Odin' s Sacrifice
The Dangerous Lower Trunk
From time to time All - Father stopped and rested, and looked around at the incredible world that surrounded Mighty Yggdrasil. As he slowly rose up on the deepest of Yggdrasil's roots he observed off in the distance three monstrous maidens emerging from a beautiful hall. Odin knew them well, for they were the Norns, Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld. As he paused a moment he watched as one of them watered the great ash tree from the well, while the two others began to weave the fates for all that lives in the nine worlds, under the shade of the lowest branches of Yggdrasil. Odin understood that there were other Norns. Some were charged with the destiny of each Midgardian child, while others were from the family of the Elves, and of the Dwarves. These three Norns, however, showed no emotion, and had no compassion, as they stoically weaved that which is, and will be, without even the slightest hint of feeling. Odin was about to turn and resume his climb when he noticed that one of the Norns was watching him. All- Father waved with his free hand as a matter of reflex, but the Norn did not reply in kind. Skuld, looking up from her watering, did not gesture because she knew why Odin was there, and she already knew what would happen to the All- Father. For his fate had already been woven.
All alone, and with no one to converse with, Odin had an abundance of time to think to himself about all that had happened in the past, and also what now lay before him. He thought back to his mistakes as well as his achievements. The Aesir - Vanir war had begun as a result of one of his worst mistakes. Gullveig, a Vanir Goddess, and a master in the art of seidr, had angered the Gods, and Odin in his fury, chose to soil his sacred hall with her blood. Three times they tried to kill the witch, but each time she was reborn. The resulting war cost both sides greatly, and in the end it turned out to be nothing more than a stalemate. In the final analysis, however, the war was also Odin's greatest triumph because it brought about a lasting peace, and an alliance with the Vanir. It also brought into the sphere of the Aesir the likes of Njord, Freyr, and Freyja. Together these Old Gods and the Younger Gods could fight the growing threat of the Jotuns much more effectively than they could alone.
Odin was deep in thought as he climbed around the root through a deep crevice. Suddenly he was confronted by a monstrous dragon, which stood menacingly in his way. Jolted back into the reality of the moment, Odin quickly reached over his shoulder and pulled out Gungnir with his free hand. The All - Father clung to the edge of the crevice with one hand while he stuck the point of his great spear against the snout of the great dragon Nidhogg. The dragon roared his disapproval, as it hung onto the side of the root with very long sharp claws. Nidhogg narrowed its great yellow eyes, and spoke to Odin in a deep hoarse voice. " Why does the King of the Aesir visit this realm to climb the universe tree ?! " it bellowed. Odin, with his knuckles turning white, grimaced in pain as he replied : " The Lord of the Aesir asks you to move and allow him to pass ! " The great dragon roared out a laugh ! " And if I choose not to move ? " Nidhogg asked. Odin's eye began to glow with anger. " Then I will make you move ! " All - Father yelled back.
Nidhogg realizing that neither could move in their present positions exhaled a deep breath before replying : " Then I guess I will have to be the more magnanimous being and allow you to pass. " he told Odin as he clawed his way to the side of the root. Nidhogg bowed his head and showed the Aesir Lord the way with his pointed tail. As Odin slowly crept up along the side of the great dragon he kept Gungnir pointed at the dragon's head. Just as Odin reached out for the next hand hold Nidhogg bellowed out hot breath making All - Father slip. As Odin hung on by just his fingertips Nidhogg lunged at him. The Aesir King barely had time to flip Gungnir back up and thrust it at the dragon before Nidhogg had a chance to take a bite at him . Gungnir's newly sharpened blade easily cut through the hard skin of the dragon' s snout, injuring the demon serpent. Nidhogg roared in pain as he ran down the root to lick his wounds. Odin, using every last bit of his strength placed Gungnir back in place, and then swung his free hand back up into a crevice to stabilize himself. When all four of his limbs were once again firmly, and safely, secured on Yggdrasil' s root, Odin took a deep breath, and rested.
It took days for Odin to reach what was the huge lower trunk of the great tree. Here the bark was carved deep . So deep in some places that the indentations were much like small caves in the side of a mountain. Although the climb became much more vertical, and therefore more strenuous, Odin was able to rest in these " bark caves " to regain his strength before continuing his journey. All - Father had not brought along an abundance of food and water, and he was forced to portion out his short supplies. Odin ate and drank only enough to take away the hunger, for he knew that his journey was far from over. At night, Mani, who at this point was very far away, and no bigger than the brightest star in the night sky, was the only source of light . But Odin did not need to see what was around him . Night was his time to rest and regain his strength. The All - Father used this time wisely to explore in great detail every element of knowledge he had acquired over the years.
After another week of rugged climbing Odin finally had something to smile about. In the near distance he could see the first of Yggdrasil' s lowest branches. As Odin came closer he could see something slithering among the leaves. It took Odin only one more short climbs to get close enough to recognize two of the slithering serpents that slid along Yggdrasil's branches. They were the sons of Grafvitnir, Goinn, and Moinn. Grafvitnir' s offspring did not bother with the All - Father. They merely hissed as he passed, and then went on eating Yggdrail' s tender shoots . Further up, however, Odin's way was blocked by three serpents hissing for him to stop. " My name is Grabak, and these are my friends Grafvollud, and Ofnir. " the largest serpent hissed. Tired and grumpy, Odin replied : " And I am Odin, King of the Aesir ! I am in no mood for games from the likes of you ! Move, or face my fury ! " he told them angrily. Grafvollud and Ofnir hissed as they laughed. Grabok, however, simply smiled : " I do believe that we will stay ! The great Lord of the Aesir can go around us ! " the serpent told Odin with a flickering tongue.
Odin was in no mood for any of this. He spotted a slim branch off to his left which appeared to lead around the serpents. Odin swung himself over to it and grabbed hold. Suddenly, the branch wriggled, and Odin lost his grip, tumbling into space ! Grabok shouted down to Odin as he fell : " Oh, did I not introduce you to my other friend Svafnir ?! " he hissed.
Odin was helpless as he tumbled end over end downward towards the great void. Odin knew that only two fates awaited him. He would either hit the lowest root somewhere near where he started, and be killed, or he would continue falling in the void forever. Then, with a jolt, Odin felt himself land on something fairly soft ! As he looked to his right and left Odin saw huge wings flapping slowly up and down. When All- father sat up he saw a large white head in front of him. The great eagle turned his head backward and asked : " Would Odin like me to take him to the top of Yggdrasil ? " Odin stood up on the eagle's back and replied : " Thank you, but no. I must climb the entire length of Yggdrasil with no ones aid. " Odin then thought for a moment. " I would appreciate it if you would place me on the end of the branch that those serpents are slithering on. " he told the eagle. The eagle smiled. " I hate those slithering worms ! They eat Yggdrasil' s leaves, and do great harm to our great world tree ! Therefore, I will be more than happy to do as Odin asks ! " he told the God.
The eagle landed on the edge of the branch, which gently swayed under its great weight. Odin climbed down off of the eagle's back, and pulled out his spear Gungnir. Then Odin ran towards the serpents as fast as he could, swinging Gungnir from side to side in front of him. From a short distance away Goinn and Moinn alerted their slithering comrades of the approaching danger. The serpents began to flee in all directions along the branches many forks. Grabak, Grafvollud, and Ofnir narrowly avoided Odin's wrath, but Svafnir, who was last in line, paid for his tardiness with the loss of the end of his body.
As the eagle flew back up to its perch high up on Yggdrasil it smiled to itself as it thought : " Nidhogg, and his serpents, had been given their due by Odin. With his help of course ! " When the hawk returned to sit in between his eyes the great eagle who sits atop the world tree had quite the story to tell him !
- End Chapter 2
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 3 : The Upper Branches