The pantheon of Norse Mythology (Tradition) is vast, filled with gods and demigods of varying powers and temperaments. After the Vanir-Aesir War, the two camps came together and, for the most part, worked famously with one another. That said, there is plenty to learn about the deities, and thus, the Norse conception of life, the world and the cosmos.
As some of the more poignant stories regarding the individual gods are of their interactions with one another, in this chapter, it serves well to not only include stories of the individual deities, but to introduce and include other gods pertinent to their stories.
Freyja, Loki and Thor:
Freyja and the Disappearance of Óðr
Freyja (alternately, Freya,) was a Vanir, a daughter of Njord and his wife Nerthus (who was also Njord’s sister.) Freya was the twin sister to Freyr. Freya was a goddess of many things, including beauty, fertility, sexuality, luxury, death and war. She was also a goddess of seidr. Her consort was Óðr (possibly an early form of the name Odin.) Her day is Fredag (Friday.)
Before her husband, Óðr left (more on that in a moment,) the two had two daughters named Hnoss and Gersemi8. Now, Óðr, whose name commonly translates into “the wanderer,” or “the frenzied one,” although many other attributions of the name do exist. Not much is generally known of Óðr himself, apart from his connection with Freyja.
One day, Óðr simply vanished. While it’s unknown exactly where he went or what happened to him after he left9, Óðr’s departure had a rather profound effect on Freyja. She tried to find or follow him, weeping, along her way.
Freyja was the most desired of the goddesses with gods, Jötnar and men. Her propensity toward lust once got her into quite the row with Loki.
Loki and the Art of Not Keeping One’s Mouth Shut
Loki was the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and brother to Helblindi and Býleistr. Some testimonies refer to him as a god, others as a jötunn10, while others claim him as being both. He was a mischievous being, and was just as likely to hinder the gods as to help them.11
Now, Loki was kind of a jerk. At one gathering, thrown by the god Ægir, Loki became furious at the servants of Ægir, named Fimafeng and Eldir, for being so kind and accommodating toward the other gods, who he saw as being corrupt and unworthy of praise12. To make his point, Loki killed Fimafeng.
Regardless the reason for Loki’s jealousy, the gods didn’t stand for this act and chased him from the hall. He retreated into the woods for a time and the gods went back to their mead.
Upon his return, Loki accosted the remaining servant, Eldir. Although he left Eldir alive, the gods weren’t about to allow Loki to return into the hall. In response to this, Loki invoked the oath sworn by Odin that the two would drink with one another, and Odin allowed the trickster god back to the table.
While a god with a little more humility, or at least a little more tact, may not have tried to push his luck, Loki began insulting the gods. He claimed that the gods were weak and sexually promiscuous. Freyja, being particularly offended by this, challenges Loki, saying that the latter was mad to be so vitriolic in the presence of the goddess Frigg, as Frigg knew the future and fate of all.
Loki snapped back, accusing Freyja of having lain with every god and elf in the hall13. The row goes on for quite some time.
Another myth involves Freyja, Loki and (let’s be honest, you’ve been waiting for him to make an appearance,) Thor (Þórr in the original Norse.) First though, it bears telling how Thor’s hammer came into existence.
Loki and the Creation of Thor’s Hammer
Thor’s iconic hammer, Mjölnir, was forged by the dwarves Brokkr and Sindri, as part of a bet with Loki. In this bet, Loki literally bet his head that the two dwarves couldn’t make anything more stunning or functional than the Sons of Ivaldi—famous for such things as Odin’s spear or lance, Gungir. The two were sucked into the challenge and set about constructing a hammer.
Sindri worked the forge and Brokkr, the bellows. Sindri instructed Brokkr that, under no circumstances was the latter to stop working the bellows until he (Sindri) had finished his part of the work and removed it from the forge.
Now, as already stated, Loki was kind of a jerk. During the first portion of the work, Sindri placed pig leather into the forge. As Sindri worked, Brokkr manned the bellows. All was fine until Loki turned himself into a biting fly in an attempt to get the dwarf to pause just long enough to ruin the material. Loki, as a fly, bit Brokkr hard on the hand, but the dwarf persisted in his duties.
Sindri finished his first item: A boar, Gullinbursti, which the dwarves would offer to the god Freyr. Gullinbursti was capable of running through water and air with more swiftness than any steed may, and the boar’s bristles and mane were of such shimmering gold that darkness would retreat in its presence.
Next, Sindri placed gold into the forge and, again, set to work. Loki, undaunted by his previous failure to flummox Brokkr, returned again, this time biting the dwarf hard on the neck. As before, though, the dwarf didn’t flinch.
When Sindri had finished, he removed the finished product from the forge: The magical ring, Draupnir, which, every ninth night, would produce eight more rings, identical in size, shape and quality. This ring, the dwarves gave to Odin.
Finally, Sindri set to work on the final artifact by placing iron into the forge. Loki again landed on Brokkr, this time biting him deeply on the eyelid. While the dwarf could withstand the pain, he stopped working the bellows for the briefest of moments as he wiped the blood from his eye.
When Sindri had finished with the third and final item, the hammer Mjölnir, the handle was shorter than intended, due to Brokkr’s failure to keep the bellows going continuously. This is why Thor’s hammer, despite its depictions in modern-day media, could only be wielded with one hand.
Although Loki had succeeded in getting Brokkr to stop working the forge, if only for an instant, it was clear that the dwarves had won the bet. Loki, never one to lose graciously, protested by saying that, though the two had a right to his head, in order to take it, they would have to separate it from his neck. As cutting or otherwise damaging his neck wasn’t part of the bargain, Loki convinced the dwarves to leave Loki’s head where it was.
That’s not to say that the dwarves were happy about it. Though they were unable to take Loki’s head, Brokkr—undoubtedly with some satisfaction—sewed Loki’s mouth shut with wire as a lesson in not making bets that can’t be paid.
The Theft of Thor’s Hammer
Thor was the god of thunder, lightning and storms in general. Other attributions include him as the god of strength, the defender of humanity, healing and oak trees among others. He was the son of Odin and Jord (or Jörð; Earth.) His day is Thor’s Day, or, more modernly, Thursday. He was a redhead who, despite the fact he was rather slow-witted, was fierce in battle.
After receiving his hammer from the dwarves, Thor awoke one morning to find that the weapon had gone missing. As stated before, Loki was kind of a jerk and Thor knew this. He assumed that the hammer was taken by Loki and went before the miscreant god, demanding that Mjölnir be returned.
Loki, however, persisted that he had nothing to do with the theft; although, he told Thor, he had a pretty good idea who did the deed. In order to for Loki to reach the culprit, Thor implored Freyja, asking her to let Loki borrow her cloak, made of the feathers of falcons, so that he may regain his hammer. Freyja assented, and Loki, lifted by the cloak (specifically, its ability to grant its wearer the power of flight,) travelled to Jötunheimr.
Once he’d arrived, he came across the jötunn, Thrymr (Þrymr in the original Norse.) Thrymr quickly admitted to having taken the hammer and hiding it somewhere below the earth, at or around a depth of eight miles. He was so fast to make his confession because he wanted something in return: He wanted the most beautiful of the goddesses as his wife. In other words, he wanted Freyja in exchange for Thor’s hammer.
Earlier in this chapter, we learned how Freyja was the most desired of the goddesses, and was known for “spreading the love,” but she was far from being without standards. When Loki returned to Thor with the jötunn’s demand, and Thor, subsequently, went before Freyja to beg her to go through with the jötunn’s demands, she snorted, flatly refusing to marry the jötunn.
With Freyja unwilling to become the concubine of the treacherous giant, the gods came together to figure out how to get the hammer back as, without it, the Jötnar were likely to use it to attack (and likely lay waste) to Asgard. Heimdall, a god with nine mothers (let that sink in for a minute,) finally suggested a bold plan: For Thor to dress as Freyja and go before the jötunn himself in order to retrieve his hammer.
Thor, reluctantly, agreed and was thus dressed in the garments of Freyja, right down to her necklace and keys. Loki, never wanting to miss out on much, decided to ride with Thor, posing as a bridesmaid. Thrymr saw the disguised gods approaching and became overwhelmed with excitement, having his servants quickly get to work preparing for the wedding.
Once at the wedding reception, Thor didn’t hold his cover very well, as he devoured eight salmon, an ox (the whole ox) and enough mead to drop a detachment of Vikings. Thrymr, though rather impressed, began to grow a little suspicious. Loki explained that Freyja had been so enamored with the idea of wedding Thrymr that, in preparation for the wedding, she had fasted for eight days14.
Thrymr finally got tired of waiting to plant a kiss on his new “bride.” When he lifted the veil, the jig would have been up if it weren’t for Loki’s penchant for trickery. He explained “the bride’s” fiery eyes by saying that she hadn’t slept in eight days, also in preparation for the wedding.
Things came to a head, though, when Thrymr sets Mjölnir in Thor’s lap as per his agreement with Loki. With his hammer now in hand, Thor tore his disguise asunder and slaughtered not only Thrymr, but the other jötnar who had attended the wedding.