The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths

Page: 34

"Open the gate, Heimdall," said the All-Father, "open the gate, for today the Gods would visit the holy Norns."

Without a word Heimdall opened wide the gate that[Pg 71] led to that bridge more colored and more tremulous than any rainbow seen from earth. Then did Odin and Tyr and Baldur step out on the bridge. Thor followed, but before his foot was placed on the bridge, Heimdall laid his hand upon him.

"The others may go, but you may not go that way, Thor," said Heimdall.

"What? Would you, Heimdall, hold me back?" said Thor.

"Yes, for I am Keeper of the Way to the Norns," said Heimdall. "You with the mighty hammer you carry are too weighty for this way. The bridge I guard would break under you, Thor with the hammer."

"Nevertheless I will go visit the Norns with Odin and my comrades," said Thor.

"But not this way, Thor," said Heimdall. "I will not let the bridge be broken under the weight of you and your hammer. Leave your hammer here with me if you would go this way."

"No, no," said Thor. "I will not leave in any one's charge the hammer that defends Asgard. And I may not be turned back from going with Odin and my comrades."

"There is another way to Urda's Well," said Heimdall. "Behold these two great Cloud Rivers, Körmt and Ermt. Canst thou wade through them? They are cold and suffocating, but they will bring thee to Urda's Well, where sit the three holy Norns."

Thor looked out on the two great rolling rivers of cloud. It was a bad way for one to go, cold and suffocating. Yet if he went that way he could keep on his shoulder the[Pg 72] hammer which he would not leave in another's charge. He stept out into the Cloud River that flowed by the Rainbow Bridge, and with his hammer upon his shoulder he went struggling on to the other river.

Odin, Tyr, and Baldur were beside Urda's Well when Thor came struggling out of the Cloud River, wet and choking, but with his hammer still upon his shoulder. There stood Tyr, upright and handsome, leaning on his sword that was inscribed all over with magic runes; there stood Baldur, smiling, with his head bent as he listened to the murmur of the two fair swans; and there stood Odin All-Father, clad in his blue cloak fringed with golden stars, without the eagle-helmet upon his head, and with no spear in his hands.

The three Norns, Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda, sat beside the well that was in the hollow of the great root of Ygdrassil. Urda was ancient and with white hair, and Verdandi was beautiful, while Skulda could hardly be seen, for she sat far back, and her hair fell over her face and eyes. Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda; they knew the whole of the Past, the whole of the Present, and the whole of the Future. Odin, looking on them, saw into the eyes of Skulda even. Long, long he stood looking on the Norns with the eyes of a God, while the others listened to the murmur of the swans and the falling of the leaves of Ygdrassil into Urda's Well.