Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 62

“With a short-shafted hammer fights conquering Thor;

Frey’s own sword but an ell long is made.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson). [118]

The dwarfs from Svart-alfa-heim gave Frey the golden-bristled boar Gullin-bursti (the golden-bristled), a personification of the sun. The radiant bristles of this animal were considered symbolical either of the solar rays, of the golden grain, which at his bidding waved over the harvest fields of Midgard, or of agriculture; for the boar (by tearing up the ground with his sharp tusk) was supposed to have first taught mankind how to plough.

“There was Frey, and sat

On the gold-bristled boar, who first, they say,

Plowed the brown earth, and made it green for Frey.”

Lovers of Gudrun (William Morris).

Frey sometimes rode astride of this marvellous boar, whose speed was very great, and at other times harnessed him to his golden chariot, which was said to contain the fruits and flowers which he lavishly scattered abroad over the face of the earth.



Jacques Reich

Frey was, moreover, the proud possessor not only of the dauntless steed Blodug-hofi, which would dash through fire and water at his command, but also of the magic ship Skidbladnir, a personification of the clouds. This vessel, sailing over land and sea, was always wafted along by favourable winds, and was so elastic that, while it could assume large enough proportions to carry the gods, their steeds, and all their equipments, it could also be folded up like a napkin and thrust into a pocket.

“Ivaldi’s sons

Went in days of old

Skidbladnir to form,

Of ships the best,

For the bright Frey,

Niörd’s benign son.”

Lay of Grimnir (Thorpe’s tr.). [119]

The Wooing of Gerda

It is related in one of the lays of the Edda that Frey once ventured to ascend Odin’s throne Hlidskialf, from which exalted seat his gaze ranged over the wide earth. Looking towards the frozen North, he saw a beautiful young maiden enter the house of the frost giant Gymir, and as she raised her hand to lift the latch her radiant beauty illuminated sea and sky.

A moment later, this lovely creature, whose name was Gerda, and who is considered as a personification of the flashing Northern lights, vanished within her father’s house, and Frey pensively wended his way back to Alfheim, his heart oppressed with longing to make this fair maiden his wife. Being deeply in love, he was melancholy and absent-minded in the extreme, and began to behave so strangely that his father, Niörd, became greatly alarmed about his health, and bade his favourite servant, Skirnir, discover the cause of this sudden change. After much persuasion, Skirnir finally won from Frey an account of his ascent of Hlidskialf, and of the fair vision he had seen. He confessed his love and also his utter despair, for as Gerda was the daughter of Gymir and Angur-boda, and a relative of the murdered giant Thiassi, he feared she would never view his suit with favour.

“In Gymer’s court I saw her move,

The maid who fires my breast with love;

Her snow-white arms and bosom fair

Shone lovely, kindling sea and air.

Dear is she to my wishes, more

Than e’er was maid to youth before;

But gods and elves, I wot it well,

Forbid that we together dwell.”

Skirner’s Lay (Herbert’s tr.).

Skirnir, however, replied consolingly that he could [120]see no reason why his master should take a despondent view of the case, and he offered to go and woo the maiden in his name, providing Frey would lend him his steed for the journey, and give him his glittering sword for reward.

Overjoyed at the prospect of winning the beautiful Gerda, Frey willingly handed Skirnir the flashing sword, and gave him permission to use his horse. But he quickly relapsed into the state of reverie which had become usual with him since falling in love, and thus he did not notice that Skirnir was still hovering near him, nor did he perceive him cunningly steal the reflection of his face from the surface of the brook near which he was seated, and imprison it in his drinking horn, with intent “to pour it out in Gerda’s cup, and by its beauty win the heart of the giantess for the lord” for whom he was about to go a-wooing. Provided with this portrait, with eleven golden apples, and with the magic ring Draupnir, Skirnir now rode off to Jötun-heim, to fulfil his embassy. As he came near Gymir’s dwelling he heard the loud and persistent howling of his watch-dogs, which were personifications of the wintry winds. A shepherd, guarding his flock in the vicinity, told him, in answer to his inquiry, that it would be impossible to approach the house, on account of the flaming barrier which surrounded it; but Skirnir, knowing that Blodug-hofi would dash through any fire, merely set spurs to his steed, and, riding up unscathed to the giant’s door, was soon ushered into the presence of the lovely Gerda.

To induce the fair maiden to lend a favourable ear to his master’s proposals, Skirnir showed her the stolen portrait, and proffered the golden apples and magic ring, which, however, she haughtily refused to accept, declaring that her father had gold enough and to spare. [121]

“I take not, I, that wondrous ring,

Though it from Balder’s pile you bring

Gold lack not I, in Gymer’s bower;

Enough for me my father’s dower.”

Skirner’s Lay (Herbert’s tr.).

Indignant at her scorn, Skirnir now threatened to decapitate her with his magic sword, but as this did not in the least frighten the maiden, and she calmly defied him, he had recourse to magic arts. Cutting runes in his stick, he told her that unless she yielded ere the spell was ended, she would be condemned either to eternal celibacy, or to marry some aged frost giant whom she could never love.