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THE BOOK OF THE SAGAS

THE STORY OF ODIN AND THE GODS AND OF THE MAKING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH





Now Odin was the chief of all the gods worshipped by men. They called him the All-Father, for he was the creator of Man, and the maker of Heaven and Earth, the air and all things belonging thereto.

In the beginning there was neither sea nor land, nor air, neither was there nor moon, nor stars. Nothing was there but a great gap or space. But as the ages passed a region of fire was formed in the south, and this region was called Muspell and was guarded by a mighty one named Surtur. And in the north was formed a region of ice and frost. And the cold vapours and ice drifted

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towards the fire region, and when they met the heat, they melted into drops.

And the drops took human form, and into the human form came the breath of life. And this being was called Ymir, and he was a Frost Giant, and from him descended the race of the Frost Giants.

And again the drops took form, and this time it was the form of a cow, and the breath of life was breathed into the cow, and with her milk she fed Ymir the Frost Giant. And the cow fed herself by licking the stones that were covered with salt and hoar frost.

And when she had licked the stones for a whole day, there sprung from them the hairs of a man, and at the end of the second day, the head of a man, and at the end of the third day an entire man. Beautiful he was, quick in movement, and full of grace and strength.

And he was called Bur, and he had a son, who was called Bor. And Bor had three sons, and they were called Odin, Vili, and Ve. And Odin, Vili, and Ve ruled the heavens and the earth when they were made, and Odin was the mightiest of the three.

And it befell on a day that Odin, Vili, and Ve slew the giant Ymir, and there ran from his wounds so much blood that all the giants were drowned except one. And that one was a crafty giant, and he went aboard his skiff with his wife, and so, were they saved. And they lived and from them descended all the Frost Giants.

And Odin, Vili, and Ve dragged the dead body of Ymir into the centre of the forest space, and of it

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they formed the earth. From Ymirís flesh they made the land, from his blood the seas and waters, from his bones the mountains, and from his teeth and jaws and broken pieces of bones they made the stones and pebbles, and from his hair the trees. And they called the earth Midgard.

And when the seas and the waters of the earth had been made, there was still enough blood to make a vast ocean, which encircled the earth as a ring, and which none could pass. And on the outer shore of this ocean was the land of giants; therefore, on the inner shore did Odin, Vili, and Ve raise a great bulwark to protect mankind from any wicked giants who might wish ill to them. And this bulwark was constructed from Ymirís eyebrows.

And from Ymirís head did Odin, Vili, and Ve form the Heavens, and placed it over the earth. And they set a dwarf at each quarter of the Heavens, and the dwarfs were called, North, South, East, and West. And these dwarfs caught the wandering red-hot sparks that were cast out from Muspell, the region of fire, and set them in the Heavens to give light unto the earth. Thus was the sun given his home, and the moon and stars their dwelling-place. And days and nights and seasons now began.

In this wise did Day and Night come about. There was a giant who had a daughter called Night. Dark-haired she was like all her race, black-eyed and swarthy of complexion. And Night wedded Delling, who was of the race of the gods. And Delling was fair like all the gods, and beauteous, and radiant with light.

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And Delling and Night had a son, and he was called Day. And he was glorious, and bright, and beautiful as the god, his father. And Odin, the All-Father, took the child, Day, and Night, his mother. And he gave to them each a horse and car, and set them up in the Heavens. And Odin bade them drive round the world one after the other, and each in twelve hoursí time. Night drives first, and every morn her horse bedews the earth with his foam. And when Night has finished her task, Day enters his car, and the mane of his horse sheds light over all the Earth and Heavens.

And Odin, Vili, and Ve cast Ymirís brains into the air, and they became the clouds. And the winds were caused in this wise. At the extreme northern part of the Heavens there sits a giant in the shape of an eagle. And the spreading of his wings for flight makes the winds that rush down upon the earth.

And on a day Odin, and Vili, and Ve walked along the seashore, and there they found two pieces of wood. And they took the one and fashioned it into a man, and they took the other and fashioned it into a woman. And Odin breathed into the man and the woman the breath of life. Viii gave to them mind and the power of movement; Ve gave to them speech and fair features, hearing and sight. And from this man and woman descended the whole human race. And they dwelt within the Earth which is Midgard.

And Odin, and Vili, and Ve built a city for the gods in the middle of the universe, where they dwelt with their kindred. And they called the city Asgard. And they raised a lofty throne there. And Odin sat

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Night

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upon the throne and surveyed the whole world, seeing all the actions of men, and understanding the motives of everything he saw.

And next the gods built a bridge between Heaven and Earth. And it was called Bifröst, but men call it the rainbow. It was of three colours, and its form and workmanship were of the greatest beauty.

And Odin appointed rulers to judge with him the fate of men. And the gods erected a great hall in the middle of Asgard where they met in council. And at one end was a high seat for Odin, and twelve lower seats for the gods. And the inside and the outside of this great hall were of the finest gold, and the roof was of pure silver. And they called it Glad Home. And the gods sat on their thrones and governed the Heavens and the Earth.

But the most sacred meeting-place of the gods was under a great ash tree which was called Yggdrasil. And this tree was the greatest and best of all trees. Its branches spread all over the world, and reached above Heaven. And it had three roots. And one of these roots spread to Asgard, and another to the land of the Frost Giants, and the third to Niflheim, the land of Death.

And at the root that was in the land of the Frost Giants there was a well called Mimirís Well, for it belonged to a giant called Mimir. And whoever drank of the water of that well was filled with wisdom. And Mimir was all-wise for he drank of its water every morning. And once Odin the All-Father came to the well and begged from Mimir a draught of the water.

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And Mimir gave it to him in exchange for one of Odinís eyes.

And every morning did the gods ride on horseback over Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, to the root of Yggdrasil, which was in Heaven. And Odin rode upon his horse called Sleipnir. And Sleipnir had eight legs and was the best of all horses.

And near by the spot where the gods met in council was a holy fountain, and near by the fountain was a fair dwelling. And there lived those maidens who are called the Norns. And the Norns fixed the lifetime of men. And every day the Norns drew water from the fountain and sprinkled the ash with it so that its branches were always fresh and green. And the drops that fell from it to the Earth men called honeydew, and it was the food of the bees.

And there were many fair dwellings in Asgard, but fairest of all was that called Gimli. Its roof was of gold, and brighter than the sun it shone. And it was said of Gimli that it should endure when both Heaven and Earth had passed away, and that there the good and righteous should dwell for ever in bliss.

And Odin made a great hall which was called Valhalla, that is, the Hall of the Chosen. Five hundred and forty doors it had and seats for thousands and thousands of Heroes. There went all those Heroes after death, who, since the beginning of the world had fallen in battle or who had died sword in hand. There did they receive from Odin himself, welcome, and praise, and reward, and there did they live a life of continual feasting and pleasure. Therefore did all men count

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the fight the most glorious thing in life, and to die in fight the most blessed end to life.

And every day a great boar was slain, and cooked and eaten by the great throng of Heroes in Valhalla, and every night did the boar become whole again and ready for the next dayís feast. And a she-goat who fed on the leaves of a wondrous tree supplied them daily with mead. But Odin himself ate no meat; he drank only of wine, which was to him both meat and drink. And every day for pastime the Heroes rode out into the fields and fought till they had cut each other in pieces. But when the time for the feast came they re-mounted their steeds and returned to Valhalla.

Now Odin wedded Frigga, who knew the destinies of all men, but never revealed them. And Odin and Frigga and their offspring form the race of the Æsir, or gods. Their first-born son was Thor, the god of strength and valour, who was able to quell every living thing. Their second son was Baldur, the best and fairest of the gods, whom all mankind loved. And the third son was Njord, the god of the winds, and the 22

ruler of the sea, and the fire. And Njord had two children, a son called Frey and a daughter called Freyja, and mighty they were and beauteous. And Frey was the god of rain and sunshine and of summer fruitfulness, and men sought his aid to get good harvests and peace. And Freyja was the goddess of love: wealthy she was, and her mansion was magnificently adorned, and she drove forth in a car drawn by two cats.

And another god was Tyr, the daring and valorous. Warriors sued to him for help before they fought in battle.

And another god was Bragi, famed for wisdom and eloquence. And his wife was Iduna, the goddess who had charge of the golden apples of youth. These did the gods eat when old age approached, and then did they become young again.

And another god was Heimdall, who was called the White god, and also the Gold-toothed god, for his teeth were of pure gold. And Heimdall was the guardian of the bridge Bifröst, and was placed there to prevent the giants from crossing the bridge into Asgard. Little sleep he needed, and he could see in the dark as well as the light for one hundred miles around him. And so quick of hearing was he that he could hear the grass growing on the earth, and the wool growing upon a sheepís back.

And another god was called Hödur. Blind he was, but mighty. And it was owing to his blindness that he brought great sorrow upon the gods, and in Heaven and Earth. And this shall be told hereafter.

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And Loki was another god, the god of fraud and cunning and treachery. And he had three children, and their mother was a giantess. And evil were these children, and evil did they work upon the gods and men. The first was the wolf Fenrir, of whom it had been prophesied that he would bring the gods to doom. The second was a serpent which the All-Father threw into the great ocean that surrounded the Earth.

And the serpent, holding its tail in its mouth, encircled Midgard. And the third child of Loki was Hela, the goddess of Death, whom Odin cast into Niflheim, the underworld, the abode of all the dead who had not fallen in fight.

And of the goddesses the first was Frigga, the wife of Odin. Then there were Saga, and Eir, famed for her skill in healing, and Freyja, who wept tears of

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gold because her husband, Odur, left her to travel in remote lands, and Lofna, and Vora, and Syn and Mina, and Snotra the wise and courteous. And all the gods and goddesses served and obeyed Odin as children serve and obey their father.

Other goddesses there were who served the Heroes in Valhalla, and these were called Valkyrjor. Their duty it was to ride on their swift horses to the battlefields and choose those who were to be slain.

Now, though the gods were all glorious and powerful, yet had it been foretold many times that doom was coming upon them. They knew that the day would surely come when the Earth which they had made, and mankind, and the Heavens and themselves, would all pass away. It had been told, too, how the dread event should come to pass, and they used all their wisdom and power and foresight, hoping to escape their doom.

First, it had been told them, should come six years of winter; of frost and snow and ice and wind, and all this time the sun should give no warmth or gladness. War and strife should rage throughout the Earth, and murder and hatred and greed. Then should the sun be swallowed by a great wolf and another wolf should swallow the moon, and the stars should fall from Heaven. And in the darkness that should then prevail, the Earth should tremble, and mountains fall.

Then should the wolf Fenrir, the son of Loki, opening his enormous jaws, approach, side by side with his brother, the Midgard serpent. And the serpent should pour forth floods of poison into the air, and

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the Heavens should be rent in twain. Then the sons of Muspell, the region of fire, led by the mighty Surtur, should ride through, and Bifröst the bridge should break as they passed over it. And Loki, and Fenrir, and the serpent, and the followers of Hela, who is Death, should range themselves together, on the battle-field, against the gods. And it was foretold that in that battle Odin, the All-Father, and Thor, and all the gods, and Heaven and Earth, and all mankind should perish.

Now, the gods sought to save themselves by chaining up the wolf Fenrir. So they made a strong iron fetter and bound him, but Fenrir burst the chain with ease. Then the gods made a stronger fetter, and Fenrir burst this also, but with less ease. And the gods despaired. But Odin sent messengers to the country where dwelt the black elves and bade them forge a fetter that could not be broken. And the dark elves took six things that could not be broken. And these were the six things: the noise made by the footfall of a cat; the beards of women; the roots of stones; the sinews of bears; the breath of fish; and the spittle of birds.

Arid the fetter was smooth and soft as a silken cord, and yet of the greatest strength. And it was called Gleipnir. And the gods thanked the dark elves. And they took it and the wolf to an island in a lake. And they asked the wolf to let them bind him, saying that he would again show his great strength by breaking it. And the wolf would not that they should doubt his strength and courage, but he feared that there was magic in the cord, and that he might be bound for

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ever. But at last he said that he would suffer himself to be bound if one of the gods would put his right hand into his mouth until he was free again. And the gods were silent for a space for they knew that whoever consented to the wolfís demand must at least lose his right hand. Then stepped forth Tyr, the god of valour, and put his right hand into the jaws of the wolf. And upon this Fenrir suffered himself to be bound. And he stretched and strained against the fetter, but the more he tried to free himself the faster was he bound. And all the gods laughed aloud ó all but Tyr ó for the monster had bitten off his hand.

And the gods passed the chain, which was fixed to the fetter, through the middle of a huge rock, and they sank the rock very deep in the earth, and then they fastened the end of the chain to a great stone, and sank that deeper still in the Earth. And the gods rejoiced for they deemed the power of the wolf destroyed.

And it was to help them in the last dread day that the gods encouraged men to fight, promising them welcome and rewards in Valhalla. Thus might they have a great army of heroes ready to fight for them against the powers of Loki and the wolf, the Midgard serpent, and Hela, the goddess of Death.

But those who knew the future still pronounced their doom, the passing away of Asgard and Midgard, and of gods and men; and told that all their efforts against their doom would avail them nothing; that Fenrir would burst his fetter when the time was come; that however great the host of Valhalla Heroes the gods must still be vanquished in the last great fight.

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But the words of doom were followed by words of hope. The dead who were righteous, it was said, should live again and live for ever, in fair halls and in continual joy. And out of the sea should spring a new earth, lovelier by far than the first, and so fruitful that the grain should grow unsown. And a new race of men should people the new earth, and a new sun and moon should rise, and life should be glorious beyond all that was ever known before.