Page 4 of Norse Mythology

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Mimir shook his head. Nobody drank from the well but Mimir himself. He said nothing: seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.

“I am your nephew,” said Odin. “My mother, Bestla, was your sister.”

“That is not enough,” said Mimir.

“One drink. With a drink from your well, Mimir, I will be wise. Name your price.”

“Your eye is my price,” said Mimir. “Your eye in the pool.”

Odin did not ask if he was joking. The journey through giant country to get to Mimir’s well had been long and dangerous. Odin had been willing to risk his life to get there. He was willing to do more than that for the wisdom he sought.

Odin’s face was set.

“Give me a knife,” was all he said.

After he had done what was needful, he placed his eye carefully in the pool. It stared up at him through the water. Odin filled the Gjallerhorn with water from Mimir’s pool, and he lifted it to his lips. The water was cold. He drained it down. Wisdom flooded into him. He saw farther and more clearly with his one eye than he ever had with two.

Thereafter Odin was given other names: Blindr, they called him, the blind god, and Hoarr, the one-eyed, and Baleyg, the flaming-eyed one.

Odin’s eye remains in Mimir’s well, preserved by the waters that feed the world ash, seeing nothing, seeing everything.

Time passed. When the war between the Aesir and the Vanir was ending and they were exchanging warriors and chiefs, Odin sent Mimir to the Vanir as an adviser to the Aesir god Hoenir, who would be the new chief of the Vanir.

Hoenir was tall and good-looking, and he looked like a king. When Mimir was with him to advise him, Hoenir also spoke like a king and made wise decisions. But when Mimir was not with him, Hoenir seemed unable to come to a decision, and the Vanir soon tired of this. They took their revenge, not on Hoenir but on Mimir: they cut off Mimir’s head and sent it to Odin.

Odin was not angry. He rubbed Mimir’s head with certain herbs to prevent it from rotting, and he chanted charms and incantations over it, for he did not wish Mimir’s knowledge to be lost. Soon enough Mimir opened his eyes and spoke to him. Mimir’s advice was good, as it was always good.

Odin took Mimir’s head back to the well beneath the world-tree, and he placed it there, beside his eye, in the waters of knowledge of the future and of the past.

Odin gave the Gjallerhorn to Heimdall, watchman of the gods. On the day the Gjallerhorn is blown, it will wake the gods, no matter where they are, no matter how deeply they sleep.

Heimdall will blow the Gjallerhorn only once, at the end of all things, at Ragnarok.

THE TREASURES OF THE GODS

I

Thor’s wife was the beautiful Sif. She was of the Aesir. Thor loved her for herself, and for her blue eyes and her pale skin, her red lips and her smile, and he loved her long, long hair, the color of a field of barley at the end of summer.

Thor woke, and stared at sleeping Sif. He scratched his beard. Then he tapped his wife with a huge hand. “What happened to you?” he asked.

She opened her eyes, the color of the summer sky. “What are you talking about?” she asked, and then she moved her head and looked puzzled. Her fingers reached up to her bare pink scalp and touched it, exploring it tentatively. She looked at Thor, horrified.

“My hair,” was all she said.

Thor nodded. “It’s gone,” he said. “He has left you bald.”

“He?” asked Sif.

Thor said nothing. He strapped on his belt of power, Megingjord, which doubled his enormous strength. “Loki,” he said. “Loki has done this.”

“Why do you say that?” said Sif, touching her bald head frantically, as if the fluttering touch of her fingers would make her hair return.

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

Thor found Loki’s door locked, so he pushed through it, leaving it in pieces. He picked Loki up and said only, “Why?”

“Why what?” Loki’s face was the picture of perfect innocence.

“Sif’s hair. My wife’s golden hair. It was so beautiful. Why did you cut it off?”

A hundred expressions chased each other across Loki’s face: cunning and shiftiness, truculence and confusion. Thor shook Loki hard. Loki looked down and did his best to appear ashamed. “It was funny. I was drunk.”

Thor’s brow lowered. “Sif’s hair was her glory. People will think that her head was shaved for punishment. That she did something she should not have done, did it with someone she should not have.”

“Well, yes. There is that,” said Loki. “They will probably think that. And unfortunately, given that I took her hair from the roots, she will go through the rest of her life completely bald . . .”

“No, she won’t.” Thor looked up at Loki, whom he was now holding far above his head, with a face like thunder.

“I am afraid she will. But there are always hats and scarves . . .”

“She won’t go through life bald,” said Thor. “Because, Loki Laufey’s son, if you do not put her hair back right now, I am going to break every single bone in your body. Each and every one of them. And if her hair does not grow properly, I will come back and break every bone in your body again. And again. If I do it every day, I’ll soon get really good at it,” he carried on, sounding slightly more cheerful.

“No!” said Loki. “I can’t put her hair back. It doesn’t work like that.”

“Today,” mused Thor, “it will probably take me about an hour to break every bone in your body. But I bet that with practice I could get it down to about fifteen minutes. It will be interesting to find out.” He started to break his first bone.

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