The Stealing Of Iduna

: Asgard Stories Tales From Norse Mythology


Odin, the wise father of the gods, started off one day on a journey

through Midgard, the world of men, to see how his people were getting

on, and to give them help. He took with him his brother Honir, the

light-giver, and Loki, the fire-god. Loki, you know, was always ready to

go wherever he could have any fun or do any mischief.

All the morning they went about among the homes of Midgard,
and whenever

Odin found busy, faithful workers, he was sure to leave behind some

little thing which would hardly be noticed, a straw in the farmer's

barn, or a kernel of grain in the furrow by the plow, or a bit of iron

at the blacksmith's forge; but always happiness and plenty followed his

little gift.

At noontime Loki was so hungry that he begged Odin to stop for dinner;

so when they came to a shady spot by the bank of a river, the three gods

chose it for their resting-place.

Odin threw himself down under a tree and began to read his little book

of runes, or wise sayings, but Loki began to make a fire and get ready

for the feast. Then he started off to a farmhouse near by, leaving Honir

to cook the meat which they had brought.

As Loki came near the farmhouse, he thought to himself, "I will change

myself into a cat, and then I can have a better chance to spy about." So

he changed himself into a black cat, and jumping upon the kitchen

window-sill, he saw the farmer's wife taking some cakes out of the oven.

They smelled so good and looked so tempting that Loki said to himself,

"What a prize those cakes would be for our dinner!"

Just then the woman turned back to the oven to get more cakes, and Loki

snatched those which she had laid on the table. The good housewife soon

missed her cakes; she looked all about, and could not think what had

become of them, but just as she was taking the last lot from the oven,

she turned quickly around, and saw the tail of a cat whisking out of the


"There!" cried she, "that wicked black cat has stolen my nice cakes. I

will go after him with my broom!" But by the time she reached the door

all she could see was a cow walking in her garden, and when she came

there to drive her away, nothing was to be seen except a big raven and

six little ones flying overhead.

Then the mischievous Loki went back to the river bank, where he had left

his two friends, and showed them the six cakes, boasting of the good

joke he had played upon the poor woman. But Odin did not think it was a

joke. He scolded Loki for stealing, and said, "It is a shame for one of

the Aesir to be a thief! Go back to the farmhouse, and put these three

black stones on the kitchen table."

Loki knew that the stones meant something good for the poor woman, and

he did not wish to go back to the house; but he had to do as the

Allfather told him. As he went along he heard his friends the foxes, who

put their heads out of their holes and laughed at his tricks, for the

foxes thought Loki was the biggest thief of them all.

Changing himself into an owl, Loki flew in at the kitchen window, and

dropped from his beak the three stones, which, when they fell upon the

white table, seemed to be three black stains.

The next time the good woman came into her kitchen, she was surprised

to find that the dinner was all cooked. And so the wonderful stones that

Odin had sent brought good luck; the housewife always found her food

ready cooked, and all her jars and boxes filled with good things to eat,

and never again was in need.

The other women all said she was the best housekeeper in the village,

but one thing always troubled her, and that was the table with the three

black stains. She scrubbed, and scrubbed, but could never make it white


And now we must go back to Loki. He was very hungry by this time, and

hoped that Honir would have the meat nicely cooked when he came back to

the river bank, but when they took it out of the kettle, they found it

was not cooked at all. So Odin went on reading his book of runes, not

thinking about food, while Honir and Loki watched the fire, and at the

end of an hour they looked again at the meat.

"Now, it will surely be done this time!" said Loki, but again they were

disappointed, for the meat in the kettle was still raw. Then they began

to look about to see what magic might be at work, and at last spied a

big eagle sitting on a tree near the fire. All at once the bird spoke,

and said, "If you will promise to give me all the meat I can eat, it

shall be cooked in a few minutes."

The three friends agreed to this, and in a short time, as the bird had

promised, the meat was well done, Loki was so hungry he could hardly

wait to get it out of the kettle, but suddenly the eagle pounced down

upon it, and seized more than half, which made Loki so angry that he

took up a stick to beat the bird, and what do you think happened? Why,

the stick, as soon as it touched the bird's back, stuck fast there, and

Loki found he could not let go his end of it. Then away flew the eagle,

carrying Loki with him, over the fields and over the tree-tops, until it

seemed as though his arms would be torn from his body. He begged for

mercy, but the bird flew on and on. At last Loki said, "I will give you

anything you ask, if you will only let me go!"

Now the eagle was really the cruel storm giant Thiassi, and he said, "I

will never let you go until you promise to get for me, from Asgard, the

lovely goddess Iduna, and her precious apples!"

When Odin and Honir saw Loki whisked off through the air, they knew that

the eagle must be one of their giant enemies, so they hurried home to

Asgard to defend their sacred city. Just as they came to Bifrost, the

rainbow bridge, Loki joined them; but he took care not to tell them how

the eagle came to let him go.

Odin felt sure that Loki had been doing something wrong, but knowing

very well that Loki would not tell him the truth, he made up his mind

not to ask any questions.


The goddess Iduna, whom Loki was to tempt away out of Asgard, was the

dearest of them all. She was the fair goddess of spring and of youth,

and all the Aesir loved her. Her garden was the loveliest spot, with all

sorts of bright, sweet flowers, birds singing by day and night, little

chattering brooks under the great trees, and everything happy and fresh.

The gods loved to go and sit with Iduna, and rest in her beautiful

garden, within the walls of Asgard.

There was another delightful thing in the garden, and that was Iduna's

casket. This was a magic box filled with big, golden-red apples, which

she always gave her friends to taste. These wonderful apples were not

only delicious to eat, but whoever tasted them, no matter how tired or

feeble he might be, would feel young and strong again. So the dwellers

in Asgard ate often of this wonderful fruit, which kept them fresh and

young, fit to help the people in the world of Midgard. The casket in

which Iduna kept her apples was always filled, for whenever she took out

one, another came in its place; but no one knew where it came from, and

only the goddess of youth, herself, could take the apples from the box,

for if any one else tried, the fruit grew smaller and smaller, as the

hand came nearer, until at last it vanished away.

A few days after Loki's bargain with the giant Thiassi, Iduna was in her

bright garden one morning, watering the flowers, when her husband,

Bragi, came to say good-by to her, because he must go on a journey.

Loki watched him start off, and thought, "Now, here is my chance to

tempt Iduna away from Asgard." After a while he went to the garden, and

found the lovely goddess sitting among her flowers and birds. She looked

up at Loki with such a sweet smile, as he came near, that he felt almost

ashamed of his cruel plan; but he sat down on a grassy bank, and asked

Iduna for one of her magic apples.

After tasting it, he smacked his lips, saying, "Do you know, fair Iduna,

as I was coming home toward Asgard one day, I saw a tree full of apples

which were really larger and more beautiful than yours; I do wish you

would go with me and see them."

"Why, how can that be?" said Iduna, "for Father Odin has often told me

that my apples were the largest and finest he ever saw. I should so like

to see those others, and I think I will go with you now, to compare them

with mine."

"Come on, then!" said Loki; "and you'd better take along your own

apples, so that we can try them with the others."

Now Bragi had often told Iduna that she must never wander away from

home, but, thinking it would do no harm to go such a little way, just

this once, she took the casket of apples in her hand and went with Loki.

They had hardly passed through the garden gate, when she began to wish

herself back again, but Loki, taking her by the hand, hurried along to

the rainbow bridge.

They had no sooner crossed over Bifrost than Iduna saw a big eagle

flying toward them. Nearer and nearer he came, until at last he swooped

down and seized poor Iduna with his sharp talons, and flew away with her

to his cold, barren home. There she stayed shut up for many long dreary

months, always longing to get back to Asgard, to see Bragi and her

lovely garden.

The giant Thiassi had long been planning that if he could only once get

the fair goddess of youth in his power, he would eat her magic apples,

and so get strength enough to conquer the Aesir; but now, after all, she

would not give him even one of them, and when he put his hand into the

casket, the apples grew smaller and smaller, until at last they

vanished, so that he could not get even a taste.

This cruel storm giant kept poor Iduna closely shut up in a little rock

chamber, hoping that some day he could force her to give him what he

wanted. All day long she heard the sea beating on the rocks below her

gloomy cell, but she could not look out, for the only window was a

narrow opening in the rock, high up above her head. She saw no one but

the giant, and his serving-women, who waited upon her.

When these women first came to her, Iduna was surprised to see that they

were not ugly or stern-looking, and, when she looked at their fair,

smiling faces, she hoped they would be friendly and pitiful to her in

her trouble. She begged them to help her, and, with many tears, told

them her sad story; but still they kept on smiling, and when they turned

their backs, Iduna saw that they were hollow. These were the Ellewomen,

who had no hearts, and so could never be sorry for any one. When one is

in trouble, it is very hard to be with Ellewomen.

Every day the giant came to ask Iduna, in his terrible voice, if she

had made up her mind to give him the apples. Iduna was frightened, but

she always had courage enough to say "No," for she knew it would be

false and cowardly to give to a wicked giant these precious gifts which

were meant for the high gods. Although it was hard to be a prisoner, and

to see no one but the cold, fair Ellewomen who kept on smiling at her

tears, she knew it was far better to belong to the bright Aesir, even in

prison, than to be a giant, or an Ellewoman, no matter how free or

smiling they might be.


All this while the dwellers in Asgard were sad and lonely without their

dear Iduna. At first they went to her garden, as before, but they missed

the bright goddess, and soon the garden itself grew dreary. The fresh

green leaves turned brown and fell, the flowers faded, no new buds

opened. No bird-songs were heard, and the saddest thing of all was that

now the gods had no more of the wonderful apples to keep them fresh and

strong, while two strangers, named Age and Pain, walked about the city

of Asgard, and the Aesir felt themselves growing tired and feeble.

Every day they watched for Iduna's return; at last, when day after day

had passed, and still she did not come, a meeting of all the gods and

goddesses was called to talk over what they should do, and where they

should search for their lost sister.

Loki, you may be sure, took care not to show himself at the meeting; but

when it was found out that Iduna had last been seen walking with him,

Bragi went after him, and brought him in before all the Aesir.

Then Father Odin, who sat on his high throne, looking very tired and

sad, said: "Oh, Loki, what is this that you have done? You have broken

your promise of brotherhood, and brought sorrow upon Asgard! Fail not to

bring home again our sister, or else come not yourself within our


Loki knew well that this command must be obeyed, and besides, even he

was beginning to wish for Iduna again; so, borrowing the cloak of falcon

feathers which belonged to the goddess Freyja, he put it on and set out

for Utgard and the castle of the giant Thiassi, which was a gloomy cave

in a high rock by the sea, and there he found poor Iduna shut up in


By good luck, the giant was away fishing when Loki arrived, so he was

able to fly in, without being seen, through the narrow opening in

Iduna's rock cell. You would have taken him to be just a falcon bird,

but Iduna knew it was really Loki, and was filled with joy to see him.

Without stopping to talk, Loki quickly changed her into a nut, which he

held fast in his falcon claws, and flew swiftly northward, over the sea,

toward Asgard. He had not gone far when he heard a rushing noise behind

them, and he knew it must be the eagle. Faster and faster flew the

falcon with his precious nut; but the fierce eagle flew still faster

after them.

Meanwhile, for five days, the dwellers in Asgard gathered together on

the city walls, gazing southward, to watch for the coming of the birds,

while Loki and Iduna, chased by Thiassi, the eagle, flew over the wide

sea separating Utgard, the land of the giants, from Asgard. Each night

the eagle was nearer his prey, and the watchers in the city were filled

with fear lest he should overtake their friends.

At last they thought of a plan to help Iduna: gathering a great pile of

wood by the city walls, they set fire to it. When Loki reached the place

he flew safely through the thick smoke and flame, for you know he was

the god of fire, and dropped down into the city with his little nut held

fast in his falcon claws. But when the heavy eagle came rushing on after

them, he could not rise above the heat of the fire, and, smothered by

the smoke, fell down and was burned to death.

There was great joy in Asgard at having the dear Iduna back again; her

friends gathered around her, and she invited them all into her garden,

where the withered trees and flowers began to sprout and blossom; the

gay birds came back, singing and building their nests, and the happy

little brooks went dancing under the trees.

Iduna sat with Bragi among her friends, and they all feasted upon her

golden apples; she was so thankful to be free, and at home in her garden

again. Once more the Aesir became young and strong, and the two dark

strangers went away, for happiness and peace had come back to Asgard.