Page 34 of Norse Mythology

“My father was everything to me,” she said. “You killed him. His death fills my life with tears and misery. I have no joy in my life. I am here for vengeance, or for compensation.”

The Aesir and Skadi bargained for compensation, back and forth. In those days, each life had a price on it, and Thiazi’s life was priced highly. When the negotiations were concluded, the gods and Skadi had agreed that she would be recompensed for her father’s death in three ways.

First, that she would be given a husband, to take the place of her dead father. (It was obvious to all the gods and goddesses that Skadi had set her heart on Balder, the most beautiful of all the gods. She kept winking at him and staring until Balder would look away, blushing and embarrassed.)

Second, that the gods would make her laugh again, because she had not smiled or laughed since her father had been killed.

And last, that the gods would make it so that her father would never be forgotten.

The gods let her choose a husband from their number, but they had one condition: they told her that she could not choose her husband by seeing his face. The male gods would all stand behind a curtain, with only their feet showing. Skadi would have to choose her husband by his feet.

One by one the gods walked past the curtain, and Skadi stared at their feet. “Ugly feet,” she would say as each set of feet went past.

Then she stopped, and exclaimed with delight, “Those are the feet of my husband-to-be!” she said. “Those are the most beautiful feet! They must be Balder’s feet—nothing on Balder could be ugly.”

And while Balder was indeed beautiful, the feet she had chosen, Skadi discovered when the curtain was lifted, belonged to Njord, god of chariots, father of Frey and of Freya.

She married him then and there. At the wedding feast that followed her face was the saddest any of the Aesir had ever seen.

Thor nudged Loki. “Go on,” he said. “Make her laugh. This is all your fault anyway.”

Loki sighed. “Really?”

Thor nodded, and he tapped the handle of his hammer meaningfully.

Loki shook his head. Then he went outside, to pens where the animals were kept, and he came back into the wedding feast leading a large, extremely irritated billy goat. Loki irritated the goat even more by tying a strong rope tightly around its beard.

Then Loki tied the other end of the rope around his own private parts.

He tugged on the rope with his hand. The goat screamed, feeling its beard tugged painfully, and it jerked back. The rope pulled hard on Loki’s private parts. Loki screamed and grabbed for the rope again, yanking it back.

The gods laughed. It did not take a lot to make the gods laugh, but this was the best thing they had seen in a long time. They placed bets on what would be torn off first, the goat’s beard or Loki’s private parts. They mocked Loki for screaming. “Like a fox wailing in the nighttime!” exclaimed Balder, stifling his laughter. “Loki sounds like a weeping baby!” giggled Balder’s brother Hod, who was blind but still laughed every time Loki screeched.

Skadi did not laugh, although the ghost of a smile began to haunt the corners of her lips. Every time the goat screamed or Loki wailed like a child in pain, her smile became a little wider.

Loki pulled. The goat pulled. Loki screamed and yanked the rope. The goat yelped and pulled back even harder.

The rope snapped.

Loki shot through the air, clutching at his groin, and landed smack in Skadi’s lap, whimpering and broken.

Skadi laughed like an avalanche in mountain country. She laughed as loudly as a calving glacier. She laughed so long and hard that tears of laughter glittered in her eyes, and as she laughed, for the first time she reached out and squeezed her new husband Njord’s hand.

Loki clambered down from her lap and staggered away, both hands clutching between his legs as he went, glaring in an aggrieved fashion at all the gods and goddesses, who only laughed the louder.

“We are done, then,” said Odin, the all-father, to Skadi, the giant’s daughter, when the wedding feast was over. “Or almost done.”

He signaled Skadi to follow him out into the night, and she and Odin walked out of the hall together, with her new husband by her side. Beside the funeral pyre the gods had made for the remains of the giant, two huge orbs sat, filled with light.

“Those orbs,” said Odin to Skadi, “those were your father’s eyes.”

The all-father took the two eyes and threw them up into the night sky, where they burned and glittered together, side by side.

Look up into the night in midwinter. You can see them there, twin stars, one blazing beside the other. Those two stars are Thiazi’s eyes. They are shining still.

THE STORY OF GERD AND FREY

I

Frey, the brother of Freya, was the mightiest of the Vanir. He was handsome and noble, a warrior and a lover, but he was missing something in his life, and he did not know what it was.

The mortals of Midgard revered Frey. He made the seasons, they said. Frey made the fields fertile and brought forth life from the dead ground. The people worshipped Frey and they loved him, but this did not fill the empty place inside him.

Frey took stock of his possessions:

He had a sword so powerful and remarkable that it fought by itself. But this did not satisfy Frey.

He had Gullinbursti, the boar with the golden bristles, created by the dwarf Brokk and his brother, Eitri. Gullinbursti pulled Frey’s chariot. It could run through the air and over the water, run faster than any horse, and run even in the darkest night, for its golden bristles shone so brightly. But Gullinbursti did not satisfy Frey.

He had Skidbladnir, a boat made for him by the three dwarfs known as the sons of Ivaldi. It was not the biggest ship there was (that was Naglfar, the Death Ship, made from the untrimmed fingernails of the dead), but there was room for all of the Aesir on board. When the sails of Skidbladnir were set, the winds were always fair, and it took you wherever you needed to go. Even though it was the second biggest ship there had ever been and would hold all the Aesir, Frey could fold Skidbladnir up like a cloth and place it in his bag. It was the best of all ships. But Skidbladnir did not satisfy him.

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