The Necklace of the Brisings
On most of Thor’s expeditions, Loki acted the part of a friend,
outwardly at least. Between Heimdal and Loki, on the contrary, there was
deadly enmity without ceasing. This enmity showed itself, for example, on
the occasion when Loki had stolen the Necklace of the Brisings from
Freyja. Loki hid the ornament in the sea at Singastein, and kept guard over
it himself in the shape of a seal. Heimdal likewise assumed the likeness of
a seal, and so compelled Loki to restore what he had stolen. This is the
probable interpretation of the casual references in Snorri’s Edda, in which
case we have here to do with the old and authentic form of the myth.
A variant of the myth, quite different and far less primitive, is to be
found in the legendary Sorla ■ßttr, dating from the thirteenth century.
According to this account, Freyja had received the necklace from four
Dwarfs; Odin, however, coveting it, asked Loki to steal it for him. It would
prove to be a difficult task, Loki said, for Freyja’s house was so well built
and so securely bolted that no one would be able to enter without her
consent. Odin commanded him to make the attempt nevertheless, and Loki
had to obey. When he arrived at the door he could not find even the
smallest opening; taking the shape of a fly he crept about the lock a long
time, until finally he discovered high up on the door a tiny crevice, through
which he succeeded in making an entrance. Freyja lay asleep
with the necklace about her neck, the lock facing downward; he accordingly
transformed himself into a flea and bit her so hard on the cheek that she
awoke and turned on the other side. The lock having in this way been
made to face upward, he assumed his natural shape once more and made
off with the ornament. Escaping through the door, which it was possible to
open from the inside, he brought the treasure to Odin. Freyja, as soon as
she awoke, noticed the theft and complained to Odin. He answered that
she might have the necklace again on one condition: she was to stir up
strife between two major kings so that they would wage unceasing war
against each other, the fallen warriors constantly rising to fight again. This
compact came to be the occasion of the Battle of the Hjadnings.
Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 79-80.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. NorrŠna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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