Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 60

“Sleep could I not

On my sea-strand couch,

For screams of the sea fowl.

There wakes me,

When from the wave he comes,

Every morning the mew.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

Niörd, anxious to please his new wife, consented to take her to Thrym-heim and to dwell there with her nine nights out of every twelve, providing she would spend the remaining three with him at Nôatûn; but when he reached the mountain region, the soughing of the wind in the pines, the thunder of the avalanches, the cracking of the ice, the roar of the waterfalls, and the howling of the wolves appeared to him as unbearable as the sound of the sea had seemed to his wife, and he could not but rejoice each time when his period of exile was ended, and he found himself again at Nôatûn.

“Am weary of the mountains;

Not long was I there,

Only nine nights;

The howl of the wolves

Methought sounded ill

To the song of the swans.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson). [115]

The Parting of Niörd and Skadi

For some time, Niörd and Skadi, who are the personifications of summer and winter, alternated thus, the wife spending the three short summer months by the sea, and he reluctantly remaining with her in Thrym-heim during the nine long winter months. But, concluding at last that their tastes would never agree, they decided to part for ever, and returned to their respective homes, where each could follow the occupations which custom had endeared to them.

“Thrym-heim it’s called,

Where Thjasse dwelled,

That stream-mighty giant;

But Skade now dwells,

Pure bride of the gods,

In her father’s old mansion.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

Skadi now resumed her wonted pastime of hunting, leaving her realm again only to marry the semi-historical Odin, to whom she bore a son called Sæming, the first king of Norway, and the supposed founder of the royal race which long ruled that country.

According to other accounts, however, Skadi eventually married Uller, the winter-god. As Skadi was a skilful marksman, she is represented with bow and arrow, and, as goddess of the chase, she is generally accompanied by one of the wolf-like Eskimo dogs so common in the North. Skadi was invoked by hunters and by winter travellers, whose sleighs she would guide over the snow and ice, thus helping them to reach their destination in safety.

Skadi’s anger against the gods, who had slain her father, the storm giant, is an emblem of the unbending rigidity of the ice-enveloped earth, which, softened at [116]last by the frolicsome play of Loki (the heat lightning), smiles, and permits the embrace of Niörd (summer). His love, however, cannot hold her for more than three months of the year (typified in the myth by nights), as she is always secretly longing for the wintry storms and for her wonted activities among the mountains.

The Worship of Niörd

Niörd was supposed to bless the vessels passing in and out of port, and his temples were situated by the seashore; there oaths in his name were commonly sworn, and his health was drunk at every banquet, where he was invariably named with his son Frey.

As all aquatic plants were supposed to belong to him, the marine sponge was known in the North as “Niörd’s glove,” a name which was retained until lately, when the same plant has been popularly re-named the “Virgin’s hand.” [117]


Chapter IX: Frey

The God of Fairyland

Frey, or Fro, as he was called in Germany, was the son of Niörd and Nerthus, or of Niörd and Skadi, and was born in Vana-heim. He therefore belonged to the race of the Vanas, the divinities of water and air, but was warmly welcomed in Asgard when he came thither as hostage with his father. As it was customary among the Northern nations to bestow some valuable gift upon a child when he cut his first tooth, the Æsir gave the infant Frey the beautiful realm of Alf-heim or Fairyland, the home of the Light Elves.

“Alf-heim the gods to Frey

Gave in days of yore

For a tooth gift.”

Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).

Here Frey, the god of the golden sunshine and the warm summer showers, took up his abode, charmed with the society of the elves and fairies, who implicitly obeyed his every order, and at a sign from him flitted to and fro, doing all the good in their power, for they were pre-eminently beneficent spirits.