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A Book of Myths

Page: 110

But the gods of the Norsemen were never wholly gods. Always they, like the gods of Greece, endeared themselves to humanity by possessing some little, or big, human weakness. And Freya is none the less lovable to the descendants of her worshippers because she possessed the so-called “feminine weakness” of love of dress. Jewels, too, she loved, and knowing the wondrous skill of the dwarfs in fashioning exquisite ornaments, she broke off a piece of gold from the statue of Odin, her husband, and gave it to them to make into a necklace—the marvellous jewelled necklace Brisingamen, that in time to come was possessed by Beowulf. It was so exquisite a thing that it made her beauty twice more perfect, and Odin loved her doubly much because of it. But when he discovered that his statue had been tampered with, his wrath was very great, and furiously he summoned the dwarfs—they who dealt always with fine metal—and demanded of them which of them had done him this grievous wrong. But the dwarfs loved Freya, and from them he got no answer.

[Pg 230] Then he placed the statue above the temple gate, and laboured with guile to devise runes that might give it the power of speech, so that it might shout aloud the name of the impious robber as the robber went by. Freya, no longer an omnipotent goddess, but a frightened wife, trembled before his wrath, and begged the dwarfs to help her. And when one of them—the most hideous of all—promised that he would prevent the statue from speaking if Freya would but deign to smile upon him, the queen of the gods, who had no dread of ugly things, and whose heart was full of love and of pity, smiled her gentle smile on the piteous little creature who had never known looks of anything but horror and disgust from any of the deathless gods. It was for him a wondrous moment, and the payment was worth Death itself. That night a deep sleep fell on the guards of Odin’s statue, and, while they slept, the statue was pulled down from its pedestal and smashed into pieces. The dwarf had fulfilled his part of the bargain.

When Odin next morning discovered the sacrilege, great was his anger, and when no inquiry could find for him the criminal, he quitted Asgard in furious wrath. For seven months he stayed away, and in that time the Ice Giants invaded his realm, and all the land was covered with a pall of snow, viciously pinched by black frosts, chilled by clinging, deadening, impenetrable mists. But at the end of seven dreary months Odin returned, and with him came the blessings of light and of sunshine, and the Ice Giants in terror fled away.

[Pg 231] Well was it for woman or for warrior to gain the favour of Freya, the Beloved, who knew how to rule even Odin, the All Father, himself. The Winilers who were warring with the Vandals once sought her aid, and gained her promise of help. From Hlidskialf, the mighty watch-tower, highest point in Asgard, from whence Odin and his queen could look down and behold what was happening all the world over, amongst gods and men, dwarfs, elves, and giants, and all creatures of their kingdom, Freya watched the Vandals and the Winilers making ready for the battle which was to decide forever which people should rule the other.


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