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THE BUILDING OF THE WALL
LWAYS there had been war between the Giants and the
Gods—between the Giants who would have destroyed
the world and the race of men, and the Gods who would
have protected the race of men and would have made the
world more beautiful.
There are many stories to be told about the Gods, but
the first one that should be told to you is the one
about the building of their City.
The Gods had made their way up to the top of a high
mountain and there they decided to build a great City
for themselves that
 the Giants could never overthrow.
The City they would call "Asgard," which means the
Place of the Gods. They would build it on a beautiful
plain that was on the top of that night mountian. And
they wanted to
raise round their City the highest and strongest wall
that had ever been built.
Now one day when they were beginning to build their
halls and their palaces a strange being came to them.
Odin, the Father of the Gods, went and spoke to him.
"What dost thou want on the Mountain of the Gods?" he
asked the Stranger.
"I know what is in the mind of the Gods," the Stranger
said. "They would build a City here. I cannot build
palaces, but I can build great walls that can never be
overthrown. Let me build the wall around your City."
"How long will it take you to build a wall that will go
round our City?" said the Father of the Gods.
"A year, O Odin," said the Stranger.
Now Odin knew that if a great wall could be built
around it the Gods would not have to spend all their
time defending their City, Asgard, from the Giants, and
he know that if Asgard were protected, he himself could
go amongst men and teach them and help them. He thought
that no payment the Stranger could ask would be too
much for the building of that wall.
That day the Stranger came to the Council of the Gods,
and he swore that in a year he would have the great
wall built. Then Odin made oath that the Gods would
give him what he asked in
 payment if the wall was
finished to the last stone in a year from that day.
The Stranger went away and came back on the morrow. It
was the first day of Summer when he started work. He
brought no one to help him except a great horse.
Now the Gods thought that this horse would do no more
than drag blocks of stone for the building of the wall.
But the horse did more than this. He set the stones in
their places and mortared them together. And day and
night and by light and dark the horse worked, and soon
a great wall was rising round the palaces that the Gods
themselves were building.
"What reward will the Stranger ask for the work he is
doing for us?" the Gods asked one another.
Odin went to the Stranger. "We marvel at the work you
and your horse are doing for us," he said. "No one can
doubt that the great wall of Asgard will be built up by
the first day of Summer. What reward do you claim? We
would have it ready for you."
The Stranger turned from the work he was doing, leaving
the great horse to pile up the blocks of stone. "O
Father of the Gods," he said, "O Odin, the reward I
shall ask for my work is the Sun and the Moon, and
Freya, who watches over the flowers and grasses, for my
Now when Odin heard this he was terribly angered, for
the price the Stranger asked for his work was beyond
all prices. He went amongst the other Gods who were
then building their shining palaces within the great
wall and he told them what reward
 the Stranger had
asked. The Gods said, "Without the Sun and the Moon the
world will wither away." And the Goddesses said,
"Without Freya all will be gloom in Asgard."
They would have let the wall remain unbuilt rather than
let the Stranger have the reward he claimed for
building it. But one who was in the company of the Gods
spoke. He was Loki, a being who only half belonged to
the Gods; his father was the Wind Giant. "Let the
Stranger build the wall round Asgard," Loki said, "and
I will find a way to make him give up the hard bargain
he has made with the Gods. Go to him and tell him that
the wall must be finished by the first day of Summer,
and that if it is not finished to the last stone on
that day the price he asks will not be given to him.
The Gods went to the Stranger and they told him that if
they last stone was not laid on the wall on the first
day of the Summer not Sol or Mani, the Sun and the
Moon, nor Freya would be given to him. And now they
knew that the Stranger was one of the Giants.
The Giant and his great horse piled up the wall more
quickly than before. At night, while the Giant slept,
the horse worked on and on, hauling up stones and
laying them on the wall with his great forefeet. And
day by day the wall around Asgard grew higher and
But the Gods had no joy in seeing that great wall
rising higher and higher around their palaces. The
Giant and his horse would finish the work by the first
day of Summer, and then he would
 take the Sun and the
Moon, Sol and Mani, and Freya away with him.
But Loki was not disturbed. He kept telling the Gods
that he would find a way to prevent him from finishing
his work, and thus he would make the Giant forfeit the
terrible price he had led Odin to promise him.
It was three days to Summer time. All the wall was
finished except the gateway. Over the gateway a stone
was still to be placed. And the Giant, before he went
to sleep, bade his horse haul up a great block of stone
so that they might put it above the gateway in the
morning, and so finish the work two full days before
It happened to be a beautiful moonlit night.
Svadilfare, the Giant's great horse, was hauling the
largest stone he ever hauled when he saw a little mare
come galloping toward him. The great horse had never
seen so pretty a little mare and he looked at her with
"Svadilfare, slave," said the little mare to him and
went frisking past.
Svadilfare put down the stone he was hauling and called
to the little mare. She came back to him. "Why do you
call me 'Svadilfare, slave'?" said the great horse.
"Because you have to work night and day for your
master," said the little mare. "He keeps you working,
working, working, and never lets you enjoy yourself.
You dare not leave that stone down and come and play
 "Who told you I dare not do it?" said Svadilfare.
"I know you daren't do it," said the little mare, and
she kicked up her heels and ran across the moonlit
Now the truth is that Svadilfare was tired of working
day and night. When he saw the little mare go galloping
off he became suddenly discontented. He left the stone
he was hauling on the ground. He looked round and he
saw the little mare looking back at him. He galloped
He did not catch up on the little mare. She went on
swiftly before him. On she went over the moonlit
turning and loking back now and again at the great
Svadilfare, who came heavily after her. Down the
mountainside the mare went, and Svadilfare, who now
rejoiced in his liberty and in the freshness of the
wind and in the smell of the flowers, still followed
her. With the morning's light they came near a cave and
the little mare went into it. They went through the
cave. Then Svadilfare caught up on the little mare and
the two went wandering together, the little mare
telling Svadilfare stories of the Dwarfs and the Elves.
They came to a grove and they stayed together in it,
the little mare playing so nicely with him that the
great horse forgot all about time passing. And while
they were in the grove the Giant was going up and down,
searching for his great horse.
He had come to the wall in the morning, expecting to
put the stone over the gateway and so finish his work.
But the stone that was to be lifted up was not near
him. He called for Svadilfare, but his great horse did
not come. He went to search for
 him, and he searched
all down the mountain-side and he searched as far across
the earth as the realm of the Giants. But he did not
The Gods saw the first day of Summer come and the
gateway of the wall stand unfinished. They said to each
other that if it were not finished by the evening they
need not give Sol and Mani to the Giant, nor the maiden
Freya to be his wife. The hours of the summer day went
past and the Giant did not raise the stone over the
gateway. In the evening he came before them.
"Your work is not finished," Odin said. "You forced us
to a hard bargain and now we need not keep it with you.
You shall not be given Sol and Mani nor the maiden
"Only the wall I have built is so strong I would tear
it down," said the Giant. He tried to throw down one of
the palaces, but the Gods laid hands on him and thrust
him outside the wall he had built. "Go, and trouble
Asgard no more," Odin commanded.
Then Loki returned to Asgard. He told the Gods how he
had transformed himself into a little mare and had led
away Svadilfare, the Giant's great horse. And the Gods
sat in their golden palaces behind the great wall and
rejoiced that their City was now secure, and that no
enemy could ever enter it or overthrow it. But Odin,
the Father of the Gods, as he sat upon his throne was
sad in his heart, sad that the Gods had got their wall
built by a trick; that oaths had been broken, and that
a blow had been struck in injustice in Asgard.