The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

Odin then regulated the periods of day and night and the seasons by placing in the heavens the sun and moon and appointing to them their respective courses.  As soon as the sun began to shed its rays upon the earth, it caused the vegetable world to bud and sprout.  Shortly after the gods had created the world they walked by the side of the sea, pleased with their new work, but found that it was still incomplete, for it was without human beings.  They therefore took an ash tree and made a man out of it, and they made a woman out of an elder, and called the man Aske and the woman Embla.  Odin then gave them life and soul, Vili reason and motion, and Ve bestowed upon them the senses, expressive features, and speech.  Midgard was then given them as their residence, and they became the progenitors of the human race.

The mighty ash tree Ygdrasill was supposed to support the whole universe.  It sprang from the body of Ymir, and had three immense roots, extending one into Asgard (the dwelling of the gods), the other into Jotunheim (the abode of the giants), and the third to Niffleheim (the regions of darkness and cold).  By the side of each of these roots is a spring, from which it is watered.  The root that extends into Asgard is carefully tended by the three Norns, goddesses, who are regarded as the dispensers of fate.  They are Urdur (the past), Verdandi (the present), Skuld (the future).  The spring at the Jotunheim side is Ymir’s well, in which wisdom and wit lie hidden, but that of Niffleheim feeds the adder Nidhogge (darkness), which perpetually gnaws at the root.  Four harts run across the branches of the tree and bite the buds; they represent the four winds.  Under the tree lies Ymir, and when he tries to shake off its weight the earth quakes.

Asgard is the name of the abode of the gods, access to which is only gained by crossing the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow).  Asgard consists of golden and silver palaces, the dwellings of the gods, but the most beautiful of these is Valhalla, the residence of Odin.  When seated on his throne he overlooks all heaven and earth.  Upon his shoulders are the ravens Hugin and Munin, who fly every day over the whole world, and on their return report to him all they have seen and heard.  At his feet lie his two wolves, Geri and Freki, to whom Odin gives all the meat that is set before him, for he himself stands in no need of food.  Mead is for him both food and drink.  He invented the Runic characters, and it is the business of the Norns to engrave the runes of fate upon a metal shield.  From Odin’s name, spelt Woden, as it sometimes is, came Wednesday, the name of the fourth day of the week.

Odin is frequently called Alfadur (All-father), but this name is sometimes used in a way that shows that the Scandinavians had an idea of a deity superior to Odin, uncreated and eternal.

OF THE JOYS OF VALHALLA

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.