| 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 DWARF'S GIFTS
ED Loki had been up to mischief again! Loki, who made
quarrels and brought trouble wherever he went. He had a
wicked heart, and he loved no one. He envied Father Odin
his wisdom and his throne above the world. He envied
Balder his beauty, and Tŷr his courage, and Thor his
strength. He envied all the good Æsir who were
happy; but he would not take the trouble to be good
himself. So he was always unhappy, spiteful, and sour.
And if anything went wrong in Asgard, the kingdom of the
gods, one was almost sure to find Loki at the bottom of the
Now Thor, the strongest of all the gods, was very proud of
his wife's beautiful hair, which fell in golden waves to her
feet, and covered her like a veil. He loved it better than
anything, except Sif herself. One day, while Thor was away
from home, Loki stole into Thrudheim, the realm of clouds,
and cut off all Sif's golden hair, till her head was as round
and fuzzy as a yellow dandelion. Fancy how angry Thor
was when he
 came rattling home that night
in his thunder-chariot and found Sif so ugly to look at!
He stamped up and
down till the five hundred and forty floors of his cloud
palace shook like an earthquake, and lightning flashed from
his blue eyes. The people down in the world below cried:
"Dear, dear! What a terrible thunderstorm! Thor must be
very angry about something. Loki has been up to mischief,
it is likely." You see, they also knew Loki and his tricks.
At last Thor calmed himself a little. "Sif, my love," he said,
"you shall be beautiful again. Red Loki shall make you so,
since his was the unmaking. The villain! He shall pay for
Then, without more ado, off set Thor to find red Loki. He
went in his thunder-chariot, drawn by two goats, and the
clouds rumbled and the lightning flashed wherever he went;
for Thor was the mighty god of thunder. At last he came
upon the sly rascal, who was trying to hide. Big Thor
seized him by the throat.
"You scoundrel!" he cried, "I will break every bone in your
body if you do not put back Sif's beautiful hair upon her
 "Ow—ow! You hurt me!" howled Loki. "Take off your big
hand, Thor. What is done, is done. I cannot put back Sif's
hair. You know that very well."
"Then you must get her another head of hair," growled
Thor. "That you can do. You must find for her hair of real
gold, and it must grow upon her head as if it were her own.
Do this, or you shall die."
"Where shall I get this famous hair?" whined Loki, though
he knew well enough.
"Get it of the black elves," said Thor; "they are cunning
jewelers, and they are your friends. Go, Loki, and go
quickly, for I long to see Sif as beautiful as ever."
Then Loki of the burning beard slunk away to the hills
where, far under ground, the dwarfs have their furnaces and
their work-shops. Among great heaps of gold and silver and
shining jewels, which they have dug up out of the earth, the
little crooked men in brown blink and chatter and scold one
another; for they are ugly fellows—the dwarfs. Tink-tank!
tink-tank! go their little hammers all day long and all night
long, while they make wonderful things such as no man
 has ever seen, though you shall hear about them.
They had no trouble to make a head of hair for Sif. It was
for them a simple matter, indeed. The dwarfs work fast for
such a customer as Loki, and in a little while the golden
wires were beaten out, and drawn out, made smooth and
soft and curly, and braided into a thick golden braid. But
when Loki came away, he carried with him also two other
treasures which the clever dwarfs had made. One was a
golden spear, and the other was a ship.
Now these do not sound so very wonderful. But wait until
you hear! The spear, which was named Gungnir, was
bewitched, so that it made no difference if the person who
held it was clumsy and careless. For it had this amazing
quality, that no matter how badly it was aimed, or how
unskillfully it was thrown, it was sure to go straight to the
mark—which is a very obliging and convenient thing in one's
weapon, as you will readily see.
And Skidbladnir—this was the harsh name of the ship—was
won-  derful. It could be taken to pieces and folded
up so small that it would go into one's pocket. But when it
was unfolded and put together, it would hold all the gods of
Asgard for a sea-journey. Besides all this, when the sails
were set, the ship was sure always to have a fair wind,
which would make it skim along like a great bird, which was
the best part of the charm, as any sailor will tell you.
Now Loki felt very proud of these three treasures, and left
the hill cave stretching his neck and strutting like a great red
turkey cock. Outside the gate, however, he met Brock, the
black dwarf, who was the brother of Sindri, the best
workman in all the underworld.
"Hello! what have you there?" asked Brock of the big head,
pointing at the bundles which Loki was carrying.
"The three finest gifts in the world," boasted Loki, hugging
his treasures tight.
"Pooh!" said Brock, "I don't believe it. Did my brother
Sindri make them?"
"No," answered Loki; "they were made by the black elves,
the sons of Ivaldi. And they are the most precious gifts that
ever were seen."
 "Pooh!" again puffed Brock, wagging his long beard crossly.
"Nonsense! Whatever they be, my brother Sindri can make
three other gifts more precious; that I know."
"Can he, though?" laughed Loki. "I will give him my head if
"Done!" shouted the dwarf. "Let me see your famous gifts."
So Loki showed him the three wonders: the gold hair for Sif,
the spear, and the ship. But again the dwarf said: "Pooh!
These are nothing. I will show you what the master-smith
can do, and you shall lose your bragging red head, my
Now Loki began to be a little uneasy. He followed Brock
back to the smithy in the mountain, where they found
Sindri at his forge. Oh, yes! He could beat the poor gifts of
which Loki was so proud. But he would not tell what his
own three gifts were to be.
First Sindri took a pig's skin and laid it on the fire. Then he
went away for a little time; but he set Brock at the bellows
and bade him blow—blow—blow the fire until Sindri should
return. Now when Sindri was gone, Loki also stole away;
 usual, he was up to mischief. He had the power of
changing his shape and of becoming any creature he chose,
which was often very convenient. Thus he turned himself
into a huge biting fly. Then he flew back into the smithy
where Brock was blow—blow—blowing. Loki buzzed about
the dwarf's head, and finally lighted on his hand and stung
him, hoping to make him let go the bellows. But no! Brock
only cried out, "Oh-ee!" and kept on blowing for dear life.
Now soon back came Sindri to the forge and took the
pigskin from the fire. Wonder of wonders! It had turned
into a hog with golden bristles; a live hog that shone like the
sun. Brock was not satisfied, however.
"Well! I don't think much of that," he grumbled.
"Wait a little," said Sindri mysteriously. "Wait and see."
Then he went on to make the second gift.
This time he put a lump of gold into the fire. And when he
went away, as before, he bade Brock stand at the bellows to
blow—blow—blow without stopping. Again, as before, in
buzzed Loki the gadfly as soon
 as the master-smith had
gone out. This time he settled on Brock's swarthy neck, and
stung him so sorely that the blood came and the dwarf
roared till the mountain trembled. Still Brock did not let go
the handle of the bellows, but blew and howled—blew and
howled with pain till Sindri returned. And this time the
dwarf took from the fire a fine gold ring, round as
"Um! I don't think so much of that," said Brock, again
disappointed, for he had expected some wonderful jewel.
But Sindri wagged his head wisely.
"Wait a little," he said. "We shall see what we shall see." He
heaved a great lump of iron into the fire to make the third
gift. But this time when he went away, leaving Brock at the
bellows, he charged him to blow—blow—blow without a
minute's rest, or everything would be spoiled. For this was
to be the best gift of all.
Brock planted himself wide-legged at the forge and blew—blew—blew.
But for the third time Loki, winged as a fly, came
buzzing into the smithy. This time he fastened
viciously below Brock's bushy
eye-  brow, and stung him so
cruelly that the blood trickled down, a red river, into his
eyes and the poor dwarf was blinded. With a howl Brock
raised his hand to wipe away the blood, and of course in that
minute the bellows stood still. Then Loki buzzed away
with a sound that seemed like a mocking laugh. At the same
moment in rushed Sindri, panting with fright, for he had
heard that sound and guessed what it meant.
"What have you done?" he cried. "You have let the bellows
rest! You have spoiled everything!"
"Only a little moment, but one little moment," pleaded
Brock, in a panic. "It has done no harm, has it?"
Sindri leaned anxiously over the fire, and out of the flames
he drew the third gift—an enormous hammer.
"Oh!" said Brock, much disappointed, "only an old iron
hammer! I don't think anything of that. Look how short the
handle is, too."
"That is your fault, brother," returned the smith crossly. "If
you had not let the bellows stand still, the handle would
 long enough. Yet as it is—we shall see, we shall
see. I think it will at least win for you red Loki's head. Take
the three gifts, brother, such as they are, and bear them to
Asgard. Let all the gods be judges between you and Loki,
which gifts are best, his or yours. But stay—I may as well
tell you the secrets of your three treasures, or you will not
know how to make them work. Your toy that is not wound
up is of no use at all." Which is very true, as we all know.
Then he bent over and whispered in Brock's ear. And what
he said pleased Brock so much that he jumped straight up
into the air and capered like one of Thor's goats.
"What a clever brother you are, to be sure!" he cried.
At that moment Loki, who had ceased to be a gadfly, came
in grinning, with his three gifts. "Well, are you ready?" he
asked. Then he caught sight of the three gifts which Brock
was putting into his sack.
"Ho! A pig, a ring, and a stub-handled hammer!" he
shouted. "Is that all you have? Fine gifts, indeed! I was
really growing uneasy, but now I see that my head is
 safe. Let us start for Asgard immediately, where I promise
you that I with my three treasures shall be thrice more
welcome than you with your stupid pig, your ugly ring, and
your half-made hammer."
So together they climbed to Asgard, and there they found
the Æsir sitting in the great judgment hall on Ida Plain.
There was Father Odin on his high throne, with his two
ravens at his head and his two wolves at his feet. There was
Queen Frigg by his side; and about them were Balder the
beautiful, Frey and Freia, the fair brother and sister; the
mighty Thor, with Sif his crop-haired wife, and all the rest
of the great Æsir who lived in the upper world above
the homes of men.
"Brother Æsir," said Loki, bowing politely, for he
was a smooth rascal, "we have come each with three gifts,
the dwarf and I; and you shall judge which be the most
worthy of praise. But if I lose,—I, your brother,—I lose my
head to this crooked little dwarf." So he spoke, hoping to
put the Æsir on his side from the first. For his head
was a very handsome one, and the dwarf
 was indeed an ill-looking fellow. The gods, however, nodded gravely, and
bade the two show what their gifts might be.
Then Loki stepped forward to the foot of Odin's throne.
And first he pulled from his great wallet the spear Gungnir,
which could not miss aim. This he gave to Odin, the all-wise.
And Odin was vastly pleased, as you may imagine, to
find himself thenceforth an unequaled marksman. So he
smiled upon Loki kindly and said: "Well done, brother."
Next Loki took out the promised hair for Sif, which he
handed Thor with a grimace. Now when the golden locks
were set upon her head, they grew there like real hair, long
and soft and curling—but still real gold. So that Sif was
more beautiful than ever before, and more precious, too.
You can fancy how pleased Thor was with Loki's gift. He
kissed lovely Sif before all the gods and goddesses, and
vowed that he forgave Loki for the mischief which he had
done in the first place, since he had so nobly made
Then Loki took out the third gift, all folded up like a paper
boat; and it was the
 ship Skidbladnir,—I am sorry they did
not give it a prettier name. This he presented to Frey the
peaceful. And you can guess whether or not Frey's blue
eyes laughed with pleasure at such a gift.
Now when Loki stepped back, all the Æsir clapped
their hands and vowed that he had done wondrous well.
"You will have to show us fine things, you dwarf," quoth
Father Odin, "to better the gifts of red Loki. Come, what
have you in the sack you bear upon your shoulders?"
Then the crooked little Brock hobbled forward, bent almost
double under the great load which he carried. "I have what I
have," he said.
First, out he pulled the ring Draupnir, round as roundness
and shining of gold. This the dwarf gave to Odin, and
though it seemed but little, yet it was much. For every
ninth night out of this ring, he said, would drop eight other
rings of gold, as large and as fair. Then Odin clapped his
hands and cried: "Oh, wondrous gift! I like it even better
than the magic spear which Loki gave." And all the other
Æsir agreed with him.
 Then out of the sack came grunting Goldbristle, the hog, all
of gold. Brock gave him to Frey, to match the magic ship of
Loki. This Goldbristle was so marvelously forged that he
could run more swiftly than any horse, on air or water.
Moreover, he was a living lantern. For on the darkest night
he bristled with light like a million-pointed star, so that one
riding on his back would light the air and the sea like a
firefly, wherever he went. This idea pleased Frey mightily,
for he was the merriest of the gods, and he laughed aloud.
" 'Tis a wondrous fine gift," he said. "I like old Goldbristle
even better than the compressible boat. For on this lusty
steed I can ride about the world when I am tending the
crops and the cattle of men and scattering the rain upon
them. Master dwarf, I give my vote to you." And all the
other Æsir agreed with him.
Then out of the sack Brock drew the third gift. It was the
short-handled hammer named Miölnir. And this was
the gift which Sindri had made for Thor, the mightiest of the
gods; and it was the best gift of all. For with it
 Thor could
burst the hardest metal and shatter the thickest mountain,
and nothing could withstand its power. But it never could
hurt Thor himself; and no matter how far or how hard it
was thrown, it would always fly back into Thor's own
hand. Last of all, whenever he so wished, the great hammer
would become so small that he could put it in his pocket,
quite out of sight. But Brock was sorry that the handle was
so short—all owing to his fault, because he had let the
bellows rest for that one moment.
When Thor had this gift in his hand, he jumped up with a
shout of joy. " 'T is
a wondrous fine gift," he cried, "with
short handle or with long. And I prize it even more than I
prize the golden hair of Sif which Loki gave. For with it I
shall fight our enemies, the Frost Giants and the
mischievous Trolls and the other monsters—Loki's friends.
And all the Æsir will be glad of my gift when they see
what deeds I shall do therewith. Now, if I may have my
say, I judge that the three gifts made by Sindri the dwarf are
the most precious that may be. So Brock has gained the
prize of Loki's red
 head,—a sorry recompense indeed for
gifts so masterly." Then Thor sat down. And all the other
Æsir shouted that he had spoken well, and that they
agreed with him.
So Loki was like to lose his head. He offered to pay instead
a huge price, if Brock would let him go. But Brock refused.
"The red head of Loki for my gift," he insisted, and the gods
nodded that it must be so, since he had earned his wish.
But when Loki saw that the count was all against him, his
eyes grew crafty. "Well, take me, then—if you can!" he
shouted. And off he shot like an arrow from a bow. For
Loki had on magic shoes, with which he could run over sea
or land or sky; and the dwarf could never catch him in the
world. Then Brock was furious. He stood stamping and
chattering, tearing his long beard with rage.
"I am cheated!" he cried. "I have won—but I have lost."
Then he turned to Thor, who was playing with his hammer,
bursting a mountain or two and splitting a tree here and
there. "Mighty Thor," begged the dwarf, "catch me the
fellow who has broken his word. I have given you the best
gift,—  your wonderful hammer. Catch me, then, the boasting
red head which I have fairly bought."
Then Thor stopped his game and set out in pursuit of Loki,
for he was ever on the side of fairness. No one, however
fleet, can escape when Thor follows, for his is the swiftness
of a lightning flash. So he soon brought Loki back to Ida
Plain, and gave him up a prisoner to the dwarf.
"I have you now, boaster," said Brock fiercely, "and I will
cut off your red head in the twinkling of an eye." But just
as he was about to do as he said, Loki had another sly idea.
"Hold, sirrah dwarf," he said. "It is true that you have won
my head, but not the neck, not an inch of the neck." And all
the gods agreed that this was so. Then Brock was puzzled
indeed, for how could he cut off Loki's head without an inch
of the neck, too? But this he must not do, or he knew the
just Æsir would punish him with death. So he was
forced to be content with stopping Loki's boasting in
another way. He would sew up the bragging lips.
 He brought a stout, strong thread and an awl to bore the
holes. And in a twinkling he had stitched up the lips of the
sly one, firm and fast. So for a time, at least, he put an end
to Loki's boasting and his taunts and his lies.
It is a pity that those mischief-making lips were not
fastened up forever; for that would have saved much of the
trouble and sorrow which came after. But at last, after a
long time, Loki got his lips free, and they made great sorrow
in Asgard for the gods and earth for men, as you shall hear.
Now this is the end of the tale which tells of the dwarf's
gifts, and especially of Thor's hammer, which was
afterwards to be of such service to him and such bane to the
enemies of the Æsir. And that also you shall hear
before all is done.
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