Heroes of Asgard - A. and E. Keary




The Wood Barri

When Skirnir got back to Alfheim, and told Gerd's answer to Frey, he was disappointed to find that his master did not immediately look as bright and happy as he expected.

"Nine days!" he said; "but how can I wait nine days? One day is long, and three days are very long, but 'nine days' might as well be a whole year."

I have heard children say such things when one tells them to wait for a new toy.

Skirnir and old Niörd only laughed at it; but Freyja and all the ladies of Asgard made a journey to Alfheim, when they heard the story, to comfort Frey, and hear all the news about the wedding.

"Dear Frey," they said, "it will never do to lie still here, sighing under a tree. You are quite mistaken about the time being long; it is hardly long enough to prepare the marriage presents, and talk over the wedding. You have no idea how busy we are going to be; everything in Alfheim will have to be altered a little."

At these words Frey really did lift up his head, and wake up from his musings. He looked, in truth, a little frightened at the thought; but, when all the Asgard ladies were ready to work for his wedding, how could he make any objection? He was not allowed to have much share in the business himself; but he had little time, during the nine days, to indulge in private thought, for never before was there such a commotion in Alfheim. The ladies found so many things that wanted overlooking, and the little light elves were not of the slightest use to any one. They forgot all their usual tasks, and went running about through groves and fields, and by the sedgy banks of rivers, peering into earth-holes, and creeping down into flower-cups and empty snail-shells, every one hoping to find a gift for Gerda.

Some stole the light from glow-worms' tails, and wove it into a necklace, and others pulled the ruby spots from cowslip leaves, to set with jewels the acorn cups that Gerda was to drink from; while the swiftest runners chased the butterflies, and pulled feathers from their wings to make fans and bonnet-plumes.

All the work was scarcely finished when the ninth day came, and Frey set out from Alfheim with all his elves, to the warm wood Barri.

The Æsir joined him on the way, and they made, together, something like a wedding procession. First came Frey in his chariot, drawn by Golden Bristles, and carrying in his hand the wedding-ring, which was none other than Draupnir, the magic ring of which so many stories are told.

Odin and Frigga followed with their wedding gift, the Ship Skidbladnir, in which all the Æsir could sit and sail, though it could afterwards be folded up so small, that you might carry it in your hand.

Then came Idūna, with eleven golden apples in a basket on her fair head, and then two and two all the heroes and ladies with their gifts.

All round them flocked the elves, toiling under the weight of their offerings. It took twenty little people to carry one gift, and yet there was not one so large as a baby's finger. Laughing, and singing, and dancing, they entered the warm wood, and every summer flower sent a sweet breath after them. Everything on earth smiled on the wedding-day of Frey and Gerda, only—when it was all over, and every one had gone home, and the moon shone cold into the wood—it seemed as if the Vanir spoke to one another.

"Odin," said one voice, "gave his eye for wisdom, and we have seen that it was well done."

"Frey," answered the other, "has given his sword for happiness. It may be well to be unarmed while the sun shines and bright days last; but when Ragnarök has come, and the sons of Muspell ride down to the last fight, will not Frey regret his sword?"

Frey appears as the summer god, and the Boar was sacred to him because, from its tearing up the earth with its tusks, it typified agriculture and return of the seed-sowing time. Gerda is supposed to represent the frozen earth, which Summer seeing from far off loves and woos to his embrace. The lighting of the sky by the uplifted giant maiden's arms is explained to mean the Northern Lights glancing from one end of heaven to the other. Frey parts with his sword in order to win Gerda—this is alluded to in both Eddas  as if it were wrong or at any rate highly imprudent. "When the sons of Muspell come at Ragnarök," it is said, and Frey shall have to meet Surtur in battle, "then will thou, unhappy, not have wherewith to fight." The ship Skidbladnir was said to have been made by four dwarfs in the beginning of time; it is alluded to in a poem quoted before. Draupnir is not mentioned in the Edda  in connection with Frey and Gerda.

The Northmen had three grand religious festivals in their year: they all took place in the winter half of the year, between the harvest and seed time. One was celebrated in midwinter about the turn of the day, and from so very nearly coinciding with our Christmas, its name, "Yule," came to be applied to the Christian festival. Yule is derived from a name of Odin, but it is said by Laing that this winter feast was held in honour of Thor. In Fouqué's writings a custom is named which the Scandinavians had of making vows to accomplish some great enterprise before another new year, over a golden boar's head at this winter feast; the mention of the golden boar seems to connect the festival with the god Frey, probably it was a general propitiation of the summer deities for the coming year; the second festival was in honour of the goddesses; the third, about spring, it honour of Odin, because at this season warlike expeditions began to be undertaken.