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

THE FIMBUL-WINTER

63.Ivaldi’s Sons in the Wolfdales.

 In one of the dark stretches of valley at the northernmost edge of the world, where one of the tunnels to Niflhel is found, Ivaldi's sons built a home and a forge. Egil and Slagfin went out on skis and hunted. Völund forged, and, when not at his forge, he chanted galder-songs and conjured with "gands," (magic objects, wands).

 64. Völund’s Witchcraft.

When Völund chanted and conjured, dark winds carrying frosty mist and clouds emanated from him, blowing southward, unloading snowstorms and hail over Midgard. Hardly a day passed over many years that he did not send primeval-cold winds toward the world of man. The air was filled with ruin. Odin listened from Hlidskjalf and became aware that the galder-songs came from the uncharted regions beyond Jotunheim. He sent his wise ravens to spy, but their wings weakened and their blood stiffened. They returned with nothing to say.25

65. Völund’s Work.

Völund called the weapon he crafted "the sword of revenge" (gambanteinn). He applied all of his artistry, all of his secret knowledge, to its preparation. He tempered the blade in the poisonous waves of rivers in Niflhel and etched the runes of certain victory into the invincible steel.

66. The Upheaval of Nature.

 Every year, Midgard yielded fewer crops. Bad harvest followed on bad harvest. Spirits of hunger and disease came with blizzards and laid waste to man and beast. The gods seemed powerless, and offerings to them without hope. Two powerful thursmaidens, Fenja and Menja, grasped the world-mill's handle and set it in so fast a motion that the earth trembled from its depths. From the mill-stones leapt fragments of rock, which were cast high up out of the sea; the mountains spewed fire, the millworks went awry, and the vault of heaven was wrenched into the oblique position it has had ever since.26

 67. Swan-maidens in the Wolfdales.

 Ivaldi's sons had not dwelt there long, when three swan-maids came to share their fate. Two were Ivaldi's daughters: Idun, who laid her arms around Völund's white neck, and Auda, who loved Slagfin. The third was Sif, their relation, who carried a message to Egil from Groa that she could not come.

68. The Migration from the North.

Giant troops moved over the Elivogar into northern Midgard. The nature-smiths, who formerly had blessed the land with fertility, now forsook it and migrated from Svarin's Mound (in the far north) into the Aurvangaland (the southernmost parts of the Scandinavian peninsula). Sindri-Dvalin led the procession. Many Germanic clans lived in Svithjod. All suffered from the change in climate, most of all the Swedes, the northernmost Germanic people, who resolved to go south. So one tribe came to push another south. Behind them, the glacial ice and the snowfields expanded. Before them lay deliverance from death by starvation.

 69. Skjöld-Borgar Immigrates.

The Germanic Empire South of the Baltic Sea is Founded. The forces against Aurvangaland were so strong that the aged Skjöld-Borgar (Berich) decided to take his people and move southward. There, he and his son Halfdan (Mannus) established an expansive kingdom which stretched out along the Rhine and down toward the highest mountains in Midgard. The Swedes occupied the Aurvangaland and stopped there.

70. Halfdan, the Third Patriarch and First King.

When Skjöld-Borgar, who had seen the Golden and the Copper Ages of the world, died, all tribes declared Halfdan king of new Germania. He was the first Germanic ruler with this distinction. His father, Skjöld-Borgar, had been designated judge.

71. About Halfdan’s Birth.

Halfdan was born one tempestuous night as holy waters fell from the "heavenly mountains" (clouds), and a thunderstorm raged. Thor overshadowed the house, thus he was regarded as the child's co-father. Urd and her sisters came and fastened the threads of his fate under the hall of the moon, strong ones towards the east and the west, but towards the north, they could merely cast a single thread and pray that it hold forever. Two ravens that saw the newborn in the morning, said to one another that they and the wolves were now in for a good time. Halfdan's parents, whom Heimdall had taught bird-speech, heard the prediction and lamented over it.27

72. Halfdan and the Progenitor of the Hamalians.

Skjöld-Borgar entrusted his friend, Hagal, to foster Halfdan. Hagal had a son Hamal, who became the progenitor of the Amalians. Halfdan and Hamal were the handsomest men in Midgard, and much like one another in appearance. They were faithful friends.

73. Halfdan’s Character.

 Halfdan united tremendous strength and superior intellect with beauty. He became the Teutons greatest skald and composed songs sung by generation after generation. He was popular and generous, but also desirous of adventure and intent on war.

74. Halfdan and Groa.

 Halfdan and Hamal followed Thor, when he appeared in Svithjod to do battle with the giant-clans that now lived there. As the foster-brothers rode through a forest, they met Groa and her companions who were on their way to a forest-lake to bathe. Halfdan forced Groa to follow him and took her as his wife. Groa's father fell in battle with Halfdan.28

 75. Groa’s Sons: Svipdag-Od and Gudhorm.

With Halfdan, Groa bore a son that was not his, but Egil's. The son was called Svipdag-Od. Afterwards, by Halfdan, she bore a son, who received the name Gudhorm.

 76. Groa Sent Away.

Her Death. Groa could never come to terms with the thought that she was the wife of her father's murderer, and that her son by Egil was growing up under the care of Halfdan, upon whom Svipdag must eventually extract blood-revenge for the death of a kinsman. In time, Halfdan sent Groa and Svipdag away. They returned to Svithjod. Groa waited there for Egil's return, languishing unto death. Dying, she said to Svipdag concerning his difficult destiny that he should come to her grave and call on her.

77. The Swan-maidens and Völund’s Brothers Leave the Wolfdales.

The swan maids had spent seven winters there. During the eighth winter, they were sad and languid. Thus they took their swan-dresses and flew away. Egil and Slagfin left the Wolfdales to search for them.

 78. Ull. 29

 Egil was accompanied on his way by a boy, his and Sif's son, born in the Wolfdales. Named Ull, the boy was raised by his father to be an archer and a skier.

79. Völund Imprisoned and Bereft of his Sword.

Mimir, the guardian of the world-tree, had previously not intervened in the Aesir's call to defend the order of the world. But now that Völund's sword of revenge was completed, there was no hope that they could accomplish this. With his wife, the mother of the night-dises, and with armed Njars (the folk of Mimir's clan; singular Njarr), Mimir proceeded out of the underworld to the Wolfdales, surprised Völund in his sleep, bound him with his own magic-rope, took possession of the sword of revenge, and transported Völund to an island, on which a smithy became his prison. Mimir's queen had Völund's hamstrings cut, since she feared most that he would escape.

80. The Hiding Place of the Sword of Revenge.

 Mimir gave the sword to the mother of the night-dises for preservation. She concealed it in the trunk of the world-tree within the nine locks of its annual rings.

 81. Völund and Bödvild.

Völund secretly murdered two young sons of Mimir, who had rowed out to the island to see his treasures. Of their skulls and eyeballs, he made jewelry, which he presented to their parents and their sister Bödvild. Later, she secretly came to the island, where he gave her a sleeping potion and embraced her.

 82. Völund Ensures Himself a Blood-avenger and Escapes.

Völund had secretly been preparing an eagle-guise. When it was ready, he flew from the island to Mimir's castle, speaking to him, out of the reach of arrows. With the promise of great sorrow, he said that he would tell him the fate of his vanished young sons, if Mimir would swear a holy oath to do "Völund's wife" no harm, even before he revealed who she was, and that she would soon have a baby in Mimir's hall. Mimir made the oath. Völund revealed the cruel crime he had committed and flew away. Bödvild bore a son, who received the name Vidga.

83. The Anguish of the Mother of the Night-Dises.

Protected by Mimir's oath, Vidga, the son of Völund the enemy of the gods and of the world, grew up in the castle of the mother of the night-dises, in the care of the family that protects the world-tree and is united by family and friendship to the gods. Vidga was heir to the sword of revenge and obligated, if Völund fell in his battle with the gods, to avenge his father's death. Thus was his destiny, if he ever found the sword of revenge in his power. 84. Völund and Idun in Thrymheim. Völund sought out Idun, his swan-maid, and sequestered himself with her in a mountain in the Thrymheim range. Lame and robbed of the sword of revenge, and thus in no position to attack the gods; he could still ravage Midgard with galder and gander.30 Furthermore, since Idun possessed "the Aesir's remedy against old-age," the gods sooner or later would fall victim to the power of time, if they were not brought down by the sword of revenge wielded by Völund's son.

THE DECLINE AND END OF THE FIMBUL-WINTER.

 85. Idun Returned to Asgard.

In order to ingratiate himself with the gods and avenge the mistreatment he had suffered at the hands of Völund, Loki offered to return Idun to Asgard, since he had discovered Völund's hideout. He flew in Freyja's falcon-guise towards the Thrymheim mountains. Taking the chance that Völund would be fishing in a nearby lake, Loki sneaked into the mountain and flew away clutching Idun, whom he had transformed into a fruit,31 in his claw.

86. Völund’s Death.

 Loki remained in the vicinity until Völund had discovered his loss and had seen the culprit, Loki himself. He did this to entice Völund to pursue. Völund clad himself in his own feather-guise and stalked the falcon, which flew on to Asgard where the gods, upon seeing the birds, made ready to receive them. Once the falcon had come safely within the castle-walls, they ignited Asgard's vafur-fire moat. Völund, wounded by spears and arrows, plunged headlong into the flames, his wings burning, and he was killed by a blow of Thor's hammer.

 87. Freyja Rescued by Svipdag and Returned to Asgard.

Egil found Sif again, and his sons Svipdag and Ull lived with them. One day, Sif said to her stepson Svipdag, who was a handsome, lively, and quick youth, that he was now grown and ought to do something praiseworthy. She insisted that he find Freyja. Svipdag had no desire to do so, but Sif, who could foresee the future and had been inspired by Urd, demanded it as a pledge. Svipdag, who suspected that his stepmother wished him harm, went at night to his mother Groa's grave-mound, bade her awaken, reminded her of her promise, and told her what Sif had demanded of him. Groa, from within the grave, encouraged him and sang protecting chants ("galder") over him. Ull, who was devoted to his half-brother Svipdag, asked for and received his mother's blessing to follow him. Egil outfitted them in the finest manner with weapons and means of transportation for their journey, and they proceeded on their way. They were well received in Jotunheim, since they were Völund's nephews and thus regarded as allies of the giants. After a long and difficult journey, they reached Beli's clan, one of the most appalling, ugly, violent, vicious, and treacherous families in Jotunheim. There they found Frey and Freyja, who, according to Völund's orders, were regarded and treated as if they were the best of the clan, except that they were under the influence of witchcraft and as such were both in a dream state. Thus, Freyja hardly noticed that one of the giants, Grepp, wanted her for himself. The half-brothers spent frightful days in Beli's hall and would not have come away from there alive, if they had not been so alert and so intelligent, and not so faithfully aided one another, nor possessed such fine weapons. In time, a moment came when they could converse with Frey in private. They confided to him that they had come to rescue Freyja and him. For his own part, Frey refused to follow them; he felt so degraded by his stay among the giants and by his powerlessness as a protector of Midgard that he would not return to Asgard. But he would see his sister saved, so he helped the brothers find an opportunity to flee undetected with Freyja out of the giant-court. Frey remained behind until their escape was discovered, and, being superb skiers, they fled the persecution of the Beli-giants and the next night rested, concealed in a wood. Svipdag was in love with the beautiful maid and begged, in vain, for a single glance, but her mental-slumber32 continued, her eyes were always lowered. During the night she disappeared. The half-brothers long looked for her and ultimately found her serving as a goat-maid for a giantess who lived alone. Svipdag and Ull requested lodging for the night from the giantess. Svipdag found favor in her eyes when he let it be known that he was not unwilling, if asked, to marry her. The giantess went out to invite her family and friends to her bridal feast. During her absence, Svipdag and Ull escaped with Freyja. A violent hurricane approached them during their journey and churned up the Elivogar as they crossed over it, but they reached Egil's chalet safely with the Vana-maid. Sif rejoiced at the outcome of their quest, but Svipdag was sorrowful, acknowledging his love and complaining that he had not even received a glance from the girl he had rescued. To discover Freyja's true feelings, Sif pretended to arrange a marriage between Svipdag and a maid of the house. Then Freyja could not conceal her sorrow, and the wedding became hers and Svipdag's. Sif's will and, moreover, Svipdag's intention was to return Freyja to Asgard unviolated, since the Aesir were their family's enemies, and he hated them too. He laid a naked sword in the conjugal bed between himself and his bride. The following day, Freyja, again deep in dreams, was led to Asgard by Sif.33

 88. Frey Returned to Asgard.

The gods now knew where Frey could be found, and Njörd, who long had looked for him in vain, traveled on Skidbladnir to the fog-shrouded skerries of Beli's giant-clan. There, Njörd surprised the thurses, put them to flight, and, after a fortunate struggle, liberated his son. Frey himself slew Beli.

89. Halfdan’s Campaign into the North.

In his Germanic kingdom south along the Baltic Sea, Halfdan gathered a powerful army to reclaim his father's sacred land, the Scandinavian peninsula, from the forces of winter. He equipped a fleet, and the army landed in Aurvangaland. The Swedes, who now lived there, would not affiliate themselves with the campaign. They wanted to keep the fertile fields they possessed there. They found support from the giant clans living in the north, who opposed the advancing procession. On his side, Halfdan received the support of the gods and of Mimir's sons, so that the gods, the nature-smiths, the giants, and human heroes fought beside one another in a bloody battle, in which Halfdan opened a path all the way to the north. With astonishment, the Swedes noticed that their retreat was followed by Spring and flowers, and flocks of migratory birds. Above Halfdan's fylkings (troops), Valkyries with golden spears appeared. From their horses' manes and bridles dropped nourishing dew over the fields, which for years had borne only frost-flowers. And the same Sindri-Dvalin, under whose leadership the nature-smiths had previously withdrawn from the far north, now traveled back in that direction and took part in the battle under Halfdan's banner.

90. The Battle on the Ice was the name of one of the celebrated battles.

 Frey, Delling, Dag, Sindri and another son of Mimir, Bjarr, took part in this battle, and so too the ruler of the settlers, Vifill. Another bloody battle occurred on Moin's Heath.

91. Hildiger.

In one of these battles, Hildiger, Halfdan's half-brother, fell while he fought on the side of the Swedes. In a previous marriage with the progenitor of the Hildings, Drott had borne Hildiger in Svithjod. She then had had Halfdan with Skjöld-Borgar in Denmark. Hildiger fell in battle with Halfdan, whose life he had wanted to spare. Dying, he revealed to Halfdan who he was, and asked to be wrapped in his brother's cloak.

 92. Battles on the Western Sea and the Baltic.

In connection with Halfdan's advance by land, there were advances by water on the Western Sea and on the Baltic against the powers of winter. Sindri's brothers, Brokk and Bjarr, cleansed the Western sea of thurs-monsters. Thor and Thjalfi freed the Danish and Swedish islands from magic and giants. On Hlessey (Lässo), Thjalfi came close to being killed by furious giantesses, but was rescued by Thor.

 93. The Scandinavian Islands Resettled.

 Among those who then rebuilt the Scandinavian isles were Thjalfi, Vifill and Veseti. Thjalfi repopulated Gotland, which, before his arrival, had sunk at sunrise and emerged again at sundown. Thjalfi bore friction-fire around the island, thereby making it stable. Vifill repopulated Oland. Veseti repopulated Bornholm.

 94. The Battle at Svarin’s Mound.

 Egil’s Death. Svipdag, a Prisoner. Halfdan finally forced his way to Svarin's Mound, the same point from which the migration at the beginning of the fimbul-winter had had its origin. There the final battle occurred. Egil and Svipdag reached the army of the Swedes, but the night before the battle, Egil was surprised in his night-lodging by Halfdan, who killed him with a blow from his club. Svipdag was captured on the battlefield.

95. Halfdan, King of All Germania.

After this battle, even the Swedes, who returned to the land that they had possessed before the fimbul-winter began, recognized Halfdan as king. Hereby, the power of the great winter seemed to break, but not without consequences.

SVIPDAG AND THE SWORD OF REVENGE.

96. Halfdan and Svipdag.

Halfdan showed his captured stepson mercy and offered him a king's title and a kingdom, but Svipdag replied that he would not allow himself to be bribed by him who had affronted his mother and killed his father. If Halfdan did not kill him now, he would kill Halfdan later. With this, Halfdan bound him to a tree in the forest and left him to his fate.

97. Mani and Svipdag.

With the aid of the galder that Groa had sung over him, Svipdag burst his fetters. Heavy with hopelessness, he went by night along a moonlit path. Mani (the Moon) spoke to him, saying that he should not despair, for his uncle's invincible sword was kept in the underworld by "Sinew-maimer," who had hidden it in the "water-requiring vessel" (the world-tree).34 If he could acquire the sword, a great fate awaited him. The Sinew-maimer (Sinmara) was in distress, and if Svipdag could relieve her anguish, she would give the sword to him. She would only be relieved if Svipdag gave her the sickle with which one of the threads twisted by Urd could be cut. Mani informed Svipdag where he could find a passage to the underworld and how he should get there. And when he had finished his talk, a shining silver sickle fell from the sky at the youth's feet. Svipdag took it, thanked him, and proceeded on.

98. Svipdag Obtains the Sword of Revenge.

After a life-threatening journey behind "harnessed reindeer"35 over high mountains and through terrible cold, and after a fortunate duel with the Njar who guarded the entrance to the underworld, Svipdag descended, making his way bravely through Niflhel's horrors. He climbed over the Hvergelmir mountain, saw the world-mill, and came down into Mimir's kingdom and to the castle of Night and the night-dises. There he was greeted by Mimir's sad queen (Sinmara) and by Bödvild, and met his uncle Völund's son, the little Vidga. He offered the queen the shining sickle with which her daughter Night, on her journey across the sky, could sever the thread of blood-revenge that Urd had stretched for Vidga beneath the hall of the moon. Svipdag also offered to take up Vidga's destiny in the legacy of blood-revenge left by Völund. To that legacy belonged Völund's sword of victory, thus Mimir's queen took the sword from its hiding place and happily exchanged it for the moon's sickle. Afterwards, Svipdag saw the wonders of Mimir's kingdom, among them the closed castle of Baldur and the Asmegir (Lif and Lifthrasir), before returning safely to the upper world.

 99. Svipdag Leads a Giant Host.

 Svipdag summoned Jotunheim's troops for a new battle and let them know that he was in possession of Völund's invincible sword. One of the giantrulers, Gymir, mobilized numerous giant armies to move with Svipdag as their leader against the south. That the sword of revenge was in the hands of Völund's nephew quickly became known in Asgard. Odin himself and his heroic sons, along with the Vanir gods Heimdall, Njörd, and Frey hastened to Midgard's defense and to aid Halfdan.

100. Svipdag Victorious.

In the tremendous battle that followed, the Aesir maintained the upper hand and Gymir's troops retreated in the end; but the victory nevertheless was Svipdag's. His sword, burning like the sun, felled as many of Midgard's warriors as Thor's hammer felled giants. Svipdag pushed toward Halfdan, whose raised club flew asunder as if struck by lightning, his mailcoat split, and he fell wounded. Thor cast his hammer toward Egil's son. Sindri's best work, Mjöllnir, met with Völund's best and returned to Thor's hand, in unusable pieces. Thor himself had to retreat. He carried the wounded Halfdan upon a mountain and from there threw boulders down upon Svipdag's army.36 Against Njörd, Freyja's father, and Frey, her brother, Svipdag did not want to use his weapon. For this reason, he held back.

101. Halfdan’s Death. His Sons, Gudhorm and Hadding.

Halfdan died from his wounds, leaving two sons: Svipdag's half-brother Gudhorm, the son of Groa, and an infant son, Hadding, whose mother was named Alveig.

102. Fear in Asgard.

 It is said that after this battle, Asgard trembled on the point of Svipdag's sword, but this enemy had rescued Freyja and chivalrously sent her back intact to the gods. She loved and yearned for him. Had he forgotten her?

103. Svipdag Comes to Asgard.

One spring morning, a youth with a sword, glittering like the sun, made his way across Bifröst up to Asgard's gate. He was fascinated by the vafurencircled castle's plains, shimmering with gold within the huge surrounding wall. On a flowerstrewn hill, Freyja sat, lost in dreams and surrounded by the goddess Eir and other dises. Svipdag exchanged riddles a while with the gatekeeper, but when he spoke his own name, the wonderful gate sprang open by itself, and the gatekeeper's wolfhounds, which otherwise allowed no one entry, bounded toward him and licked his hands. The gatekeeper informed Freyja that a youth had come who certainly was Svipdag. Thus roused from her trance, she hurried out and, recognizing him, her greeting "was followed by her kiss." 37

 104. The Gods’ Reconciliation with the Ivaldi Family.

Svipdag celebrated his legal wedding with Freyja in Asgard. Ivaldi's daughter, Idun, married Odin's son, the skald god, Bragi. Thor married Sif. Njörd married Völund's daughter Skadi, who, like Svipdag, came fully armed to Asgard, where she was received kindly. Yet, she demanded compensation for her slain father and received divine dignity, joining the family of the Vanir through marriage.38 Völund's eyes were attached to the heavens and became two stars. Thus, like his brother Egil, Völund was honored among the stars.

105. The Sword of Revenge Presented to Frey.

 In exchange for his bride, Svipdag gave his uncle's sword to Freyja's family, and it was decided that Frey should keep it. The sword had been forged so that it would grant unconditional victory to Völund or one of his relatives who carried it, but ruin for anyone else who availed himself of it. However, with the newly tied bonds of marriage, Ivaldi's clan became incorporated with those in Asgard, and the sword thus became the greatest means of defense in the world of the gods.

106. Svipdag Rides to Baldur.

The end of fimbul-winter, the defeat of the giant world, and the reconciliation with the Ivaldi clan filled Frigg with the hope that Asgard's happiness could be crowned with Baldur's return to Valhall. Perhaps his destiny in some way could be changed to allow that. Svipdag (Hermod) took it upon himself to bear her wish to the Norns, as well as her greetings to Baldur and Nanna. He received Sleipnir to ride and returned with greetings and gifts. Baldur gave the ring Draupnir to Odin; Nanna gave a veil to Frigg and a finger ring to Frigg's sister Fulla. From the Norns, Svipdag carried the reply that Baldur might return with Nanna, if no being were found that had not wept or would not weep for Baldur's death. But it quickly appeared that such a being could be found: a woman who called herself Thökk. From her mountain cave, where she sat, she replied: "Thökk weeps for Baldur's pyre with dry tears." She must have been either Gullveig or Loki.

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