where they assemble again after Ragnarok. The
plains of Ide. _Idavold._

IÐUNN. Daughter of the dwarf Ivald; she was wife of Brage, and the
goddess of early spring. She possesses rejuvenating apples of which the
gods partake. _Idun._

IFING. A river which divides the giants from the gods. _Ifing._

IMÐ. One of Heimdal’s nine giant mothers. _Imd._

ÍMR. A son of the giant Vafthrudner. _Im._

INGUNAR-FREYR. One of the names of Frey. _Ingun’s Frey._

INNSTEINN. The father of Ottar Heimske; the favorite of Freyja.

ÍVALDI. A dwarf. His sons construct the ship Skidbladner. _Ivald._


JAFNHÁR [Equally high]. A name of Odin. _Evenhigh._ _Jafnhaar._

JÁLKR. A name of Odin (Jack the Giant-killer?). _Jalk._

JÁRNSAXA [Iron-chopper]. One of Heimdel’s nine giant mothers.

JÁRNVIÐR [Iron-wood]. A wood east of Midgard, peopled by giantesses
called Jarnvids. This wood had iron leaves. _Jarnvid._

JÁRNVIÐIUR. The giantesses in the Iron-wood. _Jarnvids._

JÖRD. Wife of Odin and mother of Thor. Earth. _Jord._

JÖTUNN [Anglo-Sax. _eoten_]. A giant. The giants were the earliest
created beings. Tho gods question them in regard to Balder. Thor
frequently contends with them. Famous giants are: Ymer, Hymer, Hrungner,
Orvandel, Gymer, Skrymer, Vafthrudner and Thjasse. _Giant._

JÖTUNHEIMAR (plural). The Utgaard; the home of the giants in the
outermost parts of the earth. _Jotunheim._


KERLAUGAR (plural). Two rivers which Thor every day must cross.

KÖRMT. Another river which Thor every day must pass. _Kormt._

KVÁSIR. The hostage given by the vans to the asas. His blood, when
slain, was the poetical mead kept by Suttung. _Kvaser._


LÆÐINGR. One of the fetters with which the Fenris-wolf was bound.

LÆRAÐR [Furnishing protection]. A tree near Valhal. _Lærad._

LANDVIÐI. [A mountain range overgrown with trees is _viði_.] Vidar’s
abode. The primeval forests. _Landvide._

LAUFEY [Leafy island]. Loke’s mother. _Laufey._

LEIFÞRASIR, LIF. The two persons preserved in Hodmimer’s grove during
Surt’s conflagration in Ragnarok; the last beings in the old and the
first in the new world. _Lif_ and _Lifthraser_.

LÉTTFETI [Light-foot]. One of the horses of the gods. _Lightfoot._

LITR. A dwarf that Thor kicked into Balder’s funeral pile. _Liter._

LODDFÁFNIR. A protégé of Odin. _Lodfafner._

LOÐURR [Compare Germ. _lodern_, to flame]. One of the three gods (Odin,
Hæner and Loder) who create Ask and Embla, the first man and woman. He
is identical with Loke. _Loder._

LOKI [Icel. _lúka_, to end, finish: Loke is the end and consummation of
divinity]. The evil giant-god of the Norse mythology. He steers the ship
Naglfar in Ragnarok. He borrows Freyja’s feather-garb and accompanies
Thor to the giant Thrym, who has stolen Thor’s hammer. He is the father
of Sleipner; but also of the Midgaard-serpent, of the Fenris-wolf and of
Hel. He causes Balder’s death, abuses the gods in Æger’s feast, but is
captured in Fraanangerforce and is bound by the gods. _Loke._

LOPTR [The aërial]. Another name of Loke. _Lopter._


MAGNI [_megin_, might, strength]. A son of Thor. _Magne._

MÁNI [Ulfilas _mêna_; Anglo-Sax. _môna_; Eng. _moon_]. Brother of Sol
(the sun, feminine), and both were children of the giant Mundilfare.
_Moon_ or _Maane_.

MARDÖLL or MARÞOLL. One of the names of Freyja. _Mardallar grátr_ (the
tears of Mardal), gold. _Mardal._

MÁNAGARMR [Moon-swallower]. A wolf of Loke’s offspring. He devours the
moon. _Maanegarm_ or _Moongarm_.

MANNHEIMAR (plural) [Homes of man]. Our earth. _Manheim._

MEILI. A son of Odin. _Meile._

MIÐGARÐR. [In Cumberland, England, are three farms: _High-garth_,
_Middle-garth_, _Low-garth_.] The mid-yard, middle-town, that is, the
earth, is a mythological word common to all the ancient Teutonic
languages. Ulfilas renders the Gr. [Greek: oikoumenê] by _midjungards_;
Heliand calls the earth _middil-gard_; the Anglo-Saxon homilies, instead
of earth, say _middan-geard_ (_meddlert_, Jamieson), and use the word us
an appellative; but the Icelandic Edda alone has preserved the true
mythical bearing of this old Teutonic word. The earth (Midgard), the
abode of men, is seated in the middle of the universe, bordered by
mountains and surrounded by the great sea (_ûthaf_); on the other side
of this sea is the Utgard (out-yard), the abode of the giants; the
Midgard is defended by the yard to burgh Asgard (the burgh of the gods)
lying in the middle (the heaven being conceived as rising above the
earth). Thus the earth and mankind are represented as a stronghold
besieged by the powers of evil from without, defended by the gods from
above and from within. _Midgard._

MIÐGARÐSORMR [The serpent of Midgaard]. The world-serpent hidden in the
ocean, whose coils gird around the whole Midgard. Thor once fishes for
him, and gets him on his hook. In Ragnarok Thor slays him, but falls
himself poisoned by his breath. _Midgard-serpent._

MÍMAMEIÐR. A mythic tree; no doubt the same as Ygdrasil. It derives its
name from Mimer, and means Mimer’s tree. _Mimameider._

MÍMIR. The name of the wise giant keeper of the holy well Mímis-brunnr,
the burn (bourn, brun) of Mimer, the well of wisdom, in which Odin
pawned his eye for wisdom; a myth which is explained as symbolical of
the heavenly vault with its single eye, the sun, setting in the sea. Is
the likeness of the word to the Latin _memor_ only accidental? The true
etymology of Mímir is not known. _Mimer._

MJÖLNIR. [The derivation from _mala_ or _mola_ (to crush) is, though
probable, not certain. The word may be akin to Goth. _milhma_, cloud;
Swed. _moln_; Dan. _mulm_; Norse _molnas_ (Ivor Aasen), to grow dark
from bands of clouds arising.] Thor’s formidable hammer. After Ragnarok,
it is possessed by his sons Mode and Magne. _Mjolner._

MISTILTEINN [Old High Germ. _mistil_; Germ. _mistel_; Anglo-Sax.
_mistel_ or _mistel-tâ_; Eng. _mistletoe_]. The mistletoe or
mistle-twig, the fatal twig by which Balder, the white sun-god, was
slain. After the death of Balder, Ragnarok set in. Balder’s death was
also symbolical of the victory of darkness over light, which comes every
year at midwinter. The mistletoe in English households at Christmas time
is no doubt a relic of a rite lost in the remotest heathendom, for the
fight of light and darkness at midwinter was a foreshadowing of the
final overthrow in Ragnarok. The legend and the word are common to all
Teutonic peoples of all ages. _Mistletoe._

MÓÐI [Courage]. A son of Thor. _Mode._

MÓÐSOGNIR. The dwarf highest in degree or rank. _Modsogner._

MÓINN. A serpent under Ygdrasil. _Moin._

MUNDILFARI. Father of the sun and moon. _Mundilfare._

MUNINN [Memory]. One of Odin’s ravens. _Munin._

MÚSPELL. The name of an abode of fire. It is peopled by _Múspells lýðir_
(the men of Muspel), a host of fiends, who are to appear at Ragnarok and
destroy the world by fire. _Muspel._ (See next word.)

MÚSPELLSHEIMR. The abode of Muspel. This interesting word (_Múspell_)
was not confined to the Norse mythology, but appears twice in the old
Saxon poem Heliand, thus: (1) _mutspelli cumit on thiustra naht, also
thiof ferit_ (_mutspelli_ comes in dusky night, as a thief fares,—that
is, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night), and (2)
_mutspellis megin obar man ferit_ (the main of _mutspelli_ fares over
men). A third instance is an Old High German poem on the Last Day, thus:
_dâr ni mac denne mac andremo helfan vora demo muspille_ (there no man
can help another against the _muspel-doom_). In these instances _muspel_
stands for the _day of judgment_, _the last day_, and answers to
Ragnarok of the Norse mythology. The etymology is doubtful, for _spell_
may be the _weird_, _doom_, Lat. _fatum_; or it may be _spoil_,
_destruction_. The former part, _mús_ or _muod_, is more difficult to
explain. The Icelandic _mús_ is an assimilated form. _Muspelheim._

MÖKKURKÁLFI [_mökkr_ means a dense cloud]. A clay giant in the myth of
Thor and Hrungner. _Mokkerkalfe._


NAGLFAR [Nail-ship]. A mythical ship made of nail-parings. It appears in
Ragnarok. _Naglfar._ _Nailship._

NÁL [Needle]. Mother of Loke. _Naal._

NANNA. Daughter of Nep (bud); mother of Forsete and wife of Balder. She
dies of grief at the death of Balder. _Nanna._

NARI or NARFI. Son of Loke. Loke was bound by the intestines of Nare.
_Nare_ or _Narfe_.

NÁSTRÖND [The shore of corpses]. A place of punishment for the wicked
after Ragnarok. _Naastrand._

NIÐAFJÖLL. The Nida-mountains toward the north, where there is after
Ragnarok a golden hall for the race of Sindre (the dwarfs). NIDAFELL.

NIÐHÖGGR. A serpent of the nether world, that tears the carcases of the
dead. He also lacerates Ygdrasil. _Nidhug._

NIFLHEIMR [_nifl_; Old High Germ. _nibul_; Germ. _nebel_; Lat. _nebula_;
Gr. νεφέλη, mist, fog.] The world of fog or mist; the nethermost of the
rime worlds. The place of punishment (Hades). It was visited by Odin
when he went to inquire after the fate of Balder. _Niflheim._

NJÖRÐR. A van, vanagod. He was husband of Skade, and father of Frey and
Freyja. He dwells in Noatun. _Njord._

NÓATÚN [Place of ships]. Njord’s dwelling; Njord being a divinity of the
water or sea. _Noatun._

NORÐRI [North]. A dwarf presiding over the northern regions. _Nordre_ or

NÓTT. Night; daughter of Norve. _Night._

NORN; plural NORNIR. The weird sisters; the three heavenly norns
(_parcæ_, fates) Urd, Verdande, and Skuld (Past, Present, and Future);
they dwelt at the fountain of Urd, and ruled the fate of the world.
Three norns were also present at the birth of every man and cast the
weird of his life. _Norn._


ÓÐINN [Anglo-Sax. _Wodan_; Old High Germ. _Wodan_]. Son of Bor and
Bestla. He is the chief of the gods. With Vile and Ve he parcels out
Ymer. With Hœner and Loder he creates Ask and Embla. He is the
fountain-head of wisdom, the founder of culture, writing and poetry, the
progenitor of kings, the lord of battle and victory. He quaffs with Saga
in Sokvabek. He has two ravens, two wolves and a spear. His throne is
Hlidskjalf, from where he looks out over all the worlds. In Ragnarok he
is devoured by the Fenris-wolf. _Odin._

ÓÐR. Freyja’s husband. _Oder._

ÓÐRŒRIR [The spirit-mover]. One of the vessels in which the blood of
Kvaser, that is, the poetic mead, was kept. The inspiring nectar.

OFNIR. A serpent under Ygdrasil. _Ofner._

ÓKÓLNIR [Not cool]. After Ragnarok the giants have a hall (ale-_hall_)
called Brimer, at Okolner.

ÖKU-ÞÓRR [Icel. _aka_; Lat. _agere_; Gr. ἄγειν (compare English _yoke_),
to drive, to ride]. A name of Thor as a charioteer. _Akethor._

ÓSKI [Wish]. A name of Odin. _Oske._ _Wish._

OTR [OTTER]. A son of Hreidmar; in the form of an otter killed by Loke.

ÓTTARR or ÓTTARR HEIMSKI [Stupid]. A son of Instein, a protégé of
Freyja. He has a contest with Angantyr. Hyndla gives him a cup of
remembrance. _Ottar._


RAGNARÖK [_ragna_, from _regin_, god; _rök_ may be Old High Germ.
_rahha_, sentence, judgment, akin to _rekja_; _rök_, from _rekja_, is
the whole development from creation to dissolution, and would, in this
word, denote the dissolution, doomsday, of the gods; or it may be from
_rökr_ (_reykkr_, smoke), twilight, and then the word means the twilight
of the gods.] The last day; the dissolution of the gods and the world.

RÁN [Rob]. The goddess of the sea; wife of Æger. _Ran._

RATATOSKR. A squirrel that runs up and down the branches of Ygdrasil.

RATI. An auger used by Odin in obtaining the poetic mead. _Rate._

REGINN. Son of Hreidmar; brother of Fafner and Otter. _Regin._

RINDR [Eng. _rind_, crust]. A personification of the hard frozen earth.
Mother of Vale. The loves of Odin and Rind resemble those of Zeus and
Europa in Greek legends. _Rind._

RÖSKVA. The name of the maiden follower of Thor. She symbolizes the ripe
fields of harvest. _Roskva._


SÆHRÍMNIR [_sær_, sea; _hrímnir_, rime-producer]. The name of the boar
on which the gods and heroes in Valhal constantly feed. _Sæhrimner._

SAGA [History]. The goddess of history. She dwells in Sokvabek. _Saga._

SESSRÚMNIR [Seat-roomy]. Freyja’s large-seated palace. _Sesrumner._

SÍÐSHÖTTR [Long-hood]. One of Odin’s names, from his traveling in
disguise with a large hat on his head hanging down over his face.

SÍÐSKEGGR [Long-beard]. One of Brage’s names. It is also a name of Odin
in the lay of Grimner. _Sidskeg._

SIF. The wife of Thor and mother of Uller. [Ulfilas _sibja_; Anglo-Sax.
_sib_; Eng. gos-_sip_, god-_sib_; Heliand _sibbia_; Old High Germ.
_sibba_; Germ. _sippe_. The word denotes affinity.] Sif, the
golden-haired goddess, wife of Thor, betokens mother earth with her
bright green grass. She was the goddess of the sanctity of the family
and wedlock, and hence her name. _Sif._

SIGFAÐÍR [Father of victory]. A name of Odin. _Sigfather._

SIGYN. Loke’s wife. She holds a basin to prevent the venom from dropping
into Loke’s face. _Sigyn._

SILFRINTOPPR [Silver-tuft]. One of the horses of the gods. _Silvertop._

SINDRI. One of the most famous dwarfs. _Sindre._

SINIR [Sinew]. One of the horses of the gods. _Siner._

SJÖFN. One of the goddesses. She delights in turning men’s hearts to
love. _Sjofn._

SKAÐI [_scathe_, harm, damage]. A giantess; daughter of Thjasse and the
wife of Njord. She dwells in Thrymheim. Hangs a venom serpent over
Loke’s face. _Skade._

SKEIÐBRÍMIR [Race-runner]. One of the horses of the gods. _Skeidbrimer._

SKIÐBLAÐNIR. The name of the famous ship of the god Frey. _Skidbladner._

SKINFAXI [Shining-mane]. The horse of Day. _Skinfax._

SKÍRNIR [The bright one]. Frey’s messenger. _Skirner._

SKRÝMIR. The name of a giant; the name assumed by Utgard-Loke.

SKULD [Shall]. The norn of the future. _Skuld._

SKÖGUL. A valkyrie. _Skogul._

SLEIPNIR [The slipper]. The name of Odin’s eight-footed steed. He is
begotten by Loke with Svadilfare. _Sleipner._

SNOTRA [Neat]. The name of one of the goddesses. _Snotra._

SÖKKMÍMIR [Mimer of the deep]. A giant slain by Odin. _Sokmimer._

SÖKKVABEKKR. A mansion where Odin and Saga quaff from golden beakers.

SÓL [Sun]. Daughter of Mundilfare. She drives the horses that draw the
car of the sun. _Sol._

SONR. One of the vessels containing the poetic mead. _Son._

SUDRI [South]. A dwarf presiding over the south region. _Sudre._

SURTR. A fire-giant in Ragnarok; contends with the gods on the plain of
Vigrid; guards Muspelheim. _Surt._

SUTTUNGR. The giant possessor of the poetic mead. _Suttung._

SVAÐILFARI. A horse; the sire of Sleipner. _Svadilfare._

SVAFNIR. A serpent under Ygdrasil. _Svafner._

SVALINN [Cooler]. The shield placed before the sun. _Svalin._

SVÁSUÐR [Delightful]. The name of a giant; the father of the sun.

SÝN. A minor goddess. _Syn._


TÝR; genitive TYS, dative and accusative Tý. [Compare Icel. _tivi_, god;
_Twisco_ (_Tivisco_) in Tacitus’ _Germania_. For the identity of this
word with Sanscrit _dyaus_, _dívas_, heaven; Gr. Ζεύς (Διός); Lat.
_divus_, see Max Müller’s _Lectures on the Science of Language_, 2d
series, p. 425.] Properly the generic name of the highest divinity, and
remains in many compounds. In the mythology he is the one-armed god of
war. The Fenris-wolf bit one hand off him. He goes with Thor to Hymer to
borrow a kettle for Æger. He is son of Odin by a giantess. _Tyr._

Þ (TH).

ÞJÁLFI. The name of the servant and follower of Thor. The word properly
means a delver, digger (Germ. _delber_, _delben_, to dig). The names
Thjalfe and Roskva indicate that Thor was the friend of the farmers and
the god of agriculture. _Thjalfe._

ÞJAZI [ÞJASSI]. A giant; the father of Njord’s wife, Skade. His dwelling
was Thrymheim; he was slain by Thor. _Thjasse._

ÞÓRR. [Anglo-Sax. _þunor_; Eng. _thunder_; North Eng. _thunner_; Dutch
_donder_; Old High Germ. _donar_; Germ. _donner_; Helίand _thunar_;
Danish _tor_, in _tor_-den (compare Lat. _tono_ and _tonitrus_.) The
word _Þórr_ is therefore formed by absorption of the middle _n_, and
contraction of an old dissyllabic _þonor_ into one syllable, and is a
purely Scandinavian form; hence in Anglo-Saxon charters or diplomas it
is a sure sign of forgery when names compounded with _þur_- appear in
deeds pretending to be of a time earlier than the Danish invasion in the
ninth century; although in later times they abound. The English
_Thursday_ is a later form, in which the phonetic rule of the
Scandinavian tongue has been followed; but perhaps it is a North English
form]. The god of thunder, keeper of the hammer, the ever-fighting
slayer of trolls and destroyer of evil spirits, the friend of mankind,
the defender of the earth, the heavens and the gods; for without Thor
and his hammer the earth would become the helpless prey of the giants.
He was the consecrator, the hammer being the cross or holy sign of the
ancient heathen, hence the expressive phrase on a heathen Danish runic
stone: _Þurr vigi þassi runar_ (Thor consecrate these runes!) Thor was
the son of Odin and Fjorgyn (mother earth); he was blunt, hot-tempered,
without fraud or guile, of few words and ready stroke—such was Thor, the
favorite deity of our forefathers. The finest legends of the Younger
Edda and the best lays of the Elder Edda refer to Thor. His hall is
Bilskirner. He slays Thjasse, Thrym, Hrungner, and other giants. In
Ragnarok he slays the Midgard-serpent, but falls after retreating nine
paces, poisoned by the serpent’s breath. _Thor._

ÞRIÐI [Third]. A name of Odin in Gylfaginning. _Thride._

ÞRÚÐGELMIR. The giant father of Bergelmer. _Thrudgelmer._

ÞRÚÐHEIMR or ÞRÚÐVANGR. Thor’s abode. _Thrudheim_; _Thrudvang_.

ÞRÚÐR. The name of a goddess; the daughter of Thor and Sif. _Thrud._

ÞRYMHEIMR. Thjasse’s and Skade’s dwelling. _Thrymheim._

ÞRYMR. The giant who stole Thor’s hammer and demanded Freyja for it.

ÞÖKK. The name of a giantess (supposed to have been Loke in disguise) in
the myth of Balder. She would not weep for his death. _Thok._


ÚLFRÚN. One of Heimdal’s nine giant mothers. _Ulfrun._

ULLR. The son of Sif and stepson of Thor. His father is not named. He
dwells in Ydaler. _Uller._

URÐARBRUNNR. The fountain of the norn Urd. The Urdar-fountain. The weird

URÐR [Anglo-Sax. _wyrd_; Eng. _weird_; Heliand _wurth_]. One of the
three norns. The norn of the past, that which has been. _Urd._

ÚTGARÐAR [The out-yard]. The abode of the giant Utgard-Loke. _Utgard._

ÚTGARÐA-LOKI. The giant of Utgard visited by Thor. He calls himself
Skrymer. _Utgard-Loke._


VAFÞRÚÐNIR. A giant visited by Odin. They try each other in questions
and answers. The giant is defeated and forfeits his life. _Vafthrudner._

VALASKJÁLF. One of Odin’s dwellings. _Valaskjalf._

VALFÖÐR [Father of the slain]. A name of Odin. _Valfather._

VALGRIND. A gate of Valhal. _Valgrind._

VALHÖLI. [The hall of the slain. Icel. _valr_; Anglo-Sax. _wœl_, the
slain]. The hall to which Odin invited those slain in battle. _Valhal._

VALKYRJA [The chooser of the slain]. A troop of goddesses, handmaidens
of Odin. They serve in Valhal, and are sent on Odin’s errands.

VALI. Brother of Balder. Slays Hoder when only one night old. Rules with
Vidar after Ragnarok. _Vale._

VALI. A son of Loke. _Vale._

VALTAMR. A fictitious name of Odin’s father. _Valtam._

VÉ. A brother of Odin (Odin, Vile and Ve). _Ve._

VEGTAMR. A name assumed by Odin. _Vegtam._

VANAHEIMAR. The abode of the vans. _Vanaheim._

VANR; plural VANIR. Those deities whose abode was in Vanaheim, in
contradistinction to the asas, who dwell in Asgard: Njord, Frey and
Freyja. The vans waged war with the asas, but were afterwards, by virtue
of a treaty, combined and made one with them. The vans were deities of
the sea. _Van._

VÉORR [Defender]. A name of Thor. _Veor._

VERÐANDI [from _verða_, to become; Germ. _werden_]. The norn of the
present, of that which is.

VESTRI. The dwarf presiding over the west region. _Vestre._ _West._

VIÐARR. Son of Odin and the giantess Grid. He dwells in Landvide. He
slays the Fenris-wolf in Ragnarok. Rules with Vale after Ragnarok.

VÍGRIÐR [Icel. _víg_; Ulfilas _wiahjo_, μάγη, a fight, a battle]. The
field of battle where the gods and the sons of Surt meet in Ragnarok.

VÍLI. Brother of Odin and Ve. These three sons of Bor and Bestla
construct the world out of Ymer’s body. _Vile._

VÍMUR. A river that Thor crosses. _Vimer._

VINDSVALR [Wind-cool]. The father of winter. _Vindsval._

VINDHEIMR [Wind-home]. The place that the sons of Balder and Hoder are
to inhabit after Ragnarok. _Vindheim._ _Wind-home._

VIN-GÓLF [The mansion of bliss]. The palace of the asynjes. _Vingolf._

VINGÞÓRR. A name of Thor. _Vingthor._

VÓR. The goddess of betrothals and marriages. _Vor._


ÝDALIR. Uller’s dwelling. _Ydaler._

YGGR. A name of Odin. _Ygg._

YGGDRASILL [The bearer of Ygg (Odin)]. The world-embracing ash tree. The
whole world is symbolized by this tree. _Ygdrasil._

ÝMIR. The huge giant in the cosmogony, out of whose body Odin, Vile and
Ve created the world. The progenitor of the giants. He was formed out of
frost and fire in Ginungagap. _Ymer._



 Aachen, 92.

 Aage, 397.

 Aarvak, 159, 177, 178, 259.

 Acts of the Apostles, 25.

 Adam, 82, 390, 436.

 Adelsten, Hakon, 110.

 Adonis, 53.

 Æger, 39, 40, 98, 110, 123, 247, 274, 322, 323, 327, 337, 338, 343-349,
    372, 377, 381, 397-399.

 Æschylus, 78.

 Afternoon, 180.

 Agder, 363.

 Agnar, 122, 156.

 Ahriman, 81.

 Alexander, 88, 96.

 Ale, 382.

 Alfheim, 186, 348.

 Allfather, 49, 182, 193, 216, 434.

 Alsvinn, 159, 177, 178.

 Alsvin, 259.

 Alvis, 124.

 America, American, etc., 34, 52, 59, 74, 92, 94, 96, 113, 128, 208,
    308, 309, 401.

 Amsvartner, 384.

 Andunson (Thorgeir), 202.

 Andhrimner, 263, 264.

 Andvare, 344, 376, 377, 381.

 Angantyr, 365, 366.

 Angerboda, 373, 382, 419, 420.

 Anglo-Saxon, 23, 36, 43, 47, 48, 72, 74, 75, 79, 117, 126, 165, 177,
    223, 230, 233, 240, 298, 308, 309, 347, 373.

 Annar, 178, 237.

 Aphrodite, 53, 413.

 Apollo, 40.

 Arab, 309.

 Argos, 72, 87.

 Asa-bridge, 189, 301.

 Asaheim, 54, 187, 208.

 Asas (a people), 232.

 Asgard, 35, 36, 38, 40, 101, 123, 126, 182, 185, 217, 221, 233, 234,
    250, 274-277, 287, 289, 300, 302, 303, 308, 323, 332, 337, 392, 429.

 Asia, 81.

 Ask, 82, 100, 183, 185, 187, 196.

 Atle, 377, 396.

 Athens, 59, 92.

 Aud, 156, 178.

 Audhumbla, 173, 174, 195.

 Augustus, 71, 89.

 Aurboda, 352.

 Aurgelmer, 173, 174, 194.

 Austre, 183.

 Avon, 78.


 Babel, 82, 175.

 Balder, 29, 39, 49, 53, 54, 57, 60, 64, 65, 82, 84, 90, 96, 98, 106,
    109, 110, 113, 121, 123, 124, 185, 186, 189, 193, 208, 222, 229,
    237-239, 241, 243, 244, 270, 272, 277-297, 356, 369, 375, 388, 390,
    391, 394, 397, 407, 409, 415, 425, 426, 429, 432-434.

 Barleycorn (John), 351.

 Bascom (Dr. John), 17, 114.

 Bauge, 249.

 Bele, 345, 354, 423.

 Beowulf, 36, 43, 47, 126, 131.

 Bergelmer, 173-175, 194.

 Berghild, 210.

 Berzelius, 28.

 Bestla, 174, 254.

 Beyla, 357, 399.

 Bifrost, 98, 101, 181, 186, 189, 272, 301, 418.

 Bil, 182.

 Billing, 242.

 Bilskirner, 186, 298, 300.

 Bjarkemaal, 62.

 Björnson (Björnstjerne), 95.

 Black Plague, 389.

 Black Sea, 82.

 Bleking, 226.

 Blicher, 402.

 Blodughadda, 347.

 Boccaccio, 126.

 Bodn, 247, 249.

 Bolthorn, 174, 254.

 Bolverk, 149, 249, 252.

 Bor, 174-176, 183.

 Boston, 386.

 Bous, 244.

 Boyesen (Hjalmar Hjorth), 18, 267.

 Braalund, 210.

 Brage, 90, 96-98, 123, 126, 159, 185, 220, 240 (the skald), 247, 259,
    270, 273-278, 369, 398, 399.

 Brand, 363.

 Breidablik, 186, 279.

 Brimer, 430, 434.

 Brisingamen, 331, 364, 374, 375.

 Brok, 106, 220, 221.

 Brynhild, 48, 118, 200, 377, 381, 388, 435.

 Bugge (Sophus), 116.

 Bull (Ole), 96, 202.

 Bure, 174.

 Burns (Robert), 351.

 Bygver, 350, 351.

 Byleist, 374, 375, 422.

 Bylgja, 347.

 Byrger, 182.

 Byzantium, 244.


 Cambridge (Eng.), 72.

 Carpenter (Dr. S. H.), 17, 75.

 Carthage, 240.

 Carlyle, 27, 37, 47, 54, 69, 72, 205, 266, 336.

 Caspian Sea, 82, 232.

 Castalian fountain, 72, 97.

 Catholic church, 31, 43, 49, 205, 393.

 Cato, 88.

 Charlemagne, 42.

 Chicago, 386.

 Christ, 31, 39, 41, 42, 49, 57, 82.

 Christian, Christianity, etc., 25, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 37, 39, 40,
    42, 44, 45, 47, 49, 50, 62, 70, 79, 94, 95, 113, 115, 128, 163, 201,
    205, 265, 308, 335, 336, 394, 435.

 Cicero, 89.

 Clarendon press, 72.

 Cleasby (Richard), 72.

 Colfax, 363.

 Cologne, 92.

 Constantinople, 65, 92.

 Cornwall (Barry) 28, 273.

 Correggio, 294.

 Creation, 60, 171-187.

 Cupid, 367.


 Daain, 190, 255.

 Dan, 105.

 Danaides, 64.

 Dane, Danish, Denmark, etc., 34, 35, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 47, 60, 72,
    83, 108, 233, 240, 322, 347.

 Dante, 381.

 Danube, 69.

 Darwin, 199.

 Dasent, 35, 36, 47, 48, 50, 51, 72, 205.

 Day, 178, 179, 237.

 Decameron, 126.

 Declaration of Independence, 92, 129.

 Delling, 178, 179, 258.

 Delphi, 57.

 Demeter, 236, 237, 359.

 Demosthenes, 77.

 Deucalion, 56.

 Dido, 240.

 Dorothea, 403-407.

 Draupner, 106, 217, 220-223, 238, 288, 289, 299.

 Drome, 383, 384.

 Duneyr, 190.

 Durathror, 190.

 Durin, 183, 184.

 Dutch, 43, 95.

 Duva, 347.

 Dvalin, 105, 190, 255.

 Dwarfs, 27, 29, 98, 99, 101, 102-109, 175.


 Edda (Elder), 116-125.

 Edda (Younger), 125-127.

 Edinburgh, 72.

 Egder, 420, 421.

 Egil, 326.

 Egil Skallagrimson, 367, 394.

 Egyptians, 23.

 Eikthyrner, 263.

 Eir, 241.

 Elder, 347, 398.

 Eldhrimner, 263, 264.

 Elektra, 53.

 Elivagar, 97, 172, 173, 305, 307, 323.

 Elle, 320, 322.

 Ellida, 345.

 Else, 397.

 Elves, 201.

 Elvidner, 382.

 Embla, 82, 183, 185, 187, 196.

 England, English, etc., 23, 34, 35, 40, 42, 43-48, 52, 59, 65, 71, 72,
    74, 75, 76, 78, 92, 113, 118, 119, 128, 129, 165, 205, 208, 233,
    301, 308, 309, 347, 348, 360, 389.

 Ennius, 89.

 Erik Blood-ax, 392.

 Eros, 69.

 Etrurian, 74.

 Europe, European, etc., 35, 48, 49, 51, 52, 59, 68, 71, 75, 77, 92, 99,
    111, 113, 120, 129, 164, 233, 327, 360, 389.

 Euxinus, 232.

 Eve, 82, 390, 436.

 Evening, 180.

 Eyjafjord, 361.

 Eyvind Skaldespiller, 392.


 Fafner, 375, 377-380, 388.

 Fairfax (Harald), 26, 48, 49, 361, 363.

 Falhofner, 189.

 Farbaute, 374, 375.

 Fengr, 219.

 Fenris-wolf, 25, 53, 271, 338, 350, 366, 373, 375, 382-387, 402, 409,
    414, 417-419, 425-429.

 Fensal, 186, 237, 285, 290.

 Fimbul-winter, 416.

 Fjalar, 133, 247, 248, 250.

 Fjolner, 219, 351.

 Fjorgyn, 123, 236, 237, 423.

 Folkvang, 186, 364, 367, 393.

 Forenoon, 180.

 Forsete, 185, 186, 296, 297.

 Forseteland, 297.

 Fortuna, 308.

 Fraananger Force, 399.

 France, French, etc., 34, 41, 42, 48, 65, 75, 92, 113, 155, 232.

 Frank, 48, 309.

 Freke, 219, 220.

 Frey, 46, 98, 104, 106, 108, 109, 122, 165, 185, 200, 221, 231, 237,
    239, 274, 288, 301, 341, 348-363, 369, 414, 418, 423, 426.

 Freyja, 110, 123, 125, 165, 186, 215, 224-226, 237-239, 274, 276, 288,
    303, 308, 328-334 341, 348, 352, 364-368, 374, 394.

 Friday, 237, 367, 420.

 Fridthjof, 344-346, 360, 396.

 Frigg, 53, 98, 121-123, 186, 222, 231, 236-241, 245, 259, 274, 279-281,
    285-290, 294, 310, 364, 422, 425.

 Frisians, 87.

 Frye (W. E.), 322.

 Fulla, 110, 238, 274, 289, 295.

 Funen, 233, 240, 241.

 Funfeng, 347, 398.


 Gagnraad, 121, 227, 424, 425.

 Gaia, 236, 237.

 Galar, 247, 248.

 Ganglere, 174, 195, 436.

 Gardrofa, 239.

 Garm, 419-424.

 Gausta-fjeld, 33, 66.

 Gaut, 228.

 Gefjun, 123, 240, 241, 274.

 Gefn, 365.

 Geirrod, 122, 228, 310-312, 337, 374, 375.

 Gelgja, 385.

 Genesis, 55, 89, 272.

 Gerd, 122, 200, 274, 351-360, 414.

 Gere, 219, 220.

 German, Germany, etc., 34, 35, 39-49, 59, 72-75, 79, 118, 119, 126,
    196, 203, 233, 270, 277, 298, 309, 327, 352, 364, 403.

 Gerseme, 364.

 Giants, 29, 36, 38-40, 56, 60, 84, 86, 98, 102, 104, 105, 172, 173.

 Gibraltar, 69.

 Gilling, 247, 248.

 Gimle, 54, 101, 128, 185, 187, 269, 393, 430, 434.

 Ginungagap, 56, 66, 98, 171, 172, 175, 188.

 Gisl, 189.

 Gisle Surson, 361.

 Gjallar-bridge, 187, 208, 288, 289.

 Gjallar-horn, 188, 230, 272, 418, 421.

 Gjalp, 311.

 Gjol, 172, 187, 288, 385.

 Gjake, 380.

 Gladsheim, 98, 182, 231, 261, 262.

 Glaser, 262.

 Gleipner, 271, 384.

 Glener, 177.

 Glitner, 186, 296, 297.

 Glommen, 103.

 Glum, 361, 362.

 Gnaa, 238, 239, 245.

 Gnipa-cave, 419-425.

 Gnipa-heller, 387.

 Gnipa-heath, 377.

 God (the supreme), 24-34, 49, 54, 62, 66, 80, 119, 173, 272, 294, 368,
    415, 431, 435.

 Goethe, 40, 292.

 Goin, 190.

 Golden Age, 183.

 Goldfax, 302-309.

 Goldtop, 189, 272, 288.

 Gondul, 267.

 Gothic, 23, 33, 42-47, 51, 61, 62, 71, 73, 74, 78, 79, 94, 95, 111-114,
    117, 125-129, 165, 205, 208, 235, 273, 308, 327, 370, 371, 390, 395,
    407, 408, 415, 436.

 Graabak, 191.

 Grafvitner, 190.

 Grafvollud, 191.

 Gram, 155, 377, 378.

 Grane, 159, 259, 381.

 Greek, Greece, etc., 23-25, 51-79, 81, 87-89, 92, 97, 111-119, 192,
    193, 198, 237, 240, 245, 253, 254, 273, 291, 308, 309, 339, 361,
    369, 370, 413.

 Greenland, 65, 92.

 Greip, 311.

 Grid, 310, 311, 337, 433.

 Gridarvold, 310.

 Grimm (the brothers), 35, 39, 45, 86, 240, 352.

 Grimner, 90, 122, 176, 178, 181, 219, 220, 227-231, 261, 272, 279, 296,
    298, 358, 364.

 Grjottungard, 303-307.

 Groa, 305-309.

 Grundtvig, 16, 19, 60, 227, 240.

 Gudrun, 377, 381.

 Gullinburste, 106, 288, 301, 348, 363.

 Gungner, 159, 220-224, 259, 418.

 Gunlad, 91, 132, 148, 149, 200, 246-253.

 Gunnar Helming, 362, 388.

 Gylfaginning, 126.

 Gylfe, 126, 233, 234, 240, 436.

 Gymer, 347, 350-359.


 Haar, 91, 194, 195.

 Hagbard, 367.

 Hakon, 267-270, 386, 394.

 Hákonarmál, 392.

 Halfdan Gamle, 365.

 Hallfred, 44.

 Hallinskide, 271.

 Hamarsheimt, 110, 328-336.

 Hamder, 62.

 Hamlet, 78.

 Hamskerper, 239.

 Harald Haardraade, 92.

 Harald Haarfager. See Fairfax.

 Harbard, 122, 123.

 Hate Hrodvitneson, 179, 181.

 Hauch, 60.

 Hávamál, 120, 128-155, 163, 241, 244, 250, 251.

 Hebe, 436.

 Hebrews, 76, 77, 89.

 Hedrik, 363.

 Hefring, 347.

 Heiddraupner, 159.

 Heidrun, 263.

 Heimdal, 53, 84, 93, 101, 102, 171, 185-189, 208, 230, 270-273, 288,
    331, 357, 366, 369, 375, 419-431.

 Heimskringla, 50, 82, 125, 232.

 Hekla (Mt.), 34, 100.

 Hel, Helheim, Helgate, etc., 63, 84, 124, 128, 172, 187, 200, 205, 208,
    229, 238, 270, 280-283, 287-290, 295, 373, 375, 380, 382, 387-397,
    409, 415, 418-432.

 Helblinde, 374, 375.

 Helge, 49, 210, 363, 396.

 Helgoland, 297.

 Hengist, 48, 233.

 Hera, 87, 245.

 Herbert, 352.

 Hercules, 65, 78, 92, 119, 436.

 Hermes, 361.

 Hermion, 57.

 Hermod, 91, 216, 270, 287-289.

 Herodotus, 77, 88.

 Hesiod, 118.

 Himinbjorg, 186, 272.

 Himinbrjoter, 324.

 Himinglœfa, 346.

 Hindoos, 23, 53, 81.

 Hjalmgunnar, 156.

 Hjaltalin, 72.

 Hjuke, 182.

 Hler, 347.

 Hlidskjalf, 185, 187, 231, 237, 352, 399.

 Hlin, 238, 422, 425.

 Hlodyn, 236, 237, 423.

 Hnikar, 218.

 Hnos, 364.

 Hoddropner, 159.

 Hoder, 29, 82, 84, 185, 270, 280, 284, 286, 290-292, 388, 414, 429,
    432, 434.

 Hodmimer, 429, 433.

 Hœner, 81, 183, 185, 196, 215, 275, 342, 375, 391, 429-433.

 Hofud, 272.

 Hofvarpner, 238, 239.

 Holstein, 83, 233.

 Homer, 52, 77, 88, 89, 116, 118, 119, 267.

 Horn, 365.

 Horsa, 48, 233.

 Howitts (William and Mary), 80, 118.

 Hræsvelger, 181, 182, 197.

 Hrap, 394.

 Hraudung, 310.

 Hreidmar, 375-377.

 Hrimfaxe, 178, 179.

 Hrimner, 244.

 Hropt, 158, 261, 429.

 Hroptatyr, 228, 258.

 Hrotte, 381.

 Hrungner, 91, 199, 200, 301-310, 324.

 Hrym, 39, 418, 422.

 Hvergelmer, 172, 187, 188, 190, 208, 263, 434.

 Huge, 317-321.

 Hugin, 29, 219, 227.

 Hulder, 201.

 Humber, 40.

 Hunding, 218, 219.

 Hymer, 39, 101, 123, 199, 322-328, 344, 397.

 Hyndla, 24, 54, 124, 215, 365, 366, 431.

 Hyrroken, 287.


 Ibsen, 95.

 Iceland, 25, 34-50, 65, 72, 75, 77, 81, 92, 116, 117, 126, 129, 227,
    290, 295, 296, 347, 361-364, 367, 373, 384.

 Ida’s Plains, 428, 429.

 Idavold, 182-187.

 Idun, 90, 98, 109, 123, 273-278, 339, 369, 374, 375, 409.

 Ifing, 187.

 Iliad, 89, 116, 264.

 India, 81, 116.

 Ingeborg, 344, 366.

 Ingemund, 25, 361, 363.

 Ingun, 351.

 Ingve, 267.

 Instein, 365.

 Io, 87.

 Iris, 53, 273.

 Iron post, 403-407.

 Italy, 15, 75, 92.

 Ivald, 220, 227, 348.

 Ixion, 63.


 Jack the Giant-killer, 228.

 Jafuhaar, 91, 196.

 Jalk, 228.

 Japhet, 83.

 Jarnsaxa, 300-308.

 Jarnved, 179, 180.

 Jehovah. See God.

 Jew, 33, 58.

 Jochumson, 167.

 Jonsson (Arngrim), 26.

 Jord, 178, 236, 237.

 Jormungander, 100, 101, 382, 387, 422.

 Jotunheim, 38, 91, 101, 110, 177, 183, 184, 187, 196-198, 208, 209,
    225, 226, 229, 240, 248, 276, 287, 302, 305, 313, 322, 329-332, 334,
    337, 352, 354, 382, 421.

 Judas, 82.

 Judea, 57.

 Jul, 357, 363.

 Jupiter, 98, 300.

 Jutland, 83, 233, 241.


 Kadroma, 199.

 Keightley (Thomas), 201-205.

 Kerlaung, 189, 301.

 Ketil, 362.

 Keyser (Prof. R.), 47, 86, 126, 128, 130, 163, 164, 390.

 Kjotve, 363.

 Klio, 253.

 Kolga, 347.

 Kormt, 189, 301.

 Kvaser, 91, 247, 248, 252, 253, 399.


 Ladrones Islands, 38.

 Laing (Samuel), 72, 129.

 Laocoon, 327.

 Latin, Rome, Roman, etc., 23, 31, 42-44, 49, 68, 71-79, 83, 84, 88-99,
    113, 117, 119, 128, 165, 232, 235, 254, 201, 308, 309, 327, 328,

 Lanfey, 374, 375.

 Lax-aa-dal, 367.

 Leding, 383.

 Lerad, 263.

 Lif, 429, 433.

 Lifthrase, 420, 433.

 Lightfoot, 189.

 Lincoln, 294.

 Lit, 288.

 Ljosalfahelm, 187.

 Lodbrok (Regner), 267.

 Loder, 81, 183, 185, 196, 215, 372, 373, 391, 432.

 Lodfafner, 150-154.

 Lofn, 238, 239, 368.

 Loge, 317, 321.

 Logrinn, 240.

 Loire, 92.

 Loke, 28, 29, 38, 65, 81-84, 98, 102-113, 123, 124, 185, 196, 220-226,
    237, 260, 275-277, 281, 285, 286, 290, 292, 295, 301, 310-312, 317,
    321, 322, 328-336, 338, 344, 349, 350, 351, 371-409, 414, 418-436.

 London, 72.

 Longfellow (H. W.), 96, 97, 99, 299.

 Loptr, 105, 372, 373.

 Lord’s Supper, 31.

 Luther, 73, 309, 327, 328.

 Lybia, 69.

 Lynge, 218.

 Lyngve, 384.


 Maane, 177, 182.

 Maane (Thorkel), 25, 26.

 Maanegarm, 180, 417, 419, 420.

 Macbeth, 296, 381.

 Magna Charta, 92, 129.

 Magne, 29, 300, 301, 305, 308, 309, 429, 432, 433.

 Magnússon (E.), 72, 382.

 Magnussen (Finn), 352.

 Mallet, 232.

 Mannaheim, 187.

 Mannigfual, 87.

 Mardal, 365.

 Mars, 73, 89, 98.

 Marsh (George P.), 76.

 Mars’ Hill, 25.

 Maurer (Konrad), 72.

 Mediterranean Sea, 76, 347.

 Megingjarder, 29, 299, 301, 310.

 Meile, 306.

 Meinert (H.), 403.

 Mercurius, 360.

 Mermaid, 204.

 Merman, 204.

 Midgard, 82, 98, 99, 175-179, 183, 187, 197, 224, 300, 419, 423.

 Midgard-serpent, 53, 96, 123, 322-328, 375, 382, 387, 409, 417-419,
    426, 428, 429.

 Midnight, 180.

 Millers, 28.

 Milton, 69, 293.

 Mimer, 69, 96, 98, 103, 159, 188, 189, 208, 209, 229, 230, 260, 344,
    418, 421, 433.

 Minerva, 307.

 Mithridates, 83, 232.

 Mjolner, 28, 79, 101-103, 110, 225, 288, 299, 301, 305, 308, 310, 312,
    315, 326, 329, 374, 429, 433.

 Mnemosyne, 53.

 Mode, 300, 301, 429, 432, 433.

 Modgud, 289.

 Modsogner, 183, 184.

 Möbius, 72.

 Mæso-Gothic, 75, 206.

 Moin, 190.

 Mokkerkalfe, 91, 304-309.

 Montesquieu, 129.

 Morning, 180.

 Morris (William), 72, 382.

 Moses, Mosaic, 33, 70, 79, 89, 198, 394.

 Müller (Max), 47, 74.

 Munch (P. A.) 47.

 Mundilfare, 177, 178.

 Munin, 29, 53, 219, 227.

 Muspel, 181, 350, 354, 418, 422, 425.

 Muspelheim, 54, 56, 98, 172, 175, 176, 187, 193, 425, 427.


 Naastrand, 62, 99, 100, 128, 393, 430, 434.

 Naglfar, 178, 417, 418, 422.

 Nal, 374, 375.

 Nanna, 84, 90, 98, 106, 109, 113, 222, 238, 239, 274, 287, 289, 294,
    296, 369, 394.

 Nare, or Narfe, 382, 400.

 Necks, 203.

 Nep, 288, 294.

 Nere, 211.

 Newtons, 28.

 Nida-mountains, 430, 431, 434, 435.

 Nidhug, 187, 188, 190, 208, 431-435.

 Niebelungen-Lied, 43, 47, 118, 126.

 Niflheim, 56, 98, 124, 172, 187, 188, 194, 208, 220, 264, 280, 282,
    382, 387, 416.

 Niflhel, 389.

 Night, 177-179.

 Niobe, 57.

 Nisses, 203.

 Nix, 105.

 Njal, 394.

 Njord, 123, 185, 186, 200, 231, 239, 274, 277, 333, 341-364, 432.

 Noah, 55, 82, 83.

 Noatun, 186, 333, 341-343.

 Noon, 180.

 Nordre, 183.

 Normandy, 48, 92.

 Norns, 62, 109, 205.

 North American Review, 265.

 North Sea, 34, 37.

 Norve, 177, 179.

 Nottingham, 39.

 Numa Pompilius, 74.


 Odense, 233.

 Oder, 226, 364-368.

 Odin, 24, 26, 29, 35, 40, 49, 53-56, 74, 81-84, 87, 90, 91, 96, 98,
    101, 103, 106, 108-113, 116, 120-130, 144, 147, 149, 155-159, 163,
    165, 171, 174, 175, 182-189, 193-200, 206, 209, 215-300, 302, 303,
    308, 309, 326, 332, 335-339, 347-351, 358, 362-369, 372-376,
    382-395, 398-402, 408, 409, 414, 418-434.

 Odrœrer, 140, 247-254.

 Oehlenschlæger, 95, 108, 322.

 Oersted, 28.

 Ofner, 191, 228.

 Okeanos, 53, 347.

 Okolner, 430, 434.

 Olaf Geirstada-alf, 389.

 Olaf in Lax-aa-dal, 367.

 Olaf the Saint, 335, 336.

 Ole, 382.

 Oller, 244.

 Olympos, 53, 54.

 Ormt, 189, 301.

 Orvandel, 305-307.

 Orvar-Odd, 367.

 Ottar, 365, 366.

 Otté (E. C.), 165.

 Oxford, 72.


 Pæstum, 118.

 Paganism, 42, 49.

 Palestine, 65.

 Pan, 339.

 Paris, 92.

 Parnassos, 56, 72.

 Paul (the apostle), 25, 394.

 Pegasos, 227, 308.

 Penates, 361.

 Pennock (Barclay), 390.

 Persephone, 359.

 Persia, 81, 396.

 Peter, 394.

 Petersen (N. M.), 47, 116, 117, 291, 402, 435.

 Plato, 77.

 Plautus, 89.

 Pluto, 81.

 Pompey, 83, 232.

 Pontus, 83, 232, 347.

 Proserpina, 360.

 Psyche, 69.

 Pyrrha, 56.

 Pythia, 57.


 Quirinus, 74.


 Rafnagud, 219.

 Rafnkel, 363.

 Ragnarok, 25, 60, 61, 66, 84, 96, 100, 102, 120, 123, 230, 272, 273,
    285, 338, 339, 351, 354, 366, 386, 387, 392-395, 401, 409, 413-427,

 Ran, 98, 103, 110, 245, 343-348, 376, 395.

 Rask (Rasmus), 72, 82, 83.

 Ratatosk, 190.

 Rate, 148, 249-251.

 Reformation, 129.

 Regeneration, 428-436.

 Regin, 375-379.

 Reinbert, 403-407.

 Rhine, 69, 92.

 Ridel, 379, 380.

 Rig, 124, 273.

 Rind, 236-246, 280, 284, 433.

 Ring (King), 346.

 Ringhorn, 287, 295.

 Rjukan Force, 66.

 Rogner, 159, 259.

 Rolf Ganger, 48.

 Rolleif, 25.

 Romance, 58, 70, 75.

 Rome, Roman. See Latin.

 Romulus, 73, 89.

 Roskva, 300, 312, 313, 326.

 Rosterus, 243.

 Rosthiof, 243, 344.

 Rouen 48.

 Rudbek, 88.

 Rune, 42, 50.

 Runeburg, 293.

 Rune Song, 254-259.

 Runic Chapter, 155, 273.

 Russia, 41, 92.

 Ruthenians, 243.


 Sabines, 73, 74.

 Saga (Goddess), 186, 253, 369.

 Sagas (Histories), 36, 38, 43, 44, 49, 72, 77, 88, 96, 126, 127,
    218-223, 227, 235, 295, 360, 361.

 Sæger, 182.

 Sæhrimner, 69, 263, 264.

 Sæming, 234.

 Sæmund, 37, 38, 50, 116.

 Sars (J. E.), 47.

 Saturnus, 165.

 Saxo Grammaticus, 82, 232, 243, 244.

 Saxon, 40, 42, 48, 233, 240.

 Scandinavian, Scandinavia, 34, 35, 40-47, 59, 72, 75, 89, 95, 96, 129,
    201, 233.

 Scotland, 39, 40, 75, 203.

 Scheldt, 92.

 Scythia, 232.

 Seabold, 361.

 Seine, 48, 92.

 Seneca, 78.

 Sesrumner, 186, 364.

 Seva-fjeld, 396.

 Shakespeare, 40, 52, 78, 79, 119, 222, 296, 366, 377, 381.

 Sibylline, 89.

 Sicily, 48.

 Sif, 28, 29, 102, 103, 107-109, 220, 221, 300, 301, 303, 308, 333, 374,
    375, 399.

 Sigdrifa, 128, 129, 155-163, 230.

 Sigfrid, 118.

 Sigmund, 156, 216, 218, 392.

 Sigrun, 396.

 Sigtuna, 234, 235.

 Sigurd, 48, 130, 155-163, 218, 219, 377-381, 388.

 Sigyn, 111, 274, 375, 382, 401, 436.

 Silfrintop, 189.

 Simul, 182.

 Sindre, 106, 107, 220, 221,
   (Hall, 430, 434.)

 Siner, 189.

 Sisyphos, 64.

 Siva, 81.

 Sjofn, 238, 239, 368.

 Skaane, 226.

 Skade, 200, 277, 341-343, 352, 400, 401.

 Skáldskaparmál, 126.

 Skeidbrimer, 189.

 Skidbladner, 34, 122, 220, 348.

 Skilfing, 228.

 Skinfaxe, 178, 179.

 Skirner, 122, 231, 352-360, 384, 419.

 Skjalf, 365.

 Skjold, 83, 233, 365.

 Skogul, 267, 268.

 Skol, 179, 181.

 Skrymer, 312-322, 371.

 Skuld, 98, 110, 165, 189, 210, 265.

 Sleipner, 159, 189, 217, 224-227, 259, 270, 280, 282, 287, 302, 308,
    374, 408.

 Slid, 387.

 Slidrugtanne, 288, 348.

 Snorre Sturleson, 38, 50, 82, 116, 125, 232.

 Snotra, 238.

 Socrates, 88, 368.

 Sokmimer, 200.

 Sokvabek, 186, 253.

 Sol, 177.

 Solomon, 89, 120.

 Solon, 88.

 Son, 247, 249.

 Spanish, 38, 65, 75, 92.

 Sparta, 59.

 Spirit of Laws, 129.

 Sterkodder, 199.

 Stockholm, 234.

 Stephens (George), 23.

 Stephens (St.), 403-407.

 Stromkarl, 96.

 Sudre, 183.

 Sulun, 82.

 Surt, 172, 338, 351, 418-433.

 Suttung, 148, 149, 248-252, 358.

 Svadilfare, 224-226.

 Svafner, 191, 228, 281.

 Svalin, 177, 178.

 Svartalf-heim, 187, 376, 384.

 Svasud, 180, 182.

 Svithjod, 82.

 Svolner, 306.

 Swedes, 34, 35, 41-47, 83, 126, 226, 233, 234, 240, 241, 244, 362.

 Syn, 238, 239.

 Syr, 365.


 Tanais, 232.

 Tanngnjost, 299.

 Tanngrisner, 299, 301.

 Tantalos, 63.

 Tartaros, 60, 63.

 Taylor, Bayard, 360.

 Tegner, 95, 344, 346, 360.

 Teutonic, 34-36, 41-52, 70-78, 90, 296, 309, 327, 328.

 Thames, 48.

 Thaumas, 53.

 Theodolf, St., 265.

 Thessalian, 57.

 Thibet 199.

 Thjalfe, 91, 300-326.

 Thjasse, 275-277, 342, 352, 374.

 Thjodolf of Hvin, 306, 393.

 Thjodrœrer, 258.

 Thok, 65, 290, 295, 389, 397, 407.

 Thor, 26-29, 39, 40, 46, 49, 52, 53, 74, 79, 82, 84, 87, 91, 93, 96,
    98-124, 165, 185-189, 220-226, 237, 267, 270, 287, 288, 298-339,
    358, 362, 365, 369, 371, 374, 387, 395-400, 406, 418, 426, 429, 432,

 Thorgerd, 367.

 Thorgrim, 361.

 Thorkel, 361, 362.

 Thorp, Benjamin, 46, 72.

 Thorstein, 396.

 Thorwald Krok, 362.

 Thorwaldsen, Albert, 436.

 Thride, 91, 196.

 Throndhjem, 360-363.

 Thrudgelmer, 173, 194.

 Thrudheim, 186.

 Thrudvang, 186, 298, 300, 305, 322, 335.

 Thrung, 365.

 Thrym, 39, 111, 123, 124, 200, 328-336, 365.

 Thrymheim, 342, 343.

 Thund (Odin), 228, 255.

 Thvite, 386.

 Tiberias, 92.

 Tityos, 63.

 Trent, 39.

 Trier, 265.

 Trinity, 81, 91.

 Trolls, 202.

 Troy, 118.

 Tryggvesson, Olaf, 44, 360, 363.

 Tuesday, 270.

 Tver-aa, 361, 362.

 Twilight of the gods. See Ragnarok.

 Tyndall, 28.

 Typhon, 413.

 Tyr, 157, 165, 185, 267, 270, 271, 323, 326, 337, 349, 350, 383, 385,
    414, 419.


 Uller, 185, 186, 281, 300-306.

 Ulfilas, 206.

 United States, 65.

 Upsala, 362.

 Uranos, 236.

 Urd, Urdar-fount, etc., 95, 98, 110, 149, 165, 169, 189, 190, 191, 208,
    200, 301.

 Utgard, 196, 315, 316.

 Utgard-Loke, 316-325, 371.


 Vafthrudner, 120, 121, 173-181, 227, 290, 291, 424, 425.

 Vafud, 228.

 Vak, 244.

 Vaker, 228.

 Valaskjalf, 231.

 Vale, 185, 237, 245, 291, 338-340, 382, 400, 409, 429-433.

 Valfather. See Odin.

 Valhal, 60, 98, 108-112, 122, 128, 185, 215, 216, 224, 230, 231, 237,
    261-269, 286, 290, 302-308, 365, 389-394, 415-420.

 Valkyries, 69, 110, 112, 265-269.

 Valtam, 280, 283.

 Vanaheim, 187, 341.

 Vandal, 79, 308.

 Vanlande, King, 393.

 Vans, 341-370.

 Var, 238, 239, 334, 368.

 Vasud, 180.

 Vatnsdal, 361.

 Ve, 56, 81, 91, 174, 175, 195, 215.

 Vecha, 243, 244.

 Vedfolner, 190.

 Vedic, 52, 116.

 Vegtam, 124, 227, 229, 241, 280-285.

 Venus, 237, 308, 367.

 Veor, 323.

 Verdande, 98, 110, 165, 189, 209.

 Vestre, 183.

 Vidar, 185, 310, 333-340, 398, 419-433.

 Vienna, 403-407.

 Vidfin, 182.

 Viga-glum, 361, 362.

 Vigfusson, Gudbrand, 72.

 Vigrid, 418, 425.

 Vile, 56, 81, 84, 91, 174, 175, 195, 215, 259.

 Vimer, 311.

 Vindlone, 180.

 Vindsval, 180, 181.

 Vinland, 52, 65.

 Vingolf, 183, 185, 216, 393.

 Volsung and Volsung Saga, 217, 218, 322.

 Volund, 124.

 Völuspá, 120, 171, 176, 180-183, 209, 229, 230, 273, 290, 424, 431.

 Von, 386.

 Vonargander, 386.

 Voring Force, 66.


 Wagner, 199.

 Welhaven, 95.

 Wergeland, 95.

 Wiener-wald, 403-407.

 Wind-home, 429, 432.

 Wisconsin, 245.


 Ydaler, 186, 302.

 Ygdrasil, 74, 82, 86, 87, 94, 98, 120, 122, 188-191, 205-209, 217, 229,
    254, 260, 299, 301, 370, 387, 418-421.

 Ygg, 206, 228, 282.

 Ymer, 40, 56, 66, 82, 96, 122, 125, 171-176, 183, 194-196, 215, 237,
    414, 426.

 Ynglings, 233.

 Yngve, 233.


 Zealand, 240, 241.

 Zendavista, 435.

 Zeus, 53-56, 236, 245, 307, 413.

 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).
    ○ Footnotes have been moved to follow the chapters in which they are

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