The Wall – As Written by Dael Dhra for Hrafnarfjall Hearthside.
Listen, children, and listen well
For I’ve a tale I would tell
A tale of need, for defenses strong
And of a bargain that went wrong
But creating a steed with special skill
Gifted to Odin by Loki’s will
So hear me now and hear me well.
Odin sits at the head of the great table in Gladsheimr, great hall of Asgard, listening intently as Heimdall, the far-seeing, reports. “Asgard is wide open! There is nothing to protect it, Allfather! Other realms have walls around them to protect them from invaders – why does Asgard have none?” Loki chuckles. “Perhaps because the other realms don’t have the mighty Thor to protect them!” Thor, however, glowers and hefts his hammer, which he called Mjolnir. “Perhaps the ‘mighty Thor’ is tired of being the sole line of defense for an entire realm, Loki.”
Odin considers this, taking the guardian of Asgard seriously. He thinks of the wars with the Vanir – then, Odin simply calls for a master builder to be brought. And sure enough, in due time, one is found and brought before the Allfather. And Odin is impressed by this builder; in discussing the situation, explaining their need for defense, it is clear the builder is truly a master of his craft. The builder is, as far as Odin can tell, quite knowledgeable and experienced. Such a task, the builder says, will take him three seasons, provided he has many people to assist him. This makes sense to Odin, so, Odin asks this builder’s price – and the cheeky builder asks for nothing less than the sun and the moon! And Freyja for his own! Odin laughs, thinking the builder joking. Of course Odin knows very well that the sun and the moon are impossible to give to anyone, even by a God, and he doubts Freyja would consent to have her hand given as a prize – so that is entirely impossible, too. The builder is quite serious though, and he will accept nothing less in payment! Stunned, Odin asks for a moment to consult with the others.
The AllFather’s will gathers them all. Heimdall, Freya, Bragi, Idunn — are all confused as to what to suggest, but Loki (as usual) is not silent. “Why change the terms?” he suggests. “None can pay that price, obviously, but we as obviously need the wall – so we’ll just have to be sure we never have to pay a thing.” And with that Loki has their attention now. And Odin admits to himself even he is curious. “Go on…” “Three seasons, you say he wants, and aid?” Loki queries. At Odin’s nod, Loki says, “Well, then, we give him but one season!” Thor grins. “Aye! And none shall aid!” Loki nods. “Exactly, my friend!” Odin considers again. “What makes you think he’ll accept those terms?” Loki looks at Freya. “Why, SHE will!” At Freyja’s fierce scowl, Loki hastened to reassure. “Just a smile and a few kind words is all I mean, pretty one!” Freyja’s scowl lessens not at all. Clearly Loki’s flattery had not had an effect. But at last even Freya agrees to the ruse, seeing no risk of being wed with such impossible terms to the deal. Odin sits back and smiles, a cold smile that does not reach his eyes (for he had both eyes then – how Odin lost his eye is a tale for another time!). “Excellent. I shall have my wall – and pay nothing at all!” Freya, claiming boredom with the meeting and discussion, excuses herself to speak with the builder, and inform him they were ready for a deal. And sure enough, the memory of her warm smile drives all thought from the builder’s spinning head.
He agrees to their new terms – but for the aid of his stallion, Svaldifari. Odin, seeing no harm in this, agrees. A stallion is just a horse, after all. Thus the deal for the Wall of Asgard is struck. The builder, of course, wastes no time in beginning his task, and so the Gods turn to theirs, chuckling to themselves. But almost before their eyes, the wall rises! Seemingly in no time at all! As the Aesir and Vanir watch, more nervous day by day, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary stallion. Indeed, this horse was doing most of the work! He hauled more boulders to the wall than ten men could. And nothing could stop them. The wall was rising with dismaying speed as the promised season passed, until the wall was all but done. And as Freya, Odin, and Loki and Heimdall were observing the progress of the wall, the look Freya turned to Loki read clearly that she blamed him for everything. Her anger was a thing to behold, eyes sparking with fury. “You told us there was no way he’d be able to accomplish this! I’ll not be wed to a builder because of you!” Odin, scowling, evidently also blamed Loki. “Indeed. Nor shall I be shown weak and a liar when I cannot pay the sun and moon, because of you. You will fix this, Loki.” Loki simply closed his eyes and breathed out sharply, then looked at the angry Asgardians. “Perhaps if you, Heimdall, had told me his horse was magick, my counsel may have been different.” Heimdall shrugged. “If I’d seen anything special about that horse, Loki, I would have said so.” “Then my advice was not ill-given.” Loki scoffed. “Why am I to blame?” Odin looked at Freyja. “Nevertheless, Loki, it is because of you we’re in this mess, and you will fix it.” The angry goddess glared at Loki. “Loki, if I wind up married to THAT builder because of you, I promise you will not live a day past the wedding, if I must kill you myself.” Loki’s eyebrows raised. “Wait a minute! How….” Even the clever-tongued Loki sputtered a moment. “YOU all agreed with me!” But Odin merely nodded. “And if I have to figure out how to give the Builder the sun and the moon gone because you talked us into this scheme, Loki, she won’t have to kill you – I’ll do it myself.” Loki’s eyes narrowed. “I was not in this alone and none of YOU knew about that horse, either; yet I am to blame?” Odin sighed. “No, Loki, you’re not solely to blame. But it was your idea, and you will fix this, on pain of death.” Freya glared at Loki once again and spun around, and Loki was left Loki to consider the situation alone. Loki, too angry to think, stormed off in the opposite direction of the other Asgardians.
During the next few days, he discarded and considered a few ideas, considered and discarded a few more. Freyja wasn’t likely to consider a more elaborate ploy to have the builder fall more in love with her. The horse was simply too pretty a creature to hurt in any way. But. He WAS a stallion…. Loki wondered if he could be distracted. Perhaps by a pretty mare…. Now THAT could work!
So, Loki began the search for who had the prettiest horse in Asgard. By now, that wall was getting pretty close to finished, so they didn’t have much time. That mare would have to be pretty special, and it would have to be just the right time. Of those available who were special, and likely to be distraction enough, one was owned by Heimdall (who flat out refused) and the others by Tyr and Baldr (who likewise refused). They didn’t wish to risk their precious mares, whom they wished to find a stallion for that would give them a foal worthy of Odin himself. Odin was searching for a new horse to train for his steed, and the owner would be richly rewarded. “Fine. So be it.” Loki shrugged to himself. Only one thing for it. He would just have to shapeshift into a mare and distract the stallion himself.
Thus the following morning, a sleek young mare pranced out of the forest just beside the wall, flirting her tail and tossing her head in a manner suspiciously like Loki at his sassiest. The stallion, sure enough, tossed his head and jerked at the reins, then whinnied loudly. The mare whinnied back, then stepped delicately into the woods….and the stallion broke free of the builder to run off behind her.
Without the stallion, hard as the builder might try, he just could not meet the deadline, and he was forced to admit he had lost. He seemed to accept defeat calmly – until he saw Freyja, and then he flew into a rage and revealed that he was truly a mighty Giant. Furiously, the builder began to attack Asgard and anyone who tried to stop him – until Thor put an end to him with one mighty blow of his hammer. But when the Asgardians tried to find Loki to thank him for putting an end to the situation, for they knew it must have been him, neither Loki nor the mare could be found. A year passed, Thor and Odin growing more and more certain Loki had met his doom. But then, on the very day Odin was considering the new foals to choose the one that would be his, in walked Loki with a gangly legged foal about a month old at his side. A gray foal with eight long, spindly legs that he, for it was a colt, could barely keep from tripping over.
Odin laughed to see the little colt struggling along, laughed along with everyone else in the hall. But then the laughter stopped cold as the colt tossed his head and disappeared with a snort. As they all stared, Loki grinned and announced, “His name’s Sleipnir, son of Svaldifari. He’s the colt you’re looking for, Odin. If you can get him back, you can have him, brother.” With that, he walked out again, and it was some time indeed before anyone saw Loki in Asgard after that. And that is how Odin came to have Sleipnir, the eight-legged steed that can slip between the realms, for his horse. And Loki was right. Sleipnir was the steed for Odin, for Sleipnir was the finest horse in Asgard – and Odin was more than pleased by Sleipnir’s special talent. And that concludes our tale! For the children at heart – if you liked this, please follow the channel, and find Hrafnarfjall Hearthside on Facebook! Don’t forget to check out our Patreon hall, here on Midgard! https://www.patreon.com/HrafnarfjallHearthside. See you there!
For more Hearthside tales:
Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds https://smokeandmirrors16.wordpress.com/2021/03/10/myths-for-kids-yggdrasil-and-the-nine-worlds/
The Aesir and Vanir War https://smokeandmirrors16.wordpress.com/2021/03/10/norse-myths-for-kids-the-aesir-and-vanir-war/