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Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 51

The double crime thus committed did not long remain unpunished, for Gilling’s brother, Suttung, quickly went in search of the dwarfs, determined to avenge him. Seizing them in his mighty grasp, the giant conveyed them to a shoal far out at sea, where they would surely have perished at the next high tide had they not succeeded in redeeming their lives by promising to deliver to the giant their recently brewed mead. As soon as Suttung set them ashore, they therefore gave him the precious compound, which he entrusted to his daughter Gunlod, bidding her guard it night and day, and allow neither gods nor mortals to have so much as a taste. The better to fulfil this command, Gunlod carried the three vessels into the hollow mountain, where she kept watch over them with the most scrupulous care, nor did she suspect that Odin had discovered their place of concealment, thanks to the sharp eyes of his ever-vigilant ravens Hugin and Munin.

The Quest of the Draught

As Odin had mastered the runic lore and had tasted the waters of Mimir’s fountain, he was already the wisest of gods; but learning of the power of the draught of inspiration manufactured out of Kvasir’s blood, he became very anxious to obtain possession of the magic fluid. With this purpose in view he therefore donned his broad-brimmed hat, wrapped himself in his cloud-hued cloak, and journeyed off to Jötun-heim. On his way to the giant’s dwelling he passed by a field where nine ugly thralls were busy making hay. Odin paused for a moment, watching them at their work, and noticing that their scythes seemed very dull indeed, he [97]proposed to whet them, an offer which the thralls eagerly accepted.

Drawing a whetstone from his bosom, Odin proceeded to sharpen the nine scythes, skilfully giving them such a keen edge that the thralls, delighted, begged that they might have the stone. With good-humoured acquiescence, Odin tossed the whetstone over the wall; but as the nine thralls simultaneously sprang forward to catch it, they wounded one another with their keen scythes. In anger at their respective carelessness, they now began to fight, and did not pause until they were all either mortally wounded or dead.

Quite undismayed by this tragedy, Odin continued on his way, and shortly after came to the house of the giant Baugi, a brother of Suttung, who received him very hospitably. In the course of conversation, Baugi informed him that he was greatly embarrassed, as it was harvest time and all his workmen had just been found dead in the hayfield.

Odin, who on this occasion had given his name as Bolwerk (evil doer), promptly offered his services to the giant, promising to accomplish as much work as the nine thralls, and to labour diligently all the summer in exchange for one single draught of Suttung’s magic mead when the busy season was ended. This bargain was immediately concluded, and Baugi’s new servant, Bolwerk, worked incessantly all the summer long, more than fulfilling his contract, and safely garnering all the grain before the autumn rains began to fall. When the first days of winter came, Bolwerk presented himself before his master, claiming his reward. But Baugi hesitated and demurred, saying he dared not openly ask his brother Suttung for the draught of inspiration, but would try to obtain it by guile. Together, Bolwerk and Baugi then proceeded to the mountain where [98]Gunlod dwelt, and as they could find no other mode of entering the secret cave, Odin produced his trusty auger, called Rati, and bade the giant bore with all his might to make a hole through which he might crawl into the interior.


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