This month we will read about Njord, Skadi, Frey and Freya.
Skadi chooses her husband
There was an incident (which we will read about later) involving some of the gods and Skadi’s father, which led to the gods promising Skadi (who was actually a giantess) a husband of her choice. However, she was only allowed to look at the gods’ feet and from there make her decision. Skadi wanted to marry Baldur, the most handsome of all gods, so she picked the most good-looking feet. She was most displeased when it turned out those feet belonged to Njord.
Njord was one of the Vanir gods who came to live in Asgard after the war between Aesir and Vanir. He was a sea god, the god of fishing, and lived in Noatun by the sea. Skadi was the goddess of skiing and a very good huntress with bow and arrow. She lived high up in the mountains, in Thrymheim where there was always snowy.
After they got married they tried to live together. Skadi stayed in Noatun for nine nights, but she couldn’t stand the seagulls. Then Njord stayed in the snowy mountains for three nights, but he couldn’t stand the howling of the wolves. So they decided to live separately, and Skadi’s marriage ended up rather unsuccessful.
Skirnir woos Gerd for Frey
Frey was one of the Vanir gods, and the son of Njord. He was the god of fertility and had many love affairs. But one day he sat in Hlidskjalf, looking out over all the nine worlds, and suddenly his eyes fell on the giantess Gerd who was the fairest of all women. He instantly fell madly in love, so much that he seemed depressed from heartsorrow. He couldn’t eat, drink or sleep and he became quiet.
His father Njord was worried about him, and asked Frey’s envoy Skirnir to talk to Frey. Skirnir did so, and learned that Frey was so much in love that he didn’t want to live if he couldn’t have the fair woman he had seen. Frey asked Skirnir to visit Gerd and woo her for him. Skirnir would be greatly rewarded for bringing Gerd to Frey. Skirnir agreed on the condition that he would be given Frey’s sword as reward. The sword was famous because it could fight by itself.
Skirnir travelled to Jotunheim and the home of Gerd where she lived with her father and servants. Skirnir gave her eleven golden apples and told her that Frey asked her to meet him. Gerd replied that her love couldn’t be bought. Not even for the magical golden ring Draupnir, which Skirnir also promised her. When gifts didn’t win her over, Skirnir threatened her instead. He said he would do terrible things to her if she didn’t come with him voluntarily, but Gerd only laughed and said that she knew her value and that he wouldn’t touch her.
As a last resort, Skirnir went into the woods and made himself a magical wand from a young tree. He went back to Gerd and started casting terrible spells and curses, that would make her life miserable forever. He told her that he would lift the curses if she agreed to come with him and meet his master Frey. This time Gerd agreed to meet Frey nine nights later. Skirnir returned to Frey and told him the good news. Nine nights later, Frey and Gerd met and in the end they married each other.
The Aesir-Vanir War
Among the Vanir there was a woman called Gullveig, who sometimes went by the name Heid, who was highly skilled in practicing seid – magic. It is believed by many that this woman was Freya (twin sister of Frey) by another name. She came to Asgard and practiced her magic, and in the beginning the Aesir gladly sought her services. But they soon realized that they became more and more selfish when they could use Heid’s magic, and their values of honor, loyaly to their kin, and obedience to the law were pushed aside. Of course they blamed Heid.
The Aesir decided to burn Heid for her offenses – but she was reborn. Three times they burned her, and three times she was reborn. When the Vanir heard of what happened in Asgard they were highly offended and war between Aesir and Vanir erupted. The Aesir fought with weapons and the Vanir fought with magic, and both sides were equally strong so they eventually tired of fighting and decided to call a truce. What happened next has already been mentioned in an earlier lesson – both sides sent hostages and eventually there was peace once again.
Stora boken om vikingarnas gudar och myter by Lars Magnar Enoksen (ISBN 978-91-7738-792-3)
Norse Mythology for Smart People: The Aesir-Vanir War