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 UPON a summer's afternoon it happened that Baldur the Bright
and Bold, beloved of men and Æsir, found himself alone
in his palace of Broadblink. Thor was walking low down
among the valleys, his brow heavy with summer heat;
Frey and Gerda sported on still waters in their
cloud-leaf ship; Odin, for once, slept on the top of
Air Throne; a noon-day stillness pervaded the whole
earth; and Baldur in Broadblink, the wide-glancing most
sunlit of palaces, dreamed a dream.
 Now the dream of Baldur was troubled. He knew not
whence nor why, but when he awoke he found that a most
new and weighty care was within him. It was so heavy
that Baldur could scarcely carry it, and yet he pressed
it closely to his heart, and said, "Lie there, and do
not fall on any one but me." Then he rose up, and
walked out from the expanded splendour of his hall,
that he might seek his own mother, Frigga, and tell her
what had happened to him. He found her in her crystal
saloon, calm and kind, waiting to listen, and ready to
sympathise; so he walked up to her, his hands pressed
closely on his heart, and lay down at her feet sighing.
"What is the matter, dear Baldur?" asked Frigga,
"I do not know, mother," answered he. "I do not know
what the matter is; but I have a shadow in my heart."
"Take it out, then, my son, and let me look at it,"
"But I fear, mother, that if I do it will cover the
 Then Frigga laid her hand upon the heart of her son
that she might feel the shadow's shape. Her brow
became clouded as she felt it; her parted lips grew
pale, and she cried out, "Oh! Baldur, my beloved son!
The shadow is the shadow of death!"
Then said Baldur, "I will die bravely, my mother."
But Frigga answered, "You shall not die at all; for I
will not sleep to-night until everything on earth has
sworn to me that it will neither kill nor harm you."
So Frigga stood up, and called to her everything on
earth that had power to hurt or slay. First she called
all metals to her; and heavy iron-ore came lumbering up
the hill into the crystal hall, brass and gold, copper,
silver, lead, and steel, and stood before the Queen,
who lifted her right-hand high in the air, saying,
"Swear to me that you will not injure Baldur;" and they
all swore, and went. Then she called to her all
stones; and huge granite came with crumbling
sand-stone, and white lime, and the round, smooth
stones of the
 sea-shore, and Frigga raised her arm, saying "Swear
that you will not injure Baldur;" and they swore, and
went. Then Frigga called to her the trees; and
wide-spreading oak-trees, with tall ash and sombre firs
came rushing up the hill, with long branches, from
which green leaves like flags were waving, and Frigga
raised her hand, and said, "Swear that you will not
hurt Baldur;" and they said, "We swear," and went.
After this Frigga called to her the diseases, who came
blown thitherward by poisonous winds on wings of pain,
and to the sound of moaning. Frigga said to them,
"Swear:" and they sighed, "We swear," then flew away.
Then Frigga called to her all beasts, birds, and
venomous snakes, who came to her and swore, and
disappeared. After this she stretched out her hand to
Baldur, whilst a smile spread over her face, saying,
"And now, my son, you cannot die."
But just then Odin came in, and when he had heard from
Frigga the whole story, he looked even more mournful
than she had done; neither did the cloud pass form his
face when he was told of the oaths that had been taken.
 "Why do you still look so grave, my lord?" demanded
Frigg, at last. "Baldur cannot now die."
But Odin asked very gravely, "Is the shadow gone out of
our son's heart, or is it still there?"
"It cannot be there," said Frigg, turning away her head
resolutely, and folding her hands before her.
But Odin looked at Baldur, and saw how it was. The
hands pressed to the heavy heart, the beautiful brow
grown dim. Then immediately he arose, saddled
Sleipnir, his eight-footed steed, mounted him, and,
turning to Frigga, said, "I know of a dead Vala,
who, when she was alive, could tell what was going to
happen; her grave lies on the east side of Helheim, and
I am going there to awake her, and ask whether any
terrible grief is really coming upon us."
So saying Odin shook the bridle in his hand, and the
Eight-footed, with a bound, leapt forth, rushed like a
whirlwind down the mountain of Asgard, and then dashed
into a narrow defile between rocks.
 Sleipnir went on through the defile a long way, until
he came to a place where the earth opened her mouth.
There Odin rode in and down a broad, steep, slanting
road which led him to the cavern Gnipa, and the mouth
of the cavern Gnipa yawned upon Niflheim. Then thought
Odin to himself, "My journey is already done." But
just as Sleipnir was about to leap through the jaws of
the pit, Garm, the voracious dog who was chained to the
rock, sprang forward, and tried to fasten himself upon
Odin. Three times Odin shook him off, and still Garm,
as fierce as ever, went on with the fight. At last
Sleipnir leapt, and Odin thrust just at the same
moment; then horse and rider cleared the entrance, and
turned eastward toward the dead Vala's grave, dripping
blood along the road as they went; while the beaten
Garm stood baying in the cavern's mouth.
When Odin came to the grave he got off his horse, and
stood with his face northwards looking through barred
enclosures into the city of Helheim itself. The
servants of Hela were very busy there
 making preparations for some new guest—hanging gilded
couches with curtains of anguish and splendid misery
upon the walls. Then Odin's heart died within him and
he began to repeat mournful runes in a low tone to
The dead Vala turned heavily in her grave at the sound
of his voice, and, as he went on, sat bolt upright.
"What man is this," she asked, "who dares disturb my
Then Odin, for the first time in his life, said what
was not true; the shadow of Baldur dead fell upon his
lips, and he made answer, "My name is Vegtam, the son
"And what do you want from me?" asked the Vala.
"I want to know," replied Odin, "for whom Hela is
making ready that gilded couch in Helheim?"
"That is for Baldur the Beloved," answered the dead
Vala. "Now go away, and let me sleep again, for my
eyes are heavy."
But Odin said, "Only one word more. Is Baldur going to
 "Yes, I've told you that he is," answered the Vala.
"Will he never come back to Asgard again?"
"If everything on earth should weep for him," answered
she, "he will go back; if not, he will remain in
Then Odin covered his face with his hands, and looked
"Do go away," said the Vala, "I'm so sleepy; I cannot
keep my eyes open any longer."
But Odin raised his head, and said again, "Only tell me
this one thing. Just now, as I looked into darkness,
it seemed to me as if I saw one on earth who would not
weep for Baldur. Who was it?"
At this the Vala grew very angry and said, "How couldst
thou see in darkness? I know of only one who,
by giving away his eye, gained light. No Vegtam art
thou, but Odin, chief of men."
At her angry words Odin became angry too, and called
out as loudly as ever he could, "No Vala art thou, nor
wise woman, but rather the mother of three giants."
 "Go, go!" answered the Vala, falling back in her grave;
"no man shall waken me again until Loki have burst his
chains and Ragnarök be come." After this Odin mounted
the Eight-footed once more, and rode thoughtfully