Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 82

The next time Odin presented himself before the capricious damsel, he was disguised as a dashing warrior, for, thought he, a young soldier might perchance touch the maiden’s heart; but when he again attempted to kiss her, she pushed him back so suddenly that he stumbled and fell upon one knee.

“Many a fair maiden

When rightly known,

Towards men is fickle;

That I experienced,

When that discreet maiden I

Strove to win;

Contumely of every kind

That wily girl

Heaped upon me;

Nor of that damsel gained I aught.”

Sœmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).

This third insult so enraged Odin that he drew his magic rune stick out of his breast, pointed it at Rinda, and uttered such a terrible spell that she fell back into the arms of her attendants rigid and apparently lifeless.

When the princess came to life again, her suitor had disappeared, but the king discovered with great dismay [164]that she had entirely lost her senses and was melancholy mad. In vain all the physicians were summoned and all their simples tried; the maiden remained passive and sad, and her distracted father had well-nigh abandoned hope when an old woman, who announced herself as Vecha, or Vak, appeared and offered to undertake the cure of the princess. The seeming old woman, who was Odin in disguise, first prescribed a foot-bath for the patient; but as this did not appear to have any very marked effect, she proposed to try a more drastic treatment. For this, Vecha declared, the patient must be entrusted to her exclusive care, securely bound so that she could not offer the least resistance. Billing, anxious to save his child, was ready to assent to anything; and having thus gained full power over Rinda, Odin compelled her to wed him, releasing her from bonds and spell only when she had faithfully promised to be his wife.

The Birth of Vali

The prophecy of Rossthiof was now fulfilled, for Rinda duly bore a son named Vali (Ali, Bous, or Beav), a personification of the lengthening days, who grew with such marvellous rapidity that in the course of a single day he attained his full stature. Without waiting even to wash his face or comb his hair, this young god hastened to Asgard, bow and arrow in hand, to avenge the death of Balder upon his murderer, Hodur, the blind god of darkness.

“But, see! th’ avenger, Vali, come,

Sprung from the west, in Rinda’s womb,

True son of Odin! one day’s birth!

He shall not stop nor stay on earth

His locks to comb, his hands to lave,

His frame to rest, should rest it crave, [165]

Until his mission be complete,

And Balder’s death find vengeance meet.”

Valhalla (J. C. Jones).

In this myth, Rinda, a personification of the hard-frozen rind of the earth, resists the warm wooing of the sun, Odin, who vainly points out that spring is the time for warlike exploits, and offers the adornments of golden summer. She only yields when, after a shower (the footbath), a thaw sets in. Conquered then by the sun’s irresistible might, the earth yields to his embrace, is freed from the spell (ice) which made her hard and cold, and brings forth Vali the nourisher, or Bous the peasant, who emerges from his dark hut when the pleasant days have come. The slaying of Hodur by Vali is therefore emblematical of “the breaking forth of new light after wintry darkness.”