Myths That Every Child Should Know A Selection Of The Classic Myths Of All Times For Young People
Page: 184But never were gods so unlucky before! In spite of their hunger, the pot would not boil. They piled on the wood until the great flames crackled and licked the pot with their fiery tongues, but every time the cover was lifted there was the meat just as raw as when it was put in. It is easy to imagine that the travellers were not in very good humour. As they were talking about it, and wondering how it could be, a voice called out from the branches of the oak overhead, "If you will give me my fill, I'll make the pot boil."
The gods looked first at each other and then into the tree, and there they discovered a great eagle. They were glad enough to get their supper on almost any terms, so they told the eagle he might have what he wanted if he would only get the meat cooked. The bird was as good as his word, and in less time than it takes to tell it supper was ready. Then the eagle flew down and picked out both shoulders and both legs. This was a pretty large share, it must be confessed, and Loki, who was always angry when anybody got more than he, no sooner saw what the eagle had taken, than he seized a great pole and began to beat the rapacious bird unmercifully. Whereupon a very singular thing happened, as singular things always used to happen when the gods were concerned: the pole stuck fast in the huge talons of the eagle at one end, and Loki stuck fast at the other end. Struggle as he might, he could not get loose, and as the great bird sailed away over the tops of the trees, Loki went pounding along on the ground, striking against rocks and branches until he was bruised half to death.
The eagle was not an ordinary bird by any means, as Loki soon found when he begged for mercy. The giant Thjasse happened to be flying abroad in his eagle plumage when the hungry travellers came under the oak and tried to cook the ox. It was into his hands that Loki had fallen, and he was not to get away until he had promised to pay roundly for his freedom.
If there was one thing which the gods prized above their other treasures in Asgard, it was the beautiful fruit of Idun, kept by the goddess in a golden casket and given to the gods to keep them forever young and fair. Without these Apples all their power could not have kept them from getting old like the meanest of mortals. Without these Apples of Idun, Asgard itself would have lost its charm; for what would heaven be without youth and beauty forever shining through it?
Thjasse told Loki that he could not go unless he would promise to bring him the Apples of Idun. Loki was wicked enough for anything; but when it came to robbing the gods of their immortality, even he hesitated. And while he hesitated the eagle dashed hither and thither, flinging him against the sides of the mountains and dragging him through the great tough boughs of the oaks until his courage gave out entirely, and he promised to steal the Apples out of Asgard and give them to the giant.