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LOKI—THE IRON WOOD—A BOUNDLESS WASTE
 THE cats champed their bright bits, and skimmed alike
over earth and air with swift, clinging steps, eager
and noiseless. The chariot rolled on, and Freyja was
carried away up and down into every part of the world,
weeping golden tears wherever she went; they fell down
from her pale cheeks, and rippled away behind her in
little sunshiny rivers, that carried beauty and weeping
to every land. She came to the greatest city in the
world, and drove down its wide streets.
"But none of the houses here are good enough for Odur,"
said Freyja to herself; "I will not ask for him at such
doors as these."
 So she went straight on to the palace of the king.
"Is Odur in this palace?" she asked of the gate-keeper.
"Is Odur, the Immortal, living with the king?"
But the gate-keeper shook his head, and assured her
that his master had never even heard of such a person.
"Then Freyja turned away, and knocked at many other
stately doors, asking for Odur; but no one in all that
great city so much as knew her husband's name.
Then Freyja went into the long, narrow lanes and shabby
streets, where the poor people lived, but there it was
all the same; every one said only, "No—not here," and
stared at her.
In the night-time Freyja went quite away from the city,
and the lanes, and the cottages, far off to the side of
a lake, where she lay down and looked over into the
By-and-bye the moon came and looked there too, and the
Queen of Night saw a calm face in the water, serene and
high; but the Queen of Beauty saw a troubled face,
frail and fair.
 Brisingamen was reflected in the water too, and its
rare colours flashed from the little waves. Freyja was
pleased at the sight of her favourite ornament, and
smiled even in the midst of her tears; but as for the
moon, instead of Brisingamen, the deep sky and the
stars were around her.
At last Freyja slept by the side of the lake, and then
a dark shape crept up the bank on which she was lying,
sat down beside her, and took her fair head between its
hands. It was Loki, and he began to whisper into
Freyja's ear as she slept.
"You were quite right, Freyja," he said, "to go out and
try to get something for yourself in Svartheim, instead
of staying at home with your husband. It was very wise
of you to care more for your dress and your beauty than
for Odur. You went down into Svartheim, and found
Brisingamen. Then the Immortal went away; but is not
Brisingamen better then he? Why do you cry, Freyja?
Why do you start so?"
Freyja turned, moaning, and tried to lift her
 head from between his hands; but she could not, and it
seemed in her dream as if a terrible nightmare brooded
"Brisingamen is dragging me down," she cried in her
sleep, and laid her little hand upon the clasp without
knowing what she was doing.
Then a great laugh burst forth in Svartheim, and came
shuddering up through the vaulted caverns until it
shook the ground upon which she lay. Loki started up,
and was gone before Freyja had time to open her eyes.
It was morning, and the young Vana prepared to set out
on her journey.
"Brisingamen is fair," she said, as she bade farewell
to her image in the lake. "Brisingamen is fair; but I
find it heavy sometimes."
After this, Freyja went to many cities, and towns, and
villages, asking everywhere for Odur; but there was not
one in all the world who could tell her where he was
gone, and at last her chariot rolled eastward and
northward to the very borders of Jötunheim. There
Freyja stopped; for before her lay Jarnvid, the Iron
 was one road from earth to the abode of the giants, and
whose tall trees, black and hard, were trying to pull
down the sky with their iron claws. In the entrance
sat an Iron Witch, with her back to the forest and her
face towards the Vana. Jarnvid was full of the sons
and daughters of this Iron Witch; they were wolves, and
bears, and foxes, and many-headed ravenous birds.
"Eastward," croaked a raven as Freyja drew near—
"Eastward in the Iron Wood
The old one sitteth;"
and there she did sit, talking in quarrelsome tones to
her wolf-sons and vulture-daughters, who answered from
the wood behind her, howling, screeching, and screaming
all at the same time. There was a horrible din, and
Freyja began to fear that her low voice would never be
heard. She was obliged to get out of her chariot, and
walk close up to the old witch, so that she might
whisper in her ear.
"Can you tell me, old mother," she said, "where Odur
is? Have you seen him pass this way?"
 "I don't understand one word of what you are saying,"
answered the iron woman; "and if I did, I have no time
to waste in answering foolish questions."
Now, the witch's words struck like daggers into
Freyja's heart, and she was not strong enough to pull
them out again; so she stood there a long time, not
knowing what she should do.
"You had better go," said the crone to her at last;
"there's no use in standing there crying." For this
was the grandmother of strong-minded women, and she
Then Freyja got into her chariot again, and went
westward a long way to the wide, boundless land where
impenetrable forests were growing, and undying nature
reigned in silence. She knew that the silent Vidar was
living there; for, not finding any pleasure in the gay
society of Asgard, he had obtained permission from
Father Odin to retire to this place. "He is one of the
Æsir, and perhaps he will be able to help me,"
said the sad-hearted young Vana, as her chariot rolled
on through empty moor-lands and forests, always in
 Her ear heard no sound, her eye saw no living shape;
but still she went on with a trembling hope till she
came to the spot
"Begrown with branches
And high grass,
Which was Vidar's dwelling."
Vidar was sitting there firm as an oak, and as silent
as night. Long grass grew up through his long hair,
and the branches of trees crossed each other over his
eyes; his ears were covered with moss, and dewdrops
glistened upon his beard.
"It is almost impossible to get to him," sighed Freyja,
"through all these wet leaves, and I am afraid his
moss-covered ears are very deaf." But she threw
herself down on the ground before him, and said, "Tell
me, Vidar, does Odur hide among thick trees? or is he
wandering over the broad west lands?"
Vidar did not answer her—only a pale gleam shot over
his face, as if reflected from that of Freyja, like
sunshine breaking through a wood.
"He does not hear me," said Freyja to herself,
 and she crushed nearer to him through the branches.
"Only tell me, Vidar," she said, "is Odur here?" But
Vidar said nothing, for he had no voice.
Then Freyja hid her face in her lap, and wept bitterly
for a long time. "An Asa," she said, at last, looking
up, "is no better to one than an Iron Witch when one is
really in trouble;" and then she gathered her
disordered dress about her, threw back her long bright
hair, and, springing into her chariot, once again went
wearily on her way.