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Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 168

No warming air

Nor radiance fair

Of gentle Summer’s soft’ning light,

Tempered this dreadful glacial night.”

Valhalla (J. C. Jones).

This severe winter lasted during three whole seasons without a break, and was followed by three others, equally severe, during which all cheer departed from the [331]earth, and the crimes of men increased with fearful rapidity, whilst, in the general struggle for life, the last feelings of humanity and compassion disappeared.

The Wolves Let Loose

In the dim recesses of the Ironwood the giantess Iarnsaxa or Angur-boda diligently fed the wolves Hati, Sköll, and Managarm, the progeny of Fenris, with the marrow of murderers’ and adulterers’ bones; and such was the prevalence of these vile crimes, that the well-nigh insatiable monsters were never stinted for food. They daily gained strength to pursue Sol and Mani, and finally overtook and devoured them, deluging the earth with blood from their dripping jaws.

“In the east she was seated, that aged woman, in Jarnrid,

And there she nourished the posterity of Fenrir;

He will be the most formidable of all, he

Who, under the form of a monster, will swallow up the moon.”

Voluspa (Pfeiffer’s tr.).

At this terrible calamity the whole earth trembled and shook, the stars, affrighted, fell from their places, and Loki, Fenris, and Garm, renewing their efforts, rent their chains asunder and rushed forth to take their revenge. At the same moment the dragon Nidhug gnawed through the root of the ash Yggdrasil, which quivered to its topmost bough; the red cock Fialar, perched above Valhalla, loudly crowed an alarm, which was immediately echoed by Gullin-kambi, the rooster in Midgard, and by Hel’s dark-red bird in Nifl-heim.

“The gold-combed cock

The gods in Valhal loudly crowed to arms;

The blood-red cock as shrilly summons all

On earth and down beneath it.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson). [332]

Heimdall Gives the Alarm

Heimdall, noting these ominous portents and hearing the cock’s shrill cry, immediately put the Giallar-horn to his lips and blew the long-expected blast, which was heard throughout the world. At the first sound of this rally Æsir and Einheriar sprang from their golden couches and sallied bravely out of the great hall, armed for the coming fray, and, mounting their impatient steeds, they galloped over the quivering rainbow bridge to the spacious field of Vigrid, where, as Vafthrudnir had predicted long before, the last battle was to take place.

The Terrors of the Sea

The terrible Midgard snake Iörmungandr had been aroused by the general disturbance, and with immense writhings and commotion, whereby the seas were lashed into huge waves such as had never before disturbed the deeps of ocean, he crawled out upon the land, and hastened to join the dread fray, in which he was to play a prominent part.

“In giant wrath the Serpent tossed

In ocean depths, till, free from chain,

He rose upon the foaming main;

Beneath the lashings of his tail,


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