Odin and the Mead of Poetry


Long ago when the world was young there was a war between Vanir Gods and Aesir Gods. Aesir Gods are gods of wars and battle . Vanir Gods are gods who make the soil fertile and plants grow. But Vanir gods were not less powerful and strong in battle than Aesir gods. In this war neither side could win. They only realised that each side needed the other, they depend on each other because there was no joy after the victorious battle when the farms and the fields cannot provide the food to feed the gods in the festing after the battle.

The Gods came together to negotiate a peace between them. After the peace was negotiated they marked their truce one by one spitting into a vat. As their spittle mingled, so their agreement  was built. Then they feasted, talked and joked until dawn. They were ready to go in the morning when Odin said :” It would be a shame to leave our  spittle behind us.”

Frey and Freya, brother and sister, the leaders of Vanir /who both would stay with the Aesir in Asgard from now on/, nodded :” We could make something from this”, said Frey.

“We will make a man”, said Freya . She reached to the vat, she transformed the spittle with her fingers and the spittle took a shape of a man. He stood naked before them.

“ You are Kvasir”, said  Odin. “ Do you know who I am?” Then Kvasir became talking, he knew everything : all the names of Odin, the poems and the chants, the kennings that go with them. The gods started asking Kvasir questions and his answers were always wise. Kvasir was the wisest of the gods, he combined head and heart.

Soon Kvasir decided to travel all the nine worlds and to go see Midgard. There were questions to be answered that have not been asked  yet. The gods asked Kvasir to go back to them and he promised “ I will come back one day “, said Kvasir .“ There is the mystery of the net ,  which  will need to be untangled”.

Kvasir started his journey visiting many places meeting various people. He answered their questions. He knew all the answers . In those days there were two dark elves who lived in a fortress by the sea. They did magic there and feats of alchemy. Like all dwarfs , they created beautiful things, remarkable things in their workshop. But there were things they had not yet made. The two dwarfs were brothers and were called Fjalar and Galar. When they heard about Kvasir they invited him to their fortress. The dwarfs led him to their workshop that was deep within the walls of their fortress.

“What are those things ?”asked Kvasir.

“They are vats. They are named Son and Bodn”

“ And what is that over there?”

“…it is a kettle. We name it Odrerir – ecstasy giver.”

“And I see over here you have buckets of honey . It is uncapped and liquid”.

Kvasir said “ It seems to me that if you were both intelligent and evil, you might have decided to kill your visitor and let his blood flow into the vats Son and Bodn. And then you would heat his blood  in your kettle, Odrerir.And after that you would blend uncapped honey into the mixture and let it ferment until it became mead , a drink that will intoxicate anyone who drinks it but also give anyone who tastes it the gift of poetry and the gift of scholarship”.

And so , the dwarfs did exactly what Kvasir said. When the gods came in the next morning and asked for Kvasir, the dwarfs told them that Kvasir died. The dwarfs gave the gods Kvasir`s bloodless body to be taken to Asgard. Thus it was the dwarfs that possessed the mead of poetry and anyone who wanted to taste it had to beg it from the dwarfs . But they gave it to who they like and since they liked nobody but themselves the mead was only for them. But they had obligations.

Once the giant Gilling and his wife visited the dwarfs in their fortress. The evil brothers decided to kill the giants and made so that the boat that carried Gilling to sink and he died into the sea. Gilling`s wife was desparate after she knew what had  happened to her husband. She cried so loudly , soon her weeping and wailing were too noisy for the dwarfs` ears and they told her to come out of the fortress to see the place where his husband died. When she went out of the fortress  , one of the dwarfs dropped a huge stone on her head and she died.

The dwarfs drank the mead of poetry each night and declaimed beautiful verses to each other , they created mighty sagas  about Gilling and his wife.They declaimed the sagas  from the rooftop of their fortress.

One day they did not wake up in their fortress but on the floor of their boat, they were tied  and they saw a giant. He was Gilling`s son who had heard them reciting the verse about how they killed his parents. Suttung, that was the name of the giant, left the dwarfs tied with ropes in the boat to the place where the tide would come and flood the boat to cover the dwarfs and so they would die under the sea waves. The dwarfs started begging for mercy. They cried, finally, when everything they said to the giant was in vain , they offered the mead of poetry to the giant. He accepted this offer and left them alive.

Suttung carried the mead /and other things from the dwarfs as well/ to his home in the world of the giants. The two dwarfs told everybody how they have been ill –used by Suttung. They told this in the market when they went to trade and the two ravens / Huginn and Muninn/heard them and told the news to Odin. People who heard about the mead of poetry called it with many names : the ship of the dwarfs, Suttung`s mead, the liquid of Odrerir or Bodn or Son.

Odin asked for his cloak and hat. He told the gods to prepare three enormous wooden  vats and to wait for him by the gates of Asgard. He took two things with him : whetstone and auger, the drill called Rati that was the finest drill the gods possessed. It could drill in the hardest rock.

Suttung has given his precious mead to his gaughter Gunnlod to watch over it inside the mountain Hnitbjorg. Odin went to the farmland owned by Suttung`s brother Baugi. Baugi had nine slaves , giants,to cut the grass on the field with huge scythes. Odin helped them by sharpening their scythes with the whetstone and they were able to cut the grass efortlessly. They wanted to have this whetstone. Odin told them to gather together holding their scythes, the one who catches the whetstone will have it. Odin tossed the whetstone over the giants and they jumped to catch it. As they were holding their sharpened blades they killed each other cutting their throats while jumping. Then Odin went to Baugi and asked a lodging for the night. Odin said “ I am  Bolverkr”/that means “ worker of terrible things’/. Baugi  shared with Odin what has happened with his slaves but he did not know why they slew each other. Now there was noone who could cut the grass on the field. Odin offered his help. He offered to Baugi to cut his grass but named his price that was “ to taste his brother`s Suttung`s mead”.  Baugi hesitated but finally agreed with Odin`s offer.

Odin did the job and after the job was done he and Baugi went to Suttung to ask him for a drop of his precious mead. Suttung did not agree to allow the stranger to taste his mead. But he said exactly where it is. It was in its vats Bodn and Son and in the kettle Odrerir and it is deep inside the mountain of Hnitbjorg which opens only by his command. The mead is kept by his daughter Gunnlod that is good at weapons and fighting.

When Suttung refused to take them from the mead, they left. Odin asked Baugi to climb Hnitbjorg mountain with him. This was a long climbing. Finally they heard a voice, it was coming from the mountain, Baugi recognised the voice of his niece Gunnlod that was singing into the mountain.  They stopped where the voice can be heard. Odin took his drill.  He asked Baugi to start to drill into the mountain. A small opening appeared to the center of the mountain. Then Odin turned into a snake and vanished into the hole. When Odin reached a huge cavern that was lit by crystals he turned into a man giant, well formed,  and walked towards Gunnlod that was holding a sharp sword into her hands and sang to herself.

“ Well met, you brave maiden “ , said Odin. Gunnlod asked who he was and asked him why to leave him alive since she was the guardian of this place and he entered there without allowance. Odin told her that he was Bolverkr and he came here for her because she was so beautiful and corageous. He looked so handsome and he spoke of her beauty and this was nice to Gunnlod to listen to . She liked this handsome giant and they sat together eating and drinking. Odin offered to create a poem for Gunnlod but he needed one sip from the mead of poetry so that this poem to become the most beautiful verse there was. “ A sip so small nobody would ever know “, said Odin and continued talking how beautiful Gunnlod was and they kissed, they made love in the darkness. Finally , after making love with her again, Odin succeeded to persuade Gunnlod to allow him a tiny sip from the mead, he said that he needed this to create poems for her lips and beautiful  hair and her skin. When at last he reached the vats and the kettle with the mead, he drunk them all. With his first drink he emptied Odrerir, with his second he drained Bodn and with the third drink he emptied Son.

Then Gunnlod attacked him but Odin escaped and locked her inside. He opened the mountain doors and in a shape of a huge eagle he flew to Asgard. Gunnlod`s screams were so sharp that Suttung woke up and saw the eagle. He knew what had happened. The giant transformed himself in a eagle and the two eagles flew so high and fast in the sky.

The gods of Asgard watched the two eagles and prepared the three vats by the gates.Suttung was very fast , he almost reached Odin when Asgard was so near. Odin began to spit and fountain of the mead of poetry  poured into the vats.

This is how Odin brought back the mead of poetry for the gods and for the people. It is believed that these people who can make magic spells with words and who can create poetry and tell tales have tasted the mead of poetry.

But there is something to be added for the bad poetry here. When Suttung was about to catch Odin and he reached the feathers of his tail when he was chasing him in the sky , Odin blew some of the mead out of his behind. This was a wet fart of foul – smelling mead just right in Suttung`s face, blinding the giant and throwing him off Odin`s trail. Noone then or now wants to drink the mead that came out of Odin`s arse. When you hear people declaming their bad poetry filled with foolish rhymes, you will know which of the meads they have tasted.

I re-told here what was re-told by many before me.This version of the myth is based on Neil Gaiman`s book “ Norse Mythology “ that is based on his searching and re-telling of the  various Norse myths and tales about the Old Gods of the North.

With thanks and appreciation to those before me.

Mistress of the Mountains




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