Heroes of Asgard - A. and E. Keary

The King of the Sea and His Daughters

At last she came to the wide sea-coast, and there everything was gloriously beautiful. It was evening, and the western sky looked like a broad crimson flower. No wind stirred the ocean, but the small waves rippled in rose-coloured froth on the shore, like the smiles of a giant at play.

Ægir, the old sea-king, supported himself on the sand, whilst the cool waters were laving his breast, and his ears drank their sweet murmur; for nine waves were his beautiful daughters, and they and their father were talking together. Now, though Ægir looked so stormy and old, he was really as gentle as a child, and no mischief would ever have happened in his kingdom if he had been left to himself. But he had a cruel wife, called Ran, who was the daughter of a giant, and so eagerly fond of fishing that, whenever any of the rough winds came to call upon her husband, she used to steal out of the deep sea-caves where she lived, and follow ships for miles under the water, dragging her net after her, so that she might catch any one who fell overboard.

Freyja wandered along the shore towards the place where the Sea King was lying, and as she went she heard him speaking to his daughters.

"What is the history of Freyja?" he asked.

And the first wave answered,—

"Freyja is a fair young Vana, who once was happy in Asgard."

Then the second wave said,—

"But she left her fair palace there, and Odur, her Immortal Love."

Third wave,—

"She went down to the cavern of dwarfs."

Fourth wave,—

"She found Brisingamen there, and carried it away with her."

Fifth wave,—

"But when she got back to Folkvang she found that Odur was gone."

Sixth wave,—

"Because the Vana had loved herself more than Immortal Love."

Seventh wave,—

"Freyja will never be happy again, for Odur will never come back."

Eighth wave,—

"Odur will never come back as long as the world shall last."

Ninth wave,—

"Odur will never return, nor Freyja forget to weep."

Freyja stood still, spell-bound, listening, and when she heard the last words, that Odur would never come back, she wrung her hands, and cried,—

"O, Father Ægir! trouble comes, comes surging up from a wide sea, wave over wave, into my soul." And in truth it seemed as if her words had power to change the whole surface of the ocean—wave over wave rose higher and spoke louder—Ran was seen dragging her net in the distance—old Ægir shouted, and dashed into the deep—sea and sky mixed in confusion, and night fell upon the storm. Then Freyja sank down exhausted on the sand, where she lay until her kind daughter, the sleepy little Siofna, came and carried her home again in her arms. After this the beautiful Vana lived in her palace of Folkvang, with friends and sisters, Æsir and Asyniur, but Odur did not return, nor Freyja forget to weep.

Freyja, as she appears in the Edda, was the goddess of the beautiful year and of all sorts of love. The story of her marriage with Odur is extremely obscure; it is even thought that Odur is only a form of Odin, and, in like manner, that Freyja and Frigga are very intimately connected.

Frigga was the patroness of married love, of the happiness and duties of the home (originally, she and Freyja and all the great goddesses were probably personifications of the earth); but Freyja, as goddess of love, is less developed in idea than Frigga, she has more of the nature goddess, less of the woman in her. She was said to divide the spoil with Odin in battle, taking half the slain for herself and leaving him the other half, which points to her having been at one time his wife and sharing all with him. Supposing her to have been the beautiful year, or rather the earth during the beautiful part of the year, Odur leaving her would imply the beginning of the shortening of the days at midsummer. The source of summer flies, Summer seeks him weeping golden tears. Do these mean Autumn's golden leaves and falling fruits? or that the Sun's beautiful gifts must ever follow him.

This myth of Summer's source, the Sun, declining from the year has, it is supposed, been given to Odur because it was not important enough to belong to the greatest of the gods, although it was really wrapped up in his nature, and the names Odur and Odin are identical in German. Simrock says, "Every mythology tells us of the death of the beautiful part of the year like the flight of a god, who is mourned by his wife or his beloved." Looked at from this point of view, we see the summerly earth vaunting and decking herself with her richest jewels in the deepest pride of her delight at the very moment when the spirit of her existence is stealing away from her. The summer-decked earth, without the sun of her life, is soulless, has become mortal. But it must be confessed that the Edda  is very obscure about Brisingamen, and does not mention the necklace in connection with Odur's departure. The Iron Witch was the mother of two wolves who devoured the sun and the moon at Ragnarök, she is not mentioned in the myth of Freyja, but in another lay. It has been suggested that Freyja's tears may be dew, and she in the character of Aurora when she sheds them, weeping for some star god of the night.

We shall now hear the story of Iduna—a dwarf's daughter, the wife of Bragi and goddess of Spring, the renewing of life.