HEIMDALL AND LITTLE HNOSSA: HOW ALL THINGS CAME TO BE
NOSSA, the child of Freya and the lost Odur, was the youngest
of all the Dwellers in Asgard. And because it had been
prophesied that the child would bring her father and
her mother together, little Hnossa was often taken
without the City of the Gods to stand by Bifröst,
the Rainbow Bridge, so that she might greet Odur if his
steps turned toward Asgard.
In all the palaces of the City of the Gods little
Hnossa was made welcome: in Fensalir, the Halls of
Mists, where Frigga, the wife of Odin All-Father, sat
spinning with golden threads; in Breidablik, where
Baldur, the Well-Beloved, lived with his
 fair wife, the
young Nanna; in Bilskirnir, the Winding House, where
Thor and Sif lived; and in Odin's own palace
Valaskjalf, that was all roofed over with silver
The greatest of all the palaces was Gladsheim, that was
built by the golden-leaved wood, Glasir. Here the
banquets of the Gods were held. Often little Hnossa
looked within and saw Odin All-Father seated at the
banquet table, with a mantle of blue over him and a
shining helmet shaped like an eagle upon his head. Odin
would sit there, not eating at all, but drinking the
wine of the Gods, and taking the food off the table and
giving it to Geri and Freki, the two wolves that
crouched beside his seat.
She loved to go outside the great gate and stay beside
Heimdall, the Warder of the Rainbow Bridge. There, when
there was no one crossing that she might watch, she
would sit beside Heimdall and listen to the wonders
that he spoke of.
Heimdall held in his hands the horn that was called the
Gialarhorn. He would sound it to let the Dwellers in
Asgard know that one was crossing the Rainbow Bridge.
And Heimdall told little Hnossa how he had trained
himself to hear the grasses grow, and how he could see
all around him for a hundred miles. He could see in the
night as well as the day. He never slept. He had nine
mothers, he told Hnossa, and he fed on the strength of
the earth and the cold sea.
As she sat beside him day after day, Heimdall would
tell little Hnossa how all things began. He had lived
from the beginning of time and he knew all things.
"Before Asgard was built,"
 he said, "and before Odin
lived, earth and sea and sky were all mixed together:
what was then the Chasm of Chasms. In the North there
was Niflheim, the Place of Deadly Cold. In the South
there was Muspelheim, the Land of Fire. In Niflheim
there was a cauldron called Hveigilmer that poured out
twelve rivers that flowed into the Chasm of Chasms.
"Ginnungagap, the Chasm of Chasms, filled up with ice,
for the waters of the rivers froze as they poured into
it. From Muspelheim came clouds of fire that turned the
ice into thick mists. The mists fell down again in
drops of dew, and from these drops were formed Ymir,
the Ancient Giant.
"Ymir, the Ancient Giant, traveled along by the twelve
rivers until he came to where another living form was
standing in the mists. This was a Giant Cow. Audhumla
was the name of that cow. Ymir lay down beside her and
drank her milk, and on the milk she gave him he lived.
Other beings were formed out of the dew that fell to
the ground. They were the Daughters of the Frost, and
Ymir, the Ancient Giant, married one, and their
children were the Giants.
"One day Ymir saw Audhumla breathe upon a cliff of ice
and lick with her tongue the place she breathed on. As
her tongue went over and over the place he saw that a
figure was being formed. It was not like a Giant's
form; it was more shapely and more beautiful. A head
appeared in the cliff and golden hair fell over the
ice. As Ymir looked upon the being that was being
formed he hating him for his beauty.
 "Audhumla, the Giant Cow, went on licking the place
where she had breathed. At last a man completely formed
stepped from the cliff. Ymir, the Ancient Giant, hated
him so much that he would have slain him then and
there. But he knew that if he did this, Audhumla would
feed him no more with her milk.
"Bur was the name of the man who was formed in the ice
cliff, Bur, the first of the heroes. He, too, lived on
the milk of Audhumla. He married a daughter of the
Ancient Giant and he had a son. But Ymir and Ymir's
sons hated Bur, and the time came at last when they
were able to kill him.
"And now there was war between Ymir and Ymir's sons and
the son and son's sons of Bur. Odin was the son of
Bur's son. Odin brought all his brothers together, and
they were able to destroy Ymir and all his
brood—all except one. So huge was Ymir that when
he was slain his blood poured out in such a mighty
flood that his sons were all drowned in it, all except
Bergelmir, who was in a boat with his wife when the
flood came, and who floated away on the flood to the
place that we now call Jötunheim, the Realm of the
"Now Odin and his sons took the body of Ymir—the
vastest body that ever was—and they flung it into
the Chasm of Chasms, filling up all the hollow places
with it. They dug the bones out of the body and they
piled them up as the mountains. They took the teeth out
and they made them into the rocks. They took the hair
of Ymir and they made it into the forests of trees.
They took his eyebrows and formed them into the
where Men now dwell, Midgard. And out of Ymir's hollow
skull they made the sky.
"And Odin and his sons and brothers did more than this.
They took the sparks and the clouds of flame that blew
from Muspelheim, and they made them into the sun and
the moon and all the stars that are in the sky. Odin
found a Dusky Giantess named Night whose son was called
Day, and he gave both of them horses to drive around
the sky. Night drove a horse that is named Hrimfaxe,
Foggy Mane, and Day drove around a horse that is named
Skinfaxe, Shining Mane. From Hrimfaxe's bit fall the
drops that make the dew upon the earth.
"Then Odin and his sons made a race of men and women
and gave them Midgard to live in. Ugly Dwarfs had grown
up and spread themselves over the earth. These Odin
made to go live in the hollow places beneath the earth.
The Elves he let stay on the earth, but he gave them
the tasks of tending the streams and the grasses and
the flowers. And with the Vanir he made peace after a
war had been waged, taking Niörd from them for a
"Bergelmir, the giant who escaped drowning in Ymir's
blood, had sons and daughters in Jötunheim. They
hated Odin and his sons and strove against him. When
Odin lighted up the world with the sun and the moon
they were very wroth, and they found two of the
fiercest of the mighty wolves of Jötunheim and set
them to follow them. And still the sun and the moon,
Sol and Mani, are followed by the wolves of
 Such wonders did Heimdall with the Golden Teeth tell
Hnossa, the youngest of the Dwellers in Asgard. Often
the child stayed with him by the Rainbow Bridge, and
saw the Gods pass to and from Midgard: Thor, with his
crown of stars, with the great hammer Miölnir in
his hands, with the gloves of iron that he used when he
grasped Miölnir; Thor in his chariot drawn by two
goats and wearing the belt that doubled his strength;
Frigga, with her dress of falcon feathers, flying
swiftly as a bird; Odin All-Father himself, riding upon
Sleipner, his eight-legged steed, clad all in golden
armor, with his golden helmet, shaped like an eagle,
upon his head, and with his spear Gungnir in his hand.
Heimdall kept his horn in the branch of a great tree.
This tree was called Ygdrassil, he told little Hnossa,
and it was a wonder to Gods and Men. "No one knows of a
time when Ygdrassil was not growing, and all are afraid
to speak of the time when it will be destroyed.
"Ygdrassil has three roots. One goes deep under
Midgard, another goes deep under Jötunheim, and
the third grows above Asgard. Over Odin's hall a branch
of Ygdrassil grows, and it is called the Peace Bough.
"You see Ygdrassil, little Hnossa, but you do not know
all the wonders of it. Far up in its branches four
stags graze; they shake from their horns the water that
falls as rain upon the earth. On the topmost branch of
Ygdrassil, the branch that is so high that the Gods
themselves can hardly see it, there is an eagle that
knows all things. Upon the beak of this eagle a hawk is
perched, a hawk that sees what the eyes of the eagle
may not see.
 "The root of Ygdrassil that is in Midgard goes deep
down to the place of the dead. Here there is an evil
dragon named Nidhögg that gnaws constantly at the
root, striving to destroy Ygdrassil, the Tree of trees.
And Ratatösk, the Squirrel of
Mischief—behold him now!—runs up and down
Ygdrassil, making trouble between the eagle above and
the dragon below. He goes to tell the dragon how the
eagle is bent upon tearing him to pieces and he goes
back to tell the eagle how the dragon plans to devour
him. The stories that he brings to Nidhögg make
the evil dragon more fierce to destroy Ygdrassil, the
Tree of trees, so that he may come upon the eagle and
"There are two wells by the roots of Ygdrassil, and one
is above and one is below. One is beside the root that
grows in Jötunheim. This is a Well of Knowledge,
and it is guarded by old Mimir the Wise. Whoever drinks
out of this well knows of all the things that will come
to be. The other well is by the root that grows above
Asgard. No one may drink out of this well. The three
sisters that are the holy Norns guard it, and they take
the white water from it to water Ygdrassil, that the
Tree of Life may keep green and strong. This well,
little Hnossa, is called Urda's Well.
And little Hnossa heard that by Urda's Well there were
two beautiful white swans. They made a music that the
Dwellers in Asgard often heard. But Hnossa was too
young to hear the music that was made by the swans of
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