Gateway to the Classics: The Heroes of Asgard by A. & E. Keary
The Heroes of Asgard by  A. & E. Keary

The Necklace Brisingamen

Now, though Frey was made king and schoolmaster of the light elves, and spent the greater part of his time with them in Alfheim, his sister Freyja remained in the city of Asgard, and had a palace built for her named Folkvang. In this palace there was one very beautiful hall, Sessrymnir—the "Roomy Seated"—where Freyja entertained her guests, and she had always plenty of them; for every one liked to look at her beautiful face, and listen to her enchanting music which was quite superior to anybody else's. She had, moreover, a wonderful husband named Odur, who was one of the sons of the immortals, and had come from a long way off on purpose to marry her. Freyja was a little proud of this, and used often to speak of it to Frigga and the other ladies of Asgard. Some of them said she was a very fortunate person; but some were a little jealous of her, whilst Frigga always gravely warned her not to be vain on account of her happiness, lest sorrow should overtake her unawares.

Everything went on quite smoothly, however, for a long time, Freyja leading a very gay and beautiful life in the sunshine of her happiness, and herself a very radiant joy to every one around her. But one day, one unlucky day, Freyja, this fair and sunshiny young Vana, went out alone from Asgard to take a walk in Alfheim. She hoped to meet somewhere thereabouts her dear brother Frey, whom she had not seen for a long time, and of whom she wanted to ask a very particular favour. The occasion for it was this;— Heimdall and Ægir were expected to dine at Valhalla the next day, and Freyja and her husband were invited to meet them. All the lords and ladies of Asgard were to be there. Niörd, too, was coming, with his new wife, Skadi, the daughter of a giant.

"Every one will be beautifully dressed," said Freyja, "and I  have not a single ornament to wear."

But you are more beautiful than any one, Freyja," said her husband; "for you were born in the spacious Wind-Home."

"All are not so high-minded as you, Odur," answered his wife; "and if I go to Valhalla without an ornament of any kind I shall certainly be looked down upon."

So saying, Freyja set off, as I told you, to Alfheim, determined to ask of her good-natured brother a garland of flowers at least. But somehow or other she could not find Frey anywhere. She tried to keep in Alfheim—she thought she was there; but all the time she was thinking of her dress and her ornaments, planning what she should wear, and her steps went downward, downward, away from Alfheim to the cavern of four dwarfs.

"Where am I?" said Freyja to herself, as she at last lost the light of day, and went down, wandering on deeper and deeper between the high walls, and under the firm roof of rock. "Why, surely this must be Svartheim; and yet it is not unpleasant, nor quite dark here, though the sun is not shining."

And in truth it was not dark; for, far on before her, winding in and out through the cavern's innermost recesses, were groups of little men, who had each a lantern in his cap and a pickaxe in his hand; and they were working hard, digging for diamonds, which they piled up the walls, and hung across the roof in white and rose-coloured coronets, marvellously glittering.

Four clever little dwarf-chiefs were there directing the labours of the rest; but, as soon as they caught sight of Freyja, they sat down in the centre of the cavern, and began to work diligently at something which they held between them, bending over it with strange chattering and grimaces. Freyja felt very curious to see what it was; but her eyes were so dazzled with the blaze of diamonds and lanterns, that she was obliged to go nearer in order to distinguish it clearly. Accordingly, she walked on to where the four dwarfs were sitting, and peeped over their shoulders. Oh! brilliant! exquisitely worked! bewildering!

Freyja drew back again with almost blinded eyes; for she had looked upon the necklace Brisingamen, and at the same moment a passionate wish burst forth in her heart to have it for her own, to wear it in Valhalla, to wear it always round her own fair neck. "Life to me," said Freyja, "is no longer worth having without Brisingamen." Then the dwarfs held it out to her, but also looked cunningly at one another as they did so, and burst into a laugh so loud that it rang through the vaulted caverns, echoed and echoed back again from side to side, from dwarf to dwarf, from depth to depth.

Freyja, however, only turned her head a little on one side, stretched out her hand, grasped the necklace with her small fingers, and then ran out of the cavern as quickly as ever she could, up again to the green hill-side. There she sat down and fitted the brilliant ornament about her neck, after which she looked a little shyly at the reflection of herself in a still pool that was near, and turned homewards with an exulting heart. She felt certain that all was well with her; nevertheless, all was not well, but very miserable indeed. When Freyja was come back to Asgard again, and to her palace of Folkvang, she sought her own private apartments, that she might see Odur alone, and make him admire her necklace Brisingamen. But Odur was not there. She searched in every room, hither and thither; but alas! he was not to be found in any room or any hall in all the palace of Folkvang. Freyja searched for him in every place; she walked restlessly about, in and out, among the places of the "Roomy Seated." She peered wistfully, with sad eyes, in the face of every guest; but the only face she cared to see, she never saw.

Odur was gone, gone back for ever to the home of the Immortals. Brisingamen and Odur could not live together in the palace of Folkvang. But Freyja did not know this; she did not know why Odur was gone, nor where he was gone; she only saw he was not there, and she wrung her hands sadly, and watered her jewels with salt, warm tears.

As she sat thus and mourned in the entrance of her palace, all the ladies of Asgard passed by on their way to Valhalla, and looked at her. Some said one thing, some another; but no one said anything at all encouraging, or much to the purpose. Frigga passed by last of all, and she raised her head with a little severe shake, saying something about beauty, and pride, and punishment, which sank down so deeply into the heart of the sorrow-stricken young Vana that she got up with a desperate resolution, and, presenting herself before the throne of Asa Odin, spoke to him thus: "Father of Æsir, listen to my weeping, and do not turn away from me with a cruel frown. I have searched through my palace of Folkvang, and all through the city of Asgard, but nowhere is Odur the Immortal to be found. Let me go, Father Odin, I beseech you, and seek him far and near, across the earth, through the air, over the sea, even to the borders of Jötunheim."

And Odin answered, "Go, Freyja, and good fortune go with you."

Then Freyja sprang into her swift, softly-rolling chariot, which was drawn by two cats, waved her hand as she rose over the city, and was gone.

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