TEUTONIC MYTH AND LEGEND
by DONALD A. MACKENZIE
An Introduction to the Eddas & Sagas, Beowulf, The Nibelungenlied, etc.
London, Gresham Publications 1912
The Gods Reconciled
Svipdag leaves Asgard--Hadding's Strategy--Fleet sunk by Odin--Fate of Svipdag--Freyja's Sorrowful Quest--The Sea-Dragon--Slain by Hadding--The Curse of Freyja--Loke and Heimdal's Ocean Fight--Hadding's Peril--The Gods and the Last Battle--Death of Svipdag's Son--His Faithful Queen--Giants threaten Asgard--Odin's Warning--Thor wins Ull's Favour--Asa-Gods return to Asgard--The Decrees of Odin--The Seven Sleepers--St. Swithin's-Day Myth.
SVIPDAG descended out of Asgard and urged his tribe to help the Danes in their campaign against Hadding. Ing was he called by his people. They were ruled over by his son, Asmund, who had chosen to live among men.
The fame of Hadding had already gone forth because of mighty deeds he had done. He had conquered King Hadvanus, although the city in which he was besieged was protected by strong battlements. The cunning warrior desired the speedy surrender of his foemen. He caused birds that nested within to be caught, and to their feathers slow-burning lights were attached, so that when they flew over the battlements they set the roofs aflame. The people hastened to quench the great fires that raged about them; soldiers left the fortresses, and the guards ran from the gates. Then did Hadding make sudden and fierce assault and capture the town. Not until he gave payment of much gold was the stricken king ransomed and saved from death.
A great fleet sailed eastward with Svipdag's warriors.
In one ship, the name of which was Gnod, went three thousand men. But Odin sank it, and all on board perished in the waves.
'There are some who tell that Svipdag was drowned with his warriors, and there are others who hold that he was punished by enchantments, for by reason of Groa's incantations the sea could not harm him, and none there were who had power over him save the Asa-gods. Indeed he had reason to fear them greatly, for they were stirred with wrath against him because he would not permit the war to have end. He was Odur, the one "endowed with spirit".
It is told that enchantments were put upon Svipdag by the Asa-gods, and that he was transformed into a great sea-dragon which dwelt beneath a grey rock guarding much treasure.
The heart of Freyja was sad because that Svipdag came not nigh to her with loving words and shining face. Deeply she yearned for him in Asgard, wondering what evil had befallen The Shining One.
Then came she to know that he had suffered because of Odin's wrath, and forth she went to search for him. Tears fell from her eyes, and they became drops of pure gold, and those that showered into the sea were changed to amber.
Through Midgard she went searching for Svipdag, and she roamed over hills and plains and over rivers and lakes enquiring of whom she met if her lost one had gone this way or that. And without ceasing she wept, so that her tears of gold may be found in all lands, and her tears of amber on the shores of wide seas. Faithful was she to Svipdag, and ever did she sorrow as she went because she found him not.
At length she came to the shore of the sea where her husband sorrowed also in dragon-guise. Horrible was he to behold and of haggard seeming.
She was neither repulsed nor was her love turned cold, for the eyes of the dragon were still the eyes of Svipdag, without change or lack of beauty.
Then endeavoured she to comfort him, and wept more tears of gold. Great indeed did the dragon's treasure become, for great was the sorrow of Freyja. But break the spell she could not, for who can remove the curse of Odin?
Long she stayed nigh to Svipdag, nor sought to return unto Asgard. And when she entered the sea to comfort him her great necklace glittered through the waves, and in darkness fire flashed from it. Beneath the grey stone she left the necklace on the day when lasting sorrow was her dower.
There came on that day to bathe in the sea Hadding, the vengeful son of Halfdan. But he wondered because his body was scorched with great heat and the waves boiled all around. Then suddenly he beheld the dragon coming against him. With haste he seized his sword and made fierce attack. Great was the might of Hadding, and by Odin was he given power to prevail. With many strong blows he slew the monster, and he bade his men to carry it to his camp.
Now, as he went thither, a lady came towards him. She was of such great beauty that he was made silent before her. Golden was her hair, and gleaming and blue were her eyes as the radiant, sun-kissed sea. But Hadding knew not that it was the goddess Freyja who stood before him.
When she beheld the dragon she was stirred to divine wrath. Hadding she cursed upon sea and upon land. "Suffer shalt thou," she cried, "the vengeance of the gods in Asgard.
Click to enlarge
FREYJA AND THE NECKLACE
From the painting by J. Doyle Penrose, R.H.A. By permission of the artist
On battlefield and empty plain shall their wrath attend thee. On seas eternal tempests shall thee follow. Wherever thou dost wander thou shalt be accursed. Bitter cold shall follow thee to thy dwelling; at its fire thou shalt be oppressed. Thy flocks shall die. All men shall shun thee, for through the world thou shalt go as foul and as hated as is the plague. Such is the wrath of the gods against thee, for with sacrilegious hands thou hast slain a dweller in Asgard who was enchanted in a form that was not his own. O slayer of the god I loved! when thou art cast into the deep the wrath of demons shall fall upon thee. Ever will you be under our curse until with prayers and sacrifice to the Vana-gods our wrath is appeased."
All things that Freyja said came to pass. Stricken was Hadding by a tempest and cast into the raging sea. Despised was he by strangers when he was washed ashore, and shunned was he as if he were plague-smitten and foul. Many disasters, indeed, fell upon him, until he offered up dusky men in sacrifice to the god Frey. Then was the wrath of the Vana-gods melted and the curse removed.
Each year did Hadding ever afterwards give Frey great offerings, as did also his sons and their sons for generations.
Now Loke had watched the conflict between Hadding and the dragon while yet afar off. When he perceived that Svipdag was slain, he hastened to secure the treasure, and especially the necklace of Freyja, from below the grey rock. In seal guise did he enter the sea, and he saw gleaming through the dark waters the jewels of the divine Lover of Ornaments. But Heimdal, the keen-eyed, followed him, and in seal guise was he also. Thus did Loke and he meet in the sea's dim depths. By their eyes did each know the other, and fiercely they fought on the grey rock to be possessed of the jewels.
Heimdal, son of the waves, was victorious. He drave off Loke, and possessed himself of Freyja's necklace, which he kept secure until he returned to Asgard with the Asa-gods.
Then came the day of great battle between Hadding and the tribes that were combined against him. Ere it began, he slew Henry, son of Asmund, son of Svipdag. Then was Asmund filled with great wrath, and he vowed to slay the warrior who had killed his sire and his son also.
But Odin was with Hadding, and the great god caused his favoured warrior to marshal his army in wedge shape, so as to pierce and scatter the foe. For long years after did the descendants of Hadding enter battle in this manner.
Now when the conflict was at its height, Hadding was sore pressed because of the strength of Asmund's arm which was made greater by his exceeding great wrath and desire for vengeance. Odin perceived his peril, and hastened from the battle to bring him aid.
The Vana-gods gave help to Asmund, and over Hadding's army there passed a fierce rainstorm and wreaths of mist that caused confusion. Then came Thor on a black thundercloud which drave back the rain-clouds over the hills, and the sun broke forth in clear splendour.
Hadding's wedge-shaped army pressed forward, until Asmund was nigh to his enemy, whose death he sought above all else. Then did Hadding call upon the Asa-gods in his sore need. Asmund had flung his shield over his back, and with both hands grasping the hilt, he wielded his great sword so fiercely that he mowed down his enemies before him. Nigh to Hadding came he indeed, when Odin returned on his horse Sleipner, bearing with him the giant Vagnhofde. By Hadding's side was the giant placed in the guise of a warrior bearing a crooked sword.
When Asmund saw the weapon which the giant wielded he cried: "Thou mayest fight with a crooked sword, but my short sword and my javelin shall be thy doom this day. And thou, Hadding, holding thy shield against me, art foul with crimes. Thy bold lance shall I bear down, and thee shall I cover with shame."
But the giant engaged Asmund, and Hadding flung his lance, which pierced Asmund's body so that he fell dying of his fierce wound. Yet was he not without strength to strike a last blow, for he grasped his javelin and flung it at Hadding, whose foot he pierced. Then died Asmund unrevenged, but ever afterwards did the slayer of his sire and his son limp with the wound he gave him in his last hour.
When Asmund fell, Hadding became victorious, and his foemen he drave in confusion from the field.
The body of Asmund was buried with pomp and state. Bitter was the grief of his queen Gunnhild, who desired not to live after him. With Asmund's sword she slew herself, and with him was she laid in the tomb. She loved him more than life, and with her arms around his body was she laid to rest in his tomb. The whole tribe mourned them, sorrowing greatly for many days.
Now the Frost-giants and the giants of the mountains plotted together to conquer Asgard, and in Surtur's deep dales and in Iarnvid there was promise and offer of help. Weak were the Vana-gods to resist the disaster which impended, nor did they know a-tight of the evil plans of their dread foes. But to Odin came full knowledge in his exile. Well he knew that disaster irretrievable would befall both gods and mortals if the high celestial city fell before the giants.
Sleipner he mounted, and towards Asgard sped he, bearing the tidings of dread import. Then it was that the Vana-gods knew they had exceeding great need of his wise and constant counsel. Deeply moved were they towards the leader they had dethroned and driven into exile, because he had forewarned them of the giants' plans.
To Thor went Ull, who sat in Odin's throne, and together they conferred. With eloquent words did the Thunder-god fill the heart of Ull with friendship towards the Asa-gods, so that he returned to Asgard to plead their cause. Nor long did he speak when the Vana-gods sent speedily unto Odin to beseech him to become once again their great chief ruler.
So were the Asas and Vans reconciled, but on the day of Ragnarok, when Suttung comes forth to wreak vengeance, the wise Vans shall depart from Asgard.
Soon after Odin had returned to sit supreme again upon his throne, the giants made vain attempt to overcome the gods, but great punishment was meted out to them for their presumption. Many were slain, and those that survived were driven back to Jotun-heim. Then peace unbroken reigned in Asgard. In Midgard, too, was peace restored, and men laid down their arms, weary with fighting.
Odin then, remembering the evil wrought by the Hag of Iarnvid, issued decrees which condemned magic and the practice of black sorcery. The great sacrifices made by evil men did he also condemn, and he made known that not only by the quantity of offerings would the gods be appeased or the wicked recommended before the Thingstead of the Lower World. Those of his chosen warriors who were borne by the Valkyries to his place of exile were brought unto Asgard to share the joys of Valhal.
So ended the first great war in the world. But the dread effects of Loke's evil had not yet their end.
When Mimer was slain, the fount of wisdom was without a watchman, and Ygdrasil, the World-tree, ceased to draw sustenance therefrom so that it began to wither. Many leaves faded, and its branches knew swift decay.
The seven sons of Mimer, who were guardians of the seven months of change, 1 fell into deep stupor in their golden hall, which was heaped with great treasure. Clad in splendid robes, they lay upon the floor wrapped in magic sleep. Sindre-Dvalin was there in the midst; his brothers were about him. Mortals who have penetrated Hela and reached Mimer's realm have beheld them lying asleep beside their treasure, but they feared to enter; for if anyone touched the robes, or sought to be possessed of the gold, his hand and his arm would wither.
The Seven Sleepers shall awake not, as mortals have been told, until Ragnarok, "the Dusk of the Gods". When Heimdal blows a thunder blast from Gjallarhorn on the day of the Last Battle, the sons of Mimer shall start from sleep. They shall then arm themselves and issue forth. On the wall have mortals beheld suspended and bright, seven long swords which none save the sons of Mimer can wield.
1 These are St. Swithin's mythical predecessors. The ancient belief was that if it rained on "the day of the Seven Sleepers" there would be rain for seven weeks thereafter.