The Rape of Idun

The story has already been told of how the Giantess Skadi was
received into the society of the Æsir and of how Njord was given to her as a
husband by way of recompense for the murder of her father Thjazi. Loki’s
wiles provided the direct occasion for these events. Once upon a time
Odin, accompanied by Loki and Hœnir, set forth on a journey that took
them across mountains and over wastes where it was no easy matter to
find food. At length, on descending into a valley, they caught sight of a


drove of oxen; seizing one of the herd they kindled a fire, and began to boil
the flesh. When they supposed the meat to be cooked, they took it off the
fire; but it was far from done, and they had to let it boil a while longer. The
same thing happened a second time; so they fell to debating the
strange occurrence and wondering what might be the cause. As chance
would have it, they were sitting under a tree, and so they heard a voice
above their heads saying that he who sat perched in the tree was to blame
for the tardiness of their cooking. Looking more closely, they saw an
immense eagle. The eagle said that if they would allow it to still its hunger
from the flesh of the ox, the meat would be cooked soon enough. They
gave their consent, and the eagle forthwith swooped down and made off
with both of the two hind quarters and both fore quarters. Loki became so
angry that he picked up a staff and struck at the eagle. The eagle flew
away, and one end of the staff stuck fast to the body of the bird and the
other end remained fixed to Loki’s arms, so that he was dragged over stock
and stone till he thought his arms would be pulled from their sockets. He
begged the eagle for mercy, but was not freed until he had given his
promise to steal Idun out of Asgard, and her apples to boot. Not before he
had sealed his promise with an oath was he permitted to return to his
companions. When they had come back to Asgard and the appointed hour
was at hand, he told Idun that he had discovered certain apples in a wood
lying beyond the bounds of Asgard; she would no doubt find them worth
having, and accordingly she would do well to visit the spot, taking her own
apples along as a means of comparison. Idun permitted herself to be
hoodwinked, and the eagle promptly came and carried her off. The eagle,
none other than the Giant Thjazi in disguise, bore her away to his own
estate of Thrymheim, where he kept her a long while in durance. The Æsir
soon noticed that Idun’s apples were gone, for they grew old and gray and
could find no means of renewing their youth. They met in solemn conclave
to inquire into the disappearance of Idun; then some one told that he had seen
her walk forth from Asgard attended by Loki. The gods summoned Loki
before the assembly and threatened him with death or dire tortures. He
became so frightened that he promised to bring Idun back again if Freyja
would only lend him her falcon disguise. His request being granted, he flew
off to Jotunheim and arrived at Thrymheim at a time when Thjazi happened
to be out at sea engaged in fishing, and Idun was alone at home. Loki
transformed Idun into a nut and made off with her as fast as he could fly;
but just afterward Thjazi returned, and not finding Idun, assumed the shape
of an eagle and set out in pursuit of Loki. Little by little the eagle gained
on the falcon. When the Æsir saw the two birds drawing near in their flight,
they made haste to gather a heap of shavings outside the walls of Asgard,
and at the very moment the falcon came inside they kindled the fire. The
eagle was unable to come to a stop before it was directly above the bonfire;
its wings bursting into flame, it was incapable of continuing the flight. Thus
the Æsir got Thjazi into their power and put him to death just within the gates
of Asgard.

Thjazi was one of the most formidable of the Giants. His father
Olvaldi’s wealth was so great that when Thjazi and his two brothers, Idi and
Gang, were to divide their patrimony, they were compelled to
measure out the gold by mouthfuls. When Thjazi’s daughter Skadi came to
demand payment of a penalty for the death of her father, she was not
satisfied with being permitted to choose a husband; she required in
addition that the Æsir should make her laugh, something she deemed to be
impossible. Loki again was called upon to deal with the emergency; so he
played some vulgar tricks with a goat, and she was compelled to laugh in
spite of herself. Odin took Thjazi’s two eyes and tossed them up into the
heavens, where they became two stars.


Sources:

Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 53-56.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906, pp. 329 ff.


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