Running Up the World Tree : Gefjon’s Story part 6

Posted: September 28, 2013 in Aesir & Asynjur, Deities & Wights, Frigga, Gefjon, Jotnar, Snotra, Stories
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Part 6: The Hired Help

“What do you mean, farmhands?!” Odin bellowed from his throne, voice echoing in the rafters. “Gefjon, I gave you land as you wanted, and now you want to recruit Asgardian Gods to work your fields? Preposterous!” Three steps separated us as I petitioned below, with Frigga’s high chair to the right and Balder’s on the left. Neither were with us, though a shaft of light from the westward window graced the Bright God’s empty seat. This was a private audience.

Throne

Throne

 

My buckskin dress was sweaty, smelly, and clinging uncomfortably as I crafted my response, though it was a relief to cast off the fur coat. I thought my feet would be clean from the snow, but too many trampling boots had made mud of the patriarch’s path. Normally I enjoyed the feel of mud between my toes, but it was now adding a distraction to my rising irritation.

Raising a finger, I spoke my case as calmly as I could. “One, revered Allfather, it was a trade, since I gave you an island for it. Two, I can’t possibly do all the work alone without my four sons to help.” I’m sure they’ll be fine without me, I thought as my heart weighed heavily, and pressed on. “Your magical boar and goat can only make so much meat and mead. Human offerings can’t always be relied upon, and what about vegetables? I’ve not seen a single asparagus grace your tables, though I know the Vanir send crates of food.”

He opened his one eye wide to exclaim with open hand: “They’re dead! Why should my einherjar care about vegetables in Valhalla?”

“Being dead is no excuse not to eat your vegetables,” I gently scolded, arms crossed, “and it seems unwise to depend on the Vanir’s goodwill. A king who cannot control his nation’s food supply cannot long keep his crown.”

“Well,” he said with narrowed eye, clutching his winter tunic’s grey-white fur collar, its brown leather adorned with silvery runes. “You’re welcome to recruit from Valhalla, even Sessrumnir if Freya allows. But only humans, I’ll not have you turn my proud people into farmers.”

“Great Odin,” I said between clenched teeth, “you’re saying I can use any dead humans willing to work my fields in Asgard and have me as their Mistress?” He paused before answering, trying to decide if I was tricking him in some way. But then he regarded me once more with all the contempt of our first meeting. I was a simple farm girl and clearly had no chance of outwitting him. “Yes,” he said, “that’s exactly what I’m saying.” I forced a smile and bowed, thanking him profusely for his generosity, though I’m sure he detected my sarcasm.

Vainly I went to plead my case with the souls in Valahalla. My ears burned with their scorn and laughter as I left. The dead heroes thought they were too good to get their hands dirty, and quite clearly let me know their opinion on prideful Giant women. I had expected as much, but it was worth a try. Freya’s folk didn’t mock me, but they didn’t show much interest either. I thought a handful could be cajoled into it, but never wholeheartedly. They would do it to support another woman, but not for love of the land. That was all right too. I had made many plans while patiently working and waiting to hold land here.

I climbed Himinbjorg’s steep road to Heimdall’s keep and told him I would be leaving for a very long walk, would very much appreciate a bridge down to Midgard, and one when I came back. He wasn’t especially pleased with my request, but I was a citizen of sorts now so he reluctantly agreed. I dare say walking the Rainbow Bridge was a thrill,  and pausing to take in the view gave the exhilarating feeling of already being a Goddess. Clouds below me, divine fire warming my feet, patches of snow covered land seen from so high above, trees mere specks, it made me feel truly gigantic. It was easy to feel self-important when real people seemed the size of ants, and I swore I would never fall prey to that illusion. No prideful arrogance for me, I thought, I will always remember that people below are those who feed me, that the head cannot live without caring for the body. 

Little Egret

Little Egret

A moon passed before once more I was in Midgard, calling for the bridge to bring me back to Asgard. I chuckled in amusement and muttered while I waited: “Rainbows… it’s the only civilized way to travel.” To my surprise it came quickly, landing in the snow covered field where I stood, a strange sight to behold on a moonless night. Heimdall met me halfway up the bridge.

“Who,” he demanded with a frown, white tunic flapping in the wind under glinting mail armor, “are all these women behind you?”

“Farmhands of mine, Lord Heimdall,” I said with the sweetest smile I could muster. I looked back to the hundred or so women behind me, holding down the skirt of my new black dress against the raging wind. I was quite proud of it and of myself.

“And who gave you permission to bring them here?”

“Why, it was Odin himself who said I could use any dead humans… willing to work my fields in Asgard and have me as their Mistress. Here they are!”

Heimdall squinted and seemed to ponder whether I might be up to some trick. Finally he sighed, leading us all up, through the archway, then down the road into Odin’s hall.

The king looked quite astonished from his throne as he asked where I had found all these souls to work my fields, while Frigga merely looked amused in her lovely egret plumage dress beside him. We had not met before, and her presence was most welcome on this important occasion.

Gracing her with a smile and a bow, I made answer: “They were found in Helheim of course. I went to plead my case with Hela herself, and she granted my request along with this new dress. I have her leave to care for as many women who die unmarried as I wish, if they’re willing to serve me.”

“And what,” he asked with furiously furrowed brows, “was her price for this favor?”

“Why, nothing. Oh, no, actually she did name her price. I have to give you a message, Allfather.”

“Well, be quick with it, what is the message?”

“The message is this: Hela sends her regards,” I said with a smirk.

Odin put his face in his hands, mumbling “She had to rub it in,” remembering how he was responsible for making one of the greatest Holy Powers his enemy, the Goddess of Death herself. Hela would not soon forgive him for trying to kidnap her as a child, nor for robbing her of her loving parents, Loki and Angrboda. This was not his best move, not by a long shot.

Frigga chose this moment to speak up, as she leaned into his arm. “Husband, you have to admit she got you there. Not only did she follow your rules to the letter, but she has proven herself a Goddess in her own right. Anyone with dominion over a share of souls must be recognized as such. She is clearly a Goddess of independent women.”

Odin sighed. “Yes, I suppose she is. Take her to Snotra then and let’s make it formal. She will be sworn to you and under your responsibility of course, so be very sure of her before you take her pledge.”

“Of course,” Frigga smiled, “we’ll be very thorough in our interview of her.”

“And would you please get all these women out of my hall ? I can’t hear myself think over their chattering!”

Frigga just laughed before taking me by the arm to lead me out. “Come, you and I have much to talk about. Tell me all about your trip to Helheim!” I chuckled when I noticed her doing absolutely nothing to move my women out of the hall. There they all remained, excitedly discussing their new home and debating potential decorations for Odin’s hall. I was going to like this new boss lady!

I told her of my prayer and sacrifice to Hela at the burial mound, the endless black staircase down Elvidnir’s tower, and Ganglati’s marvelous hospitality during my stay at the castle. She complimented me on the dress Hela gave me, woven by my own ancestors there, and laughed at the Dark Lady’s appraisal of Odin. She applauded my courage in choosing the mound path, for if one is not welcome, or has treated servants with scorn, Ganglati can truly make the Obsidian Staircase into a never-ending ordeal. It’s never wise to mistreat those below you, for they may one day be above you. Haughty warriors preferred the much longer Hel-Road, especially if they had a horse, but I favored the more peaceful peasant’s path. It seemed slower, as the air itself resisted every struggling step,  but it got you there faster.

Now, I’m sure you’re very curious about how Frigga determined I should indeed be one of her Ladies, and exactly how I was made into a Goddess. I could tell you of course… but wouldn’t it mean so much more to you after you put some effort into finding out?

Happily ever after… or is it? Find out in part 7!

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Comments
  1. Poor Old Man… I love Him so, but He really could do to loosen up every now and then. n_n

    Like

  2. lofnbard says:

    On the one hand, he can be over-focused on getting things his way, and may have underestimated Gefjon.

    On the other… re-read the story, assuming Odin used his seer skills before meeting her the first time, knew what Gefjon was capable of, foresaw she would become a Goddess, and knew exactly how best to motivate her. She’s used to being underestimated and told she’ll fail, which motivates her to prove them all wrong in the most spectacular way. If that’s the case, then his grumbling is just an elaborate act, and it would be a very different story if told from his point of view. In the end, Odin actually got everything he wanted and more. I like it when stories can be read in totally different ways, and I hadn’t thought of this interpretation until you commented. Thanks!

    Like

  3. sonyjalerulv says:

    Already, she is growing. This reflexion of her regarding prideful arrogance shows maturity.

    Liked by 1 person

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