| In the Days of Giants|
|by Abbie Farwell Brown|
|Strength and joy of life ever marked the doings of the old Norse gods and heroes. These qualities abound in these stories of Norse mythology retold in a simple direct fashion appealing to younger children. Tells among other things how Father Odin lost his eye, how Thor went fishing, of the death of Baldur, and of the other doings of the gods and goddesses of Asgard. Vigorous black and white illustrations complement the narrative. Ages 9-11 |
HE giant Thiasse, whom Thor slew for the theft of Idun
and the magic apples, had a daughter, Skadi, who was a
very good sort of girl, as giantesses go. Most of them were
evil-tempered, spiteful, and cruel creatures, who desired
only to do harm to the gods and to all who were good. But
Skadi was different. Stronger than the hatred of her race for
the Æsir, stronger even than her wish to be revenged
for her father's death, was her love for Balder the beautiful,
the pride of all the gods. If she had not been a giantess, she
might have hoped that he would love her also; but she knew
that no one who lived in Asgard would ever think kindly of
her race, which had caused so much trouble to Balder and
his brothers. After her father was killed by the Æsir,
however, Skadi had a wise idea.
Skadi put on her helm and corselet and set out for Asgard,
meaning to ask a noble price to pay for the sorrow of
Thiasse's death. The gods, who had all grown young and
boyish once again, were sitting in
Val-  halla merrily enjoying
a banquet in honor of Idun's safe return, when Skadi,
clattering with steel, strode into their midst. Heimdal the
watchman, astonished at the sight, had let this maiden
warrior pass him upon the rainbow bridge. The Æsir
set down their cups hastily, and the laughter died upon
their lips; for though she looked handsome, Skadi was a
terrible figure in her silver armor and with her spear as long
as a ship's mast brandished in her giant hand.
The nine Valkyries, Odin's maiden warriors, hurried away
to put on their own helmets and shields; for they would not
have this other maiden, ten times as huge, see them meekly
waiting at table, while they had battle-dresses as fine as
hers to show the stranger.
"Who are you, maiden, and what seek you here?" asked
"I am Skadi, the daughter of Thiasse, whom your folk have
slain," answered she, "and I come here for redress."
At these words the coward Loki, who had been at the
killing of Thiasse, skulked low behind the table; but Thor,
 done the killing, straightened himself and clenched
his fists tightly. He was not afraid of any giant, however
fierce, and this maiden with her shield and spear only
"Well, Skadi," quoth Odin gravely, "your father was a thief,
and died for his sins. He stole fair Idun and her magic
apples, and for that crime he died, which was only just. Yet
because our righteous deed has left you an orphan, Skadi,
we will grant you a recompense, so you shall be at peace
with us; for it is not fitting that the Æsir should
quarrel with women. What is it you ask, O Skadi, as solace
for the death of Thiasse?"
Skadi looked like an orphan who was well able to take care
of herself; and this indeed her next words showed her to be.
"I ask two things," she said, without a moment's hesitation:
"I ask the husband whom I shall select from among you;
and I ask that you shall make me laugh, for it is many days
since grief has let me enjoy a smile."
At this strange request the Æsir looked astonished,
and some of them seemed rather
 startled; for you can fancy
that none of them wanted a giantess, however handsome,
for his wife. They put their heads together and consulted
long whether or not they should allow Skadi her two
"I will agree to make her laugh," grinned Loki; "but suppose
she should choose me for her husband! I am married to one
"No fear of that, Loki," said Thor; "you were too near being
the cause of her father's death for her to love you overmuch.
Nor do I think that she will choose me; so I am safe."
Loki chuckled and stole away to think up a means of
making Skadi laugh.
Finally, the gods agreed that Skadi should choose one of
them for her husband; but in order that all might have a fair
chance of missing this honor which no one coveted, she was
to choose in a curious way. All the Æsir were to
stand in a row behind the curtain which was drawn across
the end of the hall, so that only their feet were seen by
Skadi; and by their feet alone Skadi was to select him who
was to be her husband.
 Now Skadi was very ready to agree to this, for she said to
herself, "Surely, I shall know the feet of Balder, for they
will be the most beautiful of any."
Amid nervous laughter at this new game, the Æsir
ranged themselves in a row behind the purple curtain, with
only their line of feet showing below the golden border.
There were Father Odin, Thor the Thunderer, and Balder
his brother; there was old Niörd the rich, with his fair
son Frey; there were Tŷr the bold, Bragi the poet,
blind Höd, and Vidar the silent; Vali and Ull the
archers, Forseti the wise judge, and Heimdal the gold-toothed watchman.
Loki alone, of all the Æsir, was
not there; and Loki was the only one who did not shiver as
Skadi walked up and down the hall looking at the row of
Up and down, back and forth, went Skadi, looking
carefully; and among all those sandaled feet there was one
pair more white and fair and beautiful than the rest.
"Surely, these are Balder's feet!" she thought, while her
heart thumped with eagerness under her silver corselet.
 if I guess aright, dear Balder will be my husband!"
She paused confidently before the handsomest pair of feet,
and, pointing to them with her spear, she cried, "I choose
here! Few blemishes are to be found in Balder the
A shout of laughter arose behind the curtain, and forth
slunk—not young Balder, but old Niörd the rich, king
of the ocean wind, the father of those fair twins, Frey and
Freia. Skadi had chosen the handsome feet of old
Niörd, and thenceforth he must be her husband.
Niörd was little pleased; but Skadi was heart-broken.
Her face grew longer and sadder than before when he
stepped up and took her hand sulkily, saying, "Well, I am
to be your husband, then, and all my riches stored in
Noatûn, the home of ships, are to be yours. You
would have chosen Balder, and I wish that this luck had
been his! However, it cannot be helped now."
"Nay," answered Skadi, frowning, "the bargain is not yet
complete. No one of you has made me laugh. I am so sad
 it will be a merry jest indeed which can wring
laughter from my heavy heart." She sighed, looking at
Balder. But Balder loved only Nanna in all the world.
Just then, out came Loki, riding on one of Thor's goat
steeds; and the red-bearded fellow cut up such ridiculous
capers with the gray-bearded goat that soon not only Skadi,
but all the Æsir and Niörd himself were holding
their sides with laughter.
"Fairly won, fairly won!" cried Skadi, wiping the tears from
her eyes. "I am beaten. I shall not forget that it is Loki to
whom I owe this last joke. Some day I shall be quits with
you, red joker!" And this threat she carried out in the end,
on the day of Loki's punishment.
Skadi was married to old Niörd, both unwilling; and
they went to live among the mountains in Skadi's home,
which had once been Thiasse's palace, where he had shut
Idun in a prison cell. As you can imagine, Niörd and
Skadi did not live happily ever after, like the good prince
and princess in the story-book. For, in the first place, Skadi
was a giantess; and there are few folk, I
 fancy, who could
live happily with a giantess. In the second place, she did
not love Niörd, nor did he love Skadi, and neither
forgot that Skadi's choosing had been sorrow to them both.
But the third reason was the most important of all; and this
was because Skadi and Niörd could not agree upon
the place which should be their home. For Niörd did
not like the mountain palace of Skadi's people,—the place
where roaring winds rushed down upon the sea and its
ships. The sea with its ships was his friend, and he wanted
to dwell in Noatûn, where he had greater wealth than
any one else in the world,—where he could rule the fresh
sea-wind and tame the wild ocean, granting the prayers of
fisher-folk and the seafarers, who loved his name.
Finally, they agreed to dwell first in one place, then in the
other, so that each might be happy in turn. For nine days
they tarried in Thrymheim, and then they spent three in
Noatûn. But even this arrangement could not bring
peace. One day they had a terrible quarrel. It was just after
they had come down from Skadi's mountain home
 for their three days in Niörd's sea palace, and he was
so glad to be back that he cried,—
"Ah, how I hate your hills! How long the nine nights
seemed, with the wolves howling until dawn among the
dark mountains of Giant Land! What a discord compared to
the songs of the swans who sail upon my dear, dear ocean!"
Thus rudely he taunted his wife; but Skadi answered him
"And I—I cannot sleep by your rolling sea-waves, where
the birds are ever calling, calling, as they come from the
woods on the shore. Each morning the sea-gull's scream
wakes me at some unseemly hour. I will not stay here even
for three nights! I will not stay!"
"And I will have no more of your windy mountain-tops,"
roared Niörd, beside himself with rage. "Go, if you
wish! Go back to Thrymheim! I shall not follow you, be
So Skadi went back to her mountains alone, and dwelt in the
empty house of Thiasse, her father. She became a mighty
huntress, swift on the skees and ice-runners which she
strapped to her feet. Day after
 day she skimmed over the
snow-crusted mountains, bow in hand, to hunt the wild
beasts which roamed there. "Skee-goddess," she was called;
and never again did she come to Asgard halls. Quite alone in
the cold country, she hunted hardily, keeping ever in her
heart the image of Balder the beautiful, whom she loved, but
whom she had lost forever by her unlucky choice.
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