Thor, Odin’s son, huge he is, and red-bearded, and strong, by far the strongest of all the gods, entered the halls of Valhalla quite in a hurry looking for the All-father.
“Did you hear that scream? What could possibly be?” asked Thor to Mimir, because he was the wisest of all the living and dead creatures, he knows everything.
“It’s Loki, and he is in the realm of the giants, Jotunheim.”
Odin curious and nervous about what could have happened to his sworn blood brother gave order to Thor to prepare himself for a visit to Jotunheim. Thor wore his belt of strength, Meringjord, when he wears it, his might is increased and strength is doubled. Odin called his 8-legged steed, Sleipnir who was Loki’s son and a gift from Loki himself to Odin. Sleipnir, a huge grey stallion, the fastest and the strongest horse that ever there had been or ever would be. A horse that could outrun the wind. Despite of its magnificents Loki was ashamed of his son, because Loki was actually Sleipnir’s mother! Sleipnir’s mother was Loki and Sleipnir’s father was Svadilfari the stallion owned by the disguised and unnamed Mountain giant who built the walls of Asgard.
This was in the early days, shortly after the treaty between the Aesir and the Vanir, when the gods were still making a home for themselves and Asgard was undefended when Thor leaves to fight trolls and giants. Odin wanted something that could defend themselves from the giants and trolls. They could not always rely on Thor.
Odin wanted a wall, high enough to keep out frost giants. Thick enough that not even the strongest troll could better its way through. They knew that building such a wall could take them years. But it was something needed to be done. The next day a newcomer arrived in Asgard claiming he could build the wall they desired in only 3 seasons but his price was the Sun, the Moon and Freya. Things that gods weren’t willing to give away.
Then Loki suggested a wager that if he build the wall in only one season and alone, he would get his price but if not then he would get nothing as a reward. A wager, gods agreed with Loki and took the deal; after all, how could a mere mortal build something in one season, that it would take years for the gods. It was a win-win situation for them and when the builder wouldn’t finish his task the gods would get his work as the foundation of their work. When the builder heard the proposition, he agreed only if he could take the help of his great horse Svadilfari, something the gods allowed.
Months past and the thing that seemed impossible was going to happen! The builder was so close on finishing his work in time and all thanks to his indefatigable horse, which went every night to the mountains and brought twice the stones as it’s master, every morning. Two days before the season’s end the gods realized that they are going to lose their wager and started blaming Loki for proposing this idea. If they were going to lose the Moon, the Sun and Freya his punishment would be death!
Loki left that day. The last night of the season the builder prepared to bring from the mountain, the last granite blocks. But when he whistled for his horse, his horse did not come. Odd, he had never needed to whistle twice. He went looking for Svadilfari and he saw him, but he realized there were two horses there. The other horse was a female and was luring Svadilfari away from its master. The builder cursed and spat and waited for his horse to reappear. The shadows lengthened and Svadilfari did not return. The builder returned to his stone-boat and went alone to the mountain quarry. The next day he returned to Asgard with only 10 granite blocks. He did not finish his work in time, and lost the wager. He cursed the gods calling them cheaters.
By that time Thor returned from his journey and killed him. The gods prepared a feast. Strangely, for it was most unlike him, Loki was not around to be praised for his part in luring away the horse Svadilfari. Nobody knew where he was. Loki stayed away for the best part of a year and when he showed up again, he was accompanied by a grey foal with eight legs! And it followed Loki wherever he went and nuzzled him and treated Loki as if he were its mother. Which, of course was the case. This foal was named Sleipnir.
Thor traveled via the Bifrost and Odin came riding his 8-legged steed through the sky, they met on the same spot, outside the great hall of Angrboda. Mimir and Tyr also came some minutes later and they entered forcefully in the huge hall. What their eyes encountered was unspeakably horrifying. A snake so gigantic, so horrible and so poisonous, Nidhogg the dragon that was chewing away at the roots of the life tree Yggdrasil was nothing compared to it. Besides it, Loki was fallen to the ground, with absolute terror in his eyes, while right next to him Angrboda, the giant’s mother was laughing out of joy. Odin gave quick look to Mimir.
“So, the serpent was telling the truth, it is from the future. This is the snake that will kill Thor.”
Without a time to waste, Odin took his spear Gungnir, it is said that Gungnir can penetrate anything and when you throw it, it will always find its mark. It was a fine weapon for Odin, because after all he had but one eye and sometimes his aim could be less than perfect. That weapon was a gift made by three sons of Ivaldi. Three Dwarfs that Loki persuaded to make three exceptional gifts for Odin, Thor and Frey, Freya’s brother.
Gungnir indeed cannot miss its mark, so the spear that Odin tossed was aimed directly to the snake’s head! But something unbelievably unexpected happened. The spear missed! Odin’s aim was on spot, that is true, but the spear changed direction at the last moment and ended up landing on the ground. Everyone seemed surprised, but Odin saw with his eye that contained much wisdom and power, something that others could not notice, well everyone except Mimir of course. A squirrel with a smile on his face looked at Odin and then disappeared. Mimir whispered to Odin
“Ratatoskr… The messenger of the Eagle and the Dragon…”
“The snake is not meant to die today… What should we do? Mimir give me your council.”
“Take the children to Asgard, why not raise them ourselves, this way they will be ours to control”
The snake was terrified by what is happening and slithered quickly behind its mother. Despite the fact that she is a giant and it was just born, it is already as big as her. In front of her a wolf pup was trying to protect its mother and its sibling. It was indeed a pup, but it was so brave and confident of its strength that stood against the two most fearsome Aesir gods, Odin and Thor. The wolf pup was also a giant. Tyr, the god of was approached the wolf-giant and complimented it.
“You are so brave, protecting your family. What is your name?” asked the Aesir god, whose mother was also a giant.
“I am Fenris Wolf, the son of Loki and Angrboda!”
“That is a proud name. It fits you; I am sure you will accomplish many great things when you grow. You already are as big as me!”
“Thank you, sir!” said Fenris shaking his tail.
Odin approached one of the children, who was little more distant in this whole situation. Odin ordered her to step forward. He stared at the girl; on the right side of her face her cheek was pink and white, her eye was the green of Loki’s eyes, her lips were full and carmine; on the left side of her face the skin was blotched and striated, swollen in the bruises of death, her sightless eye rotten and pale, the lipless mouth wizened and stretched over skull-brown teeth.
“What do they call you, girl?” asked the All-father.
“They call me Hel” she said,” If it pleases you, All-father”
“You are a polite child” said Odin. “I’ll give you that”
Hel said nothing, only looked at him with her single green eye, sharp as an ice chip, and her pallid eye, dull and spoiled and dead. He saw no fear in her.
“Are you alive?” he asked the girl. “Or are you a corpse?”
“I am only myself, Helm daughter of Angrboda and of Loki” she said. “And I like the dead best of all. They are simple things, and they talk to me with respect. The living look at me with revulsion.”
Odin contemplated the girl and smiled. He had plans for her.
Mimir interrupted Odin’s thoughts saying “We don’t have enough time. The giants will come with questions on why we came here se aggressively. We must make our move and leave. Take the children to Asgard.”
Departure from Jotunheim
As Odin was making his decision. Thor gave a good look at the serpent. When they arrived, the snake was at the size of its mother and trembled in fear. While now, some minutes later, the snake seemed to him as it was double his size! That was impossible! The snake then lost any sense of fear, it looked Thor with hits venomous eyes as it was provoking him for a fight. Thor got angry, he touched his belt of strength and doubled his power, he then took out his hammer Mjollnir and prepared for a toss that is was not meant to miss the snakes head, Odin stopped him. The All-father made his decision.
“Loki, you and your children will come to Asgard!” he said, Loki knew he was out of options and ordered his children to follow him. At the moment Angrdoba grabs Loki’s hand and whispers to his ear.
“Follow me. I am a giant, you are the son of a giant, our children are giants, your place is with us. Don’t tell me you are not proud of the devastating forces of your children”. This reminded Loki of how Freya had encouraged him to feel proud for his son Sleipnir.
“Follow me” said Angrdoba one last time. But Loki with a sad look on his face said one thing.
“How should we call our son?”Angrboda, disappointed because she understood that Loki wouldn’t follow her, but also happy and full of joy because she saw that Loki actually was feeling proud and cared about their children. She gave the snake a motherly look and said.
“Jormungandr, the World Serpent!”