The war of the gods laid waste to the land:
none were winners and neither side lost.
They found each other when the fighting was done.
The gods stood still; they struck no more.
A bowl was fetched, brought for the gods;
all were there, Aesir and Vanir,
kinfolk of Odin, kinfolk of Njord,
to seal the peace, sought by them all.
The bowl was filled with both sides’ spit.
The gods then made, molded from the brew,
a man who was called Kvasir the Wise;
his knowledge lacked nothing at all.
Kvasir then fared far and wide;
long did he roam in the lands of men.
He sought to teach sound and meaning,
the olden lore, to all he met.
One day he came, while dimness grew,
to a house of dwarves, dark and grim.
Two brothers lived there, one loud, one not;
Galar and Fjalar, good for nothing.
The dwarves seemed kind; their darkness was hidden.
Once the door shut they shouted in anger.
They set to hammering their hapless guest;
they killed him then, Kvasir the Wise.
The evil dwarves drained his blood;
they were much keen to catch his wisdom.
The blood filled two cups, Boden and Son,
and a kettle too, called Odroerir.
The dwarves then stirred, straight into the blood,
golden honey gathered from bees.
To all who drank even one sip,
the gift of poetry would give itself up.
When Kvasir never came back home,
the Aesir grew grim: all were worried.
Looking high and low, they left Asgard.
They asked everyone; all knew nothing.
One day the Aesir, ever seeking,
came to the den of the dwarven brothers.
Galar and Fjalar gave them rest;
they talked a while of what they knew.
The dwarves then said they’d seen Kvasir,
but the norns had woven a wicked braid:
Kvasir had gagged, a gruesome death;
his store of wisdom had stuck in his throat.
The Aesir were hollow, their hearts were grieved.
They left the dwarves and drove towards home.
The dwarves then laughed, lolling with mirth.
The Aesir had been fooled; they had fallen for the lie.
One day the dwarves, dwelling at home,
were roused from sleep by sudden knocking.
Gilling the giant, great in size,
stood before them flanked by his wife.
The giants then asked, gently enough,
if they might stay, until morning only.
They were weary, having walked quite far;
the dwarves’ house looked dark but warm.
The dwarves were worried. They were wary of giants;
never had they found a friend amongst them.
They thought of a scheme to thwart their guests;
they would use cunning to kill the giant.
They asked Gilling, great though he was,
to go out to sea to seek for fish.
Gilling agreed, game for the sport.
The dwarves then walked their ward to the boat.
Gilling sat aft, angling the boat.
The waves were rough, round and swollen;
the dwarves were frightened to fare so deeply;
they did not know the Norns’ weaving.
The dwarves were right; grim death was near.
The boat flipped over and out they fell.
The brothers could float, they bobbed in the sea,
but Gilling was drowned: he did not swim.
The brothers then flipped their boat back over;
they rowed for shore, rueing its farness.
They did not know what next would come;
they rowed with strength, riven by fear.
When the dwarves came home, darkness was gathering;
waiting inside was the wife of Gilling.
Fjalar told her truth’s neighbor:
Gilling had been lost unluckily at sea.
The giant’s wife wailed and moaned.
She was racked by sobs; they rent the air.
The dwarves were angry, almost in tears.
They hated her howling; it hurt their ears.
Fjalar then hatched a hateful scheme.
He told Galar, his trusted brother,
to hide above their house’s door,
and hold in his hand a heavy millstone.
Galar then granted this gruesome wish.
He laid in wait weighted by the stone.
His watch was haunted by the widow’s sobbing.
Fjalar hated her heaving moans.
“Grieving widow, I’m gravely sorry.
Your husband was a hardy giant.
Would you like to see the selfsame spot,
the very wave where he died?”
The Widow of Gilling spoke:
“I thank you kindly, thoughtful dwarf.
My heart would be eased, as you might guess,
to see the spot where sank my husband.
But I am wondering, where is your brother?”
“My brother has gone to gather wood;
we must have flames to fan for warmth.
Follow me now, fairest lady;
I will take you out to sea.”
Gilling’s wife went out, one last time,
crossing the doorstep of the dwarves’ house.
Galar was ready, wretched dwarf.
He loosed the stone; her life was ended.
Gilling and his wife were wanted at home;
hushed word soon spread of wicked deeds.
The dwarves were known for deeds of ill;
many were the tales told of their evil.
Suttung Gillingson sat in his hall,
Hnitbjorg by name; high were its vaults.
He heard the news, hard though it was,
of his father’s death, and the death of his mother.
Suttung was angry; all were in fear.
Hnitbjorg’s lord heeded no one;
he brooded by night, with blood on his mind:
two dwarves there were, soon dead to be.
Suttung hurried, in haste he flew,
to the dark house of the dwarven brothers.
He grabbed the dwarves, dragging them out,
then he set out to sea, swearing to drown them.
The dwarves were scared; they screamed and wept.
Suttung put them, soiled and weak,
out on a skerry, screeching and wailing,
waiting for the tide that told of their deaths.
Great fear now filled Fjalar and Galar;
the dwarves were shaking, their doom foretold.
When the high tide topped the skerry,
the water reached their retching mouths.
The dwarven brothers begged for their lives:
they had no money to make a weregild.
Then they offered the only thing they had:
the blood of Kvasir, the cunning mead.
Suttung agreed to grant this trade.
He rowed the dwarves right back to shore.
He took the mead that many wanted;
he gave it to his daughter Gunnlod to keep.
[S.R. Hardy is a poet, fiction writer, and translator whose work has appeared in venues such as Mythic Circle, Eunoia Review, Eternal Haunted Summer, the Beorh Quarterly and anthologies such as The Shining Cities, Beyond the Pillars, and Northern Traditions. He is currently at work on a variety of poems, stories, and translations.]