Posted in Mythology

The one where Merlin built Stonehenge

Areulius Ambrosius, the brother of Uther Pendragon had just been pronounced king, his father and some of the other Princes of the Britons having been slain by the vicious Saxons in a mighty battle. It was because of this he made his way to Merlin, Wizard and wisest of all, to ask advice.

“Merlin, I need your help.” He said as he fiddled with the crown on his head. “I need to find a way to memorialise the Princes that have been slain, a lasting tribute to honor their memory and sacrifice.”

“A way to honor them?” The Wizard asked, stroking his long beard. “I do have this one idea. Have you heard of Giants Dance?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It lies in Killarus, a mountain in Ireland. It’s a structure made of these huge stones which no one in this world could carry or move, unless you’re me of course. If we bring them here and stand them, as they stand in Ireland, here, in this place, they will stand forever.”

Aurelius scoffed “Ireland? You must be kidding me, can’t you think of something that doesn’t involve us bringing huge arse stones across the water?”

“My king, do you really think I would make such a suggestion in jest? These stones aren’t just normal stones. They hold the ability to heal. Giants of old brought these stones from the furthest coasts of Africa to Ireland when they inhabited those lands. They did so with the intention of carving them into great baths, and when they became sick, to wash in the water contained within them so they can heal them of any ills. There is no stone in that landscape without healing virtues, Highness.”

“And you are so sure these stones will stand forever?”

“If placed here, then yes”

Aurelius then retired to his halls, and at his desk he wrote his commands. His brother, Uther, would travel to Killarus with Merlin and 15,000 men to collect these stones, and upon their return, they would be placed forever on the Plains of Salisbury.

It took some days of preparation before they were ready to leave, but eventually the 15,000 men, alongside Uther and Merlin left Salisbury on their rafts,travelling down the Rivers Avon and Seven, and across the Irish Sea. Little is reported of the journey itself, though upon reaching Irish lands, it’s said they were faced by an army of barbarians, 7000 of which they slaughtered before moving on to Killarus. 

Upon facing the stones themselves though, Uther was crestfallen, despite Merlins warnings, the size of the stones was shocking, and Uther could think of no way they would be able to return them to Briton. 

“Did I not explain to your brother how I was the only person who would be able to move them?” The wizard asked with a prideful grin. “If I do this…” He waved his hands “and this” He chanted a few words. “And finish it off with this” He thrust his hands into the air, and to the surprise of all present, the stones, each in turn, began to levitate. “Shall we get these back to the rafts then?” The wizard finally asked through gritted teeth as if he was bearing a heavy weight.

Their journey home took some time longer than their journey there, but they retraced their steps and finally returned to Salisbury, the Stones being placed on additional rafts to be taken across the sea. It is often argued how the stones themselves were laid. Some claim that Merlin, with use of his magics placed the stones on his own, though others claim he did so with the aid of a Giant that he knew. How the stones were stood in their final resting place is not important though.

It was not long after their raising that Aurelius was killed, poisoned by those Saxons at Winchester, and they buried him in the King Barrow in sight of the Giants Dance. Uther then took the crown but he too was poisoned by Saxons and was buried within the monument itself. But the legend of the Giants Dance continues. Arthur’s own exploits will be documented at a later date, but it is said that upon taking a mortal wound in battle, he abdicated his crown to Constantine, son of Cador of Cornwall and travelled to the Isles of Avalon to rest and die in peace. Constantine was eventually killed by Conan and is also buried within the boundary of the stones alongside Uther. 

***

So this is a really short story to tell, and makes my inner Archaeologist cry, but I have a soft spot for Arthurian Legend and will be covering more of it in the future. Couple of quick disclaimers though:

. The Sarcen Stones (the large stones of the monument) are thought to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, about 20km North of Stone Henge

. The smaller Blue Stones are believed to be from the Pricilli Hills in Wales about 250km Westish

. The majority of this story is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 8, chapter 10, published C. 1136AD

. The argument that Merlin was assisted by Giants in placing the Stones in the Salisbury Plane comes from an Illustration on a 14th Century manuscript of Robert Wace’s Roman De Brut, depicting Merlin and a second figure with a Giant placing a lintel upon the upright stones. Roman De Brut was originally published around 1155AD, though no exact date is known. This was not part of Geoffrey’s account.

Posted in Mythology

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part II

Part I can be found here

The following day the gods of Asgard gathered in the main hall, all but Freya, who had chosen to spend the day with her cats, and they discussed all the options they had before them. The morning passed, the afternoon drifted by and as evening fell, all those present had presented an idea. Thor was restless, Loki was exhausted by the idiocy surrounding him, and everyone else had run out of ideas.

It was as the evening meal was brought to them that Odin cleared his throat and looked down the table to where Heimdall sat. “You are the only one of us to have not spoken” The All-Father observed. “Do you, Heimdall, watchman of the Gods, guard of Bifrost have nothing to add?” 

“I have an idea” He said softly “though it is not one Thor would dain to consider, so I do not see the wisdom of sharing such a thought.”

A smile spread across Thor’s lips. “I will consider anything to get my hammer back, Heimdall, who is farseeing, no matter how much I dislike the plan! Everyone has said their idea, now come on, it can’t be that bad” 

“You won’t like it, and you will not want to use such a plan either” Heimdall protested, though his voice remained calm and even.

“I will order you to speak if necessary” Odin interjected.

“Very well” Heimdall finally conceded. “But do not be shocked when Thor says it will not happen.” He pushed himself to his feet and took a step back from the table, looking to Thor and Loki. “Thrym wants to marry Freya” He said, and Loki nodded in confirmation. “But Thrym has never met Freya, so any of us would be able to dress in a bridal gown, with a bridal vail and take her place.”

Thor grinned and as his eyes scanned over the other Goddess’ present, he didn’t see Heimdall’s gaze settle on him.

Heimdall continued. “In that case, I propose that we dress Thor in a bridal gown and veil, with rings on his fingers and gems in his hair. I propose he wear the necklace of the Brisings and travel to the halls of Thrym, where he will pretend to be Freya. Once the wedding feast ends, and before the ceremony takes place, gifts will be exchanged and once Thor is given Mjolnir, he can do what is necessary to remove himself from the situation.”

“That is a brilliant idea!” Loki chuckled.

“That is a terrible idea.” Thor cried. “I will not allow it to happen”

“This is a fine idea” Odin echoed Loki’s sentiment. “Ladies, please go fetch a gown and veil, and rings and bells as a woman would wear on her wedding day, and Frigg, please get the Necklace of the Brisings from Freya”

As the ladies disappeared, Thor continued his protests. “But I will have to shave my legs, and my beard, not my beard! And what if he tries to touch me, or kiss me, and how am I going to pass as a girl? Father, tell them it will not work” he pleaded with his father.

“My orders have been given” Was all Odin said. 

***

The days and nights went by, a dress was tailored to fit Thor, a veil was made to cover his face and beard, but still allowed him to see, and as the final hours ticked by, rings were put on his fingers and bells adorned his clothing. Finally, Loki placed Freya’s bridal crown upon Thor’s head. 

“I will travel with you” Loki said as he changed his form to appear as a maid servant to the Goddess she traveled with. The maid servant then held a hand to Thor and helped him into his chariot, pulled by the goats Nasher and Grinder. Loki took the reins and sat beside him and off they went into the sunset.

After a while of sulking, Thor looked to the maid servant beside him that was Loki. “Are you sure this is going to work?”

“I’m sure it will work,” She said in response. “All you have to do is make it through the feast and then we get the hammer and we can go home.”

“But he will want me to sit next to him!”

“That is the tradition, yes”

“But what if he touches me, he will know!

Loki sighed. “I will sit between you, explain that it is our custom, I’m sure he will understand. Just stay quiet and leave the talking to me, everything will be fine.” 

***

They could hear the preparations for the wedding before they could see the hall, shouts of ‘clean up this mess’ and ‘make sure that’s covered, Freya won’t want to see that!’ echoing across the landscape. Thor looked to his maid servant and clasped her arm. “I do not like this…” He said, looking towards the hall as it came into view.

“Just remember what I said,” She, who was Loki, replied. “Leave the talking to me and everything will be just fine. Relax, and enjoy your wedding night” Loki couldn’t help but chuckle as a shudder ran down Thor’s spine.

“That is not helping, Loki” He hissed as Nasher and Grinder came to a halt by the stables.

They were met at the door by a giant lady, who introduced themselves as Thrym’s sister. “So this is Freya? This is the most beautiful of the Gods? She doesn’t look like much.” She commented, the maid servant quickly kicking Thor in the shin to quiet any response he may have wished to voice.

“May we get started?” The maid servant asked. “My mistress is dying to meet her husband”

The giant, which was Thrym’s sister, nodded and led them inside. 

The hall was cavernous, with high ceilings and a straw floor. Six trestle tables took up the main space of the room, all the benches already full of the denizens of Jotunheim, and at the far end of the hall, sat upon the dias, was the head table, Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres at its centre.

“Freya! My beautiful Bride, how good it is to see you!” He cried in delight as Thor, in his bridal gown and veil, stepped into the hall, a maid servant at his heels. “Come join me, take your place at my side and we shall feast in celebration of the vows we will take tonight.” His voice boomed across the hall, his words clear to all present. They made their way down the centre aisle and the maid servant bowed before Thrym, Thor inclining his head in reluctant respect.

“It is custom in our land for a chosen maid servant to sit between the bride and her groom during the customary pre-ritual feasting, I hope you can understand this” The maid servant said as she rose. 

“Of course” Thrym sighed as he motioned for them both to join him on the dias and take their seats beside him, and as they did so, a bell rang and the feast began.

Servants hurried out of doorways hidden in the shadowed alcoves that lined the walls of the hall. Some carried platters of salmon, some with whole oxen. Barrels of Ale and Mead were brought in too, so large they had to be carried by two giants each. Trays of fancies and pastries were passed around for the women, and as the last few items were placed on the tables, Thrym stood and cleared his throat.

“We are here today” He started, “to celebrate my marriage to Freya of the Vanir, most beautiful of the Asgardians.” He stopped as the crowd cheered, tankards raised in a raucous toast of congratulations. Thor though, took this lul in his husband-to-be’s speech to mean it was time to eat, and eating is what he did.

Thrym stood there in abashed silence as he watched his future wife tuck in, before blinking and taking his seat with a call for the feast to begin, it would have been rude for him to continue talking while his bride ate. 

Over the next hour, Thor proceeded to eat and drink though:

 . 7 whole Salmon, each the size of a human child of about 5 years old

. 1 whole Oxen

 . 2 trays of Pastries

 . 3 casks of Mead

And despite Loki, in the guise of a maid servant, repeatedly trying to get Thor to stop (elbows in the ribs, a few kicks to his shins under the table, Thor continued to eat.

An eighth Salmon vanished under the bridal vail, and as a skeleton was withdrawn, Thrym finally turned to the maid servant and said “I.. have never seen a woman eat so much, and she has drunk three casks of Mead” 

The maid servant inclined her head. “My mistress hasn’t eaten in eight days and eight nights because of her excitement about marrying you, Lord” She said “Now she is in your presence, she is finally able to eat again, it is so very good to see” Loki, who was the maid servant smiled.

Thrym grinned at that and leaned over the maid servant and reached for Thor, lips pursed, leaning in for a kiss. Thor pushed his chair back, his eyes burning with hatred beneath his vail. Thrym stopped and quickly excused himself, dragging Loki with him. “What… what is wrong with her eyes? They’re… scary”

“They’re burning with passion, Lord. She has not slept in eight days and eight nights thinking of her wedding night” Loki explained and Thrym blushed. 

Seeing the opportunity for some sister-in-law bonding, as Thrym and the maid servant slipped away, Thrym’s sister went and sat at Thor’s side. “My sister!” She cried. “How beautiful your rings are, and your bells! What I would do for jewelry like that. How about you give me sme, as a bride gift! You’re going to need friends here, now hand them over or..”

Thrym and the maid servant returned then, and he looked down at his sister, who quickly returned to her seat. He cleared his throat again and looked to the gathered guests. “Now the feast is over, bring out the gift! Bring out Mjolnir so I can present it to my beautiful wife!”

It took four giants to carry the hammer out, and Loki, who was the maid servant, stifled a chuckle as the short handle of the weapon made it quite comical to watch four trying to handle it. They grumbled and jostled eachother, stepping on toes and tripping over seemingly nothing. After a few tense minutes, they finally made their way up the dias and sat Mjolnir on the table before Thor. 

He grinned and stood, grasping the handle with one hand, and raising his vail with the other. He watched the look of realisation settle on Thrym’s face, then raised the hammer, and in a single stroke, Thrym was dead.

***

As the Giants and Ogres lay dead and scattered around the feast hall, tables and benches unended, food littering the straw covered floor, Loki, back in his true form, emerged from below a table, wiping a splatter of blood from his face. “You could have given me some kind of warning” He said, and stepping over the corpses, they both made their way back to Thor’s chariot, and made their way home, Mjolnir sat in its rightful place at Thor’s side. 

Posted in Mythology

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part I

I guess I want to start with a quick ‘why am I doing this’. Norse Mythology is absolutely amazing and so very different from other mythologies out there. And unlike the others, it seems like it’s almost encouraged for you to retell them in your own way. As Neil Gaiman says in the introduction of his Norse Mythology: “That’s the joy of myths, the fun comes in telling them yourself, something I warmly encourage you to do”. So, Mr Gaiman, I’m taking your encouragement and I’m going to run with it, ‘cause why not. Below is a retelling of one of the tales Gaiman covers – Freya’s Unusual Wedding, the 8th story in his collection. Seriously, go check it out, it is a fantastic book and his take on the Myths he covers is so refreshing.

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part 1

The sun shone through the windows as it slowly peaked over the horizon, its rays caressing the sleeping forms of Thor and his beautiful wife Sif. Thor rolled over, burying his head in his pillows as he grumbled. “I forgot to close the curtains again..” He sighed, and after a few more moments, he swung his legs out of bed and blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the bright light. He pulled on his trousers and looked to the floor by his bed, blinking again.

“Sif…” He said, shaking his wifes shoulder to rouse her. “Sif.. Where did I leave my hammer last night..?” He let the question linger as he thought over the events of the night before, feasting and singing, and drinking, lots of drinking, but he remembered making it to his room and he remembered putting his hammer down beside him as he fell into bed.

Thor’s hammer was special. It was forged for him by the brothers Brokkr and Eitri in their workshop in Svartalfheim, the world of Dark Fields, and is perfect in every way but one. Due to a slight mishap during the forging of the weapon (no thanks to Loki), the handle is a little short, meaning Thor can only wield it with one hand. It can shrink it down to fit it in his pocket, and no matter how hard and far he throws it, it will always come back to his hand. It can level mountains and kill a giant in a single hit. It’s name is Mjolnir, and it was missing.

“Loki…” He growled as he pushed himself to his feet. When things went wrong in Asgard, the easiest thing, and usually the correct assumption, was to blame Loki, but even at his worst, Thor doubted even Loki would do this. If, as in with this case, it is something you don’t think Loki is likely to have done, the second step is to assume Loki either knows something about it, or will figure out a way to fix it. So this is what Thor did. He stormed out of his room, leaving Sif staring after him, a look of confusion on her face as the door slammed behind him. 

He stalked through the halls, eventually making it to Loki’s room. Boom, boom boom Thor hammered on the door. “Loki!” He shouted. “Loki!!”

“I’m coming!” Loki’s voice could be heard, and after a few moments, as Thor lifted his hand to knock again, the hinges squeaked and the door was unlocked and opened. “Good morning, Thor! I hope you had a fantastic evening last night, though I’m surprised to see you up so early” Loki’s voice soft and gentle, a smile on his face as he knew he had done nothing to arouse Thor’s wrath, so what did Thor need him to fix this time?

“My hammer. Mjolnir. It’s… it’s missing.” Thor replied as he lowered his hand. “And I need you to go find it.”

“Good morning to you too, Loki, yes, last night was fine indeed, it’s a shame I didn’t see you there” Loki said in a surprisingly accurate mimicry of Thor’s voice as he stepped aside to let the Aesir enter. “What do you mean it’s missing?” He eventually continued.

“I put it by my bed when I went to sleep and when I woke up, it was gone.”

“Gone?”

“Gone.”

“And.. what exactly do you want me to do about it?” Loki asks again. 

“I want you to find it, Loki.” Thor replied without hesitation. “I need my hammer back. Without it, how am I meant to protect Asgard and Midgard? How am I meant to kill Giants?”

Loki sighed with resignation. “Fine. Follow me” 

Loki led them through the halls and corridors to Freya’s chambers and before he had the chance to knock Thor burst through the door. “Freya! Loki wants…” He turns to Loki stepping in behind him. “Why are we here, Loki? Does Freya have -”

“Shut up, Thor.” Loki interrupted before lowering himself in a bow to the goddess before him. “My beautiful Frey-”

“What do you want, Loki?” She asked, her eyes as cold as ice as she stared at the two of them.

Loki straightened “I need to borrow your cloak, the one that lets you fly like a bird”

Her laugh was musical as it echoed around the hall before she looked back to him, deadpan. “No.” she says simply.

“But Freya” Thor whined.

“You think I’m going to lend one of my prize possessions to you two? Really?” She asks with a raised eyebrow. “After the incident with my necklace of the Brisings, you really think I would trust you, Loki, with my cloak?”

“Thor’s hammer has been stolen and I need to go find it. Once again, Freya, may I please borrow your cloak?” 

She looks to him, her eyes tracking over him for any hint of mischief, but seeing the clear worry of Thor, she nods. “I’ll go get it.”

***

Thor and Freya watched as Loki took to the skies like an Eagle and soared through the clouds until he disappeared from sight.

He soared across the worlds, from Asgard, over Midgard, towards Jotunheim, also called Udgård. It was as he crossed the borders of Jotunheim he spotted a large figure sat upon a hill weaving what appeared to be dog collars. He circled around the figure for some time before settling on the ground before it.

“Loki!” The figure bellowed. “It is very good to see you out this way, what brings you to the Land of the Giants on this fine morning?”

Loki tilted his head. He did not know this figure, though could now identify him as an Ogre. “How do you know me?” He asked.

“How are things back in Asgard?” He asks, choosing not to respond to the one Loki had asked “How is Thor and how is Freya?”

Something at that moment clicked in Loki’s mind. “Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, has been stolen, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that now, would you?”

“Of course I do!” The Ogre roared with a laugh. “I took it from his bedside in the early hours this morning, why else would I be sitting here waiting for you, Loki?”

“Don’t get me wrong sir, sorry, what was your name again?”

“I am Thrym” The Ogre declared with triumph, “Lord of all the Ogres”

Loki nods and continues. “Now Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your pranks, the Asgardians on the other hand… don’t. I need to take Thor’s hammer home and return this cloak to Freya before she has the Dwarves make my hide into a cloak.”

“You can have Mjolnir back,” Thrym said with a smile, but he held a hand up to stop Loki before he could thank him. “on one condition”

“That will be no problem!” Cried Loki in relief. “I can arrange a ransom for the Hammer, Gold, Gems, Treasures, whatever you could dream of, just return the hammer and whatever it is will be yours!”

“I want Freya. The beautiful Freya. I want her to be my wife and in return I shall present Mjolnir as a bridal gift. That is all I ask, simply her hand in marriage”

Loki did not like the sound of this. Freya would never agree to such a thing, though in return for the hammer, surely even Freya could make a sacrifice to retrieve the weapon, Thor did need it to protect them, and Midgard from the Giants…

“She will come to my halls in eight days time” Thrym continued. “Shrouded in her bridal veil how beautiful she will look…” Then Thrym became silent, his eyes unfocusing as he fell into daydreams of the life ahead of him with Freya.

***

Loki landed before Thor, who unlike Freya had stayed to wait for his return. “You know something.” Thor said, narrowing his eyes in accusation. “Tell me what it is you know before you… do what you always do and cause more trouble”

Loki stood there, a look of mock offence on his face. “I’m hurt that you would think such a thing of me, Thor, am I not the reason you have your hammer in the first place?” Loki was correct, as he usually was. It was in fact he that set the brothers Brokkr and Eitri against the sons of Ivaldi and had them produce the treasures of the gods, Mjolnir included – but that is a tale for another time. “Though you are correct in your assumption that I know something. I have found your hammer, I have found Mjolnir”

Thor’s face lit up “Do you have it? Where is it?”

Loki’s lips pursed. “Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres has it.” He stated “And he is willing to ransom it back to us”

“So what does he want, gold, gems, treasure?”

“He wants Freya”

“Crap.”

***

Loki and Thor kneeled before the beautiful Freya and she took her folded cloak from Loki’s outstretched hand. “I trust you found Mjolnir?” She asked as she retook her seat upon the dias. 

Loki lowered his arms and raised his gaze to the Goddess. “I was not in a position to retrieve it, but I have located it and it is retrievable.” He said.

“That is good! I wish you all the luck in the nine realms, now both of you, kindly leave”

Thor opened his mouth and was about to speak, stopped in his tracks with a cold glare from Loki, who pushes himself to his feet. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be that simple.” He said with a soft sigh. “Do you know of Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres?”

She inclined her head. “I have heard of him. A nasty piece of work on all accounts” She said. “If he has your hammer, Thor, then you will be lucky to get it back”

Thor pushed himself to his feet as he was addressed and once again went to speak, but Loki stopped him with a raised hand and spoke in his place.

“Thrym has agreed to ransom Mjolnir back to us, and asks for simply one thing to guarantee it’s safe return to us” Loki said as he took a small step forward. Freya raised an eyebrow but nodded to him to continue. “Thrym has simply asked to wed the most beautiful of those who reside in Asgard”

Thor looked to Loki in outrage. “You told me it was Freya he wanted to marry, not Sif!” 

She pointedly ignored Thor and continued to look at Loki, even for him, her face was unreadable.

“Yes, it is you, Freya, most beautiful of all, who’s hand Thrym wishes to have in marriage.”

She inclines her head

“In eight days time,” Loki continued, “You shall be presented to Thrym as his bride, and in return, as a Bridal Gift, he shall give you Mjolnir”

Her icy visage remained unchanging. “If you think I, Freya of the Vanir, most beautiful of all those who reside in Asgard, will allow you send me off to live the rest of my life in Jotunheim, if you think I will allow you to sell me off to an Ogre in return for Mjolnir, you truly are idiots, Loki, I thought so much better of you than this.”

“But Freya!” Thor whined. “What about my hammer? What about Mjolnir?”

“That” Freya said as she rose to her feet, “Is for you two lackwits to figure out. I am going to go enjoy my evening and forget this exchange ever happened. Now if you don’t mind” She motioned to the door.

“But Freya!” Thor continued to whine as Loki dragged him from the hall.


To Be Continued…

Part II can be found here