IDUNA AND HER APPLES: HOW LOKI PUT THE GODS IN DANGER
N Asgard there was a garden, and in that garden there
grew a tree, and on that tree there grew shining
apples. Thou knowst, O well-loved one, that every day
that passes makes us older and brings us to that day
when we will be bent and feeble, gray-headed and
weak-eyed. But those shining apples that grew
Asgard—they who ate of them every day grew never a
day older, for the eating of the apples kept old age
Iduna, the Goddess, tended the tree on which the
shining apples grew. None would grow on the tree unless
she was there to tend it. No one but Iduna might pluck
the shining apples. Each morning she plucked them and
left them in her basket and every day the Gods and
Goddesses came to her garden that they might eat the
shining apples and so stay for ever young.
Iduna never went from her garden. All day and every day
she stayed in the garden or in her golden house beside
it, and all day and every day she listened to Bragi,
her husband, tell a story that never had an end. Ah,
but a time came when Iduna and her apples were lost to
Asgard, and the Gods and Goddesses felt old age
approach them. How all that happened shall be told
thee, O well beloved.
Odin, the Father of the Gods, often went into the land
of men to watch over their doings. Once he took Loki
with him. Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil.
For a long time they went traveling through the world
of men. At last they came near Jötunheim, the
realm of the Giants.
It was a bleak and empty region. There were no growing
things there, not even trees with berries. There were
no birds, there were no animals. As Odin, the Father of
the Gods, and Loki, the doer of good and the doer of
evil, went through this region hunger came upon them.
But in all the land around they saw nothing that they
 Loki, running here and running there, came at last upon
a herd of wild cattle. Creeping up on them, he caught
hold of a young bull and killed him. Then he cut up the
flesh into strips of meat. He lighted a fire and put
the meat on spits to roast. While the meat was being
cooked, Odin, the Father of the Gods, a little way off,
sat thinking on the things he had seen in the world of
Loki made himself busy putting more and more logs on
the fire. At last he called to Odin, and the Father of
the Gods came and sat down near the fire to eat the
But when the meat was taken off the cooking-spits and
when Odin went to cut it, he found that it was still
raw. He smiled at Loki for thinking the meat was
cooked, and Loki, troubled that he had made a mistake,
put the meat back, and put more logs upon the fire.
Again Loki took the meat off the cooking-spits and
called Odin to the meal.
Odin, when he took the meat that Loki brought him,
found that it was as raw as if it had never been put
upon the fire. "Is this a trick of yours, Loki?" he
Loki was so angry at the meat being uncooked that Odin
saw he was playing no tricks. In his hunger he raged at
the meat and he raged at the fire. Again he put the
meat on the cooking-spits and put more logs on the
fire. Every hour he would take up the meat, sure that
it was now cooked, and every time he took it off Odin
would find that the meat was as raw as the first time
they took it off the fire.
 Now Odin knew that the meat must be under some
enchantment by the Giants. He stood up and went on his
way, hungry but strong. Loki, however, would not leave
the meat he had put back on the fire. He would make it
be cooked, he declared, and he would not leave that
The dawn came and he took up the meat again. As he was
lifting it off the fire he heard a whirr of wings above
his head. Looking up, he saw a mighty eagle, the
largest eagle that ever appeared in the sky. The eagle
circled round and round and came above Loki's head.
"Canst thou not cook thy food?" the eagle screamed to
"I cannot cook it," said Loki.
"I will cook it for thee, if thou wilt give me a
share," screamed the eagle.
"Come, then, and cook it for me," said Loki.
The eagle circled round until he was above the fire.
Then flapping his great wings over it, he made the fire
blaze and blaze. A heat that Loki had never felt before
came from the burning logs. In a minute he drew the
meat from the spits and found it was well cooked.
"My share, my share, give me my share," the eagle
screamed at him. He flew down, and seizing on a large
piece of meat instantly devoured it. He seized on
another piece. Piece after piece he devoured until it
looked as if Loki would be left with no meat for his
As the eagle seized on the last piece Loki became angry
 Taking up the spit on which the meat had been
cooked, he struck at the eagle. There was a clang as if
he had struck some metal. The wood of the spit did not
come away. It stuck to the breast of the eagle. But
Loki did not let go his hold on the spit. Suddenly the
eagle rose up in the air. Loki, who held to the spit
that was fastened to the eagle's breast, was drawn up
Before he knew what had happened Loki was miles and
miles up in the air and the eagle was flying toward
Jötunheim, the Real of the Giants. And the eagle
was screaming out, "Loki, friend Loki, I have thee at
last. It was thou who didst cheat my brother of his
reward for building the wall round Asgard. But, Loki, I
have thee at last. Know now that Thiassi the Giant has
captured thee, O Loki, most cunning of the dwellers in
Thus the eagle screamed as he went flying with Loki
toward Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants. They
passed over the river that divides Jötunheim from
Midgard, the World of Men. And now Loki saw a terrible
place beneath him, a land of ice and rock. Great
mountains were there: they were lighted by neither sun
nor moon, but by columns of fire thrown up now and
again through cracks in the earth or out of the peaks
of the mountains.
Over a great iceberg the eagle hovered. Suddenly he
shook the spit from his breast and Loki fell down on
the ice. The eagle screamed out to him, "Thou art in my
power at last, O thou most cunning of all the Dwellers
in Asgard." The eagle left Loki there and flew within a
crack in the mountain.
 Miserable indeed was Loki upon that iceberg. The cold
was deadly. He could not die there, for he was one of
the Dwellers in Asgard and death might not come to him
that way. He might not die, but he felt bound to that
iceberg with chains of cold.
After a day his captor came to him, not as an eagle
this time, but in his own form, Thiassi the Giant.
"Wouldst thou leave thine iceberg, Loki," he said, "and
return to thy pleasant place in Asgard? Thou dost
delight in Asgard, although only by one-half dost thou
belong to the Gods. Thy father, Loki, was the Wind
"O that I might leave this iceberg," Loki said, with
the tears freezing on his face.
"Thou mayst leave it when thou showest thyself ready to
pay thy ransom to me," said Thiassi. "Thou wilt have to
get me the shining apples that Iduna keeps in her
"I cannot get Iduna's apples for thee, Thiassi," said
"Then stay upon the iceberg," said Thiassi the Giant.
He went away and left Loki there with the terrible
winds buffeting him as with blows of a hammer.
When Thiassi came again and spoke to him about his
ransom, Loki said, "There is no way of getting the
shining apples from Iduna."
"There must be some way, O cunning Loki," said the
"Iduna, although she guards well the shining apples, is
simple-minded," said Loki. "It may be that I shall be
able to get her
 to go outside the wall of Asgard. If
she goes she will bring her shining apples with her,
for she never lets them go out of her hand except when
she gives them to the Gods and Goddesses to eat."
"Make it so that she will go beyond the wall of
Asgard," said the Giant. "If she goes outside of the
wall I shall get the apples from her. Swear by the
World-Tree that thou wilt lure Iduna beyond the wall of
Asgard. Swear it, Loki, and I shall let thee go."
"I swear it by Ygdrassil, the World-Tree, that I will
lure Iduna beyond the wall of Asgard if thou wilt take
me off this iceberg."
Then Thiassi changed himself into a mighty eagle, and
taking Loki in his talons, he flew with him over the
stream that divides J#&246;tunheim, the Realm of the
Giants, from Midgard, the World of Men. He left Loki on
the ground of Midgard, and Loki then went on his way to
Now Odin had already returned and he had told the
Dwellers in Asgard of Loki's attempt to cook the
enchanted meat. All laughed to think that Loki had been
left hungry for all his cunning. Then when he came into
Asgard looking so famished, they thought it was because
Loki had had nothing to eat. They laughed at him more
and more. But they brought him into the Feast Hall and
they gave him the best food with wine out of Odin's
wine cup. When the feast was over the Dwellers in
Asgard went to Iduna's garden as was their wont.
 There sat Iduna in the golden house that opened on her
garden. Had she been in the world of men, every one who
saw her would have remembered their own innocence,
seeing one who was so fair and good. She had eyes blue
as the blue sky, and she smiled as if she were
remembering lovely things she had seen or heard. The
basket of shining apples was beside her.
To each God and Goddess Iduna gave a shining apple.
Each one ate the apple given, rejoicing to think that
they would never become a day older. Then Odin, the
Father of the Gods, said the runes that were always
said in praise of Iduna, and the Dwellers in Asgard
went out of Iduna's garden, each one going to his or
her own shining house.
All went except Loki, the doer of good and the doer of
evil. Loki sat in the garden, watching fair and simple
Iduna. After a while she spoke to him and said, "Why
dost thou still stay here, wise Loki?"
"To look well on thine apples," Loki said. "I am
wondering if the apples I saw yesterday are really as
shining as the apples that are in thy basket."
"There are no apples in the world as shining as mine,"
"The apples I saw were more shining," said Loki. "Aye,
and they smelled better, Iduna."
Iduna was troubled at what Loki, whom she deemed so
wise, told her. Her eyes filled with tears that there
might be more shining apples in the world than hers. "O
Loki," she said, "it
 cannot be. No apples are more
shining, and none smell so sweet, as the apples I pluck
off the tree in my garden."
"Go, then, and see," said Loki. "Just outside Asgard is
the tree that has the apples I saw. Thou, Iduna, dost
never leave thy garden, and so thou dost not know what
grows in the world. Go outside of Asgard and see."
"I will go, Loki," said Iduna, the fair and simple.
DUNA went outside the wall of Asgard. She went to the
place Loki had told her the apples grew in. But as she
looked this way and that way, Iduna heard a whirr of
wings above her. Looking up, she saw a mighty eagle,
the largest eagle that had ever appeared in the sky.
She drew back toward the gate of Asgard. Then the great
eagle swooped down; Iduna felt herself lifted up, and
then she was being carried away from Asgard, away,
away; away over Midgard where men lived, away toward
the rocks and snows of J#&246;tunheim. Across the river
that flows between the World of Men and the Realm of
the Giants Iduna was borne. Then the eagle flew into a
cleft in a mountain and Iduna was left in a cavernous
hall lighted up by columns of fire that burst up from
The eagle loosened his grip on Iduna and she sank down
on the ground of the cavern. The wings and the feathers
fell from him and she saw him as a terrible Giant.
"Oh, why have you carried me off from Asgard and
brought me to this place," Iduna cried.
 "That I might eat your shining apples," said Thiassi
"That will never be, for I will not give them to you,"
"Give me the apples to eat, and I shall carry you back
"No, no, that cannot be. I have been trusted with the
shining apples that I might give them to the Gods
"Then I shall take the apples from you," said Thiassi
He took the basket out of her hands and opened it. But
when he touched the apples they shriveled under his
hands. He left them in the basket and he set the basket
down, for he knew now that the apples would be no good
to him unless Iduna gave them to him with her own
"You must stay with me here until you give me the
shining apples," he said to her.
Then was poor Iduna frightened: she was frightened of
the strange cave and frightened of the fire that kept
bursting up out of the earth and she was frightened of
the terrible Giant. But above all she was frightened to
think of the evil that would fall upon the Dwellers in
Asgard if she were not there to give them the shining
apples to eat.
The Giant came to her again. But still Iduna would not
give him the shining apples. And there in the cave she
stayed, the Giant troubling her every day. And she grew
 more fearful as she saw in her dreams the
Dwellers in Asgard go to her garden#&151;go there, and
not being given the shining apples, feel and see a
change coming over themselves and over each other.
It was as Iduna saw in her dreams. Every day the
Dwellers in Asgard went to her garden—Odin and
Thor, Hödur and Baldur, Tyr and Heimdall, Vidar
and Vali, with Frigga, Freya, Nanna, and Sif. There was
no one to pluck the apples of their tree. And a change
began to come over the Gods and Goddesses.
They no longer walked lightly; their shoulders became
bent; their eyes no longer were as bright as dewdrops.
And when they looked upon one another they saw the
change. Age was coming upon the Dwellers in Asgard.
They knew that the time would come when Frigga would be
gray and old; when Sif's golden hair would fade; when
Odin would no longer have his clear wisdom, and when
Thor would not have strength enough to raise and fling
his thunderbolts. And the Dwellers in Asgard were
saddened by this knowledge, and it seemed to them that
all brightness had gone from their shining City.
Where was Iduna whose apples would give back youth and
strength and beauty to the Dwellers in Asgard? The Gods
had searched for her through the World of Men. No trace
of her did they find. But now Odin, searching through
his wisdom, saw a means to get knowledge of where Iduna
He summoned his two ravens, Hugin and Munin, his two
ravens that flew through the earth and through the
Realm of the Giants
 and that knew all things that were
past and all things that were to come. He summoned
Hugin and Munin and they came, and one sat on his right
shoulder and one sat on his left shoulder and they told
him deep secrets: they told him of Thiassi and of his
desire for the shining apples that the Dwellers in
Asgard ate, and of Loki's deception of Iduna, the fair
When Odin learnt from his ravens was told in the
Council of the Gods. Then Thor the Strong went to Loki
and laid hands upon him. When Loki found himself in the
grip of the strong God, he said, "What wouldst thou
with me, O Thor?"
"I would hurl thee into a chasm in the ground and
strike thee with my thunder," said the strong God. "It
was thou who didst bring it about that Iduna went from
"O Thor," said Loki, "do not crush me with thy thunder.
Let me stay in Asgard. I will strive to win Iduna
"The judgment of the Gods," said Thor, "is that thou,
the cunning one, shouldst go to Jötunheim, and by
thy craft win Iduna back from the Giants. Go or else I
shall hurl thee into a chasm and crush thee with my
"I will go," said Loki.
ROM Frigga, the wife of Odin, Loki borrowed the dress
of falcon feathers that she owned. He clad himself in
it, and flew to Jötunheim in the form of a falcon.
He searched through Jötunheim until he found
Thiassi's daughter, Skadi. He flew before Skadi
 and he
let the Giant maid catch him and hold him as a pet. One
day the Giant maid carried him into the cave where
Iduna, the fair and simple, was held.
When Loki saw Iduna there he knew that part of his
quest was ended. Now he had to get Iduna out of
Jötunheim and away to Asgard. He stayed no more
with the Giant maid, but flew up into the high rocks of
the cave. Skadi wept for the flight of her pet, but she
ceased to search and to call and went away from the
Then Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil, flew
to where Iduna was sitting and spoke to her. Iduna,
when she knew that one of the Dwellers in Asgard was
near, wept with joy.
Loki told her what she was to do. By the power of a
spell that was given to him he was able change her into
the form of a sparrow. But before she did this she took
the shining apples out of her basket and flung them
into places where the Giant would never find them.
Skadi, coming back to the cave, saw the falcon fly out
with the sparrow beside him. She cried out to her
father and the Giant knew that the falcon was Loki and
the sparrow was Iduna. He changed himself into the form
of a mighty eagle. By this time sparrow and falcon were
out of sight, but Thiassi, knowing that he could make
better flight than they, flew towards Asgard.
Soon he saw them. They flew with all the power they
had, but the great wings of the eagle brought him
nearer and nearer to them. The Dwellers in Asgard,
standing on the wall, saw the
 falcon and the sparrow
with the great eagle pursuing them. They knew who they
were—Loki and Iduna with Thiassi in pursuit.
As they watch the eagle winging nearer and nearer, the
Dwellers in Asgard were fearful that the falcon and the
sparrow would be caught upon and that Iduna would be
taken again by Thiassi. They lighted great fires upon
the wall, knowing that Loki would find a way through
the fires, bringing Iduna with him, but that Thiassi
would not find a way.
The falcon and the sparrow flew toward the fires. Loki
went between the flames and brought Iduna with him. And
Thiassi, coming up to the fires and finding no way
through, beat his wings against the flames. He fell
down from the wall and the death that came to him
afterwards was laid to Loki.
Thus Iduna was brought back to Asgard. Once again she
sat in the golden house that opened to her garden, once
again she plucked the shining apples off the tree she
tended, and once again she gave them to the Dwellers in
Asgard. And the Dwellers in Asgard walked lightly
again, and brightness came into their eyes and into
their cheeks; age no more approached them; youth came
back; light and joy were again in Asgard.
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