Chapter 6: THE LIBERATION OF IDUN AND THE RECONCILIATION OF THE DIVINE CLANS.

      After he was expelled from Asgard Loki flew in falcon form over Jotunheim for what seemed like an age in the worlds of gods and men. An age in which the world fell further under the cold rage of Thiassi. As the Vanir marched on Asgard Loki reached his destination, the highest peak in Giantland: Thrymheim, the place of storm, the home of Thiassi and his daughter Skadi, and the prison of Idun. Thiassi had taken up this new home in the land of the giants and was holding his sister there far from the sunny orchards that she loved so much after the summer had ripened the apples she collected in her basket.

      Loki encircled the eyrie and saw that Idun was alone. The eagle was away over the ocean, wreaking storms and inland waves. Skadi was hunting beasts across the snowfields. Loki swooped down onto the ledge of the mountain fortress. Idun saw the falcon and watched it closely, wondering what sort of bird it was because no other bird had dared to venture near Thrymheim all the time that Thiassi had lived there. The falcon came to her and she saw from the birds eyes that it was Loki, she said to him: ‘Your eyes are not birds eyes, I can see that you are Loki my betrayer. Take me away from here because all the apples will soon wither from the cold as the world has since I have been imprisoned here by my brother.’

      Loki replied: ‘Hold your basket tightly, I am going to shrink you until you are the size of a nut and take you back to Asgard’.

      Loki sang runes over Idun that shrank her until she was as small as a nut, then he grasped her in his claws and took to the air, flying as fast as he could because the giant eagle was returning in the distance. Thiassi's wings blackened the sky just as they were about to leave and return to Asgard. From afar Thiassi had seen the falcon and saw that it was fleeing from Thrymheim and carrying something tightly as it flew. The air roared as Thiassi chased the thief, he knew that it was the shapeshifter Loki taking Idun back to the Aesir.

      The eagle was the faster of the two birds and it gained quickly on the falcon nearly catching its quarry. Just as the birds were nearing war torn Asgard. Heimdall the watchman of the gods saw the chase before the Vanir and called out to them: ‘Look it is Loki, the worlds salvation, he has recovered Idun’.

      When the Vanir saw the birds they abandoned their assault on Asgard because they saw that the falcons escape held hope for the world. Heimdall called out to the Aesir to pile wood and shavings behind the rubble of the wall, then Heimdall lit the wood ablaze with his fire augur as the gods stood ready with their spears. Loki passed over the broken wall and over the fire, then Odin made the flames flare up. Thiassi hurtled straight into the crackling red wall of fire that had suddenly sprung up in front of him, his eagle pinions in flames he crashed towards the earth immolated even before the spears of the Aesir hit him.


      Now that Thiassi was dead Odin resolved to end the conflict with the Vanir. He set out with his son Balder the most peaceful of the Aesir to make a truce. They both saddled their horses and leaped over Asgard's broken wall to go to the Vanir's camp. But Balder's foal fell as the horses jumped over the rubble. From afar the Vanir saw the horses jump and they knew that the Aesir were coming to them in peace, they saw Balder's horse, a grey foal fall and then try to rise, and they knew that her foot was badly sprained, delaying the Aesir's mission. Balder's Mother Frigga Iord came over the wall and the moon gods daughter Nanna came from the side of the Vanir to meet her; all the goddess's went to the lame foal as Balder stood aside, they sang spells over her to try to make her run again. Then Sol the sun goddess swung back from her chilly displacement in far off regions to shine over them, but only Odin the ageless wizard knew the spells to sing and the runes to chant that would heal the horse.

‘Blood to sinew wrench

so to the bone wrench,

blood to limb

and limb to bone

Balder's horse again shall run.’

      The foal then stood up and ran over to Balder. Balder said to his father: ‘You healed the horse, do you know the words of peace that will bring the Vanir to our side and heal the strife that is laying the world to waste?’

      All the Vanir were assembled there by the torn wall of Asgard and they had all seen Odin make the lame foal run. Odin went up to the Vanir most enraged by the Aesir's treatment of Freyja, her brother Frey and her father Njord. Odin said to them: ‘The war is destroying all that we have created, the blue sky will fall bringing the sun, moon and stars down with it to smash the earth because we are devoid of reason. We are gods, not giants eternally condemned to chaos and conflict, all the deeds of the high ones have been deeds of destruction, Thiassi is dead so let this catastrophe give birth to a recreation and peace, the branches of the Yggdrasil are wide enough for us all to live under, so let us speak of how we can forge new kinships knowing that we are equal of might and of equal value to each other. We shall all now go to Asgard and speak of the future.’

      Balder and Odin mounted their horses and led the Vanir to Asgard, but before they reached the broken wall Balder's horse started to rear up and kick out. Balder tried to hold her but she started to run ahead of the rest of the gods and everywhere her hooves clove the earth a spring burst out melting the frost.

      At the hall of the high one in Asgard the Aesir and Vanir all ate Idun's apples and vigour returned to the gods and the world. The conditions of the peace were resolved; the question of the sacrifices was settled in Odin's favour. To make the truce hold it was decided that two from each side should live with the other side. Freyja believed that her future now lay in Asgard and she intended to stay, her brother and father opted to stay with her. The Aesir did not approve of the fact that Njord had fathered his two children with his sister Nerthus, such relationships with close relatives were prohibited by the Aesir.

      Even so they were welcomed and accepted by the Aesir. After the giant women broke the handle of the world mill Mondilfori retired from his post as master of the mill stones to dwell in Mimer's grove. Frey the harvest god was appointed the world turner in his place and a man and a woman, Bygver and Beyla were made his assistants. Njord was made a priest and Freyja was consecrated a priestess. She taught the Aesir the witchcraft that that was practised in Vanheim, the shamanic arts were considered unmanly by the Aesir, but through his quest for knowledge Odin intended to learn them to avert the doom that Freyja had prophesied.

      From the Aesir's side Hoenir and Mimer were asked by the Vanir to go with them. They asked for the two gods that they considered to the wisest, they knew Mimer from the days of yore, and they knew that he was the first of the wise. The Vanir chose Hoenir because he was Odin's brother and a creator of the world. So Mimer left the underworld and went with Hoenir to Vanheim where they were made chiefs of the councils on account of their reputed knowledge.

      Together they were unparalleled in sagacity, but if Hoenir was on his own at the council, unaccompanied by Mimer, and the Vans asked him what course of action to take in any situation he often appeared lost for words and would ask the Vanir to decide amongst themselves rather accept his own personal decree. The Vanir began to suspect that Odin and Loki had deceived them in the exchange of hostages and they believed that Mimer was a sorcerer who could posses Hoenir. They feared that Mimer would be able to enter their minds as he could Hoenir's so they turned on the ruler of the underworld and hacked of his head, then told Hoenir to take it back to Odin. Hoenir was never the most eloquent of the Aesir, but after the slaying of his mother's brother by the Vanir he became silent and lost for words when spoken to. Until after Ragnarok.

      But the Vanir did not kill Mimer because Odin took his head down to the grove in the underworld where Mimer should have stayed. Odin dragged a tree trunk up to the well of inspired thought by the root of the Yggdrasil, and put four torches around the trunk then placed Mimer's head upon it. The fire elf Dvalin brought Odin herbs collected in the grove and he smeared them upon his mothe's brother's head so that it would not decay, then he lit the torches and as they spluttered and flared under the green gloaming Odin chanted runes that enabled Mimer's head to speak to him, so Mimer's wisdom became Odin's.


      When Loki and Idun reached Asgard, Skadi, Thiassi's daughter, saw the sky catch fire above the world, then smoke descended from the heavens becoming a dank haze over the world. Skadi watched the sun, she had seen her earlier swinging back from the north, and now the heat was breaking up the haze. Sol's chariot was brighter than it had been for a long time; then Skadi feared the worst, that her father had been ambushed and slain by the Aesir.

      Skadi watched Sol's chariot set sinking down into the western gate of the underworld . As night came back Skadi grew cold with anger because she knew that her father had been killed by the shapeshifters and murderers in Asgard; she vowed revenge on all of them and went to her father's armoury where she took a helm of iron and a breastplate of bronze, and an elf spear, all forged in the underworld by her kin.

      Then the storm elf Skadi descended on Asgard like a hurricane. Winds from Thrymheim tore over all the world and battered the broken wall of the gods enclosure. The frost giants saw Skadi going with the storm to Asgard, and Odin saw her coming from his seat on Hlidskjalf. He told the newly reconciled Aesir and Vanir of what had just happened; all of the gods; Aesir and Vanir then became fearful for the world's fate, Odin said to the gods: ‘Skadi has taken on the mantle of her father and leads the frosty winds, if we do not bring the elf queen to our side then she will start another war against Asgard, we must give Skadi proper recompense for the slaying of her father, we will allow her to choose a husband from the gods so that all conflict will cease and the gods and elves will become united.’

      None of the gods objected to Odin's plan because Skadi was very beautiful and powerful, a wife good enough for any of them.

      Skadi stood outside the defenceless enclosure of Asgard with her father's spear in her hand, in her cold rage she seemed serene to the gods and watched them unflinchingly. She had come to fight, but could see that the gods were about to make a proposal. Odin went up to her and said: ‘We propose a truce and we will give you atonement and compensation for the loss of your father. We offer you marriage to one of the gods, if you do not accept our offer and you resume the winter war then you will be forever estranged from Asgard and will have to find a husband from the frost giants, but, you must choose your man by the sight of his feet.’

      Skadi looked at Balder the fairest and most peaceable of the Aesir and said: ‘I have already chosen my husband, there can be nothing that is ugly about Balder. Also you must grant me one other thing, something that I have never experienced, you must make me laugh.’

      Skadi had grown up alone in Thrymheim and had spent her time skiing over the snow slopes and frozen lakes at the foot of the mountains, the frost giants all wanted to catch up with her and they would call out to her to slow down, but she never slowed down for any of the giants in Thrymheim.

      So Skadi agreed to the terms of the gods atonement for the slaying of Thiassi. They all crossed back to Asgard and erected a curtain in front of a alcove in the courtyard. All the contestants sat on a bench in the alcove and poked their feet out from behind the curtain. Skadi took no time to choose the feet of the one that she considered to be the fairest, but when the curtain was drawn back she found that her new husband was Njord and not Balder as she had hoped. Nevertheless Skadi did not seem displeased to be the bride of the fisher god. Skadi then reminded the gods of the second part of their compensation for the killing of her father: ‘I have chosen my man, now you must make the bargain complete and make me laugh.’

      Loki stepped forth, his warped sense of humour contrived a jest that Skadi would find amusing. He tied a string around the beard of a goat and then tied the other end into a slipknot and placed it into his britches, then he pulled the string tight, from the expression on his face everyone assembled there could see that Loki's jest would be more painful for him than for the goat.

      A tug of war ensued between the beard of the goat and the manhood of Loki. It ended suddenly with the slipknot releasing Loki's testicles, and the goat running amok and Skadi laughing out loud when the jester Loki collapsed onto her lap.

      So the gods fulfilled their atonement to Skadi for the death of her father. Odin took Skadi aside to the edge of Asgard, he took two shining orbs from his pocket and showed them to Skadi: ‘Those are my fathers eyes.’ She said amazed.

      Odin said: ‘I saved them from the fire so that they can look down on the world and shine for as long as the world lasts.’ Odin then hurled Thiassi's eyes up into the sky where they stuck fast in the heavens.

      Skadi and Njord were married on the same day as Heimdall married Sol the sun goddess and Balder wed Nanna the moon gods daughter.


      After the weddings Njord proposed that Skadi should come to live with him by the sea, in his shipyard Noatun. But Skadi said that she would only live with Njord in her old home at the peak in Thrymheim. So Njord accommodated her thus: ‘We will each spend nine nights in the mountains and nine nights by the sea.’

      They went to Thrymheim, over stone, scree and snowfield, over icy lakes to the land where Skadi felt at home. After nine nights Njord said: ‘This land is too bleak for me, the mountains too barren and cold. Every night the wolves keep me awake, their howling is horrible compared to the song of the gulls.’

      Then Skadi and Njord then went to Noatun for the next nine nights, but Skadi disliked the noise of the waves, and the sight of the vast expanse of the sea as much as Njord disliked frost bound Thrymheim: ‘I cannot sleep because of the crashing sea and the mewling shriek of the gulls as they squabble.’

      It was not long before Skadi and Njord became separated. They were far too different in their backgrounds to make the marriage work. Skadi returned to Thrymheim, but she did not take up with the giants that dwelled there. She remembered Uller the Vanir winter god whose cold arrows once shattered Asgards wall and visited him in his home in the yew forest Ydalir. When Skadi met Uller he was at work, he said to her: ‘In this wet wood I make my bows for the winters hunting.’

      Uller then made a bow for Skadi and soon they were married and spent the winter hunting over the snowfields. Skadi had been touched by the fisher god but her icy nature could not change, although in the end she became one of the Vanir.


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