The All-Father's Forebodings: How He Leaves Asgard (Nordic Folk Tale)

Folk Tales, Nordic Folk Tales7316

Two ravens had Odin All-Father; Hugin and Munin were their names; they flew through all the worlds every day, and coming back to Asgard they would light on Odin”s shoulders and tell him of all the things they had seen and heard. And once a day passed without the ravens coming back. Then Odin, standing on the Watch-Tower Hlidskjalf, said to himself:

I fear me for Hugin,

Lest he come not back,

But I watch more for Munin.

A day passed and the ravens flew back. They sat, one on each of his shoulders. Then did the All-Father go into the Council Hall that was beside Glasir, the wood that had leaves of gold, and harken to what Hugin and Munin had to tell him.

They told him only of shadows and forebodings. Odin All-Father did not speak to the Dwellers in Asgard of the things they told him. But Frigga, his Queen, saw in his eyes the shadows and forebodings of things to come. And when he spoke to her about these things she said, “Do not strive against what must take place. Let us go to the holy Norns who sit by Urda”s Well and see if the shadows and the forebodings will remain when you have looked into their eyes.”

And so it came that Odin and the Gods left Asgard and came to Urda”s Well, where, under the great root of Ygdrassil, the three Norns sat, with the two fair swans below them. Odin went, and Tyr, the great swordsman, and Baldur, the most beautiful and the Best-Beloved of the Gods, and Thor, with his Hammer.

A Rainbow Bridge went from Asgard, the City of the Gods, to Midgard, the World of Men. But another Rainbow Bridge, more beautiful and more tremulous still, went from Asgard to that root of Ygdrassil under which was Urda”s Well. This Rainbow Bridge was seldom seen by men. And where the ends of the two rainbows came together Heimdall stood, Heimdall with the Golden Teeth, the Watcher for the Gods, and the Keeper of the Way to Urda”s Well.

“Open the gate, Heimdall,” said the All-Father, “open the gate, for today the Gods would visit the holy Norns.”

Without a word Heimdall opened wide the gate that led to that bridge more colored and more tremulous than any rainbow seen from earth. Then did Odin and Tyr and Baldur step out on the bridge. Thor followed, but before his foot was placed on the bridge, Heimdall laid his hand upon him.

“The others may go, but you may not go that way, Thor,” said Heimdall.

“What? Would you, Heimdall, hold me back?” said Thor.

“Yes, for I am Keeper of the Way to the Norns,” said Heimdall. “You with the mighty hammer you carry are too weighty for this way. The bridge I guard would break under you, Thor with the hammer.”

“Nevertheless I will go visit the Norns with Odin and my comrades,” said Thor.

“But not this way, Thor,” said Heimdall. “I will not let the bridge be broken under the weight of you and your hammer. Leave your hammer here with me if you would go this way.”

“No, no,” said Thor. “I will not leave in any one”s charge the hammer that defends Asgard. And I may not be turned back from going with Odin and my comrades.”

“There is another way to Urda”s Well,” said Heimdall. “Behold these two great Cloud Rivers, Körmt and Ermt. Canst thou wade through them? They are cold and suffocating, but they will bring thee to Urda”s Well, where sit the three holy Norns.”

Thor looked out on the two great rolling rivers of cloud. It was a bad way for one to go, cold and suffocating. Yet if he went that way he could keep on his shoulder the[Pg 72] hammer which he would not leave in another”s charge. He stept out into the Cloud River that flowed by the Rainbow Bridge, and with his hammer upon his shoulder he went struggling on to the other river.

Odin, Tyr, and Baldur were beside Urda”s Well when Thor came struggling out of the Cloud River, wet and choking, but with his hammer still upon his shoulder. There stood Tyr, upright and handsome, leaning on his sword that was inscribed all over with magic runes; there stood Baldur, smiling, with his head bent as he listened to the murmur of the two fair swans; and there stood Odin All-Father, clad in his blue cloak fringed with golden stars, without the eagle-helmet upon his head, and with no spear in his hands.

The three Norns, Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda, sat beside the well that was in the hollow of the great root of Ygdrassil. Urda was ancient and with white hair, and Verdandi was beautiful, while Skulda could hardly be seen, for she sat far back, and her hair fell over her face and eyes. Urda, Verdandi, and Skulda; they knew the whole of the Past, the whole of the Present, and the whole of the Future. Odin, looking on them, saw into the eyes of Skulda even. Long, long he stood looking on the Norns with the eyes of a God, while the others listened to the murmur of the swans and the falling of the leaves of Ygdrassil into Urda”s Well.

Looking into their eyes, Odin saw the shadows and forebodings that Hugin and Munin told him of take shape and substance. And now others came across the Rainbow Bridge. They were Frigga and Sif and Nanna, the wives of Odin and Thor and Baldur. Frigga looked upon the Norns. As she did, she turned a glance of love and sadness upon Baldur, her son, and then she drew back and placed her hand upon Nanna”s head.

Odin turned from gazing on the Norns, and looked upon Frigga, his queenly wife. “I would leave Asgard for a while, wife of Odin,” he said.

“Yea,” said Frigga. “Much has to be done in Midgard, the World of Men.”

“I would change what knowledge I have into wisdom,” said Odin, “so that the things that are to happen will be changed into the best that may be.”

“You would go to Mimir”s Well,” said Frigga.

“I would go to Mimir”s Well,” said Odin.

“My husband, go,” said Frigga.

Then they went back over that Rainbow Bridge that is more beautiful and more tremulous than the one that men see from the earth; they went back over the Rainbow Bridge, the Æsir and the Asyniur, Odin and Frigga, Baldur and Nanna, Tyr, with his sword, and Sif beside Tyr. As for Thor, he went struggling through the Cloud Rivers Körmt and Ermt, his hammer Miölnir upon his shoulder.

Little Hnossa, the youngest of the Dwellers in Asgard, was there, standing beside Heimdall, the Watcher for the Gods and the Keeper of the Bridge to Urda”s Well, when Odin All-Father and Frigga, his Queen, went through the great gate with heads bent. “Tomorrow,” Hnossa heard Odin say, “tomorrow I shall be Vegtam the Wanderer upon the ways of Midgard and Jötunheim.”

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