The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies
Ques. Who was Vidar?
Ans. He was the god of silence. His strength was almost equal to that of Thor; he was often employed like Mercury as messenger of the gods. He had sandals which sustained him equally in the air, and upon the water.
Ques. Who was Hodur?
Ans. He was a blind deity, endowed with prodigious strength. He was mild and benevolent, but certain terrible predictions concerning him inspired such terror in Asgard that it was not lawful for any god to pronounce his name. Hodur seems to have been a personification of night.
Ques. Who are the Valkyrior?
Ans. According to the Scandinavian tradition, they are warlike virgins, the messengers of Odin, and their name signifies “Choosers of the slain.” Odin is desirous of collecting a great many heroes in Valhalla, that he may be able to meet the giants in the final contest at the end of the world. He sends the Valkyrior, therefore, to every battle field to make choice of those who shall be slain. When they ride forth on their errand, mounted upon war steeds and in full armor, their shields and helmets shed a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, and is called by men, “Aurora Borealis,” or “Northern Lights.”
LOKI AND HIS PROGENY.
Ques. Who was Loki?
Ans. Loki was an evil deity, the contriver of all fraud and mischief. He was very handsome, but of fickle and malicious temper. Loki had three children, the wolf Fenris, the Midgard serpent, and Hela, or Death. The gods were not ignorant that these monsters were growing up, and would one day bring much evil upon gods and [Pg 248] men. Odin, therefore, sent a messenger to bring them to him. When they came, he threw the serpent into the deep ocean by which the earth is surrounded. The monster soon grew to such an enormous size, that, holding his tail in his mouth, he encircled the whole world. Hela was cast into Niffleheim, where she receives as her subjects all who die of sickness or old age. The wolf Fenris gave the gods much trouble before they succeeded in chaining him. He broke the strongest fetters as if they were made of cobwebs. Finally, the mountain spirits fashioned a chain which he could not break. It was fabricated of the roots of stones, the noise made by the footfall of a cat, and other equally absurd and imaginary material.
BALDUR THE GOOD.
Ques. Who was Baldur?
Ans. He was the son of Odin, good and exceedingly beautiful. He was tormented by terrible dreams, indicating that his life was in peril. He told these things to the assembled gods, who resolved to do all in their power to protect him. Frigga, the wife of Odin, exacted an oath from the elements, fire, air, water, and from everything animate and inanimate upon the earth—stones, plants, rocks and animals—that they would do no harm to Baldur. The gods were so well satisfied with this, that they amused themselves with [Pg 249] throwing sticks, stones and all manner of weapons at the hero, who was not harmed by anything. Loki, with his usual malice, was determined on Baldur’s death, but did not know exactly how to bring it about. He assumed, therefore, the form of an old woman, and went to see Frigga. The goddess asked him what the gods were doing at their meetings. The disguised Loki replied that they were throwing darts and stones at Baldur, without being able to hurt him.
He inquired of Frigga, in his turn, if it were really true that she had exacted an oath of all created things, to spare Baldur. “Aye,” said Frigga; “all things have sworn, save a mistletoe which was growing on a mountain side, and which I thought too young and feeble to crave an oath from.” As soon as Loki heard this, he went away rejoicing. Having cut down the mistletoe, he repaired to the place where the gods were assembled, and put the bough among the sticks which they were casting in sport at Baldur. It was thrown with the rest, and Baldur fell to the ground pierced through and through. The gods were overwhelmed with grief, and broke forth in the wildest lamentations. Then Frigga came, and asked, who among them would show his love for her, and for Baldur, by procuring the deliverance of the hero. Not having fallen in battle, Baldur had passed into the power of Hela, who ruled over the gloomy regions of Hell, or Niffleheim. Hermod, the son of Odin, offered to [Pg 250] repair thither, and pay to Hela a mighty ransom for the return of his brother Baldur. He set out, therefore, mounted on Odin’s horse Sleipnir, which had eight legs and could outstrip the wind. For nine days, and as many nights, the hero rode through darksome glens where no object could be discerned in the gloom. On the tenth, he came to a dark river, which was spanned by a bridge of gold; this was the entrance into Hell, and Hermod rode over it fearlessly, although it shook and swayed under his living weight. He passed the night in discourse with Baldur, and the next morning preferred his petition to Hela. He offered any ransom she might name for Baldur’s return, assuring her that heaven and earth resounded with lamentations for the hero. Hela would take no ransom, but wished to try if Baldur were really so beloved. “If,” said she, “all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, then shall he return; but if any one thing refuse to weep for him, then shall he be kept in Hell.”