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HOW FREY WON GERDA, THE GIANT MAIDEN, AND HOW HE LOST HIS MAGIC SWORD
REY, chief of the Vanir, longed to have sight of his sister
who had been from Asgard for so long. (You must know
that this happened during the time when Freya was
wandering through the world, seeking her husband, the
lost Odur.) Now there was in Asgard a place from which
 could overlook the world and have a glimpse of all
who wandered there. That place was Hlidskjalf, Odin's
High up into the blue of the air that Tower went. Frey
came to it and he knew that Odin All-Father was not
upon Hlidskjalf. Only the two wolves, Geri and Freki,
that crouched beside Odin's seat at the banquet, were
there, and they stood in the way of Frey's entrance to
the Tower. But Frey spoke to Geri and Freki in the
language of the Gods, and Odin's wolves had to let him
But, as he went up the steps within the Tower, Frey,
chief of the Vanir, knew that he was doing a fateful
thing. For none of the High Gods, not even Thor, the
Defender of Asgard, nor Baldur, the Best-Beloved of the
Gods, had ever climbed up to the top of that Tower and
seated themselves upon the All-Father's seat. "But if I
could see my sister once I should be contented," said
Frey to himself, "and no harm can come to me if I look
out on the world."
He came to the top of Hlidskjalf. He seated himself on
Odin's lofty seat. He looked out on the world. He saw
Midgard, the World of Men, with its houses and towns,
its farms and people. Beyond Midgard he saw
Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants, terrible in
its dark mountains and its masses of snow and ice. He
saw Freya as she went upon her wanderings, and he
marked that her face was turned towards Asgard and that
her steps were leading toward the City of the Gods. "I
have contented myself
 by looking from Hlidskjalf," said
Frey to himself, "and no harm has come to me."
But even as he spoke his gaze was drawn to a dwelling
that stood in the middle of the ice and snow of
Jötunheim. Long he gazed upon that dwelling
without knowing why he looked that way. Then the door
of the house was opened and a Giant maiden stood within
the doorway. Frey gazed and gazed upon her. So great
was the beauty of her face that it was like starlight
in that dark land. She looked from the doorway of the
house, and then turned and went within, shutting the
Frey sat on Odin's high seat for long. Then he went
down the steps of the Tower and passed by the two
wolves, Geri and Freki, that looked threateningly upon
him. He went through Asgard, but he found no one to
please him in the City of the Gods. That night sleep
did not come to him, for his thoughts were fixed upon
the loveliness of the Giant maid he had looked upon.
And when morning came he was filled with loneliness
because he thought himself so far from her. He went to
Hlidskjalf again, thinking to climb the Tower and have
sight of her once more. But the two wolves, Geri and
Freki, bared their teeth at him and would not let him
pass, although he spoke to them again in the language
of the Gods.
He went and spoke to wise Niörd, his father. "She
whom you have seen, my son," said Niörd, "is
Gerda, the daughter of the Giant Gymer. You must give
over thinking of her. Your love for her would be an ill
thing for you."
 "Why should it be an ill thing for me," Frey asked.
"Because you would have to give that which you prize
most for the sake of coming to her."
"That which I prize most," said Frey, "is my magic
"You will have to give your magic sword," said his
father, the wise Niörd.
"I will give it," said Frey, loosening his magic sword
from his belt.
"Bethink thee, my son," said Niörd. "If thou
givest thy sword, what weapon wilt thou have on the day
of Ragnarök, when the Giants will make war upon
Frey did not speak, but he thought the day of
Ragnarök was far off. "I cannot live without
Gerda," he said, as he turned away.
HERE was one in Asgard who was called Skirnir. He was
a venturesome being who never cared what he said or
did. To no one else but Skirnir could Frey bring
himself to tell of the trouble that had fallen on
him—the trouble that was the punishment for his
placing himself on the seat of the All-Father.
Skirnir laughed when he heard Frey's tale. "Thou, a
Van, in love with a maid of Jötunheim! This is fun
indeed! Will ye make a marriage of it?"
"Would that I might even speak to her or send a message
of love to her," said Frey. "But I may not leave my
watch over the Elves."
 "And if I should take a message to Gerda," said Skirnir
the Venturesome, "what would my reward be?"
"My boat Skidbladnir or my boar Golden Bristle," said
"No, no," said Skirnir. "I want something to go by my
side. I want something to use in my hand. Give me the
magic sword you own."
Frey thought upon what his father said, that he would
be left weaponless on the day of Ragnarök, when
the Giants would make war upon the Gods and when Asgard
would be endangered. He thought upon this, and drew
back from Skirnir, and for a while he remained in
thought. And all the time thick-set Skirnir was
laughing at him out of his wide mouth and his blue
eyes. Then Frey said to himself, "The day of
Ragnarök is far off, and I cannot live without
He drew the magic sword from his belt and he placed it
in Skirnir's hand. "I give you my sword, Skirnir," he
said. "Take my message to Gerda, Gymer's daughter. Show
her this gold and these precious jewels, and say I love
her, and that I claim her love."
"I shall bring the maid to you," said Skirnir the
"But how wilt thou get to Jötunheim?" said Frey,
suddenly remembering how dark the Giants' land was and
how terrible were the approaches to it.
"Oh, with a good horse and a good sword one can get
anywhere," said Skirnir. "My horse is a mighty horse,
and you have given me your sword of magic. Tomorrow I
shall make the journey."
KIRNIR rode across Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge,
laughing out of his wide mouth and his blue eyes at
Heimdall, the Warder of the Bridge to Asgard. His
mighty horse trod the earth of Midgard, and swam the
river that divides Midgard, the World of Men, from
Jötunheim, the Realm of the Giants. He rode on
heedlessly and recklessly, as he did all things. Then
out of the iron forests came the monstrous wolves of
Jötunheim, to tear and devour him and his mighty
horse. It was well for Skirnir that he had in his belt
Frey's magic sword. Its edge slew and its gleam
frightened the monstrous beasts. On and on Skirnir rode
on his mighty horse. Then he came to a wall of fire. No
other horse but his mighty horse could go through it.
Skirnir rode through the fire and came to the dale in
which was Gymer's dwelling.
And now he was before the house that Frey had seen
Gerda enter on the day when he had climbed Hlidskjalf,
Odin's Watch-Tower. The mighty hounds that guarded
Gymer's dwelling and bayed around hm. But the gleam of
the magic sword kept them away. Skirnir backed his
horse to the door, and made his horse's hooves strike
Gymer was in the feast hall drinking with his Giant
friends, and he did not hear the baying of the hounds
nor the clatter that Skirnir made before the door. But
Gerda sat spinning with her maidens in the hall. "Who
comes to Gymer's door?" she said.
 "A warrior upon a mighty horse," said one of the
"Even though he be an enemy and one who slew my
brother, yet shall we open the door to him and give him
a cup of Gymer's mead," said Gerda.
One of the maidens opened the door and Skirnir entered
Gymer's dwelling. He knew Gerda amongst her maidens. He
went to her and showed her the rich gold and the
precious jewels that he had brought from Frey. "These
are for you, fairest Gerda," he said, "if you will give
your love to Frey, the Chief of the Vanir."
"Show your gold and jewels to other maidens," said
Gerda. "Gold and jewels will never bring me to give my
Then Skirnir the Venturesome, the heedless of his
words, drew the magic sword from his belt and held it
above her. "Give your love to Frey, who has given me
this sword," he said, "or meet your death by the edge
Gerda, Gymer's daughter, only laughed at the reckless
Skirnir. "Make the daughters of men fearful by the
sharpness of Frey's sword, she said, "but do not try to
frighten a Giant's daughter with it."
Then Skirnir the Reckless, the heedless of his words,
made the magic sword flash before her eyes, while he
cried out in a terrible voice, saying a spell over her:
Gerda, I will curse thee;
Yes, with this magic
Blade I shall touch thee;
Such is its power
That, like a thistle,
Withered 'twill leave thee,
Like a thistle in the wind
Strips from the roof.
Hearing these terrible words and the strange hissings
of the magic sword, Gerda threw herself on the ground,
crying out for pity. But Skirnir stood above her, and
the magic sword flashed and hissed over her. Skirnir
More ugly I'll leave thee
Than maid ever was;
Thou wilt be mocked at
By men and by Giants;
A Dwarf only will wed thee;
Now on this instant
With this blade I shall touch thee,
And leave thee bespelled.
She lifted herself on her knees and cried out to
Skirnir to spare her form the spell of the magic sword.
"Only if thou wilt give thy love to Frey," said
"I will give my love to him," said Gerda. "Now put up
thy magic sword and drink a cup of mead and depart from
"I will not drink a cup of your mead nor shall I depart
from Gymer's dwelling until you yourself say that you
will meet and speak with Frey."
 "I will meet and speak with him," said Gerda.
"When will you meet and speak with him?" asked Skirnir.
"In the wood of Barri nine nights from this. Let him
come and meet me there."
Then Skirnir put up his magic sword and drank the cup
of mead that Gerda gave him. He rode from Gymer's
house, laughing aloud at having won Gerda for Frey, and
so making the magic sword his own for ever.
KIRNIR the Venturesome, the heedless of his words,
riding across Bifröst on his mighty horse, found
Frey standing waiting for him beside Heimdall, the
Warder of the Bridge to Asgard.
"What news dost thou bring me?" cried Frey. "Speak,
Skirnir, before thou dost dismount from thine horse."
"In nine nights from this thou mayst meet Gerda in
Barri Wood," said Skirnir. He looked at him, laughing
out of his wide mouth and his blue eyes. But Frey
turned away, saying to himself:
Long is one day;
Long, long two.
Can I live through
Nine long days?
Long indeed were those days for Frey. But the ninth day
came, and in the evening Frey went to Barri Wood. And
there he met Gerda, the Giant maid. She was as fair as
when he had seen her before the door of Gymer's house.
And when she saw Frey, so tall and noble looking, the
Giant's daughter was glad that Skirnir the Venturesome
had made her promise to come to Barri Wood. They gave
each other rings of gold. It was settled that the Giant
maid should come as a bride to Asgard.
Gerda came, but another Giant maid came also. This is
how that came to be:
All the Dwellers in Asgard were standing before the
great gate, waiting to welcome the bride of Frey. There
appeared a Giant maid who was not Gerda; all in armor
"I am Skadi," she said, "the daughter of Thiassi. My
father met his death at the hands of the Dwellers in
Asgard. I claim a recompense."
"What recompense would you have, maiden?" asked Odin,
smiling to see a Giant maid standing so boldly in
"A husband from amongst you, even as Gerda. And I
myself must be let choose him."
All laughed aloud at the words of Skadi. Then said
Odin, laughing, "We will let you choose a husband from
amongst us, but you must choose him by his feet."
"I will choose him whatever way you will," said Skadi,
fixing her eyes on Baldur, the most beautiful of all
the Dwellers in Asgard.
They put a bandage round her eyes, and the Æsir
and the Vanir seat in a half circle around. As she went
by she stooped over each and laid hands upon their
feet. At last she came to
 one whose feet were so finely
formed that she felt sure it was Baldur. She stood up
"This is the one that Skadi chooses for her husband."
Then the Æsir and the Vanir laughed more and more.
They took the bandage off her eyes and she saw, not
Baldur the Beautiful, but Niörd, the father of
Frey. But as Skadi looked more and more on Niörd
she became more and more contented with her choice; for
Niörd was strong, and he was noble looking.
These two, Niörd and Skadi, went first to live in
Niörd's palace by the sea; but the coming of the
sea mew would waken Skadi too early in the morning, and
she drew her husband to the mountaintop where she was
more at home. He would not live long away form the
Sound of the sea. Back and forward, between the
mountain and the sea, Skadi and Niörd went. But
Gerda stayed in Asgard with Frey, her husband, and the
Æsir and the Vanir came to love greatly Gerda, the