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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

 

The Claiming of Gerd

Frey sent his servant Skirnir to Jotunheim to woo the beautiful Gerd for him,
and at last extracted a promise that she would meet him after nine nights in Barri’s grove.

Skirnir spoke:
Why long of face, oh Lord of Elves?
Your eye less bliss than bale bespeaks.
No lover ought to look so down;
To Barri’s grove did Gerd not come?

Frey spoke:
To Barri’s grove Gerd did not come,
Though sword and steed you stole from me,
Boasting your cunning my bride would win.
False were you, and foolish I.

Skirnir spoke:
None of the Ćsir, none of the Asynjur
Has ever said such ill of me.
The maid I wooed; her word I had;
If she came not, I know not why.

As Skirnir was speaking, Skadi drew near,
Came from hunting, carrying her skis.

Skadi spoke:
Be quiet Frey; you’re quick to blame.
Skirnir deserves not scorn, but thanks.

Of Jotun-kind I’m kin to all,
And thus I know their natures well,
And mountain Jotun make but rarely
The mildest sort of mother-in-law.

In years gone by this Jotun old,
Aurboda, Gerd’s mother, made this boast,
That none was her equal, Ćsir or Vane,
In any game of guile or strength.

Doubtless she scorns her daughter’s choice,
A lover who woos with words, not deeds,
And will not let her leave the hall;
Best the mother; the maid to win.

Frey spoke:
Little I fear her father’s might;
Surely the woman is weaker than he.

Skadi spoke:
Your words are foolish; hear wisdom now.
Your life depends on luck and craft.

From earth’s first youth this Jotun crone,
In malice old, of many the bane,
Will try your strength with tricks undreamed.
So be forewarned; use wit and guile.

And listen further; fare to her,
And as you travel, take with you
All you meet, both man and god;
One never knows what need will be.

Frey heeded Skadi’s words, and climbed into his boat,
a marvelous work of the Dwarves that could sail equally over land or water, and set out for Jotunheim.
Presently he came upon Thor, and Thialfi was with him.

Frey spoke:
Whence are you bound, Ruddy Beard now,
Grim with your hammer, gauntlets and belt?

Thor spoke:
To Jotunheim, and hurry I must;
I have no time to talk to you.

Frey spoke:
Board my boat, I’m bound your way.
Thor climbed aboard, Thialfi followed,
And on they flew, o’er field and wood,
Till bright above stood Bifrost’s arch.

Frey spoke:
Hearken to me, Heimdal, son
Of mothers nine, nursling of waves,
Ears I need, that all can hear;
Eyes I want; wide is your gaze.

Lay down your horn, Heimdal the white,
Or Gerd, my love, is lost to me.
Climb into my boat, and come with us.
I’ll bring you back before the night.

Heimdal spoke:
Sail me first to Freya’s hall;
A certain fly is flitting about
Window and door, wanting inside.
I little like the look of it.

So Heimdal climbed in; quickly he flew
To Sessrúmnir and sought out the fly,
Pinning it down with the point of his spear.
Little he doubted Loki he’d find.

And Loki in fact they found that it was,
When back in his skin he bounded to earth,
Ready to flee, or fight if need be,
But laughter instead heard Laufey’s son.

Frey spoke:
“Welcome, Loki, lucky I am,
For craft is needed, quickness of mind.
Climb into my boat, and come with us,
Or Gerd, my love, is lost to me.”

So cunning Loki clambered aboard,
And on they flew o’er fell and vale,
Until below a brightness they saw,
And wondering, flew to find the source.

There Baldr stood before the door,
Of Breidablik his beautiful hall.
And from his brow there blazed a light
With beam as bright as Bifrost’s glow.

Frey spoke:
“Climb into my boat and come with us,
Or Gerd, my love is lost to me.”
Baldr looked up, then bounded within,
And on they flew o’er fell and vale,

O’er ridge and mountain, massive and steep,
Where gales blow cold from glacial fields.
There Ullr they found, faring through drifts,
And on his back a bow of yew.

Frey spoke:
“Climb into my boat, and come with us,
Or Gerd, my love, is lost to me.”
So Ullr the archer entered the boat,
And on they flew o’er fell and vale.

Far to the east they flew, and came
To járnvid deep in Jotunheim,
And came to ground at Gymir’s hall,
But not a glimpse of Gerd they saw.

Aurboda stood beside the door,
And greeted them, though grim her look.

Frey spoke:
“Greetings, Mother; many the leagues
We’ve flown across to find you here.”

Aurboda spoke:
“Some other you want; she waits inside,
Gymir’s daughter, Gerd the fair.
Too young are you for a Jotun’s groom.
The Vanir are weak, unworthy as kin.

Frey spoke:
“Younger than you, and yet we’ll dare
Whatever test you try us with.”

Aurboda spoke:
Thor I see, for thirst well known;
Him I dare to drink with me.”

“Two streams I know that start nearby.
He and I will each take one,
And each will drink one dry, and see
Which will reach the river first.”

The crone drank fast, but quick as she was,
Thor was quicker; thirst unquenched,
Drained his stream, then drank the river
Till he could taste the tide flow’s salt.

Aurboda spoke:
“I grant you won this once, but know,
Another test I’ll try you with,
Nor will you fare so well this time--
None at eating can equal me.”

Loki this time took up the dare,
Which could eat more oxen first.
The crone ate fast, but quick as she was
Loki ate faster, left not a scrap--

Ten he ate for two of hers,
Hooves and hide, horns as well,
Till Gymir in haste from the hall ran out,
To save from Loki the last of his herd.

Loki spoke:
“These beasts are little, lemming-like;
My hunger is whetted hardly at all.
Gymir, for shame; you grudge each bite.
A better host I’d hoped to find.”

“And worse your drink; water you gave,
Not good brown beer, or better, mead.
If I was Thor, one throw would split
Your ugly heads like hollow shells.”

Gymir spoke:
“Aurboda’s guests, not Gymir’s you are;
You may be sure, she will serve up,
Some dish so choice you’ll choke on it.
So look to her; I’m leaving now.”

Aurboda spoke:
“Who is fleet of foot enough,
To run with me round Midgard’s verge
And then be back before the sun
Has set her heel in herring’s home?”

Thialfi spoke, sprang quickly up:
“Why are we wasting words like this;
I’m ready now to run with you.
Catch me, crone, or quiet be.

Wind-fast of foot the crone,
But faster the one who went before.
Thialfi soon from sight was gone.
Long was the wait; low dropped the sun.

Long they ran, and longer still,
Until Thialfi thought himself
Too close to home to hurry much.
So down he lay-- a little rest.

An hour sped by, Aurboda came,
And found him fallen fast asleep.
Stopping, she thrust a sleep-thorn deep
Between his ribs, and raced away.

Heimdal spoke:
“Thialfi at first I thought ahead;
The crone now runs the race alone.”

Frey spoke:
“He cannot be behind by far;
Look again, and listen too.”

Heimdal spoke:
I hear a sound of snoring now,
But very faint, and far away.
Now I see a sleeping form,
And see a thorn thrust in his chest.

Frey spoke:
“My bride is lost unless we find
Some means at once of waking him.
Few minutes remain for him
To catch again this cunning hag.”

Ullr spoke:
“Heimdal, point the place to me,
And I will bend my bow of yew,
And with a shaft will shoot away
That thorn, or be Thialfi’s bane.”

Careful the aim, and close the shot;
It pierced the thorn, thrust it aside.
Thialfi rose, ran once more.
Long he’d slept, late his start.

The sun dipped low, in sight the crone,
Running fast though faint of breath.
Thialfi came up, and caught her then,
Was first to the post, though panting hard.

Frey spoke:
“We’ve beaten you, Jotun crone;
We’ve won the prize; my wife I claim.”

Aurboda spoke:
“Too hot you are to have your bride;
“You still must face one final test.”

Aurboda then brought out her comb,
A hackle brush she held to card
Wool from her sheep, and sharp it was,
Studded thick, with stakes of iron.

“Who dares to climb the cliff above,
Leap from high and land on this”
Loudly the crone then laughed, quite sure
None would try the teeth of iron..

Baldr the bright stepped boldly forth,
Climbed and leaped from cliff-top down.
Struck on his back, and bounded up,
His body whole, harmed not a whit.

For Frigga, his mother had made all things,
Tools and weapons, wood and iron,
Stone and fire, flood or ice,
Vow not to harm a hair of his head.

It waited Loki, Laufey’s son,
And Hodr to be his bane at last.
But now the crone must climb the cliff,
As Baldr had done, and dare her fate.

Hard she fell, flat on her back,
And there she stayed, stuck to the comb,
Flesh torn by teeth of iron.
Scornful words for once she lacked..

Frey entered the hall and found his bride,
Kissed her lips, and led her out.
And all the gods agreed at once
That well worth the winning she’d been.

Lightly the lovers leapt into the boat,
Followed by all the other gods,
And back they flew o’er fell and vale
To Asgard, where waited a wedding feast.

Gerd did not return to Jotunheim to visit until after her son was weaned.
Gymir’s cattle had produced many calves that spring, and Aurboda she found much recovered,
but still limping, and in no friendlier mood toward the gods.


© Jack Hart

Poetic form: Fornyrđislag (Old Meter)

Image: Frey seated on Hlidskjalf

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