“You have treated me like a king,” said Gylfi.
The wizened beggar-woman sat in her cocoon of filthy, reeking rags and listened.
“Our bed was only this bare ground,” said Gylfi, “and our roof was only this whispering tree and the litter of stars beyond. But all that you had to share – your scraps of food, your store of understanding – you willingly offered.”
The beggar-woman’s eyes were deep wells, unfathomable and strangely gleaming.
“You have treated me like a king,” Gylfi said, “and now I want to tell you that I am the king.”
The beggar-woman looked at Gylfi without changing her expression. She sniffed.
“As you shared with me, I will share with you,” said Gylfi. “You’re welcome to as much of Sweden as you can plough with four oxen in one day and one night.”
Then the king and the beggar-woman went their own ways. Gylfi found and followed a track out of the forest and came back to his court. The beggar-woman, none other than the goddess Gefion, left Midgard and journeyed into Jotunheim.
Gefion walked past cauldrons of mud and boiling springs, she worked her way round the base of a mountain and reached a secluded fertile valley. No man lived there, but four huge oxen were grazing under the hot sun – the four sons of the goddess and a giant.
Gefion took her sons with her back to Midgard and into the county of Sweden. She chose a piece of land, very fine to look at and even better for farming, and yoked the four oxen to a massive plough. Now the coulter bit so deep that it began to loosen the crust of the earth. Now the oxen strained with every sinew and muscle and wrenched the mould away from the molten rock beneath.
Gefion laughed as her four sons dragged off a great piece of land. The oxen slowly made their way westward. They reeked with sweat. The goddess urged them on and they waded into the sea, still hauling the land behind them, until at last they stopped in the middle of a sound.
“Leave the land here,” Gefion said. “Let it lie here until the end of the world!” She unyoked the oxen from the plough, oxen with eyes like moons not unlike their mother. “And let this fertile island be known as Zealand” said the goddess.
So Gefion repaid Gylfi’s generosity by looting his land. That which made Denmark larger made Sweden smaller. Water oozed from the earth and fell from the sky into the gaping wound where the land had been ripped up, and it became a lake. Men called it Mӓlar.
And that is why the headlands of Zealand fit the inlets and the bays and the bights of Lake Mӓlar.