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Odin's Reward

Source: Asgard Stories Tales From Norse Mythology

One night when all was quiet in Asgard and the Aesir had gone to rest,
Odin, the Allfather, sat awake on his high throne, troubled with many
thoughts. At his feet crouched his two faithful wolves, and upon his
shoulders perched the two ravens of thought and memory, who flew far
abroad every day, through the nine worlds, as Odin's messengers.

The Allfather had need of great wisdom in ruling the worlds; after
thinking a long time on the matters which needed his care, he suddenly
started up, and went forth with long strides from his palace of
Gladsheim into the night. He soon returned, leading his beautiful,
eight-footed steed, Sleipnir, and it was plain that Odin was going on
a journey. He quickly mounted Sleipnir, and rode swiftly away toward
Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, which reached from Asgard, the city of the
gods, down through the air to the lower worlds.

When Sleipnir stepped upon the bridge it trembled, and seemed hardly
strong enough to bear the horse and his rider; but they had no fear of
its giving way, and Sleipnir galloped swiftly onward.

Soon Odin saw Heimdall, the watchman of the bridge, riding toward him on
a fine horse, with a golden mane that reflected light upon the noble
face of his rider.

"You must be bound on some important errand, Father Odin, to be riding
forth from Asgard so late at night," said Heimdall.

"It is indeed a most important errand, and I must hasten on," replied
Odin. "It is well for us that we have such a faithful guardian of the
'trembling bridge'; if it were not for you, Heimdall, our enemies might
long ago have taken Asgard by storm. You are so watchful, you can hear
the grass grow in the fields, and the wool gather on the backs of the
sheep, and you need less sleep than a bird. I myself stand in great need
of wisdom, in order to take care of such faithful servants, and to drive
back such wicked enemies!"

They hurried over the bridge until they came to Heimdall's far-shining
castle, at the farther end of it. This was a lofty tower which was
placed so as to guard the bridge, and it sent forth into the land of
the giant enemies such a wonderful, clear light, that Heimdall could
see, even in the darkest night, any one who came toward the bridge. Here
Odin stopped a few moments to drink the mead which the good Heimdall
offered him.

Then said Odin, "As I am journeying into the land of our enemies, I
shall leave my good horse with you; there are not many with whom I would
trust him, but I know that you, my faithful Heimdall, will take good
care of him. I can best hide myself from the giants by going on as a

With these words the Allfather quitted Heimdall's castle, and started
off toward the north, through the land of the fierce giants.

During all the first day there was nothing to be seen but ice and snow;
several times Odin was nearly crushed as the frost giants hurled huge
blocks of ice after him.

The second day he came to mountains and broad rivers. Often when he had
just crossed over a stream, the mountain giants would come after him to
the other bank, and when they found that Odin had escaped them, they
would send forth such a fierce yell, that the echoes sounded from hill
to hill.

At the end of the third day, Odin came to a land where trees were green
and flowers blooming. Here was one of the three fountains which watered
the world tree, Yggdrasil, and near by sat the wise giant, Mimir,
guarding the waters of this wonderful fountain, for whoever drank of it
would have the gift of great wisdom.

Mimir was a giant in size, but he was not one of the fierce giant
enemies of the gods, for he was kind, and wiser than the wisest.

Mimir's well of wisdom was in the midst of a wonderful valley, filled
with rare plants and bright flowers, and among the groves of beautiful
trees were strange creatures, sleeping dragons, harmless serpents, and
lizards, while birds with gay plumage flew and sang among the branches.
Over all this quiet valley shone a lovely soft light, different from
sunlight, and in the center grew one of the roots of the great world
tree. Here the wise giant Mimir sat gazing down into his well.

Odin greeted the kind old giant, and said, "Oh, Mimir, I have come from
far-away Asgard to ask a great boon!"

"Gladly will I help you if it is in my power," said Mimir.

"You know," replied Odin, "that as father of gods and men I need great
wisdom, and I have come to beg for one drink of your precious water of
knowledge. Trouble threatens us, even from one of the Aesir, for Loki,
the fire-god, has lately been visiting the giants, and I fear he has
been learning evil ways from them. The frost giants and the storm giants
are always at work, trying to overthrow both gods and men; great is my
need of wisdom, and even though no one ever before has dared ask so
great a gift, I hope that since you know how deep is my trouble, you
will grant my request."

Mimir sat silently, thinking for several moments, and then said, "You
ask a great thing, indeed, Father Odin; are you ready to pay the price
which I must demand?"

"Yes," said Odin, cheerfully, "I will give you all the gold and silver
of Asgard, and all the jeweled shields and swords of the Aesir. More than
all, I will give up my eight-footed horse Sleipnir, if that is needed to
win the reward."

"And do you suppose that these things will buy wisdom?" said Mimir.
"That can be gained only by bearing bravely, and giving up to others.
Are you willing to give me a part of yourself? Will you give up one of
your own eyes?"

At this Odin looked very sad; but after a few moments of deep thought,
he looked up with a bright smile, and answered, "Yes, I will even give
you one of my eyes, and I will suffer whatever else is asked, in order
to gain the wisdom that I need!"

We cannot know all that Odin bravely suffered in that strange, bright
valley, before he was rewarded with a drink from that wonderful
fountain; but we may be quite sure that never once was the good
Allfather sorry for anything he had given up, or any suffering he had
borne, for the sake of others.

Next: Tyr And The Wolf

Previous: The Story Of The Beginning

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