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seen it myself, I should never have believed it. For one end of that horn reached the sea, which thou wast not aware of, but when thou comest to the shore thou wilt perceive how much the sea has sunk by thy draughts. Thou didst perform a feat no less wonderful by lifting up the cat, and to tell thee the truth, when we saw that one of his paws was off the floor, we were all of us terror-stricken, for what thou tookest for a cat was in reality the Midgard serpent that encompasseth the earth, and he was so stretched by thee, that he was barely long enough to enclose it between his head and tail. Thy wrestling with Elli was also a most astonishing feat, for there was never yet a man, nor ever will be, whom Old Age, for such in fact was Elli, will not sooner or later lay low. But now, as we are going to part, let me tell thee that it will be better for both of us if thou never come near me again, for shouldst thou do so, I shall again defend myself by other illusions, so that thou wilt only lose thy labor and get no fame from the contest with me.”
On hearing these words Thor in a rage laid hold of his mallet and would have launched it at him, but Utgard-Loki had disappeared, and when Thor would have returned to the city to destroy it, he found nothing around him but a verdant plain.
$ 181. The Sword of Freyr. — Freyr also possessed a wonderful weapon, a sword which would of itself spread a field with carnage whenever the owner desired it. Freyr parted with this sword, but was less fortunate than Thor and never recovered it. It happened in this way: Freyr once mounted Odin's throne, from whence one can see over the whole universe, and looking round saw far off in the giant's kingdom a beautiful maid, at the sight of whom he was struck with sudden sadness, insomuch that from that moment he could neither sleep, nor drink, nor speak, At last Skirnir, his messenger, drew his secret from him, and undertook to get him the maiden for his bride, if he would give him his sword as a reward. Freyr consented and gave him the sword, and Skirnir set off on his journey and obtained the maiden's promise that within nine nights she would come to a
certain place and there wed Freyr. Skirnir having reported the success of his errand, Freyr exclaimed,
“ Long is one night,
So Freyr obtained Gerda, the most beautiful of all women, for his wife, but he lost his sword.
$ 182. The Death of Balder. — Balder the Good, having been tormented with terrible dreams indicating that his life was in peril, told them to the assembled gods, who resolved to conjure all things to avert from him the threatened danger. Then Frigga, the wife of Odin, exacted an oath from fire and water, from iron and all other metals, from stones, trees, diseases, beasts, birds, poisons, and creeping things, that none of them would do any harm to Balder. Odin, not satisfied with all this, and feeling alarmed for the fate of his son, determined to consult the prophetess Angerbode, a giantess, mother of Fenris, Hela, and the Midgard Serpent. She was dead, and Odin was forced to seek her in Hela's dominions.
But the other gods, feeling that what Frigga had done was quite sufficient, amused themselves with using Balder as a mark, some hurling darts at him, some stones, while others hewed at him with their swords and battle-axes; for do what they would none of them could harm him. And this became a favorite pastime with them and was regarded as an honor shown to Balder. But when Loki beheld the scene he was sorely vexed that Balder was not hurt. Assuming, therefore, the shape of a woman, he went to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga. That goddess, when she saw the pretended woman, inquired of her if she knew what the gods were doing at their meetings. She replied that they were throwing darts and stones at Balder, without being able to hurt him. “Ay,” said Frigga, “neither stones, nor sticks, nor anything else can hurt Balder, for I have exacted an oath from all of them.” “What,” exclaimed the woman,“ have all things sworn to spare Balder?" “All things," replied Frigga, “except one little shrub that grows on the eastern side of Valhalla, and is called Mistletoe, and which I thought too young and feeble to crave an oath from."
As soon as Loki heard this he went away, and resuming his - natural shape, cut off the mistletoe, and repaired to the place
where the gods were assembled. There he found Höder standing apart, without partaking of the sports, on account of his blindness, and going up to him, said, “Why dost thou not also throw something at Balder?”
“Because I am blind,” answered Höder, “and see not where Balder is, and have moreover nothing to throw.”
“Come, then,” said Loki, “ do like the rest, and show honor to Balder by throwing this twig at him, and I will direct thy arm toward the place where he stands."
Höder then took the mistletoe, and under the guidance of Loki, darted it at Balder, who, pierced through and through, fell down lifeless. Never was there witnessed, either among gods or men, a more atrocious deed.
So on the floor lay Balder dead; and round 1
i From Matthew Arnold's " Balder Dead."
He bade them not to spend themselves in unavailing grief, for Balder, though the brightest god of heaven, and best beloved, had but met the doom ordained at his birth by the Norns. Rather let the funeral pile be prepared, and let vengeance on Loki be left to Odin himself. So speaking Odin mounted his horse Sleipnir and rode away to Lidskialf; and the gods in Valhalla returned to the east :
And before each the cooks, who served them, placed
But the blind Höder, leaving the gods, went by the sea to Fensalir, the house of Frigga, mother of the gods, to ask her what way there might be of restoring Balder to life and heaven. Might Hela perchance surrender Balder, if Höder himself should take his place among the shades? “Nay,” replied Frigga, “no way is there but one, that the first god thou meetest on the return to Asgard, take Sleipnir, Odin's horse, and ride o'er the bridge Bifrost where is Heimdall's watch, past Midgard fortress, down the dark unknown road to Hel, and there entreat the goddess Hela that she yield Balder back to heaven." Höder returning cityward met Hermod, swiftest of the gods, –
Nor yet could Hermod see his brother's face,
“Take Sleipnir, Hermod, and set forth with dawn
He spake, and brushed soft by and disappeared.
And Hermod gazed into the night, and said:
“Who is it utters through the dark his hest
So speaking, the fleet-footed Hermod came
But from the hill of Lidskialf Odin rose,
That night in a vision appeared Balder to Nanna his wife, comforting her :
“Yes, and I fain would altogether ward