Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas
“To Asgard came an architect,
And castle offered to erect,—
A castle high
Which should defy
Deep Jotun guile and giant raid;
And this most wily compact made:
Fair Freya, with the Moon and Sun,
As price the fortress being done.”
Valhalla (J.C. Jones).
Loki and Svadilfari
The unknown architect agreed to these seemingly impossible conditions, and immediately set to work, hauling ponderous blocks of stone by night, building during the day, and progressing so rapidly that the gods began to feel somewhat anxious. Ere long they noticed that more than half the labour was accomplished by the wonderful steed Svadilfare, and when they saw, near the end of winter, that the work was finished save only one portal, which they knew the architect could easily erect during the night:
“Horror and fear the gods beset;
Finished almost the castle stood!
In three days more
The work be o’er;
Then must they make their contract good,
And pay the awful debt.”
Valhalla (J. C. Jones).
Terrified lest they should be called upon to part, not only with the sun and moon, but also with Freya, the personification of the youth and beauty of the world, the gods turned upon Loki, and threatened to kill him unless he devised some means of hindering the architect from finishing the work within the specified time.
Loki’s cunning proved once more equal to the situation. He waited until nightfall of the final day, when, as Svadilfare passed the fringe of a forest, painfully dragging one of the great blocks of stone required for the termination of the work, he rushed out from a dark glade in the guise of a mare, and neighed so invitingly that, in a trice, the horse kicked himself free of his harness and ran after the mare, closely pursued by his angry master. The mare galloped swiftly on, artfully luring horse and master deeper and deeper into the forest shades, until the night was nearly gone, and it was no longer possible to finish the work. The architect was none other than a redoubtable Hrim-thurs, in disguise, and he now returned to Asgard in a towering rage at the fraud which had been practised upon him. Assuming his wonted proportions, he would have annihilated the gods had not Thor suddenly returned from a journey and slain him with his magic hammer Miölnir, which he hurled with terrific force full in his face.
The gods had saved themselves on this occasion only by fraud and by the violent deed of Thor, and these were destined to bring great sorrow upon them, and eventually to secure their downfall, and to hasten the coming of Ragnarok. Loki, however, felt no remorse for his part, and in due time, it is said, he became the parent of an eight-footed steed called Sleipnir, which, as we have seen, was Odin’s favourite mount.
“But Sleipnir he begat
Lay of Hyndla (Thorpe’s tr.).
Loki performed so many evil deeds during his career that he richly deserved the title of “arch deceiver” which was given him. He was generally hated for his subtle malicious ways, and for an inveterate habit of prevarication which won for him also the title of “prince of lies.”