Freya had been in Midgard, with the young – the youths and maidens who were experiencing, for the first time, the joys and sorrows of love. Now, as she hastened towards Asgard and the welcoming warmth of her hall, she realised she had dallied too long in the land of people. The brief, Winter day was rapidly drawing towards night, and the gentle caress of a snowflake on her cheek warned of an impending storm. As the cold wind quickened and the snow fell more rapidly she spotted the entrance to a cave and, knowing that the storm was about to break, the Golden Goddess quickly sort shelter in the entrance.
“Clearly I’m not going to get back tonight.” she murmured to herself, unaware that, hidden in the deep shadows of the cave, her words were eagerly over-heard by Loki. Carefully searching the cave for the means to build a fire or – at least – some way of staying warm while she waited out the storm, the Daughter of Njord realised that a warm draught was coming from the rear of the cave. Carefully feeling her way through the darkness, Freya found a narrow corridor, leading deep into the hillside, from which both the warm air and the sound of hammering came. After a moments thought, Freya decided to visit whoever lived in this dark and dismal place, “After all,” she mused, “It is either risk an inhospitable reception or freeze to death up here on my own.”
Unaware of the silent step of the Mischief-Maker behind her, the Sister of Frey crept down the dark corridor until, after a sudden twist in the path, she entered the brilliantly lit smithy of the four dwarfs, Alfrigg, Dvalin, Berling and Grerr. The dwarfs, dazzled by the goddess’ beauty, immediately stopped their work and crowded round her. “Sit here by the fire.” one suggested, “Can I get you a drink?” another asked, “Are you wet? Are you hungry? Do you need to shelter for the night?” Freya was quiet overwhelmed by their welcome and gladly accepted the seat by the fire, a mug of steaming milk sweetened with honey, and the offer of somewhere to stay for the night. The dwarfs, embarrassed by their undisguised attraction to her beauty, quickly returned to their work but, one by one, each excused themself and sidled over to Freya.
“We have offered you kindness and the warmth of our fire,” said Alfrigg, “Will you not repay us?”
“Of course,” replied Freya, “I have gold here.” and she reached for her purse.
“I do not want gold.” replied the dwarf. Freya looked at him in surprise and he continued, “I want you to spend the night with me.”
Freya smiled at his clumsy attempt at charm and, sadly shaking her head, replied, “While I appreciate your kindness and your hospitality, I am not prepared to pay for it with my body and, if you are honest with yourself, you know that you have not asked a fair price.” Aware that she spoke the truth, Alfrigg returned to his work.
Then Berling sat beside the Goddess. “If I gave you all the silver we own,” he said, “Would you spend the night with me?”
Freya smiled gently, flattered – despite herself – by his attentions. She slowly removed her gloves, to reveal the ornate and beautifully fashioned silver rings on her fingers, “What would I do with more silver?” she asked. Berling, marvelling at the skill of the work he had just seen, returned to tending the forge fire.
Then Dvalin moved towards the Golden Goddess, “We have much gold.” he told her. “I would give it all to you if you would spend the night with me.”
Freya smiled again, then, taking off her cloak and hanging it by the fire, she revealed the brooches and jewels on her dress, “What need have I of more gold?” she asked the dwarf. Astounded by the beauty of the jewellery the Golden One had revealed, Dvalin too returned to his work.
Having seen the failure of his three companions, Grerr realised they would need great skill and cunning if they were to get what they desired from this beautiful stranger who had happened into their midst. In the shadows Loki smiled to himself; he knew the dwarfs were desperate to spend the night with Freya, and he suspected that their cunning would not go unrewarded.
At Grerr’s suggestion, the four dwarfs started work on a necklace, a choker incised with beautiful patterns, a marvel of fluid metal, twisting, weaving and writhing, while their guest, wearied by her journey, dozed by the fire. When the dwarfs had finished their work, they brought the necklace to Freya. She was entranced by its beauty and knew she had never seen anything like it before. “We would like you to have this as a gift.” said Grerr.
“But…I….Well I couldn’t accept it!” stammered Freya, surprised by their generosity, “It is too much!”
“You could pay us for it.” suggested Dvalin, with a mischievous grin on his face.
“Yes,” agreed the Goddess, “That would be better. Much fairer.” she quickly regained her composure at this turn of events. “What is your price?” she asked the four short ones.
“You!” they said together. “Spend one night with each of us,” added Berling, “And the necklace is yours.” continued Alfrigg.
Freya, was shocked. Then she wasn’t sure if she should laugh or cry; was it all a joke? But, seeing the earnest look on the dwarfs’ faces, she realised they were serious. “Give me a moment to think about it.” she said, a little uneasily.
“Of course,” the dwarfs agreed and, laying the necklace on one side, they proceeded to set the table with a feast fit for a king or, indeed, a Goddess. Freya was torn; the necklace was beautiful but the price was high, but who would know and what was wrong with an honest deal? Then again, the dwarfs had shown her only kindness, and generosity; they had accepted her previous refusals of their advances with good humour. And the necklace was just so magnificent! By the end of the meal, Freya had agreed to the dwarfs price for the jewellery and, still hidden in the shadows, the Sly-One smiled to himself.
Four days and four nights passed; the dwarfs treated Freya like a princess; she honoured her part of the deal and, on the morning of the fourth day, the dwarfs fastened the Brising Necklace around Freya’s smooth, milky-white throat. Hastily donning her cloak and gloves, the Golden Goddess bid the dwarfs farewell and headed across the snow-fields towards Asgard. Silently Loki followed her.
As Freya crossed Bifrost, and headed to her own hall of Sessrumnir, her mischievous shadow headed straight to Valaskjalf, the home of the Terrible One.
In a glance Odin knew that Loki was up to something, “Well? What is it?” he demanded.
The Shape Changer, trying hard to look innocent, replied, “I don’t know what you mean?”
“I can read your face,” snapped the One-Eyed One, “What have you been up to?”
“Do you mean you didn’t see it?” asked the Mischief Maker, feigning surprise, “Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the Goddess you love, the one you lust after, giving her body to those four foul and odious dwarfs?”
“What are you talking about,” growled the Hooded One.
Ignoring the anger in the Terrible One’s voice, Loki regaled him with details of the four nights the Daughter of Njord had spent with the dwarfs and, missing out the details of their kindness and generosity, their good natured humour, the Sly One claimed she had done it all just for the Brising Necklace.
His face contorted with anger, his one eye aflame with jealousy, Odin roared at the hapless Loki, “Get that necklace!”
Turning in alarm, the Shape Changer thought to explain how impossible an order this was, but he saw the grim and sinister mask of the God of War and realised he had probably pushed things a little too far. In terror for his life, the Shape Changer hurried from Valaskjalk and headed towards Freya’s gleaming hall.
Outside the door of Sessrumnir, Loki regained his composure, checked that the door was locked and then, with a quick shrug of his shoulders, turned himself into a fly. Buzzing round the door he could find no gap, nor was there a chink between the beams and the plaster, nor underneath the eaves of the roof; only when he flew to the highest point of the hall, just beneath the gable of the roof, did the Shape Changer find the smallest of gaps but, with difficulty, he was able to wriggle into Freya’s home.
After making sure that the Golden Goddess’ daughters and serving maids were sleeping, the Sly One flew to Freya’s bedroom. There he admired the beauty of the sleeping Goddess before noticing that she lay on the clasp of the necklace. With muttered words he changed himself into a flea and, after enjoying walking across her smooth breast, the Mischief Maker settled on her cheek. Gathering all his strength, Loki stung her pale skin.
In her sleep, Freya, murmured, wiped her cheek and turned on her side. From the floor the Shape Changer could see the clasp of the necklace so he quickly regained his own form. With a lightness of finger unequalled in the Nine Worlds, he unfastened the necklace and hastened from the hall.
When Freya awoke her hand went, automatically, to feel the smooth contours of her most brilliant of pieces of jewellery, but her fingers stroked only the flesh of her neck. She looked down, threw back the bed covers, glanced under the bed but, realising that the necklace was gone, and that the doors to her hall were open and had not been forced, the Sister of Frey quickly realised that only one person could have stolen her necklace and that even he would only dare to do such a deed on the orders of Odin himself.
Furiously Freya strode into Valaskjalf and confronted the Allfather. “What have you done with my necklace?” she demanded.
“I hear you will trade your body for this jewel” leered Odin, “Why should I not claim the same price?”
“I paid an honest price for goods sold by their owner. I will not pay the same price for you to return that which you have stolen.” She met the Terrible One’s lone eye defiantly and he knew that he would not sway her.
Reluctantly the Father of Battle realised this was not the way to woo Freya so he decided on another tack, “I want you to work as my,” he paused, “Assistant.” he murmured, “To stir up hatred and war, as I do; to find two Kings in Midgard, to set them at each other’s throat, and to ensure they only meet on the field of battle. That,” he stated, “Is the price you must pay for the return of your necklace.”
The Golden Goddess thought about it for a moment, “And I also get to choose from the slain at the end of battle?” she asked. Odin inclined his head and Freya, intrigued by the new role she was to perform, accepted the Worker of Evil’s terms for the return of her Brising Necklace.
Retold by Izzy Lane, September 1996
Crossley-Holland, Kevin, “The Norse Myths, Gods of the Vikings”, Penguin Books, London, 1982
Davidson, H. R. Ellis, “Gods and Myths of Northern Europe”, Penguin Books, England, 1964
Green, Roger Lancelyn, “Myths of the Norsemen”, Puffin Books, Great Britain, 1970
Sturluson, Snorri, “Edda”, Translated by Anthony Faulkes, Everyman’s Library, London, 1987 (Reissued 1992)