The Tales of Midgard

It is said that the tree of Ash named Yggdrasil bound nine worlds together in the circle of life and with one of its roots it grasped Midgard, the world of men, also called Middle Earth.

Thor's Hammer depicting Oden as an Eagle with Beard

There have been tales of old Norse Gods, giants and dwarves handed down from generation to gerneration, repeated for some eight hundred years until Saemund Sigfusson (1056-1133) brought them together in writings known as the Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda).    One hundred years after that, Snorre Sturlason (1179-1241) retold these mighty tales and more in what is called the Younger Edda (or Prose Edda).   As the names imply, these writings are as poetry, written in alliterative verse.

We have been gifted tales rich with a history of a noble race from the beginning of time to the birth of the worlds and more.

A couple of these stories are offered below:

Odin, met nine slaves belonging to Baugi, Suttung's brother while in Midgard disguised as Bölverk.  These slaves were scything hay and Bölverk (Odin) offered to sharpen their scythes.  His whetstone worked so well that they all wanted to buy it.  Oden threw it up in the air and the slaves struggled to death for it, cutting each others' throats.

Oden convinced Baugi's to give him logding for the night, saying he had no place to stay.  While talking, Baugi complained that business did not go well because his slaves had killed each other and he could not get anybody to stand in for them.  Odin proposed to do their work in exchange for a draught of Suttung's mead.  Baugi agreed, saying that he would try to persuade his brother.

During summer, Oden, still disguised as Bölverk, did the work as agreed.  When the winter came, Oden asked Baugi for his owing and both went to Suttung's, who refused to give a single drop of the beverage.

Oden wouldn't be dissuaded and told Baugi they would need to be crafty.  Baugi, reluctantly, agreed to help so off they went to the cave where Gunnlöd, Suttung's daughter guarded the Meade of Poetry.  Oden gave Baugi a rati (drill or auger) to dig into Hnitbjörg mountain but Baugi, suspecting foul play tried to deceive Oden by drilling badly and providing only a small opening.  Oden revealed himself by transforming into a snake and entering the mountain through the hole.  Baugi tried in vain to stab Oden with the drill.

Odin arrived by Gunnlöd, with whom he spent three nights.  Thus, he could have three draughts of meade and with each draght, Oden emptied the vessels of their precious contents.  He then transformed into an eagle and flew towards Asgard.

When Suttung discovered the theft, he took the shape of an eagle and pursued Odin but was eventually struck down with fire.  The Æsir saw Oden coming and placed containers at his ready in which to spit his golden loot but some was spilled backwards as excriment.  It is said that anyone can drink this part, which is known as the "rhymester's share" ("skáldfífla hlutr"), but the Meade of Poetry was given by Odin to the gods and to men gifted in poetry. 

The Meade of Poetry is also referred to as the Nectar of the Gods.

Odin is the chief Æsir god of the Norse pantheon.  Where the Æsir came from isn't known, but their ancestry was said to be traced back to Troy.  Odin was all knowing and could change shape at will, at times changing into an eagle and at other times changing into human form.  It is said that Odin's predilection for disguise and his inordinate thirst for knowledge resulted in the creation of great human poets.

Before the Æsir gods came to Asgard, there was a more peaceful group of gods, who ruled the seas and the air and were associated with fertility, called the Vanir.  The two groups fought from the very beginning and full out war was inevitable.

The Vanir gods Njord, who ruled over the seas, his son Frey, who ruled the sun and rain to care for the harvests and his daughter Freya, who ruled over love and fertility found homes for themselves in Asgard after peace was struck, and henceforth they were all as one family.  The truce was cemented when both the Æsir and the Vanir gods spat into a vat.

To keep a symbol of this truce, they created from their spittle a man named Kvasir.  He was so wise that there were no questions he could not answer.  He travelled around the world to give knowledge to mankind.

It is said that when visiting the dwarves known as Fjalar and Galar, who were mean and jealous of Kvasir's wisdom, they plotted against him.  They killed Kvasir and poured his blood into two vats and a pot called Boðn, Són and Óðrerir.  They mixed his blood with honey, thus creating a mead which made anybody who drank it a "poet or scholar" ("skáld eða frœðamaðr").  This was of the making of "The Meade of Poetry".  The dwarves explained to the gods that Kvasir had suffocated in intelligence.

Soon afterwards, the dwarves invited a giant named Gilling to go on a boat ride with them.  The dwarves upset the boat when it was far from shore.  Gilling fell out and unable to swim he drowned.  When the dwarves told Gilling's widow, she began to wail so much so that to stop her, one of the dwarves dropped a milstone on her head.

Gilling's son Suttung was understandably enraged and threatened Fjalar and Galar until they offered him the Mead of Poetry for compensation.  Suttung stored the mead in a place called Hnitbjörg where his daughter, Gunnlöd, was in charge of guarding it.

 

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