TEUTONIC MYTH AND LEGEND
by DONALD A. MACKENZIE
An Introduction to the Eddas & Sagas, Beowulf, The Nibelungenlied, etc.
London, Gresham Publications 1912
The Deeds of Odin
The Brooding God--Mimer's Well--Draught of Wisdom--The Eye Sacrifice--Revolt of Ivalde--Murder of Moon--god--Combat with Hyuki--The Stolen Song--Mead--Odin seeks to Recapture it--Descent to Surtur's Deep Dales--The Giant Suttung--Odin's Bridegroom--Guise--"The Champion Drinker"--Marriage with Gunlad--Ivalde's Fate--Odin's Escape--"The Man in the Moon"--Hyuki is Slagfin and Hengest--Odin's Apparel--His Ravens and Wolf Dogs--Odin the First Poet--Saga--Secret Runes--Thor and other Gods--Odin's Wives.
ODIN was the chief ruler of the gods. He was tall and old, and his aspect was wise and reverend. White was his beard and long, and he seemed ever to brood deeply over the mysteries of life and death. He had but one eye, because the other he sacrificed so that he might be dowered with great wisdom. Indeed he had In his youth drunk deeply of the magic mead of Mimer's well.
Every morning grave Mimer drank a draught with the Gjallar-horn, and Odin when he was yet young had deep desire to receive the wisdom and strength which the egg-white mead alone can give. He entreated Mimer to give him a draught, and the price he paid was an eye, which was cast into the well. From that hour when he drained Gjallar-horn he became worthy to rule over gods and men. 'Twas thus he sang in after-time of the powers which the mead imparted to him:
Then began I to bloom,
To be wise,
To grow and to thrive;
Word came to me
Deed came to me
Thus Odin taught to all men that in youth there must needs be self-sacrifice of great account so that wisdom and power may be obtained.
From the moon-car in heaven did Odin also drink of the song-mead which was in the pitcher that Hyuki and Bil had carried from the secret well on the mountain, and Mani, the moon-god, captured. But wroth was Vidfinner at his loss, and he mourned more for the mead than for his children. Vidfinner is also called Ivalde, the sworn watchman of Hvergelmer and the Rivers Elivagar, and another of his names is Svigdur, "the champion drinker". There came a day when he broke his oath of fealty to the gods and fled from his post. Then raging heavenwards he attacked the moon-god, whom he slew and burned. His son Hyuki fought against him without avail, and suffered a fierce wound--as a maker of poems has sung--"clean to the thigh bone". For this dread crime Ivalde-Svigdur was condemned, but he fled towards Surtur's deep dales and unto the dwelling of Suttung, son of Surtur, the giant sentinel of Muspelheim. For Surtur and his clan were at enmity with Mimer and the Vana-gods, and also with the gods of Asgard since the creation of Asgard and the dividing of the worlds. To Suttung Ivalde gave the previous skaldic mead, and for reward he was promised for wife Gunlad, the giant's daughter.
Odin, seeing all that happened as he sat in his high throne, resolved to recapture the mead by cunning. So he set out to visit the hall of Suttung, "the mead wolf".
Now the realm of Surtur is difficult to reach, and full of peril for the gods. It lies in the dark underworld which is lower than and beyond Hela. Suttung's hall is within a mountain to which, in a deep abyss, there is but one entry, and it is guarded by a fierce dwarf sentinel.
But Odin secured the confidence of the dwarf, who promised to aid him so that his enterprise might be crowned with success. Heimdal, the sentinel of Bif-rost, also gave his service. His other name is Rati, "the traveller", and he bored through the mountain a narrow tunnel through which Odin might escape in eagle-guise. Thus, having completed his designs, Odin went towards the door of the dwelling of the great fire-giant Suttung, who is also called Fjalar.
A great feast was held within, and the evil frost-giants were as guests there to welcome Svigdur, the wooer of the giant--maid Gunlad. Odin assumed the form of Svigdur, and like him he spoke also, lest he should by uttering words of wisdom and weight be suspected and put to death. Thus he prevailed against the sons of Surtur with their own methods, for they were given to creating illusions and travelling forth in disguise to work evil and destruction.
A high seat of gold awaited the expected wedding-guest, and when Odin entered in the form of Svigdur, "the champion drinker", he was welcomed with ardour. And well he played the part, for he was given to drink of the nectar of the giants, and partook to the full, so that he was made drunk. Yet he observed great caution, that he might not be discovered.
As he sat at the feast, Gunlad came forward and gave him a draught of the stolen mead. Then was the marriage celebrated with solemnity and in state. The holy ring was placed upon the finger of the giant-maid, and she swore to be faithful to him who wooed her.
Meantime Ivalde-Svigdur, the real lover, reached the door of Suttung's hall, and came to know that Odin was within. He was filled with wrath, and he sought to denounce the high god so that he might be slain by the giants. But the dwarf sentinel accomplished Ivalde-Svigdur's destruction. He created an illusion, and opened a door on the side of the mountain which showed a lighted hall within and the wedding guests as they sat round Suttung's board. Gunlad was at Odin's side. Ivalde-Svigdur leapt towards the vision of the high god of Asgard, and thus dashed himself against the rock. The door was shut behind, and the mountain swallowed him.
Ere the wedding feast was ended Odin had spoken words which caused the giants to suspect him. But he retired with Gunlad to the bridal chamber, and there he found the precious mead which Ivalde-Svigdur had robbed from the moon-god. Then Gunlad came to know that her lover was Odin, but she helped him to make his escape in eagle-guise. So Odin flew through the tunnel which Heimdal-Rati had made, and reached Asgard in safety with the precious mead.
In the morning the giants went towards the bridal chamber, remembering the words that their guest had spoken, and when they found he had escaped they called him Bolverkin, "the evildoer".
But although Odin conferred great good upon gods and men by capturing the mead, the consequences of the evil he wrought towards that end were doomed to bring disaster in after-time, when Surtur, issuing forth to avenge the wrong done to Gunlad, set the world aflame. For good cannot follow evil, even although it is accomplished for the sake of good.
Click to enlarge
THOR AND THE GIANTS
From the painting by M. E. Winge
Odin's joy was great when he returned in triumph to Asgard, but he spoke words of pity for the giant-maid whom he had betrayed, and who wept because he left her.
Ivalde-Svigdur, who perished in the mountain, was refused an abode among the blessed dead in Hela's glittering plains. Him the gods condemned to dwell forever in the moon. There he suffers eternal punishment for his evildoings, for he is ever drunk with the stolen mead, which is venom to him, and is ever beaten with the rod of thorns by the god he slew and to whom life was again given. Ivalde's son, Hyuki, is revered among men. Another name he bears is Slagfin, and by Saxon warriors he is called Hengest. He is also Gelder, and his symbol is the gelding. Among skee-runners he is the chief upon land and on the sea.
Many names have the gods, and for Odin there are nine-and-forty. And the reason is, as skalds have told, that people speaking different tongues must needs call the gods by different names, while the gods have also been given names according to their various attributes and the great deeds they have done.
Thus Odin was called All-father, like the Mighty One who was at "time's first dawn", because he was father of the gods; and Val-father, the father of the brave who dwell in Valhal in high Asgard.
When Odin sat in his high golden throne, he wore a cloak which was striped with many colours of sunset splendour and summer radiance. Its hood was blue as is the sky, and speckled with grey like clouds. His hat was blue also, and its broad brims curved downward like the heavens. When he left Asgard to travel over the worlds he wore a burnished helmet, and sometimes he went among men wearing a hat which was tilted to conceal the hollow of his lost eye.
As Odin sat brooding and listening in Asgard two ravens perched on his shoulder. Their names are Hugin, which is "reflection", and Munin, which means "memory". When day dawned Odin sent them forth, and they returned at eve to whisper in his ears all the doings of men. Thus was he called Rafnagud, the "raven-god". He had also two wolf dogs, and they are named Gere, "the greedy", and Freke, "the voracious". These Odin fed with the food which was placed before him at the feast of heroes, for he ate not and for nourishment drank nectar.
When Odin drank of the song-mead he composed poems which for sweetness and grandeur have never been surpassed. He was the first poet, and knew well the magic of the mead. For the source of it was secret, and was discovered only by Ivalde, the watchman of the primeval fount from which life first came and by which life is ever sustained. Then was it carried to the beauteous car of the moon, and from thence to the regions of fire. There it was won by love mixed with wrong, and when the high god who descended to the deeps drank of it, he soared as an eagle to heaven, which he filled with song. From heaven has song descended upon earth, and in song are all the sufferings which were begotten over the mead.
Odin is also the friend and companion of the goddess Saga, whose dwelling in Asgard is Sokvabek, "the deep stream". Precious thoughts well up from the fountain source and flow along as words of gold. They tell of things that were, and Odin ponders. Day after day and night after night the high god sits with the goddess listening to the flowing stream, which grows deeper and wider as it wends its way onward, and their minds are refreshed by the glories of the past.
Secret runes, which have magical influence, did Odin also invent. For nine whole nights he hung on the high branches of Ygdrasil, pondering and searching out the secrets of the mind and of the Universe. For the power of runes was before the beginning of man. They are mixed with fate, and their potency did Odin discover when he drank from Mimer's well. They have also power over death and the world beyond. Runes there are to ward off strife and care, to charm away sickness and disease, to blunt the foeman's sword, to break fetters that bind, to still the storms, to ward off the attacks of demons, to make the dead to speak, to win the love of a maid, and to turn away love that is not desired. And many more there be also.
When runes are carved in mystic symbols the powers they convey are given to the weapons, or to the men that bear them, for they govern all things and impart power to conquer and power to subdue. He who has a certain desire shall achieve it if he but knows the rune which can compel its fulfilment, for the runes come from Odin, the chief ruler of the Universe, the god most wise. His power and great knowledge are enshrined in them.
Next to Odin the mightiest of the gods was his son Thor, whose mother was Jord, "the earth". In Asgard was built for him a great mansion called Bilskirnir, with five hundred and forty halls and a roof of shining silver. He drave forth in a car which was drawn by two goats. Three precious things were his possessions: the great hammer Mjolnir, which struck fire from the mountains and has slain many frost giants; the belt of prowess, which gave him threefold strength; and his mighty iron gauntlets, which he put on ere he could wield his hammer.
Another of Odin's sons was Balder the Beautiful, whose mother was Frigg, queen of goddesses, daughter of Nat and sister of Njord. Fair and comely was Balder, with silver hair that shone like sunshine. He was full of wisdom and was exceedingly mild and had great eloquence. In Asgard and Midgard there was no god more greatly loved than Balder.
Njord of the Vans was in Asgard as hostage to the Asa-gods. He was father of the god Frey and the beautiful Freyja, who was next to Frigg among the goddesses. Honer, Odin's brother, was sent to Vanaheim, where he was made ruler over the Vana-gods. He chose not his part and his judgments were weak.
Great was Tyr, the war-god, who gave valour to warriors and by whom he was invoked.
Brage, god of music and poetry, had for wife Idun, Ivalde's daughter, who was keeper of the apples of immortal youth.