In the morning of time, when Asgard and Valhalla were newly built,
the gods lived in innocence, happiness and peace. “Glad in their courtyard
they played at chess, nor of gold lacked aught”; so runs the description in
the Voluspá of this golden age of the Æsir. Then came three mighty
Thursar maidens out of Jotunheim, and enmity arose between Æsir and
Vanir. One link in the chain of strife was the burning in Valhalla of a woman
named Gullveig; “three times they burned the thrice born, again and again-
yet still she lives.” The Æsir take counsel together to learn whether peace
may still be preserved. Nothing can be done. Odin hurls his spear over the
ranks of the enemy, and the first battle of the hosts begins. The walls of the
Æsir stronghold are penetrated and the Vanir pour through the breach into
Asgard. Yet eventually peace is declared between Æsir and Vanir,
the story of which has already been told above. Now the golden age of
innocence is at an end; the gods are compelled to defend themselves
against their foes, sometimes by the use of guile, as on the occasion when
they tricked the Giant mason. Other Giant women — Skadi and Gerd, for
example — gain entrance to the dwellings of the Æsir, and Asgard’s
sanctity is no more. The season of tranquility gives way to a season of
turbulent warfare, in which the gods more than ever before have need of
magical weapons, of the aid of Heroes. The gods no longer rule the world
as princes of peace; the most eminent of them become gods of war. To this
period are to be referred the numerous myths having to do with valorous
deeds and guileful practices; and the gods fall far short of always winning
victory and glory. Corruption extends from gods to men; the divinities of
battle, the Valkyries, ride forth into the world of mortals and here too peace
is as a tale that is told.


Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 49-50.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.

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