| 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 |
THE GIANTESS WHO WOULD NOT
F all the Æsir who sat in the twelve seats about
Father Odin's wonder-throne none was so dear to the
people of Midgard, the world of men, as Frey. For Frey,
the twin brother of Freia the fair, was the god who sent
sunshine and rain upon the earth that men's crops might
grow and ripen, and the fruits become sweet and mellow.
He gave men cattle, and showed them how to till the fields;
and it was he who spread peace and prosperity over the
world. For he was lord of the Light-Elves, the spirits of the
upper air, who were more beautiful than the sun. And these
were his servants whom he sent to answer the prayers of
the men who loved him. Frey was more beautiful, too, than
any of the Æsir except young Balder. This was
another reason why he was so beloved by all. But there
came a time when Frey found some one who would not
love him; and that was a new experience for him, a
punishment for the only wrong he ever committed.
 You remember that Father Odin had a wonderful throne in
the silver-roofed house, a throne whence he could see
everything that was happening in all the world? Well, no
one was allowed to sit upon this throne except All-Father
himself, for he would not have the others spying into affairs
which only the King of Asgard was wise enough to
understand. But one day, when Odin was away from home,
Frey had such a longing to climb up where he might gaze
upon all the world which he loved, that he could not resist
the temptation. He stole up to the great throne when no one
was looking, and mounting the steps, seated himself upon
Oh, marvelous, grand, and beautiful! He looked off into the
heavens, and there he saw all the Æsir busy about
their daily work. He looked above, into the shining realm of
clear air. And there he saw his messengers, the pretty little
Light-Elves, flying about upon their errands of help for
men. Some were carrying seeds for the farmers to plant.
Some were watering the fields with their little water-pots,
making the summer showers.
 Some were pinching the
cheeks of the apples to make them red, and others were
reeling silk for the corn-tassels. Then Frey looked down
upon the earth, where men were scurrying around like little
ants, improving the blessings which his servants were
sending, and often stopping their work to give thanks to
their beloved Frey. And this made his kind heart glad.
Next he turned his gaze down into the depths of the blue
ocean which flowed about Midgard like a great river. And
down in the sea-caves he saw the mermaids playing, Queen
Ran and her daughters the white-capped Waves, with their
nets ready to catch the sailors who might be drowned at
sea. And he saw King gir, among the whales and
dolphins, with all the myriad wondrous creatures who lived
in his watery empire. But Frey's father, old Niörd,
lord of the ocean wind, would have been more interested
than he in such a sight.
Last of all Frey bent his eyes upon the far, cold land of
Jotunheim, beyond the ocean, where the giants lived; and as
he did so, a beam of brightness dazzled him. He rubbed
 his eyes and looked again; and lo! the flash was from the bright
arms of a beautiful maiden, who was passing from her
father's hall to her own little bower. When she raised her
arms to open the door, the air and water reflected their
brightness so that the whole world was flooded with light,
and one shaft shot straight into the heart of Frey, making
him love her and long for her more than for anything he had
ever seen. But because he knew that she must be a giant's
daughter, how could he win her for his bride? Frey
descended from Odin's throne very sadly, very hopelessly,
and went home with a heavy heart which would let him
neither eat nor sleep. This was the penalty which came for
his disobedience in presuming to sit upon Odin's sacred
For hours no one dared speak to Frey, he looked so gloomy
and forbidding, quite unlike his own gay self. Niörd
his father was greatly worried, and knew not what to do; at
last he sent for Skirnir, who was Frey's favorite servant,
and bade him find out what was the matter. Skirnir
therefore went to his master, whom he found sitting all
alone in his great
 hall, looking as if there were no more joy
"What ails you, master?" asked Skirnir. "From the beginning
of time when we were very young we two have lived
together, and I have served you with loving care. You ought,
then, to have confidence in me and tell me all your
"Ah, Skirnir, my faithful friend," sighed Frey, "how shall I
tell you my sorrow? The sun shines every day, but no
longer brings light to my sad heart. And all because I saw
more than was good for me!"
So then he told Skirnir all the matter: how he had stolen into
Odin's seat, and what he had seen from there; how he loved
a giant's daughter whose arms were more bright than silver
"Oh, Skirnir, I love her very dearly," he cried; "but because
our races are enemies she would never marry me, I know,
even if her father would allow it. Therefore is it that I am so
But Skirnir did not seem to think the case so hopeless.
"Give me but your swift horse," he said, "which can bear
me even through
 flames of fire and thick smoke; give me
also your magic wand and your sword, which, if he be brave
who carries it, will smite by itself any giant who comes in
its way,—and I will see what I can do for you."
Then Skirnir rode forth upon his dangerous errand; for a
visit to Giant Land was ever a perilous undertaking, as you
may well imagine. As Skirnir rode, he patted his good
horse's neck and said to him, "Dark it is, friend, and we
have to go over frosty mountains and among frosty people
this night. Bear me well, good horse; for if you fail me the
giants will catch us both, and neither of us will return to
bring the news to our master Frey."
After a long night of hard riding over mountain and desolate
snowfield, Skirnir came to that part of Jotunheim where the
giant Gymir dwelt. This was the father of Gerd, the maiden
whom Frey had seen and loved. But first he had to ride
through a hedge of flame, which the horse passed bravely.
Now when he came to the house of Gymir, he found a pack
of fierce dogs chained about the door to keep strangers
 "H'm!" thought Skirnir, "I like this little indeed. I must find
out whether there be not some other entrance." So he
looked around, and soon he saw a herdsman sitting on a
little hill, tending his cattle. Skirnir rode up to him.
"Ho, friend," he cried. "Tell me, how am I to pass these
growling curs so that I may speak with the young maiden
who dwells in this house?"
"Are you mad, or are you a spirit who is not afraid of
death!" exclaimed the herdsman. "Know you not that you
can never enter there? That is Gymir's dwelling, and he lets
no one speak with his fair and good daughter."
"If I choose to die, you need not weep for me," quoth
Skirnir boldly. "But I do not think that I am yet to die. The
Norn-maidens spun my fate centuries ago, and they only
can tell what is to be." Now Skirnir's voice was loud and the
hoof-beats of his horse were mighty. For this was one of
the magic steeds of Asgard, used to bearing Frey himself on
his broad back. And not without much noise had all these
things been said and
 done. From her room in Gymir's
mansion Gerd heard the stranger's voice, and to her waiting-maid
she said, "What are these sounds that I hear? The
earth is trembling and all the house shakes."
Then the servant ran to look out of the window, and in a
minute she popped in her head, crying, "Here is a mighty
stranger who has dismounted from his horse and leads him
by the bridle to crop the grass."
Gerd was curious to see who this stranger might be; for her
father kept her close and she saw few visitors.
"Bid him enter our hall," she said, "and give him a horn of
bright mead to drink. I will see him, though I fear it is the
slayer of my brother." For Gerd was the sister of Thiasse
whom Thor slew.
So Skirnir came into the hall, and Gerd received him coldly.
"Who are you?" she asked. "Which of the wise Æsir
are you? For I know that only one of the mighty ones from
Asgard would have the courage and the power to pass
through the raging flames that surround my father's land."
"I come from Frey, O maiden," said
Skir-  nir, "from Frey, whom all folk love. I come to beg that you also will love
him and consent to be his wife. For Frey has seen your
beauty, and you are very dear to him."
Gerd laughed carelessly. "I have heard of your fair Frey,"
she said, "and how he is more dear to all than sunshine and
the sweet smell of flowers. But he is not dear to me. I do
not wish the love of Frey, nor any of that race of giant-killers. Tell him that I will not be his bride."
"Stay, be not so hasty," urged Skirnir. "We have more words
to exchange before I start for home. Look, I will give you
eleven golden apples from Asgard's magic tree if you will go
with me to Frey's dwelling."
Gerd would hear nothing of the golden apples. Then Skirnir
promised her the golden ring, Draupnir, which the dwarfs
had made for Odin, out of which every ninth night dropped
eight other rings as large and bright. But neither would Gerd
listen to word of this generous gift. "I have gold enough in
my father's house," she said disdainfully. "With such trifles
you cannot tempt me to marry your Frey."
 Then Skirnir was very angry, and he began to storm and
threaten. "I will strike you with the bright sword which I
hold in my hand!" he cried. "It is Frey's magic sword, under
which even that stout old giant your father must sink if he
comes within its reach." But again Gerd laughed, though
with less mirth in her laughter. "I will tame you with Frey's
magic wand!" he threatened, "the wand with which he rules
the Light-Elves, and changes folk into strange shapes. You
shall vanish from the sight of men, and pass your life on the
eagle's mount far above the sky, where you shall sit all day,
too sad to eat. And when you come thence, after countless
ages, you will be a hideous monster at which all creatures
will stare in mockery and scorn."
These were dreadful words, and Gerd no longer laughed
when she heard them. But she was obstinate. "I do not love
Frey," she said, "and I will not be his bride."
Then Skirnir was angry indeed, and his fury blazed out in
threats most horrible. "If you will not marry my dear
master," he cried, "you shall be the most unhappy girl that
 ever lived. You shall cry all day long and never see joy
again. You shall marry a hideous old three-headed giant,
and from day to day you shall ever be in terror of some still
more dreadful fate to come!"
Now Gerd began to tremble, for she saw that Frey's servant
meant every word that he spoke. But she was not ready to
yield. "Go back to the land of Elves," she taunted; "I will
not be their Queen at any cost."
Now Skirnir grasped the magic wand, and waving it over
her, spoke his last words of threat and anger. "The gods are
angry with you, evil maiden!" he cried, "Odin sees your
obstinacy from his throne, and will punish you for your
cruelty to kind Frey. Frey himself, instead of loving, will
shun you when the gods arm themselves to destroy you
and all your race. Listen, Giants, Dwarfs, Light-Elves, Men,
and all friends of the Æsir! I forbid any one to have
aught to do with this wicked girl,—only the old giant who
shall carry her to his gloomy castle, barred and bolted and
grated across. Misery, pain, and madness—this, Gerd, is the
 I wave over you with my wand, unless speedily
you repent and do my will."
Poor Gerd gasped and trembled under this dreadful doom.
Her willfulness was quite broken, and now she sought only
to make Skirnir unsay the words of horror. "Hold!" she
cried; "be welcome, youth, in the name of your powerful
master, Frey. I cannot afford to be enemy of such as he.
Drink this icy cup of welcome filled with the giant's mead,
and take with it my consent to be the bride of Frey. But
alas! I never thought to be a friend to one of Asgard's race."
"You shall never repent, fair Gerd," said Skirnir gently.
For now that he had won his will, he was all smiles and
friendliness. "And when you see my dear master, you will
be glad indeed that you did not insist upon wedding the old
three-headed giant. For Frey is fair,—ay, as fair as are you
yourself. And that is saying much, sweet lady."
So Gerd promised that in nine days she would come to be
the bride of Frey. And the more she thought it over, the less
unpleasant seemed the idea. So that before the time
 was passed, she was almost as eager as Frey for their happy
meeting; not quite so eager, for you must remember that she
had not yet seen him and knew not all his glory, while he
knew what it was to long and long for what he had once
Indeed, when Skirnir galloped back to Frey as fast as the
good horse could take him, still Frey chided him for being
slow. And when the faithful fellow told the good news of
the bride who was to be his master's in nine short days, still
Frey frowned and grumbled impatiently.
"How can I wait to see her?" he cried. "One day is long;
two days are a century; nine days seem forever. Oh,
Skirnir, could you not have done better than that for your
But Skirnir forgave Frey for his impatience, for he knew
that thenceforward his master would love all the better him
who had done so nobly to win the beloved bride.
When Gerd married Frey and went with him to live in Elf
Land, where he and she were king and queen, they were the
happiest folk that the world ever saw. And
 Gerd was as grateful to Skirnir as Frey himself. For she could not help
thinking of that dreadful old three-headed giant whom but
for him she might have married, instead of her beautiful,
So you see that sometimes one is happier in the end if she
is not allowed to have her own way.
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