|Goddess of Love, Beauty, and War|
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Frey (Freyr; Lord) One of the great gods of Norse mythology.
His name means “lord,” as his sister Freya’s means “lady.” Frey was the lord of the Sun, rain, and harvests. He was a shining god, bringing fertility and prosperity to all. Son of the Vanir god Njord, Frey was one of the hostages asked to live in Asgard after the Aesir/Vanir War. His home was Alfheim (elf-world), and he was sometimes known as Lord of the Elves.
Among the treasures of the dwarfs that belonged to Frey were the ship Skidbladnir, which could carry all the gods and their horses and armor and yet be folded small enough to fit in a pouch; the golden boar Gullinbursti, which plowed the earth and made it green; and a magic sword that struck out at Jotuns and trolls of its own accord. Frey gave this sword as a bride price to Gerda’s father, Gymir. He would regret its loss at Ragnarok, when he battled with the fire demon Surt and lost his life. Frey wed Gerda after his servant Skirnir had wooed her for him. Many scholars interpret the story “Frey and Gerda” as a legend about the wooing of the frozen Earth (Gerda) by the warm Sun (Frey).
Historically, the worship of Frey was widespread and persistent, especially among the people of Sweden. Around the year 1200, there was a magnificent statue of Frey (called there Fricco, the Lover) alongside the two other great gods Odin and Thor in Uppsala, Sweden.
Frey and Gerda
One myth has it that Frey dared to climb onto Odin’s high seat, Hlidskjalf, where no one but the great god and sometimes his wife, Frigg, were allowed to sit. From this vantage point Odin could see all the Nine Worlds.
Frey looked about him, and his gaze was transfixed by a dazzling vision. He saw Gerda, the fair daughter of the giant Gymir. As she opened the gates to her palace, her shapely arms shone with such radiance that the Earth and the sky around her shimmered.
Frey left Odin’s palace feeling sad and desolate. He knew that because Gerda was a Jotun, a daughter of one of the hated enemy, and he, Frey, was Lord of the Elves, he could never win her. Besides, it was said that her heart was as frozen as a seed in the hard winter earth.
Frey was so unhappy that he could not eat, sleep, or speak. Everyone was troubled for him. Trees lost their leaves, and flowers faded. All nature mourned for Frey. At last Frey’s father, Njord, sent Skirnir to speak to his son.
Skirnir was Frey’s friend and trusted servant. It did not take him long to find out what troubled Frey. Skirnir said he would woo the maiden for Frey if Frey would lend him Blodighofi, the wondrous horse that could leap through fire unharmed, and Frey’s magic sword.
Frey agreed, and Skirnir set off to Jotunheim, the land of the giants. When he came to a wall of fire, Blodighofi leaped with Skirnir through the flames. They both came out unscathed. Outside Gymir’s hall, huge hounds set up a fearsome barking, howling like the winds of winter.
Skirnir asked an old shepherd for advice, but the man offered no help. Instead he told Skirnir that he had no hope of winning Gerda, for her heart was made of ice. He said that Frey was doomed to failure and death.
Skirnir knew that the Norns had decided his fate and when he should die. There was nothing he could do except to go about his duty with hope and courage.
Inside her hall, Gerda looked coldly at Skirnir. First he offered her golden apples if she would give her love to Frey, but Gerda had plenty of gold. Then he offered her Odin’s magic ring, Draupnir, but Gerda had plenty of jewels.
Next Skirnir tried threats: He would cut off her head with the magic sword. Gerda replied that her father would kill Skirnir first and keep the magic sword for himself. Skirnir followed by drawing from his belt a wand and a knife. He said he would carve the most terrifying magic runes upon the wand and strike her with it. The runes would be curses that doomed her to be forever lonely and filled with longing. She would have no friends, no husband, no children. Only the horrible frost giant Hrimgrimnir would pursue her with foul corpses for companions. Food and drink would taste loathsome to her. She would always be cold and miserable and would slowly dry up like a dying thistle, trampled underfoot and forgotten by all.
At this dreadful threat, Gerda at last promised to marry Frey. Skirnir left Frey’s magic sword behind as a bride price for Gymir and rode back to Frey with the happy news that Gerda would wed him in nine days at the sacred barley patch, Barri. (In Norse mythology, nine days symbolize the nine months of a northern winter.) The long delay dismayed Frey.
It is said that after they were married, Frey and Gerda were the happiest couple in the world, for the warmth of Frey’s love had melted Gerda’s icy heart, just as the Sun of spring thaws the frozen earth and brings forth the plants from seeds hidden inside it.
The story of Frey and Gerda is told in Skirnismal, a 10th-century poem in the Poetic Edda, and by Snorri Sturluson in his 13th-century Gylfaginning.