A Norse Bestiary

Nídhögg

Buried under     the bent roots
of the sacred ash,     symbol of order,
doming the gods     gathered in thing,
the vile dragon     dwells in blood.

Boiling in the heat     of Hvergelmir,
the hateful snake     is savage and cruel,
its callow words     carried to the eagle
by the foe of peace,     the fell squirrel.

Then comes the day     of doom and fire,
when the tree shakes     in the trembling earth,
Nídhögg will rise,     ruling the air,
the bodies of the slain     born on its wings.

Fenrir

The wolf Fenrir     waits in ire,
held by the bond     built by dwarves,
a fetter given     to the false Aesir,
to trick the wolf     and waylay him.

Still he is patient,     his prey unaware;
the wolf can taste     Týr’s missing hand,
his price to the gods     for Gleipnir his bond;
a warning sign     the wise ones missed.

The vicious wolf     waits for his father,
forked-tongue Loki,     fettered by Odin,
to fight in battle     followed by his brother,
the great snake,     and their sister Hel.

The earth soon shakes     with shrieks of pain,
the father of the wolf     frees them both;
Aesir bonds     are burst by powers
stronger than the gods,     stronger than dwarves’ craft.

Sleipnir

The best of horses,     born from the mount
of the giant builder;     bold Sleipnir,
the steed of Odin,     steadied by eight legs,
true and strong,     not treading the ground.

He charges to Hel,     Hermod on his back,
leaping the gate,     to loose Balder;
failing, he rides,     flying to Ásgard,
To wise Allfather,     his waiting master.

Garm

The best of hounds,     held in chains
before the grim     Gnipahellir;
source of the howl     that heralds the end,
the doom of the gods,     the death of Odin.

The baying hound,     bearer of death
and great fire,     the Garm of wood;
that fearsome hound,     foe of Týr,
wrecker of order,     augur of chaos.

Hugin and Munin

Two ravens in flight,     fast returning,
each late afternoon,     alight in Asgard;
they whisper their tidings     to waiting Allfather,
so that he might know     the news of the world.

These birds so dear     to brave Odin,
to whom he had taught     the tongue of men,
give him worry     when gone aloft;
he seeks with haste     their safe return.

Hugin is awaited     by wise Odin,
lest thought be lost     and thinking also;
but even more     is Munin awaited,
his loss in flight     feared like madness.

Jörmungand (The Midgard Serpent)

The mighty snake,     son of Loki,
Angrboda’s spawn,     spans the world,
waiting his chance,     to challenge Thor
in the cold waste     of the whale road.

Overwhelmed at first     by fearsome Thor,
who landed blows     on its body,
the snake awaits     the son of Odin,
to revenge in battle     Thor’s bloody deed.

When the horn sounds,     the snake will rise
to fight with Thor     to the final breath,
when Odin’s son,     Sif’s husband,
will become a victim     of the venomous snake.

Eagle

Proud and noble,     nested on Yggdrasil,
the eagle seethes,     slandered by the dragon,
whose vile words     and vicious gnawing
weaken the ash,     order’s pillar. .

Knowing his duty     and drained of fear,
the eagle stays,     upright and tall,
among the branches,     marking the dragon,
that foul weakener     of worldly order.

Ratatosk

Little boretooth,     bearer of spleen,
running between     root and branch,
of the sacred tree,     trysting with both
eagle and dragon,     always hateful.

Willing hastener     of the world’s demise,
thrall of neither     noble nor pest,
Ratatosk travels     the tree of the world,
until the day     of doom and fire.

Vedrfölnir

Shadowy hawk,     hardy Vedrfölnir,
crowning the eagle     that crests Yggdrasil,
looking out,     acting as the eyes
of the gallant eagle,     guardian of order.

Sköll and Hati

The scions of Fenrir,     Sköll and Hati,
treachery and hatred,     hurtle onward,
never closer,     never reaching
their heavenly prey     passing through the sky.

Until the day     of doom and fire,
when the Aesir,     Allfather among them,
fall in battle,     felled by Loki’s kin,
and the evil vargs     devour the sun and moon.

Geri and Freki

Geri and Freki,     the greedy wolves
who flank the seat     of the father of gods,
waiting to roam,     ravenous ones,
eating the food     Allfather throws them.

[S.R. Hardy is a poet, novelist and translator whose work has appeared in venues such as Northern TraditionsDeath Head GrinWidowmoon Press and the Eunoia Review.  He is currently at work on a variety of translations, poems and stories.  In addition, he blogs about words atwww.anarcheologos.com.]

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