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Hero Tales

Page: 46

Bragi and Thor questioned Loki very sharply; and when he felt that he, too, was growing old and feeble, he regretted the mischief he had done, and told them how he had decoyed Idun into Old Winter's clutches. The Asas were very angry; and Thor threatened to crush Loki with his hammer, if he did not at once bring Idun safe home again.

So Loki borrowed the falcon plumage of Freyja, the queen of love, and with it flew to the country of the giants. When he reached Old Winter's castle, he found the good dame Idun shut up in the prison tower and bound with fetters of ice; but the giant himself was on the frozen sea, herding Old Hymer's cows, the cold icebergs. Loki quickly broke the bonds that held Idun, and led her out of her prison house; and then he shut her up in a magic nut-shell which he held between his claws, and flew with the speed of the wind back toward the Southland and the home of the Asas. But Old Winter coming home, and learning what had been done, donned his eagle plumage and followed swiftly in pursuit.

Bragi and Thor, anxiously gazing into the sky, saw Loki, in Freyja's falcon plumage, speeding homeward, with the nut-shell in his talons, and Old Winter, in his eagle plumage, dashing after in sharp pursuit. Quickly they gathered chips and slender twigs, and placed them high upon the castle wall; and, when Loki with his precious burden had flown past, they touched fire to the dry heap, and the flames blazed up to the sky, and caught Old Winter's plumage, as, close behind the falcon, he blindly pressed. And his wings were scorched in the flames; and he fell helpless to the ground, and was slain within the castle gates. Loki slackened his speed; and, when he reached Bragi's house, he dropped the nut-shell softly before the door. As it touched the ground, it gently opened, and Idun, radiant with smiles, and clothed in gay attire, stepped forth, and greeted her husband and his waiting friends. The heavenly music of Bragi's long-silent harp welcomed her home; and she took the golden key from her girdle, and unlocked the box, and gave of her apples to the aged company; and, when they had tasted, their youth was renewed.

It is thus with the seasons and their varied changes. The gifts of Spring are youth and jollity, and renewed strength; and the music or air and water and all things, living and lifeless, follow in her train. The desolating Winter plots to steal her from the earth, and the Summer-heat deserts and betrays her. Then the music of Nature is hushed, and all creatures pine in sorrow for her absence, and the world seems dying of white Old Age. But at length the Summer-heat repents, and frees her from her prison house; the icy fetters with which Old Winter bound her are melted in the beams of the returning sun, and the earth is young again.

THE DOOM OF THE MISCHIEF-MAKER.

You have heard of the feast that old Aegir once made for the Asa-folk in his gold-lit dwelling in the deep sea, and how the feast was hindered, through the loss of his great brewing kettle, until Thor had obtained a still larger vessel from Hymer the giant. It is very likely that the thief who stole King Aegir's kettle was none other than Loki the Mischief-maker; but, if this was so, he was not long unpunished for his meanness.

There was great joy in the Ocean-king's hall, when at last the banquet was ready, and the foaming mead began to pass itself around to the guests. But Thor, who had done so much to help matters along, could not stay to the merry-making: for he had heard that the Storm-giants were marshalling their forces for a raid upon some unguarded corner of the mid-world; and so, grasping his hammer, he bade his kind host good-by, and leaped into his iron car.

"Business always before pleasure!" he cried, as he hastened away at a wonderful rate through the air.

In old Aegir's hall glad music resounded on every side; and the gleeful Waves danced merrily as the Asa-folk sat around the festal board, and partook of the Ocean-king's good fare. Aegir's two thralls, the faithful Funfeng and the trusty Elder, waited upon the guests and carefully supplied their wants. Never in all the world had two more thoughtful servants been seen; and every one spoke in praise of their quickness, and their skill, and their ready obedience.


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