Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 94

The Waves were generally supposed to go about in triplets, and were often said to play around the ships of vikings whom they favoured, smoothing away every obstacle from their course, and helping them to reach speedily their goals.

“And Æger’s daughters, in blue veils dight,

The helm leap round, and urge it on its flight.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson).

Ægir’s Brewing Kettle

To the Anglo-Saxons the sea-god Ægir was known by [188]the name of Eagor, and whenever an unusually large wave came thundering towards the shore, the sailors were wont to cry, as the Trent boatmen still do, “Look out, Eagor is coming!” He was also known by the name of Hler (the shelterer) among the Northern nations, and of Gymir (the concealer), because he was always ready to hide things in the depths of his realm, and could be depended upon not to reveal the secrets entrusted to his care. And, because the waters of the sea were frequently said to seethe and hiss, the ocean was often called Ægir’s brewing kettle or vat.

The god’s two principal servants were Elde and Funfeng, emblems of the phosphorescence of the sea; they were noted for their quickness and they invariably waited upon the guests whom he invited to his banquets in the depths of the sea. Ægir sometimes left his realm to visit the Æsir in Asgard, where he was always royally entertained, and he delighted in Bragi’s many tales of the adventures and achievements of the gods. Excited by these narratives, as also by the sparkling mead which accompanied them, the god on one occasion ventured to invite the Æsir to celebrate the harvest feast with him in Hlesey, where he promised to entertain them in his turn.

Thor and Hymir

Surprised at this invitation, one of the gods ventured to remind Ægir that they were accustomed to dainty fare; whereupon the god of the sea declared that as far as eating was concerned they need be in no anxiety, as he was sure that he could cater for the most fastidious appetites; but he confessed that he was not so confident about drink, as his brewing kettle was rather small. Hearing this, Thor immediately volunteered to procure a suitable kettle, and set out with Tyr to obtain it. [189]The two gods journeyed east of the Elivagar in Thor’s goat chariot, and leaving this at the house of the peasant Egil, Thialfi’s father, they wended their way on foot to the dwelling of the giant Hymir, who was known to own a kettle one mile deep and proportionately wide.

“There dwells eastward

Of Elivagar

The all-wise Hymir,

At heaven’s end.

My sire, fierce of mood,

A kettle owns,

A capacious cauldron,

A rast in depth.”

Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).

Only the women were at home, however, and Tyr recognised in the elder—an ugly old hag with nine hundred heads—his own grandmother; while the younger, a beautiful young giantess, was, it appeared, his mother, and she received her son and his companion hospitably, and gave them to drink.