Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 68

“Let us grind riches to Frothi!

Let us grind him, happy

In plenty of substance,

On our gladdening Quern.”

Grotta-Savngr (Longfellow’s tr.).

But when Menia and Fenia would fain have rested awhile, the king, whose greed had been excited, bade them work on. In spite of their entreaties he forced them to labour hour after hour, allowing them only as much time to rest as was required for the singing of a verse in a song, until exasperated by his cruelty, the giantesses resolved at length to have revenge. One night while Frodi slept they changed their song, and, instead of prosperity and peace, they grimly began to grind an armed host, whereby they induced the Viking Mysinger to land with a large body of troops. While the spell was working the Danes continued in slumber, and thus they were completely surprised by the Viking host, who slew them all.

“An army must come

Hither forthwith,

And burn the town

For the prince.”

Grotta Savngr (Longfellow’s tr.).

Mysinger took the magic millstones Grotti and the two slaves and put them on board his vessel, bidding the women grind salt, which was a very valuable staple of commerce at that time. The women obeyed, and their millstones went round, grinding salt in abundance; but the Viking, as cruel as Frodi, would give the poor [130]women no rest, wherefore a heavy punishment overtook him and his followers. Such an immense quantity of salt was ground by the magic millstones that in the end its weight sunk the ship and all on board.

The ponderous stones sank into the sea in the Pentland Firth, or off the north-western coast of Norway, making a deep round hole, and the waters, rushing into the vortex and gurgling in the holes in the centre of the stones, produced the great whirlpool which is known as the Maelstrom. As for the salt it soon melted; but such was the immense quantity ground by the giantesses that it permeated all the waters of the sea, which have ever since been very salt. [131]


Chapter X: Freya

The Goddess of Love

Freya, the fair Northern goddess of beauty and love, was the sister of Frey and the daughter of Niörd and Nerthus, or Skadi. She was the most beautiful and best beloved of all the goddesses, and while in Germany she was identified with Frigga, in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland she was considered a separate divinity. Freya, having been born in Vana-heim, was also known as Vanadis, the goddess of the Vanas, or as Vanabride.

When she reached Asgard, the gods were so charmed by her beauty and grace that they bestowed upon her the realm of Folkvang and the great hall Sessrymnir (the roomy-seated), where they assured her she could easily accommodate all her guests.

“Folkvang ’tis called,

Where Freyja has right

To dispose of the hall-seats.

Every day of the slain

She chooses the half,

And leaves half to Odin.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

Queen of the Valkyrs

Although goddess of love, Freya was not soft and pleasure-loving only, for the ancient Northern races believed that she had very martial tastes, and that as Valfreya she often led the Valkyrs down to the battlefields, choosing and claiming one half the heroes slain. She was therefore often represented with corselet and helmet, shield and spear, the lower part of her body only being clad in the usual flowing feminine garb.

Freya transported the chosen slain to Folkvang, where they were duly entertained. There also she [132]welcomed all pure maidens and faithful wives, that they might enjoy the company of their lovers and husbands after death. The joys of her abode were so enticing to the heroic Northern women that they often rushed into battle when their loved ones were slain, hoping to meet with the same fate; or they fell upon their swords, or were voluntarily burned on the same funeral pyre as the remains of their beloved.



N. J. O. Blommér

As Freya was believed to lend a favourable ear to lovers’ prayers, she was often invoked by them, and it was customary to compose in her honour love-songs, which were sung on all festive occasions, her very name in Germany being used as the verb “to woo.”

Freya and Odur

Freya, the golden-haired and blue-eyed goddess, was also, at times, considered as a personification of the earth. As such she married Odur, a symbol of the summer sun, whom she dearly loved, and by whom she had two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. These maidens were so beautiful that all things lovely and precious were called by their names.

While Odur lingered contentedly at her side, Freya was smiling and perfectly happy; but, alas! the god was a rover at heart, and, wearying of his wife’s company, he suddenly left home and wandered far out into the wide world. Freya, sad and forsaken, wept abundantly, and her tears fell upon the hard rocks, which softened at their contact. We are told even that they trickled down to the very centre of the stones, where they were transformed to gold. Some tears fell into the sea and were changed into translucent amber.

Weary of her widowed condition, and longing to clasp her beloved in her arms once more, Freya finally started out in search of him, passing through many [133]lands, where she became known by different names, such as Mardel, Horn, Gefn, Syr, Skialf, and Thrung, inquiring of all she met whether her husband had passed that way, and shedding everywhere so many tears that gold is to be found in all parts of the earth.

“And Freya next came nigh, with golden tears;

The loveliest Goddess she in Heaven, by all

Most honour’d after Frea, Odin’s wife.

Her long ago the wandering Oder took

To mate, but left her to roam distant lands;

Since then she seeks him, and weeps tears of gold.

Names hath she many; Vanadis on earth

They call her, Freya is her name in Heaven.”

Balder Dead (Matthew Arnold).

Far away in the sunny South, under the flowering myrtle-trees, Freya found Odur at last, and her love being restored to her, she was happy and smiling once again, and as radiant as a bride. It is perhaps because Freya found her husband beneath the flowering myrtle, that Northern brides, to this day, wear myrtle in preference to the conventional orange wreath of other climes.

Hand in hand, Odur and Freya now gently wended their way home once more, and in the light of their happiness the grass grew green, the flowers bloomed, and the birds sang, for all Nature sympathised as heartily with Freya’s joy as it had mourned with her when she was in sorrow.

“Out of the morning land,

Over the snowdrifts,

Beautiful Freya came

Tripping to Scoring.

White were the moorlands,

And frozen before her;

Green were the moorlands,

And blooming behind her.