The giantess Hyndla was asleep. She was growling in her gloomy cave, and it wasn’t a pleasant sound. Freyja and her boar stood in the cave’s mouth, listening. Then Freyja called out: “Hyndla, my friend! Hyndla, my sister! Wake up! Came out of your hole in the hill.”
The growling gave way to a sound like a bitch howling at the moon. The giantess was yawning. “It’s dark in there and it’s getting dark out here,” Freyja called. “And we must go to Valhalla together. We must win Odin’s favor – he’s always open-handed with his followers. He gave a helmet and a coat of mail to Hermod and he gave a sword to Sigmund.”
Now there was only silence within. Hyndla was listening.
“To some he gives gold, to ethers glory in battle,” said Freyja. “To many he gives wisdom, and to many wordskill; fair winds to the sailor, craft to the poet and a stout heart to many a hero.” Freyja paused. “Ill pay court to Thor as well,” she called out. “And I’ll ask him always to look kindly on you, and support you, although he has little love for giant women.”
A large unwholesome face loomed out of the gloom and Hyndla slouched out of the cave. She was dressed in something like sacking. “Bring one of your wolves from its lair,” said Freyja, “and let him and my boar run in harness. My boar cannot carry us both or hurry on the way to Asgard. He’s a marvel and I don’t want to ride him into the ground.”
Hyndla looked at the goddess with beady eyes. “Nonsense!” she said. “Pretense and promises! You can’t even look me straight in the eye. Well, I’ll tell you straight: that’s no boar, that’s your lover, young Ottar, the son of Instein. You’re riding your lover on the road to Valhalla.”
“And you,” said Freyja, “are full of wild ideas. My lover beneath me on the road to Valhalla! This is my battle-boar, Hildisvini. His golden bristles show him the way in the dark. He wee made by master-smiths, the dwarfs Dain and Nabbi.”
Hyndla said nothing; she just sniffed, and started to back away into her cave.
Freyja would not give up and would not go away. She wrangled, she wheedled and cajoled, she threatened, she made promises and in the end she won the giantess’s half-hearted agreement that they should journey to Asgard together.
“Little choice,” said the giantess, “if I want any peace”
As Freyja had suggested, the giantess rode a wolf and the goddess mounted her boar; the two animals ran in harness and at last the travelers reached the gates of Valhalla. They reined in beside Valgrind, the outer gate, and the deer Heidrun who was grazing there – water streaming from his horns – bounded away to safety.
Freyja and Hyndla dismounted, and walked down to the banks of the torrent Thund. “Let us talk of the ancestry of two heroes,” Freyja said, “Ottar the Young and Angantyr, two men fathered by gods.”
Hyndla smiled the half smile of one who knows the truth always comes out in the end.
“Ottar raised an altar to me,” cried the goddess. “He built up the stones, and now they have turned to glass. He reddened the altar again and again with the blood of oxen; Ottar always pus his faith in goddesses.” Freyja took a step towards the giantess. ‘Now tell me the names of the ancients and their kindred. Which men are Skjoldungs, which are Skilfings. Othlings and Ylfings? Who are the first-born and who are the high born, the most noble men in Midgard?’
Hyndla looked at Freyja. Then she looked at the boar and took a deep breath. “You, Ottar,” she said, “are the son of Instein, and he was the son of Alf the Old; Alf sprang of Ulf. Ulf of Saefari, and Saefari’s father was Svan the Red.”
The boar had pricked up his ears and was listening carefully. “Your mother,” said the giantess, “adorned with gleaming gold bracelets, was the priestess Hledis; her father was Frodi and her mother Friaut. Her lineage was peerless. Friaut’s mother was Hildigun, who was the daughter of Svava and Saekonung. They’re all your kinsmen. Ottar, you fool! It’s a lot to remember- do you want to hear yet more?” The boar was listening and so was Freyja.
“Hildigun’s husband was Krtil,” the giantess resumed. “So he was your mother’s grandfather on her mother’s side. Frodi came before Kari and Hoalf sprang of Hild. Nanna, the daughter of Nokkvi, came next; and her son married your father’s sister. That lineage is long, and even longer, and they’re all your kinsmen, Ottar you fool!”
“Isulf and Oaulf, the sons of Olmod – whose wife was Skurhold, the daughter of Skekil: they should be counted among She noblest of heroes, and they’re all your kinsmen, Ottar. you fool!”
“Then,” said the giantess, “there are the twelve Berserks: Hervard and Hjovaard, Hrani and Angantyr, Bui and Brami, Barri and Reifnir, Tind and Tyrfing and the two Haddings. These were the sons of Arngrim and Eyfura, born long ago on the island of Bolmsӧ. Howling and foaming in frenzy, they left a trail of terror and leaped like wildfire over land and water. And they’re all your kinsmen. Ottar, you fool!”
The giantess narrowed her eyes and raised a horny finger. “Long, long ago, all the sons of Jormunrek were given to the gods in sacrifice. Now Jormunrek was one of Sigurd’s kinsmen – mark my words carefully – Sigurd who could stand against all, slayer of the dragon Fafnir. The hero Sigurd was Volsung’s grandson, and his mother was Hjordis of the Hraudungs; her father was Eylimi of the Othlings. And they’re all your kinsmen, Ottar, you fool!”
“The sons of Gjuki and Grimhild were Gunnar and Hogni and his daughter was their sister Gudrun, Sigurd’s wife. The third son, Gotthorm, was not fathered by Gjuki. And they’re all your kinsmen, Ottar, you fool!”
“Hvedna’s father was Hjorvard and Haki was the best of his sons. Harald War Tooth was the son of Aud and her husband Hrorek the Ring Giver. Aud the Profound was Ivar’s daughter, but Rathbard was the father of her son Randver. And they’re all your kinsmen, Ottar, you fool!”
Freyja looked at the giantess in triumph. “Ottar and Angantyr have made a wager,” she said, “they have staked their whole inheritance on the matter of their lineage. Now give my boar the memory-beer no that, when Ottar and Angantyr meet three days hence, he’ll remember your fine recital – every word of it. We most protect Instein’s well earned wealth, his family heirlooms, so that the young hero can enjoy them.”
The giantess opened her rotting cavernous mouth and yawned. “Go away!” she said. “I want to sleep again. I’m not doing you any more favors.” She gave Freyja a withering look. “My noble goddess,” she said, “you leap around at night like Heidrun cavorting with a herd of goats.”
Freyja slowly raised her arms. “I will girdle you with flame so you cannot leave this place without catching fire.” Hyndla laughed in contempt. “You’ve gone running to Od,” she said. “who always loved you; and many another has wormed his way under your apron. My noble goddess, you leap around at night like Heidrun cavorting with a herd of goats.”
There was fire in Asgard, dancing in the air. A band of flame, a quivering halo, surrounded the giantess. Her limbs tightened; she pressed her arms against her side.
“Flames about me!” cried the giantess. “The earth is on fire, and I must pay the full price or forfeit my life.” Hyndla flinched as the girdle began to tighten. “Ottar’s draught of memory-beer,” she called. “Take it! It’s full of venom. It will bring him to an evil end.”
“Stuff!” said Freyja. “Nonsense! It is you who are full of bitterness and rancour. Your threats will do no harm, though.” The goddess was smiling and douce. She trailed her fingers down the boar’s back. “Ottar will drink nothing but the best if I get my way with the gods. Ottar will prosper.”