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THE WOOING OF GERD
REY was busy enough in summer, when the sunlight was to
fall warm and fruitful along the mountain ridges and deep
into the valleys, and the gentle showers were to be gathered
far out at sea and driven by the winds across the heavens,
weaving soft draperies of mist about the hills, or folding
the landscape in with blinding curtains of rain as they
passed; for the sowing and the harvesting and the ripening
of the fruit were his to watch over and care for. But when
winter came, Frey was idle day in and day out, and so it
happened, in this long dull
 season, that he was wandering
restlessly one morning about Asgard, when he saw that Odin's
throne was empty. To sit upon it and look out over the world
was the thought that flashed into Frey's mind and out again,
leaving him more idle and restless than before. Neither man
nor god, save Odin, had dared to sit in that awful seat,
from which nothing was hidden; but when one has nothing to
do, it is easy to do wrong. Frey wandered about a little
longer, and then boldly mounted the steps and sat down on
the throne of the world.
What a wonderful view it was! There lay Asgard beautiful in
the morning light; there were the rolling clouds like great
waves in the clear heaven; there was the world with its
steep mountains and tossing
 seas; and there was Jotunheim,
the home of the giants, gloomy and forbidding,—great black
cliffs standing along the coast like grim sentinels. Frey
looked long and earnestly at this dreary place where the
enemies of the gods lived, hating the sunshine and the
summer, and always plotting to bring back winter and
barrenness to the earth; and as he looked he saw a massive
house standing alone amid the hills. Dark shadows lay across
the gloomy landscape, cold winds swept over the stony
valleys, and not one bright or beautiful thing was visible
in all the country round. In a moment, however, a figure
moved out of the shadows, and a maiden walked slowly to the
desolate house, mounted the steps, paused a moment at the
door, and then raised her arms to loosen
 the latch.
Straightway a wonderful warmth and light stole over the
hills. As she stood with uplifted arms she was so beautiful
that earth and air were flooded with her loveliness, and
even the heavens were radiant. When she opened the door and
closed it behind her the shadows deepened among the hills,
and Frey's heart was fast bound among the rocks of
Jotunheim. He had been punished for sitting in the seat of
For days Frey neither ate, slept, nor spoke. He wandered
about, silent and gloomy as a cloud, and no one dared ask
him why he was so sorrowful. Njord, Frey's father, waited
until he could wait no longer, and then with a heavy heart
sent for Skirner, whom Frey loved as his own brother, and
begged him to find
 the cause of all this sadness.
Skirner came upon Frey walking about with folded arms and
eyes cast gloomily upon the ground.
"Why do you stay here all day alone?" he asked. "Where are
the light and joy that have always been yours?"
"The sun shines every day, but not for me," answered Frey.
"We were children together," said Skirner, laying his hand
on Frey's arm; "we trust each other's truth; tell me your
And Frey told him how he climbed into the seat of Odin and
looked upon Jotunheim and had seen the beautiful maiden like
a sunbeam among shadows, like a sudden coming of summer when
snows are deep, and that he could never be happy again until
he had won her for himself.
 "If that is all, it is easily managed," said Skirner when he
had heard the story. "Give me your swiftest horse that can
ride through fire and flame, and the sword which swings
itself when giants are opposed, and I will go to Jotunheim."
Frey was too glad to get the desire of his heart to delay
about giving up the horse and the sword, and Skirner was
soon mounted and riding like the wind on his dreary journey.
Night came on, the black shadows of the mountains lay across
the fjords as he passed, and one by one the endless
procession of the stars moved along the summits of the hills
as if they would bear him company. All night the hard
hoofs rang on the stony way, scattering showers of sparks at
every step. Faster and faster the daring rider drove the
faithful horse until
 his flight was like the flash and roar
of the thunderbolt.
"Rush on, brave horse," shouted Skirner; "we shall return
with the prize or the mighty giant will keep us both."
At last the long journey was over and the gloomy house
reached. It was the home of the frost-giant Gymer, and the
beautiful maiden who stood at the door when Frey was on
Odin's throne was Gerd, the giant's daughter. Fierce dogs
were chained about the gate and rushed savagely upon
Skirner, barking furiously as if they would tear him limb
from limb. So he turned aside and rode up to a shepherd
sitting on a mound near by.
"Shepherd, how shall I quiet these dogs and speak with
Gymer's daughter?" he asked.
 The shepherd looked at him with wonder in his eyes.
"Who are you," he answered, "and whence do you come? Are you
doomed to die, or are you a ghost already? Whoever you are,
you will never get speech with Gymer's daughter."
"I am not afraid," said Skirner proudly; fate has already
fixed the day of my death, and it cannot be changed."
Skirner's voice rang clear and strong above the howling of
the dogs, and Gerd in her chamber heard the brave words.
"What noise is that?" she called to her maidens. "The very
earth shakes and the foundations tremble."
One of the maidens looked out and saw Skirner.
"A warrior stands without the
 wall," she answered; "and
while he waits, his horse eats the grass before the gates."
"Bid him enter at once and quaff the pleasant mead, for I
fear the slayer of my brother has come."
Skirner needed no second invitation, and, quickly springing
to the ground, walked through the stony halls and stood
before the beautiful Gerd. She looked keenly at him for a
moment and knew from his brightness and beauty that he was
"Are you god, or elf?" she asked; "and why have you come
through night and flame to visit Gymer's halls?"
"I am neither elf nor god," said Skirner; "and yet I have
come to your home through night and flame. Frey, beautiful
among the gods and loved
 of all the earth, has seen your
beauty and can never be happy again until he has won you for
himself. I bring you eleven beautiful apples if you will go
back with me."
"I will not go," was Gerd's quick answer.
"This wonderful ring, which every ninth night drops eight
other rings as rich as itself, shall be yours," said
Skirner, holding Draupner in his hand and gently urging her.
Gerd frowned angrily. "I will not take your wondrous ring. I
have gold enough in my father's house."
"Then," said Skirner, casting aside his gentleness, "look at
this flashing sword! If you will not return I will strike
your fair head from your body."
Gerd drew herself up to her full height and answered, with
flashing eyes, "I will never be won by force.
 As for your
threats, my father will meet you sword for sword."
"I will quickly slay him," said Skirner angrily. But Gerd
only smiled scornfully; she was too cold to be won by gifts
and too proud to be moved by threats.
Skirner's face suddenly changed. He drew out a magic wand,
and with eyes fixed upon her and in a solemn voice, as he
waved it over her, he chanted an awful mystic curse. There
was breathless silence in the room while Skirner with slow
movements of the wand wove about Gerd dread enchantments and
breathed over her the direful incantation:—
"If you refuse, may you sit in everlasting darkness on some
dreary mountain top; may terrors crowd round you in awful
shapes and tears never cease to fall from your
 eyes; hated
of gods and men, may you pass your life in solitude and
" 'T is done! I wind the mystic charm;
Thus, thus I trace the giant form;
And three fell characters below,
Fury, and Lust, and Restless Woe.
E'en as I wound, I straight unwind
This fatal spell, if you are kind."
Skirner stopped, and an awful stillness followed. Gerd,
trembling under the terrible curse, stood quivering with
bowed head and clasped hands. Her pride could not yield, but
something told her that to live with a god was better than
to stay in the home of a frost-giant. A gentle warmth seemed
to steal through and melt her icy coldness. She raised her
face, and it was so softened that they hardly knew her.
 "I greet you," she said, "with this brimming cup of mead,
but I did not think that I should ever love a god."
When Skirner pressed her to go back with him, she promised
to meet Frey nine days hence and become his bride in the
groves of Bar-isle.
Skirner was soon mounted and riding homeward as fast as his
horse could carry him. He was so happy in the thought of
Frey's happiness that the distance seemed short, and as he
drew near he saw Frey standing before his father's halls,
looking anxiously for his coming.
"She is yours!" he shouted, urging his horse into swifter
"When?" said Frey eagerly.
"Nine days hence, in the groves of Bar-isle," joyfully
replied Skirner, who expected to be loaded with
Frey, however, was so eager that he forgot what night and
flame his friend had ridden through for love of him.
"One day is long; long, indeed, are two. How shall I wait
for three?" was all the thanks Skirner got.
The days that followed were long enough for Frey; but even
the longest day comes to an end, and at last the ninth day
came. Never sun shone so brightly or south wind blew so
musically as on the morning when at Bar-isle, under the
branches of the great trees, Frey found the beautiful Gerd
waiting for his coming, far lovelier than when she stood
before her father's door. And the whole earth was happy in
them, for while they stood with clasped hands the skies grew
soft, the trees put on
 a tender green, the flowers blossomed
along the mountain side, the ripening grain swayed in the
fields, and summer lay warm and fragrant over the land.