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

THE WAR BETWEEN THE AESIR AND THE VANIR. THE GREAT WAR IN MIDGARD.

107. Frey Proposes to Gerd.

 One day, Frey sat in Hlidskjalf and saw within Gymir's gard, the giant's daughter Gerd, from whose white arms a glow spread over sky and sea. After this sight, Frey was increasingly distraught. He concealed the reason from the worried gods, but finally revealed it to Svipdag (Skirnir).39 Among giant rulers, Gymir was now Asgard's most dangerous foe, well known to be treacherous, violent, and eager to fight. A union between the gods and Gymir's family must have seemed outrageous, because it would threaten the safety of the world. That notwithstanding, Frey felt he must have Gerd in order not to die. Svipdag was sent to Gerd as Frey's proxy, carrying Draupnir and eleven golden apples as gifts. He first received a "no," then a "yes," but on these conditions: the Völund sword must be delivered to Gymir, and Gerd must be fetched by Svipdag and Freyja personally and taken into Asgard with the dignity of an Asynje.

 108. The Sword of Revenge in Gymir’s Power.

Forced by necessity, the gods accepted the conditions, thus losing the promise of certain victory. This bargain was of great profit for the giant-world, although they could not use the sword without harming themselves. Gymir delivered it to his relative Eggthir, who buried it deep in the Ironwood.

 109. The Battle in the Hall of Gymir.

 Svipdag proceeded with Freyja to Gymir's hall, but they suspected treachery. Therefore, Thor and Ull secretly traveled ahead of them to Gymir's mountain gard and concealed themselves in the vicinity. Gymir let Svipdag know that he intended to keep Freyja and proposed that Svipdag himself marry Gerd; then Svipdag could recover the sword of revenge and carry out the blood-revenge for Völund, which he had undertaken but so far had forgotten; he could thus overthrow the Aesir and himself be the world's ruler. Svipdag pretended to give way to temptation and a double wedding was immediately arranged. During the celebration, Thor and Ull burst into the hall. Svipdag joined them, while Freyja battled by her husband's side. Gymir and the members of his household fell after a hard battle, all except Gerd, who was transported to Asgard by the gods.40

110. Gullveig Killed and Burnt Again.

 A giant maid called Aurboda had already belonged to Freyja's court before Svipdag came to Asgard. When Gerd arrived, she did not conceal that Aurboda was her mother and Gymir's wife. It also became apparent that Aurboda was the giantess Gullveig, who had been sentenced to die and repeatedly executed, but likewise repeatedly resurrected. When they made this discovery, the gods were gathered in Valhall and Aurboda was among them. In anger, Thor killed the witch with a hammer blow; the Aesir stuck their spears in her corpse and held it in the fire to be burnt.

 111. The Vanir Demand Compensation for a Murdered Relative.

To the Vanir, as to the Aesir, Gullveig was detestable and with good reason they suspected that Frey's love-sickness was caused by her witchcraft. But now she was Frey's mother-in-law and a relation of the Vanir, and it was their unconditional duty to demand compensation from the Aesir for her death.

 112. The Aesir and the Vanir Negotiate.

Odin replied that Gullveig had long since been condemned for her evil and that it was incumbent upon the gods to carry out her death sentence whenever she appeared anew. He considered it wrong for the Aesir to pay compensation, because they had legally executed the spreader of destructive witchcraft. Then one of the Vanir pointed out that Odin himself had profited from Gullveig's runes.

 113. The Break Between the Aesir and the Vanir.

Deeply embittered by this reminder, Odin cast his spear among the gathered Vanir, signaling that the case would be settled with weapons rather than by reason and argument. With that, the union of the Aesir and the Vanir established at the beginning of time was annulled and the Vanir left Asgard.

114. The Vanir Declare Odin Removed.

 The Vanir reached this resolution: since Odin and Gullveig were guilty of the same crime, and Gullveig had been justly punished with death, Odin ought to be removed from his office for his similar stain on the dignity of the godhead.

115. Mimir’s Death.

 Mimir, who sought to restore the peace between the Aesir and Vanir, was murdered doing so by someone, presumably Loki, and his head was sent to Odin on whose behalf he had acted to attempt reconciliation. The responsibility for this crime was cast by its perpetrator onto the Vanir.

116. Mimir’s Head was now in Odin's possession

 and through Odin's prayers was transformed into a head of gold,41 which spoke and always gave wise and noble advice. Ever since Odin has had the head of the advice-giver in his presence, his accomplishments have borne the mark of true wisdom.

117. The Seven Sleepers.

Mimir's seven eldest sons, the great primeval artists, fell into the sleep of ages after their father's death. Tired of the world's events and determined not to take part in the imminent war, they were convinced that the world's redemption now lay only in the approaching Ragnarök. Night envelops the castle where they slumber. The din of the world-mill and Hvergelmir's torrents do not disturb their sleep. In this castle, many rooms are filled with weapons and other works that they made. In one room, their horses sleep, outfitted for war. Mortals, whose fate it is to step into their castle, must take care not to touch the sleepers, lest the intruders be stricken with consumption.42

 118. The Division into Parties.

 With Odin in Asgard remained, Thor, Tyr, Bragi, Vidar, Vali and Forseti, but among the goddesses only Skadi remained. Frigg sided with her family, the Vanir, and accompanied them, as did Freyja, Frey, Svipdag and Ull. So too did every other power in Vanaheim and Alfheim, except Hoenir, who for that reason, was unseated as ruler in Vanaheim and succeeded by Lodur.

119. Asgard in the Hands of the Vanir.

After a long siege, Asgard was conquered by cunning strategy. Njörd's ax burst the lock on Asgard's gate and the Vanir's great war-troop streamed into the holy region. On Mimir's advice, the Aesir retreated, since none of the gods necessary for the order of the world could be allowed to fall in the civil war.

 120. Ull Proclaimed a New Odin.

 The Vanir and the Elves decided that one among them must bear Odin's name and receive the sacrifices of the devoted. They had to choose a god that had no particular vocation in the world's government, and therefore elected Ull. This change in government brought no change in religion; however, new and more demanding views about sacrifice arose.

121. Manheim was the name of the land where the Aesir lived during their exile.

They were not idle there, but always sought to benefit the world and protect their favorites.

122. The Aesir Care for Halfdan’s Sons.

Now that the Vanir were rulers in Asgard, the Aesir feared that Svipdag would use his power to strike at Halfdan's sons, Gudhorm and Hadding. Thus, Thor hid Gudhorm and Hadding in Greater Svithjod, one with the warrior Hafli, the other with the warrior Vagnhöfdi. But Gudhorm was never really in danger, because he and Svipdag shared the same mother, Groa. When Gudhorm received the news that Svipdag had offered him a large kingdom in western Germania near the Rhine, he accepted the offer and became king over all of the Germanic folk that belong to the Hermiones, the branch named after Gudhorm.

 123. Gudhorm’s Name as a Great King was Jörmunrekr.43

124. Sifka.

 Under this name, a man came to Jörmunrekr, claiming to be the ruler of a people called the Baningar. He won Jörmunrekr-Gudhorm's complete confidence and became his constant advisor. Sifka was Loki.

 125. Hadding’s Youthful Adventures.

Svipdag decided, although reluctantly, to offer Hadding a kingdom also, as an inheritance from his father's estate, but the boy responded that he would not accept gifts from his father's killer. Sifka-Loki looked for Hadding in order to exile or to kill him, so Hadding was not safe long in Vagnhöfdi’s gard. One evening, a one-eyed man appeared riding on an eight-footed horse, he thanked Vagnhöfdi for fulfilling his duties, set the boy in front of him on his horse, and rode away with Hadding through the air to Manheim. There he instructed the boy in the wisdom of runes and weaponry. Odin sang protecting-galder over Hadding and gave him a drink called Leifnir's flames, which gave him the ability to loosen bonds and fetters with his breath. Then Hadding, accompanied by a norn, descended into the underworld, where he saw the regions of bliss.

 126. Märingaborg.

When he grew up, Hadding was sent to a city in Midgard called Märingaborg. On the way there, he was ambushed by Loki and the Baningar and placed in fetters, but he freed himself that night and came to Märingaborg, where he found assembled many of his father's friends who had fled during Svipdag's reign. Among them was Hamal and Hildebrand. They prepared a revolt among the East Germanic tribes on behalf of Hadding.

127. Vidga, Völund’s Son.

In the midst of the preparations, a youthful hero, clad in magnificent armor, came riding into Märingaborg. On his shield were painted tongs and hammers. It was Vidga, Völund and Bödvild’s son. He said he was a cousin of Svipdag's and that it was his duty to fight Halfdan's kin. He challenged Hadding to a duel and overpowered him, but rather than kill Hadding, Vidga held out his hand to him. Vidga stayed for some time in Märingaborg, where all found delight in him.

128. Hadding Leads the East Teutons.

 Now the East Germanic tribes were in danger of breaking up, but Hadding united them and was hailed as a great king. Vidga, Völund's son, then severed all friendly relations with him, because Vidga's place was on the side of Groa's sons, Svipdag and Jörmunrekr-Gudhorm.

 129. Hadding’s Name as a Great King was Thjodrek.44

130. The First Field Battle.

Svipdag descended from Asgard to the Germanic homeland, where he called the Swedes and Danes to arms against Hadding. Enormous ships were built to carry the Scandinavian warriors over the sea. Jörmunrekr-Gudhorm's army joined with them. Valkyries were seen riding through the air, coming in part from Vanaheim and Asgard, and in part from Manheim. To Gudhorm's army came his foster-father Hafli with the giantesses Fenja and Menja; to Thjodrek-Hadding's army came Vagnhöfdi with his daughter Hardgrep. Svipdag, through his skalds, let it be known to his and to Jörmunrekr-Gudhorm's armies that anyone on their side who fell would be taken by Valkyries to Freyja's hall, Sessrumnir. Thjodrek-Hadding let it be known among the East Germanic warriors that anyone on his side who fell would come to Odin. The night before every battle, the armies saw supernatural forms who battled in the starlight-- the Vanir and the Aesir. When hail and storms came from the west and pounded Hadding's troops, Odin and Thor, with golden spear and lightning hammer, could be seen driving them back. Then came the deciding blow; both sides showed the same heroic courage, but SifkaLoki, who held himself outside of the warring crowd, had directed the western troops so shrewdly that Thjodrek-Hadding's fylkings were dispersed, and he suffered a stunning defeat. With Hamal and Hildebrand, Hadding fled back to Manheim.

131. A Time of Peace Lasting Many Years, now arose,

 during which Germania was governed by Svipdag's viceroys and earls. In happy wedded-life with Freyja, Svipdag fathered beautiful daughters and a son, Asmund, whom he appointed king of the North.

132. Sifka-Loki’s Treachery.

During these years, Sifka kept near Jörmunrekr-Gudhorm and inflamed the enmity between the Germanic rulers with slander and lies, so that they would mutually exterminate one another. Gudhorm had appointed Sifka and his own son, Randver, to propose for him to the Northern ruler's daughter, Svanhild, and he received her approval. When they returned with Svanhild, Sifka informed Gudhorm that Randver and Svanhild were deceiving him. Gudhorm then let his only son hang and caused Svanhild to be trampled by horses. Gudhorm also killed two other relatives, the Harlungs, when Sifka, with lying accusations, provoked him against them. Svanhild had two brothers, Sörli and Hamdir, who sought revenge on Gudhorm for their sister Svanhild's death. They failed in their attempt, but they inflicted a terrible wound on Gudhorm, from which he suffered thereafter.

 133. The Hun War.

 The discord between the Aesir and the Vanir gave the giants courage to attack Midgard again. They proposed a treaty to the exiled Aesir, but Odin, who thought more of mankind's welfare than of his own, informed the Vanir of the imminent attack and offered them his aid, which was sorely needed because the number of giant-troops that were rolling into Midgard and that would storm Bifröst was enormous. The Aesir, the Vanir, and the Elves united forces to beat the giants back. The body count was so great that the Elivogar and its coasts were filled up with dead bodies; consequently, the giants were substantially reduced in number from that time on, and are no longer a threat until just before Ragnarök.

134. Reconciliation Between the Aesir and the Vanir.

To thank Odin for his high-minded action, the Vanir called on him to return to Asgard, where they again placed him in Valhall’s high seat. The peace was made steadfast with the agreement that 1) the Vanir were acquitted of all liability for Odin's acts that they disapproved of and that Njörd may return to Vanaheim at the end of time, 2) Gullveig, upon her rebirth, would not be burned, but banished to the Ironwood, and 3) the Aesir and the Vanir should each have half of those that fall on the battlefield.

 135. War Renewed Among the Germanic Tribes.

In East Germania, a new generation fit for military service now arose, and they moved again under Thjodrek-Hadding's banner. Followed by the aged Hamal and by Hildebrand, Hadding led the eastern tribes. The Aesir and the Vanir wanted peace restored, but Loki had now gotten power not only over Gudhorm, but also over Svipdag, and peacemaking appeared impossible. The gods commanded Svipdag to make peace and give Hadding his portion of his father's estate, but neither this command nor Freyja's tears persuaded him. He ordered his son Asmund to assemble the Swedes and get word to the Danes and to Gudhorm's tribes. The Germanic armies now were mobilized against one another again.

136. Svipdag Disappears.

When the gods sent the defiant Svipdag a highly threatening order to submit to the will of the world controlling powers, he refused. But as his strongly manned fleet sailed over the Baltic Sea, he vanished. The gods' wrath had driven him to throw himself into the sea, where he was transformed into a beast. Humiliated and heartbroken, he dove down into the deep. The gods concealed his fate from Freyja. His son, Asmund, took over the leadership of the troops.

 137. Jalk by Asmund. Gudhorm's armies united with those of Asmund. Sifka followed the troops even now. One night, a tall one-eyed man, who called himself Jalk45, stepped into Asmund's tent and warned him against brotherly-war, but in vain, because Asmund remained under Sifka's influence. Thereafter, the one-eyed Jalk rode to Hadding's camp and spoke long with him and Hamal, Hadding's field-general.

138. The Wedge-Shaped Battle Formation.

The one-eyed Jalk taught Hadding and Hamal a new battle formation, which has been sacred to the Teutons ever since.

139. Vagnhöfdi.

They expected a field battle the following day, but Vagnhöfdi was missing from Hadding's army. A one-eyed rider who called himself Kjalar46 had met Vagnhöfdi on his way, set him on his horse and placed him in Hadding's phalanx when the battle was its hottest and his help needed most.

140. Hadding’s Victory.

Sifka-Loki arranged Asmund's and Gudhorm's warriors, but the wedge-shaped battle formation broke Sifka's art. Odin's wisdom overcame Loki's tricks. Asmund, with shield on his back and battle sword in hand, cleared a path to Hadding, but fell under his spear and Vagnhöfdi’s crooked sword. Vidga, Völund's son, fell in this battle. Some say he threw himself into the sea and was rescued by his kinfolk, Mimir's dises. He had killed many hundreds of men in this battle, but, against Hadding, at whose table he had been seated as a guest, he would not swing his sword.

141. Peace. After Asmund had fallen, a white shield was raised, and the Germanic princes held out their hands in peace. Sifka-Loki vanished after the battle. The Germanic empire was divided among Hadding, Gudhorm, and a son of Asmund.

142. Thjodrek-Hadding became a great-king

 who was kind and governed successfully. Once Loki-Sifka had removed himself, it was not difficult for the princes to find bonds of friendship. In fact, so close a friendship arose between Hadding and Svipdag's grandson, the king of Sweden, that the latter took his own life upon hearing the unfounded news of Hadding's death. And when Hadding learned of it, he too came to Asgard through voluntary death.

143. Freyja Searches For Svipdag.

In her falcon-guise, the sorrowing Freyja searched all the worlds for her beloved, Svipdag. She finally found him in the sea near the skerry, Singastein. By his eyes, she recognized him, despite his transformation, and remained beside him faithfully. From her Brisingamen, a delightful shimmer spread itself through the sea, thus she has been called Mardöll ("Sea-shimmering") ever since. The tears she shed for Svipdag's fate were transformed into gold and, with this gold, the purest in the world, she bought Svipdag freedom from the wrath of the gods.

144. Svipdag’s Death and Reentry into Asgard.

One day as Hadding bathed in the proximity of Singastein, he engaged an incredible sea-beast in battle and killed it. Shortly thereafter, a beautiful woman appeared, who informed him that a supernatural being, a relation of the Vanir, had been concealed in the beast's form and that he, in order to avert the Vanir's wrath, should give compensation to Frey for his smitten relative. When Hadding understood that the slain beast was Svipdag, he was happy to have exacted revenge from his father's slayer. Nevertheless, he finally gave compensation.47 Thus bonds of friendship were possible between him and Svipdag's descendants.

145. The Battle for Brisingamen.

 While Freyja spoke with Hadding, Brisingamen lay exposed on Singastein. A seal climbed up onto the skerry. It was Loki, who wanted Brisingamen as a ransom for his life, since he was now being sought by the gods. But, before he could claim it, another seal crawled up onto the skerry and attacked him. When Loki recognized Heimdall in its eyes, he fled, and Heimdall returned Brisingamen to Asgard. Now Svipdag sits alongside the Einherjar, and Freyja enjoys uninterrupted happiness with him.

146. Loki was Finally Caught by the Gods in Franangr’s Falls,

where he lived in the shape of a salmon. From there, the gods conveyed him to a cave on the islet of Lyngvi in the Amsvartnir sea. A giantess, Sigyn, who was Loki's lawful wife, although she was quite unlike him, asked to share in his unfortunate fate. In the cave, Loki now lies on stones set on edge, the point of a sword placed against his back. His shackles are forged from the intestines of a wolf, which was his son. A poisonous snake is fixed above his mouth. The hairs on his head grow hard and become plague-inducing spear-like horns.48

 147. Fenrir, Loki's son, was placed in bonds and likewise conveyed to Lyngvi. His imprisonment cost Tyr a hand.

148. Gullveig, reborn as Angrboda, was banished to the Ironwood and held fast there by strong galder until the approach of Ragnarök. Her own and Loki's wolf-children followed her there. She dwells there, together with Eggthir, the guardian of Völund's sword of revenge.

V. THE HISTORIC ERA.

149. The Deterioration of the World.

Although the worst promoters of evil had been neutralized before the time was over, when the gods communicated directly with man, the evil seed that Loki and Gullveig had sown into the nature of man still flourished. The world-tree aged, robbed of the protection once provided by Mimir and his sons; and generations of men became increasingly immoral: "Brother will slay brother, sister's sons will spoil kinship. Hardship is in the world, fornication rampant, an ax-age, a knife-age with cloven shields, a wind-age, a wolf-age, before the world plunges."

VI. RAGNARÖK.

150. The Foreboding Signs.

Summer after summer, the sun's light and warmth diminish. The restraining forces on the winds break and, through the moan of the storm, the howl of Fenrir can be heard from Gnipa-cavern. From the Ironwood, the wolf-giant Hati and his giant-clan make their incursion into Midgard. The land is filled with battles, and princes' castles are stained red with blood. The dead are too many to be buried. Wolves compete with Nidhögg (decomposition) to feed on the numberless bodies.

 151. The Ruin of the Current Race of Man.

A second fimbul-winter sets in. Hati, in wolfguise, swallows the moon. All of the descendants of Ask and Embla are snatched away by weapon, disease, cold, or hunger.

152. The Final Battle.

 In the Ironwood, Eggthir strikes his harp of storms and summons the fire-giant Fjalar, who comes in the guise of a red cock. Fjalar flies down into deep dales, where the world-destroying fire is set to erupt and Fjalar passes the sword to his father, Surt. Yggdrasil trembles and the Gjallar-horn, heretofore concealed in the holy shade of Yggdrasil's foliage, comes into Heimdall's hand. Its thundering tones penetrate the world, and Mimir's sons, awakened by the call of the horn, spring up out of the sleep of ages in order to take part in the final battle against evil. The dwarves, full of anxiety, stand near their rock wall.49 Every forest and mountain harbors trollish beings faring wildly over the land. The peaceful inhabitants of the fields of bliss fear what will come. When Yggdrasil trembles, the chains of Lyngvi's prisoners loosen: Loki, Fenrir, and other world-destroying spawn climb aboard Naglfar. Loki steers to the Corpse-shores (the Nästrands) and collects the condemned there, then sails on to the Ironwood. There are rumblings in Jotunheim, where troops gather under Hrym's leadership. The waves of the world's seas roll high, as the Midgard serpent wakens and wriggles in giant-wrath. Odin speaks to Mimir's head for the last time. In Asgard's thingstead, the Aesir, Vanir, Elves, Valkyries, and Einherjar mount their horses. Odin, with his sons and Valhall’s Einherjar, meets the attacking frost-giants; the Vanir, with Sessrumnir’s Einherjar, meet Surt and Suttung's sons. Njörd sets out toward Vanaheim, but Frey remains in Asgard and chooses to do battle with Surt as recompense for the folly that brought the sword of revenge into the giant's power. Bifröst’s southern arc breaks under the weight of the mounted troops. Swimming in the sea of air, the Vanir descend to the Oskopnir plain. The battle remains along Jörmungrund’s outer edges, where Oskopnir's and Vigrid's plains join into a single battlefield. The northern horizon is darkened by masses of frost-giants. From beneath their lifted shields, their battle-song roars. The east is blackened by the Ironwood's swarms. In the south, whence Surt with his descendants burst forth, the sky turns red. The sword of revenge in Surt's hand shines with the glare of the sun over the darkening world. Clashes on all sides: The Einherjar and Valkyries engage the giants, monsters, and Suttung's sons. The leaders seek one another out: Tyr, the one-handed, fells Hati, but, himself mortally wounded, sinks from out of his saddle. Heimdall forces his way toward Loki and, with a sword, chops off his head, which, packed with plague-laden horns, bounces off the ground and penetrates Heimdall's breast. Then the god of pure fire falls, the sun goes out, and the stars drop from the heavens. Odin rides towards Fenrir; he dies in the poison of his mouth, and then disappears therein. Vidar, the silent, avenges his father. On one foot, he wears a shoe, to which all who donate shoe-leather to their needy fellows give unseen material. The shoe protects the foot that Vidar places in the monster's mouth, when he runs a sword through his heart. The Midgard-serpent extends his head over Vigrid's plain and seeks Thor, who crushes its head with a hammer-blow, but staggers nine steps backward, poisoned by its venom, before falling dead. Frey storms toward Surt and falls from a stroke of the sword of revenge. Then the vault of heaven splits asunder and the mountains which hold the deep fires burst. Flames envelop the battlefield, destroying the evil armies, and play against heaven itself. Through the fire and smoke, Vidar, Vali, Modi, and Magni ride down to Mimir's grove, where death and decay cannot reach.

VII. THE WORLD'S RENEWAL.

153. The New Earth.

 The sin-stained earth sinks into the sea and dissolves into ash. The fires die out and in the pure air, beneath a higher heaven, another earth rises from the sea with luscious greenery. It is Mimir and Urd's realms of bliss, the land of the three world-fountains, the location of Mimir's grove and Breidablik, the dwelling of Baldur, Nanna, Hödur, as well as of Lif and Lifthrasir, who would become the forebears of the new world-age's race of man. A waterfall gushes from the Nida Mountains, and over it, hunting for fish, flies the eagle, which was preserved during the destruction, along with many other species of animals. Unsown fields yield crops and virtuous generations gather in eternal bliss beneath Gimli's gold-thatched roof, which shines more gloriously than the sun.

154. The Gods find one another again on the Ida-plains, where Hoenir, Vidar, Vali, Modi and Magni gather around Baldur, Nanna, and Hödur. In harmony, Hödur and Baldur rebuild their father's halls. In the imperishable grass of the Ida-plains, the wonderful board game with which the gods played in time's morning is rediscovered.

-Excerpt from: http://www.germanicmythology.com/ugm2/ugm2overview.pdf