“Frey? What has happened? You are angry. Or you are downcast. Something has happened. You have to tell me what is happening to you.”
“I am being punished,” said Frey, and his voice sounded hollow and distant. “I went to the All-father’s holy seat, and I looked out at the world. For my arrogance in believing I had a right to the observation place, my happiness has been taken from me forever. I have paid for my crime, and I am paying still.”
“My lord,” said Skirnir, “what did you see?”
Frey was silent, and Skirnir thought he had once again sunk into a troubled silence. But after some time he said, “I looked to the north. I saw a dwelling there, a splendid house. And I saw a woman walking up to the house. I have never seen a woman like her. Nobody who looks like her. Nobody who moves like her. As she raised her arms to unlock the door to her house, the light glanced off her arms, and it seemed to illuminate the air and to brighten the sea, and because she is in it, the whole world is a brighter and more beautiful place. And then I looked away and saw her no more, and my world became dark and hopeless and empty.”
“Who is she?” asked Skirnir.
“A giant. Her father is Gymir the earth giant, her mother a mountain giant, Aurboda.”
“And does this beautiful creature have a name?”
“Her name is Gerd.” Frey was silent once more.
Skirnir said, “Your father is worried about you. We are all worried. Is there something I can do?”
“If you will go to her and ask for her hand, I would give anything. I cannot live without her. Bring her back to me, to be my wife, whatever her father says. I will pay you so well.”
“You are asking a lot, my lord,” said Skirnir.
“I will give anything,” said Frey fervently, and he shivered.
Skirnir nodded. “I will do this thing, lord.” He hesitated. “Frey, may I look at your sword?”
Frey took out his sword and held it out for Skirnir to examine. “There is no other sword like this. It will fight by itself, without a hand holding it. It will always protect you. No other sword, no matter how powerful, can penetrate its defense. They say that this sword could even prevail against the flaming sword of Surtr, the fire demon.”
Skirnir shrugged. “It is a fine sword. If you wish me to bring you Gerd, this sword will be my wages.”
Frey nodded assent. He gave Skirnir his sword, and a horse to ride.
Skirnir traveled north until he reached the house of Gymir. He entered as a guest and explained who he was and who had sent him. He told the beautiful Gerd of his master, Frey. “He is the most splendid of all the gods,” he told her. “He has dominion over the rain and the weather and the sunshine, and he gives the folk of Midgard good harvests and peaceful days and nights. He watches over the prosperity and abundance of humanity. All people love and worship him.”
He told Gerd of the beauty of Frey, and of his power. He told her of the wisdom of Frey. And at the last he told her of the love Frey bore for her, how he had been heart-struck by a vision of her and now would no longer eat or sleep, drink or speak, until she agreed to be his bride.
Gerd smiled, and her eyes shone with joy. “Tell him yes,” she said. “I will meet him on the isle Barri for the wedding, nine days from now. Go and tell him.”
Skirnir returned to Njord’s hall.
Before he could even climb down from his horse, Frey was there, even more pale and even more wan than when he had left him. “What news?” he asked. “Do I rejoice, or do I despair?”
“She will take you to be her husband nine days from now, on the island of Barri,” said Skirnir.
Frey looked at his servant without joy. “The nights without her in my life last forever,” he said. “One night is so long. Two nights are even longer. How will I manage to cope with three nights? Four days feel like a month to me, and you expect me to wait nine days?”
And Skirnir looked at his lord with pity.
Nine days from that day, on the isle of Barri, Frey and Gerd met for the first time, and they married in a field of waving barley. She was as beautiful as he had dreamed, and her touch was as fine, her kiss as sweet, as he had hoped. Their wedding was blessed, and some say that their son, Fjolnir, went on to become the first king of Sweden. (He would drown in a vat of mead late one night, hunting in the darkness for a place to piss.)
Skirnir took the sword he had been given, Frey’s sword that fought all by itself, and he returned to Alfheim with it.
The beautiful Gerd filled the hole in Frey’s life, and the hole in his heart. Frey did not miss his sword, and he did not replace it. When he fought the giant Beli, he killed him with a stag’s antler. Frey was so strong, he could kill a giant with his bare hands.
Even so, he should not have given his sword away.
Ragnarok is coming. When the sky splits asunder and the dark powers of Muspell march out on their war journey, Frey will wish he still had his sword.
HYMIR AND THOR’S FISHING EXPEDITION
The gods arrived at Aegir’s huge hall at the edge of the sea. “We are here,” called Thor, who was at the head of the company. “Make a feast for us!”
Aegir was the greatest of the sea giants. His wife was Ran, into whose net those who drown at sea are gathered. His nine daughters are the waves of the sea.
Aegir had no desire to feed the gods, but he also had no wish to fight them. He looked Thor in the eye and said, “I will make a banquet, and it will be the finest feast that any of you will ever have attended. My servant, Fimafeng, will serve each of you diligently, bringing you as much food as your bellies can hold, as much ale as you can drink. I have only one condition: I will throw the feast, but you must first bring me a cauldron big enough to brew ale for you all. There are so many of you, and your appetites are huge.”