THE STORY OF FREY AND GERDA
Frey, the bright god of the summer sun and rain, and the fruits of the earth, was the son of the god Njord. It befell on a day that he seated himself on Odin’s high throne from which could be seen all the worlds. And many wonderful and beautiful sights he saw, till, turning his eyes to Giantland he saw the most wondrous and beautiful sight of all. He saw a large and stately mansion, and passing from the great hall of the mansion to her bower, was a maiden of surpassing beauty. So radiant was she that it seemed to the god that a bright light shone from her and illumined the air and the waters and the worlds around.
And a great love of the maiden filled the heart of Frey, and he longed to make her his wife, yet knew he not how to win her. At this he was seized with a sudden sadness, which increased as he returned to his home. And all the day he sat alone, grieving and longing, refusing food, speaking to none, and all the night he lay awake, troubled in mind and sick at heart. And Njord and Skadi, the father and mother of Frey, called to them Skirnir, the Light bringer, who was the servant of Frey, and bade him speak to Frey, and ask him the reason of his sadness. And Skirnir feared to speak thus to his master, but he promised to do so.
And Skirnir went to Frey, where he sat alone and gloomy, and he said to him: “Tell me now, Frey, thou prince of gods! why dost thou sit alone in the hall the live-long day?”
And Frey answered him sadly: “Great is the burden of my heart: the sun shines each day as ever, but not for me.”
And Skirnir brought to his mind their days of youth together, and besought him for their sake to trust him and to tell him all.
Then did Frey tell Skirnir of the maiden he had seen in Giantland, of her wondrous beauty and of his love, and of how it seemed to him that it was fated that they should not wed.
And Skirnir sprang to his feet, crying: “Give me but thy steed to bear me safe through the dim, flickering flame, and thy sword which wages war of itself against the giant race, and I will bring the maiden to thee.”
Arid Frey, rejoicing, gave him the sword and eleven golden apples and the great gold ring Draupnir as gifts for the maiden, and brought him in haste to where the horse stood. And Skirnir leapt upon his back and rode forth in the darkness. And he came into Giantland and to the great mansion of Gymir, the giant. And Gymir was the father of the fair maiden whom Frey loved. And her name was Gerda.
And at the door of Gerda’s hall were fierce dogs chained to protect the maiden, and Skirnir knew not how he should pass them and get speech with her. And he dismounted from the horse and let him graze upon the grass.
And Gerda, within the hall, heard a strange clashing and clanking, and it seemed to her that the earth trembled and that the great hall of Gymir was shaken. And she sent her serving-maid to see what had befallen. And the serving-maid, returning, told of the stranger that stood without the hall.
Then said Gerda: “Bid him enter our hall, and drink of the bright mead.” And they brought Skirnir before her, and Gerda asked him: “Who art thou, and why hast thou fared alone through the flickering fire to visit our halls?”
Then Skirnir told her of his master, the bright god, Frey, and of his love for her. And he showed her the eleven golden apples and the precious ring which once had been burned with Baldur, and which every ninth night let fall eight golden rings like itself. And he told her that these should be hers if she would be the bride of Frey.
But Gerda answered him coldly and showed no desire for the precious gifts of Frey. And Skirnir’s anger rose against her, and he showed her the magic sword which Frey had given him, and wrathfully he spake and told her that if she would not consent he would hew her head from her neck.
But the giant-maiden laughed at his threats till Skirnir, waxing ever more wroth, swore to kill her father and to bring upon her, by magic art, the direst woes and the awful anger of the gods.
Then kindlier grew the maiden, and she brought to Skirnir a foaming cup filled with the famous old mead. And Skirnir’s anger passed, but still was he,
resolute in demanding the maiden. “Tell me all,” he said, “before I ride hence. When wilt thou meet the stalwart son of Njord?”
And Gerda yielded to his will, saying: “In the pine-needle wood, the wood of tranquil paths, will Gerda meet the son of Njord and bestow her heart’s love nine nights hence.”
And Skirnir rode hastily homeward. And Frey waited without for his coming, and when he saw him, he ran to him and besought him for his tidings, even before he should unsaddle his horse.
And Skirnir told him all. Long seemed the time of waiting to Frey, but no more did he sit alone in grief. And when nine nights had passed, Gerda kept her word, and Frey brought her to the land of Asgard, and they were wedded. But it was said by those who knew the future, that dearly had Frey bought the maiden by the gift of his sword to Skirnir, for in the great day of doom which was coming he should be weaponless, and Surtur should slay him.