Investigations into Germanic Mythology Volume II - by VIKTOR RYDBERG- Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves © 2010 All Rights Reserved



24. Thor’s Campaign Against the Giant Geirrod.

The gods and the giants were now in open enmity. Egil had difficulty defending the Elivogar. Geirrod's daughters devised a plan with Loki to bring Egil, Thjalfi, and the host from their citadel to ruin. Loki urged Thor into a campaign against Geirrod. Thor traveled with Egil, Thjalfi and the host from their citadel into Jotunheim. An ambush had been laid for them along the path, and as they waded over the river, Egil and his warriors were nearly drowned. A field battle with the giants ensued. Thereafter, another battle occurred within the giant's mountain stronghold. Geirrod, along with his daughters and the members of his household, fell in the battle.15

25. Thor’s Vingnir-Hammer Stolen.

 When Thor, on a journey in the company of Loki, lay down to sleep, his hammer was stolen from him and concealed by the giant Thrym deep down in the earth. Thrym would not return the hammer, except on the condition that he receive Freyja as his wife. Thor, dressed as a bride and ornamented with Brisingamen, proceeded to Thrym's gard, followed by Loki who was clad as a bridesmaid. When the hammer was laid in the "bride's" lap for the blessing of the marriage, Thor slew the hammer's thief and his house-folk.

26. Asgard’s City Wall.

 Since the age of peace had ended, as a precaution, the gods fortified Asgard against the enemies of the world. A legend tells how this was accomplished. The master builder, a giant, who demanded Sol, Mani, and Freyja in payment, became incapacitated through one of Loki's tricks, at the time agreed upon to complete the work. When he then became violent with indignation over it, Thor slew him. Loki, in the form of a mare, enticed the master builder's draught-horse Svadilfari into the woods, where with it he produced the eightfooted horse Sleipnir, which became Odin's steed.

27. Loki Cuts Off the Hair of Sif, the Dis of Vegetation.

Thereafter, Ivaldi's son Völund forged locks of gold for her, which took root and grew like natural hair.

28. The World-Endangering Wager.

 Loki devised a plan that seemed to be of great benefit for the gods, but actually was calculated to cause enmity between the gods and the Nature-smiths, as well as among them separately.16 He sought out Mimir's son Brokk, wanting to strike a bet that Sindri, Mimir's most artistic son, could not make three treasures as good as those created by the sons of Ivaldi, specifically Sif's golden hair, the spear Gungnir, and the ship Skidbladnir. Loki wagered his head. Brokk, who would happily have the head of the worldendangering deceiver, took the bet. Sindri forged the boar Slidrugtanni for Frey and Freyja, the ring Draupnir for Odin, and for Thor, an iron hammer that could not be stolen, but would return by itself to its owner's hand. Since the gods were the only ones who could compare the worth of these treasures, they agreed to pronounce a judgment in the matter after performing tests.

29. The Giant Hrungnir in Asgard.

Odin tested his horse Sleipnir, and on that occasion saw the giant Hrungnir, who was the finest fighter and owned the best horse in Jotunheim. Hrungnir mounted his horse and raced him into Asgard, where he, even though an enemy of the gods, was received according to the dictates of hospitality and entertained with mead. Over the drinking-horn, he boasted about his strength and threatened his hosts, until Thor came in. Then he lowered his tone and made reference to guests' rights in order to save his life. He declared that he was weaponless, but if Thor would agree to meet him on his own mark in Jotunheim, they could set a time for it. Thor accepted his challenge.

 30. The Iron Hammer Proven.

Thor went to meet Hrungnir. Egil could not accompany him to the meeting, because when Thor came to his citadel, he was out on watch duty on the Elivogar. Therefore Thor took the young Thjalfi with him. In the battle with Hrungnir, Thor fell to the ground wounded, but the iron-hammer, which he had already cast, crushed Hrungnir's head and returned to Thor's hand. Thjalfi felled the clay-giant Mökkurkalfi.

31. Thor Rescues Egil.

It was cold and storming during Thor's return trip. He met an exhausted Egil and bore him in his basket over the Elivogar to his citadel.

32. Egil’s Star.

On this occasion, Egil's toe was stricken with frostbite. Thor broke it off and cast it into the heavens where it became Örvandil’s (the arrow-handler's) star. 33. Groa’s Galder-chant. When Thor came to his citadel in Asgard, Egil's wife, Groa, was there. She sang healing galder over Thor's wound, but from happiness forgot the end of the galder-chant when she learned that Egil was safe and had been so honored.

34. The Mead and the Moon.

In Ivaldi's kingdom, a mead-well named Byrgir, whose waters granted poetic skill and happiness, came to light. Ivaldi kept the discovery secret and, one moonless night, dispatched his children Hjuki and Bil17 to drain the well and return home with the mead, whose capacity would not diminish. The moon-god Nep18 saw the children as they wandered back with the supply. He took them and the mead, and then presented the mead to the Aesir.

35. Ivaldi, the Enemy of the Gods.

Enraged over this, Ivaldi lay in ambush for Nep as Nep made his way through the underworld, overcame him and took possession of the mead, which he regarded as his property. In order that the mead not be taken from him a second time, he entrusted it to the giant Fjalar to keep in the innermost recesses of his mountain-halls. He entered into a pact with Fjalar, which was to be secured by the marriage of Ivaldi and Fjalar's daughter, Gunnlöd.

36. Odin at Fjalar’s. Ivaldi’s Death.

 On the day appointed for the wedding, Odin came to Fjalar's place in the guise of the bridegroom. The marriage with Gunnlöd was celebrated. Odin revealed himself to her in the night and, with her assistance, succeeded in obtaining possession of the mead, which he in eagle-guise bore to Asgard. In the meantime, Ivaldi was slain in an ambush planned by Fjalar's doorkeeper, outside of the mountain hall.

37. The Judgment of the Gods in the Wager Between Loki and Brokk.

 The treasures had now been tested by the gods. Brokk and Loki appeared before them to hear the judgment. The excellent manner in which the iron hammer had endured the test of battle against Hrungnir decided the suit in Brokk's favor; Sindri's works were preferred over Völund's. Furthermore, the gods supported Loki's objection that his neck should not be injured, when his head is taken. Thus Mimir's sons, as well as Ivaldi's sons, were angered by this judgment. Brokk pierced Loki's lips with Sindri's awl.

38. Völund and Loki.

Odin and Hoenir made an excursion in the company of Loki, during which Loki was carried off by Völund (Thjazi) in eagle-guise. In order to save his own life, Loki was forced to swear an oath that could not be broken to convey Idun with her remedy against old age from Asgard. In revenge for his father Ivaldi's death and his own insulted honor, Völund resolved to ruin the gods and their creation.

 39. Idun Disappears from Asgard.

 The dis who preserved the Aesir's remedy against old age was enticed out of Asgard by Loki. She and her means of rejuvenation came into the power of the enemies of the gods.

40. Freyja Disappears from Asgard.

Völund and the newly reborn Gullveig, with Loki acting as the middleman, devised a plan to convey Freyja from Asgard. The plan succeeded and Völund delivered Freyja to the giants of Beli's clan.

41. Frey Delivered to the Giants.

 Völund and Egil surrendered their foster son Frey to the same giant-clan.

42. An Attempt at Reconciliation Rejected.

Njörd, followed by Hödur and another god (probably Baldur), made haste to locate Ivaldi's sons but found that they had abandoned their citadel. Egil no longer watched over the Elivogar. Njörd and his companions met Ivaldi's sons on their way to the world's northernmost wilderness. Njörd desired reconciliation, but his attempt failed. A duel with arrows between Hödur and Egil ensued. Egil proved himself the superior archer but did Hödur no harm.19

43. Ivaldi’s Sons in Exile.

Völund and Egil with a third Ivaldi son, Slagfin, continued on their path to the Wolfdales in the furthermost north, a place inaccessible to the gods.

44. Disir (Goddesses) of Vegetation from Ivaldi's clan left the gods and flew in swanguise to their kinsmen in the Wolfdales.

45. The Age of Treasures Ends.

The angered sons of Mimir stopped forging treasures for the gods, but continued to be allies of the world-order, now threatened by the Ivaldi sons.

46. Gullveig Burned Yet Again.

When it was discovered that a maid who served the goddesses was the one who had betrayed Freyja to the giants, and that traitor was Gullveig, Thor slew her with a hammer blow. Her body was burned anew, and her remains, which the flames could not consume, were removed to the underworld and buried in holy ground in order to render them harmless. But Loki found her heart this time as well and swallowed it.20

47. Brotherly Discord Among the Gods.

 Hödur, who was an active hunter, got lost during a hunt in the Ironwood. When night fell, he took refuge in a cave, where he encountered a witch. She confused his senses with a magic potion and extracted a vow from him that he would acquire Baldur's betrothed, Nanna. The magic potion fanned Hödur’s affection for Nanna into flames. In the morning, he was ashamed of the vow but was compelled to fulfill it, although doing so meant breaking with his family.

 48. Hödur Joins the Giants and Makes War on Baldur.

After Egil had abandoned his watch on the Elivogar, many giants crossed over the boundary waters. Hödur joined them and led them into battle, but was conquered. Baldur returned his remorseful brother to Asgard.

 49. Baldur’s Consumption.

Baldur suffered bad dreams and attacks of despair. Many signs boded his death. Frightening losses, one after the other, had now befallen Asgard, and the life on Midgard had fallen into decline. Frey, the god of fertility; Freyja, the goddess of fecundity; and Idun, the dis of rejuvenation, were in the powers of the enemies of the world. Of the Nature-artists, one group had refused to serve them; the other one had sworn their destruction. The dises of growth had aligned themselves with Asgard's foes. But so long as Baldur, the establisher of peace and "the powerful promoter of the sun-disk," still lived, there was still hope that they could resist the forces of winter.

 50. All of Nature’s Creatures swore not to harm Baldur, and the gods requested such oaths.

Not a single giant desired his demise with the exceptions of Gullveig, Loki, and Völund, who with his measureless desire for revenge, was now transformed into the most frightening of all the giant beings (Thjazi).

51. The Mistletoe.

 In the Ironwood grew a tender sprig that, unlike its relatives, had not made an oath. The inquiring Loki found the mistletoe, and proceeded with it to the Wolfdales and to Völund, who made a deadly, infallible arrow of it.

52. Baldur’s Death.

 After the obligatory oaths had been made, there arose a game among the Aesir in which they shot and threw weapons at Baldur on a sporting field, for nothing could harm him. With his bow, Hödur took part in the game. Loki slipped the mistletoe arrow into his quiver, because Hödur was the only one who could be mistaken to have wanted Baldur dead, on account of his previous desire for his brother's wife. Hödur shot the mistletoe shaft, which resembled his other arrows, and Baldur fell to the ground mortally wounded. In Asgard, inconsolable sorrow followed.21

 53. The Law of Blood-revenge pertains even to the gods, but in Asgard no one could be found who did not regard Hödur as innocent or who would rob Odin of another son.

A holy law thus appeared to have been frustrated by the gods themselves.

54. Odin’s Journey to the Underworld.

Odin saddled Sleipnir and rode down to the underworld from the north through Niflhel towards the realms of Mimir and Urd. In Niflhel, the shade of the frost-giant Hrossthjof, Gullveig's brother, informed Odin that he would rear a son with Rind in western halls, who would be his brother's slayer. A hound of Niflhel, bloody on the breast, met him and followed him, barking at the high horseman until he came to the border of Mimir's realm. Odin sought out Mimir, conjuring the wise ruler of the fields of bliss in the underworld to tell what he knew regarding whether the world would, after Baldur's death, go on to meet its fate.

55. Odin’s Eye in Mimir’s Well.

Self-sacrifice was required to find the key to the riddle. The answer lay in the depths of the well of wisdom, at which Odin tore out an eye and cast it down therein. The eye peered into the future, but what it saw, Odin first had to confirm with Urd.

56. Odin at the Snowy Grave.

Odin rode farther and came to the place where the remains of Gullveig had been laid to rest. Along the way, there was a splendid castle built by Mimir's sons. Odin saw a lovely hall, hung with tapestries and lavishly ornamented with golden treasure. The grave of the "primeval-cold" frost-giant's daughter was shrouded by snow. Otherwise, winter never found its way into Mimir's realm. With a chanted formula, Odin conjured her, and she repeated her brother Hrossthjof's words.

57. The Asmegir and the Underworld Breidablik. 22

The palace Odin saw had a remarkably important destiny. Here, Mimir preserves untainted human beings for a coming age; for he knows the future and from the foreboding signs concluded that a frightful age was impending in which all of Ask and Embla's descendants would be spoiled by misfortune and sin. In Midgard, he sought two benevolent children, Lif and Lifthrasir. For them and for Baldur, whose fate he foresaw, he had his sons build a splendid hall surrounded by a grove in the land of the rosy dawn. Delling, the elf of the dawn's first blush, is its watchman. Sindri-Dvalin and his smiths made the artful gate. Sorrow and sin, old age and infirmity can never come inside. The children, nourished with the power-giving morning dew from Yggdrasil's crown, wait for Baldur. The drink that gives the dead renewed strength is already poured for him in their hall.

58. Urd Prophesies for Odin Concerning Ragnarök.

Odin rode farther until he came to the well of the three Norns, where he bade Urd provide a solution to the riddle which weighed on him. Urd answered that she knew that he had hidden his eye in the well of wisdom and thus already knew what he needed to know. Odin laid the treasures of Valhall at her feet and bade her again to answer the question. Then she sang a frightful yet consoling song for him, regarding Ragnarök and the renewal of the world.23

59. Baldur’s Funeral Pyre.

Baldur's pyre was built on his ship Hringhorni. Odin bore his son's body in his arms and laid him on the pyre. When Nanna saw this, she sank down with a broken heart and lay on the pyre beside her husband. Odin placed the ring Draupnir on Baldur's breast and whispered into his ear; what, the world may never know. Then the pyre was set ablaze, and the burning ship sailed out into the sea of air.

60. Odin Uses the Witch-Runes.

The law of the world demanded revenge for Baldur, and it was predestined that the avenger would be born of Rind, the daughter of Billing, the elf of the sunset glow. But Rind rejected the Asa-father, and thus, forced by the greatest necessity, he resorted to the power of the runes of witchcraft.

 61. Baldur’s Avenger.

With Rind, Odin fathered Vali, who left his mother's womb early. Only one night old and thus not responsible for his actions, nor feeling any remorse in his duty, he slew Hödur.

62. The Origin of Plagues.

Loki, who had again become pregnant with Gullveig's heart, bore the queen of plagues, Leikn, into the world. Leikn soon had much to do, since the fimbulwinter with its horrors immediately followed Baldur's death.24

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