« PreviousContinue »
the bridge the noise of the horse's feet, that it was no shade who was crossing; but when Hermod told his errand, he was allowed to go on. And now his way led over trackless, slippery ice, on which scarce any other horse could have kept his footing; and surely no other horse could have leapt, as did Sleipnir, the gate to Hela's own realm. Once within, Hermod came rapidly into the presence of the queen, and on his knees before her implored her to allow Balder to return to the light and the upper air. “ 'For Heaven was Balder born, the city of gods
And heroes, where they live in light and joy.
Thither restore him, for his place is there!'” Hela remained unmoved by his pleadings; and what wonder? For she was Loki's daughter, and knew by whose act Balder had been sent below. Finally she said:
“Hermod, I shall try whether the protestations that all things lament Balder are indeed true. Return to Asgard; and if, through all the earth, all things, living and dead, weep for Balder, he shall return. But if one thing in all the world refuses to shed tears, here he shall stay."
Cheered by this promise, Hermod turned to depart, but before he left he talked with Balder and with Nanna, his wife. They told him that all honor which could be paid to any one in the realms of the dead was paid to them; that Balder was made the judge in disputes between the shades. But despite that, the days were weary, hopeless; no joy was there, nothing substantial—just days and nights of unvarying twilight, with never a gleam of
real brightness. Nor would Balder admit that there was cause for rejoicing in the promise of Hela. “Well we know the family of Loki. Were there not some trick, Hela would never have spoken that word.”
Nevertheless, it was with a heart lighter than at his coming that Hermod set out on his return journey. And when he reached Asgard there was rejoicing among the gods. For the first time since Balder's death, there were the sounds of cheerful hurryings to and fro and of gods calling each to each as they set out upon their tasks; for all the gods wanted a part in the work of bringing Balder back to life.
In twos and threes they rode throughout all the world, and soon “all that lived, and all without life, wept.” Trees, stones, flowers, metals joined willingly in grief for Balder the beautiful; and most of the gods speedily returned in joy. But Hermod, as he rode, came to the mouth of a dark cave where sat an old hag named Thok. Years long she had sat there, and the gods knew her well, for she always cried out mockingly to all who passed by; but Hermod could not know that to-day Loki had changed forms with the old hag, and that it was really that enemy of the gods who sat before him. Dismounting, he besought the old woman to weep for Balder, as all things in heaven and earth had promised to do. But in a shrill voice she cried:
“With dry tears will Thok weep for Balder. Let Hela keep her prey.”
And as she fled, with harsh laughter, to the cave's depth, Hermod knew that it was Loki who had this second time stolen life from Balder.
things in het woman
sed to do
Sadly he rode back to Asgard, and in silent grief the gods heard his tale; for they knew that brightness was gone forever from the abode of the godsthat Balder the beautiful should return no more.
This story of Balder is one of those myths which were invented to explain natural happenings. The ancient peoples, knowing nothing about science, could not account for such things as the rising and setting of the sun and the change from summer to winter; and they made up explanations which in time grew into interesting stories.
Some students believe that in this story the death of Balder (the sun) by the hand of Hoder (darkness) represents the going down of the sun at each day's close.
Another explanation, and a more probable one, is that the death of Balder represents the close of the short northern summer and the coming on of the long winter. That is, the dreary winter, with its darkness, is represented by Hoder, who had strength, but could not make use of it to aid men or gods; who could, however, with his blind strength, slay Balder, who stood for the blessed, life-giving qualities of the summer sun.
Loki represented fire. He had in him elements of good, but because of the fact that he had used his power often to harm, as does fire, instead of to bless, he was feared and hated and avoided; and thus he became jealous of Balder.
For a myth which the Greeks and Romans invented about the sun, see the story of Phaethon, on page 206 of this volume.
THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI
Adapted by Anna McCALEB
the gods, the thought of violence could bring nothing but pain.
One day the sea-god Aegir sent to the dwellers in Asgard an invitation to a banquet in his sea caverns, and all accepted except Thor, who had business that called him elsewhere. On the appointed
morning they appeared at Aegir's palace, and while at first they forced themselves to smile and appear cheerful, in compliment to their host, they soon found themselves, because of the novelty of all about them, becoming genuinely interested. The palace was of coral, pink and white-rough on the outside, but smooth and polished within; and the floors were strewn with sand so fine and white that it looked like marble. Draperies of bright-colored seaweed hung everywhere, and the gay sea flowers met their eyes at every turn, while the dishes and cups in which the feast was served were the most delicate pearl-tinted shells. Strange opal lights filtered through the water and into the banqueting hall, and great whales and sea snakes looked in through the windows on the gods as they sat at table.
All was cheerfulness and merriment, but suddenly the gods felt a chill come over them, as if a wind from Hela's ice-bound realm had rushed past. Turning, they saw Loki on the threshold. With a muttered excuse for his lateness he slipped into his seat; and then, since none except his host greeted him, and since the merry talk was not resumed, he glanced about the table and said:
“Pretty manners are these! Does no one pledge me in wine? Does no one have a word for me?”
Painfully the gods forced themselves to take up their conversation, though all avoided talking directly to Loki, whose expression became more lowering every moment. At length Odin turned to his host.
“This servant, Funfeng, is deft and skilful. Even in my palace I have not his superior.”