Retold by Thorfinn AOR
The Wall of Asgard
The Giants in Jotunheim did not like being kept there, and wanted to live in Midgard and Asgard, as both these places were much nicer. They began to fight against Odin and his children, who were now the Gods in Asgard. This fight became a war between the Gods and the Giants.
Scared that Asgard might be knocked down, Odin decided to build a wall around it. One day, as the Gods were building, a stranger came and spoke to them.
“I could build that wall for you,” said the stranger, “And I could build it in just a year!”
“What would you like us to pay you for this?” asked Odin, knowing nothing comes for free.
“I shall begin work, and within a year I will tell you what reward I ask for.” replied the stranger.
So, after making an unbreakable oath, which is a special promise that can never be broken, the stranger agreed to build the wall in a year. He came back the next day, ready to start work.
“But where are the people who would work with you?” asked the Gods, because all the stranger had with him was a horse. But the stranger started working straight away, and so did the horse. Not carrying the bricks to the stranger like you would think, but laying the mortar and setting the bricks himself! And at night, whilst the stranger slept, the horse carried on working.
The Gods were amazed!
“What reward does the stranger want?” they said, “We have made an oath to pay anything, and we will keep it! His work is so good!”
Odin visited the stranger and asked him what pay he would like.
“I have thought on this long and hard,” replied the stranger, “and I would like Sol (the Sun), Mani (the Moon), and I want the Goddess Freyja to be my wife!”
This made Odin very angry because it was too much to pay. He went back to the other Gods to find out what they thought they should do.
“Without Sol, Mani and Freyja, Asgard will be a dull place indeed!” they said. They were just about to tell the stranger to stop building as the price was too high when Loki the Trickster stepped forward to speak.
“I think I have a plan, Odin,” he said, “Tell the stranger to be finished by the first day of Summer. Tell him, if he does not finish, the deal is broken and we do not have to pay.”
So, Odin returned to the stranger and told him the Gods decision. The stranger, so sure he would be finished by Summer agreed to the deal and got back to work, working extra hard. And, of course, at night his horse continued to work.
The Gods looked on, happy that the wall was being built, but sad because it was getting nearer to Summer and the wall was nearly finished.
Then, on the eve of the first day of Summer, whilst the stranger slept and the horse worked, a mare, which is a she-horse, walked up to the wall and spoke to the horse.
“Oh, wonderful, strong horse, please come for a walk with me in the moonlight?” she asked.
“I have this wall to finish before the morning,” replied the horse, “My master, the Giant, is trying to trick the Gods into giving up Sol, Mani and Freyja.”
“But it is such a wonderful night,” said the mare, “Surely you can spare me a few minutes?”
“I suppose I could spare just a minute,” thought the horse, and followed the mare away from the wall and into a nearby wood.
They walked until they reached a pool where they laughed and played until the sun rose, and it was too late to finish the wall.
When the Giant stranger awoke, he saw the wall was not finished and his horse was missing. He was horrified.
“Why is the wall not finished, stranger?” asked Odin, as he and the Gods came to view the finished wall. “This breaks the oath we had together.”
“My horse has been stolen, you have stolen my wonderful horse!” the Giant shouted at them, but Odin and the Gods picked him up and threw him onto the other side of the wall. And try as he might, the wall was so strong that the Giant could not break it down.
That night, as the Gods relaxed in Asgard, Loki came to see Odin. He explained how he changed himself into a mare to lead the Giant’s horse away. Odin congratulated Loki on a wonderful plan to save Asgard, but secretly he was sad, because Asgard had been saved with tricks and that was not how Odin and the Gods liked to behave.