Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 76

Ran Ulfrun’s son,

The mighty hornblower

Of Himinbiörg.”

Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).

Loki and Freya

His extreme acuteness of hearing caused Heimdall to be disturbed one night by the sound of soft, catlike footsteps in the direction of Freya’s palace, Folkvang. Projecting his eagle gaze through the darkness, Heimdall perceived that the sound was produced by Loki, who, having stealthily entered the palace as a fly, had approached Freya’s bedside, and was trying to steal her shining golden necklace, Brisinga-men, the emblem of the fruitfulness of the earth.

Heimdall saw that the goddess was resting in her sleep in such a way that no one could possibly unclasp the necklace without awaking her. Loki stood hesitatingly by the bedside for a few moments, and then began rapidly to mutter the runes which enabled the gods to change their form at will. As he did this, [150]Heimdall saw him shrivel up until he was changed to the size and form of a flea, when he crept under the bed-clothes and bit Freya’s side, thus causing her to change her position without being roused from sleep.

The clasp was now in view, and Loki, cautiously unfastening it, secured the coveted treasure, and forthwith proceeded to steal away with it. Heimdall immediately started out in pursuit of the midnight thief, and quickly overtaking him, he drew his sword from its scabbard, with intent to cut off his head, when the god transformed himself into a flickering blue flame. Quick as thought, Heimdall changed himself into a cloud and sent down a deluge of rain to quench the fire; but Loki as promptly altered his form to that of a huge polar bear, and opened wide his jaws to swallow the water. Heimdall, nothing daunted, then likewise assumed the form of a bear, and attacked fiercely; but the combat threatening to end disastrously for Loki, the latter changed himself into a seal, and, Heimdall imitating him, a last struggle took place, which ended in Loki being forced to give up the necklace, which was duly restored to Freya.

In this myth, Loki is an emblem of drought, or of the baleful effects of the too ardent heat of the sun, which comes to rob the earth (Freya) of its most cherished ornament (Brisinga-men). Heimdall is a personification of the gentle rain and dew, which after struggling for a while with his foe, the drought, eventually conquers him and forces him to relinquish his prize.

Heimdall’s Names

Heimdall has several other names, among which we find those of Hallinskide and Irmin, for at times he takes Odin’s place and is identified with that god, as [151]well as with the other sword-gods, Er, Heru, Cheru and Tyr, who are all noted for their shining weapons. He, however, is most generally known as warder of the rainbow, and god of heaven, and of the fruitful rains and dews which bring refreshment to the earth.

Heimdall also shared with Bragi the honour of welcoming heroes to Valhalla, and, under the name of Riger, was considered the divine sire of the various classes which compose the human race, as appears in the following story: