The ghastly rotting smell rose towards him. The cold began to burn him. The darkness reached up to him and he drew near to the place as dreadful as the worst of fears, the worst of dreams.
Even now, he did not flinch or falter. Svidag was swift as light. He reached the gates of Niflheim, far under the world, and shouted, “Groa, wake! Wake, wise mother! I stand at the doors of the dead and call on you. Remember, before you went to your burial mound, remember how you told your son to ask for help.”
Then the seeress Groa rose out of her grave and slowly moved to the gates of Niflheim. “My only son,” she moaned, “what death in life afflicts you? What dire fate makes you call on me who have left the quick world and lie in the mound?”
“My father has married a two-faced woman,” Svipdag said. “She is working against me. She bids me go where no man can safely go, and win the love of Menglad.”
“That road is long,” said Groa, “and the quest will be long, but love lasts long too. You may achieve your aim if the fates favour you.”
“Then sing strong charms over me, mother. guard your son if you can. I fear death will ambush me and i am still young.”
“The first charm I’ll sing,” Groa replied, “is well proven. Rani taught it to Rind. Shrug off whatever sickens you; depend on your own strengh.
“I’ll sing a second time then in case you are tempted to take the wrong path: bolts of Urd will be railings to keep you on the right road.
“Then third I’ll sing in case swollen rivers threaten you: the rivers Horn and Ruth will plunge into Niflheim, and the waters will part before you.
“Then fourth I’ll sing in case enemies attack you on the gallows way: your wish will be their desire, and they’ll long only for peace.
“Then fifth I’ll sing in case you’re fettered and have no freedom of movement: I sing a lossening spell over your thighs – and a lock of spring apart, releasing your limbs; chains will fall from your ankles.
“Then sixtth I’ll sing in case storms at sea go on the rmpage in the way no man can: neither wind or wave will harm you, and you’ll have a fair passage.
“Then seventh I’ll sing in case you freeze in the high rocky mountains: the fatal frost will get no grip on your flesh, and your body will be unharmed.
“Then eighth I’ll sing in case you have taken some dismal track in the darkness: no cure from a dead Christian woman will ever harm you.
“Then ninth I’ll sing in case you have to debate with some brute of a giant: your head shall be well stocked with wits and your mouth with wise words.
“Now take the road with all its hidden dangers, and let no evil work against your love! Carry your mother’s spells with you and keep them in your heart; you’ll prosper for as long as my words live in you.”
Then Svipdag turend away from his dead mother, Groa, and the stone gates of Niflheim. He made his way back yp to Midgard and began his search for Menglad through the nine worlds. The road was long and his quest for Menglad seemed longer.
One day, in Jotunheim, Svipdag came to a massive stronghold, girdled by flame and guarded by a giant. “Who are you?” shouted Svipdag, “standing there a the gate?”
“What do you want?” retorted the giant. “What are you looking for? And why are you on the road at all, wanderer?” The giant looked no less undfriendly than he sounded. He dismissed Svipdag with a nod, and stuck a thumb over his shoulder. “That’s your way, anyhow: a dew-path through the forest. There’s no welcome for weaklings here.”
“Who are you” repeated Svipdag, “standing there at the gate, turning away travellers?”
“Nobody is going to welcome you with outstretched arms,”replied the giant. “You’d do best to go home. My name is Fjolsvid, and I’m known for my wisdom. But i don’t throw food around. You’ll never get a foothold in this hall – you’ll leave as you’ve come, ravenous as a wolf.”
Svipdag shook his head. “Few men turn their backs when they mean to set eyes on their loved one. The gates of this golden hall are gleaming; I mean to make my home here.”
“Who is your father, then,” asked Fjolsvid, “and what is your ancestry?”
“My name is Vindkald,” said Svipdag. “I’m the son of Varkald whose father was Fjolald; Wind Cold, Cold of the Early Spring, Great Cold: those are our names. Now tell me this, Fjolsvid, and tell me truly: Who sits in the high seat at this fine hall? Who is its owner?”
“Her name is Menglad of the necklaces, and her father was Svafrthorin’s son,” said the giant. “She sits in the high seat of the handsome hall. She is its owner.”
Svipdag said, “Now tell me this, Fjolsvid, and tell me truly: what’s the gate called? It’s even more unyielding than anything in Asgard.”
“It’s name is Gastropnir the Guest Crusher,” the giant said and he smiled grimly. I made it myself a long while ago from the limbs of the clay giant Leirbrimir. And I braced it so firmly insdie and out that it will stand for as long as the world lasts.”
“Now tell me this, Fjolsvid,: said Svipdag. “What is the tree called that spreads its limbs over all the worlds?”
“It’s called Mimir’s tree, Yggdrasill,” the giant replied. “No man alive has seen all its roots; and few can guess what will fell it, for neither axe nor fire will be its downfall.”
“Tell me this, then, Fjolsvid,” Svipdag said: “What issues from the seed of this mighty tree that neither axe nor fire will fell?”
“Women in childbirth cook the fruit,” said the giant. “Then the hidden child is delivered safely. That’s why people esteem it.”
“What’s the cock called,” Svipdag said, “that sits on the top most bough, adorned with gleaming gold?”
“He’s called the tree snake Vidofnir,” answered Fjolsvid. “He illumines Yggdrasill’s limbs like lighnting. And he brings nothing but sorrow to Surt and his Sinmora.”
“To tell the truth,” said the giant, “they are Gif and Geri. They’re huge already and will grow more huge before Ragnarok.”
“Can no one hope to get inside this stronghold,” Svipdag asked, “while these ravenous hounds are asleep?”
“They never sleep at the same time,” sad the Giant. “That is why they were made hall wardens. One sleeps by night, the other by day, and so no one can ever pass unseen into the stronghold.”
“Is there no meat a man can throw to them.” said Svipdag, “and dart in while they are wolfing it down?”
“To tell the truth,” said Fjolsvid, “the cock Vidofnir has two wings. That alone is the meat a man can throw to them and dart in while they are wolfing it down.”
“What’s the weapon with which to dispatch Vidonir to the House of Hel?” Svipdag asked.
“That’s the sword Laevateinn, the Wounding Wand,” said the giant. “Loki made it, he forged it with runes at the gates of Niflheim. It lies in Laegjarn;s chest, guarded by nine locks, and Sinmora watches over it.”
“Can a man hope to steal the sword and get away unscathed?” asked Svipdag.
“A man can hope to steal that sword,” Fjolsvid replied, “if he takes what few can win as a gift for Sinmora.”
“What is the treasure a man should take to delight that gaunt gaintess?” Svipdag demanded.
“In your pouch,” said the giant, “take Vidofnir’s tail feather. Give it to Sinmora and she’ll give you Laevateinn in return.”
“What’s the name of this hall, girdled with flickering, magic flames?” asked Svipsag.
“It’s called Lry, the Header of Heat,” Fjolsvid replied. ‘It will always quiver and shimmer like a spear point. All men know of this noble hall and no hall more noble than this.”
“Which of the gods fashioned this great hall that I see within the stronghold?” said Svipdag.
“It was Loki,” said the giant, “the Fear of the Folk. And he was helped by the dwarfs Uni and Iri, Bari and Jari, Var and Vegdrasil, Dori and Ori and Delling.”
Then Svipdag asked, “What’s the mountain called on which that lovely woman is reclining?”
“It’s called Lyfiaberg, the Hill of Healing,” replied Fjolsvid, “and it will always be a source of comfort to the sick and the suffering. Every woman who climbs it will be cured, even if she has long been confined to her bed.”
“Who are the maidens smiling and sitting and Meglad’s knees?” asked Svipdag.
“One is called Hlif the Helper,” said the giant. “Then there are Hlifthrasa and Thjodvara; and shining Bjort and Bleik the white, Blid and Frid, kindly Eir and the gold-giving Aurboda.”
“Now tell me this, Fjolsvid,” said Svipdag. “Do they help all those who make offerings, and truly need succour?”
“They soon help all those who make offerings on the high altars,” said the giant. “And if they see someone is in danger, they will guard him.”
Svipdag said, “Now tell me this, Fjolsvid, and tell me truly: Is there any man who can hope to sleep in the arms of of fair Menglad?”
“No man but one,” said the giant, “can can hope to sleep in the arms of fair Menglad. And that man is Svipdag. That woman who shines like the sun is destined to be his bride.”
“Throw back the gates!” cried the wanderer. “Open a wide gateway! I am none other than Svipdag!” He looked at Fjolsvid elated. “Hurry to Menglad and ask her to grant me my heart’s desire.”
The giant made his way up the green slope behind the stronghold and reached menglad and her maidservants.
“Listen!” he said. “A man has arrived at the stronghold whom you must come and see for yourself! The hounds are fawning on him, and the great gates burst open of their own accord. I think this man is Svipdag.”
Menglad looked at Fjolsvid and her heart beat as if it would burst out of her. She said in a low voice, “If your’re lying when you say that this hero has come to my hall at last…” Her voice hardened. “It will not be long before greedy ravens peck out your eyes while you swing from the gallows tree.”
Mengald and her maidens and the giant Fjolsvid picked their way down the slope, and crossed the stronghold to the main gateway. Menglad at once faced the wanderer. Anxiously she asked, “Where have you come from? How did you get here? What do your kinsmen call you? I must know your name, your ancestry, before I can be sure I am to be your bride.”
“I am Svipdag, the son of sun-bright Solbjart; and I’ve followed wind-cold ways to this place. No man can deny Urd, even though her gifts are unearned.”
Menglad opened her arms. “Svipdag,” she said. “You are welcome here. I’ve waited so long for you. This kiss of welcome is yours, Svipdag.” Then she moved slowly towards the traveller, and she asked, “Is there any greater sweetness than the long awaited metting between lover and loved one?”
Svipsag stretched out his arms towards Menglad.
Menglad said: “Day after day I’ve sat on the Hill of Healing, waiting for you. And now I have what I’ve always dreamed of.”
Menglad and Svipdag stepped towards each other and touched. And Menglad said: “We’ve yearned alike; I longed for you and you have longed for my love. But now, and from now on, we know we will live to the end of our lives together.”