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THE DAUGHTERS OF SVARANG

A Tale of Thor and Loki from the Eddas

By Thorskegga Thorn

In ancient times when the worlds were young and Sol and Mon lived in blazing splendour in their heavenly halls, Thor and Loki would drive their thunderous goat drawn wagon along the boundaries of Middle Earth. Sparks would fly as the wain’s iron bound wheels crashed against the stones of the border road, causing flames to flicker in the dry golden grasses on the verges. The troll folk of the Outlands would usually hide in terror at the giantkiller’s passing. Few Outlanders dared to challenge the mighty son of Earth, and it was well known that his cunning companion was as dangerous with his wits as the thunderer was with his deadly stone missiles.

This tale begins on one of those rare occasions when two brave young warriors of the Outlands decided to try their mettle against the famous heroes of Asgard. Reckless and foolhardy, the giant youths hurled abuse and flung stones at the gods’ wagon. Thor leapt from his wain and demanded to know the names of those who mocked him.

‘What do our names matter to you?’ the giants taunted, towering twice the height of the gods and confident with their apparent advantage. ‘Crushing you will be like squashing flies!’

‘I thought you might like your names on your grave stone,’ Thor replied coldly ‘but ‘here lie two overconfident blockheads’ will do just as well.’

One of the giants howled ‘Then know that the sons of Svarang will be your doom!’ and flung another stone. Poorly thrown, the rock crashed against the carved planks of the wagon’s sides. The goats edged forward threatening to charge. Thor strode to the roadside where an outcrop of granite showed through the thin golden grass. He grasped the rock shelf and heaved, the earth shuddered as a megalithic shard came free. The god turned to face his would be foes hefting the cottage sized missile as if was as light as rolled fleece, ‘I don’t miss.’ he said quietly. The giants paled, and Loki laughed as they pissed themselves in terror.

‘Wait’ a woman’s voice called, and two giantesses emerged from the trees that shadowed the Outland hills. They made a strange couple, the speaker was muscular and clad in leather and bronze wargear with a sword through her belt that was as long as a mortal man. Her flame red hair was tied back in a knot and she possessed a fierce wild beauty. Her companion wore more traditional female garb, but her hair was tangled in witches knots and hung with charms, she carried a staff on which lose bronze rings rattled as she strode forward.

‘Do you know these fools?’ Thor asked indicating the terrified giants with his free hand.

‘They are our brothers,’ the warlike woman replied with a grin, ‘the menfolk of our family have never been overburdened with intelligence. If you spare their miserable lives I could send them off in search of game and invite you to supper.’

‘Sound fair to me.’ Thor agreed.

Thor lowered the boulder gently into the hole from which it had been torn, but the ground still lurched as it settled. The giantess sent her bothers to hunt wild aurochs and they slunk away eager to leave the scene of their humiliation.

The gods and the giantesses stood facing one another on the boundary road, the warrior woman broke the silence ‘We do not wish to be in conflict with Asgard. Would you agree to a peace between yourselves and the house of Svarang, if we swear to take no land or possessions from Middle Earth?’

‘We would,’ Thor agreed.

‘And would you agree to seal the peace in the customary manner?’ she asked.

‘And what is that?’ asked the thundergod.

‘How are alliances made in all the worlds?’ she mocked his need to question ‘Enemies put their differences aside, man and woman lie together as lovers and beget a child to link the households as one.’

‘Well count me in.’ said Loki eagerly.

‘But first you must prove yourselves worthy of bedding us.’ The giantess replied.

‘No problem.’ Loki said.

‘Then wrestle with me and prove your worth.’

‘What?’ Loki wailed his hopes plummeting. His head barely reached the giantess’s belt and her arms rippled with muscles. ‘I can’t wrestle you.’ he murmured unhappily.

‘Maybe not,’ Thor responded, ‘but I can’. He unpinned his cloak and handed it to Loki.

The giantess unbuckled her sword and handed the blade to her sister, she grinned in anticipation.

‘Now let’s see how you fight little Asa.’ laughed the giantess.

‘I wouldn’t be too sure of that.’ Thor retorted and stepped forward to grip her, but as moved towards the giantess he increased in stature, and thus equal in height he stood eye to eye with the battle maiden. Her expression showed shocked surprise which quickly mellowed into pleasure. God and giantess held one another firmly around the waist and the giantess strained to throw her opponent. She heaved until every muscle screamed and sweat streamed down her forehead.

‘My turn now?’ asked Thor. The giantess yelled as the horizon spun and she found herself flat on her back with her arms and legs pinned by the triumphant thundergod. ‘Best of three?’ he asked with a grin.

‘Oh no.’ she gasped ‘You will do!’ The god’s close contact filled her with desire and she delighted in his touch as he pulled her back to her feet and put his arm about her..

‘What is your name Svarang’s daughter?’ asked Thor.

‘I am called Ironsword and my sister is Griefbringer. Let us see how Loki stands against her.’

Loki and Griefbringer had been quietly studying one another. They appeared to have a mutual understanding, no words were spoken to define their contest, but when Greifbringer shook the rings on her staff he nodded for her to begin. The giantess lay her staff on the ground sung a magical repetitive chant and gradually stretched her arms upwards. She brought her arms down sharply and suddenly there was no giantess there but a huge kestrel hovering, poised to strike. Loki shapeshifted into a wild cat and leapt up at the hawk with talons spread to catch the bird from the air. The woman-hawk changed into a fierce bear and forced the cat aside with her heavy paws, the Loki-cat became a hare and bounded out of the slow bear’s reach.

‘Who is winning?’ Thor asked Ironsword.

‘Does it matter?’ replied the giantess ‘They look perfectly suited to me.’

The woman-bear changed again into a silver gray wolf and gave chase. The Loki-hare also took the form of a wolf and the two wolves circled one another. The two animals played together tumbling over and over. The Loki-wolf mounted the dam who screamed her pleasure.

‘Well that was quick.’ Thor commented.

Ironsword smiled and shook her head ‘Come let us see to the feast.’ They walked together through the forest. Nearby in a sheltered valley Svarang’s Hall towered above a fast flowing stream, surrounded by trees which grew thick up to its very walls.

‘You have no farm here?’ asked Thor.

‘No we hunt, and trade the hides and horns for fish and grain.’

The giants’ household was small, Svarang and his wife shared their lofty dwelling with only their four children. Svarang scowled at Thor’s presence, in likeness and manner Svarang was much like his sons, age and the white streaks in his beard had added little to his wisdom. The wife’s gaze sparkled with intelligence, there was no doubt from where Ironsword had inherited her wits and beauty. Ironsword met her mothers eyes and introduced her companion. ‘I have made peace between our household and the kin of Thor. The agreement has been sealed by the union of Loki and Griefbringer, they play together as wolves in the forest. I have agreed to bear a child by Thor to bond our families closer. Will you honour my word and welcome the Aesir to our hall?’

Svarang said nothing, looking puzzled and uncertain but his wife came forward with a delighted smile. She hugged the thundergod warmly, took his arm and led him towards the hearth. ‘I am glad to welcome you and will honour your agreement with Ironsword.’ she turned to her husband ‘Svarang! Fetch a horn of ale for our guest.’

Grumbling and sulking, Svarung drew a ox horn of ale from one of several massive barrels propped on the hall’s benches. The old giantess took the horn from him and embraced her husband, his sour mood vanished as a childish grin spread across his features. Apparently satisfied by the proceedings he wandered back to his seat.

Ironsword’s mother raised the horn and offered it to the Asa ‘Health to you Thor, be welcome in the hall of Svarang and Grid.’ Thor drained the horn and returned it, nodding his thanks. The two brothers staggered into the room with a freshly butchered aurochs slung on a pole over their shoulders. ‘Wonderful,’ cried Grid ‘you two can amuse yourselves while the meat is cooking, your brothers can help me with the roasting.

Thor and Ironsword chatted while the rest of the household busied themselves around the hearth. They played the dice games of the outlands and the board games of Asgard to while away the hours while the ox was cooked to perfection.

Neither Loki nor Griefbringer were seen in the hall, but from time to time Ironsword would cut a strip of meat from the ox carcass and hurl it out the open door. Paws scuffled in the drifts of ancient pine needles.

After the generous meal of the meat, fresh bread and horn after horn of ale, Svarang, Grid and the brothers retired to their sleeping benches. Ironsword lay back into Thor’s arms and the god gently unbuckled her leather and bronze armour so that her firm breasts glowed in the light of the dying fire. ‘I couldn’t take you home, could I?’ he asked.

‘No.’ she replied ‘I need the wild Outlands, the thrill of the hunt and the danger of the wilderness. I would be lost and bored in your quiet farms’.

‘Pity.’ Thor muttered.

‘I will come and stay when the child is born, at least until it is weaned.’ she shuddered with pleasure as Thor explored her body ‘Just promise me one thing.’

‘What’s that?’

‘If you give me a boy, make sure it takes after you.’

The unrelenting sun blazed down on the golden meadows of Middle Earth. Time passed, time enough for a man to walk from the Northern Mountains of the Outlands to the burning fields of fire in Surt’s kingdom. A lone giantess hugging a swaddled babe rapped on the doors of Bilskirnir. Thor’s household welcomed Ironsword with great gladness. Sigyn scurried to and fro from the kitchens instructing the servants to prepare a feast for the guest. Loki still in awe of the gaintess’s wild beauty fashioned a chair and trestle for her comfort, as the halls’ benches were too low for her to use. It was fortunate that Bilskirnir is the highest of Asgard’s many halls and Ironsword was not forced to stoop beneath low beams and arches.

The thunderer delighted in his ruddy haired infant son and held him in his arms, the child was irritable after the long journey from the Outlands and let out a lusty howl. ‘You’re an angry little fellow.’ said Thor handing the restless babe back to his mother. Ironsword shrugged her hide dress from her shoulders and put the child to her breast. Loki regarded the child’s soft perch with envy. ‘What’s his name?’ asked Thor.

‘I decided to let you name him, and you just did. His name is Modi, the angry one.’

‘Very apt.’ Thor agreed.

‘Where is Griefbringer?’ asked Loki.

‘I have not seen her for a while.’ Ironsword replied ‘she had a difficult pregnancy and retired to the sickhouse. Mother told me she was starting her labour when I left. She will come here when she can.’

Tired after her long journey Ironsword asked that a bath be prepared for her. Thor’s servants busied themselves filling a massive wooden vat with hot water and bringing baskets of soapwort leaves and bottles of fragrant oils. Sigyn took charge of Modi, and left the weary giantess to doze in the bathtub with her head propped with pillows.

Thor and Loki amused themselves in the great hall with a game of hnetafl and a half hogshead of strong mead. After several games the counters became a little hazy, and Loki chased Thor’s king around the board with no obvious strategy. Their happy oblivion was shattered when Ironsword stormed into the room, with water streaming from her naked body. She was dragging a snake with both hands, the snake was unusually long and most reluctant to be carried, it snagged its coils around every pillar the furious giantess passed. ‘How did this thing get into my bathwater?’ she demanded. ‘Loki, is this your snake by any chance?’

‘Er, no’. The trickster replied staring drunkenly up at the giantesses, barely noticing the snake at all.

Thor frowned, Ironsword heaved on the snake mightily and its coils heaped up by her feet, disgusted she released its neck. The snake smirked and sucked its tail.

‘Well Loki,’ urged Thor ‘you are supposed to be the expert on magic round here. Where has it come from?’

Loki got unsteadily to his feet and approached the snake, cautiously he lifted its heavy head in both hands and stared into its eyes, a forked tongue flicked between razor sharp talons. The eyes often revealed what appearances did not, even the best shape changers could not disguise such clues from the close inspection of one who knew the signs. But what Loki saw in the serpents gaze sobered him immediately. Loki considered, and then shook the snake’s head vigorously, ‘Bad snake.’ he said ‘disturbing a lady’s bath like that! If you want to swim use the fish ponds instead. Now come with me and stay out of trouble.’ The household watched dumfounded as the huge serpent obediently followed Loki out of the hall, its coils meandering like a golden river.

Thor sighed, ‘Loki had better explain himself later. Crazy pranks are one thing but this is ridiculous.’ He put his arm around Ironsword and lead her back to his bedchamber. Thor drew the heavy drapes across the windows to block out the blazing sunlight and happily snuggled up with Ironsword and baby Modi.

Meanwhile, silence had fallen in the great kitchens of Bilskirnir, the cooks and servants watched in wonder as a massive wolf slunk between the trestles. Muscles rippled as it paced towards the the great cooking hearth with its deep bed of glowing embers.

Sigyn pounded on the thundergod’s door, Modi howled indignation at being woken so abruptly, Thor sleepily pulled on his tunic and opened the door to the anxious asyniur. ‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.

‘There is a wolf in the kitchen.’ Sigyn answered breathlessly.

‘A wolf?’ groaned Thor, unimpressed at being disturbed with such a minor problem. Most of the kitchen staff were quite capable of dispatching a wolf, especially with an arsenal of knifes and spit irons on hand.

‘It’s a very big wolf.’ Sigyn urged ‘Come and see.’

Thor remembered the serpent and felt suddenly uneasy. He nodded agreement and followed Sygin down the corridors and stairs towards the kitchens. The servants gave the strange wolf a wide berth as Thor strode towards the animal, Sygin could have sworn it had had grown even larger in the few moments she had been absent. The wolf’s head was towards the hearth and its teeth crunched as it ate, Thor assumed it had found some discarded bones, and was shocked to discover that the wolf was chewing the glowing coals of the fire itself. The wolf swallowed and stared up at the god, as if challenging anyone to deny his right to feed in the kitchens.

Thor glanced at Sigyn, ‘There is something not right here.’ he said ‘Your husband knows what is going on but he hasn’t seen fit to tell me.’

Sigyn shook her head, she looked worried ‘I know, he took that serpent to his room. He is acting very strangely. He wouldn’t let me in.’

‘Very well.’ said Thor and grabbed the wolf’s head in his strong grip. The wolf resisted and growled, loud and menacing, Thor glared at the beast until cowed by the thundergod’s stare the wolf surrendered to Thor’s inspection. Thor studied the wolf’s eyes, they were not the eyes of any normal animal, he detected a fierce sentient intelligence, immortality, and… something else he could quite grasp.

‘Go and get Loki.’ Thor sighed.

Loki had stared at the wolf in dismay, then recovering his usual carefree mood and grinned and shrugged at Thor, snapped his fingers at the wolf and retired to his rooms with the great beast trotting after him.

The household retired to bed with no further disturbances. Several hours after they awoke another visitor came to the door. It was Griefbringer with Loki’s child in her arms. The giantess was made welcome, the news of her arrival even enticed Loki from his bedchamber menagerie. Loki grinned at the sight of Griefbringer and the child and asked to see the infant. The giantess released the swaddled baby. ‘Her name is Hel.’ she said. Loki held his tiny daughter, her face peering between the layers of linen was strangely marked, all one side was puckered and blue, like a corpse, and yet her other cheek was was rosy pink and healthy. Loki studied her thoughtfully, stroked her tiny nose and grinned, the baby gurgled happily. ‘My first child.’ he said proudly.

‘Oh no’ corrected Griefbringer, ‘she is our third, surely her brothers arrived before us?’

‘Her brothers?’ Loki asked puzzled.

‘Why yes, the serpent and the wolf.’

Loki stared at the giantess, his mouth open in shock.

Thor groaned and buried his head in his hands. Ironsword laughed as she understood ‘Really Loki, what do you expect if you make children while shapeshifting!’

With the unusual beasts finally explained, Thor’s next sleep was undisturbed, but as the household roused for breakfast he was awoken by someone tugging on his foot.

‘What is it?’ he muttered sleepily.

‘Uncle Thor, uncle Thor!’ the tugging continued.

The thundergod sat up to see a young girl standing at the foot of his bed. She was naked and of the age when girls were first taught the simpler household chores. Her skin was coloured down one side, in the shadowed room it looked almost blue.

‘Hel?’ asked Thor in confusion.

‘Yes uncle.’ the child replied.

‘But you were a baby yesterday, how come you have grown so fast?’

The girl shrugged ‘I just have. Can I see Modi?’

Ironsword was equally puzzled, but after brief consideration held out the baby to Hel’s eager arms. Hel cuddled Modi, rocking him and crooning. Thor dressed and went in search of Loki.

The wolf and the serpent had taken up residence in the great hall, the wolf was now bigger than a wild ox, the serpent’s coiled form made his size difficult to calculate but his girth had doubled since his arrival. Loki was sitting on a bench telling them stories and jokes, and clearly had their complete attention.

Thor approached the unlikely group and said to his friend ‘I have just seen Hel, I am worried about these children of yours. I need to find out what the consequences of rearing them will be.’

The trickster looked up at Thor with mixed emotions, fatherly concern battled with relief, he nodded his head sadly. Thor climbed up onto his high seat and tried to gather his thoughts, only to be assaulted by Odin’s accusing presence in his mind.

‘What are you doing?’ the warfather demanded.

‘I was about to seek counsel.’ Thor replied.

‘Well I can save you the effort.’ Odin retorted. ‘I have questioned the Volva. The creatures will bring disaster. Bring them to me immediately!’

‘Oh, and what do you propose to do with them?’ Thor asked coldly.

‘The must be chained or destroyed.’

‘Are you suggesting we should murder Loki’s children?’

‘Probably.’

‘The children of your blood brother?’

Odin was silent considering, ‘Yes.’ he finally replied.

‘Based on the opinion of a witch wife?’

‘Do it Thor, or I will hold you responsible for the consequences!’

Losing his patience Thor lashed out at the warfather with sufficient force to ensure that he would be left to contemplate the problem in peace. Using the enchanted high seat Thor searched for the central point of the nine worlds, the hall of the Norns by Urd’s well. As it shimmered into focus and he could heard the quiet conversation as the Norns discussed destiny, Thor stepped down from the carved platform and into the Norn’s glade.

The Norns clustered around their weaving loom which bore the tangled web of wyrd. The loom was narrow, only three feet wide between the upright beams, and its threads were a chaotic three dimensional model of the nine worlds. Three of the Norns sat around the loom studying the pattern of the weave. Occasionally one would reach in and twine the stands together, add new fibres or cut a hanging end short. Earth’s daughters Sibyl and Frigg sat to one side with a heavy wooden log between them, Sibyl held it steady while Frigg worked the timber with an adze. Sibyl glanced up and grinned at the thunderer, as if expecting his sudden appearance, though that would not have surprised him.

‘I need to question you..’ Thor began.

‘…concerning Loki’s children.’ Frigg finished for him.

‘Yes.’ Thor smiled in resignation at the Norns’ foreknowledge of his need, but pressed on regardless ‘Do they pose any danger?’

‘Hard to say.’ Sibyl answered ‘The future is unclear.’

‘Unclear?’ Thor was puzzled ‘How can it be unclear to you?’

Sibyl rose to her feet brushing wood shavings from her gown. ‘Come and see for yourself.’ She lead him towards the loom.

As he came close to the fabric Thor realised that the threads had been pulled tightly together at the bottom of the weave. The loom weights hung in a cluster together beneath the impossible tangle. Thor recognised the thread which represented his own life running straight through the weave, and right into the centre of the constricted tangle. ‘What does this mean?’ He asked with a frown.

‘It means that much weighs on the decision you make this day and the future will not be revelled to us until your choice is made.’

Thor cursed softly. He took Sibyls hands and said earnestly ‘Help me sister.’

Sibyl touched the web and closed her eyes. ‘Loki’s children have the potential to change the nine worlds. If they are allowed to mature life will alter almost beyond recognition.’

‘Change for better or worse?’ asked Thor.

‘Change can be beneficial in moderation.’ Sibyl replied.

‘Then the danger would occur if they were allowed to rampage freely.’

‘It would appear so.’

Thor fell silent awhile considering. ‘But they are still growing, I do not know how powerful they will become.’

‘Each would be formidable.’

‘Formidable?’

‘Yes. By your own reckoning.’

Thor sighed. ‘Odin thinks they will bring disaster.’

‘They could. But turning Loki against you could be equally dangerous.’

Thor thanked his sister and embraced her and made to take his leave, but Sibyl called after him ‘Wait I have something that may help you.’

‘Oh, what’s that?’

‘This.’ Sibyl pulled her gown from her shoulders and stood before him utterly naked, her corn yellow hair bathing her perfect curves in light.

Thor was shocked at the forbidden sight of his sister’s overpowering sexuality, but could not tear his eyes from her. It occurred to him that Freyja had a true rival among the Norns.

‘Go now,’ she said, ‘and remember the light when you have darkness.’

Baffled, Thor nodded his thanks and stepped back out of the glade and back into the relative gloom of Bilskirnir’s great hall.

Thor met Loki’s worried gaze as he returned from his shamanic trance. Thor smiled reassuringly at his friend ‘Nothing to worry about Loki, I won’t allow your children to be harmed if they don’t cause any trouble in Asgard or Middle Earth. Make sure they understand that.’

Loki nodded, his relief obvious. The wolf used his six inch teeth to lever off the engraved gold plate from the base of one of the massive hall pillars, and crunched it happily. Thor frowned and Loki went pale. ‘Em, I’ll just take them outside,’ Loki said hastily, ‘come on children.’

‘Good idea.’ thought the thunderer, ‘while they can still fit through the door.’

When the household next awoke Thor and Ironsword had another visit from their young niece, only she was not so young anymore. Hel was five feet tall, and showed the first signs of adulthood beneath her white dress. ‘Hello uncle.’ she said, her smile distorted on one side by the puckered blue skin.

Thor grinned back ‘Hello Hel, have you come to see Modi again?’ The girl nodded and eagerly came forward to hold the tiny baby in her arms, again she cuddled him with delight.

Thor watched her in fascination, then said ‘You will come of age tomorrow, won’t you.’

‘Yes uncle.’

‘And your brothers will finish growing.’

‘Yes.’

The god considered, ‘Would you like to have a feast to celebrate?’

Hel looked at him in surprise, ‘Yes I would,’ she gave him another crooked smile ‘because after tomorrow I must leave.’

‘I thought as much,’ Thor replied ‘I’ll miss you lass.’

Hel surrendered the baby, laughed happily and ran out of the room.

When Thor approached the great door of his hall to check on Hel’s brother’s, he was alarmed to see a wall of scales blocking his path, the serpent was now wider than Thor was high. Not far away the beast’s massive head rested with its barbed tail between its jaws, the golden sea of scales extended in both directions and it took little intuition to deduce that its body circled the whole hall. Loki struggled to his feet, looking worried and weary. ‘I never thought it would get so big.’ he said.

‘It is still growing.’ Thor replied. ‘It will keep growing until tomorrow.’ His friend was silent, so Thor continued stating the obvious, ‘It can’t stay here.’

Loki nodded sadly.

Thor strode up to the serpents head, it stayed at him with a glistening yellow eyeball as big as a warriors shield. Thor addressed the worm, ‘There is only one place large enough for you to live in, and that is the great sea between Middle Earth and the Outlands. As long as you do not harm the folk of Middle Earth you will be left in peace there.’

The serpent released its tail, hissed in acknowledgement and the ground shuddered as the great worm started its long journey to the sea. The two gods watched it leave, until the barbed tail faded from sight leaving only a deep meandering furrow to mark its passing. The wolf dozed in a corner of the hall’s enclosure, even at rest the wolf’s shoulders stood as high as the stable doors.

The household started the preparations for Hel’s party, servants scurried about the kitchens and the two giantesses hung banners and garlands on the walls of the great hall. Sigyn searched the storerooms for fine gowns of linen and jewellery fit for a queen. The gifts were left by the girl’s bedside as she slept.

Hours passed and the folk of Bilskirnir gathered in the hall awaiting the arrival of Loki’s daughter. Hel entered, dressed in her new finery, but the luxurious clothes could not hide the horror of her adult appearance. The face was a conflict between beauty and decay. Undaunted Thor took Hel’s withered hand and led her to the place of honour reserved at the high table.

The feast began, servants staggered beneath the weight of dishes bearing oxen, boars, fish and all manner of birds. Lusty songs shook the halls rafters and the folk fell silent for the wise ones to tell poems and stories. Loud was the laughter when Ironsword wrestled with men half her own size.

When the bones on the platters were picked clean and the company merry from drinking. Thor asked Hel what she wanted for her woman’s gift.

In answer Hel climbed to the trestle top so that she was in plain view of the whole hall. She unpinned her gown and let it fall from her shoulders, revealing her distorted naked body. An involuntary gasp escaped from the revellers. All down one side her flesh was swivelled and decayed, her face gaunt, her arm and leg mere withered skin and bone, her breast dry and leathery and the blue corpse like flesh glistened with maggots. Yet the rest of her body was the perfect healthy flesh of a beautiful woman at the height of her charm, which added to the horror of her deformity.

‘I am death.’ she said ‘Both good and bad, joy and decay in one body. Soon I must leave this place and take my new kingdom in the underworld. I am capable of great love or great hatred and torment. But I am yet a girl and cannot leave until I am made a woman. In the forging of my womanhood, the mood of my life will be set. So who will bed me?’

Thor understood her words, either refusal or reluctant sex would inflict Hel’s fury on the spirits of the underworld. He glanced at Loki, the trickster’s eyes showed his horror of his daughters adult form and he avoided Thor’s gaze. The thunderer closed his eyes sadly if you want a job done properly you have to do it yourself. He approached Hel and took her withered bony left hand in his.

‘You will lie with me Thor?’ she asked.

‘I will make a woman of you, I’ll make you the queen of the dead.’

As the thunderer led Hel to his chambers and embraced her strange withered body, he heard the laughter of his sister Sibyl in his mind and saw again her beautiful nakedness. ‘Remember the light when you have darkness.’ she whispered.

Savouring the memory of his sister, Thor lay with Hel, fighting the impulse to take her quickly and be done. Loki’s daughter moaned with pleasure, although her ruined flesh appeared dead and smelt and tasted of decay she delighted at his touch. Finally the deed done he gazed into her eyes and stroked her hair, then stopped in surprise for her beauty was now whole.

‘Thank you’ she whispered. ‘Now good folk will see me as you do now.’ She laughed happily then added ‘If I ever take your property from you, I give you the right to reclaim it.’

While the household rested Thor sat on his high seat thinking over the strange events heralded by Loki’s children. He could see the great serpent sleeping on the ocean bed, its tail still in its mouth, and its great coil enclosing Middle Earth like a girdle. Hel, her bright beauty hidden beneath a flowing dark cloak traveled through the caverns to her underworld kingdom.

One left he thought, the huge wolf whose snores shook the stables of Bilskirnir. The wolf who loved fire and gold and all bright things. Bright things? Large bright things? Thor looked out into the heavens where Sol and Mon sat bored and restless in their ascribed places, Sol’s brilliant fire scorching the colour and moisture from the dry plants below. He touched the wolf’s mind, felt it awaken and stretch its long form. ‘Look above you.’ The wolf’s excitement hit him in a warm rush, and the great beast was bounding up into the sky, pursuing the golden goddess. Far away Sol cried out with delight and leapt into her chariot as the wolf hurtled after her.

For the first time Sol rode beyond the mountains of the Outlands. It became dark, and cold. It was a new world, and new words were needed to describe it, day, night, dusk, twilight. The fear the darkness brought dissipated with the first glorious dawn, Sol sang of joy and exhilaration as her chariot thundered onwards.

As the new days passed, the world changed, rivers and lakes appeared where there had been dry earth, plants flourished and rich green grass carpeted the hills of Middle Earth. The Norns took down the old weaving beam with its hopeless tangled threads and lodged the new six foot beam in its place. The threads took on a life of their own winding and tangling into a new weave. Earth’s daughters stood and studied the new universe woven before them. Sybil stroked Thor’s thread, now twisted about with a thread of pure gold. She smiled.

‘You are his sibling.’ Frigg cautioned.

‘Yes.’ said Sybil ‘I am. I will be his Sib.’

(The sons of Svarang are mentioned in the Lay of Harbard (Elder Edda) in which Thor lists some of his adventures, several of which are known from no other source. Svarang means ‘clumsy’ so the giants’ ineptitude is well justified. Thor so intimates the giants that they are forced to agree terms of peace.

The inclusion of the sisters in Svarang’s household is invented, Ironsword and Griefbringer are probably better known by their Norse names Jarnsaxa and Angrboda. In Snorri’s Edda Jarnsaxa is the illusive mistress of Thor and the mother of Magni, Modi’s mother is never named. Angrboda and her monstrous children are described by Snorri. Odin demands that the children be brought before him, the wolf is chained, the serpent hurled into the sea and Hel banished to the underworld. Grid has been borrowed from the tale of Gerriod.

The Volva’s prophecy to which Odin refers is the famous Voluspa which describes the great battle of Ragnarok. In both versions of the Edda, Loki’s family become the bitter enemies of the gods, the wolf is destined to consume Odin, Thor and the serpent will destroy one another, Hel imprisons Balder in her rotting hall and Loki becomes Heimdall’s mortal foe.

However the apocalyptic vision is crammed with Christian imagery and its relevance to ancient heathen belief is dubious. Thor’s death by the serpent is the least convincing as the earliest poems hail him as the serpent slayer, and it was clearly one of his greatest victories. The rotten figure of Hel and her hall of torment are also very Christian in their imagery (Simek), the Icelandic Sagas describe the underworld as a pleasurable and sacred existence.

The wolf theme is very common in Norse mythology, one wolf Fenris is bound and destined to kill Odin, one pursues the sun and another the moon. However these tales are so interlinked and confused that it becomes clear that there is only the one wolf, who chases the sun and moon across the heavens.

Frigg is the daughter of a god called ‘Earth’ (normally considered female in the Norse myths) and is known for her knowledge of the future, so an early career at the Norn’s hall is not as far fetched as it might seem. Sibyl is a name for Sif from the prologue to Snorri’s Edda. Although not linked directly to Earth her name means ‘sib’ or ‘relative’, and as Frey and Freyja are married siblings it is not impossible that Thor and Sif carry on the tradition of incest in Asgard.)

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