Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 408
Publication Date: 1912
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This is Donald Mackenzie's able retelling of the Northern mythological cycle. He weaves a coherent narrative from the Eddas, the Niebelunglied, the Volsung Saga, Beowulf, the primordial Hamlet myths, and Medieval German tales of chivalry.
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IN the Ages, when naught else was, there yawned in space a vast and empty gulf called Ginnunga-gap. Length it had, and breadth immeasurable, and there was depth beyond comprehension. No shore was there, nor cooling wave; for there was yet no sea, and the earth was not made nor the heavens above.
There in the gulf was the beginning of things. There time first dawned. And in the perpetual twilight was All-father, who governs every realm and sways all things both great and small.
First of all there was formed, northward of the gulf, Nifel-heim, the immense home of misty darkness and freezing cold, and to the south, Muspel-heim, the luminous home of warmth and of light.
In the midst of Nifel-heim burst forth the great fountain from whence all waters flow, and to which all waters return. It is named Hvergelmer, "the roaring cauldron", and from it surged, at the beginning, twelve tremendous rivers called Elivagar, that washed southward towards the gulf. A vast distance they traversed from their source, and then the venom that was swept with them began to harden, as does dross pouring from a surface, until they congealed and became ice. Whereupon the rivers grew silent and ceased to move, and gigantic blocks of ice stood still. Vapour arose from the ice-venom and was frozen to rime; layer upon layer heaped up in fantastic forms one above another.
That part of the gulf which lay northward was a region of horror and of strife. Heavy masses of black vapour enveloped the ice, and within were screaming whirlwinds that never ceased, and dismal banks of fleeting mist. But southward, Muspel-heim glowed with intense radiance, and sprayed forth beauteous flakes and sparks of shining fire. The intervening space between the region of tempest and gloom and the region of warmth and light was a peaceful twilight, serene and still as is windless air.
Now when the sparks from Muspel-heim fell through the frozen vapour, and the heat was sent thither by the might of the All-father, drops of moisture began to fall from the ice. It was then and there that life began to be. The drops were quickened and a formless mass took human shape. Thus came into being the great lumbering clay-giant who was named Ymer. Rough and ungainly was Ymer, and as he stretched himself and began to move about he was tortured by the pangs of immense hunger. So he went forth ravenously to search for food; but there was yet no substance of which he could partake. The whirlwinds went past him and over, and the dark mists enveloped him like a shroud.
More drops fell through the gloomy vapours, and next there was formed a gigantic cow, which was named Audhumla, "void darkness". Ymer beheld it standing in the gloom beside blocks of ice, and groped weakly towards it. Wondering, he found that milk ran from its teats in four white streams, and greedily he drank and drank until he was filled with the seeds of life and was satisfied.
Then a great heaviness came over Ymer, and he lay down and fell into deep and dreamless slumber. Warmth and strength possessed him, and sweat gathered in the pit of his left arm, from which, by the might of All-father, were formed a son named Mimer and a daughter named Bestla. From Mimer were descended the Vana-gods. Under the feet of Ymer arose a monstrous six-headed son, who was the ancestor of the evil frost giants, the dreaded Hrimthursar. Then Ymer awoke.
For Audhumla, the great cow, there was no verdure upon which to feed. She stood on the verge of gloom, and found sustenance by licking constantly the huge boulders that were encrusted by salt and rime. For the space of a day she fed in this manner, until the hair of a great head appeared. On the second day the cow returned to the boulder, and ere she had ceased to lick, a head of human semblance was laid bare. On the third day a noble form leapt forth. He was endowed with great beauty, and was nimble and powerful. The name he received was Bure, and he was the first of the Asa-gods.
There followed in time more beings--noble giants and wicked giants, and gods. Mimer, who is Mind and Memory, had daughters, the chief of whom was Urd, Goddess of Fate and Queen of Life and Death. Bure had a son named Bor, who took for his wife Bestla, the sister of wise Mimer. Three sons were born to them, and the first was called Odin (spirit), the second Ve whose other name is Honer, and the third Vile, whose other names are Lodur and Loke. Odin became the chief ruler of the Asa-gods, and Honer was chief of the Vans until Loke, the usurper, became their ruler.
Now Ymer and his evil sons were moved with wrath and enmity against the family of gods, and soon warfare broke out between them. To neither side was there early victory, and the fierce conflicts were waged through the long ages ere yet the earth was formed. But, at length, the sons of Bor prevailed over their enemies and drove them back. In time there followed great slaughter, which diminished the army of evil giants until one alone remained.
It was thus that the gods achieved their triumph. Ymer was stricken down, and the victors leapt upon him and then slit open the bulging veins of his neck. A great deluge of blood gushed forth, and the whole race of giants was drowned save Bergelmer, "The Mountain-old", who with his wife took refuge on the timbers of the great World-mill, and remained there. From these are descended the Jotuns, who for ever harboured enmity against the gods.