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the dictionary of norse mythology

ASGARD


ASGARD The realm of the aesir gods. odin pre-sides over Asgard, the topmost level of the nine worlds. Here the gods and goddesses had their palaces and mansions, called halls. Asgard was surrounded and protected by a mighty wall constructed by the giant master builder. In the center of Asgard was the green field idavoll, around which stood the 13 halls of the gods Among them were gladsheim, the main hall of the gods bilskirnir, the hall of thor fensalir, which belonged to frigg breidablik, where balder and his wife, nanna, lived himinbjorg, the abode of heimdall glitnir, where forseti presided sessrum-nir, freya's hall and valhalla, where Odin enter-tained the slain heroes of the world. bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge, connected Asgard to midgard Mid-dle Earth. At ragnarok, the end of the world, all the beautiful mansions would be destroyed, but the golden playthings of the gods—chess pieces—would remain, and a new world would arise. Asgard's Wall and the Giant Master Builder. The Aesir gods wanted to build a new wall around their stronghold, Asgard. The vanir had destroyed the original wall in the first and last battle between the two races of gods see war between the aesir and the vanir. The gods were good at building fine halls and glittering palaces, but to build a fortresslike wall seemed an enormous task. One day a large man trotted his horse over Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge, and told Heimdall, the watch-man god, that he had a plan to put before the gods. Heimdall reported the news to the chief god, Odin, who assembled all the gods and goddesses together to meet the stranger. The tall man, who was a giant in disguise, said that he would rebuild the wall around Asgard in 18 months. For his fee, Giant Master Builder would take the goddess Freya to be his wife. He would also take the sun and moon.The gods roared with anger. Odin said that he would never part with beautiful Freya nor with the Sun and the Moon, which gave warmth and light to the world. He ordered the mason to leave. loki, the sly god, begged the other gods not to be hasty and asked the mason for some time to consider his plan. The mason left the hall, and the gods and goddesses clustered around Loki while Freya began to weep tears of gold. Loki suggested that if they could get the mason to promise to build the wall in six months—before springtime—they would have nothing to fear, for obviously it was impossible for anyone to complete the wall so quickly. But at least the mason could dig the foundation and get a good start on the wall, thus saving the gods a lot of work. And, said Loki, they would not have to pay him a thing. Odin called the builder back into the hall and told him their decision. At first the mason seemed dismayed by how little time he would have to finish the work, but at last he agreed to try, provided that he could have his great stallion, svadilfari, to help him. They struck a bargain. As the giant began to build the wall, the gods looked on in amazement. Never had they seen a man cut such huge blocks of stone, nor a horse pull such heavy loads. The wall began to take shape, getting higher and higher and stronger and stronger. Though the winter was cruel, the tall man labored on undaunted. At last the cold and the snow and the ice abated. The last day of winter was near, and the wall was almost finished.The gods met again. If the mason finished the wall in time, they would lose their treasured Freya and the Sun and the Moon. Suddenly they won-dered how they had arrived at this terrible predica-ment. Then they remembered. They threw dark looks at Loki. Odin commanded Loki to use his cunning once again, this time to save the goddess Freya and the Sun and the Moon. Terrified of Odin's anger, Loki promised that he would find a way to outwit the builder.That evening, as the mason led Svadilfari toward the pile of stones to be hauled, the stallion pranced gaily. He could smell spring in the air. Suddenly he spied a beautiful young mare. She danced up to him and swished her tail. It was more than Svadilfari could stand. With a mighty bound he broke free of his harness and bolted after the mare.The mason shouted with rage and set off in pur-suit, but it was useless. Svadilfari had worked through a long, lonely winter, and now he wanted some light-hearted fun with the pretty mare.Dawn came and with it the end of winter.The wall stood unfinished. The mason lost the bargain and was slain by the thunder god, Thor.When Loki returned to Asgard several months later, he led a handsome young colt. It had eight legs and obviously would grow up to be a magnificent horse. Indeed, its father was the mighty Svadilfari, and its mother was none other than Loki himself, who had disguised himself as the pretty mare. Odin claimed the colt for his own and named it sleipnir, the glider.This myth shows the enmity between the gods and the giants—a theme that occurs in most Norse myths and does not end until Ragnarok. When the giant demands the Sun and the Moon and also Freya, he intends to deprive the gods not only of the four seasons but also of the possibility of regeneration, for Freya was the goddess of love and fertility.The only complete version of this myth is in snorri sturluson's prose edda.

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