The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

Valhalla is the great hall of Odin, wherein he feasts with his chosen heroes, all those who have fallen bravely in battle, for all who die a peaceful death are excluded.  The flesh of the boar Schrimnir is served up to them, and is abundant for all.  For although this boar is cooked every morning, he becomes whole again every night.  For drink the heroes are supplied abundantly with mead from the she-goat Heidrum.  When the heroes are not feasting they amuse themselves with fighting.  Every day they ride out into the court or field and fight until they cut each other in pieces.  This is their pastime; but when meal time comes they recover from their wounds and return to feast in Valhalla.


The Valkyrie are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears.  Odin, who is desirous to collect a great many heroes in Valhalla to be able to meet the giants in a day when the final contest must come, sends down to every battle-field to make choice of those who shall be slain.  The Valkyrie are his messengers, and their name means “Choosers of the slain.”  When they ride forth on their errand, their armor sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, making what men call the “Aurora Borealis,” or “Northern Lights.” [Footnote:  Gray’s ode, “The Fatal Sisters,” is founded on this superstition.]


Thor, the thunderer, Odin’s eldest son, is the strongest of gods and men, and possesses three very precious things.  The first is a hammer, which both the Frost and the Mountain giants know to their cost, when they see it hurled against them in the air, for it has split many a skull of their fathers and kindred.  When thrown, it returns to his hand of its own accord.  The second rare thing he possesses is called the belt of strength.  When he girds it about him his divine might is doubled.  The third, also very precious, is his iron gloves, which he puts on whenever he would use his mallet efficiently.  From Thor’s name is derived our word Thursday.

Frey is one of the most celebrated of the gods.  He presides over rain and sunshine and all the fruits of the earth.  His sister Freya is the most propitious of the goddesses.  She loves music, spring, and flowers, and is particularly fond of the Elves (fairies).  She is very fond of love ditties, and all lovers would do well to invoke her.

Bragi is the god of poetry, and his song records the deeds of warriors.  His wife, Iduna, keeps in a box the apples which the gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become young again.

Heimdall is the watchman of the gods, and is therefore placed on the borders of heaven to prevent the giants from forcing their way over the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow).  He requires less sleep than a bird, and sees by night as well as by day a hundred miles around him.  So acute is his ear that no sound escapes him, for he can even hear the grass grow and the wool on a sheep’s back.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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