the dictionary of norse mythology


TREASURES OF THE DWARFS The story of how the gods came to acquire the treasures for which they were famed is one of the most popular of the Norse myths. It opens with the mischievous loki creeping into the bedroom of sif, thor's wife, and cutting off her golden hair while she sleeps.When Thor discovered that Loki had cut off and stolen Sif's dazzling hair, Thor threatened to tear Loki into small pieces. The sly trickster put on a fine show of remorse and promised to bring back not only hair made of real gold for Sif, but other treasures as well, so Thor let him go.Loki immediately made his way to svart-alfheim, the underworld caverns where the dwarfs lived. These misshapen, undersized creatures were ugly and bad-tempered, but they were master crafts-men when it came to mining and shaping gold and the other metals found in their darkling realm.Loki went first to the cave of the sons of Ivaldi. He begged them to make golden strands so real that they would grow out of Sif's head. This feat the dwarfs accomplished with their magic, and while the furnace was still hot they made other magical trea-sures for Loki to carry home to the gods.skidbladnir was a marvelous ship for frey. It could fold up small enough to fit into a pouch and yet expand to a size large enough to carry all the aesir gods and their equipment. It could sail on land or sea or air.For odin they made gungnir, a strong and slen-der spear that always flew straight to its target.On his way home Loki stopped at the cave of brokk and eitri. These two dwarfs wanted to show that their work was much finer than that of the sons of Ivaldi. Loki was happy to let them try. The more treasures he retrieved from the gods, the more they would feel like forgiving him for all his mischief. Loki bet his head that Brokk and Eitri could not do better work than the Ivaldi brothers.Then, in spite of Loki's teasing he turned himself into a gadfly and kept stinging poor Brokk as he pumped the bellows, the dwarfs made gullinbrusti, a boar with bristles and mane of shining gold, which Loki gave to Frey, and draupnir, an arm ring of gold that, on every ninth night, dropped eight more rings just as beautiful as the first. Draupnir became Odin's favorite arm ring.Finally the dwarfs produced mjollnir, a massive iron hammer. The hammer had a short handle because Loki, as a gadfly, had made Brokk pause for an instant at the bellows, causing the fire to cool. Nonetheless, the hammer had the magic property of always reaching its mark and then returning at once to its owner, Thor.When Loki presented the treasures, the gods agreed that the wondrous hammer was the most pow-erful treasure of all, for it could guard the gods against the giants.Brokk claimed that he was the winner of the bet and that Loki owed him his head, but as usual, Loki used fast talk and cunning and escaped with nothing worse than sore lips when Brokk tried to sew up his wicked mouth.Sif was delighted with her new growth of precious gold hair. The term Sifs hair was used in Norse myths as a kenning, or condensed metaphor, for gold.This story plays an important part in the Norse myths, for it makes clear the origins of the associa-tions such as Thor and his hammer and Odin and his spear that had existed for as long as the gods had been known in scandinavia.

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