THE DREAM





Upon a summer's afternoon it happened that Baldur the Bright

and Bold, beloved of men and Æsir, found himself alone in his

palace of Broadblink. Thor was walking low down among the

valleys, his brow heavy with summer heat; Frey and Gerda sported

on still waters in their cloud-leaf ship; Odin, for once, slept on the

top of Air Throne; a noonday stillness pervaded the whole earth;

and Baldur in Broadblink, the wide-glancing, most sunlit of palaces,

dreamed a dream.



The dream of Baldur was troubled. He knew not whence nor

why; but when he awoke he found that a new and weighty care was

within him. It was so heavy that Baldur could scarcely carry it,

and yet he pressed it closely to his heart and said, "Lie there, and

do not fall on any one but me." Then he rose up and walked out

from the splendor of his hall, that he might seek his own mother,

Frigga, and tell her what had happened to him. He found her in

her crystal saloon, calm and kind, waiting to listen, and ready to

sympathize; so he walked up to her, his hands pressed closely on

his heart, and lay down at her feet, sighing.



"What is the matter, dear Baldur?" asked Frigga, gently.



"I do not know, mother," answered he. "I do not know what

the matter is; but I have a shadow in my heart."



"Take it out, then, my son, and let me look at it," replied Frigga.



"But I fear, mother, that if I do it will cover the whole earth."



Then Frigga laid her hand upon the heart of her son that she

might feel the shadow's shape. Her brow became clouded as she

felt it; her parted lips grew pale, and she cried out, "Oh! Baldur,

my beloved son! the shadow is the shadow of death!"



Then said Baldur, "I will die bravely, my mother."



But Frigga answered, "You shall not die at all; for I will not

sleep tonight until everything on earth has sworn to me that it will

neither kill nor harm you."



So Frigga stood up, and called to her everything on earth that had

power to hurt or slay. First she called all metals to her; and heavy

iron-ore came lumbering up the hill into the crystal hall, brass and

gold, copper, silver, lead, and steel, and stood before the Queen,

who lifted her right hand high in the air, saying, "Swear to me

that you will not injure Baldur"; and they all swore, and went.

Then she called to her all stones; and huge granite came, with

crumbling sandstones and white lime, and the round, smooth stones

of the seashore, and Frigga raised her arm, saying, "Swear that

you will not injure Baldur"; and they swore, and went. Then

Frigga called to her the trees; and wide-spreading oak trees, with

tall ash and somber firs, came rushing up the hill, and Frigga raised

her hand, and said, "Swear that you will not hurt Baldur"; and

they said, "We swear," and went. After this Frigga called to her

the diseases, who came blown by poisonous winds on wings of pain,

and to the sound of moaning. Frigga said to them, "Swear"; and

they sighed, "We swear," then flew away. Then Frigga called to

her all beasts, birds, and venomous snakes, who came to her and

swore, and disappeared. After this she stretched out her hand to

Baldur, whilst a smile spread over her face, saying, "And now, my

son, you cannot die."



But just then Odin came in, and when he had heard from Frigga

the whole story, he looked even more mournful than she had done;

neither did the cloud pass from his face when he was told of the

oaths that had been taken.



"Why do you still look so grave, my lord?" demanded Frigga

at last. "Baldur cannot now die."



But Odin asked very gravely, "Is the shadow gone out of our

son's heart, or is it still there?"



"It cannot be there," said Frigga, turning away her head resolutely,



and folding her hands before her.



But Odin looked at Baldur, and saw how it was, the hands

pressed to the heavy heart, the beautiful brow grown dim. Then

immediately he rose, saddled Sleipnir, his eight-footed steed,

mounted him, and, turning to Frigga said, "I know of a dead Vala,

Frigga, who, when she was alive, could tell what was going to

happen; her grave lies on the east side of Helheim, and I am going

there to awake her, and ask whether any terrible grief is really

coming upon us."



So saying, Odin shook the bridle in his hand, and the Eight-footed,

with a bound, leaped forth, rushed like a whirlwind down the mountain

of Asgard, and then dashed into a narrow defile between rocks.



Sleipnir went on through the defile a long way, until he came

to a place where the earth opened her mouth. There Odin rode in

and down a broad, steep, slanting road which led him to the cavern

Gnipa, and the mouth of the cavern Gnipa yawned upon Niflheim.

Then thought Odin to himself, "My journey is already done."

But just as Sleipnir was about to leap through the jaws of the pit,

Garm, the voracious dog who was chained to the rock, sprang forward,

and tried to fasten himself upon Odin. Three times Odin

shook him off, and still Garm, as fierce as ever, went on with the

fight. At last Sleipnir leaped, and Odin thrust just at the same

moment; then horse and rider cleared the entrance, and turned

eastward towards the dead Vala's grave, dripping blood along the

road as they went; while the beaten Garm stood baying in the

cavern's mouth.



When Odin came to the grave he got off his horse, and stood with

his face northward, looking through barred inclosures into the city

of Helheim itself. The servants of Hela were very busy there making

preparations for some new guest--hanging gilded couches with

curtains of anguish and splendid misery upon the walls. Then

Odin's heart died within him, and he began to repeat mournful runes

in a low tone to himself.



The dead Vala turned heavily in her grave at the sound of his voice,

and, as he went on, sat bolt upright. "What man is this," she asked,

"who dares disturb my sleep?"



Then Odin, for the first time in his life, said what was not true;

the shadow of Baldur dead fell upon his lips, and he made answer,

"My name is Vegtam, the son of Valtam."



"And what do you want from me?" asked the Vala.



"I want to know," replied Odin, "for whom Hela is making ready that

gilded couch in Helheim?"



"That is for Baldur the Beloved," answered the dead Vala.

"Now go away and let me sleep again, for my eyes are heavy."



But Odin said: "Only one word more. Is Baldur going to Helheim?"



"Yes, I've told you that he is," answered the Vala.



"Will he never come back to Asgard again?"



"If everything on earth should weep for him," answered she,

"he will go back; if not, he will remain in Helheim."



Then Odin covered his face with his hands and looked into

darkness.



"Do go away," said the Vala, "I'm so sleepy; I cannot keep my

eyes open any longer."



But Odin raised his head and said again: "Only tell me this one

thing. Just now, as I looked into darkness, it seemed to me as if

I saw one on earth who would not weep for Baldur. Who was it?"



At this the Vala grew very angry and said: "How couldst thou

see in darkness? I know of only one who, by giving away his eye,

gained light. No Vegtam art thou, but Odin, chief of men."



At her angry words Odin became angry, too, and called out as

loudly as ever he could, "No Vala art thou, nor wise woman, but

rather the mother of three giants!"



"Go, go!" answered the Vala, falling back in her grave; "no

man shall waken me again until Loki have burst his chains and

Ragnarok be come." After this Odin mounted the Eight-footed

once more and rode thoughtfully towards home.





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