Page: 42IDUN AND HER APPLES
THE STORY TOLD IN AEGIR'S HALL
Idun is Bragi's wife. Very handsome is she; but the beauty of her face is by no means greater than the goodness of her heart. Right attentive is she to every duty, and her words and thoughts are always worthy and wise. A long time ago the good Asa-folk who dwell in heaven-towering Asgard, knowing how trustworthy Idun was, gave into her keeping a treasure which they would not have placed in the hands of any other person. This treasure was a box of apples, and Idun kept the golden key safely fastened to her girdle. You ask me why these folk should prize a box of apples so highly? I will tell you.
Old age, you know, spares none, not even Odin and his Asa-folk. They all grow old and gray; and, if there were no cure for age, they would become feeble, and toothless and blind, deaf, tottering, and weak-minded. The apples which Idun guarded so carefully were the priceless boon of youth. Whenever the Asas felt old age coming on, they went to her, and she gave them of her fruit; and, when they had tasted, they grew young and strong and handsome again. Once, however, they came near losing the apples,—or losing rather Idun and her golden key, without which no one could ever open the box.
In those early days Odin delighted to come down now and then from his high home above the clouds, and to wander, disguised, among the woods and mountains, and by the seashore, and in wild desert places. For nothing pleases him more than to commune with Nature as she is found in the loneliness of vast solitudes, or in the boisterous uproar of the elements. Once on a time he took with him his friends Hoenir and Loki; and they rambled many days among the icy cliffs and along the barren shores of the great frozen sea. In that country there was no game, and no fish were found in the cold waters; and the three wanderers, as they had brought no food with them, became very hungry. Late in the afternoon of the seventh day, they reached some pasture lands belonging to the giant Hymer, and saw a herd of the giants cattle browsing upon the short grass which grew in the sheltered nooks among the hills.
"Ah!" cried Loki; "after fasting for a week we shall now have food in abundance. Let us kill and eat."
So saying, he hurled a sharp stone at the fattest of Hymer's cows, and killed her; and the three quickly dressed the choicest pieces of flesh for their supper. Then Loki gathered twigs and dry grass, and kindled a blazing fire; Hoenir filled the pot with water from melted ice; and Odin threw into it the bits of tender meat. But, make the fire as hot as they would, the water would not boil, and the flesh would not cook.