Odin's Eyes :
A Story Of Hugin And Munin
The Heartless Harts
Very few things in the nine worlds can slow down, let alone stop, the squirrel Ratatoskr from delivering the messages he carries for the great Eagle that sits upon the top of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, and the dragon Nidhoggr, who gnaws at the tree's roots. On this day, however, he did stop from his busy rounds to watch something very curious indeed !
The harts Dain, Duneyr, Durathror, and Dvalar, had been feeding on the tender leaves that Yggdrasil produces almost since the beginning of time. Usually these great antlered beasts remain in the lower branches, which are much larger and sturdier, and where the foliage is thicker and much more abundant. Today, however, for some strange unexplained reason, they had begun to climb steadily higher and higher up the great world tree. Acting more like mountain goats than cosmic deer, Ratatoskr watched as they slowly made their way up branch by branch.
The higher sections of the World Tree has always been the domain of the birds, and other flying creatures, mainly because of the slenderness of the branches. And yet, despite the precarious nature of the upper branches, and the lack of good thick foliage at these higher levels, the harts were for some odd reason climbing higher than Ratatoskr had ever seen before. The nervous little squirrel stayed and watched the harts as they ascended for a while, but then moved on when they stopped to feed.
Dain and Dvalar positioned themselves far apart on one branch, so as not to overload and break the limb, while Duneyr and Durathror did the same two branches lower. The harts had to be especially careful as they moved around because the branches at this height tended to sway slightly with every step they took, and if they lost their balance and fell their chances of survival were minimal. As the harts nibbled on the tender shoots of the great World Tree they kept their eyes pointed up at the sky.
They did not have to wait long for the black shadowy figures to appear in the distant sky. Hugin and Munin were as predictable as the rising and setting of the Goddess Sunna as she rode over Midgard. Every morning as Asgard's skies brightened the ravens took to flight and traveled down the World Tree to whichever realm they were commanded to fly to that day. And every mid - morning they flew back to Asgard to report to their lord and master Odin. Although the World Tree allowed for a shortcut between the nine worlds the distance was still too great for Hugin and Munin to travel all at once. Odin's ravens needed to rest periodically in Yggdrasil's branches to rest and preen their feathers.
The harts, over a period of days, quickly noticed that Hugin and Munin were now resting in higher branches than before. They made a mental note each time they landed and calculated which of these branches the ravens landed on the most before moving on. The harts then began the treacherous journey up the great World Tree to reach these even narrower limbs.
Time has little meaning on the World Tree. How long it took the harts to reach these precarious upper branches cannot be gauged. There are no seasons there, and despite the great vacuum of space, Yggdrasil grows against all reason under the nourishing light of a billion stars . For the World Tree does not exist in an environment. It is the environment, and within the habitat it creates, it never withers, and it is never dormant. It is truly perpetual life.
Not long after the harts were perched, and waiting, on the upper most branches, the ravens came as they always have. To the hart's dismay, however, they landed one branch higher than Durathror and Dvalar, and one limb lower than Dain and Duneyr. The harts did not want to alarm the ravens, so they remained on their respective branches, and let the ravens become familiar with them being there.
Time after time the ravens rested on the branches that the harts did not occupy. These great deer tried changing the branches that they waited on, but to no avail. The black birds always seemed to perch on a higher or lower limb. What the harts were not sure of was whether the ravens did this on purpose, or if it was simply chance that was keeping the birds away.
Then one time, while the harts were nibbling on Yggdrasil's tender shoots, the great ravens landed in the middle of the limb that Dain and Duneyr were feeding on. Both harts turned to face the ravens, but they did so in a slow and rather nonchalant way so as not to alarm Odin's pets. Dain then nodded his head ever so slightly to Duneyr as a signal, and both harts lowered their massive antlers. A second nod, this time from Duneyr, signaled the attack !
Hugin and Munin were well aware that the harts had turned in their direction, but it was not until they lowered their heads, and presented their antlers as weapons, that they became truly wary. Both ravens began to fidget on the branch as they sensed the coming danger. Hugin and Munin were certain of what was about to happen, but both ravens also knew that they could turn the tables on their attackers.
With a great snort Dain began to charge ! Duneyr also leaped forward at almost the exact same moment. Both harts lowered their heads so low that their antlers scraped against the bark of the great World Tree as they rushed forward. Dain and Duneyr realized that they had but one chance to kill the ravens, and both harts charged forward at full speed. They also did not want to fail and anger the King of the Frost Giants, Farbauti, whose wrath they had felt before.
Hugin and Munin saw the harts coming and gave each other a knowing look. Their beaks did not allow them the ability to smile , but the gleam in their eyes reflected their joy. With a quick nod from Hugin, they both suddenly took to flight in opposite directions.
Dain had closed its eyes, but Duneyr wanted to watch as the ravens were impaled, and crushed in between their antlers. When Duneyr first saw the black feathers in the air he thought they had been ripped off one of the great black birds, but then a moment before impact it realized that the ravens had flown off of the branch to safety. It was at that moment that Duneyr wished that it too had closed his eyes !
As they slowly circled overhead the cawing calls that Hugin and Munin were making sounded very much like human laughter. The two great deer had crashed into one another like two mountain goats butting heads. Neither, however, had the hard skull of a goat ! One of the harts lay motionless on the branch where the ravens had been perched, while the other deer lay in obvious pain several branches below that one.
Duneyr looked up and saw his two comrades Durathror and Dvalar looking down at it. His entire body ached, and its ears had a strange ringing in them, which was adding to the great fog of lethargy that had come over the hart. Duneyr suddenly noticed that Dain, who had just righted itself on the upper branch was also looking down at it.
" Well that did not go the way we planned it ! " Dain called down to his groggy friend with a series of grunts.
Duneyr rolled his head back and forth, and as its eyes slowly came back into focus it grunted back :
" No it did not ! And I refuse to ever do such a thing again ! "
Once Dain and Duneyr had recovered, the harts slowly made their way back down to the lower branches . They never again returned to Yggdrasil's upper limbs !
- End Chapter 3
- Next Chapter 4 : Odin Investigates !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.