Page 21 of Norse Mythology

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“Him?” said Galar. “Oh, he’s dead.”

“Drowned,” added Fjalar helpfully.

At this the giant’s wife wailed and sobbed as if each cry were being ripped from her soul. She called to her dead husband and swore she would love him always, and she cried and moaned and wept.

“Hush!” said Galar. “Your weeping and wailing hurts my ears. It’s very loud. I expect that’s because you’re a giant.”

But the giant’s wife simply wept the louder.

“Here,” said Fjalar. “Would it help if we showed you the place where your husband died?”

She sniffed, and nodded, and cried and wailed and keened for her husband, who would never come back to her.

“Stand just over there and we will point it out to you,” said Fjalar, showing her exactly where she should stand, that she should go through the great door and stand beneath the wall of the fortress. And he nodded to his brother, who scurried off up the steps to the wall above.

As Gilling’s wife walked through the door, Galar dropped a huge stone on her head, and she fell, her skull half crushed.

“Good job,” said Fjalar. “I was getting very tired of those dreadful noises.”

They pushed the woman’s lifeless body off the rocks and into the sea. The fingers of the gray waves dragged her body away from them, and Gilling’s wife and Gilling were reunited in death.

The dwarfs shrugged, and believed themselves to be extremely clever in their fortress by the sea.

They drank the mead of poetry each night, and declaimed great and beautiful verses to each other, made mighty sagas about the death of Gilling and Gilling’s wife, which they declaimed from the rooftop of their fortress, and eventually each night they slept, insensible, and woke where they had sat down or fallen the night before.

One day they woke as usual, but they did not wake in their fortress.

They woke on the floor of their boat, and a giant whom they did not recognize was rowing it into the waves. The sky was dark with storm clouds and the sea was black. The waves were high and rough, and the salt water splashed over the side of the dwarfs’ boat, soaking them.

“Who are you?” asked the dwarfs.

“I am Suttung,” said the giant. “I heard you were bragging to the wind and the waves and the world about having killed my father and mother.”

“Ah,” said Galar. “Does that explain why you have tied us up?”

“It does,” said Suttung.

“Perhaps you are taking us to a glorious place,” said Fjalar hopefully, “where you will untie us, and there we will feast and drink and laugh and become the best of friends.”

“I do not believe so,” said Suttung.

It was low tide. There were rocks jutting out above the water. They were the same rocks upon which at high tide the dwarfs’ boat had overturned, on which Gilling had drowned. Suttung picked up each of the dwarfs, took him from the bottom of the boat, and placed him on the rocks.

“These rocks will be covered by the sea at high tide,” said Fjalar. “Our hands are tied behind our backs. We cannot swim. If you leave us here, we will undoubtedly drown.”

“That is certainly the intention,” said Suttung. He smiled then, for the first time. “And as you drown I shall sit in this, your boat, and I shall watch the sea take you both. Then I shall return home to Jotunheim, and I will tell my brother, Baugi, and my daughter, Gunnlod, how you died, and we will be satisfied that my mother and my father were appropriately avenged.”

The sea began to rise. It covered the dwarfs’ feet, and then it came up to their navels. Soon enough the dwarfs’ beards were floating in the foam and there was panic in their eyes.

“Mercy!” they called.

“Like the mercy you gave my mother and my father?”

“We will compensate you for their deaths! We will make it up to you! We will pay you.”

“I do not believe that you dwarfs possess anything that could compensate me for my parents’ deaths. I am a wealthy giant. I have many servants in my mountain fastness, and all the riches I could dream of. Gold I have, and precious stones, and iron enough to make a thousand swords. I am the master of mighty magics. What could you give me that I do not already have?” asked Suttung.

The dwarfs said nothing at all.

The waves continued to rise.

“We have mead, the mead of poetry,” sputtered Galar as the water brushed his lips.

“Made of Kvasir’s blood, wisest of all the gods!” shouted Fjalar. “Two vats and a kettle, all filled with it! No one has it but us, no one in the whole world!”

Suttung scratched his head. “I must think about this. I must ponder. I must reflect.”

“Do not stop and think! If you think, we will drown!” shouted Fjalar over the roar of the waves.

The tide rose. Waves were splashing over the dwarfs’ heads, and they were gulping air, and their eyes were round with fear when Suttung the giant reached out and plucked first Fjalar and then Galar from the waves.

“The mead of poetry will be adequate compensation. It is a fair price, if you throw in a few other things, and I am sure you dwarfs have a few other things. I shall spare your lives.”

He tossed them, still bound and soaking, into the bottom of the boat, where they wriggled uncomfortably, like a couple of bearded lobsters, and he rowed back to shore.

Suttung took the mead the dwarfs had made from Kvasir’s blood. He took other things from them as well, and he left that place and he left those dwarfs, who were, all things considered, happy enough to have gotten away with their lives.

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