THROUGH FLOOD AND FIRE
 AT length, Baldur and Bragi returned with the answer of
the Norns, couched in mystic words, which Odin alone
could understand. It revealed Loki's treacherous
conduct to the Æsir, and declared that Idūn could only
be brought back by Loki, who must go in search of her,
clothed in Freyja's garments of falcon feathers.
Loki was very unwilling to venture on such a search;
but Thor threatened him with instant death if he
refused to obey Odin's commands, or failed to bring
back Idūna; and, for his own safety he was obliged to
allow Freyja to fasten the falcon wings to his
shoulders, and to set off towards
 Thiassi's castle in Jötunheim, where he well knew that
Idūna was imprisoned.
It was called a castle; but it was, in reality, a
hollow in a dark rock; the sea broke against two sides
of it; and, above, the sea-birds clamoured day and
There the giant had taken Idūna on the night on which
she had left her grove; and, fearing lest Odin should
spy her from Air Throne, he had shut her up in a gloomy
chamber, and strictly forbidden her ever to come out.
It was hard to be shut up from the fresh air and
sunshine; and yet, perhaps, it was safer for Idūn than
if she had been allowed to wander about Jötunheim, and
see the monstrous sights that would have met her there.
She saw nothing but Thiassi himself and his servants,
whom he had commanded to attend upon her; and they,
being curious to see a stranger from a distant land,
came in and out many times every day.
They were fair, Idūna saw—fair and smiling; and, at
first, it relieved her to see such pleasant
 faces round her, when she had expected something
"Pity me!" she used to say to them; "pity me! I have
been torn away from my home and my husband, and I see
no hope of ever getting back." And she looked
earnestly at them; but their pleasant faces never
changed, and there was always—however bitterly Idūn
might be weeping—the same smile on their lips.
At length Idūna, looking more narrowly at them, saw,
when they turned their backs to her, that they were
hollow behind; they were, in truth, Ellewomen, who have
no hearts, and can never pity any one.
After Idūna saw this she looked no more at their
smiling faces, but turned away her head and wept
silently. It is very sad to live among Ellewomen when
one is in trouble.
Every day the giant came and thundered at Idūna's door.
"Have you made up your mind yet," he used to say, "to
give me the apples? Something dreadful will happen to
you if you take much longer to think of it." Idūna
 very much every day, but still she had strength to say,
"No;" for she knew that the most dreadful thing
would be for her to give to a wicked giant the gifts
that had been entrusted to her for the use of the Æsir.
The giant would have taken the apples by force if he
could; but, whenever he put his hand into the casket,
the fruit slipped from beneath his fingers, shrivelled
into the size of a pea, and hid itself in crevices of
the casket where his great fingers could not come—only
when Idūna's little white hand touched it, it swelled
again to its own size, and this she would never do
while the giant was with her. So the days passed on,
and Idūna would have died of grief among the smiling
Ellewomen if it had not been for the moaning sound of
the sea and the wild cry of the birds; "for, however
others may smile, these pity me," she used to say, and
it was like music to her.
One morning when she knew that the giant had gone out,
and when the Ellewomen had left her alone, she stood
for a long time at her window by the sea, watching the
mermaids floating up
 and down on the waves, and looking at heaven with their
sad blue eyes. She knew that they were mourning
because they had no souls, and she thought within
herself that even in prison it was better to belong to
the Æsir than to be a mermaid or an Ellewoman, were
they ever so free or happy.
While she was still occupied with these thoughts she
heard her name spoken, and a bird with large wings flew
in at the window, and, smoothing its feathers, stood
upright before her. It was Loki in Freyja's garment of
feathers, and he made her understand in a moment that
he had come to set her free, and that there was no time
to lose. He told her to conceal her casket carefully
in her bosom, and then he said a few words over her,
and she found herself changed into a sparrow, with the
casket fastened among the feathers of her breast.
Then Loki spread his wings once more, and flew out of
the window, and Idūna followed him. The sea-wind blew
cold and rough, and her little wings fluttered with
fear; but she struck them
 bravely out into the air and flew like an arrow over
"This way lies Asgard," cried Loki, and the word gave
her strength. But they had not gone far when a sound
was heard above the sea, and the wind, and the call of
the sea-birds. Thiassi had put on his eagle plumage,
and was flying after them. For five days and five
nights the three flew over the water that divides
Jötunheim from Asgard, and, at the end of every day,
they were closer together, for the giant was gaining on
the other two.
All the five days the dwellers in Asgard stood on the
walls of the city watching. On the sixth evening they
saw a falcon and a sparrow, closely pursued by an
eagle, flying towards Asgard.
"There will not be time," said Bragi, who had been
calculating the speed at which they flew. "The eagle
will reach them before they can get into the city."
But Odin desired a fire to be lighted upon the walls;
and Thor and Tyr, with what strength remained to them,
tore up the trees from the
 groves and gardens, and made a rampart of fire all
round the city. The light of the fire showed Idūna her
husband and her friends waiting for her. She made one
last effort, and, rising high up in the air above the
flames and smoke, she passed the walls, and dropped
down safely at the foot of Odin's throne. The giant
tried to follow; but, wearied with his long flight, he
was unable to raise his enormous bulk sufficiently high
in the air. The flames scorched his wings as he flew
through them, and he fell among the flaming piles of
wood, and was burnt to death.
How Idūn feasted the Æsir on her apples, how they grew
young and beautiful again, and how spring, and green
leaves, and music came back to the grove, I must leave
you to imagine, for I have made my story long enough
already; and if I say any more you will fancy that it
is Bragi who has come among you, and that he has
entered on his endless story.
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