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THE WONDERFUL GIFTS
Adapted by Anna Mccaleb
^■p^pf^iP in cold, northern Europe lived a "people who were known as the Norse
men. They believed that there were many gods, all of them very powerful and very wise, and most of them very good. However, there was one god, named Loki, who was full of mischief, and who was always getting himself and the other gods into trouble.
Thor, the great, good-natured thunder-god, was very proud of his strength and of the way people loved him; but most of all, he was proud of his wife, Sif, and of her beautiful hair. He would never let her twist her hair up into a knot—she always wore it loose or braided into one great golden-yellow braid, so that he could see it all at once.
One day when Thor was away from his palace, managing a thunderstorm, Sif lay down to take a nap. Her hair fell down over the side of the couch and attracted the notice of Loki, who was sneaking past looking into all the windows. Very quietly he stole into the room, very quietly he drew out a sharp knife and cut off all of Sif's golden hair. Then he stole out again, chuckling to himself. When Sif wakened and sat up, her head felt strange and light; and when she put up her hand to find out what was wrong, she discovered that her head was all soft and downy, just like a little chicken. She cried and cried, for she could not bear to think of what Thor would say when he came home; and when she really heard him coming, she ran and hid herself behind a pillar.
Always before she had met her husband at the door, and he was frightened when he came into the palace and did not see her.
"Sif! Sif!" he called, but there was no answer. When at last he heard some one crying, he went and looked behind the pillar where the crying seemed to come from, and there was poor Sif, trying to hide her fuzzy head with her hands. Although Thor was a good-natured god, he could get angry, and this was one of the times when he did so.
"That wicked thief of a Loki has done this," he cried, and at once he hurried after the mischiefmaker to punish him. It took him some time to discover him, but when he did, his wrath was terrible to see.
"You sneaking thief," he cried, "I'll teach you to come into my palace and steal my chief treasure. If you don't put Sif's hair back on her head at once, I'll choke you to death."
"Please, please," gasped Loki, scarcely able to speak with Thor's great hand gripping his throat, "let me go. You know it isn't possible to make the hair grow again; and besides, I scattered it all over the earth, and I could never find it."
"Very well, then," answered Thor. "You will have to get some more hair for Sif, and that right soon, or your life will be worthless." And away he strode, not waiting for Loki to make any excuse.
This was really not such an impossible task for Loki. He knew well where the black dwarfs lived, and he knew, too, that the making of a head of golden hair would not be at all hard for them. Down to their blacksmith shop, far underground, he went, and a gloomy place it was, to be sure. But in this gloomy place there were heaps and heaps of gold and silver and diamonds and rubies and emeralds; for all the precious things hidden in the earth belonged to the ugly little black dwarfs.
When they heard what Loki wanted, they brought some of their finest, softest gold, which they quickly drew out into long, fine threads, as fine as the hair Loki had stolen from Sif. After making a great, great number of these threads, they wove them into a thick braid, and gave this to Loki.
"When this is placed near Sif's head," they explained, "it will begin to grow just like real hair, but it will always be gold."
"And now," said Loki, "can't you make me a present for Odin, the king of gods, and for Frey, the god of the sunshine, so that they may not be angry with me?"
Again the dwarfs set to work, and soon they handed to Loki the two gifts. These were a spear, called Gungnir, and a ship, called Skidbladnir, and most wonderful gifts they were.
"If you shut your eyes and just throw the spear, without taking aim at all," said the dwarfs, "it always will hit whatever you want it to; it cannot fail. And the ship, though it is now so small that you can put it into your pocket, can be made large enough to hold all the gods; and besides that, it always will sail off in the right direction, no matter which way the wind may be blowing."
Loki was a great boaster, and now that he had something really worth boasting about, he stopped every one he met and said:
"I have here the most wonderful things that ever were made or ever will be made."
At last the dwarf Brock, who belonged to a different family from those dwarfs who had helped Loki, heard his speech and cried out:
"I don't care what you have, or who made it; it's not as wonderful as the things my brother Sindri can make. He's the finest workman in all the world."
"I'll bet my head against your head," said Loki, laughing, "that he can't make anything to equal what I have here."
"Wait and see," said Brock, and off he hurried to
his brother's smithy, which was underground, like that of the other dwarfs.
Sindri wasn't at all frightened when he heard Brock's story; he knew what he could do. But he didn't go about it in the way most blacksmiths would have done. First, he took a pig's skin and laid it on his great fire.
"Now," he said to Brock, "you blow the bellows until I come back. Don't stop, no matter what happens, or everything will be spoiled." And away he went.
Now Loki, although he had been so sure, did not intend to take any chances. Therefore, he changed himself into a great gadfly and came buzzing into the smithy. Around and around he flew, and at last he settled on Brock's hand. The pain was very bad, and the poor little dwarf gritted his teeth; but he never stopped working the bellows. The harder the gadfly stung, the harder he blew, and Sindri, when he returned, said:
"You're a brave brother. Now let's see what we have;" and he drew from the fire a shining golden boar, named Gullin-bursti, which means Goldbristle.
Brock was a little disappointed, but he said nothing ; and when Sindri had thrown into the fire a lump of fine gold, Brock seized the bellows and began to blow—blow—blow. Again the gadfly came, and this time it settled on Brock's neck. The pain was worse than before, and Brock could not keep from crying out; but still he gritted his teeth and kept his hold on the bellows.
This time Sindri, when he returned, took out a beautiful gold ring, made like a serpent with its tail