Chapter 4: THE THEFT OF IDUN ' S APPLES AND THE SHORT AUTUMN.

      Loki returned to Asgard in the early autumn. The first rain after the summer broke from the clouds so Odin split the suns light making the Bifrost rainbow bridge appear and span the world, arching down to Middle-earth. Loki met his brothers Odin and Hoenir on the bridge, he asked Odin: ‘Is the world not safer under the protection of Miollner the hammer of the underworld’.

      Odin replied that this was indeed so.

      Loki continued: ‘Does the world not benefit from all the other gifts that I secured from the dark elves and is Sif's hair not restored to its former glory?’.

      Odin replied: ‘All these things are true, but it was you that cropped Sif's hair. Heimdall hears all; every sound in the nine worlds that the Yggdrasil holds, and he has not heard the sons of Ivaldi hammer on their anvils in the underworld for a long while. We fear that the dark elves are estranged from us’.


      But in spite of Odin's reservations about what Loki had done he became reconciled with the rest of the Aesir and travelled with Odin and Hoenir down the rainbow bridge to Middle-earth. The summer had passed and the air was chilled and fresh and the sky bright and clear, the Aesir wandered Middle-earth that fine autumn morning taking stock of all that they saw.

      As they travelled through town, village, pasture and forest they were being watched by one in the form of a giant eagle who wanted to make the coming autumn the last autumn the Aesir would ever see: a short autumn that would usher in a long winter that would only end with the fall of Asgard and the doom of Odin and Loki.

      Odin spoke with many people to see whether Middle-earth had been given the prosperity Loki said he had brought with him from the underworld in the form of the treasures crafted by the dark elves. The Aesir walked with herdsmen for a while as they followed their aurochs over the down lands. They watched as some of the beasts fell behind the rest of the herd and wandered off into a valley. After speaking with them and asking them what news they had heard Odin said to the drovers: ‘We are going to leave you now, we have still far to journey today’.

      The Aesir waited until the herdsmen were away over the down lands then they followed the beasts that had left the main body of the herd into a valley. The day then became overcast and a wind started to rise, the gods sat and rested for a while and watched the animals, Odin said: ‘We have travelled far, now we must eat’.

      The lost aurochs sensed that a storm was coming and they began to leave the Valley to catch up with the rest of the herd. As Loki started to collect firewood Odin rushed towards the beasts with the elf spear Gungner. Odin hurled it and the aim was true, the last auroch fell dead before it could leave the valley.

      Loki lit the fire just before the rain started. Odin and Hoenir butchered the carcass then spitted it over the flames and they all thought that they could not have done any better for a feast that afternoon.

      In a nearby tree a large eagle sat, the same bird that had followed the Aesir all day. He watched as they turned the spitted ox over the fire, while he watched he worked his magic. Near the fire lay a rod that the eagle had cut from a tree earlier that afternoon, with a talon he had carved a binding rune on the branch with the intent of snaring one of the Aesir. Loki was to be the victim and the eagle was none other than Ivaldis greatest son Thiassi. That day he had flown on wide eagle pinions from Thrymheim in the land of the giants to take his revenge on the Aesir by making them return his half-sister Idun to the Ivaldi clan. Of all the Aesir, Idun -the goddess of the autumn orchards- collected the apples that rejuvenated the world and kept the gods from aging. If she was taken away from the Aesir Thiassi knew that the gods would age and weaken, he would then lead the frost giants and a winter war would break out over all the world, and at its conclusion Thiassi intended to usurp Odin and rule in Asgard.


      After turning the spit and tending the fire for two hours Loki announced: ‘The meat has been roasting for so long that it must be ready’. But when he cut off a piece he saw that it was as still as raw as before they had started the roast. ‘The meat needs a little bit longer to cook’. Loki turned the spit for another half hour.

      After the half hour was up Loki saw with growing unease that the meat was still as raw as when he had first spitted it, he said ‘There must be some sorcery at work, either the meat or the fire or both are bewitched.’ Odin and Hoenir examined the meat and saw that he was right.

      Then they heard laughter from the tree above them, they looked up and saw a great eagle mocking their efforts. They did not know that the eagle had tracked them all that day, it said: ‘You will never cook that oxen without my help, and if you want my help then you must grant me my fair share of the meat.’

      Loki replied: ‘Make the meat cook then and we will give you a good portion because we are all hungry now’.

      Thiassi dropped down from the branch and stood by the fire, he then spread his great wings and fanned the flames into a blaze. In a very short time the meat was roasted. But as soon as the feast was ready Thiassi leapt onto the spit and started tearing apart the roast ox with his talons and beak, before the Aesir could do anything Thiassi had eaten most of their meal.

      Angered by the eagles greed Loki snatched up the branch that Thiassi had cursed and swung the stick at him, Thiassi flapped his wings evading the full force of the blow but as the branch hit the eagle it stuck firmly to the birds leg, then the curse worked and Loki's hand became stuck to the other end of the branch.

      Then Thiassi took Loki on a painful journey across the whole world, the most cunning of the Aesir was ensnared by the greatest of the Ivaldis. Thiassi flew low over mountain peaks to batter the trickster, and he flew even lower over the ocean nearly drowning his captive in revenge for the insult that he repaid him with when he remade Sif's hair and blessed the gods with Frey's ship and the spear Gungner.

      When Thiassi considered Loki to be fully punished and ready to agree to his demand he said: ‘I will let you down only if you bring Idun and her basket of apples to me.’ Loki cried that he would do anything if the eagle would release him.

      They landed and Thiassi said to Loki: ‘You may not recognise me now but my brothers and I were tricked by you in the past, the Aesir are nothing more than a disreputable gang of swindlers unfit for our sister to consort with’.

      Loki then knew who the eagle was but to win his freedom he had to swear to Thiassi's terms: he agreed to betray Idun by bringing her to an unwanted rendezvous with her half brother now turned storm giant and help him steal the goddess of orchards and her autumn fruit at the time of the seasons turning. The coming autumn was to prove to be a short one.

      The treacherous pact sworn Thiassi took Loki back to the valley where he was snatched up. He took what was left of the feast to his brothers, but he did not tell them that it was Thiassi who had entrapped him, he said: ‘The eagle was a shapeshifter and he is the shepherd of the herd, he thought that he deserved the greater portion of the feast but he told me that he often gives hungry travellers both hind legs of a beast if they take the trouble to prepare and cook them properly’.

      The Aesir ate their share of the oxen and they were grateful to Loki for retrieving it from the shapeshifting shepherd. The storm did not break that afternoon but heavier rain set in just as the eagle returned with Loki. After they had eaten the Aesir then set off back to Asgard.


      The trees in the orchards bore a good harvest of fruit that autumn. Of all the apples in the world the finest and most highly valued are the ones Idun collects and keeps in her basket for these stop the gods from ageing and the world from withering. As Idun was gathering her apples Loki followed her through the orchards and when he came upon her he said: ‘We know the powers of the apples you select for we eat them daily, but I have seen a apple tree in a corner of the wood a little way from here, that tree bears fruit as seemingly good as yours, for the apples look and taste the same as far as I can tell’.

      Idun replied: ‘That could not be so for there are no other such apples that I have not collected’.

      Loki continued: ‘This is not one of my jokes, if I thought that you should doubt me then I would have picked one of them and brought it here so that you could judge for yourself.’

      Idun was taken in by Loki's words and she replied to his deceit thus: ‘Then I shall have to go and pick the apples from that tree myself’.

      Loki reminded Idun: ‘Do not forget to bring your own apples in the basket, all the ones that you have already picked this autumn so that we can compare them to the ones I have seen’.


      So Idun went with Loki to the part of the wood that he had told her about; but it was not the place where apples as good as the ones she collected grew: it was the place where Loki had arranged to meet Thiassi and betray the gods. They walked through the autumn orchard to a dense thicket where tall trees grew, their upper branches concealed from the ground. Thiassi the eagle was sitting in one of the branches waiting for Idun, waiting to bring her to the world of ice and not back to the Ivaldi clan in the underworld as he told Loki before he let his arm free from the talon carved rune stick. As soon as Thiassi saw Idun coming with Loki towards the tree he was perched upon in the orchard he swooped down on his now frightened sister and snatched her and her basket of precious fruit and bore her away back to his stormy eyrie in Thrymheim, the place of wind, hail, hurricane and frost.


      Thiassi stood in triumph upon his citadel Thrymheim, the highest peak above the land of the frost giants with his daughter Skadi and his sister Idun captive beside him. Laughing he flapped his wings sending ice and hurricanes to lash the world : ‘Hail storm my harsh son freeze the world of Odin fast in the ice until Asgard surrenders to me’.

      The frost then advanced south in the wake of Thiassi's storm. Across Middle-earth crops failed and fruit withered on the vine. A mass migration of the folk soon followed, they thought that life would be easier further from the north but they would have to fight for new lands in the south; the corruption of man and nature went hand in hand because of Loki deceiving the dark elves and tricking them into rivalling each other.

      A long season had passed since Ivaldi abandoned his post by the northern seas but it was only now that his son Thiassi finally turned those waters to ice. The sun goddess Sol, Ivaldi's first wife, fled even further away from him to far off climes because she feared that the wolf chasing her was getting nearer and she would be swallowed along with the flaming orb of the sun that her chariot drew.

      In Asgard the Aesir started to grow old, they all felt their powers were starting to wane because they had lost the rejuvenating apples that the elf Idun, goddess of orchards collected and served to them. Odin went to his seat upon the mound Hlidsjalf and said to his ravens before he sent them out over the world to gather news: ‘Find out where Idun was last seen and who she was seen with and where she is now.’

      On the third morning after Odin willed their flight Hugin and Munin returned with news of what had befallen Idun. As Odin watched the sun rise over the mound Hlidsjalf, her heat now cold before it hit the world, the ravens told the Allfather: ‘Idun was last seen in a orchard with Loki, right at the time of the seasons turning. She was collecting apples in her basket when a great eagle flew down and dragged her off, the eagle's name is Thiassi, Idun's brother. Idun is now held captive in the land of the giants.’

      Odin called a council of the Aesir and told them of the tidings of Idun, the words that the ravens had brought him. Then Odin confronted Loki with the truth: ‘Stand forth Loki, now Asgard knows how you betrayed Idun to the eagle in the wood in return for your release when he took you on a bumpy flight over half the world. This is Thiassi's revenge for the insult he thinks that we offered him in return for restoring Sif's hair, you got him to return the harvest, but because of the way you tricked the dark elves into creating such great gifts for the gods and the world Thiassi in revenge has let the winter extend beyond the limit I set for it at the creation and now the world is ravaged by the frost and we are growing old because we have lost Idun and her apples to the giants.’

      Loki stood in the midst of the Aesir as Odin denounced him, he too looked older, but his eyes shone even brighter than when he was younger because now they gleamed with the fire of his nature. The Aesir all called for Loki's execution but he responded to their threats thus: ‘What Odin says is true, but stay your wrath. I only betrayed Idun because Thiassi would have killed me otherwise, and as soon as she was abducted my intention was to recover her and bring her back to Asgard, just as soon as any opportunity arose.’

      ‘So do as you say that you intended to do Loki’. Odin replied: ‘But if you can not return Idun and her apples to us then Tyr will reconsider your fate and send your head back to Brokk and Sindre and tell them that they did not sew your mouth up well enough.’

      This doom Tyr and all the Aesir agreed upon. Loki then assumed the shape of a hawk and flew from Asgard across the frozen world in search of the goddess of the orchards and her lost fruit. The gods feared that the winter storms Thiassi was unleashing now upon the world would be the final winter that would precede the Ragnarok.


contents      chapter1      chapter2      chapter3      chapter4      chapter5      chapter6